Gunpla Models: Should you Topcoat Before or After Stickers?

Most Gunpla beginners would wonder when to use Topcoats on their build. Should they use them before or after the stickers? Doing this the wrong way could make the sticker fall off or make the model’s shine uneven. Thus, it is crucial to understand if you could use stickers with clear coats, and if it is possible, what is the proper way of applying both to achieve the best results?

Generally speaking, you should use a top coat before and after applying stickers and decals for the best results. Applying a top coat before decals allow a smoother surface for them to stick properly. Applying clear coats after the stickers seal and shine the model evenly. However, different clear coats do the job better than the others.

This blog post will discuss whether it is possible to use decals and top coats simultaneously. We would also discuss the best practices to achieve the best results.

My HG Blaze Zaku and its stickers

Can You Top Coat Over Stickers or Decals on Gunpla?

You can spray top coat over stickers and decals to make your models shine even. Furthermore, it seals the decals so that they won’t easily fall off in the future. This is why it is a good idea to top coat over stickers and decals. However, one should know how to coat the stickers without damaging the plastic properly.

There is a good reason why top coats are trendy in numerous online Gunpla communities. It is a general consensus that top coats make the models look better.

For example, here is a photo of MG Ex Gundam with topcoats.

As you can see, the shine makes it look better than being bare.

Thus, most modelers agree that top coats make their models look better.

However, it is also common to mess things up, especially if you’re going to apply over the top coat.

For example, one could apply stickers or panel lines on top of the top coat, which could lead to some issues such as paint from the panel lines sliding off the model.

Recommended Read: Should you top coat before or after panel lining? I made a post discussing this in great detail which you can read here: Should you top coat before or after panel lining?

Furthermore, it could make the model look weird as it shines except on the parts where stickers were applied.

That’s why it is common for modelers to apply a clear coat after the stickers or decals.

This evens the coat and ensures the model is evenly shiny without any missed spots.

However, there are more benefits of applying clear coats over the model, which we will discuss in the next section.

Why should you top coat over stickers?

You should top coat over stickers to seal the decals on the model. Furthermore, clear coating protects the stickers from water which can soften and destroy the decals.

There are many reasons why we should top coat stickers on a plastic model kit like Gunpla.

Clear coats evenly shine the model, which makes the model look better.

However, applying top coats over the stickers offers more benefits than aesthetics.

For example, top coats serve as a sealant so that stickers won’t fall off the model.

If you’ve been modeling without clear coats, you might notice that stickers can fall off the model after some time.

This is because stickers and decals tend to slide off the plastic model, especially as it ages.

Modelers use top coats to serve as a sealant. This prevents the stickers from falling off as they are already sealed inside the clear coat.

Since they are also sealed, the stickers won’t fall off even if you accidentally rubbed them while playing with the model.

This is a massive benefit for a modeler who often changes their model’s poses, as stickers falling off after touching them is common, especially for models that aren’t covered with a top coat.

Another benefit of spraying top coats over stickers is it protects the stickers from water.

Since the top coats act as a sealant, they also protect the stickers from water, which you can see in the photo below.

Beading: how top coats protect the model surface from water

The beading process is when the top coat repels the water. Water is very detrimental to the sticker.

If you have some extra stickers you won’t use, try dipping them in water.

After dipping, you will instantly notice that the sticker becomes soft and saggy. Some stickers might be torn apart since they become incredibly soft.

Stickers that are already on the Gundam model aren’t resistant to water. That’s why it is crucial to protect them from moisture.

Clear coats offer a way to repel water from the stickers. This is why applying clear coats on top of the sticker is a good idea.

However, do not rush spraying clear coats on your models, as applying top coats incorrectly could destroy your model.

For one, overly applying clear coats could accelerate the plastic aging process, which is why you hear some people complaining their models become extremely brittle after applying clear coats.

Thus, we will talk about how to apply a clear coat to achieve the best results in the next section.

How To Properly Top Coat with Stickers and Decals?

To properly top coat with stickers and decals, make sure to top coat both before and after applying the stickers. Top coating before the sticker offers a better surface for the stickers to stick. Top coating after the sticker seals the decals, which protects it from external damage.

It is common to see people saying that you should apply a clear coat only after the sticker. However, that is not the best way to top coat your models.

For one, most plastic model kits come with a plastic protectant known as the mold release. This is why some stickers slide on your plastic model when you apply them.

The problem is that clear coats are considered permanent, and sealing an incorrectly placed sticker can cause irreversible issues.

That’s why it is essential to ensure that the stickers stick well on the surface before applying a clear coat.

To start, there are generally two types of clear coats, which are the glossy and the matte.

As the name implies, glossy offers more gloss and shine than matte, but they provide the same protection to the model.

However, when applying top coats before the stickers, the gloss offers better results than the matte. That’s why it is a good idea to use a glossy top coat before applying stickers.

This is because glossy top coats offer a better surface for the sticker to stick.

One thing you will notice on the freshly dried glossy top coat is that they tend to be a little sticky. This is advantageous as decals can stick better since they are sticky.

After applying the sticker, you can choose between spraying a matte or a glossy top coat. Whichever you choose depends on your preference.

It is also worth noting that the top-most coat will prevail because if you apply a glossy coat before the sticker and a matte coat after, you will only notice the matte coat.

Basically, the coat after the sticker would be what your model would look like. Thus, feel free to choose the clear coat you want.

Earlier, I showed the MG Gundam with a glossy top coat. Here is the same MG Gundam with a matte top coat so you can choose which one you like better.

Matte MG Ex Gundam

Lastly, I said that over-applying top coats could cause the plastic to age faster.

Thus, it is crucial not to put on too much clear coat.

To do this, always spray about 1 foot away from the model. Do not spray on the model directly and keep the distance to allow the paint to disperse.

After coating, wait for 30 minutes to air dry the coat. Then, continues coating.

Modelers usually coat the models three times to achieve the best results.

Applying the coat three times doesn’t mean you are over-applying. Over-applying happens when you see paint droplets coming out of your model.

Since you dried the model before reapplying, you aren’t applying too much coat.

That’s how to apply a top coat on models with stickers properly.

What’s Next? This post showed you why you should top coat models with stickers. But is top coating essential for beginners? Also, are there alternatives for top coats which aren’t permanent? I discussed these in another post which you can find here: Do you need to top coat Gunpla models?

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