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.

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:

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Stages of Gunpla Building

This is another FB Notes Article, published 2017, converted to a blog post.

Stage 1. The “Curiosity” Stage

  • You watch a Gundam episode, doesn’t matter which one, you get curious enough to watch a few more. After which, your search online reveals that the anime actually extends beyond the screen, that there are actually toys and kits that are being sold related to the anime. So you go to a toy store and look for that specific MS you saw. You settle for one you like just as well, if you don’t find what you are looking for.
  • You have friends, schoolmates or co-workers who are into the hobby, and they poison you with it. It’s either you hunt for it on your own, or, you get one on impulse while your friends are browsing the nearest toy store, often intentionally, to get you to buy one.
  • You find one at home, hidden among boxes, probably one bought before by a family member.

Regardless, you build one, even without the right tools, often using a scissor, or even snapping parts off by hand, if not using a wire cutter, and assemble your very first kit. If you happen to have early guidance or be smart enough to look up tools online, you’ll get a side cutter for your very first tool.

For some, it ends here. For others, there are of course other stages. This may include those who frequently ask “which one should I buy first?” and “is this kit rare? 

Just look at that CROTCH!

Stage 2. The “Building” Stage

This is where a lot of people get stuck. They buy and snap build one kit after another, satisfied with simply building kits as they are, not minding the sloppy stickers that peel off after a while, or that there are ugly *numb* marks still. Some even try top-coating their kits, apply decals, or even use markers for details.

In this stage, all the tool you’ll ever need is a good pair of side cutters, but, you’ll realize later on that you’ll need a nice hobby knife and some sand paper as well. Also, In this stage, all the tool you’ll ever need is a good pair of side cutters, but, you’ll realize later on that you’ll need a nice hobby knife and some sand paper as well. Also, red becomes both a favorite and despised color of certain builders when parts of their anatomy meet with the business edge of anything sharp, and you’ll often see people ask “has this happened you? 

Stage 3. The “Modeling” Stage

Once one starts to delve deeper into it, one realizes the need for other tools, like brushes, knives, paints, cutters, rulers, templates, et al. First, most learn to paint, then detail by Once one starts to delve deeper into it, one realizes the need for other tools, like brushes, knives, paints, cutters, rulers, templates, et al. First, most learn to paint, then detail by scribing, then by PS plating. Some stop there, satisfied with detail and paint work, but others realize there’s more to it, and start learning how to modify parts, and even build ones from scratch. One starts to experiment on modifications and painting techniques, testing the limit of the kit one is building, in turn testing oneself as well.

Stage 4. The “Crafting” Stage

Most stay in the modeling stage, but some go beyond it by building entire things from scratch, whether it be aesthetic or mechanical. This is a stage very few struggle to reach, though some reach it quite naturally. One starts to develop his own building techniques, or adapt previous techniques and improve them. In this stage, one will always try to build the same thing differently, gauging which method is easier, quicker and would make the part lighter.

Stage 5. The “Burnout” Stage

A lot of people undergo and often stay on this stage, mostly those who are into the hobby (stage 1-2, and sometimes, stage 3), who get frustrated with their builds that they stop building altogether because they are frustrated. They sometimes return, often remaining at stage two, sometimes jumping to stage 3, but could never quite maintain the same drive as they have before they burnt out. 

What to do, what to do?
Stage 6. The “WIP” Stage

This follows right after the burnout stage (or, after the curiosity stage), when one actually starts something, calls it a WIP, then stops. This may include those who frequently ask “which one should I buy/build next?

Stage 7. The “Hoarding” Stage

This is when one starts to showcase boxes upon boxes of unbuilt kits instead of built ones because one simply has no time. The term backlog comes to mind.

You shall be the pinnacle of my Tower of Power!

Stage 8. The “Masterpiece” Stage

When one builds a masterpiece and can’t quite outdo it with a new build.

Stage 9. The “Denial” Stage

When one has to let go of certain kits, worse, ALL kits, because one has priorities. This may also happen when a kit one wants to get (often a P-Bandai), is out of one's price range. Sour grapes are often the ones one can't reach.

Gumpra is FLEEDOM!
Stage 10. The “Prodigal Child” Stage

When one returns to the hobby, because the allure of Gunpla and mangling plastic, not to mention, new kits and models, is just too much for anyone to bear.

