Friday, 13 September 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Head Unit Complete]

After the highs of attempting to replicate realism inherent in a Race Queen's facial features, my mood slowly leveled out as I worked on the Head Unit of the RX-78-2 Gundam. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the process of painting and putting the mecha's head together. I did. Besides it provides a welcome change of pace, forcing me to vary my usual approach to a project. Knowing myself, I'm pretty sure if I painted human faces all the time then the highs would soon feel like a regular norm. But I digress. Below is the process of painting and building the RX-78-2 Gundam's iconic head.      

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Head Unit, unlighted

At this fairly advanced stage, the only new paint I had to use was the Tamiya X-27 Clear Red acrylic paint. This time though I used lacquer thinner as a solvent instead of the standard water-and-alcohol thinner mix for acrylic paints. Characteristics of Tamiya's alcohol-based acrylic paint allow for this, and it's suppose to make the paint layers more resistant to scratches and damage. Do note however that it's generally always a bad idea to add lacquer thinner to water-based acrylic paints.   

Pieces of the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit all laid out (and painted) prior to assembly

Core of the Head Unit assembled; awaiting the outer armor panels and 60 mm vulcan guns (yellow part)
Here the top half of the Head Unit is still exposed, awaiting final assembly including the iconic 'V' fin
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit fully assembled, painted and panel lined

There are two tones of white on the Head Unit. Bluish white on the section encasing the twin 60 mm Vulcan Guns - the only yellow parts on the head. [A bit of Gundam trivia: the Vulcan Guns are the mecha's close-in weapon system that's used against smaller, less heavily armored targets like missiles, vehicles, etc. They are ineffective against other Mobile Suit Armor.] Meanwhile pure white forms the predominant hue of the Head Unit with some red, black, metallic and yellow making up the rest of the color scheme. The eyes comprise clear parts which will channel light from the LED Unit.

RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (front view)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, front-left)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (left profile)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, from the back on the left side)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (back view; note bluish white mid-section sandwiched by white armor)

That segues nicely into the fact that I haven't yet tested how LED lights effect the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit. I thought I would leave that one for the final photo reveal. Speaking of lighting effects, I proceeded to hand brush the eye area with black primer paint to prevent light leakage. Although black sticker decals were provided for this purpose, I didn't use them. Well, you should know how I feel about sticker decals by now. If you don't, feel free to revisit my constant whinging about sticker decals in past posts. Anyway, hand brushing black onto the eye piece was a quick and easy process.

RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, from the back on the right side)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (right profile)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, front-right)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (front view with head tilted slightly upwards to show a clearer view of the eyee)
Top down view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit

Upon finishing the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit, I was admittedly surprised at its relatively small size in comparison the its Body Unit. In theory I suppose it makes sense as the head isn't truly critical to the mecha's operations in that the Mobile Suit can still function, albeit less effectively, without it. If memory serves me, the head contains the Vulcan Guns as well as the main camera and sensors. But because the pilot is situated in the torso and some secondary cameras and sensors exist on the body, the Gundam can still operate without its head. A blow to the torso however, and it's bye bye Gundam. And with that I bid you farewell for now and end with a totally unrelated quote (apart from the color red) from Pennywise the clown ... Ohhh. Come on, bucko. Don't you want a... balloon?

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

HQ12-02 Race Queen [WIP - Face, Boots, etc.] plus a Review of the Tamiya Modeling Brush PROII (Ultra Fine)

Almost without fail, I seem to hit pause on each and every one of my scale model figurine projects whenever it was time to paint the eyes. Inertia seems to grip me as I gather the needed courage to paint eyes at the miniature scale. In fact I had been debilitated with fearful inaction for so long that progress on the Race Queen's paint job was last made three-and-a-half-months ago. So what has changed? Up until now I've never felt I had tools that were truly up to the task of painting eyes at a miniature scale, even though they were Kolinsky Sable brushes. But that's no longer the case.     

atelier iT 1/12 scale Race Queen resin figurine work-in-progress: Facial details
Work done include her eyes, upper/lower eyelids, nose and some touch up on her lips and teeth
Metal zipper on her Race Queen outfit was also painted in this session

A key difference between the Tamiya Modeling Brush Pro II (Ultra Fine Kolinsky Sable Pointed Brush) and the existing Kolinsky Sable brushes in my collection is in its shape. The Tamiya version has a brush that is wide at its base before tapering into an ultra fine point. In contrast, the fine pointed Kolinsky Sable brushes that I currently have, unfortunately do not have a wide enough base to load up the brush with sufficient paint, which in turn prevents the brush from drying up too quickly. In addition, the wider base actually helps maintain a more stable brush point thus increasing accuracy.

