Friday, October 1, 2021

Modeling Tools 101

We were all snapbuilders once, but, we are beginners only once.

Year in and year out, this hobby of ours get a lot more people who are getting into the hobby than people getting out of it, as such, the same questions we asked back when we are newbies are now being asked by the younglings, or at least, not so younglings, who are first getting their feet wet into Gunpla, or scale modeling in general. Truth of the matter is, there is no age limit or requirement for this hobby, so it’s quite amusing when certain young ones chide older modelers about their age. You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but old dogs do have hobbies. Some people have started young and have grown into the hobby, others start way later.

I remember the first time I got myself a Gunpla; it was an HG Wing Gundam. That time, all I had as a tool was that flimsy, black metal cutter that was part of a Tamiya 4x4 tool set. I got it when I was collecting Tamiya 4WD racers. That cutter was made of soft metal, it was dull after its first year of use with nothing more than cutting runners of Tamiya 4WD kits, but I didn’t really care back then. When I used it for my first Gunpla, or to say more aptly, my first 4 HG Wing kits, it was a good enough tool.

I still had and used that tool when restarted collecting in 2007 when I got hooked with 00 and got me the fab four. But, it was not until I started doing modifications and customs did I find my tools, or lack thereof, uh, lacking.

So, I started doing research. Tamiya had a couple of high-end cutters, but, at the time, it felt too expensive for me. After a little digging and happenstance, I found a nifty and cheap side cutter in the form of a generic tool: The Alexan Side Cutter.

Not godhand, but good enough.

It was made of sturdy stuff that it could cut through most anything, even thin-gauge wires, so, using it to cut through 3-mm thick gates and beams was almost too easy. It took a long while to get dull, and it does get dull over time, so I decided to get a couple more as back-up.

But I started to make a lot more complex custom builds, and I felt I need better tools. I then got me the Tamiya round head and the Tamiya slim head, at different times. I lost those two cutters along with several other tools, including my two Tamiya pin vises, drill bits and (sigh) my iPad when I left and lost my backpack in the back of a cab while going home with groceries. I didn’t forget the groceries, but I forgot my backpack with all my stuff.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I had to reinvest on new tools a few times, either because they got lost, or, they got too worn down to use effectively. Nowadays, I often have two of everything, just for flexibility, and if I lose or misplace one.

Now, seeing that the same questions pop up here and there, then and again, here are the needed tools based on level:

Level 1: Basic (Snapbuilding)

  • Side Cutters - Branded cutters range from affordable (Mineshima, Tamiya, Wave) to expensive (Meng, godhand, Platz). There are <unbranded> side cutters that are entry level cheap, like the trusty Alexan Side Cutter.
  • Modeling/Art Knife - X-Acto comes to mind, which is actually more about the blades itself than the shaft. There are cheap blades and shafts, but, it’s best to invest on metal shafts for their durability. The drawback, though is that if you do use a knife to cut away stupid, stubborn nubs, you can potentially damage the surface of the plastic you’re cutting. So use this tool selectively, sparingly and carefully.
  • Utility Knife / Plastic Cutter - You wouldn’t want to waste your art knife blade’s sharpness cutting thick sheets of plastic, so, you use a utility knife (retractable, with snap-off blades) instead.
  • Tweezers - for laying down those nasty, ugly stickers and dry-transfers you just have to use to put detail on your work, especially in older kits, and later on, when you decide to up your game with water slide decals.
  • Plastic Tubs - I’ve seen a lot of people lament about the dreaded black hole when they cut rather smallish parts from runners, and like a live fish, flies off in to the vast nothingness of space, or at least your room. When this happens, that part is damn nearly impossible to find. Having reusable, microwaveable tubs is a handy solution; simply aim the part you are cutting down into the tub, and it will catch said part. It’s also worthwhile to line the bottom of the tub with a few sheets of tissue or toilet paper to prevent those parts from bouncing off (it can happen).

    Aside from those tubs, you can use ice cream containers as well.

Level 2: Intermediate (Snapbuilding)

You’ll need everything in L1 plus:

  • Sandpaper / Sanding Blocks / Sanding Sticks - of various grits. I find that having 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500 and 2000 grit and up are the best combination if you plan to go beyond simple nub cleanup, because a cutter or a knife, no matter how sharp, just won’t cut it (pun intended) when it comes to nub removal. You can make your own sanding blocks and sticks by attaching a sheet of sandpaper onto a firm foam block or popsicle sticks respectively, if buying expensive, pre-made ones does not appeal to you.
  • Files - for nasty, bumpy nubs that would take a long time to sand, having micro or diamond files is handy. You’ll need this to make quick work of stubborn nubs, and flattening cemented edges of seams, modified parts and scratchbuilds.
  • Pens and Markers - If you’re like me you’ll outgrow these implements rather quick. I used to detail panel lines and small parts with pens and markers (I have even used a 0.1 technical pen), and for the very basic builder, these are the <go to> tools.

