Hi my name is Emilio Miranda, aka muffin/muffinlove on the web/forums as BlackCrab Studio. I’m a gunpla builder and painter from Sweden, and I’m known for my special way to paint my robots. I paint my robots in custom colours and take a lot of inspiration from animals and nature, mostly crabs and bugs. Then I various degrees of weathering from mud to heavy rust. I like to paint them in strong bright colours and then bring them down all rusty, worn and weathered. I like the fun contrast in this – you make something look really pretty and nice then you just make it really dirty and grim.
Today I’m going to show you a bit of the gunpla world that I myself am just starting to get a grip of. I have been active for about one and a half years in this hobby genre and there is a lot to take in and learn. Before I go too deep in the the hobby I would like to make a brief history trip into gunpla (Gundam) so that you will understand it a bit better.
It all started back in the late 70´s, the same year Star Wars came out: 1979 was the year that Gundam was shown in Japan for the first time and it was a big hit from the start. Gundam is an animated series about human heroes piloting massive robots. This all takes place far in the future and the universe is split up into different factions. To keep it short you can say that the Mars faction has a big beef with Earth and now it is on like Donkey Kong!! That is sort of the main plot of the show.
I’m here to talk about gunpla: the model kit merchandise belonging to the Gundam show. Gunpla was launched the same year that the show was aired in 1979, and the model kits were a hit from the day they came out. The word gunpla is a play of words “Gundam” and “Plastic” = GunPla. The Japanese like to make these sort of word plays; the word “plamo” is another example of this using the words “plastic” and “model” to describe the hobby.
The first model kit’s that came out were difficult to build and needed glue to some of the parts, what you would call semi-snap kit’s. These were also in just one colour so you needed to paint the kit to make it look the same as on the box art. As the years went by the kit’s got better and in the late 80’s the kits did not need the same amount of glue as in the past, but they are still not glue free.
In the early 90’s the first High Grade (HG) was released and this was a big deal back then as they had redesigned the model, making them totally glue free: the snap fit (standard today) was introduced. To totally blow peoples’ minds, the model kit now had different colours matching the box art and polycap joints instead of the easy-to-break hard plastic ones used before. This was the new technology Bandai had been working on for a long time. Where this hobby has been and still is really big in Asia, it has never really gotten over to the west in the same manner due mainly because they don’t air the Gundam shows on TV here. But the Gundam community is growing and more and more people here in the west are becoming fans.
That was a very fast overview of the hobby and I hope you have an image in your mind. Now let’s start with the tutorial!
PREPARATION AND CLEANING
The model that we will be working on for this tutorial is the Gusion HG 1/144 from Iron Blood Orphans from the latest Gundam series. I chose this model because it has some really fun volumes to work with and not the normal boxy robot that you see in comics, this is more round and chubby in appearance.
To begin with we will need to sand down all the parts as this will make our paint adhere better to the surface of the model, and also to get rid of any bumps and mold lines. We are also going to bring out the panel lines on the model, both the ones that you can see but also some you can´t see yet.
For this we are going to use some special tools that you find in this hobby: they are called scribal tools and they are basically small chisels that will carve into the plastic. This tool has its own chapter and there is a lot to talk about it but for now all we will use it is just to bring out the lines.
We will bring out the panel lines of the model to make it more clear and also to help the wash later to pool and bring out the lines when we are done. We are going to use the airbrush to do most of the paint work but fear not, we will use the brush on smaller panels or areas where the airbrush can’t work and also when we add in the wash.
- V-shaped Chisel
- Line Engraver
We start using the line engraver because we are only going to work on straight lines so this is the best tool for the job. The first lines are done soft just so that we will get a good path to work in. If we apply too much pressure in the beginning it is easy to end up outside the line. If we do that there will be a lot of extra work just to sand down the unwanted line. Once we have done some passes and achieved the depth we were after we will change over to the V-chisel.
I like to open up my lines a bit and make them a bit bigger then they need to be. I do this simply so people will see them better. We will now use the toothbrush to remove all the dust so that we can see the lines better. When working on this part you will generate a lot of plastic dust from all the sanding and chisel work so we constantly need to remove that to see that we are on point. After brushing it down take a last check to make sure you got all the lines you wanted.
Now we are going to work on the hammer there are some things that need to be repaired such as the hole on the top and the seam lines around the hammer. To do this we are going to use a putty; this is a fast drying putty, it works similar to plaster but will dry in 10-20 min. However, it takes a day to fully cure, once cured it will be rock solid. This putty is very sticky so don’t be shy when applying it on to the hammer.