Stage ZERO. The “Rant/Reklamo” Stage

(Special Request) When one who hasn’t really built anything, at all, keeps ranting about P-Bandai, not having enough money for Gunpla, keeps complaining that mall store kits are overpriced, screams at Bandai for being too expensive and raiding another bootlegger, or, generally just complaining about people who do build and have enough money for Gunpla.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Builders and Modelers
Are you a Builder or a Modeler?  Image Source

This is another one of those Facebook notes I've forgotten having written, because FB dropped its Notes section, but came up in my FB notifications after someone liked a comment wherein this article came about.


This was inspired from a response to a comment from Raeon Co, a fellow Gunpla hobbyist, in one of the discussions we have somewhere in the nether regions of cyberspace, about the difference between a builder and a modeler.

As per the definitions from Collins Dictionary:

  • Builder, noun. Plural form, builders.
    -A builder is a person whose job is to build or repair houses and other buildings.
  • Modeler, noun. Plural form, modelers. Spelling form, modellers.
    -A modeler is someone who makes shapes or figures out of substances such as wood or clay.
    -A modeler is someone who makes theoretical descriptions of systems or processes in order to understand them and be able to predict how they will develop.

Now, as you can see, neither of the definitions indicate anything about our favorite hobby, but let’s appropriate both since they are applicable in context.

Both can be used as blanket terms when describing what we do when we mangle and dunk Gunpla in paint, but, what's wrong is to trying to distinguish what the other does in deference to the other, or making one term look superior to the other. That's why sometimes, I include both terms, modelers/builders in the same sentence/paragraph when I comment.

Technically (and I mean technically), we are all builders, regardless if we build the simplest SDs, or the most complex PGs, or build things from scratch whether in part or in full.

Technically, on the other hand we're also all modelers, because we build scale models*. Now some of the <elite> in scale modeling scoff at Gunpla builders just because, but that's besides the point.

What we're really talking about here is skill levels; there's beginner, novice, intermediate, and expert. But, here's what's going to bake your noodle: We are all beginner's just ONCE.

Why is that, you ask?

Once you buy your first kit, and build it, you build it as a beginner. Gunpla is a simple enough thing to build, with pictogram, and now even English instructions. So, that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch now, would it? Yet, we can see those who have built things before asking about issues they have to watch out for about a new kit they want to purchase as if knowing those issues will change anything, like, maybe it’s more difficult to build. Whereas it’s a valid concern when you’re a beginner, it’s rather a silly one if you’re on your 10th kit.

Technically, all kits, regardless of grade or scale, are basic builds, with basic instructions. They all have the same level of difficulty. What varies among kit scales and grades is the complexity of the build: the higher the grade, the more complex the build.

Anyway, after that first kit is built, you are no longer a beginner, but a novice, or a newbie, to disambiguate from NOOB, which is coined by expert gamers as an insult to novice ones who suck, mainly because they are newbies (though I believe, newbie was also an insult back then, but wasn’t insulting enough that a new word has to be coined. Now certain people are starting to adapt the term noob to describe themselves out of ignorance).

You will stay a novice on your second, third, hundredth snapbuilt kit, if you don't do anything else but snapbuild, but, sure, you can call yourself an expert snapbuilder for snapbuilding hundreds of kits, nubmarks and all.

Now, if at your second to hundredth kit, you started minding the nubmarks, panel lining and/or topcoating, doing minor mods and fixes, do minor kitbashes, to make your objet d’art a little more interesting for you, if not for others, then you're in the intermediate level. Some people start to paint at this level as well, but nothing too fancy or extravagant.

The expert level is tricky to know if you have achieved it, because you probably already are, but not know it, or think you are, but others don't think it, maybe because those others are better-skilled than you are and can see you have a long way to go, or, on the other hand, you have gained enemies that think your skills are worth squat. Truth of the matter is, the expert level becomes very flexible and arbitrary: as you become an expert at modifications, fixing, painting, kit-bashing, and finally, scratchbuilding, in varying degrees, you find yourself needing, because there are others who are better at it.

If you are a true, mature, emotionally-balanced builder/modeler you’ll realize that there are certain things you can do, and cannot do. You can fix, modify, or build some things but not others, hence your expertise is varied but/or still evolving. If you can do something other experts can do (or more), you're an expert.

But, if someone calls you master (as I have been numerous times), or tags you as an expert, you need to have an honest discussion with your ego not to let it go to your head, which is where praises usually go straight away.

Those are different skill sets as well. One can be an expert of one or two skills, but not another. One can do a great paint job, regardless of medium, but, suck at modifications, like scribing or extensions, articulation mods, and vice versa.

So, it's all about the skills. We're all builders and modelers. We are builders because we build scale models (of giant robots), whether it’s a simple snap-build to a hefty scratch-build.

