Top Coat Guide For Gunpla

topcoat_101

One of the things we love about Gunpla are how affordable they are to build. Your average High Grade kit only costs around $20. Of course, for that kind of money, it’s no surprise that the plastic can often look cheap and toylike.

To get Gunpla to look a bit more polished–and protect their plastic while you’re at it—you can use a top coat. Applied as a spray, top coat goes on clear and gives your Gunpla a finished look. Just look at the difference between my straight build HG Gouf–and then again with top coat:

gouf_before_after

Top coat comes in gloss, semi-gloss, and matte finishes, but for the purpose of Gunpla, I highly recommend using a matte finish. The plastic is already glossy out of the box!

One of the reasons my top-coated Gouf looks nicer than the original is because the matte top coat dulls blemishes that would otherwise stick out a lot. For example, after I cut the nubs with an X-acto knife, I filed the plastic down with fine grit sandpaper. Normally, I wouldn’t do this because look at the scuff-marks it leaves! But matte top coat conceals that entirely.

gouf_before_after_leg

Convinced yet? All right, let’s go on a top coat journey. You will need:

  • A Gunpla model of your choice.

superclear

  • Bamboo skewers, tape, and alligator clips. We’re going to use these to prop up our pieces for spray painting. I made my own by buying kebab skewers and small alligator clips and combining them with painter’s tape. But if that’s too much trouble, you can buy alligator clip and bamboo painting sticks already assembled for hobby painting!

sticks_and_clips

  • A big old block of styrofoam. I included a link to where you can buy it, but I actually found my chunk of foam in the recycling bin behind my apartment building.

1. The first thing you need to do is build your Gunpla. Take extra care to shave down the nubs and use sandpaper or even a nail file to make sure they’re smooth. Our top coat will cover up imperfections from scrapes or cuts, but it won’t hide bumps and lumps from nubs.

2. Panel line your model as you normally would, if desired. If you’d like a review course on panel-lining, I’ve got one right here!

3. You can apply stickers now, or you can wait until you’re finished top coating. The difference is that if you apply the stickers now, they will not be shiny at the end. If you want matte stickers, now’s the time to apply. It’s also, of course, much easier to put stickers on during the building process. I personally applied all of the Gouf’s stickers at this time.

4. Now it’s time to actually get into the top coating part of this tutorial. You want to break your Gunpla into a few big parts for painting. Here, I’ve given the arms, the legs, the head, the torso, the shield, and the hand holding the whip their own sticks.

Important: 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. 

gouf_on_sticks

5. Stick your sticks into the foam block and go to an extremely well-ventilated area, by which I mean outdoors. (Unless you have a spray-painting booth, but if you’ve invested in that, you already know!) Since I live in an apartment building, the parking lot worked for me.

6. When you are spray painting, you want to hold the spray bottle and Gunpla parts far away from yourself in order to avoid inhaling the fumes. You also want to hold the spray bottle and the Gunpla part about six inches apart from one another.

I didn’t get a photo of myself spray painting the Gouf, so here’s a photo of me spray painting a Gyan in my friend’s backyard. If anything, I am holding the spray bottle and the Gyan part a little too close to one another.

top_coating

I recommend spraying while turning the part in your hand for about 2 to 5 seconds to ensure that you get an even coat. A little goes a long way. You want to lightly and evenly coat the model. You can always add more, but you can’t hit undo if you added too much and it got clumpy.

7. Bring the Gunpla back in and let dry for about 1 hour. After that, take care to slowly bend the joints to make sure the paint didn’t make them stick to one another. And then…

gouf_after

Voila! That’s no Zaku, boy, it’s a beautifully top coated High Grade Gouf that I bought for about $9 but which looks like it’s worth way more than that.

Matte top coat is the ultimate finishing solution for beginning Gunpla builders. It’s inexpensive, it doesn’t take much time, and it goes a long way toward forgiving and concealing your mistakes.

I hope you found this tutorial valuable. Please share your top coat questions and experiences with me in the comments!


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50 Comments. Leave new

  • Toñito Acuña
    August 19, 2015 1:19 pm

    Nice build,and nice tutorial always keeping things simple for the readers 🙂

  • Great job, Lauren. The Gouf’s colors really came out beautiful..

  • Im super glad that the spray works for you. I hope you didnt have to pay that price for importing it.

    • @milkykou:disqus unfortunately, I did pay that price for importing it X_X

      • Well at least the price is sometimes worth it for the Mr brand paints and tools. If you ever need a cheaper alternative, the testors brand works too, though some hobby shops do carry the MR brand of sprays, Tamiya matte spray is really great as well.

