Gundam Tutorials

Developing A Story Can Help Determine Your Gunpla Weathering Steps

I’ve always enjoyed the imagination aspect of modeling. Whether it’s building a completely imaginary object, such as a Gunpla, or attempting to recreate a real object as seen in a photo, I can’t help but to be drawn into the subject.

When looking at a photo, I will wonder about what happened just before that moment in time, and then just after. If it’s an aircraft, for example, I will speculate on how a certain oil stain got there, or why the paint was discolored in another area.

Attempting to replicate that photo, then, is not so much a process of deciding on techniques to apply, and then finding a photo that fits. Rather, the photo will dictate what techniques must be used.

When building Gunpla, things are a bit different. There are no “real life” photos of Gunpla in action. They’re make believe. (I know, I know, I was shocked at the news too…) 🙂

However, the same principle applies.

The best part is, as the Gunpla artist (Gunplartist?), you can make it ALL up.

Certainly you can take cues from the various Gundam animated series, and seek to depict your Gunpla at a particular point in that series. 

Yet it’s often fun to imagine your mobile suit in a setting completely from your own imagination. And just like the photo of a slice in time of a real event, your Gunpla weathering can be dictated by your imaginary scenario.

An example is a kit I recently finished, the HG RCX-76-02 Guncannon First Type. 

The RCX-76-02 Guncannon First Type, ready for desert action

While I was initially considering going with canon color, something about it just said “custom paint scheme”. And I knew I wanted to make it fairly heavily weathered. I’ve always liked the World War II RAF Desert Air Force color scheme, so that settled the color choice.

Then I let my imagination take over. I pictured the suit at some remote desert outpost, not of great importance, but enough to need mobile suits for security. Having been in a desert area before (in combat, no less… :/ ), I began to consider the effects environment would have on the suit.

Certainly it would be hot, and dry, so no rain or water marks would be needed. The constant exposure to sun would mean a lot of fading. And the constant wear of sand- it gets everywhere- would really take a toll on paint, metal, everything. Adding to the brutal effects of sand would be the sandstorms, and a 60 foot tall mobile suit can’t always hide indoors when a sandstorm blows through.

All of these conditions dictated a faded, highly chipped, and dusty finish. And those conditions are what then determined the actual weathering effects to be applied. Various edge chipping techniques, airbrush fading, and weathering powders would all feature heavily.

The imagined scenario for the mobile suit helps determine the weathering techniques applied.

Another example is my MG GM Sniper II Gunpla. While I decided to go with (mostly) cannon colors, having never seen the actual anime series it was featured in, I went with a my own invention for the scenario. I pictured it operating in a suburban/rural border area, perhaps just outside of a major city. Forests, lakes, and the occassional swamp would make up the landscape, and the climate would have been reasonably rainy. 

Those factors, in turn, drove the decision of weathering techniques. While it too would feature chipping, constant exposure to the sun, and no sandstorms, reduced the amount of overall chipping and fading needed as compared to the Guncannon. However, operating in a wetter climate meant rain streaks, damp mornings, and mud. Lots of streaking!

And as with the Guncannon, the imagined scenario dictated how the model would have been affected by the climate, and thus that informed the decision I made about the weathering tools and techniques to be used.

Another aspect to consider are common factors in any Gundam build. They’re big, heavy machines of combat that move about rapidly, accelerating quickly, decelerating suddenly, pounding into the ground while running or falling, and impacting other mobile suits or objects. No matter what scenario you place your model in, that overarching “meta narrative” is always present. 

Thus, the realities of fluid leaks- hydraulic, lubricant, or otherwise- can always come into play. Dents, scrapes, scorch marks, and other blemishes can also be considered. Gun barrels may turn sooty, but if it is firing kinetic rounds, there is also an ejector port for the shell casing, potentially. Thrusters and verniers cause incredible heat, and possibly smoke effects, on anything near them. 

So there can be a “default” set of weathering that takes place on any mobile suit, and the degree to which its presence is made known can be determined by the age of the suit, and how much it has been used.

Which is all factored into a story for your Gunpla.

Of course, there may be times when the core of the weathering is driven by a new technique or product you may want to try out. Even in these situations, however, a story can be developed that helps “fill in the gaps” that a particular technique or product may not determine. For example, suppose you wanted to learn to apply a product designed to simulate extreme mud effects. How would it look? For a mobile suit to be in mud generally means a wet, swampy area. Perhaps it has mildew growing on it. How would it look if a 60 foot mobile suit fell over in the mud? How high would the mud splash? What would cling to the suit after it stood back up? How long after the event is the Gunpla depicted?

Even though the core of the focus is learning to apply a product that simulates mud, using imagination to complete the story gives a cohesive focus to the model build, and helps the Gunplartist 🙂 apply the appropriate techniques.

And it doesn’t take an elaborate underlying story to be developed. While some folks may enjoy the process of creating a fully developed “mini-story” (even if only in their mind), others may just state it as a simple sentence: “What would it look like if an older, worn, combat scarred mobile suit fell in a swamp?” That one sentence can help drive all of the techniques that need to be applied.

So on your next build, give this approach a try. Instead of asking “how do I use chipping fluid?” (though a valid question in and of itself), have a bit of fun making up your story. Imagine how your mobile suit would look in that story, and then apply the techniques needed to replicate that.

Image published under Creative Commons License.

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