When a beginner starts to build Gunpla models, one of the most common topics they read in Gunpla communities is the importance of clear coats. This step can both be exciting and intimidating. Thus, the question remains. Should you use clear coats? Do you need to top coat Gunpla models?
You don’t need to top coat Gunpla models since clear coating is an optional process. While top coats can protect models from outside harm, plastic model kits can last for years even without the aid of top coats. Thus, whether you should apply top coats or not depends on the modeler’s preference.
This blog post will discuss why you should and shouldn’t apply a top coat. I will also teach something a beginner can use instead of clear coats to shine their models.
Should you Top Coat Gunpla?
You should top coat your Gunpla models if you want to make your models glossy or matte. Furthermore, top coats can protect your models from external harm, which could add years to the plastic’s life. However, clear coating is optional, and people can still build Gunpla models without using top coats.
When you think about it, if top coating is necessary when building plastic model kits such as Gunpla and Tamiya, then it should be included in every kit box.
However, you’ll notice that even the most expensive model kits don’t include a top coat in their box.
This is enough proof that even the manufacturers don’t think that clear coating is necessary.
When I was a beginner, I didn’t even use clear coats as I didn’t even know they existed.
I was able to build several models without a top coat. Only later would I learn about clear coats and how they can significantly make your models look better.
But my point is that top coating is an optional process. So while it provides various benefits to the model, you can build model kits without touching them.
But why is the topic of clear coating trendy? Well, that’s because top coats offer numerous benefits to the model.
The main benefit is it adds aesthetic to the model. For example, look at an MG Ex Gundam covered with a glossy top coat.
Look at how the model shines. But, of course, we won’t have that kind of gloss without the help of a top coat.
If you’re a person that prefers matte colors, then there are also top coats that have matte finishes like the other Ex Gundam below.
As you can see, top coating brings your model’s aesthetic to the next level.
Clear coating is a popular topic in various plastic model kit communities.
This is also why most advanced Gunpla modelers use clear coats when building their kit. Models that are clear-coated tend to look much better than bare models.
However, for beginners, this can both be exciting and intimidating.
I understand how a beginner would feel when they want to build a model but are introduced to various optional steps like painting, gluing, and clear coating.
Some would feel overwhelmed as they will feel like they need to buy various things before building a kit.
Others might get excited as they have lots of things to explore.
We have some differences, and I know some might not try the hobby because they feel overwhelmed.
Thus, I decided to write this post to tell them they can build Gunpla models without learning how to clear coat.
They can learn about clear coats later on. But for now, they can enjoy building these kits with only a few tools which are model nippers, hobby knife, and model files.
Everything other than these three is optional.
As you can see, only a few tools are needed. Everything else is optional.
For example, glue isn’t necessary as most Gunpla model kits snap together. You can build something like this with these three tools.
One thing you might notice is that my model is shiny. Didn’t I use any top coats? Yes, I didn’t use any top coats. Don’t worry; I’ll also show you how I made them shine later.
You might also hear that top coating is essential since it protects your models from harm and makes them last longer.
Clear coats extend your model’s life by protecting the plastics from oxidation. However, plastic model kits are already sprayed with a protectant during manufacturing.
Manufacturers call this the “mold release,” which prevents the plastics from sticking with the mold during manufacturing.
The good news is that it also protects these models from harm like a top coat. This is another reason why top coats are optional.
Fun fact: This is also why people wash their Gunpla models before building them. Mold release must be removed so that paints and decals can stick properly to the model. Removing the mold release is essential, especially if you’ll apply some stickers or paint on your model. Luckily, I have a tutorial on how to wash Gunpla models here: Can you was Gunpla Models?
The mold release is why model kits can last for years, even without clear coats. So while top coats add protection to your models, they can last for a long time, even without them.
In fact, misusing topcoats can accelerate plastic aging.
Spraying too much clear coat can cause chemical reactions that age the plastics, which is why some plastics become brittle after applying a top coat.
Do not spray a top coat directly into the model to prevent over-application. Instead, always spray 1 foot away to give some leeway for the spray to spread, which prevents overcoating.
It is also worth noting that once clear coats dry up, they are close to permanent, and it is challenging to remove them.
Some items used to remove top coats can even harm your models, leading to brittleness and discoloration.
Although there are some household items that can be safe for plastics and can remove clear coats, you should always think that clear coats are permanent when applying them.
Recommended Read: Did you know that isopropyl alcohol can remove clear coats? If you’re interested in finding out how to use isopropyl alcohol on your models, please check this post: Does Isopropyl Alcohol Damage Plastics?
That’s why complete beginners shouldn’t use clear coats on their models, as it can destroy your build.
So, is there a more beginner-friendly way to protect and shine your models? We’ll discuss that in the next section.
Are there alternatives to Top Coats?
Plastic protectants are a great alternative to top coats as they can shine and protect plastic models minus the disadvantages of using top coats. Plastic protectants are better for beginners as they can over-apply plastic protectants without harming the model.
If you can remember my example above, I made my HG Blaze Zaku shine without any topcoats. So how was I able to do that?
I used a plastic protectant, which you see in the photo below.
If you remember, I said that top coats could harm plastics when over-applied. Furthermore, they are permanent, so if a beginner makes a mistake, they will have difficulty removing top coats.
Luckily, we can use plastic protectants which are more beginner-friendly.
The only downside I see with plastic protectants is that they aren’t permanent. This means you must re-apply after a few months to protect your model.
However, for a beginner, this is an advantage since they can easily remove plastic protectants when they make some mistakes, and mistakes are common, especially for beginners.
So, how would you apply these plastic protectants? Luckily, I made a how-to video which you may watch below.
Watch how I used a plastic protector to shine my model parts instead of using a clear coat. The time where I used a protectant is from 6:30 onwards.
What’s next? If you’re interested in the video, that video is made because of plastic stress marks, which makes the build look amateur. If you want an in-depth guide on removing them, feel free to check this post: How to avoid and remove stress marks from plastic models?