Level 3A: Advanced (Customs/Modifications/Scratchbuilding)

You’ll need everything from L1 and L2 plus:

  • Pin-Vise - one of the more important tools you’ll need if to plan to get more than your feet wet. The <best> pin-vise around is the Tamiya Fine Pin-Vise D, which has a pair of reversible bit holders and can accommodate bits from 0.1mm to 3.2mm, but there are other branded as well as cheap generic ones.
  • Clamps and Vises - You’ll need these if you have to secure sections or parts you’ve cemented or <sandwiched> together. In most cases, double-clips of various sizes would suffice.
  • Saws - Yup. You heard it right. Saws. You’ll need a hobby saw for general cutting, especially thick plastics. You’ll also need thin etching saws (some of which also double as scribing tools) when you need to make precise cuts, say like cutting a whole MG Sinanju and Sinanju Stein in half and slap them back together with a mirror in between them.

    It’s the next best thing to a *lazer* sword.

    Mirror, Mirror...
  • Scribing Tools - You can easily use dull/blunted and shipped knife blades and retrofit them as scribers, or you can sharpen those micro-screwdrivers and turn them into makeshift chisels (see photo above). But, if you have reached this point, you’ll realize that those might not be enough, so, invest on better tools, like actual modeling chisels. At this point, you probably also have a job that pays well enough for tools.
  • Router / Mini Drill - This tool is very handy when you need to cut something quick, or when sculpting something into shape. With various bits and heads you can also mount a polishing head for a quick polishing job.
  • Materials - When doing customs, you’ll need more than just tools. You’ll be needing a lot more of these materials the more wet you get. PlaPlates (is a brand of PolyStyrene sheets made by Tamiya) and is the base term of pla-plating, which means cutting pieces of PS sheets and arranging them in a nice layout to enhance your Gunpla’s overall look. There are other brands of PS Sheets, like Evergreen and also some generic ones, but, everyone seems to call them Plaplates regardless. It’s like Xerox is to photocopying, or Colgate is to toothpaste.
    Aside from Plaplates, you’ll also need beams of various thickness or diameter, especially when you start to scratchbuild a lot more than just a small part. You’ll probably need putty for some of the things you can’t do with plaplates, especially rounded and curved parts.
  • Adhesives - when you do modifications and scratchbuilding, you’ll need something to stick things together. Whereas the first instinct of most is - when you do modifications and scratchbuilding, you’ll need something to stick things together. Whereas the first instinct of most is superglue (aka, cyanoacrylate, or resin glue, which you should have nevertheless), the best adhesive for the job is (aka, cyanoacrylate, or resin glue, which you should have nevertheless), the best adhesive for the job is plastic cement. You should have both regular and extra thin cement for various purposes.

Level 3B: Advanced (Painting)

  • Paints - Obviously. There are Hobby Grade paints, such as Tamiya, Mr Color Citadel, Vallejo and quite recently, Armored Komodo (which is now available in North America). You can experiment on other paint brands, but these are so far tried and tested to work best on Gunpla. Personally, I use Vallejo paints mostly for detailing because it’s designed for handbrushing detail. I have started using Armored Komodo quite recently.
  • Various Brushes - for handpainting, you’ll need plenty of various-sized brushes for detailing mostly.
  • Airbrush - ah, yes. The airbrush. I have a couple of them buggers, and a compressor to boot, but I’ve been using a handheld mini-compressor AB for minor spray work to complement,
  • Spray Cans - rattlecans, as others call it. Personally, aside from handbrushing detail, I mostly use Bosny cans as my go to paint choice (see photo above). They are basically affordable, easily accessible and convenient for people like me.
  • Masking Tapes - When you start painting, you’ll need to shield those pegs and joints so they don’t get painted on, which results in getting them stuck together during dry fit, and later on, breaking. Joints most especially need to be masked properly, but I do a shortcut by priming painting joint frame parts already assembled. Masking also allows you to put paint details via layer masks, like decal-type details and camouflage patterns.
  • Miscellaneous - Alligator clips, painting sticks, painting stands, buckets, tubs (for parts and clippings), metal rulers, compass, triangle, protractor, magnets, etc. All the things you will eventually think of needing later.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Mystery of Scale: Part Three

Just today, I found this on my Facebook feed.

