This past year, despite knowing absolutely nothing about Japanese cartoons, I’ve been trying out Gunpla, or Gundam Plastic Modelling, and have found it to be quite enjoyable. Gundam models are kind of unique in the sheer creativity that one can apply to them. There are many different ways to approach a Gundam project, from a cartoonish style to an automotive candy coat to a hyper-realistic weathered model, and all are equally valid.
So, after doing two high grades — a Zaku and a Gundam — I decided to mix things up and bang out the 00 Gundam SD model that had made it into my stash courtesy of a coworker who was into the franchise but evidently less into the modelling aspect.
The SD series, or Super Deformed, are basically the egg planes or toon tanks of the Gundam universe. With big heads and short stubby limbs, they look like cute chibi versions of regular Gundams. The kits are even more simple than the High Grades, with fewer parts and fewer points of articulation. For example, the arms on this kit are just a couple pieces and the elbows don’t articulate. This doesn’t really bother me because I tend to want to get the assembly over and done with so I can start painting, and I don’t really care all that much about articulation.
Because it’s Bandai, assembly was fairly simple and straightforward. There were a few seam lines to fix up and one or two areas which were hollow on the kit and needed a bit of filling, but it was all relatively painless. The kit does come with multiple configurations for weapons loadout; I ended up settling on a pistol and a sword, and I did fill in a couple sockets on the skirts for holding weapons because I didn’t like the look.
In this case, I knew I wanted to paint it just because I’m all about the paint. I figured that it would be fun to really go overboard on the weathering, because it would be a fun juxtaposition between the cute, chibi model and a finish that is ridiculously over the top on the grittiness and battle damage.
As usual, I started with a zenithal prime with black and white Stynylrez. With these Gundam kits, I find it’s easier to pop the arms, legs and head off, prime them black, then put them back together in your intended pose before hitting it with the white. I chose a pose with the head turned to the left, looking in the same direction as the barrel of the gun. The primary light source was placed coming from the upper front right quadrant; this generates a little more interest as one half of the face would be in light and the other half would be shadowed. I’m not sure the zenithal prime was completely necessary as I’ve probably wiped out any preshading effects with my multi-layer chipping, but I’ve found it to be a good initial step regardless as doing a zenithal and taking a few photos can really help my understanding of how light and shadow interact with the model.
Of hairspray and chips
Having tried out the hairspray chipping method earlier this year on some terrain, I decided to kick it up a notch. For those who don’t know, the idea behind the hairspray chipping method is that you paint the model with the colour you intend for the chips to be, varnish it, apply a chipping medium (either specific hobby products or hairspray) and paint your main paint colour overtop all of that. Once that second coat of paint is dried, you can spray some water onto it. That water will soak through the acrylic paint in the second layer and into the chipping medium, where it will reactivate it. With that underlying area reactivated, you can chip away chunks of the top layer of paint with a stiff brush and expose the underlying paint colour.
The advantages to this technique should be obvious. You’re basically chipping away paint on the model, similar to how paint on the real thing would actually chip and flake off as it gets beat up. You can get a very interesting look, different from either sponge weathering or painting on your chips. And, while it does take a little extra time with the multiple layers (though if you know how to use your airbrush, it’s not that bad), once you pull out your toothbrush and go at it, you can chip away large surfaces in no time flat.
So, for the first layer, I took the thing apart again and sprayed it with Vallejo Metal Color steel, VMC being the only metallic paint that goes through my airbrush. Next, I followed up by spraying a few random browns and oranges here and there in a random pattern, just so there would be some variation in the rust colour on different areas of the model.
Finally, I took a big, stiff brush and some Citadel Ryza Rust and just dabbed, stippled, and dry-brushed this all over. Ryza Rust is a bright orange and is one of Citadel’s dry paints, which are very thick, goopy paints designed for dry brushing. While they are often maligned — after all, it’s not that hard to dry brush with regular paints — it is pretty good for this sort of application where you just want random rust patterns. That said, I suspect that artist heavy body acrylics would be pretty similar and much more economical than the Citadel dry paints, and don’t come in one of the worst paint posts known to man, so I’ll probably head to the art store rather than the FLGS next time I need more.
With the first layer done, I varnished it with some Reaper brush on sealer through the airbrush, then sprayed some Vallejo Chipping Medium over the whole thing. However, instead of going straight to my top colour, I had an idea. Like in our models, real-life vehicles are primed before they are painted. I figured that it would add another layer of interest if I had some of the chipping go down to the primer, while other chips would go all the way down to the metal.
As such, I picked up some Sulfide Ochre from Army Painter, which resembled the yellow-green zinc chromate primer that was commonly used on a lot of military vehicles, at least until they found out how carcinogenic it was. I sprayed the whole model with it, needing at least two thin coats to get good coverage, then randomly chipped away about half of it.
After another coat of varnish to protect my work and then another layer of chipping medium, it was time to hit it with the actual base colour. I knew the weapons and fists would stay in a gunmetal colour, and there were details such as the eyes that I would have to do with the brush, so I didn’t worry about painting or chipping those, but I figured I would do a two-tone scheme for the rest of the model.
Being elbow deep in brightly coloured fantasy models, I hadn’t done many “realistic” colours in a while. So, I decided to go with a green and khaki scheme, partly because I had some Reaper MSP triads in my stash for both an army green and a khaki colour. Reaper tends to group their paints into “triads” where you can get a shadow, base, and highlight colour, which is really useful for beginners. In this case, I had the Terran Khaki (Terran Khaki, Khaki Shadow, and Khaki Highlight) and Olive Green (Olive Green, Muddy Olive, and Pale Olive) triads.
That said, I wasn’t completely enthused with the triads for these colours. When I paint greens, I like to have a cool to warm transition from the shadows to the highlights, and these colours didn’t seem to have much of that. The green in particular didn’t seem to have much change in hue; instead it looked like they just added white to the base colour to create the highlight. So, when I was spraying, I added a drop of their Blue Liner, a dark blue-black, to the two shadow colours just to deepen the shadows a little. Further, for the greens, instead of using the supplied highlight colour, I added yellow to the base colour to make a warmer highlight.
I sprayed the Khaki first, again, using a similar procedure as I did for the zenithal prime. I would disassemble the gundam, spray the entire thing in the shadow colour, making sure I get good coverage, then reassemble it and start working up. This allows me to both make sure I don’t miss a spot, but also with it reassembled and in its intended pose, it’s much easier to figure out exactly where to place shadows and highlights. I took it apart again, did a little masking, and repeated the process for the green.
Finally, there were a few areas that I wanted black. They weren’t particularly large, so I brush painted them on, using my usual cool black highlight colours. Generally, when I’m painting black, I have a little formula that starts with a pure black, and gets highlighted up to Reaper’s Blue Liner, P3 Gravedigger Denim, and P3 Frostbite. Using a combination of blending and glazes, I made a fairly smooth transition with the brush that didn’t involve a lot of masking and an airbrush. I felt that while I wanted them to be nice, the transitions didn’t have to be perfect because even if my blend wasn’t completely smooth, the weathering and chipping would either cover it up or draw attention away from it.
Now, with my beautiful paint job all done and the right highlights and shadows, I sprayed all the pieces with water and chipped it once more, revealing both the zinc chromate primer and the rusted metal underneath.
While the model was starting to come together at this point, there was still a lot to be done. Panel lines and edge highlights, as well as some additional post-chipping weathering. Finally, there are a few details that need to be done — the eyes, the sword, and the gun — which are to be done with completely different techniques than the rest of the model. As this is starting to run long, I’ll try to address those in a follow up article.