Tips & Tricks: Painting

So many colours!
Some kits and/or third party accessories come in a colour that is either boring, plain or just wrong, so you would want to at least improve the colour a little so that the final product will turn out better. This is where paint in all its various forms come in.

As a casual builder, the only paint I apply to my kits is the black delivered from a panel-lining GM 01 Gundam Marker, whereby the fine tip is most useful for me to detail and highlight certain hard-to-reach areas of the kit. Recently, I've noticed the effect a simple paint job can have on the kit's final appearance (HG Seed Gundam Astray Gold Frame), and have therefore experimented with the various ways of adding colour to a kit, except airbrushing because I don't possess the necessary hardware.

Going well with my onus on fuss-free, casual building, Tamiya spray paint is almost a godsend, with easy-to-manage cans (small), quick-drying paint with an assortment of colours. Further, the effect and finishing from those colours are remarkable, bearing metallic hues and shiny effects if the paint is applied properly. 

Since a month back, I always keep a can of Tamiya Gunmetal and Light Gunmetal on hand to replace the blacks and greys respectively.

On this page, I will go first over Masking and then other techniques as we go along.

Masking

Masking is a relatively easy way to give specific parts of a kit a particular colour using either spray paint or Gundam Markers. Basically, masking entails covering the parts of a kit that you don't want coloured. For this, the humble masking tape is your best friend.

Although hobby shops sell a wide selection of masking tape for use, the standard ones found in the hardware or stationary shops will suffice nicely, but try to look for the narrowest ones you can find to minimise preparatory work. My advice is to set a selection of different widths so that you can effectively mask accessories, weapons and whole model kits.

For this illustration, we will attempt to paint this katana from Kotokibuya MSG Set 06 in three colours: the hilt Gun Metal, the handguard Titanium Gold and the blade Light Gun Metal.


Tip #1: Trim and/or sand down all visible nubs.

Before you begin, look over your accessory or kit one more time and remove any glaring or visible nub. Paint tends to congregate around nubs, so their removal is mandatory.

Tip #2: Begin with the parts with the largest surface areas.

The reason behind this tip is so that the paint intended for the larger surface areas will not unwittingly end up on the surface of the smaller areas, especially when they are already painted. Masking tape is not exactly flypaper-sticky, so it is better to tackle the widest areas first and move down to the smallest areas.



Tip #3: Mask tightly and to the point.

Tear or cut off a length of masking tape and carefully apply it to your part or kit. Follow the panel lines or outline of the part to guide your masking. Move the tape as close to those lines as possible so as to get as little stray paint as possible on the masked areas. Apply pressure to the masking tape once satisfied to ensure that the mask will hold.

Tip #4: Wait for paint to dry completely before masking that area.

Pretty self-explanatory: be patient and let the paint dry completely before applying tape to that area. You don't want your kit to look uneven.

Once all painting is complete, allow it to dry before adding a layer of Mr Super Clear to seal its fate. If done well, the kit should visibly bear the colours chosen.



As you can see from the picture above, the tip of the katana looks rough and uneven. Although we can simply dismiss this as battle-damage, in actual fact I was a little too hasty with the painting. Also, the spray nozzle was too close to the kit, so do remember to maintain at least one foot of space between the spray can and the part to be painted.

Apart from that, you can see that the handguard is clearly coloured in titanium gold, matching the unit it is meant for nicely. Under good light, the blade's and hilt's colours are more prominent, but gunmetal and light gunmetal are simply too similar in shade and hue.

Spray Painting of entire Runners


Sometimes the colours of the kits you get aren't really what you had in mind or differ vastly from the flattering, edited photographs of promotional material. You can resign to fate and build the kit in those dastardly colours or you can alter its hue even before construction. In this section, I will run through the procedure I use to spray paint entire runners before putting them together.

You may think that spray paint whole runners is easier than say, hand painting a part using a brush or a Gundam Marker. You are half right; the actual spraying is not rocket science, its the preparatory work prior to the spraying that will take up a lot of time.


To ensure that each part on the runner gets as much paint coverage as possible, you need to do some heavy nipping. The above picture shows the runner and its connecting sprues all intact prior to nipping.

Firstly, look at each individual part and find the sprue that will leave the least visible nub upon nipping. That will be the connecting sprue for that particular part. 

Next, nip off all other sprues, including the support pieces. That means that if the entire frame has to go, it has to go. You can cut up your runners into smaller pieces if you wish, but do remember its lettering and/or numbering for ease of construction. Generally, I try to keep the runner in one piece. If there are nubs on the parts, carefully use a hobby knife and/or sanding sponge to remove it. Exercise as extreme caution as the part is connected to the main runner frame by the weakest connecting sprue.


From the picture above, you can see that the only sprues left are the ones at the end, and these will be covered with a layer of armor upon assembly, thus the nubs there will not be visible at all. Also, notice the trimming down of the sprues to ensure maximum exposure.

Prepare your spray painting facility. This means having newspaper taped to the floor of a well-ventilated area - you don't want dirty newsprint sticking to your wet paint. Also, prepare a hair dryer to hasten the drying process.


Bear in mind that light coats are always better than thick coats, so apply two to three thin coats to your runners as opposed to one heavy run. Paint tends to congeal and pool if you spray too heavily or too closely, resulting in an ugly, pockmarked texture.

Always spray the UNDERSIDE of the runners first. This is to full cover every millimeter of the part so that it would seem as though it was molded in that colour. One thin coat should suffice for parts bearing a similar colour to the paint, while contrasting colours would require more coats to fully cover the surface.

Hold the spray nozzle about a foot from the part and depress. Go in a Z-shaped fashion and turn the runner around so that every exposed surface will receive an even coat of paint. Use the hair dryer to quicken the drying before proceeding with the second coat and so on. Repeat until you are satisfied with the colour you are getting before allowing the runner to air dry.


Wait about an hour for the paint to fully dry before proceeding with construction. For the nub created by the last connecting sprue, you can use a marker or brush to fill in that colour. However, as it is often the least visible nub, it will be hidden upon assembly.