We will let it set for about 10-20 min before we start working on it. We will use a fine grit sandpaper to work on the putty you will probably need to add one or two layers before we get that smooth result we are after.
Next we are going to fix the flat side of the hammer to do this we will drill out the holes on the side. I am using a hobby drill that has a 1mm drill bit, once we have all the holes drilled we are going to sand it down for that smooth finish. The final result may not look to hunky dory now but once we apply the paint you will see the difference.
Now it is time to work on the main body there are a lot of things to be done. We will start working on the holes around the thrusters on the rear and also add new panel lines to the model, some of which will be very visible others not so much. Correcting the holes is an easy task, we will just take the smallest drill we can find and drill out the holes. Once the holes are done I’m going to fill them a bit with a round fill be gentle, the fill will eat a lot of plastic and keep in mind that this part is very fragile and can break easily .
Next up is the part that will take the most time to work on we are going to add panel lines to the model. As you can see that the plastic on the side of the model is a bit bevelled and there is some sort of panel line there yet in my opinion is not distinguished enough. Well we are going to fix that so it will look better to the eye.
We start off by tracing the line really soft, we need to work in a path so that the chisel has something to dig into. Do not rush this part it is really easy to slip and come outside, if you do slip you can just sand away your error, just take your time and be careful !!
We are also going to add in some lines where there are none, such as around the boosters on the top and bottom just let the line engraver do the work and when the panel line is deep enough we sand it a bit to get it smooth, rinse and repeat. Now we just keep adding panel lines where we think they should be and also fix the ones that are on the model. Here you can see the model all done and ready for it´s paint job that we will begin in just a bit. But first id like to take the time to talk a bit about the reference material that I’m using for this project.
TIME TO ADD SOME COLOUR
I’m going for a blue paint job for the main body and my inspiration is the blue crab from the USA. It has a lot of nice colours that I find interesting; the blue is the main colour but I also like the red/orange that you can see on the tip of the claws.
I also like the olive green that it has on the top of its’ shell and I will try and work in the green for the frame. I’ve also spent some time looking at different sea and land turtles, so that I can try and incorporate the browns and push the bulky feeling the model has.
I normally don’t use browns that often so I feel that this was a good time to try and work it in. Always try and have some reference material before you start to work on your project. This material will help you understand problems once you bump into them, like how do I do this rust ? how does the wet mud from Sweden look? and so on. If you want to bump up your game and work increasingly at a higher level, it is a good idea to always have reference and a mood board to work from. This is going to help you understand things a lot better and how they work.
I’m going to talk a bit about the clips which are an important tool for the gunpla painter. As you can see this model kit has a lot of parts, the larger the scale the more parts you will have. You could hold all the parts between your fingers but that is going to take a lot of time and the paint job will be uneven. My first kit that I did was painted that way and it did not come out that good, these clips will make a big difference.
When you have all the parts on the clips it is easy to organise them into different groups, for example: arms on one side and legs on the other. This is a good idea to do if you are going to paint in highlights you don’t want to mix the left and right arm and get the shadows upside down.
Another tool that go hand in hand with the clip is the clip board, this is a board that has a bunch of holes in drilled in its’s surface which you can insert your clips into and arrange them in a manner that suits you and your painting process. It is a great way of staying organised and saves space too!
So let us now prime the model black and start to give it some life.
- We are going to start by priming it in Vallejo Air Magic Blue, applying several thin coats to completely cover the black primer beneath.
- Next we are going to give a coat of Arcane Blue from P3, a good grip so we will highlight it with White Trollblood base, also from P3. I liked this as it was a nice mid-tone colour. When you are airbrushing, take care to stay neat, a slight over-spray is no issue however, as you can tidy it up later.
- Now that we have a good mid-tone for the Arcane Blue, it will show a lot better then if we had just applied it over the Magic Blue. We will now cover all of the White Trollblood, it is ok if you leave some of it showing, it will now give a nice Bahamas feeling when you look at it.
- We are going to mix in some Glacier Blue into the mix this is going to be our final highlight. We are going to aim for the edges and add it really carefully, we don’t want to over spray all the work we have done. I start to spray outside the model and work towards the outer edge of the model, in this way I will not get that splatter effect that we sometimes see with the airbrush.
