A Comprehensive Guide on Panel Lining - Make Your Gundam Kits Look Better

A Blog by Dominic Lee

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For the purpose of this blog, we will be using a Gundam model kit. Of course, the same rules apply to traditional model kits, but for those to look closer to the box art, you would be painting those as well, unlike gundam model kits which have their pieces already moulded in the correct colour.

So, you’ve built your first model kit. You’ve also been staring at it and admiring how you have built it and completed it, turning plastic pieces on a sprue into your own figure. You’ve already tested out some of the accessories within many different poses. Maybe you’ve even put some of the stickers onto the kit, breaking up the pre coloured plastic to look more like the box art that shows off the kit in a beautiful pose. One look at the box art and…



Hang on! That doesn’t look like anything like the box art! Even though you’ve added the stickers and were pretty sure you were careful not to show any nub marks. There's a fine line between what’s in your hands, and what’s on the box.

Wait, a fine line, that's it! The easiest way to make your model kit look better!

What is Panel Lining?

Panel lining is the process of filling in all the pre-molded details of parts. Doing so breaks up the sea of pre-moulded colours that one would see from an out of box build. It’s really one of the things that could make your Gundam stand out, making some details that would have otherwise been missed, show off, and capture the eyes a little easier.



Despite the process being relatively simple to the rest of building a model kit, it’s more than just drawing lines onto a piece, rather you’re giving realistic contrast to all the little pieces that aren’t defined individually. It then gives the illusion that your model kit consists of more parts, with more detail, than what was actually printed onto the plastic sprues. Look at the picture below, and notice how there are details that you would have otherwise missed.

Although it seems intimidating at first, don't be! The process of panel lining is an easy one, where mistakes can easily be erased (save for one, but we’ll get to that later). That being said, there are a lot of different ways you can panel line something, so it’s best to be informed of which does what prior to starting out.

Types of Panel Liners and How to Use Them

Now despite the actual process being easy, the sheer number of products for panel lining can be confusing to understand. There are multiple ways to apply them with multiple different products, so let’s start from the most foolproof, to the ones that need preparatory work.

Warning!

If your model is unpainted, the Gundam Markers are the easiest way to panel line, but if you have painted your model kit, the washes and Tamiya Panel Line accent colour would be better in terms of ease to use, as the Gundam markers would melt the paint, and subsequently, the melted paint will clog up the marker’s tips.

Do be careful on using panel liners on ABS plastic, as some panel liners can break the plastic by making it brittle.

Fine Point Gundam Marker

The most well known of the bunch, and for a good reason too.

Using the fine point Gundam Marker is the easiest way to apply a panel line, as it involves literally drawing on the engraved lines on your model kit, and wiping off any excess panel liner on the surface, either with an eraser, cloth, cotton swab or even your own thumb.

With how easy it is to use and clean, it’s no wonder why this would be the most popular panel liner.

That being said, there are 3 different colours, with each being for a different use case. Grey works well on white, Brown works on yellow and red, and black works on virtually anything. Using different colours would provide a more realistic finish, but with how usable black is, it’s the most used colour, of the most used panel liner.

Brush Point Gundam Marker

A nice alternative to the Fine Point, especially when your local hobby store doesn’t have the fine point in stock.

The only difference between this and the fine point is the tip of the pen itself. Because of the tip, it’s easier to get into harder-to-reach areas and due to how the ink is spread out, less force is required to clean the ink from the non-recessed areas. Also because it's spread out, it’s far more tolerable on painted surfaces and would not melt the underlying paint as quickly.

Unlike the fine point markers, it only comes in black and grey. Still, for those who are worried about ruining their fine tip markers with excessive force, the Brush point is far more forgiving.

Flow Type Gundam Marker

A hybrid between the traditional Gundam markers and the Tamiya Panel Line accent colours. Unlike the previous Gundam markers, the flow type pens work by pressing onto an engraved line, and letting the panel liner ink, for lack of a better term, flow throughout the part. For those who are wary of Tamiya’s panel line accent colour, this is far more user friendly as the ink does not destroy the plastic.

Cleaning it up is a little harder as the paint is more resilient, but unlike the brush and fine tip markers, you really need to rub away on one area at best. An eraser would be the best way to erase it as the friction would be enough to remove any overspills. An easier way would be to use a Gundam marker eraser but be careful to not erase the actual panel lines when erasing with the marker eraser.

Washes (Vallejo)



Washes are more versatile than the other liners previously mentioned. You can put them on a brush and use it akin to a flow type gundam marker, or you can straight up dunk the pieces into it and wipe off the excess with a cloth. Truth be told, washes are really just paint that has been extremely thinned out.

It should be noted that whether you can put it on a painted surface vs bare plastic depends on what type of paint and thinner is used to make the wash in the first place.

Tamiya panel line accent colour is a prime example of this, as it is enamel-based, the enamel thinner used will eat through the plastic and needs a painted or topcoated surface prior to applying the panel line.

Tamiya Panel Line Accent Colour

Despite it being one of the more famous methods for panel lining, it really is just an enamel paint that has been thinned out with a lot of enamel thinner, which is basically what washes are. The difficulty lies in the preparation required to use this panel liner, instead of the actual application of the panel liner. You just need to use the brush attached to the cap and let the ink flow through, similar to that of the Gundam Marker Flow type.

Then, like with the Gundam marker eraser, you clean the ink blots using a small amount of enamel paint thinner on a cotton swab. This is the only one that I wouldn’t recommend putting on bare plastic as the thinner would eat through it and can potentially break the piece.

Plastic Paint Compatibility Table

Still with me? No? That’s fine because the table below is a nice little truncated version of what the panel liner’s compatible with.

 

Type of Panel Liner

Can use on Bare Plastic

Can be used on painted surfaces (Acrylic + Enamel)

Can be used on painted surfaces (Lacquer Paint)

Gundam Marker Fine Type

Yes

No

No

Gundam Marker Brush Point

Yes

Yes

Yes

Gundam Marker Flow Type

Yes

No

No

Paint Washes

Depends

Depends

Depends

Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color

No

No

Yes

 

Closing Remarks

I know it looks like I’ve written a lot for this, but truth be told, it’s far simpler than it is. All you really need to do is to just try it!

Dominic Lee
Professional Panel Line Sniffer

I work in Hobbyco Chatswood inside Chatswood Chase, on the Ground floor.
My name is Dominic Lee.
I’ve worked for 3 years now.
I believe in taking care of my model kits, in a slow-and-steady manner, with a nice sanding routine.

When I’m building, if a piece isn’t fitting correctly, I’ll bind it with masking tape while the extra thin cement dries. I have built a thousand now.
After the cement dries, I use a moderately-grit sandpaper.
When painting, I use lacquer-based metallic candy paints.
Then a lacquer-based glossy topcoat.
And on the panel lines, an enamel wash.
Then I apply a heavy amount of decals,
which I leave on for ten minutes while the waterslide dries up.
I always use some mark softer, with little or no odour,
because it overpowers the addicting scent of Tamiya cement.
Then topcoat, then a few more photos, followed by a final pose before I put it on my shelf.

There is an idea of a Dominic Lee.
Some kind of model builder, but there are too many to build.
Only a pile- of unbuilt kits.
And though I like the smell of paint thinner,
and you can say your favourite model kit’s the RG Hi-Nu Gundam,
and maybe you can sense that our hobbies are alike, I simply am not there.


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