*We are modelers because we style those models to our liking, regardless
if we simply determine and tinker a kit’s poseability for the most dynamic, back-breaking and crotch-splitting pose, or when we sculpt kits in part or as a whole.

Truth of the matter is, even experts who are honest with themselves at what they can or cannot do at their levels still continue to learn, especially basic skills that elude them.

Like nub removal.

So, what made you think you're an expert? A million likes, perhaps?

The Million Likes Syndrome

(Previously titled "A Long Rant about Plastics and Modeling")

This rant was actually brought on after “reconnecting” with
Kenny Lim when I read one of his posts on FB. Kenny is one of the Master Modelers I know, having met him personally when he and the Poison Monkeys visited the Philippines a few years back, since I started doing nasty stuff to Gunpla. I regard Kenny as one of my “teachers,” having followed his builds over the years. His post was about something else entirely, but, still rather connected since it was also about Gunpla, and “modelers” as it were. Kenny is a VERY NICE GUY. Compared to my acerbic (ascorbic, acidic) personality, he’s a kitten. But, as we all know, even kittens have claws. It’s very rare for him to post reactively, and when he does, you can be sure it’s warranted. He and I had a short chat yesterday, and this long entry, something I have been putting off, is the result of that.

As I continue to labor over my musings over the things that need to be done in the projects I'm currently working on, I set aside a few minutes to ponder the nature and realities of what has been my go-to activity to de-stress myself from real-life work and concerns, whether I have the time for it or otherwise. I've been at it for several years now; tinkering with plastics, building and destroying and building again, inhaling plastic dust and paint fumes.

It was on and off, years earlier, "collecting" and snap building, and giving up when small versions of me mistook my 1/144 Wing series Gunpla for dolls and toy soldiers. I’ve actually never considered getting into it again; I like watching anime, but, collecting was never really my thing. I’ve had trading cards and comics before, and once I’ve lost interest, it seldom does recur.

But, I've restarted collecting Gunpla in 2007, I believe, when I got a regular gig that paid quite nicely (not my desired salary, but, close), and I was making enough and then some (I still have freelance gigs) to afford getting the real stuff (I was already aware of bootlegs circulating, having made trips to the magical place called Divisoria where everything is relatively cheap[er], but, even then, I was a stickler for quality). But, what really sparked my come back was after watching the Gundam 00 series, given to me by one of my co-designers at work.

I ignored the darned thing for several months, but when I did start watching it, the Exia gave me that chill I thought I lost after my 1/144 Wing Fab Five got swept away in a major flood, back when I was still a merman in the outskirts of Malabon. A week later, I found myself browsing the kits at GreatToysOnline, back then when they had a branch at Goldcrest, which is now the New Glorietta at Makati. I saw the NG 1/100 Exia and I was immediately enamored with it. I built it just under 2 hours as soon as I got home and got enough food in me, using nothing but an old basic Tamiya side-cutter which I have had since my 4WD racing days.

The kit was simple enough, hence why I built it quite quickly, not minding the nubs, seams and other taboos which plague everyone in the Gunplaverse. The week later, even with the next payday a few days away, I bought the Dynames. The week after that, the Kyrios. It took me a couple or so weeks before I realized I'm hooked, and bought the Virtue. My first MG as it were, was the Zeta Plus A1, followed by the Wing verKa. As soon as it was out, I got the NG 00, which was disappointing, to say at least, compared to its predecessor the Exia.

Then, I quit that job (which gave me nice abs and lean figure since I had to walk a couple of kilometers or so everyday) and went back to freelancing, and with no steady income stream, I had to hold back on purchasing any new kits, since honestly, it's quite impractical (and why some people say they buy bootlegs). I NEVER found bootlegs as practical; to me, it's nothing but a waste of my hard-earned money, to which, was exacerbated since I was not getting regular projects at the time.

Until now, I'm still basically doing freelance work, and, my teaching and resource-speaking gigs, as well as some photography work allows me some leeway to get the kits I want (even MBs and PGs). I’m not so much into gadgets, I recently got an iPhone to replace my 10 year old SE W810i, only because I needed it for actual work, so I can basically divert funds as needed. Nowadays, when I get a kit, I don't build them right away, except if it were something rather impressive-looking, like the Nu and Sazabi verKa. It takes me longer to build them now, sometimes even days at a time, since I can only devote a few hours of tinkering with a new kit, regardless of complexity.

