Painting (panel shading)

Finally some painting!

Do you need an airbrush and compressor? Highly recommended if you're serious about building kits. My basic tools page has some blurb about them at the bottom. In short I recommend the Iwata Eclipse-CS brush. The Eclipse-BS has a smaller cup, which is inconveinent (constant paint filling) when you base coat. Airbrushing is covered here.

The choice of paint is all personal preferences, I have some paint properties in the paint section in the figures tutorial. I use Mr. Color lacquer paints, as they stick to plastic pretty well and you can pose the finished kit without much hazard. There are also official Gunze Sangyo gundam color sets which I occasionally use; they're lacquer-based.

 
People don't spray simple color on the kits anymore, but instead do panel shading commonly referred to as "Max technique". Actually Max Watanabe didn't invent it, but both armor and aircraft modelers have been doing it for years, though Max popularized it in the mecha modeling world. It's a nice way to spice up appearance of your mecha without too much work.


It can be done in two ways - preshading or postshading. In preshading, you base coat a darker color and apply lighter shade in the middle of a panel, so that the edges are darkened. Postshading is obviously the opposite, painting the lighter shade and then darken the panel edges. These shading are usually done with an airbrush.

Preshading is easier in general, because all you need to do is to spray in the larger area of the panel center, and you have a little more control over when to stop. Here I primed Valkyrie with grey (top, black can also be used...), and applied white over the center of each panel (middle). Then I apply a few thin layers of the Valkyrie white colors (bottom). For the Valkyrie I prefer a more subtle look, but the GP01 above it's less so. In general it looks better if the panel edges have a slightly darker color of the panel itself, but not obviously black or dark grey. You can always tone down the shade by more thin layers of the panel color. Some people argue that the very dark color on the edges are "weathering" that achieves a dirty look, but I have yet to see a real exposed panel "weathered" this way.

 

Postshading is a bit harder because you need to control the spray around the thinner armor edges. However I found it less involved because you're dealing with less layers of paints.

For the GP01 I use smoke (= transparent black) for the shades. Turn the compressor pressure way down, and thin smoke 60/40 and airbrush in the edges. Afterwards, apply a thin layer of the panel color overall to blend the colors in.

You can achieve good results with either method, which one you choose depends on your personal preference and the situation (e.g. it's a lot more difficult to do post-shading on the Valkyrie).

If you want your mechas to have a even more realistic appearance, you can do shading and highlighting based on light source. Refer to the light & shadow section in the figures tutorial.

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