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Anyone can build great looking 'Gundam' model kits

Everything you need to know to start building Gundam models or if you are curious about Gunpla
Let’s start with the very basics: Gunpla refers to plastic mecha model kits from Bandai, a Japanese entertainment company. The term itself comes from the Mobile Suit Gundam anime movie and TV series franchise, mixing the words Gundam and plastic model.

Much like other plastic model kits, Gundam model kits come molded in plastic sprues (sometimes called parts trees or runners, depending on where you’re at in the world). But Gunpla differ from most other model kits because they come molded in different colors and snap-fit together, meaning Gundam model kits often don’t require glue or paint to build and finish. This makes Gunpla an excellent starting point for aspiring modelers to enter the hobby.
To start building Gundam model kits, you’ll need, well, a kit. Gunpla kits come in different grades denoting degree of difficulty and price. A High Grade (HG) kit is one of the most affordable Gundam plastic model grades available and suitable for beginners. This Bandai HG 1/144 scale RGM-79(G) GM Ground Type EFSF mobile suit contains a moderate number of parts and looks great, even without paint.
Next, to build Gundam model kits, you’ll need some basic tools: nippers or side cutters, a hobby knife, and a variety of sanding sticks in grits from coarse to extra fine.

Experienced Gunpla modelers recommend you have both a double-bladed and a single-bladed nipper — the first for for the initial cut from the sprue and the second for a more precise cut. However, a single-bladed nipper can be an expensive tool, and isn’t strictly necessary, so let’s stick with a double-bladed nipper for this kit.

A cutting mat isn’t a requirement, but it’s a good idea to prevent damaging your work surface.
Inside most Gundam model kits, you’ll find the assembly instructions, stickers (and dry-transfer decals in Master Grade and higher), and three or four plastic bags with sprues full off parts molded in accurate colors for the subject. I alphabetize the Gunpla runners in an organizer, but the box will work, too.
Instruction manuals for Gundam model kits are pretty easy to understand. Bandai prints some pages in color, and newer models comes with an English translation on the box and instructions. Even without any translation, the Gunpla illustrations are straight forward and include a color painting guide if you’re ready to take that step.

Gundam model kit instructions indicate the parts you’re supposed to remove by the letter of the sprue and the number of the part. For example, Part A2 means go to Sprue A and find Part 2.

Assembling a Gundam plastic model is easy as long as you follow the manual. When the parts don’t fit, do not force them together. You probably have the wrong part, you’re installing the part in the wrong place, or you have the part positioned incorrectly. Take your time and check the instructions.

When removing parts from sprues in Gundam model kits, make sure to cut away from the part and never try to cut as close as possible. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of gouging the part itself or creating white marks, which come from pinched or stressed plastic. When cutting the Gunpla parts, leave a couple of millimeters between the nipper and the part.
With a new blade in your hobby knife, slowly shave away the nub you left on the part when you removed it from the sprue. Don’t try to take it off in one go because you’ll risk gouging the Gundam plastic model part or creating stress marks. Take it slow, removing thin layers until it is almost gone.

Also, find a comfortable way to hold the knife and BE CAREFUL. Hobby knives are extremely sharp.
Finally, to finish removing the sprue nub on the Gunpla part, rub it away with progressively finer sanding sticks. Since this Gundam mobile suit won’t be painted, you’ll want to get the plastic as smooth as possible, working up through 2500- or 4000-grit will work fine.

But if you were going to paint Gundam model kits, you can stop at 1000 grit to give the primer something a little better to stick to.

It may seem strange but removing sprue nubs varies in difficulty depending on the color of the plastic. White plastic is the easiest to work and sand to hide nubs. Be more careful with darker colors in Gundam model kits because they tend to be more brittle and prone to stress.
Aside from runner nubs, you might also encounter mold lines on Gundam plastic model parts. These are produced where molds meet when the sprue is made. Here, I’m removing a mold seam with a ceramic scraper, but you can also use the edge of your hobby knife. Clean up any rough spots with standing sticks just like with sprue nubs.
Once all nub marks are removed from your Gunpla parts, it’s time to assemble! If you plan on painting or disassembling your Gundam plastic model in the future, slightly cutting the male pegs at a 45-degree angle makes the process easier. Then just follow the instructions until you’ve completed building!
Decals and panel lining will make Gundam model kits look 10 times better than just assembling it. Waterslide decals, when applied correctly, look better than the stickers supplied with Gunpla kit, and picking out panel lines adds a layer of realism and helps details pop.

Do you need to do it? No. But it does improve your build.

I bought a G-Rework RGM-79G GM Ground Type decal set specifically for this mobile suit Gundam and Brown Tamiya Panel Line Accent (No. 87140). To clean up any errant panel line accent, use enamel thinner, mineral spirits, or turpentine.
Building Gundam model kits, I apply waterslide decals before darkening panel lines because some decals overlap panel lines. Sometimes Gunpla kit instructions have a decal guide on the last page, but since I’m using aftermarket decals, I will base decal placement on the guide from that set.
To place waterslide decals on a Gundam plastic model, you’ll need a bowl or saucer filled with warm (not hot) water for you to submerge the decals. You can add white vinegar to the water (up to a 2:3 ratio) because it acts as a natural decal softener to help the film settle on curved or uneven surfaces. Cut out the decal with a sharp hobby knife or pair of scissors and drop it into the water.
Some decals take longer than others to loosen from the backing paper, but usually no more than 30 seconds. Pull the decal out of the water with tweezers, slide it off the backing paper and onto the part.
Make sure the decal is aligned where you want it on your Gundam model kit and then gently roll a cotton swab across the decal to remove excess water.
Once the decal is down and you’re sure it won’t accidentally move, brush decal softener onto the marking. It will help the decal settle and look like it’s painted on the surface of the Gundam plastic model.
Tamiya Panel Line Accent can dissolve bare plastic, so you’ll need a protective layer. Before applying the panel line color, spray your Gunpla with a coat of acrylic gloss clear.  You can use either a spray can or an airbrush. The clear varnish will seal the decals and creates a smooth finish for the panel line color to flow along.

No need to disassemble your Gundam model kit, just spread the limbs and spray on the clear coat.

After letting the varnish cure for 48-72 hours, you can apply the panel line wash. Also called a pinwash, lining panels improves the overall look and brings out the details of Gundam model kits. Just dab the panel liner brush to one end of a panel line and it will flow on its own due to capillary action.
After letting the panel line color dry for a couple of seconds, dampen a cotton swab with the cleaner of your choice (mentioned in above) and wipe away any excess panel liner. Note: The swab does not have to be soaked with thinner; just enough to do the job.
And lastly, spray a topcoat of clear varnish over your Gunpla. The topcoat ensures the decals and panel lines on your Gundam model kits will not rub off or smudge and protects the model during handling.

For this, you’ll want to use either a clear acrylic or enamel paint. Lacquer could react with the Tamiya Panel Line Accent. You can choose a gloss, satin, or flat sheen—whatever you prefer.
There you have it! Gundam model kits are some of the easiest and most suitable kits for beginners in all of model making. It’s therapeutic and enjoyable, making it an awesome hobby to have.
And building Gundam models only requires a few tools, so the barrier to entry is quite low. What are you waiting for?

Visit to find many of the tools used above.
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