When I got the PG Unicorn, which is, I can say, a MONSTER build, I really thought I would be able to finish it in a couple of days. I was able to build the head, torso and waist in 2 days, but have stopped there. That was a year ago. So, what's wrong, you ask? It's something I ask myself, only to realize that there's really nothing wrong at all. My "passion" comes in stages and waves, similar to how it is when I write songs. There are times, when I can write a song in a day, and times when years have gone, and the song still hasn't so much of any lyrics, that I hum gibberish just to remember the melody. The PG Unicorn will be finished, and will become the PG Chimera 2.0.

(Update-01 September 2017: I’ve finished the PG Unicorn a few months ago, and it’s missing its left front side skirt. I’ve stopped looking for since then. I’m planning to just scratch-build a custom pair of skirts for it).

As of the moment, the Hellraiser takes precedence, and after that, the Goliath. But, this is really nothing more but a long prelude to what I really want to say, especially to you new people in the hobby. Whereas I'll say it's just a hobby, something we pass time with, the skills we develop (or in my case, discover) is nothing to sneeze at. But, that is if we use those skills to GROW. If we keep doing the same things over and over, without any variations, without experimentation, our skills will stagnate. Whether it's snap-building and de-nubbing (the two BASIC skillsets), painting, modifying or scratch-building, (the two BASIC skillsets), painting, modifying or scratch-building, the learning NEVER stops. Just because something you've built earned you several thousand <likes> doesn't mean you've actually built a masterpiece.

Nowadays, posting a horrendously-painted and and nub-infested™©® snap-build can earn as many likes as your masterpiece, so using those likes as a reference for achievement is really nothing to be proud of. In fact, a lot of new "builders" don't even know how to denub and sand properly, and panic too much when a part breaks or worse gets lost in the wilderness. Building and modeling has stages. I understand that most people just want to snap-build and display kits, but, again, snap-building is a BASIC skill, everyone knows how to do it (or in some case, should know how to do it), and is not so much an accomplishment to be proud of. I’ve seen a lot of people even include their girlfriends (?) or girls in their posts to earn likes, but ultimately, snap-build can earn as many likes as your masterpiece, so using those likes as a reference for achievement is really nothing to be proud of.

In fact, a lot of new "builders" don't even know how to denub and sand properly, and panic too much when a part breaks or worse gets lost in the wilderness. Building and modeling has stages. I understand that most people just want to snap-build and display kits, but, again, snap-building is a BASIC skill, everyone knows how to do it (or in some case, should know how to do it), and is not so much an accomplishment to be proud of. I’ve seen a lot of people even include their girlfriends (?) or girls in their posts to earn likes, but ultimately,
no one learns anything by getting a million likes.

Moreso, one is only as good as one’s “pièce de résistance.” Expounding on that, one can really only have ONE masterpiece, with a new one overthrowing the previous, or not at all, as the case may be.

Pride. That's something I've been working on to take out of my vocabulary. I've successfully stopped using <hate> in that context, mentioning it simply as a word I have to mention as an emotion I no longer have, replacing it with dislike, or unlikable, but pride is something else. Whereas people post stuff online to show, to get reactions, to get attention, I've actually been posting my work mostly to teach. There's still a little bit of "pride" in that effort, but, it's not the same pride as, say, being proud that PacMan is a Pinoy boxer. It’s more like, being able to do the things no one else can, or no one else will, and when other people start doing the same thing, I just do something else that hasn’t been done before.

Incidentally, when I started doing modifications, it was because of an Exia. , but pride is something else. Whereas people post stuff online to show, to get reactions, to get attention, I've actually been posting my work mostly to teach. There's still a little bit of "pride" in that effort, but, it's not the same pride as, say, being proud that PacMan is a Pinoy boxer. It’s more like, being able to do the things no one else can, or no one else will, and when other people start doing the same thing, I just do something else that hasn’t been done before.

Incidentally, when I started doing modifications, it was because of an Exia. Erix93, one of the very few I consider a master modeler, inspired me to do modifications when I saw his modified NG Exia. I was already "painting" back then, which was more fumbling with Bosny spray cans (something I picked up from (something I picked up from DC23/Don Suratos), but didn't dare cut my precious kits with anything else but a side cutter. Looking at Erix93's WIP, something in my head lit up and screamed "I can do that shit too!"

As such, I realized that my years of destroying stuff when I was a kid, dissecting them to see how they work, were all leading to building stuff later on (else, why would have I taken Engineering, right?). My very first attempt was a custom, using the NG 00 as a base. I planned to do something radical, something entirely different, a Gundam like nothing else. I bought tools, putty, masking tape, pla-plates and a few other things I thought I would need, and thus began my adventure in mangling plastic.

