Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mk-II Walkthrough Part 5: Decals, Panel Lining, and Finishing Touches

Onward we march, as we near the end of this tutorial walkthrough series! In this, the final post, we will be talking about how to properly detail one's kit before the matte (or gloss) clear coat and the eventual photography process. You probably saw the title photo and you were like, "but, wait, we didn't panel line or anything.."; not to worry, there's a few steps before we set up the improvisatory studio you see above. Read on for more!

Here we have the glossy shoulder piece that we ended the last tutorial on. I wanted to talk about my thoughts regarding panel lines, as well as the approach I would take to this individual piece. In my opinion, panel lining should bring out the details of the mobile suit, and help to cast shadows in appropriate places. The process should not give the model a comic book outline, or a cartoonish visual pop. You know who you are, heavy-handed yellow V-fin liners...

Which brings us to another important, and highly relevant, point; who cares? It's all about how you want your kit to look in the end. Too many people forget that this hobby is totally individual, and each kit you see online reflects the idiosyncrasies of the person who constructed it. Play around with different styles and figure out what you think looks the best!

To line this piece, I will be using a mixture of Sakura Micron Pens and Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color. Lately, I've been using the pens for anything that requires a considerable amount of ink, such as the large indent on the top of the shoulder. I would then use the wash for all the smaller lines. On this particular kit, I felt that the larger negative spaces needed to be entirely filled in to accent the kit, otherwise it was hardly noticeable that they had even been panel-lined when juxtaposed with the dark blue.

Prior to obtaining this Panel Line premix, I used enamel paint and lighter fluid to mix up my own panel line washes. This is an easy technique that I detailed previously in a Panel Line Wash Tutorial. If you're unable to obtain the Tamiya stuff, you can find Testors enamel and lighter fluid quite easily at a hobby shop or hardware store. 

The shield was interesting because it has both recessed panel lines, as well as these large indents at each end and in the middle. I decided the best way to approach this would be to fill in the large spaces with a micron pen, and once that had dried, I would use the wash to fill the line. The picture above is following the use of the Micron pens.

This stuff is stupid easy to use, simply unscrew the cap, and after wiping off the excess liquid, use the applicator to dab the line and watch as the paint flows through the recess!

Here you can see that I had to dab quite a few times to achieve full coverage, this is fine, it just leaves you more to clean up. Speaking of clean up, all you need is some cotton swabs and lighter fluid. This is where it becomes imperative that your pieces have been gloss coated. Not only will the lacquer gloss protect from the enamel wash, it will also protect your piece from lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is, after all, a solvent, and it will mess up your paint job if you forget your gloss coat.

To clean these lines, slightly dampen a Q-tip or Tamiya Precision Cotton Swab with lighter fluid; only enough to feel damp, you don't want the lighter fluid squeezing out onto your piece. Using very light strokes, brush the lines perpendicular to their placement and watch as the recessed area retains its ink, while the dab marks slowly disappear! I chose not to include a pic of the finished result since we're so close to the end!

Here are a few different types of panel lining pens that I have experimented with. From top to Bottom; Copic Multiliner SP .03mm, Gundam Marker, Sakura Micron 005, and a Gundam branded mechanical pencil that uses .03 lead.

I used this piece from an HG Barbatos to showcase the performance and line thickness of each pen. Clockwise from bottom left; Sakura Micron 005, Copic .03, Copic .05, blank space, Gundam Marker, Mechanical Pencil. As you can see, the Micron drew a very thin, clean line compared to the Gundam Marker. The Copic Multiliners also performed very well, but at $9 a pop, versus $3 for a Sakura Micron, I feel as if my choice has been made. 

Decaling is another vital part of making your mobile suit model look like a real mobile suit. The MK-II comes with dry-etch decals only, a revelation that may strike fear into the hearts of avid waterslide users. However, with a little practice and a considerable degree of luck finesse, the end result can be just as nice as those Ver Ka waterslides.

The first step is to find the decal you want to use, and very gently cut it out. I mean, very gently, I've had these things separate from the backing while I was cutting around them, very frustrating. Anyways, once the decal is free, use a piece of masking tape to hold one side of it, preferably a side that doesn't obscure essential alignment points. I aligned the top edge of this decal to the raised line that runs along the shoulder armor. Once you are certain that the decal is in the right position, secure it using the tape and start rubbing. Use a tool that is hard but also smooth, like the back-end of a paintbrush. 

When you feel confident that Bandai could employ you as a an official "Mobile Suit Masseuse", stop rubbing. Peel away the backing, but don't remove the tape yet, if you've somehow missed a part of the decal, this allows you to place it back down in exactly the same spot and keep rubbing. If you're satisfied with the look, remove your tape and gaze upon your work. 

I then use a Q-tip to smooth out the decal and make sure there are no air bubbles. If there are large air bubbles, take a very sharp knife and poke the tiniest hole. I actually had to do this with the "01" decal on this guy's shoulder, and after the top coat it is completely unnoticeable.

I feel it would be remiss of me not to cover waterslides, so I plan to do a standalone tutorial sometime in the future!

And here is the same piece following the panel lines. Although this piece received the decal before the panel lines, I recommend that you always panel line first. The cleanup process can get a little messy, and excess lighter fluid will absolutely mess up your decal work. I think in this instance I used one of the pens, and felt confident that I wouldn't need much cleanup.

The hand and shoulder armors, after panel lining and cleaning using the pictured Tamiya Precision Cotton Swab.

Once you are content with the panel lines and decals, throw those pieces back on to skewers and get ready for my favorite part, flat coating! (Or gloss, all finishes are created equal) I prefer to matte coat my kits because I think it contrasts very nicely with the metallics I use for the weapons and inner frame. I use Mr. Color 182 Flat Clear, and I just mix up a big batch. 

Uniformity is key in achieving a clean looking build. I don't want to be mixing each airbrush cup of flat coat, because the pieces may end up looking different due to the concentration of matte pigment in the varying batches.

Apply the flat coat in deliberate coats, 1-3 total, depending on your desired affect. Sometimes it can vary, dependent upon what kind of paint you used during the initial painting phase. I used Semi-Gloss Black for the chest pieces, and felt that it really only needed one good coat of flat clear. The blue pieces, on the other hand, required two or three before I felt that they were uniform in their 

Shootin' photos time! This is the setup from above, but with the lights on. You can see that I use a three-four point lighting system, with a piece of black plexiglass and a white poster board, as detailed in my Easy Photo Setup Tutorial. If you're not used to taking photos this part can be kinda stressful, but it's also the part where you get to really document all the hard work you've put into your kit! 

Thanks for following along everyone! If anyone has any questions at all, regarding any step of this process, please inbox me on Reddit or comment below. Full photoshoot to follow shortly!

Photos of the Completed Kit