There are hundreds of methods for doing panel lines. The best method is what works best for you. What you are comfortable with, what you are used to using. It’s a good idea to try out several techniques before settling down on your favorite technique. In the past, I have used gundam markers, very fine mechanical pencils, and very fine technical pens; but I have settled on the enamel (oil) wash method as my primary panel line method. It’s very cost efficient in comparison to some of the other techniques. But there are very specific steps that need to be taken for this process to be successful. Again, there are a hundred different ways to panel line, this just one method – and it is VERY specific.
- Surface should be gloss coated with either a lacquer based clear or acrylic based clear
- use an enamel/oil based paint for the wash solution
- use napatha based lighter fluid for creating the wash solution and clean up
The first step is to gloss coat the surface. This protects the layer of paint and provides a smooth surface for the wash solution. Pledge with future shine (Future floor polish) and spray cans of Mr Top Coat Gloss are acrylic based clears. They will take a full week to fully cure. Mr Super Clear in bottles or spray cans or other brands of lacquer clear gloss is stronger and will dry/cure much faster than acrylics. When spraying clears, and deciding on acrylic and lacquers, take note of the paint that the clear is going over. Some paints don’t play well with another; but proper airbrushing/spraying technique will avert most problems.
Now with gloss and flats discussed, we can move on to the actual panel lining. The first step here is to create the wash solution. I’m using a small dot of paint, again, a reference to the cost effectiveness. The small dot is thinned with rosonol lighter fluid. Too much lighter fluid will cause the paint to break down, so if that happens, just add a little more paint and mix the solution. Ideally, you want a solution that looks like ink. A little practice and you will the comfortable with the consistency. The wash solution will evaporate as you work, take note if the wash solution becomes too think, just add more lighter fluid to revive the solution.
In the following video, I demonstrate why the wash should be applied over a gloss surface as opposed to a flat surface. After applying the wash solution, I generally let the part sit and dry before coming back and doing the clean up.
Again, it is important to note that the clear gloss is either acrylic or lacquer and fully cured and the wash solution is enamel. The real trick to this technique is the use of the different paint type properties. But I do recommend experimenting a little yourself to see how the technique works; this will teach you why the technique works. With a little practice, the panel lining process is one of the quickest and easiest steps in model building.
More on clear coats
For most Gundam kits, paint is an option. You can easily get away with spraying some gloss coats over the bare plastic and do the above panel lines. Then if you want a final flat coat finish, just spray a flat coat over the parts and this will give you a kit that looks painted, but isn’t in the traditional sense. A little discussion in cutting technique is highlighted with the following videos. For these examples, I’m using spray cans, take note of the technique for spraying the parts while using the spray cans. The same technique should be used when spraying colors out of spray cans.
Here’s a video for spraying a flat coat.
A comparison between the flat coat and a gloss. Notice the tonal differences.
Enamel wash to bring out details
Another use of the enamel wash is to bring out details. For resin figure kits, I have this sword piece clear coated with a lacquer gloss to protect the underlying paint. With my wash solution, I just apply it over the surface and the wash immediately brings out some of the details.
And here’s the clean up.