Friday, 28 June 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP Part 2 of 3 Core Fighter : Detail Painting and Sticker Decals]

It has been quite a while since I painted figurines at a scale of 1/100 or less. My last effort dates back more than three years ago for a 1/144 scale project that has since been mothballed. Back then I painted the ensemble cast revolving around the Millennium Falcon (first Han and Chewie followed by the rest). from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As you can see my painting skills at such scales have degenerated due to lack of use. But being a fastidious online chronicler of the progresses made on my miniature figurine and scale model kit projects, I am still posting the results, warts and all.

Amuro Ray, seated pilot version at 1/100 scale [Completed]
Torso looks a bit of a mess but I didn't bother with touch ups seeing it'll be largely hidden from view
To my naked eye the results looked great but up close with a dedicated macro lens ... not so much
Painting straight lines at this scale gets easier the more you practice
At this tiny scale, the miniature figurine looks better the farther you pull back

Apart from Amuro Ray in the seated pilot pose, there wasn't really much detail painting required of the FF-X7 Core Fighter of the RX-78-2 Gundam. Ordnance in the fighter's missile pods was painted a plain red; the cockpit backlit display green with off-white nondescript letterings; while surrounding area of the pilot seat received a dark gray hue with more green instrument panels plus dots of off-white and reds to signify instrument lights. That last bit would eventually turn out to be a waste of effort as at that time I didn't realize most of it was going to be completely hidden from view.

Missile pods attaching into the wings had the tips of its ordnance painted red
Cockpit instrument panel with a green 'backlit' display and some nondescript letterings
Surrounding area of pilot seat which, at the time of painting, I didn't realize was going to be hidden from view

Throughout my eight years in the hobby, this was the first time I had come across sticker decals. And after working with them for just a short while, I can easily say I'm not a fan. At all. To me, they have too many negatives. Firstly, outlines of the sticker decals are extremely obvious thus cheapening the look of the whole kit. Secondly, if any weathering or panel lining is done too close to the sticker decals then the paint will tend to seep underneath the decal making the outlines even more obvious. Thirdly, it's impossible to move them around once stuck onto a surface. Peeling the sticker decals off to reposition them can work occasionally but in my case they were damaged beyond repair.    

Semi-assembled sections of the Core Fighter which required sticker decals
Bandai Gundam sticker decals and instructions on where to place them on the kit

Visibility of the sticker decal outlines seem to vary depending of the color of the surface the decal is stuck on. The frosty outline of the decal looks best hidden against a white background. But then again it could just be surfaces angled in a way to reflect more light therefore exposing the outlines. 

Sticker decals on the fighter's nose section was both wrongly placed (warning sign) ...
... as well as damaged (the nondescript words after WB102 had been torn off)
Frosty characteristics of the sticker decal seem more visible when placed against a blue versus white background
Most of the sticker decals for the Core Fighter require a mirror version to be placed on the other side
Any weathering or panel lining tends to seep underneath the sticker decals and make the decal outline visible
Yet another sticker decal which requires a mirror version of itself to be placed on the opposite side
White backgrounds seem best for hiding the frosty outline of the sticker decals
         On the wing tip, the sticker decals show another inherent flaw in that they don't conform well to uneven surfaces            (note: a groove in the middle of the decal causes the wordings to reflect light differently) 

Does that mean I'll never use sticker decals again? Unfortunately that may not be possible. I'll definitely avoid sticker decals if alternatives such as water decals or dry transfers are available. In cases where alternatives aren't available I'll either do without or use the sticker decals anyway.

Sub-assembled sections with sticker decals are placed next to a five sen coin and paperclip for size comparison

Before I sign off for this week, I thought I would add my two cents on Gundam kits in general. Initially I had wondered if I should paint the Core Fighter at all seeing that the color separation of this kit was so good. Even at this fairly early stage I can tell you I'm very glad I did. Though slight, the differences between a painted surface and a standard molded plastic surface is perceptible enough to the naked eye. So much so that the former has a higher realism factor while the latter looks toy-like. Well that's it for another week. The next should see a completed FF-X7 Core Fighter. See you then.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP Part 1 of 3 Core Fighter : Priming and Painting Strategy]

By and large, each scale model kit genre requires its own painting strategy. Even within a particular genre - be it armored fighting vehicles, miniature figurines or mechas - an individual kit may call for an approach that differs from the norm of its peers. As with most Gundam kits, the RX-78-2 requires a multitude of parts to be painted separately before they're combined to build a specific section of the mecha. While this is both challenging and time consuming, there is a certain perverse satisfaction to be had when it all comes together. This then is my painting strategy for the FF-X7 Core Fighter.   