  • […] spent my weekend shopping for, building, and photographing Gundam models. My latest post on my other blog, Gunpla 101, is just the first of many to come out of it. If you’re […]

  • Love seeing the progress of a build and reading all the tips. Not that I’ve started my first one yet. I’m thinking it might be a good project for when the clouds and rain return to Portland.

    • @zoeliddel:disqus thanks! You can buy Gunpla at Barnes and Nobel even, and it’s a very relaxing hobby to have something you can do with your hands, unplugged from the Internet.

    • Any particular model you thought of getting or not sure which one youd like to get first?

      • Hi, Milky. To be honest I have no idea. I know naught of Gundam. I just know that Lauren and her husband have made a hobby of building Gunpla for some time now and it seems to me that it is worth giving it a go.

        I read some of their earlier articles about how one should not focus upon the level of the build but what model speaks to you.

        So I have no idea if my first attempt shall be the most basic or something a bit more difficult.

        I honestly have yet to look at what is out there. I just think building one would be a nice project for the icky months (which truly stretch on here in the Pacific NW of the US.)

        I guess when the icky weather descends upon Portland, OR I’ll look at Amazon first to see what is what. Then I’d like to go to my local table top gaming store (Guardian Games just three block from me!) to see if they carry them. I like to keep my money local and also GG is a great shop. Huge stock, lots of open gaming tables and even a bar in the back! Critical Sips! Can you think of a more awesome name for a table top gaming bar? 🙂

        Otherwise I guess I’ll buy from Amazon if it comes down to it. Though I intend to hit Lauren and her husband up for advice before buying my first kit.

        Then, then I’ll get the necessary tools if I lack them and give it a go and hope I manage to not mess it up too much.

        For a rank beginner, Milky, do you have any models you’d suggest? I’d appreciate any suggestion very, very much 🙂

        • If you can’t find anywhere local that seems to carry them you could also try ordering online from Hobby Link Japan. It’s where I get most of my kits from as my local hobby and game stores have stopped carrying kits. They won’t ship as quick as Amazon but I find their pricing to be generally quite fair compared to what some people like to charge on Amazon or eBay.

          As far a recommendation, if you’ve never done any kit building before I would try out an SD kit, something like this guy http://www.hlj.com/product/BAN955528/Gun . Typically an SD kit has fewer pieces and for a first time modeler it will let you get into it without too much trouble. I’m happy to answer any other questions you might have as well. Happy modeling!

          • Thank you, Ryan. The advice and offer of future answering of questions is much appreciated 🙂

  • Any alternate method if we lack skewers?

    • The skewers are probably one of the cheapest or easiest routes I’d say, but you could also use a piece of doweling that you can pick up from your local Home Depot or etc. I personally used some balsa wood sticks that you use for kite framing that I picked up from a craft store but just about anything would work as long as it gives you some reach.

  • Ashe Blitzen ☆
    August 31, 2015 4:56 pm

    Looks so good!

  • Hi, I have a question regrading the mr gundam blues for painting and touching up my Goufs and Gouf customs. They only offer two blues and both Goufs each have two different shades equaling four shades altogether. Has anyone used the blues offered by Mr, and which Gouf do they best resemble?

  • Hi, I have a question regrading the mr gundam blues for painting and touching up my Goufs and Gouf customs. They only offer two blues and both Goufs each have two different shades equaling four shades altogether. Has anyone used the blues offered by Mr, and which Gouf do they best resemble?

    • I just don’t want to screw around with the different colors and mix and thin or other techniques for modeling. I enjoy both mobile suits for their individual reasons, coloring being the most important, so I’d like some input on the paint pens. I’m also a skilled modeler of over a decades experience and gundam are by far the most enjoyable for me despite how simple they really are to build and detail. I’m expecting my PG Char’s Zaku II arrival very soon for my birthday and I plan on buying another PG Zaku II.

      • @dantimmerman:disqus Hi there, I actually haven’t painted a Gunpla yet! Top coat has been my first step in that direction. I recommend asking @ashe_blitzen:disqus on her Facebook page to see if she has any painting advice.

  • Can you use a matte top coat instead of a gloss coat before using a panel wash? I ordered some tamiya panel line accents off amazon and i am worried that the kit may get brittle if i used it on the bare plastic.