And mangle it I did. It was a failure. I can't seem to get the putty to work for me the way I want it to (and I’ve tested several), so I abandoned the project altogether, and left the 00 parts in limbo. That failure didn't deter me, though. I took it as something to learn from, what to do and not do in terms of knowing what plastic is in general. It might sound like overthinking, and it is, but, whereas Erix93 used putty and was good at it, I found the material's incompatibility with plastic an issue I don't want to deal with. I know I can use putty well enough, but, it being messy and incompatible was a prospect not worth pursuing.

So, I decided to do mods with my favorite go-to material: Polystyrene Sheets (or, for those unfamiliar, Tamiya Pla-plates, and in my case, WHIPS). It was an almost unimaginable concept. At that time (or probably even now), I haven't seen anyone using PS sheets exclusively, even on curved/spherical parts, so, it might be something I can exploit. With PS sheets and cement, I was able to build parts that normally can only be built with putty. Forming PS sheets is not a picnic, and is a very resistant material without heat. But, I was determined to push it to its limit and literally, bend it to my will.

And so I have. I've bent PS sheets and formed it to something else, something I didn't realize myself could be done until I was actually doing it. But, it can only bend so much, and without heat, can only curve so much. So, what do I do now? Much like how putty is formed over parts, then sand-sculpted, PS sheets can be cemented, or "sandwiched" together and sculpted into a fine piece of p-art (pun-intended), to the point that it actually looks it was molded or cast. PS Sheets were like “putty in my hands,” as one of my followers dropped in a comment (or was it someone else who mentioned it in a long gone chat session).

The versatility of PS sheets is a such, it can be heat-formed as well, but, I haven't gotten to that point yet. Maybe with the Goliath (which is a 1/60 Strike Freedom Conversion to a 1/144 Destroy Gundam for Gary Berba).

Now, having said all this, what does it have to do with you? Well, I have a few things for you to consider:

1) Do research, and learn how to do research. Facebook groups do have helpful members, but use the internet to its full potential. Look for builds other than Gunpla, like scale modeling, or even documentaries on industrial processes. Facebook is NOT the only source of information. Veteran modelers do veteran builds because they learn not just from a single source, but multiple sources of varied genres. Also, as I do this quite frequently when the query warrants it, “google it” is a valid answer.

2) Before asking questions, READ the entire entry. NO matter how long it is. If something is unclear to you, ask COMPLETE, SPECIFIC, CONCISE and ARTICULATED questions. Asking “how did you do that?” is rather an open-ended question, and if the source was a tutorial, the answer is most likely IN the tutorial. People nowadays tend to lean towards spoonfeeding, that they no longer bother to read, let alone, let alone comprehend what’s already been said or shown.

3) Learn from the Good and the Bad. I’m talking generally about good builds and bad ones, good people and bad people, hecklers and trolls, Master Modelers and (ugh) Wannabes (those, of whom I mentioned earlier, who are more after likes than actual learning, I’m sure you’re not one of those, but, who knows? Denial is not a river). Find what is useful and ponder on what is not; you might be able to turn it around and make it useful.

4) Learn to LOOK rather than just see. This is sometimes because of detail blindness, which everyone experience from time to time (even myself), but, there are times when people just don’t bother LOOKING deeper into what they see (this is the visual equivalent of comprehension).

5) “Gunpla is freedom” does not mean what you think it means.

6) Snapbuilding is not a skill to be proud of. It’s a BASIC skill. So is removing nub marks (and NOT numb marks, which seem to be a common mistake by Filipinos).

7) A topcoated kit IS NOT a “painted” kit. In fact, I personally avoid topcoating altogether since modern kits especially do not need extra protection. They have one built-in. That shiny surface gloss isn’t there just for show, it’s actually a surface coating that protects plastic. So as long as you keep your kits away from direct sunlight, heat, and extreme humidity, it will be fine. Also, certain topcoats may turn your kits yellow, or worse, make it brittle over time.

8) A kit-bash IS NOT the same as a scratch-build. Kit-bashing is a type of modification. Scratch-building (as the term implies) is something else altogether. Whereas kit-bashing uses the parts as is (with minor modifications), scratch-building can also be using an existing part for its connectivity, and building OVER it to create something new or different.

9) “I can’t do that,” “I don’t have that skill,” “I’m just a snap builder” is something you should acknowledge, but NEVER use as a defense.

10) “Spray can paints are too thick.” If you’ve done enough research, you’ll find out that some spray-can-painted kits have been mistaken for airbrushed ones (and vise-versa). Knowing how to use a tool is more important than having a better tool.

