In my last two articles, I painted and weathered the bulk of my SD gundam using the hairspray technique, oil streaks, and some other effects. That took care of about 90& of the model, but there were a few details that had yet to be done, namely the eyes, the gun, and the sword. These details I saved for the end for a couple reasons. First, I wanted to do a different finish on these, so I didn’t want the varnish that I would apply to the bulk of the model to ruin it. Second, I wasn’t planning on using the same weathering techniques on the glass and shiny metal surfaces as I wanted to do on the painted surfaces, so I didn’t need to do it up front to keep consistent weathering across the model.
The Eyes Have It
For the eyes, I wanted to achieve a reflective glass look. So to start, I basecoated with Reaper blue liner. I knew to create the illusion of reflection, I would need to keep most of it dark, but then sharply transition from near-black to near-white.
Of course, I had to decide where to put the highlight. If you will remember from last time, I chose to put the primary light source in the right front quadrant, coming from above. The shape of the eyes was a key factor. If you were to look at them by themselves, you would see that they have a convex shape in the horizontal plane, but are straight up and down in the vertical plane. Basically, they could have been cut out from a vertical cylinder.
Fortunately, when it comes to reflections off a cylinder, we have an easy source of reference material. If you stare long enough at the handle of a hobby knife or the body of your airbrush, you will see that light reflecting off a cylinder tends to form lines of light and dark parallel to the cylinder axis.
What this means for this model is that the eyes are basically cut from a vertical cylinder, so the highlights would be most accurately represented by mostly-vertical lines. I did take a little bit of artistic license and angled the line slightly, to both represent the fact that the light is coming from above rather than from directly from eye level, and to add a little visual interest.
Anyways, now that we know where to place the highlight, it’s time to lay it down. So, I worked up from that base coat Blue Liner through some bright, midtone blues, into sky blue, and finally white, making sure to do a steep a transition as possible while still keeping it smooth. The key to getting a reflection that really pops is for the majority of the reflective surface to be dark, and then for it to quickly transition into the highest hightlight.
With the main highlight done on the right eye, I added a second and third highlight to the left eye, with the third highlight being much less intense than the first. Finally, I added a few highlights here and there around the edges of the eye to represent glints of light on the edges.
With that all done, I glazed over it with Badger Miniataire Ghost Tint Plasma Fluid, a blue glaze which viewers of Vince Venturella’s youtube channel will no doubt be familiar with. In addition to adding a little blue tone to it, this glaze helps smooth out the transitions a little. Finally, I finished it off with some gloss varnish just to give it a nice, shiny finish.
True Metallic Metal
For the gunmetal parts on the sword and the gun, I decided to do a true metallic metal technique. True metallic metal, or TMM, is more than just painting the entire thing in a shiny silver. In fact, it is closer to non-metallic metal, where you use flat paints to paint in reflections and glints, only you’re using metallic paints so you can take advantage of both the painted in highlights and the natural shininess of metallic paints.
As with non-metallic metal, there are some rules as to how you need to place the highlights and shadows. while they aren’t hard and fast and they are open to some artistic interpretation, understanding the source of the light and the shape of the model, and breaking it down into simple, familiar shapes (flat panels, spheres, cylinders and cones) is how you know where to place the highlights. In a way, light on a reflective surface tends to “move” and “collect” in certain places, depending on the shape.
So, similar to the eyes, I wanted to start with a dark colour. In this case, I basecoated all these areas by brush-painting on some Vallejo Metal Color Gunmetal Grey. While this is an airbrush paint, it brush paints quite nicely, flowing smoothly off the brush and delivering a smooth coat.
Next, I went into the highlights, using Vallejo Metal Color Silver to paint in the highlights on the edges and in places where the light would collect. Fortunately, the VMC Silver is a smooth enough paint that it is possible to blend it out and feather the edges into the underlying gunmetal grey.
With the highlights laid in, it was time to reinforce the shadows, and here is where the artist acrylic inks come in handy. I added some black into the deepest shadow, and worked into Payne’s Grey and Indigo, the latter two colours having a bluish tone which would add a subtle blue to the midtones.
Finally, it’s time to break out the secret weapon I’ve been playing with lately. Molotow Liquid Chrome is a pump-action paint pen filled with an alcohol-based acrylic paint that is brighter and shinier than any traditional water based acrylic I’ve come across yet. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the marker itself, so I usually pump some out into a well palette and paint it on with a brush, using 99% isopropyl alcohol as a thinner and to clean my brush. With this super-bright chrome, I can really make the highest highlights pop.
Unfortunately, the one issue with this is that any varnish that I’ve used, even a gloss varnish, will kill the brightness of the chrome. Which is why this was done last – I didn’t want the varnish on the rest of the model to get onto the metallics and kill the shine.
Finally, we get to the sword. I wanted to do a glowing sword with a fire glow, as that would contrast both the base green and the blue of the eyes. Thinking about how the glow might work if these fighting robits were real, I figured that the heat source would be the metal thing running up the center of the blade. As such, the area closest to the center would be hottest, and it would cool off as we get out towards the edge of the blade. So, this means that it needs to be brightest right up against the center part and fade out as it gets closer to the edges.
As such, the plan is to base coat the sword in yellow and fade out through orange into red when we get closer to the edge. Unfortunately, yellow is a notoriously difficult colour to paint; yellow pigment is generally weak so getting good coverage is difficult. As such, in order to get a vibrant, bright yellow, you want to undercoat with white so you’re not trying to cover up any dark colours.
Unfortunately, painting white straight over dark colours isn’t that easy either. So, in order to paint the white that I needed to lay down so I could paint the yellow, I started with a medium-light grey. With the grey having more powerful pigments than white, it would cover the underlying colour and give a smooth undercoat that I could build my white on top of — which itself is an undercoat for the yellow. I also thinned my yellow with acrylic artist inks and a touch of flow improver, as these inks are so thin and so pigment-intense that you can use them as a thinning medium and still maintain the pigment density of the paint as you thin it down to the desired consistency.
So, after laying down some grey, then white, then yellow, I took my detail airbrush, loaded it with orange, and worked from the outside of the blade in, creating a smooth transition between the orange and the yellow in the center of the blade. Then, I followed up with some red, again, starting from the edge and using the airbrush to get a smooth transition into the orange, leaving myself with a smooth gradient from yellow to red as we move towards the edge.
Finally, an edge highlight applied with the brush running along the edges of the blade reinforces the shape of the blade and makes it not look like an orange blob from a distance.
With the blade done,it was time to add some glow to really sell the effect of a glowing blade, so I masked off the blade and sprayed some orange in the areas where the glow from the blade would hit the surrounding parts, similar to my green glow on Ruin. While this did kill the underlying metallics, I was able to mostly save the finish with some gloss varnish overtop of the places where the flat orange knocked the shine off the metallics.
This concludes this build. It was a fun little project for a number of reasons. First, it wasn’t that complex of a model, so there weren’t too many frustrations on the assembly. However, in terms of the number of techniques on this thing, I went all out, experimenting with multiple techniques and trying out new products. The simple model was a great testbed for some fun paint techniques, and is a great example of the freedom that is inherent to the hobby of gunpla.