Tamiya Modelling Brush Pro II (Ultra Fine Kolinsky Sable Pointed Brush)
As advertised the brush does indeed ... "maintains shape and has good paint carrying capacity".

Another pleasing characteristics of the Tamiya Pro II Ultra Fine brush is its fattened ergonomic grip. I prefer it to the usual pencil-like grip. Together with its stable sharp point and high paint carrying capacity, I found painting the eyes so much easier than before. Moreover, the extra large plastic cover which serves to protect the pointed brush tip is a welcome change from the usual small, narrow plastic piece provided by paint brush makers. For one, it reduces the chances I'll accidentally damage the brush tip when covering it as well as offer much better protection for the tip. 

Extra large plastic cover makes it easier to prevent accidental damage to the pointed brush tip
Kolinsky Sable brush is wide at the base (paint carrying capacity), then tapers down to an ultra fine tip (accuracy)

Meanwhile, the boots and nails were painted using a regular run-of-the-mill nylon paint brush. Larger surfaces do not require the pinpoint accuracy of a Kolinksy Sable brush. A regular brush does the job just as well so there is no need to add wear and tear to the more expensive Tamiya PRO II brushes, bought online for ¥1,140 from Japan-based HobbySearch. So a neutral white was added to the Pantone COTY 2016 scheme of her boots while a reddish pink was applied to her nails. I wasn't happy with the latter as awful preparatory work on my part resulted in a rough, mold-lined surface that wasn't conducive to smooth layers of paint. I need to work better and smarter at the prep stage.    

These boots are made for walking; And that's just what they'll do;
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you
Not happy with the nails/hands at all; largely due to a badly managed preparatory process

A different background was selected for a series of photos of the Race Queen just to see how her skin tone looked against a beige background. Can't say I'm a fan of the results and instead may opt for blue as an alternative background color for the completed figurine's photo shoot. 

1/12 scale Race Queen facial details against a beige background
While her dark brown iris blended in with her black pupils as is wont in real life ...
... I had actually intended for lighter brown irises; but I'll be leaving the eyes as they are for now

After all that's said and done, there are three key areas of my hobby bugbear - painting eyes - that can be improved upon. One, a better differentiation between pupils and irises. Two, adding eyelashes to the eyes. And Three, a more realistic placement of eye lens highlights. Of course there are more areas I can work on but these three takes precedence in the coming projects. Hopefully by next week the Race Queen will have been completed with uploads of photos and a video to follow soon after. Until then, have a great week and may the point of your paint brushes always be sharp.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [Body Unit Completed, Body Unit Part 5 of 5]

As someone who prefers an orderliness to the build process, I had divided up assembly of the Body Unit into specific build sections i.e. the Inner Frame, Outer Panels, Ransel/Backpack and Head. Breaking up a larger body of work into smaller pieces not only made the build processes much more manageable but it also had an added advantage of invoking a greater sense of accomplishment. This is important to stave off the dreaded hobby malaise - a scourge that has resulted in many a scale model kit or miniature figurine to be abandoned half-finished and left in storage to gather dust.  

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Body Unit (three-quarter view from the front) 
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Body Unit (three-quarter view from the back)

In the series of photos shown here, you would've noticed the LED lights weren't switched on. That I will leave for after the Head Unit has been attached to the Body Unit. Inside the Body Unit is a huge cavity which houses the LED Unit in the upper torso and the Core Fighter in the lower torso. First though, the fighter will have to be transformed into a compact form before it can fit into the cavity space. But since there is a single molded piece that mimics the fighter in its 'folded-in' form, it's likely I'll paint that part and use it in lieu of the actual Core Fighter which will be displayed separately.

RX-78-2 Gundam's Body Unit completed and awaiting its Head, Arm and Waist/Leg Units
After the neck is attached the LED Unit will be housed within the upper torso, and in order to ...
 ... access to the light's on/off swtich, the Ransel (Backpack) has to be temporarily detached from the torso
Thus far the color scheme is a mix of primary colors, metallic hues, white and a bluish dark grey

Up to this stage, the only complaint I have of this excellent kit is that only sticker decals are provided for detailing work. I prefer either water decals or at least dry transfer decals, both of which provide a more realistic finish. While water decals for this specific kit are available as a standalone purchase, they seem to be out of stock at my favorite Japan online store for the moment. Anyway, below is a series of photos starting with a top down view, then transitioning to a bottom up view.