Source: Isaiah Takahasi

It's an impressive composite water scene of an RX 78-2 towering over what seems to be a Catalina-type sailboat yacht, but something seems off.

Yup, the scale is all wrong. The RX is too big compared to the size of the Catalina, which is about 10m from the base to the tip of the sail, and considering foreshortening, the RX is still rather huge since it's only 18m in 1:1 scale.

But, using the known average height of the Catalina which is around 10m, we can interpolate the height of that RX in the photo/image (proportionate to the GTO kit) to be around 50m, just as tall as the first version of Gojira.

Source: Google Search

So, it really is off scale, almost 3 times its actual height. At that height, the scale of the RX against its 1/1 counterpart is 2.78/1. Rule of thumb: The higher the value of the denominator, the smaller the scale height would be, hence why 1/144 scale of a certain object at 1/1 is smaller than its 1/100 scale counterpart)

Now Someone commented that the boat is 1/144 and that the RX is 1/48. We don't really mix scales when doing dioramas, and I know what the person meant, but sure, let's bite.

Using 1:1 height reference, the scale of the RX would be 1/36, and not 1/48. How did I get that number? Again, by using fractions, ratios and proportions which we learned in grade school and high school. Let's assign xb as the unknown scale we're trying to figure out, knowing the 1:1 height of the RX at 1800cm, the 1:1 height of the boat at 10m, and its estimated height of the RX in the image at 5000cm (1m=100cm), we get

Or, for the mathematically-challenged, here's a visual (which still requires Math to figure out, unfortunately). At 1/144, the height of the boat would be at 7cm (1000/144=6.94444~),  the height of the RX would be 12.5cm (1800/144). At 1/100, the boat and the RX are 10cm and 18cm respectively. At 1/48 (Mega-Size), the height of the RX would be 37.5 cm. At 1/60 (Perfect Grade) the height would be 30cm.

Here's where it goes nutty: If we use the 50m height as 1/1, the 1/48 height would be 104cm, while the 1/36 would be a whopping 139cm, almost a meter and a half, which is about the average height of a tall adolescent, or a small adult. I was overthinking this, but, if we interpolate the 1/36 and 1/48 heights into 1:1 relative to the height of the boat of 10m, then we get 50m and 37.5m respectively.

(Sidenote: I did get a little bit confused here earlier because of the 18m and 50m heights, since I thought I made a computation error to get 1/36. As it turns out, the 1/100 scale of 50m and 1/36 scale of 18m are both 50cm).

Now, here's how it should look like when everything is on the same scale.
Where's that rampaging T-Rex when you need it?

So, again, to determine the height of an object based on scale, you need to know one other value: the height of another object you can compare it to. Research comes into play in this case, since the only object I can compare the RX with is the Catalina. Even if you don't know anything about boats, you can simply do a keyword search for sailboat dimensions, which is exactly what I did.

In closing, I'd like to share with you this very nice image that depict the heights of different robots and super robots in relation to one another.

Source: All-over the Internet, but, where the heck is Gurren Lagann?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Why Gundams do not Rust

Disclaimer: I've seen impressive weathering done on Gunpla. I've also seen overly or improperly done weathering that looks as if they were dunk in a vat of oil or greasetrap gunk, or were haplessly lathered in marker inks, without any direction or logic. This article does not intend to hamper one's preference, standard or style, but rather simply explains the subtle logical reasons why Gundams or most Mobile Suits (MS), especially those that operate in space, do not rust. Such is the case, there are people who scream Gunpra iz Fleedom at people who actually know a thing or two about modeling and weathering when they make a polite comment* about how their weathering looks more like a cat puked it out, I won't show those, ugh, dirty socks.

First, let me start with a couple of things I posted a while back in several of the Facebook groups I was in. 

I've never liked the RX78-2, or, overly weathered kits. Gundams do not rust after all. But, this one is impressive. The modeler's name is M Live, and no surprise there, he's Japanese. It's dirty to the point of being haplessly lathered with dirt, but it somehow looks nice. In the discussion, someone commented that it was probably the pose that did it, and I would tend to agree.

Impressive Weathering by M Live

At the other end of the spectrum, there's minimalist weathering done by Zaku in a Box, which is what an MS would look like after a few days of deployment.