Masking and painting the rear profile
Now that we have masked off part of the back we are going to paint in some turquoise, this will break up the blue but still still stay within the same value. What I’m planning to do is to try and break up the armour here and there by adding other tones of blue to make it more visually interesting.
By doing this we are adding more work but in the end it will look a lot better than just a flat blue. So lets prime this area turquoise. It is ok if you get this colour in the panel lines, as these will be “blacklined” later. Note that normally we will mask off all the parts that we would like to paint but here I’m just showing you this technique on the chest.
Now we add a bit of electric blue into the mix this is just to bump up the brightness of the turquoise. You will not see an immediate change on the panel as it is very close to the turquoise. Just be sure to aim at the top of the panel and work your way approximately one third down the panel so achieve layering of the colours.
The last thing that we are going to do now is give it that final highlight to make it pop. We are going to add in glacier blue to the mix that we have in the airbrush cup, two drops will do just fine. I like to use this colour a lot as it is not too excessive like a pure white would be, this is a bit softer to the eye. This is the final colour that we are going to add so make sure not to over spray or we have to redo the whole thing, you want to aim at the top part and work your way done a little. So in the bottom we will have the turquoise base colour and shadow after that we have a mix of electric blue working as the mid tone. To finish it all we have the glacier blue to tie it all up and we are now done and can remove the mask.
- We start off by priming the arm in black we need to cover all the parts of it.
- Next up we are going to reprime it but this time blue you need to layer so it will be smooth.
- Then like on the chest we are going to add the White Trollblood to act as the mid tone blue for the arcane blue. We will only focus on the high points of the arm here, as before any over spray can be fixed in the next step. Take your time and don’t rush, remember to move the airbrush all the time you don’t want to just hold it still, then you will get a blob of paint in that spot.
- Now we start to work in the arcane blue on the same parts we have the trollblood you can leave some of the trollblood showing also. We will focus on the same spots as before the high parts of the arm and just try to wrap it around.
- Now before we start this step we need to make sure that the airbrush is not clogged in any way. Now we are going to add the final highlight. Keep some of the Arcane Blue in the airbrush and mix in Glacier Blue about two drops will do just fine. Now we will focus at the top part of the arm and we are going to spray it on really softly, so as not to over spray all the work we have done so far. I like to test spray to the side before I start to work on the model, just to make sure I’m good to go. We are just going to give it a small dab but it will give the model a totally new look when we do it to all the parts.
One of the problems that we have when doing these sort of highlights are that we need to think about them before we paint. This models can move most of their joints so I tend to use a global light from the top (zenithal), this works most of the times. That is also why a lot of people tend to just paint flat colours on these models. But I just try and find one pose and stick to it so keep this in mind when working.
Arm pad and metal frame
- Just like before we will reprime this part, this time with Vallejo Game Colour Orange, this is a really strong colour as a contrast to the blue.
- Next we are going to push the shadows on the side a bit more so it will not look so flat, to do this we are going to use Vallejo Air Orange. We will focus on the side of the pad and top corners take your time.
- Now we will add the first highlight, we do this with Model Master Yellow, this is a yellow that has strong pigments and will easily take over if you don’t take it easy. We keep some of the orange in the airbrush we don’t want pure yellow. This we will spray on the centre of the pad and a little on the top corner.
- Next we are going to mix in some Glacier Blue into the mix this will be our highlight for the orange.
- Last part are the arms and we are going to keep it simple here prime them black.
- Next we are going to use the Vallejo Air Metal Colour, this will take some layers to apply it smoothly. That is it if you want to work some more on it you can add a wash over it or an oil wash. I would work in oils it will look better and it gives you the ability to edit and change as you see fit as they have much longer drying time.
We are now done and it is time to put all the parts together and here is a valuable tip: make sure you don’t have any paint on your fingers. Some of the parts will not fit the same way as before, that is because we have paint in the holes and joints, so you will need to just push them into place. To keep the article layout looking nice we have only included a certain number of pictures in the body of the text however, you can find many more pictures showing the different steps below in the gallery. Jason has already asked if I were to weather the gunpla, to write a tutorial about it, so I may return in the future (leave some comments on the post and we will pressure Emilio into doing so Ed).
Thank you for taking the time reading this tutorial, that is all from me. I hope that this tutorial has been of some help, if you have any question ask away. I would also like to thank Jason Martin for giving me the chance to work on this tutorial and show you what gunpla is.
Emilio M aka muffin