11) “I need expensive tools.” Yes, and no. Learn which tools have alternatives (do research). There are tools that can do what its expensive counterpart can, and sometimes, even better, without having the hefty price tag, but even more durable to boot. Having a godhand cutter doesn’t give you a “god hand.”

12) Learn from the Wisdom of those before you. Give credit where credit is due.

13) Failure is nature’s way of telling you to try again. If it fails again, try something else.

14) Experiment. Sometimes, testing materials or techniques yourself is quicker and more beneficial than asking what works. You’ll learn something in the process as well as maybe discovering a new technique in the process.

Update 18 May 2020: This article is now translated into Spanish, courtesy of Emmanuelle Acevedo of of Gundam & Models Columbia - Fanpage. Seems like my words have gone international and tri-lingual.

Update 11 March 2021: Reformatted for the MXGS blog.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Tricky Terminologies in Branding

I’ll state this as plainly as I can. This article does not talk about choice, nor aim to curtail your right to buy products made from stolen intellectual property. It’s about Gunpla, its branding, and why bootlegs are not 3rd party Gunpla.

The Bandai vs bootlegs debacle has been going on ever since the first bootleg came out, I have a few posts here regarding it, and has continued to drag on with the emergence of social media. The issue won’t die because every year there are new people getting into the hobby, poisoned by friends, co-workers, enemies or family, or at least every time there’s a new Gundam series being aired. There will always be a kit line that follows (or even precedes) it, and you can be sure bootlegs won’t be far behind. It’s become so bad that, a lot of people, who feel entitled to have a hobby despite their means, will openly scream that they’ll just wait for the bootlegs, because buying Bandai is so expensive. They rather buy 10K worth of bootlegs instead 10K worth of Bandai kits. They also claim that the brand doesn’t matter, which is where things become complicated for them because bootlegs are not brands.

The Nitty and the Gritty

Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

The term bootleg came from the practice of smuggling illegal booze (moonshine) in people’s boot legs, hence the term. It was later on appropriated by the music industry to connote selling and distributing music that was illegally recorded and reproduced. It has since then become the blanket term for the sale and distribution of anything that is produced without license from the parent company of the IP being produced, as such, fake accessories and apparels are also bootlegs. Regardless if the accessories are using the IP brand as a deliberate fake, or a distorted version of it (SHARP calculators had once a fake/bootleg version which spelled SHRAP), those in and by itself are bootlegs.

Bandai owns the Gunpla™ or Gunpla® franchise, and along with its sister/daughter company Sunrise, the Gundam© trademark. When Bandai sued TT-Hongli and subsequently won, those bootleggers (and others that came after them) thought, “okay, we won’t use the Gundam trademark anymore, and we’ll just come back from the ashes with a new 'brand' and replace the term Gundam with fighter.” That alone should have been enough for anyone to figure out that what TTH is doing is illegal. 

Two Guesses what that ® symbol at the end means

I’ve read a lot of comments claiming that they understand copyright, and that if a bootlegger comes up with a kit that Bandai hasn’t produced yet, it’s an original design and is not a bootleg.

Oh, but it is a bootleg. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions in this issue. So as long as the design came from Sunrise and/or Bandai, it’s an infringement of both copyright and trademarks owned by Sunrise and Bandai, and therefore are technically bootlegs. Even resin kits, like G-Systems, and plastic kits, like Mechanicore, who do their own rendering of familiar designs, from scratch, are unfortunately, bootlegs.

In branding, it’s a little bit more complicated than dropping a trademarked name. Let’s take Coca-Cola, for example.

Part of Coca-Cola’s trademarks are the tradenames Coca-Cola and Coke, as well as the trademark shape of the Coke bottle. You won’t see any other softdrink brand using the same names and the same bottle shape, because you can rest assured that Coca-Cola’s IP and legal department would come down hard on whoever does that.

That act of copying any recognizable identity of a popular brand without permission, for profit, is infringement. If the infringer mass produces products based on the look of that IP, in part or in full regardless of intent, that act is bootlegging.

In the case of Gundams and Gunpla for that matter, both terms are owned by Bandai and Sunrise retroactively to apply to the anime series, or as the case may be, film and graphic novel/comics series, as well as any kit line produced thereof (edit: this also includes accessories, like shirts, mugs, keychains, et al). Gundams have a trademark look that is mainly distinguishable on the head: those distinctive V-Fins, with or without the gems and the goatee, which are often red. Further, there is this tidbit about Intellectual Property that a lot of people are confused with; copyright is by virtue of creation. So, the design of any single Mobile Suit is automatically a copyright of Sunrise and Bandai at the moment of conception. Of course, the artist who designed a particular MS would either have a shared copyright with Sunrise/Bandai, or, an exclusivity clause, meaning, any design an artist renders while in their employ belongs to Sunrise and Bandai.

