How to Build and Paint Gundam Busts and Statues: Expert Tips and Techniques

Building and painting Gundam busts and statues is a rewarding experience that combines creativity and precision. For fans of the Gundam anime series, creating a detailed model kit can be a fulfilling way to connect with the universe they love. The key to crafting an impressive Gundam bust is to start with meticulous preparation and clean assembly of all parts.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced builder, using the right tools and techniques is essential. From removing nub marks left by runners to priming your parts for a smooth paint finish, each step is crucial. Spray-can primers are often recommended for their ease of use and ability to provide even coat coverage. Consistent, light layers can significantly enhance paint adhesion and the final look of your model.

Precision continues into painting, where techniques like sponge weathering can add realism and depth to your Gundam statue. Technical pens, such as those from Micron or Staedler, are also useful for panel lining, adding definition to your model’s features. These small details can transform a basic build into a display-worthy piece.

Understanding Gundam Models

Building Gundam models, or Gunpla, is a popular hobby that combines craftsmanship and artistry. These plastic model kits come in various grades, each offering distinct features and challenges.

History and Evolution

Gundam models were first developed by Bandai in 1980, inspired by the mecha anime series Mobile Suit Gundam. Initially released as simple plastic kits, they quickly gained popularity, evolving into more detailed and sophisticated versions known today as Gunpla.

In the early days, the models were basic and required glue for assembly. Over the years, advancements in technology led to snap-fit kits, making the process accessible to beginners. The models have also become more intricate, often including movable joints, detailed weaponry, and realistic decals.

Bandai has continually pushed the boundaries of what these models can do, offering fans an ever-growing range of options. Today, Gunpla is a global phenomenon, bringing together hobbyists from all over the world.

Different Grades Explained

Gunpla kits are categorized into several grades, each designed for different skill levels and preferences:

High Grade (HG) – Usually 1/144 scale, these kits are ideal for beginners. They offer a balance between detail and ease of assembly.

Real Grade (RG) – Also commonly 1/144 scale, RG kits provide more complexity and detail compared to HG, including advanced articulation and color separation.

Master Grade (MG) – At 1/100 scale, MG kits are more detailed and feature inner frames that add to their stability and poseability. They are suited for more experienced builders.

Perfect Grade (PG) – These 1/60 scale kits are the pinnacle of Gunpla design, offering incredible detail, complex assembly, and often, lighting effects.

Understanding these grades helps hobbyists choose the right kit based on their skill level and interest. From absolute beginners to seasoned veterans, there’s a Gunpla kit for everyone.

Essential Tools and Materials


To build and paint Gundam busts and statues, you’ll need a variety of tools and materials. This includes a basic toolkit for assembling the parts, painting supplies to add color and detail, and additional accessories to enhance and protect your work.

Basic Toolkit

A basic toolkit is crucial for any Gunpla modeler. Clippers are essential for cutting parts from the sprues. High-quality nippers, like the God Hand SPN-120, provide clean cuts. Hobby knives and X-Acto knives help in removing excess plastic, called nub marks.

Sanding sticks and sandpaper smooth out imperfections. Tweezers are useful for handling small parts. Cutting mats protect your work surface and ensure clean cuts. A pin vise can be used for drilling small holes if needed.

Painting Supplies

Painting supplies bring your Gundam build to life. Airbrushes offer a smooth, even coat of paint. Coupled with a compressor, it’s ideal for large surfaces. Paint brushes of various sizes are needed for details and touch-ups.

Gundam Markers are handy for panel lining and small details. Spray-can primers are used to prepare the surface, improving paint adhesion. Always work in a spray booth or a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes. Masking tape is essential to cover areas you don’t want to paint.

Additional Accessories

Additional accessories enhance your modeling experience. Decal sets add realistic markings and details to your Gundam. Use a hobby knife to cut out decals and soak them in water for a few seconds to apply. Microset helps decals adhere better and conform to surfaces.

A topcoat protects the paint from scratches and wear. A ventilated workspace is crucial, particularly when using sprays and airbrushes. Lighting can greatly affect the precision of your work, so a good desk lamp is recommended. Safety gear such as gloves and masks are also important for protection.