RX-78-2 Gundam Core Fighter work-in-progress: Painting the individual parts that make up its whole
FF-X7 Core Fighter; designed to be a space fighter which doubles up as a cockpit for the RX-78-2 Gundam 

What then is a Core Fighter? In short, it's a space fighter that transforms to become the cockpit of a Gundam. Its alternate form allows it to fit into the mecha's torso. Priming for the individual Core Fighter parts was done in two main colors i.e. light gray and black. A few parts that were initially primed in light gray had to be re-primed in black. It was a straightforward mistake on my part as I wasn't paying attention to the eventual hues to be painted (i.e. metallic and dark grey) on those parts (i.e. engine vents and thrusters), which actually necessitated a black primer coat.     

Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray) and Mr.Hobby Mr.Finishing Surfacer 1500 (Black)
Primed and un-primed: all the indvidual parts that will make up the RX-78-2 Core Fighter

O Gundam, Gundam, how doth I even prime thee Gundam? Admittedly a few parts did not require any priming (see below). These are either parts that will be completely hidden from view therefore will remain unpainted or ones that are best in their original state e.g. clear parts. As for parts that needed priming, it was done in a variety of ways (also see below). Some were stuck on the end of a bamboo stick while others were secured on old vitamin bottles (only caps are shown). Either choice depended on which platform afforded the most stability to the part being held while painting.   

Miscellaneous parts of the Core Fighter that wasn't primed because they won't be painted
Parts stuck to the end of a bamboo stick for priming: Blue sections of the main body including nose
Parts too small (or unstable) to be stuck to the end of a stick: Canopy front structure, tail fin and pilot seat frame

Because it was an all clear part, the cockpit canopy needed special masking before it was primed. So apart from its supporting framework, the rest of the canopy was masked (see immediate photo below). Meanwhile sufficiently undergated parts (i.e. parts connected to the sprue at locations that will be hidden after assembly) and parts requiring minimal touch up work after being snipped off the sprue were both primed on the sprues itself. In fact the best way to secure some of these parts for priming was to actually leave them still attached to the sprues (also see below).   

Parts that require careful masking before being primed: Cockpit canopy
Parts primed on sprue (sufficiently undergated or require minor touch-up): Wings, missile pods, pilot, and body sections

Extreme measures were taken when there was a likelihood the primer coat may affect the assembly of the snap-fit parts. In such cases, the sub-assembly was put together first before being primed. The piece was then disassembled before the separate pieces are painted up. An advantage of this method is that the primed areas of the disassembled pieces show where paint is specifically needed. Surfaces that eventually form the snap-fit joint areas had been left unprimed thus giving a clear indication of where not to paint. This prevents a layer of primer/coat from making the fit too tight.

Parts (rear thrusters and main fighter body) put together into a sub-assembly before being primed ...
... and then disassembled back into its component parts for painting

At this early stage, mostly only basecoat colors were airbrushed onto the parts. One issue I had was the suboptimal coverage attributes of the Mr Color 001 Gloss White paint, at least on a light gray primer coat. I'm assuming that's why Mr.Hobby came out with the Mr.Color GX line that supposedly affords better paint coverage. I had no coverage problems with the Mr.Color Gundam Color paints. For the blues, I used UG02 Blue as the base color followed by UG14 Light Blue as a highlight color, then a reapplication of UG02 Blue to tie the blue hues together. For reds, I used UG04 Red only.

Whites airbrushed using the Mr.Color 001 White (Gloss); paint coverage was suboptimal
Masking tape removed from the cockpit canopy to reveal its structural framework
Blues airbrushed with Mr.Color Gundam Colors i.e. UG02 Blue and UG14 Light Blue; paint coverage good
Reds airbrushed using Mr.Color Gundam Color UG04 Red; paint coverage good

For parts painted on sprues, additional work was required in the form of paint touch ups. Separating painted parts from the sprue will inevitably leave blemishes on surface areas previously connected to the sprue/part. Thankfully careful planning beforehand had minimized occurrences of such blemishes, which were then easily covered up with Mr.Finishing Surfacer 1500 Gray followed by Gundam Color UG04 Red. Both were hand brushed onto the affected areas (see below). 

