Why you should go ahead and “ruin” your Gunpla

Barbatos under resin, gravel, and lichen, inspired by the movie Annihilation.

When it comes to building custom Gunpla, there are no rules. Nobody knows that better than Jonlyn, a scale model builder who has tried everything from pouring glow-in-the-dark resin on her kits to straight-up attacking them with a hammer. We asked her to expand on her modeling philosophy in an essay about building Gunpla without limits. 

Customizing Gunpla with paint, modifications, and other materials is a fun thing to do if you want to go further than traditional snap building. But what many people don’t realize is that customization can be something even the basic beginner can do. You don’t have to be an expert on removing seam lines or scribing. I know I’m not! 

Something that I hear often in hobbies is that beginners shouldn’t do something until they “know the basics,” otherwise they’ll just “ruin” it. It’s a frustrating statement because customizing is a fun process and doesn’t always require the more traditional tools of the hobby. Sometimes all you need is your hands, some paint, and an idea! It should be about experimenting and finding out what brings you joy, not anyone else. A Gunpla kit is a blank canvas that should be painted, sculpted, dremmeled, or even glued to the owner’s desire. There’s no correct way to do it!  

I made this spiky Haro by adding dots of Mod Podge to form towers, then painted with rattle-can paints.

For me, Gunpla is about experimentation: the more eccentric the idea, the better! Some of my wildest builds have included a far weirder territory of materials and paints. One time, I used glass vase filler and gold leaf on a Haro that was inspired by something you might find on a wizard. There was even a Haro that I spent days painstakingly applying Mod Podge on in order to build up abstract towers. Or that one time I glued on Swarovski crystals on a Haro. It took me forever to do! Swarovksi announced it was discontinuing its crystals for public retail the very same week and it took me several trips to different craft stores—I had to scramble to find them!

There are over 100 crystals on this Shiny Haro that range in shape and color.

Dealing with the haters

There used to be a time when I would get flooded by people telling me how I had “no talent.” In their eyes, I was “a glorified hack,” “disgusting,” or straight up “ruined Gunpla for them.” 

In my early days of customizing, I painted an HG Sinanju Stein pink. That sounds like a simple enough alteration, but people lost it. It was ridiculous. Someone once asked how I could be so “audacious” to ruin a kit by painting it pink. They got unbelievably mad. It was unnerving to receive this kind of backlash because I was just having fun. 

A tip for painting nice pinks is to use a yellow base layer underneath!

Then, out of nowhere, people started commenting that they liked my work, and they wanted to start doing some of the same customizations to their kits as I did… and they did it! Isn’t that amazing? I felt empowered to have a community being supportive of my art and who I am. 

Gunpla customization is fine art

Some folks tend to forget that Gunpla is also an art form. Much like with other disciplines of fine art, there’s room for discovery and venturing into new avenues. The best advice I can anyone who wants to start customizing their Gunpla in wild and weird ways is to just begin. There’s no right or wrong way to start it. Just do it and have fun. Mistakes are bound to happen. Don’t fret over it too much. If something didn’t work out, make a note of it, and carry on.

Goldleaf and Glass Haro. The glass wasn’t sharp enough to cut and was about a buck to buy at the dollar store.

In the past four years of building, I’ve seen an uptake in people doing what they want to their kits, including some amazing customizations. It’s refreshing to see! So many talented people have been stepping outside the normal boundaries of what is “acceptable” in the hobby in pursuit of their own happiness. Do I think this will kill the hobby, like some of my more traditionalist haters would have you believe? Absolutely not! In fact, I think it will help to expand the hobby, like a creative renaissance. So go forth and customize. I can’t wait to see what you build!

Check out more of Jonlyn’s wildest and weirdest builds at Creeping for Scale Models.

Jonlyn, a self-described “feral Gunpla goblin,” is a plamo builder and Haro hoarder who has been building since 2017. She lives in the woods of New Hampshire where she teaches her two pups internet safety. She shares custom builds on her blog and sells Newtype-threatening products in her shop

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