Minimalist Weathering by Zaku in a Box

I'd also have to include this magnificent Turn X done by Naoki The Turn X is one of my favorite MS designs as well. This is one of the best examples I can give when it comes to weathering done right. It's not overly weathered, has dirt in all the right places and does not look like someone dropped it in a vat of oil and viola! Instant weathering.

Turn X by Naoki

Now that that is out of the way, let's address the reason/s why Gundams do not rust.

One word: Gundarium.

Gundarium is the fictional metal alloy most Gundams or MS are made of. It's also called Luna Titanium (UC) mainly because it's sourced from the Moon, and Gundanium (Gundam Wing). As it is, Gundarium or Gundanium are alloys of Titanium. In Gundam SEED, the metals used Gundam and MS are also probably made with some form of Titanium alloys but are augmented by an electrostatic system (Phase-Shift Armor) which gives it added strength and durability against physical and projectile damage. In IBO, Gundams are made with nano-laminate armor, but who's to say that the metal component isn't a Titanium alloy of some sort either? I also have to mention 00 Mobile Suits which are made of e-Carbon, which as per lore is an artificial allotrope of Carbon (Carbon nanotubes), which is described as a materials with virtually no weakness and is corrosion resistant, so it's safe to say that it doesn't rust.

Titanium (Ti) is the 22nd element in the periodic table, with the same Atomic number. Produced in the heart of Supernovas, it's very ductile in its pure form, but when alloyed with other metals, becomes one of the strongest and hardest metal alloys on Earth, which is very resistant to corrosion. In fact when it oxidizes, the surface oxidation itself becomes its protection against further corrosion, as such it does not really corrode unlike cast iron metal or non-alloy steel which start to rust only after a few days exposed to the elements. Further, Titanium Dioxide, or titania, one of its naturally-occurring oxide forms, is used as a white pigment in paints.

Exposed to the elements, Titanium and its alloy forms would be very resistant to rusting, even after exposed for a very long time. If it does rust, it's most probably alloyed with iron, and only iron corrodes red.

Now, the other reason why Gundams don't rust in space should be rather obvious: the lack of oxygen in space. Granted that space colonies would have water and oxygen, these colonies would also be made of rust- and corrosion-resistant alloys which would mostly likely be Titanium. So, if one depicts a rusted MS in space, that would probably one which is not made of Gundarium or other Titanium alloys and have not been maintained properly. If the scene is a derelict, then it would probably be possible, but, it goes back to the point that, if it is a derelict, then it would be exposed to space, space is a vacuum, and in the vacuum of space, there is no oxygen or water (water freezes in space). No oxygen, no oxidation, no corrosion, no rust.

On the ground, it goes back to the same logic: how did that still-operating MS gets so rusty? In a continuous operation, the logical weathering would be scratched paint, projectile or beam weapon damage, dirt and dust on the edges and nooks and crannies.
But rust?
This is probably the only most realistic scene ever in the Gundam Universe.
Leiutenant Shiro Peeping Tom reporting for duty...

Ooops. Wrong scene.
Giant Robots ain't no match to the might of the miniscule dust and dirt...

We go back to that point of what Gundams and most MS are made of: Gundarium, which is an alloy of Titanium, which is corrosion-resistant, which if ever corrodes, has white corrosion.

Now, when the 00 was left on the field, flowers started to bloom and cover it, but it did not rust (as was depicted in the anime), since it is after all, made of carbon.


Edit: Incidentally, I just recently came across this very impressive digital art by Aldiaz Nasher Arighi that
depicts the RX 78-2 as a derelict in a forest scene, heavily battle-damaged and has started to rust in places.
So, Gundams, in general, do not rust. Weathering, on the other hand, has logic to it:
  • Less is more.
  • Outside more than Inside.
  • Lower more than Upper.
  • Edges more than Flats.
  • Corners more than Curves.
Too much of it, your masterpiece can look like a masterpiece of shit, which is probably okay if it is depicted as a derelict and is no longer in service. But, if you're lazy, as such you opt skip sanding, priming and painting altogether and decide to weather bare plastic, there's a natural weathering technique I can share with you.

Effortless Weathering, for the Lazy amongst us...

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Mystery of Scale Par Deux: Understanding Scale and Height

Scale is the proportions of an object based on two sets of dimensions, or the measurement of an object relative to two points of reference. Object such as a model kit, will have different measurements relative to its scale.

