Gundam models come in colored plastic pieces. The pieces often have details printed on the surface, but they can be hard to see once the model is put together. Panel lining is the process of drawing out the separation between the pieces of the Gunpla. It is the single best use of time to improve the look of your model. It doesn’t take long and makes a big impact.
What is panel lining on Gundam models? Panel lining is a technique used to make the details printed on the individual Gundam models stand out boldly. This is done by carefully filling in the lines with ink or paint. Gundam Markers are specially designed markers created specifically for panel lining. Panel Liner is a thin enamel paint that easily flows into recesses.
Let’s take a look at the panel lining process and what products are recommended.
Markers: You basically use the marker to trace in the panel lines. Very straight forward but I would argue a bit tougher and takes longer. A good example of the Markers HERE
Panel Liner: This is a pre thinned usually enamel paint, you touch the applicator to the panel and the paint flows into the recess. It’s quick, but might require some clean up if any paint gets on the upper surfaces. For this I use Tamiya Panel Liner exclusively. I’m sure all brands are similar, but Tamiya is all I have personally tried.
Oil, Enamel or Acrylic Paint: This is the same principle as a panel liner product, but you simply thin the paint yourself and apply with a thin pointed paint brush. Benefits here include using a huge variety of colors. You also have options on non toxic acrylic, or very low surface tension thinned oil. Note you don’t need a big tube of paint! A little goes a very long way. Something like this with some thinner would last forever if you just use it to panel line.
There is a great video on panel lining (also known as recess washing) miniatures here, and it applies to Gunpla just as well:
What Is Panel Lining?
Gundam models are pretty detailed on their own, especially if you have a more advanced grade, but sometimes the detail can get lost.
Most Gunpla only have a few colors of plastic pieces in each kit. The pieces have indentations on them, like lines or dots, to create detail and dimension.
However, when everything is one color, the details can be hard to see, especially from far away.
Panel lining is the solution if you want to bring attention to those little details. The indentations are filled in with ink which makes the lines easier to see.
It adds some extra dimension to the model, and you can actually see the detail from across the room. Unlined Gunpla don’t look nearly as impressive as the lined ones do from far away.
Panel lining is usually done with dark inks like black, gray, or brown. It creates a contrast that makes each piece stand out.
There are different colors available to choose from, however, so you can choose whichever colors you want to use.
This detailing is completely optional and is only one of the many ways you can make your Gunpla unique.
A beginner who is new to Gunpla might want to skip this step because there’s a risk of making mistakes.
Most inks can be easily cleaned up, but it can cause unnecessary stress for the beginner. Gunpla are still impressive without the detailing.
You can also use decals or paint each and every piece to make yours a custom model.
How Do You Panel Line?
Panel lining is simple but time-consuming. It requires very few tools. Patience is one of them. The tools you need include:
You might also need a tray or paper plate and paper towels in case you spill the ink or it flows out of the marker too quickly.
Follow these simple instructions:
- “Activate” the Gundam Marker by pressing down the nub. Use a dish or paper plate to contain the ink, because extra ink might come out. This step isn’t necessary with Tamiya paint.
- Dip your Tamiya paintbrush into the paint and remove the excess. You can do this by rubbing the brush on the inside of the bottle. Excess paint will make a mess.
- Apply a dot of ink to the indentation. The ink will spread on its own, so you don’t have to swipe the paintbrush or marker tip across the surface.
- Allow the piece to dry completely before you clean up excess ink. Even when it’s dry, it will still come up easily.
- Continue steps 2-4 until your Gunpla is completed. If you use a Gundam Marker, you won’t need to keep activating it unless the ink has trouble coming out of the marker.
The markers and paint don’t work like your typical markers and paint.
Instead of moving along the indentations to apply ink, you simply add a little dot, and the ink will travel through the grooves.
Add another dot where it stops traveling, and continue this process.
Some indentations are larger than others and might require you to do some extra dotting or even swiping across the area.
Be careful when doing this since the markers and paintbrushes might release a lot of ink at once.
How to Clean Up Excess Ink
- Allow the ink to dry completely. Cleaning up wet ink might cause streaking and will be more difficult to clean.
- Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol. Nail polish remover can be used on enamel-based inks, but be extremely cautious if you choose this method because the chemicals can eat through the plastic.
- Gently rub the cotton swab on the flat surfaces where there is ink. Avoid the indentations, or you will have to repaint.
The inks from both Gundam Markers and Tamiya Panel Line Accent are easy to clean up even when they’re dry.
Rubbing alcohol will make the process easier, but you can use dry cotton swabs if you have no other choice. It just might take some extra work to get the ink off.
There are specialty cotton swabs made with small, pointed tips for detailing.
They’re more expensive than the regular kind, but they’re great for cleaning up after panel lining because they allow you to reach small spaces without accidentally swiping into the indentations.
Are Markers or Tamiya Panel Line Accent Better for Gundams?
Panel lining works best if you use Gundam Markers or Tamiya Panel Line Accent.
Is one better than the other?
While they both have their pros and cons, I prefer the Tamiya Panel Line Accent. It’s easier to apply, and the colors are softer, so they’re much easier to clean up.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these recommended products.
This package of markers includes red, blue, yellow, white, and gray chisel-tip markers, including a gray fine-tip marker.
The colors offer you many creative options when it comes to adding details to your Gunpla.
The colors are vibrant and they’re perfect for covering up blemishes you might find on the pieces.
These markers are thick, so it can be difficult to get into tiny crevices, especially for beginners.
Since Gundam model pieces are typically small, this can be difficult to deal with.
Of course, you can always use cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol to remove the ink that gets outside of the lines.
The fine-tip marker is ideal for panel lining, but do note that there is only one of those in this pack, and it only comes in gray.
You can also use these markers outside of the indentations, so you can add your own details as you’d like.
The markers might streak a bit, so you shouldn’t try to cover large areas with them, but these markers are suitable for bigger details.
This Tamiya ink is ideal for panel lining tiny spaces. The bottle comes with a fine-tip paintbrush which is perfect for reaching all the spaces.
The ink easily flows through all the indentations, making it a super easy process to complete all the details.
Unlike the markers, you can’t easily use Tamiya Panel Line Accent to cover large surfaces.
If you want to paint the entire Gunpla, you’ll need to buy different paint, as this product is meant for detailing.
The tiny brush can’t cover too much at once, but it will certainly fill the smallest indentations on each piece.
The black ink is perfect for making the light indentations darker so they’ll be able to stand out. The ink isn’t super vibrant, so the color will appear soft.
This is also a great product to use if you want to create a weathered or dirty effect on your Gunpla to make it look as though it has been damaged in battle.
Panel lining is a great way to add detail to your Gundam and make it look more impressive.
Gundam models are already pretty impressive on their own, but adding small details like panel lining makes them stand out from the others.
Whether you choose the markers or the paint is up to you.
The markers tend to be better for larger areas while the paint makes it easier to detail the tiny indentations. Both of them can easily be cleaned up with rubbing alcohol.
Image credit: Gundam Models