Friday, January 15, 2016

Tutorial: Taking Better Photos

A lot of photos I see from beginner and intermediate builders look like the photo above. They are usually taken on a messy desk or a bed; and they are either too blurry, out of focus, too dark, or the colors are blown out. Here are few very simple and very cheap ways of taking better photos of your Gunpla.

Hit the bump for the full tutorial

Tutorial: Basic Posing

I see a lot of new builders posting photos of their kits in poses similar to the one above. Typically their model's feet are close together and the body is pointed in a couple of different directions. When a kit is posed like this it doesn't look as cool or dynamic as the mobile suit its supposed to represent.

In many cases a well posed unpainted or unlined model can look better than a poorly posed, but painted and finished model. In this quick guide I'm going to provide you with some easy tips to get the most out of your models.

Hit the bump for the full tutorial

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tutorial: Grades


There are many different "grades" of a Gundam models that Bandai has produced over the years. Some series like High Grade have been around for a long time and include a lot of kits, while others are small collections. In this section we'll cover the basics of each grade.

SD or Super Deformed; is characterized by exaggerated proportions and a cutesy appearance. Many models in the SD line tend to rely on stickers for color separation; this makes them a great choice when learning to mask and paint. In general these models tend to be low cost but also have a low part count.

Arguably the High Grade line of kits is the largest and most varied line of models. Although there are HG 1/100 scale kits, HG is typically used to refer to the line of 1/144 scale kits. HG kits usually have good color separation, but can rely on stickers for some colors. The HG line strikes a good balance between low cost, details and fun playable gimmicks. 

Real Grade is a line of detailed 1/144 scale kits. Many builders characterize these kits as having PG detail in a HG size. This range of models includes an inner frame called the "Advanced MS Joint". The small parts that are common in these kits can make them difficult for beginners; however, they can also look great out of the box with only basic panel lining and topcoat.

Master Grade is a line of detailed 1/100 scale models. Most MG models include at least a partial inner frame. In general the MG line tends to feature more, gimmicks, and details and parts than their HG counter parts. The variety of MG kits is less expansive than the HG line, and the price point and part count are higher. In general the MG line of kits have better color separation and limited reliance on stickers; making them a great choice for builders that can't or don't want to paint.

Perfect Grade is a line of 1/60 scale model kits. This line is a more limited line than the others with releases normally occurring a few years apart. The size and cost of these models can make them prohibitive for many modelers, but those that do decide to indulge in one of these models will be surprised by their size, detail and gimmicks.

The Hardgraph line of kits is a mix of 1/44 and 1/35 kits. This is a tough line to pin down. The early kits in this line included Mobile suits, small vehicles and extra weapons; but all of the later kits are 1/35 vehicles and mobile suit parts. These models are often highly detailed, include water slide decals, and sometimes require glue to assemble.  

The EX series is a line of mostly ships, add-ons or ground crafts ranging in scale from 1/100 to 1/1700. There haven't been any additions to this line in a long while and reprints of these kits seem to be fairly infrequent. The large carrier type ships like the Whitebase, Albion, Arch Angel, Etc are produced in the 1/1700 scale making a finished ship about 5 inches (12.5 cm) long. Unlike most other lines many of these models require glue to assemble. The small scale, low availability and higher prices for these kits make them a poor choice for beginners.

The Megasize models are a line of gigantic 1/48 models. The quality of these models is roughly in line with High Grade models. Unlike most HG models, the Mega Size are huge, and tower over PG kits. Each model includes a set of water slide decals and a mini Hobby Japan magazine featuring basic tips on how to improve the appearance of the kit. These models are typically around $100, making them an attractive option if you want a centerpiece or conversation starter for your collection.  

The Reborn-One Hundred is a newer line of  1/100 scale model kits. The detail and quality of these kits puts them somewhere between HG and MG. These models lack an inner frame, but tend to have a lot of surface detail like panel lines. Unofficially the models in this line fall into the category of popular, but not popular or practical enough to be a MG release.   

Advanced Grade / First Grade / Speed Grade / 1/220 / Miscellaneous 

Often forgotten about these grades exhibit varying quality; in most cases the cost of these models is very low, but so is the over quality and value. In general these models are skippable and should probably only be considered for younger modelers, or modelers looking for some obscure design.

"No Grade"

No Grade is a grade in the same way that "off" is a TV channel. No Grade is a fan name used to describe kits that don't fit into the normal grading system. These kits may still follow a scale like 1/220, 1/144, 1/100 or 1/60; but are otherwise their own line. This "line" is very much a mixed bag and the quality of the line varies considerably. 

Tutorial: Glossary

Modeling has it's own lingo, abbreviations and sayings. If you're new to the hobby you may not understand some things more experienced modelers are saying. This glossary should help you decode a bit of our language. 

Acrylic: Typically used to describe water based paint (please note that acrylic can also be solvent based).

AB/Airbrush: A painting tool used by some modelers, consisting of a compressor, hose and airbrush. Airbrushes provide a high degree of control, smooth finish and artistic flexibility. 

Bandai: The producer of Gunpla.

Bluefin: The US distributor for Gunpla.

Bootleg: An unofficial Gundam kit produced by a 3rd party company.

Builder Parts: A series of parts created and sold by Bandai to add onto Gunpla models. These parts can include weapons, figures, thrusters or other items.

Dalong/ A helpful website full of model and manual photographs. This website is a valuable tool when choosing or studying model designs.

Decals: Markings included with some kits or purchasable separately. Decals can refer to a variety of items including stickers, foil decals or water slide decals all of which can be included with a Gundam Model.

Dengeki Hobby: A hobby magazine from Japan.

Commander's Horn: A singular horn frequently appearing on some mobile suit designs to designate a commander's unit. Sometimes the horn is also refereed to as a Commander's Antenna.