I had a not-so-unusual request from a friend to help him figure out the scale height of the recently released (July 2021) 1/32 Tyrannosaurus Rex Imaginary Skeleton kit from Bandai.

Oh Bandai. Another kit we don't really need, but would most likely get anyway, just because...

According to HLJ's release page, the assembled kit is about 35cm in length (13.78in for the metric-challenged), but says nothing about the assembled height (and in hindsight, wasn't really relevant). So I had to be creative and do what an intrepid researcher must do first when the information presented is incomplete: Google. (Sidenote: is anyone still using Yahoo, or other search engines?)

First thing I checked is the 1:1 height of a T-Rex.

Google is your Friend...

On average, a T-Rex would be around 5m in height, so I'll use that as a base reference for the 1:1 scale height. Using a simple equation we learned in high school (employing fractions, ratios and proportions), 

Math 101: scale is just ratio and proportions

the height of our reference T-Rex at 1/32 scale is around 15cm, which is roughly the height of 1/144 kits on average, with a few exceptions, like huge MS designs like the Sazabi (23m), Nu (22m), Sinanju (22.6m) and Unicorn (21.7m D-mode), all of which are above average Gundam head heights of 18m at 1:1. (Another sidenote: there are MS that have two height values, the head height, which is measured from foot to the tip of the head, sans the v-fin or horns, and the overall height which often also include the additional height from the backpack and shoulder attachments).

Relative heights based on scale (Sazabi overall height, 25.6m)

As I understand it, most kits or figures that come in HG-sized boxes will basically have the close to the same height when assembled, most probably so that it uses the same amount of material when molded to place it at that price point, so I guess this won't be any different. For its scale, the T-Rex does look like it'll be around the height of an average 1/144 kit.

Now, to understand this a bit further, the T-Rex, despite its 5m towering height over humans, is relatively small compared to a Gundam (18m) or a Sazabi (25.6m). The T-Rex would be around the size of the Sazabi's foot.

The T-Rex is puny compared to the Mighty Sazabi

On the other hand, the T-Rex would smash them 1/144, 1/100 kits and 1/60 kits without batting an eyelash,


Or have your oh-so-precious-holy-grail kits for lunch.

Ooops. Wrong visuals. Here's, uh, the same T-Rex if it were 1:1 and we're comparing the relative heights of the scaled kits. See how those things in your hands seem relatively huge, but is relatively tiny compared to a rampaging monstrosity of an imaginary skeleton.
Huge and small is really just a matter of perspective.

Now, if you're curious if the length of the kit given by HLJ at 35cm would be proportionate to the 1:1 length of the T-Rex (12.3m or 1230cm), we still use the Magic Math Formula we used previously,

35 ≠ 38.4375, but that's darn close

Considering these are all estimates to begin with, that's rather a close value. Given my history of having a lot of difficulties with college Math (Calculus is a bitch, and I haven't really used it, lest I become a rocket scientist), I still love math.

Don't you?

A few days later, Fire Ants held residence at the Derek Zoolander's
Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good too...

Lastly, here's the best thing to use for scale comparison in any occasion.


Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Mystery of Scale

Ah yes, scale. The simple, yet, most elusive and mysterious concept that still boggles a lot of Gunplars. I found myself once again repetitively posting this over and over again, since there are people who just can’t wrap their brains around what scale is in terms of Gunpla and scale modeling in general.

Simply, scale can be understood by knowing what 1:1, 1/1, or One is to One scale is, which is the ACTUAL height of an object.

Let XHeight (or simply X), be the actual (1:1) height of a mobile suit. XScaleHeight is the height value you want to find out at that scale, and XScale is the scale value. Let say X=18m, the AVERAGE height of mobile suits. Now an average value is when you take several values, say, different heights of different mobile suits at 1:1, add them all up, and divide the total with the number of mobile suit samples. To simplify further, let's just take the RX 78-2's height at 18m (approximate).

Using a SIMPLE conversion, which is not something I invented, but actual mathematical conversion factors (fractions) we learned in high school:

Too many Xes here, doncha tink?

X:1 = 18m or 1800cm
X:100 = 18cm (divide 18m, or 1800cm by 100)
X:60 = 30cm (1800/60)
X:144 = 12.5cm (1800/144)

Now, I used metric, because it's easier to convert factors of 10 (which one can do without using a calculator) compared to imperial units. As such, 10mm=1cm, 10cm=1decimeter (dm, or decim), 10decimeter=1m, 10m=1decameter (Dm, or decam), 10Dm=1hectometer (hm, 100m), 10hm=1km.

