One of the common stumbling blocks for beginners in Gunpla is painting. Painting requires not only tools but also space which prevents beginners from trying the hobby. When I was new to the hobby, this was one of my problems as I saw people on online forums showing their paint job. So I want to help beginners who are doubting themselves to try the hobby by writing this post. Thus, is painting necessary for Gundam models?
As a general rule, painting is not necessary for Gundam models as their plastics are already colored. However, some modelers tend to make their models unique by painting them in their desired color. Thus, painting is an optional process for building Gunpla kits.
This post will discuss why painting is an optional step. I will also show some great-looking Gunpla models that didn’t use paint. Furthermore, I will introduce the paints used in Gunpla building for your future reference.
Do you need to paint Gundam models?
You don’t need to paint Gundam models since the plastics are already colored. However, you can customize Gundam models to your liking via painting.
While it is true that painting a Gundam model would usually make it look better, most Gundam models are great enough without painting.
For example, the HG Deathscyte Gundam picture at the start of this post is an unpainted model.
They have colors despite being unpainted because the plastics of the Gundam are colored according to what they look like in their design.
If you try opening a Gundam model box, you can see sprues that contain the parts. You will notice that the sprues have different colors depending on the part.
Here is a sample of the sprues inside the box. Notice how they have different colors.
As you can see, there are different colored sprues. For example, in the photo above, we can see that I have purple, pink, black, white, and gray sprues.
When you build the Gundam, you can see that the model doesn’t need painting because of this.
The final result of those sprues is this Blaze Zaku.
As you can see from the photo above, the Blaze Zaku doesn’t have to be colored since it already looks great.
Most if not all Gundam models are like this. Therefore, there is no need to paint most models since they already look great.
But why do people paint their Gundams? Well, painting makes the models look better. Furthermore, modelers tend to give a look they want to their models.
For example, here is a painted HGUC Neo Zeong.
Neo Zeong wouldn’t look like that, but because of the modeler’s imagination, he was able to make something like this because of painting.
So, think of painting as a bonus step in Gunpla kit building. You won’t need to learn it, but it can make the model look better.
Another thing to consider is the price of the model. For example, suppose we have a Perfect grade model, which are costly models.
Generally speaking, PG models cost around $310. Since they are expensive, most modelers paint them to get the most out of their money.
You don’t need to paint PG Gundam models. However, modelers choose to paint them since PG models are expensive. Thus, they want to get the most bang for their buck.
Recommended Read: Are you interested in determining how much Gundam kits cost? I made a helpful table you can use to get an estimate of its cost here: How much are Gunpla models?
But how much could paint improve the model’s look? Well, here is an example of a painted PG Gundam Strike Freedom.
As you can see, painting is unnecessary, and you can build Gunpla models without them. However, they are crucial if you want to modify the model.
For example, if you like the gold color, you might put some gold on your models.
Thus, consider painting as a skill for experienced modelers. You build the skill the more you build Gunpla models.
But beginners shouldn’t worry about them for now. You can enjoy building these models without paints.
While I explained how paint is unnecessary, I would like to help you in your journey by introducing the paints you can use for Gunpla modeling.
Let’s explain them one by one in the next section.
What type of paint is best for Gunpla?
Generally speaking, the best paint for Gunpla kits is acrylic paints, which are easy to use and have a wide color coverage. However, lacquer paints are also a good choice since they have the same color coverage and are often found on spray cans. Finally, enamel paints are great for modelers who don’t want additional steps such as top coating.
Here are the paints you can use for building Gunpla models.
1. Enamel Paint
Enamel paints are oil-based paints you can use for building models. Compared to other paints, these paints don’t need a top coat and primer as they can function independently.
They are very durable and are usually shiny even without the aid of a clear coat.
However, they aren’t the modeler’s favorite for many reasons.
One is that they are oil-based. This means they can be hard to clean.
Since they are oil-based, they are also prone to oxidation which changes their color.
You can see this in action in real life. For example, walls painted with white enamel tend to become yellowish in time. This happens because of oxidation.
Furthermore, enamel paints tend to dry up slowly. Some might even take a day to dry.
But what keeps the modelers away from enamel paint is their smell, as oil-based paints tend to smell bad.
Thus, modelers usually prefer using acrylic paints which we will discuss next.
2. Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paints are one of the best paints you can use for building Gunpla models because of their wide color coverage. Compared to enamel paints, they have a lot of color variations that modelers love. Furthermore, they are very easy to clean.
Acrylic paints are water-based. This means they are easy to clean since you can wash them with water.
Furthermore, they dry faster. Compared to the 8-24 hours drying time for enamel paints, Acrylic paints tend to dry within 30 minutes.
Acrylic paints also don’t have a foul odor. Thus, modelers love using them for their builds.
The only downside of acrylic paints is that they require priming and top coats. In addition, as we discussed, acrylic paints tend to be water-soluble. Thus, we have to protect them from water using a clear coat.
Enamel paints are durable enough even without a top coat.
Recommended Read: I only scratched the surface discussing enamel and acrylic paints. Thus, I suggest you read my other post about their differences here: Acrylic vs. Enamel paint
3. Lacquer Paint
Lacquer paints are paints that people use for Gunpla modeling. These paints are usually found in spray cans. They are readily accessible and favored by a lot of Gundam modelers.
You would often hear about Acrylic and Enamel paints on the internet, saying that this is better than the other and vice versa.
However, most forget about lacquer paint.
Lacquer paints are my favorite since they are readily accessible, and I don’t need an airbrush to spray these paints.
This is because lacquer paints are usually found in spray cans.
Lacquer paints are sometimes called acrylic lacquer paint. This doesn’t mean that they are acrylic in nature. They called them acrylic since they have the same color coverage as acrylic paints.
Thus, you would always notice that spray cans have a lot of color varieties.
In fact, if you have a place to spray paint, I recommend using this for beginners as they produce results as good as an airbrush if you know how to use them properly.
A spray can could produce bad results if we misuse it. However, it can also yield results as good as an expensive airbrush as long as we use it right.
Thus, if you want to know how to use a spray can correctly, I made a post about tips to help you start using them. Here is the link: Can you use a spray can on models?
What’s next? Now that you know that painting is optional, how about gluing? I made a post discussing that here: Is gluing necessary on Gunpla models?