Gundam for Beginners | Building Gunpla from Scratch
Welcome to my Gundam Building Guide. Gundam is an international phenomenon. They hold the current monopoly on cool giant fighting robots in space. People have made careers out of this hobby, but this is just a basic guide.
In the following sections, I'll guide you through the things you need to buy, things you need to know, and steps you need to take before building your first ever Gunpla.
Feel free to skip forward to a section you'd like to read about.
- A Primer on Gunpla and the Gundam
- Which Gunpla should I choose and what can I skip?
- A Basic Equipment List with links
- #1 – Prepping and Sorting
- #2 – Painting
- #3 – Snap Build
- #4 – Decals and Weathering
A PRIMER ON GUNDAM
Gunpla stands for "Gundam Plastic Model". These are 3D printed parts which you build to the final result. Each Gunpla has intricate joint movements and articulation depending on the grades.
The grades of the Gundam go in this order, from lowest to highest:
High Grade (HG), Real Grade (RG), Master Grade (MG), Perfect Grade (PG)
There are also No Grade (NG), and Super Deformed (SD), but those will be skipped.
WHICH GUNPLA SHOULD I CHOOSE?
THE ABSOLUTE BEGINNER
You have never bought a Gunpla before. You maybe watched an anime episode or two and decided it was a good idea to start a collection.
Buy a High Grade (HG) model you think looks the coolest and forget about painting it. If you’re really up for it, try your hand at paneling, and purchase an Action Base to display your very first Gunpla!
You don't know Gunpla history, so it doesn't matter which you choose. You just want a sick looking robot on your desk, and you don't want to work so hard at it.
Bandai High Grades have the largest variety of models, and are a beast to display, even with stock color. With a little effort in some decals and panels, it goes a long way to make your Gunpla look amazing.
I’VE SNAP BUILT A FEW MODELS
You've watched some anime. You know how to build HGs, and maybe have tried an MG here or there.
Try your hand at painting with a HG. Learn how to panel and decal, and maybe do some physical weathering. Your next stage of evolution is building a custom Gundam.
WHY HG NOT MG/RG?
The intricacies of the internal frame is pointless when you're just starting to learn how to paint. Your Gunpla is not going to be fantastic at first, so cheap goes a long way in practice.
Also, MG and RG decals are minuscule. It's a painstaking process, and you will need nerves of steel to apply hundreds of stickers on your first MG.
Don’t waste your money unless you’re really rich, in which case… you should buy PGs to practice on, and then hire me to help you wherever you need it.
I’VE HAND-PAINTED SOME MODELS BEFORE
If you regret hand-painting your Gundam, congratulations. It's time to purchase an Airbrush to do it the right way. I was convinced once that hand painting works, and I found out the hard way and a wasted RG Qan[T].
Get an MG, or if you’re confident, go for a great PG for display. The equipment guide is for you.
You know your way around kits, and you’ve painted and assembled them before, albeit poorly. You know what to do, and with a bit more patience, you definitely will be able to cleanly assemble a PG.
I’M A VET AND I BASH KITS LEFT AND RIGHT
Notice me, sempai! Haha, just go away. This is for lesser people than you.
These are the only things you’ll ever need to build a basic Gunpla. I'll link the things I use at the end of the section.
- Clippers (cutting parts of the sprue)
- Tweezers (decal application)
- File (basic smoothing)
- Exacto Knife (precision sprue removal)
- Panel Marker (I find 0.03 to have the best effect)
- Airbush kit (details will follow)
- Priming Paint (do NOT skip priming)
- Airbrush Paint (metallic paints a must)
- Crocodile clips (twice the amount you think you need)
- Sandpaper trio (400, 800, 1200 for seam line removal)
- Plastic Cement (sealing anything; orange flavor is my favorite)
I’m using a Sparmax DH-103. It's dual action with a gravity fed well. I'm sticking with a 0.5 needle tip, and my compressor's set to 25 psi. That's about as detailed as I'd like to go with Airbrushes.
For a full airbrush set, you're going to look for:
- Gravity Feed, Dual Action Airbrush
- 0.3, 0.5, 0.8 needle tip
- Paint Pot/Cleaner/Holder
- Airbrush Flow Improver
- Airbrush Cleaner
BRANDS OF AIRBRUSH
BRANDS OF PAINT
- Citadel Paints (need to thin a lot)
- Vallejo Paints (sold in airbrush variants)
- Tamiya Paints (acrylic for airbush is best, thin well)
- God Hand
- Anything else “Gundam” works if you can’t afford a God Hand nipper.
Most clippers can be used for Warhammer 40k. So if you're investing in that too, double purpose!
BASIC PREP WORK
For this guide, I’ve detailed my entire process for my Strike Freedom RG. This is what Gunpla usually look right out of the box. I’ve removed the plastic sheets.
STEP 1: ORGANIZATION
You’ll want to follow the instructions and cut out the parts according to sections. Get your Ziploc bags ready, it’s organizing time!
If you're sure, group certain parts. If you’re really unsure, use smaller bags to organize by step rather than section. It’ll be a bigger hassle if you're painting though.
This is how I organize the Gunpla. Note that I separate left from right.
- Torso + Head + Hip
- Left Arm
- Left Leg
- Right Arm
- Right Leg
- Backpack & Wings
- Weapons & Accessories
STEP 2 – PAINTING YOUR GUNDAM
You’re ready to start painting! Bag by bag, take the parts you need to paint, and start clipping them up. The more crocodile clips and sorting trays you have, the more you can do.
Cleaning out an airbrush is tedious, so consider working light colors to dark. Also work in color batches rather than sections. This way you don't need to wash out as often.
My process is:
- Group each bag into their separate sorting trays.
- Group colored parts WITHIN sorting trays. NO MIXING IT UP.
- Prep first color in the airbrush, say white.
- Take one sorting tray, paint white only.
- Put away, take next sorting tray, paint white only.
- Repeat till no whites left.
- Clean airbrush and prep next color.
When it’s all done, leave it to dry. You would've spent about 6 hours at this point. Get a good rest, you’ve done enough for the day.
STEP 3 – GUNDAM SNAP BUILD (THE FUN PART)
This is the part you’ve been waiting for. Follow the instructions carefully, pay attention to every detail and instruction, the Gundam will assemble itself.
STEP 4 – WEATHERING AND DECALS
The decals go on at this stage. Simply find a pair of tweezers and follow the instructions. If you want to skip battle damage and weathering, then your Gundam is ready for display!
With some flourishes like battle damage and paint weathering, you’ll be able to make your Gundam even more outstanding.
Congratulations. You’ve successfully built your first proper Gundam
Now Google “Kit Bash” and cry.