Diorama: A three dimensional model typically depicting a scene, background or environment.

Enamel: A type of oil based paint.

Earth Federation/Feddies: The global earth government first appearing in Mobile Suit Gundam.

Filter: A technique used as a part of the weathering process. Typically involving a very thin color applied over the entire model to reduce the contrast between colors. 

Garage Kit: This is an older term that was used to describe amateur produced models (typically produced in small batches in somebody's garage). Sometimes this term is used to refer to 3rd party resin kits. See also Resin.

GBWC/Gundam Builders World Cup: An annual competition hosted by Bandai that occurs in certain countries to identify the best gunpla builders in the world.

GFT/Gundam Front Tokyo: A Museum, theater and shop in Diver City Japan where the life size RX 78-2 Gundam currently resides.

Gunpla: The word "Gunpla" is a portmanteau of the words "Gundam" and "Plastic Model".

Grades: Refers to the different series of models.

Greeblies: Fine details on the surfaces of models, typical simple geometric shapes.

Gundam: The titular mecha featured in most the Gundam series. In some but not all appearances, the Gundam suit tends to be highly advanced and features revolutionary technology in comparison to other mobile suits.

Hobby Japan: A hobby magazine from Japan.

Kamille: A girl's name.

Kit Bash: The combination of parts from two or more kits to create a new design.

Lacquer: A type of solvent based paint.

Masking: a process of covering something with tape or other material. Typically used when painting to create designs.
Mecha: Is a Sci-Fi genre centering around robots piloted by people. The Gundam series of Anime and Manga is part of the mecha genre.

Mobile Suit: A humanoid combat weapon. 

Monoeye: Typically used to refer to Zeon Mobile suits from Mobile Suit Gundam.

Mr.Color: A line of paints popular among modelers.

Mr.Hobby: A popular manufacturer of tools and paints for modelers.

MS: The abbreviation for Mobile Suit

Nippers/Side Cutters: A common tool for most modelers. There are many manufacturers that produce quality nippers, including but not limited to: Tamiya, Xuron and GodHand.

Nubs: The remnants of where the sprue connected to the model parts.

Out of Box/OOB: Refers to a kit assembled out of the box without paint or to a kit built out of box using the stock color scheme. See also Straight Build.

P-Bandai: Refers to a line of limited products produced by Bandai. These models tend to be more expensive and harder to acquire than normally released kits. Most models in this line are produced for a short period of time; however, re-releases are not unheard of.

Panel Line: Thin recesses molded into many kits. Typically panel lines are used to add detail and are supposed to signify where armor panels meet.  

Plamo: Like Gunpla "Plamo" is a portmanteau of the words "Plastic" and "Model". Plamo is a more general term for plastic modeling, gunpla is a subsection of plamo.

Pla-Plate: This refers to plastic plate, a modeling material that can be used to scratch build or modify Gunpla.

Primer: A preparatory material applied to a model before paint is applied. Typically primer is used to protect the plastic of the kit from more volatile solvents, improve paint adherence, hide scratches and fill in low spots

Putty: A soft material that cures hard, typically used to fill gaps and for modification.There are many varsities of putties ranging from putties with a paint like consistency, gels, and kneedable dough like materials. 

Resin: Polyurethane resin. Sometimes used to describe 3rd party kits. See also Garage Kit.

Respirator: A safety component of the painting process worn over the nose and mouth to prevent the inhalation of potentially harmful vapors or materials. 

RX 78-2/"Grand Daddy Gundam": The Gundam that appeared in original Mobile Suit Gundam 

Scale: Refers to the size of a model. typically written as "1/144, 1/100, etc". This means that 1 inch, centimeter, etc in model scale correlates to 100/144/etc inches, centimeters, etc. A Master Grade (1/100) model of the RX 78-2 stands about 18 centimeters tall because the RX 78-2 Gundam stands about 18 meters in height.

Scratch Building: Refers to building models or components from scratch. This is typically accomplished using pla-plate and putty.

Scribing: The process of carving panel lines into the plastic of a kit. Typically accomplished using a scribing tool or chisel. 

Spray booth: A safety component of the painting process that pulls vapors and particulates into a series of filters using a fan. 

Sprue: The plastic "tree" that all the model parts come attached to.

Spudger: A nylon tool used to pry pieces apart or to push decals around.

Straight Build: Refers to a kit assembled out of the box without paint or to a kit built out of box using the stock color scheme. See also Out of Box Build.

Tamiya: A popular manufacturer of tools and paints.

Thinner: A solvent used to thin certain types of paint. Typically increasing drying time and leaving a smoother surface.

Thruster:  Typically in the shape of a bell, these are used for adjustments in attitude or velocity of space craft or mobile suits. See also Vernier.

Topcoat: Refers to the top most layer of paint, this layer is almost always clear and can have several finishes such as: matte, satin or gloss. Topcoat is used to seal the lower layers and add protection.

UC: The abbreviation for Universal Century the setting of Mobile Suit Gundam.

V Fin: The V shaped horn prevalent on many Gundam type mobile suits.

Ver. Ka/ Katoki: Refers to designs created by Katoki Hajime a mecha designer. His designs have been featured in many series both inside and outside of the Gundam franchise and frequently feature many markings/decals.

Vernier:  Typically in the shape of a bell, these are used for adjustments in attitude or velocity of space craft or mobile suits. See also Thrusters.

Weathering: A series of techniques used to simulate the deterioration of materials due to the impact of environmental effects over time. 

Wash: A very thin layer of paint used to enhance the appearance of surface details and add depth. 

WIP: The abbreviation for work in progress aka. an incomplete kit. 

Zeon/The Principality of Zeon: A nation of Spacenoids first appearing in Mobile Suit Gundam