Want some chips with that Gundam?

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.

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The kit

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.

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Cross section of a model with hairspray chipping.

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.

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Rusty Gundam

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.

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Zinc Chromate primer (Army Painter Sulfide Ochre) chipped away

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.

Paint time

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.

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Paints used

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.

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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.

Next Steps

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.

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The model, after chipping and some additional weathering steps

 

 

Paintlog: Ill-conceived conversions and fun with photoetch

It’s been about a month or two since my last paintlog, and if I had to give November a theme, it would be conversions and kitbashes. Possibly ill-conceived and overly-ambitious conversions and kitbashing, but conversions and kitbashing nonetheless.

Greylord Outriders

These are models that have been sitting on the shelf of shame for at least two years. I remember when I first got them, I quickly slapped three or so of them together, and did some conversion work on the other two, messing around with green stuff and alternate heads to add to the gender diversity of this unit. I also sculpted some snowball like things coming out of their hands to represent the magic spells that they cast. These were just paper clips with an extended teardrop shape sculpted in green stuff, then textured by dragging a hobby knife along the length of the item. Drill a hole in the hands, pop the paper clip in, and call it a day.

Then, they rested on my shelf for at least two years. When I resolved to clear off my shelf of shame (that is, my shelf where I put all my assembled but unpainted models), these guys were some of the last that I got to, mostly because I don’t really like painting cavalry, and partly because they don’t exactly fit my army tactics-wise.

When it came time to paint them, I decided to start by using the airbrush as much as I could to bang out the bulk of the actual horses, then paint the riders and details such as the saddles, harnesses, and mane with a brush. After applying black primer and a zenithal highlight, I got to work, initially starting with a mixture of a dark brown and Reaper’s Blue Liner, which is essentially a blue-black that seems to have been originally formulated for doing darklining on blue surfaces like the armour of a space marine. Of course, the blue was chosen over black because colour theory.

From there, I worked up to the  highlights, spraying from above and going from brown to a slightly reddish leather colour, and mixing in a touch of P3 Menoth White Highlight (one of my go-to off-whites) into the highest highlight. When I was satisfied with the horses, at least for a tabletop quality miniature that I wanted off my shelf and in my display case with the rest of my army, I moved on to brush painting everything else. Finally, I did bust out the airbrush again to do quick OSL effects on the magic spells and a couple other little things. I may have gone slightly overboard with the blue glow, but they’re spell-slinging cavalry, so who cares?

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Honestly, some of the green stuff work is a little rough and there are a couple places where the paint was a little quick and dirty and my blends weren’t perfect, but it’s good enough for tabletop and it’s got me closer to having a completely empty shelf of shame.

Vlatka Tzepesci, Great Princess of Umbrey

IMG_1085.JPGAnd, speaking of ill-conceived gender-bent cavalry models, I’ve decided to put my own spin on Vladimir Tzepesci, Great Prince of Umbrey (Vlad3) as well, kitbashing his horse and weaponry with Alexia’s body and head to make my own special version. The horse is basically stock, aside from some gap filling here and there.

As these were both metal models, this process involved a lot of filing to make Alexia fit on the horse designed for Vlad, and make sure that Vlad’s cape fits on her. It was a bit of a pain because cutting, filing and pinning metal models gets real obnoxious real fast. I did a little but of sculpting, using various epoxy putties to sculpt some transitions on places like the cape where the two pieces from two models not designed to ever go together met, and sculpted a cloth hanging down on one side of the saddle to cover up some rough areas where she didn’t quite fit that nicely on the horse. I also, of course, had to sculpt on some big shoulder pads because if there is one thing Vlad is notorious for, it’s oversized shoulder pads that put GW’s Space Marines to shame. I did keep it somewhat restrained though for both aesthetics and versimilitude, not that a model of someone riding a horse while simultaneously wielding a spear and a flail makes any sense on any level whatsoever. Finally, the weapons involved a lot of pinning with very tiny pins because they are small metal pieces that will break off if you breath on them the wrong way, and the shaft of the spear was replaced with a brass rod because leaving it in pewter is just asking for trouble.

