I thought I'd do a small tutorial on how to apply enamel washes to your panel lines. It's a very simple process for panel lining your kits, and it's a lot faster than using a panel line marker. In addition, this technique can be used on painted or unpainted kits, so even beginners can get in on the action provided they have some enamel paint and a little patience. Read on for the process!
- Enamel Paint
- Turpenoid Based Lighter Fluid
- Gloss Coat
- Cotton Swabs
Pictured here are a few of the armor panels from the HGUC Unicorn. You can see the lines in the plastic, but they don't really pop. I'm going to fix that by panel lining. An optional first step that I chose to do with these pieces, is deepening the grooves. These panel lines were very shallow and that won't work well with the wash method. Using the back of my modeling knife, I gently scraped along the lines until they were just a little bit deeper. After that you should sand the top of the line to make sure there's no jagged edges, then continue onward.
If you're painting your kit, then now you would prime and paint your pieces followed by a gloss coat of some sort. I prefer to use Mr. Color GX Super Clear III. If you're not painting, a gloss coat is optional but will certainly help with the flow of paint when compared to bare plastic. However, I would recommend using an acrylic top coat such as Mr. Top Coat Gloss; Mr. Super Clear is a lacquer and can be harsh on bare plastic.
When mixing the paint for the panel line wash, you're going to thin an enamel black (or whatever color you want) with a turpenoid based lighter fluid. I use Model Masters for my panel lines and I buy Zippo brand lighter fluid from the smoke shop. The paint needs to be quite thin in order for the enamel wash to flow correctly. You can see in the above picture that the paint slides around the dish leaving very little residue as it moves, this is how thin you want it. If you over-thin the enamel, the pigment will actually clump and disperse and you'll need to start from scratch, so mix carefully.
When your paint has reached the right consistency, it's time to grab the paint brush. Using a fine tipped brush, gently dab the enamel mixture on a corner of your panel line. The paint should flow along the groove, filling in the entire line in seconds. Dab again at a second spot if you need to, to achieve full coverage. Also, since lighter fluid evaporates quickly, be sure to add more if your paint suddenly won't flow well.
After the painted lines have dried for thirty minutes to an hour, you can start your cleanup. Using a cotton swab dipped in lighter fluid, gently wipe the surface of the line, making sure to clean up the spot where you initially dabbed the paint. Try not to press too hard or use too much lighter fluid as you could end up erasing part of the panel line itself. If done correctly you should be left with clean, black lines that look much neater than any panel line marker. From here you can add your decals or your final topcoat. Good luck!