You can use these factors to determine the relative scale heights, as well as widths, depths and lengths of ANYTHING that can be measured. As such, if you want to make a scale model replica of a building as part of diorama, you must know or determine the actual height of the building. That value is its 1:1 scale height.

Scale is also <reversible>, meaning you can start on any size or height, say what scale it is, and factor up or down as the case may be. Scale is also a fraction, as such, it's written as 1/100, et al on boxes.

Let's have, for example, the HCM pro Destroy Gundam, which has a 1/200 height of approximately 20cm. Without looking up the height online, I can determine its 1:1, 1:60, 1/100, 1:144 scale height just using the conversion factors above. I'll convert it to 1:1 first, to make it easier to convert to other scales.

X/200 = 20, which make its 1:1 height at 4000cm, or 40m.
1:100 would be 40cm
1:60 would be approximately 67cm
1:144 would be approximately 28cm

Now, the HG 1/144 Neo Zeong has a 1/144 scale height of roughly 40cm. You can imagine how huge the 1/100 scale would be at 60cm or ~2ft.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Guide to Hobby Paint Types and Solvents

Palate, Pilate, Pallete

So, you’ve decided to finally get your hands dirty and paint a Gunpla kit. Now, you wonder what paint to use, and if you screw up, what solvent to use to strip the paint. Here’s a quick guide on Paint Solvents (which ultimately, determine the paint type) and their effect on plastic in general.

So, you’ve decided to finally get your hands dirty and paint a Gunpla kit. Now, you wonder what paint to use, and if you screw up, what solvent to use to strip the paint. Here’s a quick guide on Paint Solvents (which ultimately, determine the paint type) and their effect on plastic in general.

Paint types - Paints are categorized mainly under three types, and they are called as such because of the additive* in the paint.

  • Acrylic - Acrylic paints are acrylic-resin pigment-type paints suspended in a polymer solution and is usually water-soluble. These paints become water-resistant when dry and are highly durable. Some Acrylic paints are alcohol-based. Depending on their formulation, water-based acrylics can be thinned with alcohol and vice-versa.
  • Lacquer - The term lacquer originated from the lac insect with secretes resinous shellac, which were used in olden times to coat wood to protect them from the elements. Lacquer can also be drawn from the resinous sap of some trees. Lacquer paints are made by mixing pigments with lacquer, and is mostly alcohol-based.
  • Enamel - Enamel paints are oil-based paints that usually dries with a certain gloss.

Base types - the base of a paint is the solvent use to suspend or dissolve it, as such, the base of a paint is also its thinner, or reducer. As such, there’s no such thing as acrylic-base paint.

  • Water-based - Acrylics paints are mostly water-based, hence can be thinned or diluted with plain tap water, although distilled or filtered water works best, since those do not have particulates that paint tend to clump onto, which is what happens when paint clumps onto your brush.
  • Alcohol-based - Some acrylics and lacquers are alcohol-based (or ketone-based), mostly plant distillates (ethyl). These types dry slightly faster than water-based paints, and often also water-soluble.
  • Oil-based - Enamel bases are often oil or mineral spirits or combinations of it. Among these are turpentine, safflower and other plant-oils.