Preparation Steps

Proper preparation is key to a successful outcome when building and painting Gundam busts and statues. Thoroughly plan each step, from identifying parts to cleaning and strategizing for assembly.

Identifying Parts

Before starting, identify all parts needed for the build. Check the instruction manual carefully. Each part is usually attached to runners, which are plastic frames holding multiple pieces. Pay attention to the scale of the model, as parts may vary in size and detail. Look for any special markings that might indicate different steps or variations in the build process.

Lay out all parts on a clean workspace to avoid confusion. This step ensures that you can easily find each part when needed, preventing delays and mistakes during assembly.

Cutting and Cleaning

Once parts are identified, it’s time to cut and clean them. Carefully remove each part from the runner using hobby nippers or clippers. Avoid using too much force to prevent damaging the parts. There will likely be small remnants of the plastic frame left on the parts called sprue nubs.

Use a hobby knife or file to smooth these nubs. This helps in achieving a better fit and finish. For an even smoother surface, lightly sand the parts using fine-grit sandpaper. Proper cleaning and smoothing help paint adhere better, leading to a cleaner, professional look.

Assembly Strategy

Having a solid assembly strategy is essential. It starts by pre-assembling parts to ensure everything fits correctly. This may require snapping pieces together lightly without fully locking them into place. Doing this helps identify any alignment issues early.

One effective method is to assemble parts in sub-assemblies. For example, build the head, arms, and body sections separately before combining them. This makes the overall assembly more manageable. If necessary, take photos of the partially assembled sections before disassembling them for painting.

Pre-assembly also allows for better handling during painting. This step-by-step approach minimizes errors and ensures a more efficient build.

Painting Techniques

Acrylic paints

Achieving a professional look on your Gundam busts and statues involves several key steps, including priming, base coating, and detailing. This guide will cover essential techniques and tips to help you get the best results.

Priming Your Model

Priming is a critical first step in painting. It prepares the surface of your model, helping paint adhere better and last longer. Use a spray-can primer for even coverage. Hold the can 5-8 inches away from the parts and apply light, even strokes. Apply thin coats and wait for each layer to dry. This ensures a smooth surface and reduces the chances of chunky layers. For best results, white or gray primers are commonly used as they work well with most colors.

Base Coating and Color Layers

After priming, the next step is base coating. This layer forms the basic color of the model. Acrylic paints are often recommended for this task due to their ease of use and cleanup. Use an airbrush for a smooth, even finish. If airbrushing isn’t an option, use wide brushes for large areas and smaller brushes for tight spots. Apply multiple thin coats, allowing each to dry before adding the next.

Lacquer paints can also be used for base coating, but they require proper ventilation and a bit more experience. Thin them appropriately and apply with care for a hard, durable finish.

Detailing with Gundam Markers and Paints

Detailing brings your Gundam model to life. Use Gundam markers for fine lines and panel lining. These markers are designed to be used directly on the model, offering precise and sharp details. For more intricate work, hand painting with fine-point brushes allows for greater control.

Experiment with enamel paints and oil paints for advanced weathering techniques. Enamel thinner helps remove mistakes, and layering these paints can create realistic wear and tear effects. Always remember to seal your work with a clear coat to protect the paint and enhance durability.

Advanced Decoration and Detailing

RG Gundam model

Enhancing the look of your Gundam busts and statues requires skill and attention to detail. This section covers applying decals, weathering effects, and panel lining techniques.

Applying Decals and Transfers

Decals and transfers add intricate details. Use water slide decals or dry transfers for the best results. Water slides need soaking in water until they separate from the backing paper. Position cautiously using tweezers and a cotton bud to smooth out air bubbles. Apply Microsol to soften the decal, conforming it to the model. Finish by sealing with a gloss varnish to protect the decal.

Dry transfers work differently. Cut out the design, place it on the model, and rub it with the back of a pencil or stick. This method avoids the water mess but requires steady hands and practice.

Weathering Effects

Weathering effects make your Gundam look worn and realistic. Use techniques like dry brushing and washes. For dry brushing, dip the brush in paint and remove excess, leaving just enough to highlight edges and raised areas by lightly brushing. This simulates wear and tear.