  • Im attempting to do this on rg oo raiser but I’m afraid I might fail 🙁

  • I’ve been wondering for a long time if I can use a clear Acrylic Lacquer spray paint or not for top coating, because I have one lying around and I want to try top coating on my SD Sazabi before moving on to RG 00 Raiser..

    • Brody Scotts
      May 19, 2016 4:43 pm

      Did you ever figure this out? I don’t know that I want to pay $35 for 67 mL of Mr Clear top coat. I’d prefer something more economical.

      • Markus Andreas
        May 27, 2016 8:48 am

        well it turns out that I can use it, while that clear acrylic lacquer paint gives some “glossy” look. Just don’t apply it too much or it’ll make your gunpla looks like has been “frosted” (and maybe it’ll be bad for your gunpla too)

      • Try ‘The Army Painter’ brand products clear Anti Shine Matt Varnish.

  • Should I top coat clear plastics or take them off?

  • Take note of the weather when using Mr. Super Clear. If you spray on a rainy or moist day, he tends to leave a white, powdery residue on the plastic. This may also be true for other top coats, but I’m only familiar with that brand. I also like to apply top coat first, then panel line, weather, and detail, as most of those media adhere better to the the coated (rather than bare) plastic.

    • This is true of ALL clear finish sprays, Mat and Semi flat. If the humidity is too high the finish will “fog”. Sometimes it can be fixed by spraying the model again on a less humid day. Sometimes its just ruined. I also agree that effect painting and lining are best done AFTER top coating. The flat finish will act as a kind of primer and keep the panel lining or other paint from sliding on the slick plastic. However, you will not be able to use the eraser technique to clean up mistakes so you have to be VERY precise.

  • Arvsmageddon Dean
    January 28, 2016 3:55 am

    Hi, I just started out gunpla late december last year. So far, I’ve built 3 HG kits namely: HGBF Zaku Amazing, HGUC V2 Assault Buster Gundam & HGAW Gundam X Divider. I was thinking of top coating next, however, I’m kind of unsure how flat matte affects eye/camera stickers so much especially on a Gundam. Does it lose its shine? I was thinking of picking apart the head, but I fear I might break a piece or two especially V2 AB Gundam’s small head. I also read somewhere that top coating the stickers/decals help it stick better as well. So I dunno. What’s your experience on this?

    • I know this is old but its important. YES the mat varnish will make the shiny eye stickers flat. You need to cut a small piece of blue painters tape and cover any area that you do not want to be matt finished. It is best to spray the model BEFORE putting the shiny metallic stickers on. Other decals should be put on first and then sprayed. The varnish will help keep the decals from rubbing off.

  • I’m not sure if this is common or not but the top coat smudged the panel lining I made with gundam markers. I even waited a day to top coat after lining

  • Jesse Guidry
    March 5, 2016 3:54 pm

    I recently built a RG Wing Custom, and I was wondering if fixative spray would work the same as regular topcoat spray. I don’t have ready access to model stores, and I don’t really want to order some online.

  • Michael Motta
    May 8, 2016 12:53 am

    I have a question, what if we wanted to paint something or simply forgot to after top coat has been applied, could we just re apply the top coat over the area or would it still be noticeable?

  • genovius roxx
    July 21, 2016 1:28 pm

    Hello, a question, can the dry decal applied on the matte top coated surface?

    • Great question, for decals while it CAN be applied to kits that already have a matt coat, its reccomended to do it straight on the plastic or on a gloss coat as the surface must be smooth for them to apply, even dry transfer decals. You may be able to get away with waterslides due to the way they are designed but its best to have a smooth surface first.

      • genovius roxx
        August 2, 2016 1:04 am

        the problem is, if i didn’t do a matt coat first (i always love matt surface), the border of the decals are getting a slight dark line when i do the weathering on the next step.

        • Are you applying a top coat after the decals but before the weathering? That will help out. I always do 1-2 top coats after decals before weathering to help prevent this build up.

  • […] sprayed some Top coat on the shield (Mr. Hobby Flat Matt). Here is a great article on using top coat for your gunpla which I found […]

  • Any alternative to alligator clips?

  • Also, I got the Tamiya TS-80 spray (same one you recommended) and on the top it says to not apply to stickers and decals. Is it for the reason you mentioned?

  • Can I respray paint after topcoating? There was a hair on my piece and I messed up the paint

  • Do you do panel lining before or after the top coat?

    • Before! I like to have the top coat seal my work in. Keep in mind if you do it this way, you will have a very hard time altering or removing the panel lines after!

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