It sounds ominous and unfair, I know. I had the same sentiment back when I was a budding artist, unwilling to share my work with anyone, but, as I matured as an artist and a Designer, learning about the legalities of intellectual property, those artists in Japan are being well-compensated for their work. But, more on that later.

So, in terms of branding, copyright and intellectual property are not really as simple as the main terminologies and the look that was created, but the overall terminologies used within a creative production. Let’s take the Gundam SEED series for example.

In Gundam SEED, we have 5 main Mobile Suit designs. Now, the term Mobile Suit (and herewith, Mobile Armor) in itself is unique within the Gundamverse, which indicates a huge, human piloted mechanical robot, and is thus a copyrighted term. In Gundam SEED, the main Mobile Suit, or the Protagonist Mobile Suit, for simplicity, is called the Strike. The word strike alone isn’t a Sunrise/Bandai copyright, meaning, if you have an idea for a mecha design (take note, I didn’t use mobile suit), you can name it Strike all you want, and Bandai won’t come after you, even if you make gazillions out of it, so as long as the look of the mecha you’re designing doesn’t look like a Gundam.

Are you following so far? Good.

We now have,

  • The series name, a) Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and the main Mobile Suit, Gundam Strike, but, we’re not done yet. Gundam Strike is still the Strike’s generic callsign. We still have its mechanical and technical designation, GAT-X 105. Now, this mechanical designation is probably an abbreviation of something, but that’s not really important at the moment.
  • Next, we now have a Mobile Suit design called b) GAT-X 105 Strike Gundam (or any other iteration), which appears in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.
  • All that’s left is c) the design of the MS itself.
GAT-X 105 Mobile Suit Strike Gundam

Now, the Strike Gundam can appear and have appeared with slightly different markings and detailing, but, it’s still the Strike. As such, the designation itself can be amended. The one on the left is the original base design of the Strike, the one on the right (front and back) is the one in Gundam Evolve, which is rather close to if not exactly the same as the PG version. So, we can simply put it as GAT-X 105EVO Mobile Suit Strike Gundam Evolve, but, it’s still very much the Gundam SEED Strike even if we drop the EVO tag.

There we have it. A complete brand study. Well, it’s not really that complete yet. With the release of the SEED anime series, kits of the 5 main MS designs (Strike, Aegis, Blitz, Buster and Duel), plus, other MS designs were also released. For simplicity, let’s stick with the Gundam Strike, and I’ll choose the Strike RM kit as an example.

Gundam Strike RM Manual Cover

Based on what i mentioned previously, we have

a) Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the name of the series.
b) GAT-X 105 Strike Gundam
, the designation of the MS design
c) The design of the MS itself.

So, if any which one of those information is copied, it’s an infringement of Bandai’s copyright and trademark. Now, I keep repeating that on purpose, because a lot of people still can’t wrap their heads around those two terminologies. Copyright and Trademark, though related, aren’t really mutually exclusive. Copyright applies to any written, drawn, recorded form of ideas, either in analog or digital. The Anime Series Mobile Suit Gundam is a copyright of Sotsu • Sunrise. Trademark applies to any visual, audio, formula, design, schematics that a company applies for exclusive use, or for licensing to third parties*.

So, any kit you see that has one or all of the information above, but, does not carry the Bandai branding, is a bootleg. A bootleg is not a brand, that’s why it’s called a bootleg, which is in other terms, a fake. It’s straightforward in Bandai’s case.

But, bootleggers are becoming creative, and when I say creative, they are being devious, exploiting loopholes that make it seem they’ll get away with infringement. It’s worthwhile to repeat that this is the reason why most bootlegs now have fighter instead of Gundam on the plagiarized boxes. Dragon Momoko in turn started designing their own packaging design and boxes, thinking that it lessened if not eliminated the infringement that they have committed. DM’s biggest mistake was claiming copyright over the designs by slapping the © mark on their boxes. Compound that with their penchant for pre-empting Bandai releases, Bandai came down hard on them, harder, compared to what happened to TTH, with the Bandai vs DM court case publicized over social media. It was clear that DM didn’t understand Intellectual Property, or, if they did, they just didn’t care, much like most of those who brandish the fact that they buy bootlegs, and criminalize the evil, monopolistic Bandai empire who never listens to them (just in case some idiot tries to misquote me, I am being sarcastic).