Parts painted on the sprues such as the wing assembly were then snipped off ...
... and the blemished areas previously connected to the sprue was touched up with hand brushed paint

It was only after the basecoat layer was applied that I realized the core fighter's tail fin was supposed to be in two colors. This oversight necessitated further masking, priming and painting of the part. 

Certain parts like the tail fin required further masking and additional paint
Color separation of the tail fin is clean thanks to the effective masking process

Meanwhile I also tried out a new specialized thinner for metallic paint. As I understand it, the Gaianotes G-Color Metallic Master Thinner T-09m suspends the metallic particles/pigments of the metallic paint (in this case, Gaia Color No.20 Gun Metal) better and for longer. In theory, this should result in less flakiness of the metallic paint. Cost-wise the specialized thinner costs almost twice the price of a regular Gaianotes lacquer paint thinner. There is still some flakiness to be seen but that could be my bad as I may not have properly mixed the metallic paint in the airbrush paint cup. 

Gaianotes metallic paint was thinned with the specially formulated G-Color T-09m Metallic Master
T-09m Metallic Master thinner supposedly suspends metallic pigments in the paint longer for a less flaky result
Parts that won't be painted remain unprimed while the pilot seat is re-primed in black

As you would've gathered by now even from just the photos above, painting Gundam isn't for the faint-hearted. It's a lot of planning. It's a lot of work. It's time consuming. Will it be worth it at the end. I'll let you know when, at the very least, the FF-X7 Core Fighter has been painted and fully assembled. Next up is painting the tiny details and applying sticker decals. So see you soon.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 Master Grade - Bandai 1/100 Scale Model Kit [Unboxing and Pre-Assembly Review]

Being the sentimental fool that I am, there was perhaps only one choice of model kit to kickstart my journey into Gunpla, the hobby of assembling and painting Gundam models. Be that as it may, there were still many versions of the iconic RX-78-2 Gundam to choose from, seeing that it was arguably the most widely represented mecha in Bandai's model kit product line. After a fair bit of research, I finally settled upon the 1/100 scale RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0 Master Grade kit. Here then is a quick unboxing and pre-assembly review of the granddaddy of all Gundams ... the RX-78-2.   

Bandai 1/100 scale Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0

Right off the bat I'm was already quite taken with the main box art. It depicted the RX-78-2 in a realistic manner, for a make-believe robot, versus the anime version which mainly has flat primary colors. Moreover, side box art showing the assembled model kit in various poses suggests a great looking Gundam can be build without having to paint it. But as tempting as it may seem, the thought of an unpainted kit isn't an appealing one. There are rare instances where painting isn't required but even then a clear coat is needed to remove the plasticky toy look of an unpainted model kit.

Side box art displaying the RX-78-2 Gundam in various poses as well as its gimmicks 

For a handier painting reference, the main box art is reproduced in full color on the front cover of the instruction booklet. Apart from this, there is a fully colored center spread showcasing the various gimmicks of this particular version of the RX-78-2 as well as a Mr.Hobby paint color guide for the Gundam and its pilot Amuro Ray. Meanwhile the rest of the booklet comprised a short history of the RX-78-2, a parts listing, assembly instructions and decal/foil sticker application guide was done in black and white only. While the language is mainly in Japanese, the diagrams are self explanatory. Assembly was divided into sections such as the core fighter, the head, body, legs, etc.

Center spread on the instruction booklet contains the painting color guide to the model kit
Instructions were in Japanese but the diagrams seem easy to follow and understand

From the number of sprues included in the kit, I was expecting a fairly high part count. While the number was nothing compared to the 1000+ parts found in some AFV model kits, it's still high enough to be a challenge and definitely higher than most Bandai Star Wars kits. Also included is a set of decal and foil stickers for use on the RX-78-2 Gundam. As I understand it, only the Master Grade Gundam model kits under the Version Katoki (Ver.Ka) product line have water slide decals. This is a bit of a downer as decal stickers are inferior to water slide decals in terms of realism.   

