Painting Gunpla: No Airbrush Required
Gunpla (ガンプラ Ganpura) is a blending of the words “Gundam plastic model” and it is generally used as a catch-all phrase for plastic model kits that are based on the popular anime series, Mobile Suit: Gundam and its many spin-off properties. As I mentioned here in our piece on how Gunpla has continued to thrive as a hobby, a large portion of hobbyists go into Gunpla kits with the intention of painting and customizing them. This has been a long standing part of the hobby and, in some cases, and unfortunate requirement.
The Tallgeese, for example, has never been released in a wholly color-accurate kit, irrespective of which version you choose to buy. Other variants like the Tallgeese II and Tallgeese III do have color accurate kits, but not all of these kits are accurate, with only about half of them being properly colored. And this is where painting and customizing comes into play.
Old First Grade Kits typically have terrible color accuracy.
There’s nothing quite as frustrating as getting a new kit and cracking it open, only to find that it’s covered from head to toe in the dreaded color correcting stickers of woe. The purpose of a color correcting sticker is pretty obvious from the name, they correct parts of the kit that aren’t cast in the proper color, but to say they correct wrongly colored parts is somewhat misleading. Color correcting stickers never do a good job of replacing parts, they always have an obvious seal where they meet the plastic and they are provably inferior when compared to decals, be they of a waterslide or dry-rub nature.
This is more common on older kits, which is what we’ll use for a quick demonstration today, but can still be a prevalent issue on a number of modern kits. Today, running with the above mentioned Tallgeese theme, we’ll be looking at the old High Grade 1/144 scale Tallgeese II.
Following along on the coattails of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which was released in 1995, we have a crime against gunpla Tallgeese II kit that was released in 1996. Out of all the Old Kits for Gundam Wing; this was the only one in the set that required painting.
You can see for yourself that the Tallgeese II is quite easily separated into three main colors, blue, white and black. But when you open the box, you’re gonna find an ocean of white with a bit of black.
The example shown for the front view quite clearly shows a blue chest, shoulders, thigh booster armor, waist section, shield, and even a yellow crest. All of those pieces in this kit, are white, and the head crest is inexplicably cast in black. What’s worse? They provide you with a tiny sheet of colour correcting stickers that aren’t actually large enough to cover the areas that they are intended to be used on.
If that wouldn’t drive you up the walls, you’re a calmer person than myself. It’s ludicrous to think that such a thing exists.
After having applied the main chest color correcting stickers, you get a… less than perfect outcome. So to battle the notion of needing an airbrush to correct these issues, we’ll break out some paints and brushes. The trick to hand brushing gunpla is to treat each individual piece like a miniature. Care and attention, thin coats of paint and a well defined palette are all you need to win this particular battle.
Prime your chosen piece as you normally would, were it a miniature. I started with a flat grey base coat before starting to work up an appropriately regal shade of blue. I laid down an opaque coat of Vallejo’s Game Color Imperial Blue before applying an opaque coat of Vallejo’s Model Color Medium Blue.
From here, I painted in the vent areas on the chest with Vallejo’s Model Color Khaki Grey to serve as a better base color for our vibrant yellow, which I built up by painting in a base of Citadel’s Averland Sunset before layering on Citadel’s Yriel Yellow. Along the lines of the chest hatch, I heavily thinned some black paint and used it to outline the hatch along each side where the recess was present for some added definition.
After this, we paint in our vent definition. You can do this by taking the thinned down black that we painted into the chest hatch recesses, or you can paint in some Citadel Nuln Oil (or Badab Black if you’re old school enough) and tidy up the area with another Yriel Yellow highlight. We then further define the chest hatch lines before adding detail to the metallic protrusions atop the chest. Truth be told, I don’t know what these are supposed to be, but I do know they are metallic. I put down a base of Army Painter Plate Mail Metal before putting a coat of Army Painter Shining Silver over the top of that, adding a drop of our thinned black paint into each indent for a bit of added definition. Finally, seal your paint job with a top coat of your choosing and you’re done!
With those simple steps complete, you can see for yourself how big a difference the simple application of some paint can make. We went from non-color-accurate with stickers over the white parts to 100% color accurate. All you need to do is repeat this process across the required parts are you’re set! Painting your gunpla with no airbrush required. Perhaps, in the future, we’ll look at airbrushing kits and then we can get into why it’s the preferred method of painting gunpla, but just remember that you don’t need to fork out a ton of extra cash to do the job.Beneath is an example of my hand brushed Master Grade Tallgeese EW repaint, a little bit of effort can go a long way! Now go forward with confidence and paint!