  • Water - The Universal Solvent. Some, if not most acrylic paints, especially the ones designed for hand painting, are actually water-based and can be diluted or thinned with plain tap water, but ideally, distilled or filtered water is better since tap water contain micro-particles that causes paint to clump, especially when hand-painted. It can’t strip paints, even water-based acrylics, and is very safe on all types of plastics.
  • Denatured Alcohol - Used mainly in cosmetics and perfumery, Denatured Alcohol is general purpose and can be used for both thinning Acrylic paints for airbrushing or stripping most types of paint. Not to be confused with 70% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl, which is petroleum-based, or ethyl, which is plant-based), though certain paints can be thinned and stripped-off with rubbing alcohol. Alcohols are safe on all types of plastics. Denatured alcohol can be used for soak-stripping. Denatured alcohol is mostly ethanol (or ethyl alcohol at high concentration) with impurities mixed in to make it unfit for human consumption.
    There’s also denatured-alcohol available in hardware stores, but these are weaker and does not strip as well as the medical grade, which is 95-99% pure.
  • 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. Used mainly in laboratories and hospitals for general disinfection, this alcohol is rather strong and can strip off most paint types, and also safe for soak-stripping.
  • Acrylic Thinners - These type of thinners are alcohol-based (combined with other ketones) and can be used to thin and strip paint. Even though it’s alcohol-based, the other chemicals in certain acrylic thinners react to and can damage ABS plastics, making them brittle over time, so it’s not advisable to soak plastic parts for when stripping paint.
    You can make your own acrylic thinner using alcohol and 3 other chemicals.
  • Lacquer Thinners - Lacquer thinners are usually made with ketones, like acetone, toluene and methanol (alcohol) and have close analog or compatibility with acrylic thinners which are also mostly made with alcohol.
  • Enamel Thinners - Made with oil and mineral spirits, like turpentine (used on oil-canvas paintings). Enamel thinners are generally safe for most plastics, though like acrylic thinners, is not recommended for soak stripping.
  • Paint Thinners - Hardware store paint thinners are used to thin industrial-type enamel paint (the ones used for painting houses and buildings). I have seen some people claiming to use these regular paint thinners to thin hobby-grade paints, but, it’s best you test it out yourself (will update if I ever do test this myself).
  • Bleach. Bleach can be used for general cleaning (removing yellow stains on plastic) and stripping off chrome/gold plating, but not for thinning.
  • Dot4 Brake Fluid. The strongest of all solvents on this list, brake fluid is not used for thinning, but it can strip off all types of paint from plastics completely, even chrome or gold plating. It can be washed with water, but, the main drawback is it’s highly toxic. Using gloves is recommended, and utmost care must be employed in handling and disposing it. As an advantage, Brake Fluid is reusable, and can be filtered through regular coffee filters. There are some brands of Dot3 brake fluid that can also strip off paint, and it’s not the same across the board.
  • Acetone. Acetone can be used to strip off superglue remnants, but, is very harmful to plastics, especially polystyrene. Avoid at all costs.
  • Hobby-Grade Paint Strippers. There have been at least a couple of hobby-grade paint thinners which supposedly can strip paint clean off parts without damaging the plastic. Though their formulation are being kept secret, these strippers are most probably made with denatured alcohol (or a form of high-percentage alcohol) and plastic safe-ketones.

Paint Coats and Layering

You can combine (as opposed to mix) paint types as you work with them in layers. Here’s a quick layering guide, courtesy of OtakuRevolution.

Simply put, whereas there are lacquer topcoats that can be safely used over acrylics and enamels so as long as they are spray paints or applied with an AB, there are certain lacquer topcoats with strong solvents that can eat through or affect acrylics and enamels especially when handbrushed. It’s best to test the paints and thinners you have on scraps.

There's no such thing as acrylic-based (or acrylic base) paint. Acrylic is not a base, acrylics are pigments (polymer pigments to be exact), and the base (or vehicle) of acrylic paints is either alcohol or water. I know this, not because I have decades of experience in Gunpla, but, I did research, aside from having basic knowledge in chemistry and art in highschool and college.

Just because there are people selling paints used the term, it doesn't mean they are right. It is also highly possible that when someone said <acrylic base>, they actually meant that the first paint layer is acrylic paint.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Intellectual Property, Copyright and Infingement

"We do not own the images/video clips/soundtrack used. No infringement intended."

"CTTO: Credit to the owner."

I've seen these phrases quite often, mostly in Youtube videos by content creators* who, in their quest for producing their content, forget the root word of the word, *which is quite ironic if you really think about it. Are they actually content creators if they are using content that they do not own? Of course, some bozo will just drop a hapless joke about the matter, for example, "even god copied Eve from Adam."

Just to disambiguate, the above paragraph, content creation may not always be all about producing all original content. Of course, not everyone can really create all forms of content on their own, but, if one has to use content that are not theirs, one should take note about something a lot of people commit without knowing they are committing it.

Infringement. Specifically, copyright infringement, which is also something a lot of people take for granted until it happens to them. So, how do you know if you are infringing on someone else's (intellectual) property? Also, CTTO is a lazy and irresponsible attribution, and most often done by those who got caught infringing and as an attempt to save face, but it's a little too late. It's also done by people who don't want to bother doing source tracing.

The short of it, if you don't have permission to use it, but use it anyway, you're already infringing. Putting a "no infringement intended" disclaimer does not negate the fact that you have use a certain material without permission.

The long of it is more complicated, as copyright and intellectual property remains an alien concept to certain people who do not accept it, mainly because they believe that if its out there, it's free game.