Washes use diluted paint to accentuate details by flowing into recesses. Pick a panel marker or watery paint mix. Apply it and wipe away the excess with a cotton bud, leaving shadows and depth.

Sponging adds random texture, making the surface appear scratched or chipped. Dip the sponge in paint, dab off extra, and lightly press on the model.

Panel Lining and Scribing

Panel lining enhances the lines and grooves on Gundam models. Using a panel marker or fine brush, apply paint into the lines. Clean off excess with a cotton bud soaked in wash or enamel thinner. This defines the armor plates and mechanical parts.

Scribing involves carving new panel lines or deepening existing ones. Use a scribing tool or hobby knife. Mark the line with tape as a guide. Carve slowly to avoid slipping and damaging the model. This adds custom details, improving the complexity of the design.

Decorating and detailing a Gundam model with these techniques brings a professional and refined appearance, elevating your build to showcase quality.

Assembly and Final Touches

Successful assembly and applying final touches to Gundam busts and statues can elevate their appearance to the next level. This involves assembling subassemblies, attaching limbs and accessories, and protecting the model with varnish.

Building Subassemblies

Building subassemblies ensures a smoother process and better results.

Head Together: Start by assembling the head and torso. Ensure that seams are minimal by aligning parts carefully. Use a fine-point brush to apply a small amount of glue to avoid excess spillage.

Legs and Arms: Assemble legs and arms separately. These parts often include several joints that need precise handling. To ensure a snug fit, lightly sand connection points.

Battle Damage: For those wanting a more realistic look, consider adding battle damage with a hobby knife or file. Small nicks and scratches can make your model look like it’s seen some action.

Attaching Limbs and Accessories

Attaching limbs and accessories needs careful alignment and patience.

Legs: Attach the legs to the torso first. Make sure the limbs are positioned correctly before the glue sets. Holding the parts together for a few seconds will help in achieving a stable bond.

Arms: Place the arms next. If the model features any weapons or shields, it is easier to attach them before the limbs are glued to the torso. This allows for better positioning and handling.

Accessories: Add accessories such as backpacks or additional armor. Check the fit and finish of these parts to ensure they don’t interfere with the pose of the statue.

Applying Varnish and Protection

Applying a final coat of varnish protects the paint and adds a professional finish.

Spray Varnish: Use a spray-can varnish for an even coat. Hold the can 5-8 inches from the surface. Spray in light, even strokes. Allow it to dry completely before handling.

Detail Work: For smaller parts or touch-ups, use a brush-on varnish. Cotton swabs can help clean up any excess varnish. This adds durability, protecting the paint from wear and tear.

In summary, consistent attention to detail during assembly and final touches greatly enhances the quality and durability of Gundam busts and statues.

Display and Maintenance

Learn About the Different Grades of Gundam Models

To keep your Gundam busts and statues looking their best, focus on how you display them and their upkeep. Proper display techniques ensure they stand out, while regular cleaning keeps them pristine.

Effective Display Techniques

Lighting: Use adjustable lighting to highlight details. Position lights to avoid harsh shadows and glare. LED lights are energy-efficient and produce less heat.

Positioning: Place your Gundam busts at eye level or slightly higher to make details more visible. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent paint fading.

Stands and Cases: Use clear acrylic stands or display cases for protection. Display cases keep dust off and prevent accidental damage while allowing full visibility.

Backdrop: A neutral or dark backdrop can make the colors and details of your Gundam stand out more.

Cleaning and Upkeep

Dusting: Use a soft, anti-static brush or microfiber cloth to dust regularly. Compressed air can help with hard-to-reach areas.

Handling: Always handle with clean, dry hands to avoid transferring oils or dirt.

Polishing: If the surface gets dull, a non-abrasive polishing cloth can restore its shine. Be gentle to avoid scratching.

Storage Conditions: Keep in a dry, cool place. Excessive humidity or temperature changes can damage paint and materials.

Repair Kits: Have basic repair tools on hand. Minor touch-ups with matching paint can fix small scratches or chips quickly.