Lots of sprues/parts means the RX-78-2 Gundam won't be a quick project, especially if painted

Bandai has created a model kit that should look great without a single drop of paint. This is clearly evident from the sheer number of colors the molded parts come in, ranging from pure white to dark gray and two off-white shades in between i.e. light brownish gray and light bluish gray. There are also two shades of red, two variants of blue, three types of gray as well as clear red/transparent parts - everything needed to build the RX-78-2 without having to paint it save perhaps a final clear coat. But as I've mentioned earlier, tempting as it is, I do not intend to leave the RX-78-2 unpainted.

Sprue A and B: Core fighter parts (white, red, blue, gray and clear); Sprue C: Clear parts for the head and body unit
Sprue D: Weapons, shield and waist unit parts (pure white)
Sprue E: Head, body, waist, leg units and shield parts (red, yellow and yellow)

As mentioned above, there is an incredible amount of tonal variations for just the white/off-white molded pieces which form the main outer armor of the RX-78-2. And the existence of such subtly varied hues has two implications for a modeller who intends to paint the model kit. Firstly, having parts already molded in different colors greatly helps in the organization of parts during the painting process. Second and more importantly, with so much contrasting hues already present, the modeller then has to decide whether to add more contrast via post- or pre-shading. On this I'm still undecided.  

Sprue F1: Head, arm, waist and leg unit parts (pure white)
Sprue F2: Arm, waist and leg unit parts (pure white)
Sprue G1: Head, body, arm, waist and leg unit parts; Sprue G2: Arm, waist and leg unit parts (off-white)
Sprue H1: Arm, waist and leg unit and weapon parts; Sprue H2: Arm, waist and leg unit parts (light brown)

Design of the kit necessitates an inner frame be built first before the outer armor is piled on. A quick glance at the instruction leads me to believe that the modeller could either build the entire inner frame before starting on the outer armor or just build each section (e.g. head, body, etc.) to completion (i.e. with the outer armor attached) before the separate sections are attached together. As I plan to paint everything and keep things as simple as possible, I'll likely go the latter route. Having an inner frame allegedly increases freedom of movement hence poseability of the finished kit. 

Sprue I: Inner frame parts for the head, body and waist units; and parts for the weapons (dark gray)
Sprue J1: Inner frame parts for the body, arm, waist and leg units; and parts for the weapons (dark gray)
Sprue J2: Inner frame parts for the body, arm, waist and leg units (dark gray)
Sprue K: Parts for the weapons (dark gray)
Clockwise from left - Sprue PC-202A: Poly-caps and other joint articulation parts; Sprue MP1: Finger parts; Sprue L: Inner frame parts for the body and waist units and parts for the hand (dark gray) and Sprue SB1: Beam sabre clear red part

Adding to an already well contrasted piece, Bandai also includes plenty of decal and foil stickers to enhance the level of detail on the model kit. Just looking at the instruction booklet boggles the mind as to the decal placement options available (see below). As for the foil stickers, they comprise mainly metallic copper sheets meant for the joints. Because I intend to paint up the RX-78-2, these stickers will be of no use to me. But it's a nice touch for modellers who don't want to paint it.    

If one is so inclined, there are many ways in which to spruce up Grandpa Gundam via decals
Decal and foil stickers for the Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam v3.0

To get a rough idea of the color separation inherent in the molded parts, one should first take a look at the paint color guide provided by Bandai for the Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0. Three shades of white and gray respectively, two for the reds and two variants of blue. Only the yellows are of a single shade. This guide is perfectly replicated in the color molded parts (see below). 

Painting Guide for the RX-78-2 Gundam v3.0 is excellent in terms of color separation
White/Off-White molded parts are color separated into white, light gray and light brown
Red molded parts are color separated into a darker (left) and brighter (right) hue
Blue molded parts are color into a light blue with violet hues and a standard bright blue
Even the gray parts are color separated into three shades, two of which are shown above
Clear sprues comprise the beam sabre red and body/head transparent parts
Yellow was the only main color in which the parts were not color separated

So my first Gundam project is ready for launch. But before I even begin, there's lots of planning involved because this will be the first time I've attempted to paint so many small parts separately before assembling them. Previous experience with Bandai Star Wars kits that require less parts to be painted separately have frequently ended in part-fit problems, and therefore broken joints when forced together. Though I approach this project with trepidation, I also see it as a new challenge. Brave words, eh? Nah, forced bravado is more like it. Still, there's no stopping this project now.

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