Monday, 29 February 2016

Using a Pencil Topper for technique practice - testing out Mr.Hobby Top Coat, Tamiya Weathering Master and Panel Line Accent Color

Testing out new techniques under a limited budget can be an extremely frustrating exercise. Not only are our model kits too precious to be experimented on but expensive supplies mean there is little we can spare for use on things other than the actual project itself. However, to plough ahead without knowing what we're doing can ruin the costly model kit, which brings you back to square one. My solution is to use a spare/optional model kit part that hasn't been earmarked for any future kitbash projects or to simply use free stuff that's suitably sized so that no overuse of supplies will occur.    

FN-2187 pencil topper, completed with weathering and paints

For my first experiences with the acrylic-based Mr.Hobby Flat/Matt Top Coat spray can, the Tamiya Weathering Master kits and enamel-based Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color paint, I turned to a cereal box freebie in the form of a pencil topper shaped to resemble a bust of a Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper. I was surprised by the relatively well sculpted proportions of the pencil topper and the fact it was plastic made it ideal for use as a test piece for the supplies I was testing out.

Star Wars-themed Pencil Topper that came free in a cereal box

Straight out of the box, the piece had glossy black paint on relevant sections. But the paint job wasn't very clean and neat (as to be expected) and some panel lines required shading to create more depth.

First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper, as it looks straight-out-of-the-box

To spruce things up and make things look a little bit more tidy, I proceeded to repaint the blacks using Citadel's matt black acrylic paint and added a touch of enamel-based panel lining paint - specifically grey to the tube stripes and black to an indentation on the upper chest area, right below the chin. Both products - the Citadel Abbadon Black and the Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (grey/black) - were well suited for use on a piece of unprimed white plastic. 

Citadel matt black paint and Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (black and grey)
Piece with black parts repainted, and some grey/black panel liners added for greater depth

This was followed by several thin layers of an acrylic flat/matt clear coating. The aim was to remove the toy-like plastic sheen from the pencil topper and provide a strong as well as rough enough surface for the weathering material to take hold. If this had been a display piece, I would've left it as it is at this stage because I loved the look of an unweathered First Order Stormtrooper bust. But a key reason for this session was to try using the Tamiya Weathering Master kit so on it went to the next stage.

Mr.Hobby Top Coat Flat/Matt acrylic-based spray can
At this stage, the piece took on a dull flat/matt appearance

Side note: when observing the piece closely I noticed that the application of the clear flat/matt coat may have left some tiny white spots on the surface of the googles. This could be the result of the hot and humid weather in which the clear coat was applied or due to dust being trapped inside the clear coat. While the spots were not noticeably in this rather large piece, it could potentially look terrible in a smaller scaled miniature. More experimenting with the Mr.Hobby Top Coat will be needed e.g. spraying at varying distances from the miniature as well as in different weather conditions, before I can say for sure if this will be a problem, especially if used as a final sealing coat.

Tiny white spots were barely visible here but on a smaller scale piece it could be a deal breaker

Finally, some weathering and blood effects were applied on the pencil topper to simulate the character FN-2187 aka Finn from The Force Awakens. The latter effect was a tried-and-true paint recipe I had used before - Tamiya Clear X-27, Citadel Scorched Brown and Abaddon Black -  while the former was done using a weathering kit I was new to - the Tamiya Weathering Master. The clear flat/matt coat had provided a strong enough base for the semi-wet weathering pastels (as least that's what I think they are) to adhere to. And the final touch was to apply a gloss varnish to the googles of the First Order Stormtrooper to simulate the reflective material it's supposed to be made from.

Tools used to achieve weathering, blood and gloss effects
Blood effects and weathering to mimic FN-2187 on the First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper
FN-2187, First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper (front view)
Better lining on the helmet could've given the piece more depth
FN-2187, First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper (back view)

Overall, the final piece didn't turn out as well as I wanted it to. But I'm not complaining too much as I wasn't familiar with more than half the stuff I was using. Conclusions I drew from this simple technique practice session include:

1. Tamiya's enamel-based Panel Line Accent Colors works well through capillary action on the smooth surface of an unprimed plastic model;  
2. A few thin layers of Mr.Hobby Top Coat Flat/Matt on top of an unprimed plastic model provided a strong and rough enough base for weathering purposes;
3. Used in tandem with dark brown and black acrylic paints, the Tamiya Clear Red X-27 is - in my honest opinion - the de facto standard for realistic blood;
4. Against a pure white background, even the grey Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color turned out to be too dark hence possibly necessitating the use of Citadel's acrylic-based washes or Reaper's grey liners as alternatives in future projects; and finally ...
5. White spots formed during the spraying of the acrylic clear flat/matt coat could have been caused by the hot and humid weather or by dust being trapped in the coating. Further experimenting with the clear coat being sprayed at varying distances and weather conditions will have to be conducted.

Thanks for checking out my little experiment on a plastic pencil topper. Experiences gained from this session should stand me in good stead when I tackle the Bandai 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper. I'm just glad I stumbled on this great freebie to work on before the real thing comes along. Until next time, have yourself a great week ahead!


  1. Replies
    1. Getting to play with new supplies is always cool.

  2. Looking extremely good, especially for a trial figure.

    1. You're too kind Moiterei, thanks. I honestly wasn't too happy with the end results but that just down to my inexperience using the panel liners and weathering ... all made much worse by the fact that I was working on a predominantly white piece.

  3. You serious? This is awesome! You made a delicate bust out of a rubber piece, wow...

    1. Thanks Suber! But I must say I preferred the piece just prior to messing it up with the weathering and blood.


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