I wasn't planning on getting sucked back into Gundam models when I started this (ha!), I just wanted a nice looking Shiki. So I didn't do much modification to the kit. The only changes I made were replacing the kit supplied power cables with new ones made from slices of plastic tubing (cut from inside ballpoint pens!) threaded over wire, and scratchbuilding fins for the back of the legs. I have yet to attach these (sorry, no pictures, I'm not even sure where they are at this point 15 years later!).
The gold foil doesn't stick well enough to survive masking, so I did all of the painting first. The feet were sprayed with Testors dark red enamel, and the chest and backpack with Testors dark sea blue (which has a slightly greenish tint), and mechanical parts with a dark gray mix. At the time, I didn't have a working airbrush, so I bought one of those cheap $10 Testors airbrushes, which is really just a spraygun. It did the job, but I never used it again, it's a piece of crap. I tried to do some shading on the blue and gray parts, but the spray pattern is just too large and innacurate. I managed to get a little bit of a shading affect using pastel chalks, ground on sandpaper and applied with a paintbrush.
Nothing looks more like gold than gold! Ok, well, it's probably aluminum or something, but it's metal. I toyed with the idea of using Bare Metal Foil (foil that comes on a sheet like a sticker, with adhesive already on the back), but haven't had much luck with it in the past. It's very difficult to cut without tearing unless your knife is super duper brand new, and is pretty expensive. I ended up using a gold leafing kit from my local Michaels (a craft store) to cover the model in gold colored foil.The kit comes with a lot of foil sheets, a bottle of glue, a burnishing cloth (useless), and instructions (didn't follow them). The glue seems to just be thinned white glue, so you could get away with just buying the foil instead of the whole kit.
APPLYING THE FOIL
The foil isn't too difficult to apply, but it takes some practice and patience, it's a delicate process. I practiced on an old Gelgoog I had laying around.
1. It's best applied in small pieces. I cut pieces of foil (size depending on where it was to be applied) using a sharp pair of scissors. Then I held the piece by the corner (touching the surface as little as possible to avoid fingerprints), and applied a thin coat of glue using an old brush. The glue was pretty thick for this purpose, so I thinned it with some water. I also added a drop of liquid dish soap to break the surface tension and keep it from beading up.
2. Once the glue had dried (a little blowing helped), I applied one edge of the foil to the part, overlapping the edge a little bit to ensure full coverage. Have a q-tip ready in your other hand, you want to burnish the foil with it instead of letting it lay down on the piece. I found that rolling the cotton swab was preferable to rubbing with it to avoid tearing.
3. I carefully used the cotton swab to apply and smooth the rest of the foil, starting at one corner and working my way along the edge. It's easier to avoid wrinkles if you work your way out from the starting point towards the edge of the foil. Again, rolling the cotton swab is key here, it will tend to catch on wrinkles if you just push it around.
4. Once the whole piece of foil was in place, I smoothed out any wrinkles using the q-tip, pressing very softly. I found that burnishing in one direction kept the foil from tearing.
When I goofed, I removed the foil with packing tape and tried again.
5. Here you can see the foil after application and burnishing (I didn't bother doing the wrinkly edge, compound curves can get difficult). It's ok to overlap a little bit, the seams nearly disappear. Any extra foil was trimmed with a very sharp knife. I removed the inevitable fingerprints with a little window cleaner on a q-tip.
I'd think that this foiling technique would be useful on the Master Grade Shiki, as there are a few seam lines that need to be covered. I'm not sure how well the foil would match the gold plating though...
The foil is pretty fragile, so I wanted to protect it from scratching and fingerprints with a clear coat. I decided to go with Future acrylic floor polish, having read good things about it's smoothness and clarity in model magazines. I didn't trust that spraygun, but found that the stuff goes on so thin and smooth that I could just dip the parts, soak off excess Future with a paper towel, and let them dry on pieces of sprue. I dipped all the parts (painted as well as foiled) a few times, moving joints as the Future dried so they wouldn't get stuck. The finish is pretty durable now, though the foil still scratches off pretty easily (fixed easily enough with more foil!).
I painted a few details with enamel paints and a brush (red verniers, black eyes, etc). I wasn't sure how washes would react with the Future, so I filled the panel lines with dark brown watercolor (again, some soap breaks the surface tension), and sealed them with brushed on future (it's the smoothest brushing stuff I've ever worked with).
If I had it all to do again, I'd fix some of the articulation problems, do a better job with the painting, and maybe try clear paints over Alclad Chrome laquer instead of the foil. Some shading with Tamiya Smoke or a similar clear tint would be cool too. But I'm very satisfied with the result, I kind of like the unevenness of the foil finish, it ads some depth and looks super-dooper shiny.
Check out more pics in the gallery!