Top down view of the completed RX-78-2 Gundam (Master Grade Version 3.0) Body Unit
Clear part atop the neck serves to redirect light from the LED Unit upwards towards the Head Unit
Front view of the completed RX-78-2 Gundam Body Unit
Cavity within the lower torso eventually houses the Core Fighter (or a single molded piece resembling the fighter)
Bottom up view of the completed RX-78-2 Gundam (Master Grade Version 3.0) Body Unit

Work on the 1/100 scale Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0 is progressing surprisingly well, moving along faster than expected. Actual completed work has gone much further ahead of the blog posts, so much so I'm thinking of posting twice a week if I can find the time. For now, I plan to give you, my dear readers, a short break from Gundam, which admittedly isn't everyone's cup of tea. So for the upcoming two posts I plan to reveal the 1/12 scale Race Queen figurine - from her final stages up to the completed photos and videos. All's fine and I feel good. So I leave you for now with the immortal words of Freddie Mercury circa 1985 during Live Aid ... All Right!

Friday, 23 August 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Neck & LED Light, Body Unit Part 4 of 5]

While the neck region was the easiest step of the entire RX-78-2 Gundam Body Unit to paint and assemble, it did however require the addition of an LED light unit which I hadn't attempted before. Fortunately, though, the Bandai LED Unit (Yellow) was a straightforward propriety lighting system that did not require any extensive knowledge of electrical wiring.

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0 work-in-progress: Neck region with LED light switched on

Only a few parts were involved in the paint/assembly process of the neck region. No new colors were needed as the color scheme utilized existing paint mixes. And from the outset it was clear that its design was to channel light from a LED lighting system housed in the Body Unit onto the Head Unit. 

Pieces of the RX-78-2 Gundam neck region all laid out prior to assembly
All the pieces were painted except for the clear part and the ring-like connector it's attached to
Neck region of the RX-78-2 Gundam fully assembled sans the LED lighting unit

To light up the clear part in the neck - which subsequently lights up the eyes on the Head Unit, a story for another day - I used Bandai's proprietary LED Unit. Also available are units with either blue or green lights but the RX-78-2 Gundam required the version with the yellow light. Putting together the LED Unit (see series of photos below) was a quick and effortless task; the only tools required are a nipper to cut the part off its sprue, a hobby knife (or sanding stick) to clean up nub marks and a Philips screwdriver to securely fasten the cover onto the LED Unit and keep the batteries in place.

Bandai LED Unit (Yellow)
Assembly instructions for the LED lighting unit was printed on the insides of the packaging
Instructions state that the LED unit requires two LR41 alkaline cell batteries in order to light up
Bandai's LED unit comes in two separate parts and a screw to put them together

One complaint I have of the Bandai LED Unit is that the battery contacts were a tad wonky. At one point I couldn't switch on the light and had thought my LED Unit was defective. But after fiddling about with the contacts and repositioning them with a toothpick, I managed to get the light to turn on.

LED unit parts out of the packaging and ready to be assembled plus LR41 batteries from Daiso
LED unit's parts all cleaned up and the batteries out of their packaging
Cover enclosing the LR41 batteries inside the LED unit needs to be screwed on with a Philips screwdriver
Isometric view of the unlighted Bandai LED unit
Isometric view of the LED unit with its lights on (note: lights look dim when viewed from the side)

When viewed from a side angle, the brightness of the LED light seemed a bit dim. However when viewed from a top down angle the light looked much brighter. In a way, this makes sense because the light needs to be directed upwards towards the RX-78-2 Gundam's Head Unit to light up its eyes. 

Top down view of the unlighted Bandai LED unit
Top down view of the LED unit with its lights on (note: lights look brighter when viewed from above)

Upon completion of the LED lighting unit, it was then attached to the neck part (see below). The connection is secure as the neck part was molded to accommodate the proprietary LED Unit.

RX-78-2 Gundam neck region prior to the LED unit being attached to it
RX-78-2 Gundam neck region with the LED unit attached to its underside
RX-78-2 Gundam neck region complete with LED unit now ready to be fixed onto the torso

At this stage, the various sub-assemblies making up the RX-78-2 Gundam's Body Unit is essentially done. So all that remains to be done, for the Body Unit at least, is to combine the Neck plus LED Unit as well as the Ransel (Backpack) to the Torso, which itself comprises Outer Panels attached to an Inner Frame. Once that's done and the requisite photos taken, I can then move on to the next stage of the build. Actually before that happens I'm hoping to complete a different project which is in its final stages i.e. the 1/12 Race Queen figurine. For now though, it's goodbye until next week.
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