Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Scribing with a Template

Scribing is my favorite customization technique. It lets you add a ton of detail to an otherwise boring kit in a very small amount of time. Adding a few basic shapes to a blank armor panel can make it more interesting to look at. But don't let the term "basic" fool you. If you think freehand drawing a perfect circle is difficult, scribing one onto plastic is next to impossible without the help of a proper tool. That is where templates come in.

More after the jump!

I acquired this scribing template set by Hasegawa a few months back and it quickly became my favorite tool. Scribing templates are very similar to those drawing templates/stencils used by architects and engineers for tracing small shapes, except a template meant for scribing is usually made of thin, flexible metal. This allows you to trace shapes onto the surface of your kit using a sharp pointed object, such as a scriber or compass needle without damaging the template itself.

Allow me to demonstrate how it is used:

  • You will need a few more tools for this activity - a compass needle or something similar, a hobby knife for straight edges, a few strips of masking tape, sandpaper, and of course, the part you want to detail.

  • Choose the pattern you want to use and determine where you want to put it. In this example, I'll be adding some vertical capsule shapes. To keep everything straight, I align the edge of the template with the edge of the part, and use masking tape to help hold it in place...

  • Now comes the tricky part - With my left hand, I hold the template firmly against the part, making sure it doesn't move, and then use the needle to trace along the inside of the template. I start with light strokes and gradually increase the pressure as I go around the shape several times.
  • You don't need to scribe deep at this point. Just make sure you've traced the shapes onto the part. Some plastic dust building up around the shape is a good indication that the you've done enough.

  • Once I'm confident I've traced the shapes well enough, I remove the template. Note how shallow the scribed shapes look at this point.

  • Now it's time to deepen the panel lines. I take a compass needle and run it along the scribed shapes, using just enough pressure to dig a little bit deeper as the needle tip traces along the shape. I don't want to dig too deep because this will make the panel line look thicker. This is the step where I usually get a lot of unwanted scratches, but scratches are fixable and I'm willing to risk it to get nice solid panel lines. A hobby knife can be used in this step if the shape you are making has lots of straight edges.

  • Once I'm happy with the depth of the lines, I do progressive sanding (using increasing grits of sandpaper) to smooth everything out and to eliminate the raised edges on the shapes created by the scribing tools. Minor scratches are also dealt with.

  • ...And I'm done! The blank panel now has a bit more detail to draw the eye. These will look nice and sharp after a panel wash, and they can also be masked for some color separation. The best part - this was done in a little over 10 minutes. Imagine how much detail you can add to your kit in a day!

Until the next tutorial...keep building plamo!


  1. hi, where did you buy scribing template? and how much? thanks

    1. I ordered it from a guy who did batch orders from Japan. I think I paid about 500php it total.