Generally, there are three different ways you can paint Gunpla:
- Gundam Markers, official paint markers for Gunpla models. You apply pressure by pushing down and paint comes out—it’s the easiest and least messy of the three.
- Model Paint, usually acrylic based, applied with a paint brush, and designed for hobbies from Gunpla to model airplanes. This is the next easiest technique.
- Spray Paint, applied with an airbrush or straight out of the can. This is the most difficult process of the three, but also provides the most even, professional-looking coat.
Here at Gunpla 101, we’ve only ever applied clear top coat spray paint so far. So we decided to ask our friend Otaku Dan to outline how to get started with this third and final piece of Gunpla painting mastery—applying colored spray paint to your models. Otaku Dan has previous told us about using hobby paint instead of stickers to upgrade your models; this is how he proceeds when he wants to fully change a Gunpla’s look and feel with a total spray paint job.
This is how Otaku Dan does it:
There comes a time is every Gunpla builder’s life that they experiment with painting their kits.
You start out small with painting small details here and there—instead of using stickers, you use paint. Then you start feeling a bit more confident and you’re ready to jump into the deep end of the pool by painting your entire Gunpla the color of your choice.
The kit that I worked on for this post is the Master Grade GN-X from Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Quick review of this kit: it is one of the best quality Master Grade kits from the Gundam 00 line.
Before I start talking about painting Gunpla, I do want to review some safety tips. You’re going to be dealing with chemicals and it can harm you if you don’t know how to handle them.
Work in a well ventilated area. Invest in a respirator and do not use a dust mask. Respirators can be expensive but it is totally worth it since you’ll be using to protect you from harmful fumes. Below is video that goes into detail on why you should use a respirator instead of a dust mask.
[Lauren’s Note: If a respirator isn’t an option, be sure to do all spray painting outdoors, like we did with our top-coat tutorial. Remember to hold the spray bottle and Gunpla parts far away from yourself in order to avoid inhaling the fumes.]
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get back on topic. Before you even think of painting your kit, test your paints. The reason why you want to see how it comes out. You want to use plastic spoons because they’re cheap.
Every paint is a little different. As you can see in the picture below, the metallic purple paint that I’m using comes out thick. This means that I have to do multiple thin layers so it doesn’t pool up like that.
Then you want to see if certain paints and topcoats are compatible. Sometimes if you’re using one type of paint with another, it can ruin your hard work. Below I have a pictures of a painted spoons testing the how it looks with topcoat on.
Now that I know how the paint will possibly look like on my Gunpla, to start working on it. Personally, I cut and sand all the parts first. Then I wash them to get rid of chemicals that is used to separate the runners from the mold. Note: you should always wash your runners.
When painting any type of model kit, the paint process will be:
- Put the pieces on sticks to prop them up. Be sure to attach the part to the stick in a place you do NOT want spray painted, like a connector piece or an inside part that won’t show. Secure the sticks inside a styrofoam block.
- Prime, using a paint primer. This will give you an even tone and keep your colors bright. I used a light gray primer for light and bright colors and a darker primer for dark colors.
- Gloss top coat, used to protect the paint and to give it a smooth surface for panel lining and adding decals. If you only have matte on hand, that’s fine, too.
- Panel line.
- Apply decals.
- Final top coat—this is your matte top coat. Not only does this protect the panel lining and decals, but it gives the Gunpla a more realistic look.
There will be times that you will mess up. In those situations, just wait for the paint to dry, sand the part, and paint again.
And here’s the final product. Notice that I didn’t paint the whole thing—just the green and purple pieces. However, it doesn’t look uneven because I used the same matte top coat over every part, not just the ones I painted. This is why a top coat is the last step, but definitely not the least.
Previous articles by Otaku Dan: