Panel lining is one of the most basic things you can do for your model kit that’s relatively easy to do and gives awesome results. You’ll want to do panel line because:
1. It breaks sections apart
If your kit has a single color and want to break the monotony, then panel lining does that very well (painting is best for this, but this is the simplest way of doing it).
2. Gives emphasis to details
Worried that some details like rivets, lines and such might not get noticed? Then panel lining them is the simplest way to get them noticed.
tldr; It gives more details. Imagine an RG kit with no panel lines, how are you gonna notice them then? Imagine your G-bouncer, ain’t it way too plain looking having a pure white color?
There are lots of styles of panel lining. It basically rests in your hands. Want it as thick as Dalong’s? Want it as thin as possible? You decide. Depending on what you want to achieve, if you want cartoony, animeish or just want the details to standout then a black and thick panel line will do the job. Want a subtle, just enough thickness in order for the details to surface and want to draw the attention more on the paint job? Just panel wash that out using a very thin solution. It’s not that hard and has many methods.
Speaking of methods, here are all the methods and including the restrictions and recommendations from yours truly :3
1. Gundam Markers (or any markers out there)
Probably the most common and widely used technique. It’s the basic and most simple out there so that’s no wonder. Gundam Markers are available in your favorite hobby shops, even to those who only sells Gundams because, c’mon, it’s basic. Gundam Caravans always have these things that you can use in order to detail the kit you have to build there. Basically, it’s just like when you write using pen in a paper. In this case, you line along the lines so it’s relatively easy. For excess lines, you can easily erase them by simply using your finger or eraser and you can also use qtip dipped in alcohol. You can also thin the lines down by doing so.
If you have bought other markers, you’ll find out that they’re a lot thicker than these. Well, it really depends on the point. I forgot what point Gundam Marker has but the point is, it’s thick. I have Copic Marker .02, which is the thinnest so I rarely thin them after application.
What you should be wary of is that, if the ink is still wet and you topcoat over the lines, they might bleed out. Sometimes, even the dried ones still bleed, it really depends on the topcoat and the thickness of the line. So if topcoating, make sure you do it by mists and not a single heavy coat.
It is generally recommended to gloss coat prior to panel lining specially when you sand armor parts. What will happen is that when you try to erase the excess lines, the ink might adhere to the rough surface a sanded down area leaves and is quite a nuisance to clean.
2. Mechanical Pencils
While using mechanical pencil is an alternative, it’s not really inferior. How can I say so despite me not having tried it yet? Well, pencils marks doesn’t bleed nor gets destroyed when you topcoat over them and that’s it.
Unfortunately, we haven’t had a black colored pencil do’t we? Or I’m just uninformed? Also, since pencil needs pressure in order to stick on to the surface, it might be difficult to use on a gloss or satin surface. But flat surface is bad because it’s harder to erase missed lines :3
3. Gundam Real Touch Markers
Imagine pentel pens, they’re thick but has soft-felt tip. Isn’t that quite messy? Yes, they’re messy. However, they’re VERY easy to clean, much easier than markers. So what’s the advantage? Well, not all panel lines are uniform. Some are thick, some are very thin. Most markers can’t go through smaller lines. Not even my mighty .02 can’t get in. What’s the solution? This one is. It doesn’t matter how thin the line is, it can go through since it has a soft-felt tip. Real touch markers can also be used to fix discolorations and hide stress marks similar to what Gundam Markers does. This does BETTER though because it doesn’t change color upon topcoating.
Like with markers though, it is recommended to gloss coat before using real touch markers despite it easier to erase.
4. Panel Wash
A once hard technique, or rather hassle to do, because it involves mixing paints. Mixing paints is probably not good to hear specially for casual beginners. However, it’s good that Tamiya decided to sell pre-mixed washes that is meant to be used for panel lines and this made a lot easier for both beginners and advanced modeller’s to do their panel washing. The thickness of the line that panel wash is a bit harder to control, but you can thin them down if you want. Speaking of thinning, try thinning the mixture itself to produce lighter and more transparent lines to adjust the intensity of the line.
MIG Productions has a variety of washes that isn’t just meant for creases, panel lines and such, but also for the paint job as well. It adds realism, dirt, rust, wet marks and such.
To clean up excess, just dip your qtip in an enamel thinner, mineral spirits or lighter fluid. Just enough to make it moist, then gently erase it from one direction (I personally don’t, but they say it’s the right way of doing it).
It’s recommended, yet again, to gloss coat before putting panel wash. It doesn’t just help with cleaning up, it also improves the capillary action. Also, enamel thinner, lighter fluid or any oil based thinners are generally bad for bare plastic. Not bad to the point that it’ll destroy it, but it can weaken the plastic and make it easier to break.
The main reason why panel washes are made of enamel is because it’s safe to use over an acrylic or lacquer layer. If you have painted your kit with enamel paint and didn’t cover it up using an acrylic lacquer topcoat, then you’ll end up destroying your paint job. Using acrylic as a wash isn’t really recommended because it dries quickly. Lacquer on the other hand is even more quick drying and will destroy your paint job, moreso as a wash.
Adding panel lines is never meant to make the model more REALISTIC. In fact, it’s not realistic at all. It is the modeller’s interpretation of the model. If I want your attention in these sections, then I’ll use thicker lines here and more subtle on the others. I can use white panel lines in black areas because lining black with black is useless. Don’t be afraid of doing crazy colors or various thickness because it’s your interpretation. In real life, perhaps having a shade or two darker is the best pane line to apply, but if the intention of the modeller is make it flashy, then I don’t think it’ll be right.
Generally, having “realistic” panel line isn’t a must to win any tournament. It’s not even about realism but about imagination. But if your work’s theme is realism, then go ahead 🙂
Also don’t think that panel wash is the best over the rest. I personally use panel wash and copic marker combination. At times, I still use my Real Touch markers. It all depends on where you’ll use it. For panel washes, they are better for recess lines and not for edges. Well, you can use it for edges, but if you want a uniform result use a marker instead.