*Third Party

This terminology is the most confusing yet, confounding a lot of people who keep using the term to connote any bootleg kit. In Gunpla manufacturing (or any kind of manufacturing for that matter), Third Party is a legalese term.

Bandai produces plastic kits (first party) to sell to consumers (second party). As such, they require machinery, equipment and materials. They source out suppliers for computers, machines, and plastic beads, and often, they will have more than one supplier at any given time for any given requirement. Those suppliers are Third Party. They are not in any way directly connected to Bandai, but, they have a business-to-business arrangement. Now, as any evolving company would do, they need consistent stock of supplies, so at one point or another, Bandai probably would either buy that company who supplies certain materials to them, they have more control over inventory, or, create a new company, eliminating the need for a third party. Bandai, as we know, fabricate most everything in-house, even the printing and packaging, so the scenario isn’t really far off.

In terms of actual kits being produced, Bandai does not have any third-party affiliates**. A lot of people have been speculating that DM was a Bandai third-party affiliate, because of how close the detail was with Bandai. Master Katsumi Kawaguchi has categorically denied it outright, after an idiot posted a bootleg on his [Kawaguchi’s] wall. Kawaguchi continued to say that Bandai will never resort to giving licensing to third parties when it comes to their kit line, mainly because Bandai has strict quality control.

These same people even rant over DM’s later releases, with add-on details that weren’t on the Bandai kits, as well, as releasing kits Bandai has yet to develop, giving them more ammo to shoot at Bandai’s nefarious schemes, including the much-despised P-Bandai line which a lot of people have developed allergies from.

Add-on parts have been mentioned as 3rd party. Yes, and no. The proper terminology for add-on parts are after-market parts, much like how one buys after-market parts for a car. This is very much a gray area, but, if you’re vying to compete in official Bandai competitions, this is now very much an issue when it comes to your entry. That is why Bandai has been releasing their own after-market add-on parts as well. The same applies especially when you do kit bash.

Now, that doesn’t really mean **Bandai has not had any other companies produce kits for them. . If the information is accurate (citation required), Volks, and another company I can’t remember (maybe CVphased), were said to have been licensed to produce C3 event limited 1/144 Messala garage resin kit and a couple of others. But, since these are resin kits, mentioning it is beside the point. 

Resin kits are not Gunpla

Bandai also has production units outside Japan, but for certain specific parts, like the frames for the Metal Build, GFF-MC and HiRM lines are produced in China as well as some of the LED components.

Also, a lot of newbies do not know the difference between Bandai and bootlegs. Whereas it would probably be a little more challenging when built, asking if a kit is Bandai or bootleg, while looking at the box, is a little bit ignorant. If only people start using their common sense, and
Google, they’ll know how to distinguish a kit based on its box with these.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

Of course, there are bootlegs now that don’t even have box art, just huge Kanji/Chinese characters or symbols on plain white/black boxes, just so they can avoid, uh, detection by the IP police.

Update: Bootleggers are now using nondescript boxes to package bootlegs, to deter further scrutiny and make it difficult to spot.
Can you guess what's in the box?

In closing, I don’t give a rat’s ass if you buy bootlegs, it’s your money to waste. Heck, if you buy bootlegs because you’re poor, maybe you should rethink your life decisions and live within your means. Prioritize your necessities instead of entitling yourself to a hobby you can’t possibly maintain, because you are poor.

Regardless, do educate yourself, especially when it comes to Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademark laws, so you can make informed opinions and better yet, informed decisions. You can keep using the term 3rd party to soften your guilt about buying bootlegs, but, hey, , especially when it comes to Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademark laws, so you can make informed opinions and better yet, informed decisions. You can keep using the term 3rd party to soften your guilt about buying bootlegs, but, hey, bootlegs are not 3rd party, they’re not even brands, that’s why they’re called bootlegs. Just in case you think this article is curtailing your right to choose the Gunpla brand you want to purchase, or, that it’s good that Bandai has competition in this brand war, well, you only need remember one thing: there is no Gunpla brand war, because there’s only one Gunpla brand. All the rest are bootlegs. If you choose to promote and defend bootlegs, you are well within your right, but, you are defending something illegal and criminal. Also, do not expect people to respect your decision to support a wrong thing. There is nothing respectable about bootlegs, both the production and purchase of it.

See the irony there?

Addendum: Not to be outdone and out-shined in defending its IP, Kotobukiya just had its wannabe lookalike “competitor” Petty Armor shut down, in record time. Hasbro has also started going after bootlegs of its IP.

Move it, Bandai! Kotobukiya is hot on your heels.

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...