There are a few techniques for doing this,
and which method you use will largely be dependant on the effect you are
going for, and the surface of the part to be enhanced. Basically, the
techniques break down to three categories.
Many people like very stark, and prominent
panel lines. One of the best ways to achieve this, is with the use of a
dark technical pen, or specialized marker. You can use this technique with
any type of fine tipped pen, or even pencil for subtler effects, but some
of the favorite pens for this technique are Micron Pigma disposable
technical pens, Rapidograph technical pens, or Gunze Sangyo's Gundam
Markers. There is very little difference in the finished result of these
various pens, so you should probably choose which brand you use based on
the availability, color selection, tip size, and price range that best
suits your needs.
Using the pen method is probably the easiest
to explain of all of the methods. In fact, all you do is literally draw the
seam as you want it to appear on the model. This is, of course, often
easier said than done, but here are a few tips that will help you with your
This technique works best, with either a
gloss paint job, or on bare plastic, because then it is easiest to clean up
mistakes. If you accidentally draw outside the area you intended to, you
can lightly wipe away the excess using a Q-tip that is moist with either
rubbing alcohol, or acetone, with little or no resultant discoloration to
the finish. If you are doing this on a painted surface, you should test for
compatibility on some scrap, before trying to wipe ink of an actual model.
Unfortunately, this technique does not work as well with matte paints, as
the ink will be absorbed into the matte pigment, thus causing edge
discoloration, and making it impossible to wipe away mistakes.
Tip size is very important to achieving the
desired result. Optimally, the tip of the pen should be narrow enough to
rest on the bottom of the seam groove, without touching the uppermost sides
of the panel line groove, but wide enough that it does not wobble from side
to side along the bottom of the groove. It can take some experimentation to
find the tip size that works best for you, but the resulting line will
appear much smoother once you have found the correct size.
Play with colors. Varying up the colors can
make a dramatic difference in the final appearance. Think about the look
you are going for. Many people like the stark black look of a drawn
cartoon, but lighter tones, or even colors like reddish brown, can also be
used to nice effect.
There is also a variation to the pen method,
instead of markers, ink or paint, get a mechanical drafting pencil
[Stadtler brand, for instance] at an art or drafting supply store. Be sure
and get the kind that has a three or four jaw “chuck” at the front [much
like a drill] but NOT the kind that automatically advances the lead as you
click the end button... although the chuck-type pencil does use an end
button to free up the lead.
You'll also need to get inexpensive “lead”
[polymer or graphite], which comes in different hardness [try several
kinds], and a sharpener specific to that type of drafting pencil. You
needn't get the expensive four-inch diameter metal kind: Mars or Stadtler
makes a perfectly workable one-inch diameter plastic sharpener for them too
[in either style the pencil sharpens via a sort of stirring motion in the
sharpener]. I used one for years as a tech illustrator. You'll also need to
get a grey kneaded eraser to clean up errors or smears.
Then just sharpen your lead to the panel line
thinness you want and draw on the model where you want, using plastic
drafting templates and/or rulers as needed. Goofs are easily fixable by
simply erasing and redoing: much easier than repainting! When the lines are
done, spray over with matt or gloss finish to seal.
For variety/effect, you can also use
conventional colored pencils.
Another method for blacking panel lines is
the use of thinned out paint, which is then carefully applied to model so
that capillary action will carry the paint along the panel lines, since
they are the lowest point on the surface.
This technique is much more difficult to
master than the pen method, but has several advantages that might make it
worth the trouble, depending on the result you desire. The biggest advantage
to the wash method, is that it can be done with any color of paint you
desire, allowing for a greater range of effects that the pen method.
Another advantage is that when done correctly, it can produce a much
cleaner, and regular line than pens typically do.
The major disadvantage to this method is
that if done incorrectly it can quickly ruin a paint job, or even destroy a
model. As such, I will go into a bit of detail of what not to do when using
The first and most important thing to pay
attention to when doing a wash, is what you are using as a thinner. A
common mistake is to use brush cleaner, or turpentine/turpenoid as a
thinner. This will eat through a plastic model and destroy it, so don't do
it! Another common mistake, is to use a thinner that is corrosive to the
previous layers of paint, this runs a high risk of destroying your paint
job, so be careful!
One of the best ways to safely apply a wash,
is to do your base paint job in one type of paint, clear gloss coat over
your paint job with the same type of paint, and then apply the wash with a
less aggressive type of paint. This way you can easily apply or even remove
the wash with no fear of it effecting the paint you laid down before the
wash. As a general rule lacquer based paints, like Mr. Color and
ModelMaster Metalizer, are the most aggressive, closely followed by
enamel-based paints, like Humbrol or ModelMaster, with acrylics being the
least aggressive. Of course, these are just general rules, and I would
recommend testing various brands before actually trying a wash. However, if
you are using a lacquer or enamel paint, acrylics make a perfect wash,
because you can thin them with water, and clean them up with the same, thus
risking no damage to your original paint job.
All of that said, I will get to how to apply
a wash. First, you want to thin the wash color heavily. I will usually start with as much as 5 parts
thinner (water for acrylics) to 1 part paint, and then thin even more from
there depending on the effect I want. How much you thin depends on what you
are trying to achieve, so you just have to play with it a little to get the
hang of it. Then you put the wash on the model. How you put it on once
again depends on what you are trying to do. Some people only wish to darken
the panel lines, and therefore apply the wash to the edge of a panel line
with a small brush, and allow capillary action to carry the paint along the
panel line. Others wish to darken all low-lying areas and details, so will
apply the wash to the entire surface area of the model part. Whichever way
you apply the paint, you can then wipe unwanted excess away with a Q-tip
moist with thinner. If the end result is not as dark as you would like,
don't be afraid to apply another wash, as long as the first wash has not completely
cured, you will still be able to cleanup with a Q-Tip.
This is by far the most complicated form of
panel line enhancement, but can also offer some of the most stunning
results. This technique requires an airbrush, and an understanding of how
they work. There are a few different ways to achieve this effect, but the
basic idea is to create a gradient running along the edge of the panel
line, to accentuate the panel line. The main ways this can be achieved is
either by underpainting, masking, or a combination of both.
By underpainting, what I mean is that you
first paint a dark colored airbrush stroke that follows the panel line,
then once that is dry, then put a thin coat of either a lighter color, or a
transparent color, over the part, so that the first stroke blends into the
second coat and appears to be a gradient. The trick with this method is to
make sure not to apply too much paint on the second coat, if you do your
gradient will be completely obscured, and you will have to start over. This
can take quite a bit of practice to get right, and you have to carefully
pick the colors you are using, to make sure the blend together well, but
can look quite nice, so is well worth the trouble.
By masking, I mean to use frisket, masking
tape or masking film to isolate each panel after your base paint job has
been applied, then one panel at a time, spray a gradient of another color
along the edge of that masked panel. The trick here is to never spray
directly on the model itself. Spray, instead, on the masking material, or
out to the side of the part, so that you only get the soft spillover at the
edge of the airbrush stroke (called overspray) onto the model. This
technique can be very time consuming and difficult, but much like a wash
you can do it in several stages, with any color you want, to achieve a
variety of effects.
Of course for extremely complicated panel
line effects, you could combine Pre-shading, masking, washes, and even pen
or pencil strokes to get some amazing, and truly time consuming, results!