It's not. Whereas there are materials in the public domain that people can use freely without guilt (heck, there are those who do not really feel any guilt at all, but, that's a different matter), there are a lot of materials that are under certain copyright protocols for use.

Even Google has revised its search result parameters when one is searching for certain images. For example, when you Google "Gundam," then click on Images, once you click on a hit, it will preview the image on a side tab, now with a warning:

"Images may be subject to copyright" is not a suggestion

A lot of people ignore that statement, and only a few even both clicking the Learn More link beside it, thinking, "oh well, I'm not gonna use it for profit, so, why bother?"

But, profit is not the atart and end of it, so, let's see what those people missed (just in case you didn't bother clicking the link).

Fair use, yet another concept people misinterpret next to royalty-free. I shant discuss these two in length, but the gist of the matter is that these two terms, like "Gunpla is Freedom," do not mean what you think it means, so though I'll put a simple explanation, it's better to read up on them on your own.

Copyright is by virtue of creation. Seems vague, yes, but, the Truth points to itself**. This simply means that anything one creates is theirs at the moment it was made, provided of course it is covered on the list above.

If you use an image, video or audio clip you own, or produced yourself, you're all set. You do not have anything to worry about so as long as that image, video or audio clip do not have proprietary material in it. As such, you can post a selfie so as long as the selfie does not include anything in the background that can bite you on the ass later on.

If you use an image, video or audio clip you found while searching, and you like it so much you just have to use it, you will have to do one or two of these things, laziness notwithstanding, to see if:

The last part is the one I'm most particular about. I've seen a lot of people post images without regard of the images' source. Whereas this isn't really so much of an issue with memes or public domain images, it becomes a very sensitive issue when it comes to copyrighted work. Posting an image of a Gundam or Gunpla kit you want to purchase on your Facebook profile page is okay since the intent of use does not infringe, but, to claim that an image is yours, or ignore to attribute it, for example, a photo or illustration of a Gundam or Gunpla kit, then you are infringing on that person's copyright.

There are people who do not mind their work being shared, that's the point of sharing it after all, but it's an entirely different matter altogether when one misrepresents that image as theirs. This is what is known in the Interweb as photo-grabbing. Photo-grabbing is either infringement and/or plagiarism, as the case may be. It becomes worse when one alters the image, removing any detail that pertains to the image's ownership. That makes it an act of infringement (use without permission) and plagiarism, since the image has been altered to remove any indication of ownership.

Before the advent of the Internet and Social media, before the introduction of digital cameras and camphones, it's relatively easy to claim that a photo or image is yours since there is no massively-global way to verify it. This happens not only with images or photos, but music as well, but it's easier to check if a certain piece of music was plagiarized since there are a lot more people listening to a lot of different types of music. The Internet however, is a double-edged sword: it has made both verification and plagiarism rather easy, but, it has propagated the latter quite a lot more often, maybe because most people are inherently ignorant or just don't care about copyright.

Edit: Attributing copyrighted works is okay in most cases when you're just sharing the work concerned, but, when you plaster your product on top of a photo you do not own or have permission to use, especially in the context of commercial use, you are still very much infringing on that images copyright, since your product has no connection whatsoever with the photo you do not have permission for. Common Sense is never common, as it were, so is Common Human Decency as the case may be.

It's very much the same with music or any creative work. Just to prove the point, I posted a video on Youtube recently and I used one of my own songs as soundtrack. I tried turning on it's monetization, but I couldn't, saying that the track is licensed somewhere. I verified it later on with our distributor that they have the sole license to assign the monetization, but I do not have to worry since it's done to centralize the process.

There are certain artists, mainly independent songwriters, bands and musicians who don't mind their material being pirated shared (as opposed to plagiarized or infringed), mainly because it gives them mileage. That is more the exception than the rule, and in most cases, changes as soon as they start making mainstream money.

The long and short of it, do not use an image, video or audio if you do not own it, but, if you really, really just have to, make sure you credit the source material and/or ask for permission from the author or owner. As an aside, most anything pinned on Pinterest has been very difficult to source-trace the ownership because of those people's habit of pinning things they like but do not own and do not bother to attribute, and it's sometimes difficult to source-trace certain images in Google as well since it mostly points back to Pinterest.

Lastly, I'd like to share the cover image of Falldog's Gunpla blog, Layman's Gunpla Guide, which a lot of people refer to (as do I), to demonstrate the proper way of attributing copyrighted images or material.


** Ambassador Kosh, Babylon 5

References and Additional Sources:

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