In the end, between the reposing of the spear and the elevated base I constructed for this model, I think she is taller than a stock colossal. I know this is going to cause headaches if I ever bring her to a tournament, but that’s one thing that I almost never worry about.

Chibi Gundam

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I’ve also started on an SD Gundam, which is basically the Toon Tank of the Gundam universe. I’ve decided that with the deformed, cutesy shape, it would be interesting to contrast that with lots of weathering. I’ve started off with the hairspray technique in two layers. After priming with Synylrez, I started with the metal and rust layer. I sprayed the entire model with Vallejo Metal Color Steel, then sprayed, stippled and dry-brushed some various tones of brown and orange on there. I varnished that, then picked out a colour that roughly resembles the yellow primer you see on planes and other military equipment from the Army Painter rack at my FLGS. After applying the varnish and chipping medium, I chipped away at it, trying to get about half of the primer off. The idea is that when I chip the top coat, some of the chips will show primer, while some of the chips will go all the way to the metal.

I haven’t quite decided what colours I will paint this in yet, though I’m leaning towards a green and khaki scheme. I’d like to really push the weathering; in addition to doing the double layer chipping for the first time and using my usual techniques of sponging and painting on scratches, I was thinking of trying out oils, streaking products, and really play around with dry pigments.

Flag Statue

IMG_1079.JPGI also figured that for Warmachine, I need a third flag model to act as an objective now that three-flag scenarios are a thing again. However, I’ve already exhausted both Khador standard bearers, so it was time to do a conversion. I took a Kossite Woodsman leader, a flag from a Man-O-War, some pins and a brass tube and made myself a third unique flag. I also used the same Reaper base as my last ones, and will end up using the same painting tactic to make it look like an old bronze statue.

Fortunately, I remembered to take the picture halfway through brush priming with Reaper, so you can see the use of brass tube to replace the flagpole. Now that it’s all primed, he shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to paint through heavy use of dry-brushing and Citadel’s Nihilakh Oxide technical paint.

Me-109B

And now for something completely different, with the successful completion of my PZL 23 project, I’ve decided to embark on a more ambitious scale aircraft, AMG’s Me-109B in 1:48 scale. I don’t have a lot of recent experience with model aircraft kits, but this is definitely more complicated than my last work in that medium, as well as the model kits that I would build in my childhood.

This kit includes lots of advanced features in the box such as photo-etch parts, and is of a sufficiently obscure subject that I can’t imagine that very much aftermarket bling would be either necessary or even available for the more discerning modeller.

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Interior, just prior to joining the two halves of the fuselage

And speaking of photo-etch, that stuff can die in a fire. For the uninitiated, photo-etch are very tiny parts, made through the use of a photographic etching process on a thin brass sheet. This allows for smaller and more detailed parts than is possible with either plastic or resin, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Further, it is not uncommon to have to bend parts into the shape required, such as with the map case on the side of the cockpit. It’s not so bad when it’s just gluing a sheet to a flat piece of plastic, but when you start having to bend it and make complex shapes, it gets real obnoxious real fast.

Fortunately, most of the photoetch is cockpit detail, and now that I’ve got the cockpit in place and by some miracle the two halves of the fuselage actually went together fairly nicely. I think the plan is going to be work on filling seams for the time being, as well as getting some of the sub-assemblies together to glue on once that is done. I’m hoping to get it together fairly quickly, as I have a unique colour scheme in mind and I’m getting antsy to start airbrushing.

Secret project

I do have one more project on the go; though I shared some pictures with a few people, I’m keeping it under wraps for the moment until I’m done. Suffice it to say, it is a very expensive and very involved conversion that involves a lot of plasticard and milliput. And a lot of filing and sanding resin, which is always a task that requires care because that’s some stuff you really don’t want in your lungs.

Next Steps

Right now, I’ve eliminated my shelf of shame, however I have a lot of projects on the bench. I’ve been keeping them organized by using halves of boxes as trays, however it would be nice to clear off a couple and bring my WIP queue down to a more manageable level. But, on the other hand, a coworker is interested in a Warmachine demo, so I think I may pivot to that Cygnar battlebox I have kicking around. I know, it’s Cygnar, but someone has to be the bad guys.