Thursday, October 13, 2016

Back to Basics 5: Paint Prep

Greetings plamo nerds, and welcome to the 5th and final installment of Back to Basics! If you've been following the series, you'll recall that every topic up to this point has been about assembly and getting the model's exposed surfaces to look as sharp and clean as possible. We've covered everything from proper removal from the sprue, denubbing, seam fixing, smoothing out surface defects, and getting everything to line up properly. Today we'll focus on a few more steps a modeler can take before finally loading up his brush (or airbrush) with paint.
Hop in!

Click on the read more link for the rest of this post...

Unless your name is Joshua Darrah, every serious mecha modeler should consider painting their kits. A good paint job can transform a kit from looking like a regular plastic toy into a proper model - a miniature representation of a massive weapon of war. But don't just start slathering paint on immediately after assembling the model - there are some things you can do to achieve a better, cleaner and more resilient finish, and will help you avoid some "oh shit" moments half way through the painting process.

1. Clean Sweep

Once all your puttied-up parts are fully cured and sanded, get a good look at each part (even those you didn't repair) under a bright light (or sunlight) to make sure you didn't miss any seams, scratches or surface defects. Use a soft bristle toothbrush or paintbrush to gently sweep off sanding debris and dried putty that tend to get stuck in panel lines and in the nooks and crannies of details. Fix any remaining defects you might find during this stage, as it gets significantly harder to fix them later on. If you can no longer find any issues, wash the parts in a basin of water with a drop of dish-washing liquid to get rid of oil from your fingers. Let the parts air dry on a lint-free cloth or paper towel.

2. Stick 'Em Up

Mount the parts on painting sticks. Sometimes there is nothing to clamp onto behind the part, in which case something sticky can help. Ball up some masking tape, clay or blue tack and stick it on the underside of the part, then jab one end of a stick into it. The idea is to have good access to all areas of the part that will be receiving paint, without the stick or clamp getting in the way. Plant them securely on your painting base for easy access.

3. Prime Time

Priming gives the paint something to cling to, especially if the parts were not sanded. Having higher opacity than regular paint, it prevents the original color from showing through lighter shades, making it essential when changing a part's color from something dark to something light, such as black to yellow.
Since it is thicker than regular paint, it also helps fill in those smaller scratches that putty couldn't get into. For the same reason you might want to avoid priming over pegs and moving parts if you're worried the primer might make reassembly or movement difficult. I prefer to prime in sub assemblies (arms, legs, etc) to minimize impact on fit.

Some modelers skip priming altogether. I can get behind the idea as long as the intended color scheme is very close to out-of-the-box or significantly darker than the original scheme, but I recommend you do it regardless as it can help reveal some defects that may be camouflaged by the color or glossy surface of a part.

Crank up the PSI to properly shoot that gloopy load!...err...yeah..

4. PlamOCD 

Once the primer is dry, go over each part again to make sure your seam fixes and such are all holding up. If you find a seam still showing through, apply more filler and repeat steps 1 through 4 for the affected parts. If your primer surface is rougher than expected, a gentle wet sanding with high-grit sandpaper will smooth it out.

Treat this step as a point of no return (even though it really isn't). Repeat 1 to 4 as much as necessary, and resist the urge to paint until you're absolutely sure everything is fixed, or until your OCD is satisfied, whichever comes first.

5. Plan Your Attack

You probably have an idea of what colors you're going with even before you assembled the kit, now it's time to put a solid plan together. Whether you're going for a standard box-art color scheme or something custom, it's ideal to know what color will go where. Scan the line-art from the assembly manual and try coloring it in on your computer to try out different schemes. GIMP is a great app for this purpose.  It comes with a magic wand tool for cleaning up the line-art and an airbrush tool for testing out your pre/post shading tones, plus it's completely free!

for the Boros, I mashed-up line art of Garazzo and Tallgeese to play around with color schemes

Note down which colors you will be painting in sequence, and how you intend to mask off details. Check your supplies and make sure you have the paints in stock before getting started, especially if you'll be using custom paint mixes. This will help you avoid having to mix a 2nd batch later on that might not be the exact same shade as the first. It's also good to know beforehand how much time you have for painting, that way you know you can finish painting one color in one sitting. Minimizing the number of times you have to switch colors in your airbrush reduces cleanup time.

6. Spooning

Do not attempt to dry hump your model, I'm just trying to get clever with the step names to keep your attention lol. If you're still not quite sure what shades of paint to go with, a couple of spoon tests can help you decide. White plastic spoons are the perfect lab rats for experimenting with paint combos, especially since actual rats appear to dislike getting airbrushed  (I'm joking...or am I?). You can also do some basic masking or shading on the spoons to get a good look at your color scheme, or see first-hand how your lacquer-acrylic-enamel paint layers react with each other.

7. Paint!

With all the techniques involved, it would take an entire series just to explain everything I've learned about painting, and I've still got a lot to learn. The internet is chock full of painting tutorials from more experienced modelers, so you can find pretty much everything there is to know about painting with quick a YouTube search. Here's a generally recommended painting sequence to get you started:

(ignore the color scheme, just trying to highlight the layers...)

And that concludes our Back to Basics series!  Everything I've shared here was collated from various modeling websites and blogs, both mecha oriented and otherwise, so if you still want to dig deeper into each technique, google is more than welcome to help. If you're wondering why I even bothered with a series that has been done to death by more experienced builders than myself, I explained everything in this post: Basics or Bust: Reflections on Custom Building

I am reminded of this quote:
"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
- George Bernard Shaw

That's enough teaching for now...time to DO! Until next time, keep building plamo!