Gundam for Beginners | Building Gunpla from Scratch

Gundam for Beginners | Building Gunpla from Scratch

“If you’re buying your first gundam, just choose a REAL GRADE (RG) kit you think looks the coolest.”

Content List(links internally)


GUNDAM PRIMER AND GRADES

Welcome to my Gundam Building Guide. Gundam is an international phenomenon. They hold the current monopoly on cool giant fighting robots in space. They have lots of toys, and they’re intricate, and really difficult to build. People have made careers out of this hobby, but this is basic guide.

In this post, I’ll show you how I built my Strike Freedom RG from start to finish.

gundam-showpiece

Gundams come in many models, which come in different grades, and each at a different price. The different grades represent the different care that has been put into each model. For veterans who have snap straight built a few models already, you can jump down to the painting stages of this guide.

 

Gundam101 has a great guide to the different Gundam Grades. There is also NO GRADE and SD, but we can ignore them for now.

gundam-grades


WHICH GUNDAM SHOULD I CHOOSE, AND WHAT CAN I SKIP?

 

THE ABSOLUTE BEGINNER

For those who are looking to buy their first gundam, get a REAL GRADE (RG) model you think looks the coolest and forget about painting it. Try building the basic kit and then pasting the decals first. If you’re really up for it, try your hand at paneling. Also, an Action Base will help display your finished work.

WHY?

You don’t know much Gundam history and it doesn’t matter. You want a sick looking robot on your desk to show off. The Real Grade (RG) has the dense complexity and articulation of an expensive Master Grade (MG) without the cost, at a slightly smaller scale. They are a beast to display with their stock color and with a little effort in decals, it goes a long way to look permanently amazing.

 

I’VE SNAP BUILT A FEW MODELS BUT NEVER PAINTED OR DONE DECALS

You know some gundam and want to try your hand at painting, do HGs. Learn how to panel and decal, and try your hand at some physical weathering. Your next stage of evolution is building a custom Gundam.

WHY HG NOT RG?

The intricacies of the internal frame is gone, and painting them (which was a hassle) is so wasteful because so much is hidden, yet necessary because small parts show up in the end product. I did not regret it, but it was very time consuming for little to show at the end.

WHY NOT MG EITHER?

If you haven’t decal-ed before, you don’t have the dexterity to handle an MG with little mistake after pain-stakingly painting it. There is less to detail and the stakes are smaller with a HG. One HG to get used to the process, and you can go full MG. I’m definitely sure you will want to chuck your first painted HG. Don’t waste your money, unless you’re rich, which in that case… … you can go practice on Perfect Grades (PG).

 

I’VE HAND-PAINTED SOME MODELS BEFORE AND WANT TO CUSTOM COLOR

If you regret hand-painting your Gundam, congratulations. If you like your hand-painted models, stop. Just stop. Get an Airbrush, and do it the right way. I was convinced once that hand painting works, and I found out the hard way and a wasted Qan[T] later I’ve seen the light. Get an MG, or if you’re confident, go for a great PG for display. This guide is for you.

WHY?

You know your way around kits, and you’ve painted and assembled them before, albeit poorly. You know what to do, and with a bit more patience, you definitely will be able to cleanly assemble a PG.

 

I’M A VET AND I BASH KITS LEFT AND RIGHT

Notice me, sempai! Haha, just go away. This is for lesser people than you.


EQUIPMENT LIST

These are the only things you’ll need for a basic straight snap build. At the end of this section, there will be specific brands that I recommend and link to.

  • Clippers (cutting parts of the sprue)
  • File (basic smoothing)
  • Exacto Knife (precision removals and shaving)
  • Tweezers (decal application)
  • Ziploc (organization)

basic-equipment

For the advanced Gunpla Builder, you’ll want the following:

  • An Airbush kit (details will follow)
  • Crocodile clips (twice the amount you think you need)
  • Airbrush Paint (metallics are a must)
  • Sandpaper trio (400, 800, 1200 for seam line removal)
  • Plastic Cement (sealing; orange flavor is a blast)
  • Panel Marker (I find 0.03 to have the best effect)

airbrush-closeup

An Airbrush kit will usually have the following:

  • Gravity Feed, Dual Action Airbrush (I’m using a Sparmax DH-103)
  • 0.3, 0.5, 0.8 needle tip
  • Compressor
  • Paint Pot/Cleaner/Holder
  • Airbrush Flow Improver
  • Airbrush Cleaner

airbrush-paints

RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS

Paint Brands

  • Citadel Paints
  • Vallejo Paints
  • Tamiya Paints

Clippers

  • God Hand
  • Anything else “Gundam” works if you can’t afford a God Hand nipper.

Airbrush Brands (Gravity-fed, dual action is more important than brand.)

  • IWATA
  • SPARMAX
  • BADGER
  • MASTER

PREPPING AND SORTING YOUR GUNDAM

For this guide, I’ve detailed my entire process for my Strike Freedom RG. This is what Gunpla usually look right out of the box. I’ve removed the plastic sheets.

gundam-box

You’ll want to nip the parts following the instructions. Get your ziplocs ready, it’s organizing time!

gundam-sprue

Just for fun, I use double sealed ziploc bags, but you can use single seals. I’ve done a few models before, so I can cluster them together.┬áIf you’re really unsure, you can get tiny bags to organize the parts by step. But if you’re painting them after, it’ll be a bigger hassle.

I organize my parts as such, if necessary. Note that I still separate left and right, arm and leg.

  • Torso + Head + Hip
  • Left Arm
  • Left Leg
  • Right Arm
  • Right Leg
  • Backpack or Wings
  • Weapons
  • Accessories
  • Etc

sorting-bags


STEP 2 – PAINTING YOUR GUNDAM

At this point, you’re ready to start painting, choose your parts, and sort them by color. The more crocodile clips and sorting trays you have, the more you can do.

croc-clamps

Generally, cleaning out an airbrush is hard work, and any careless overlooked paint will blend with your new color. My process is:

  • Group each bag into their separate sorting trays.
  • Group colored parts WITHIN sorting trays. NO MIXING IT UP.

 

  • Prep first color on airbrush, say white.
  • Take one sorting tray, paint white only.
  • Put away, take next sorting tray, paint white only.
  • Repeat till no whites left.

 

  • Clean airbrush and prep next color.

finger-spray

Hands will get dirty.

spray-closeup

When it’s all done, leave it to dry. You’ve done enough for the day, and depending on your setup, would’ve spent at least 6-8 hours doing this already.


STEP 3 – GUNDAM SNAP BUILD (THE EASY PART)

This is the part you’ve been waiting for. Follow the instructions carefully, pay attention to every detail and instruction, the Gundam will assemble itself.

For the advanced Gundam builders, I do not go into removing seam lines in this guide. Snap builds for beginners are more than enough.

snap-build-gundam


STEP 4 – WEATHERING AND DECALS

The decals go on at this stage, and you’re good to display it.

With some flourishes like battle damage and paint weathering, you’ll be able to make your Gundam even more outstanding.

Congratulations. You’ve successfully built your first proper Gundam!

Now Google “Kit Bash” and cry.

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