Tutorial: Panel Line & Decal Application

Let’s take a look at some easy and quick ways of customization to bring life and individuality to your mass produced toys and action figures! The following tutorial took a total of approximately 2.5 hours to complete, that’s including taking photos as well!

Some things you may need:

Custom Toy Tutorial - Things you may need– A pair of scissors
– Craft knife
– Tub of water
– Cotton buds
– Ruler
– Tweezers
– Paper towels
– Gundam markers (Fine-Tip)
– Decal sheets
– Good working surface (Rubber mat)
– A toy to work on!

Right, now that you have everything you need, let’s get started!

Step 01. – Cleaning

If your toy has been sitting on the shelf on display for some time, there is bound to be some build up of dust, so give it a clean with a brush and blower. Here I’m using my camera cleaning tools but any small brush will do. This will keep your Gundam marker felt tips from getting dirty.

Custom Toy Tutorial - Clean the toy

Step 02. – Disassembly

Disassemble your toy to smaller and more manageable parts, be gentle with the joints and keep a track of where things go. Most toys are pretty easy to figure out and will have the same parts for both sides.

Custom Toy Tutorial - Take it apart

Step 03. – Testing

Test your Gundam markers on a spare piece of plastic or unwanted parts to make sure there is ink, this also will start the flow of ink to give you better lines when you work on your toy.

Custom Toy Tutorial - Test the marker on random piece

Step 04. – Panel Lining

Start with the most inconspicuous part of the toy so if you do make a mistake here it is less noticeable. Work your way up until you are confident to take on the main parts of the toy.

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Start on a small piece
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Practice makes perfect!

Go slow and steady and try to avoid going over the same line twice as the lines will appear darker and inconsistent. Here are a few pictures comparing between “before” and after”.

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Go slow and steady
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Before and After

When working on light coloured surfaces such as white, use the “Grey” colour marker, this will make the panel lines appear more natural. When working on darker surfaces, use the “Black” colour markers. Not shown here, but if you have any red parts, it is preferable to use a “Brown” marker. I used the Black marker to draw lines that fall between dark and light areas, see the head for example.

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Grey marker for light areas
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Black marker for dark areas
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Black marker for areas between light and dark
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Some Black and some Grey

Work your way through the figure and draw in any panel lines and edges, once you think you’ve finished you can then assemble the figure. Doesn’t it look better already?

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Work your way through the figure
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Panel lines finished, Assemble!

Step 05. – Applying Decal

Alright, so the toy is looking much nicer with all the panel line details, but it is still lacking in the print department. This is where decals come in. There are a variety of decals to choose from in varying sizes, colours and styles. Here I’m using some “Caution” style decals and I’ve chosen to use the grey ones simply to match the rest of the figure. Black would have been too strong.

Custom Toy Tutorial - Choose your decal

First thing you have to do is to cut out the individual decal that you want to use, then put it against your toy to make sure it fits the space you want to apply it to. Then put the decal in water and let it sit for 10 to 30 seconds. Now the decal should fall off its backing paper quite easily and you can grab it with the tweezers.

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Cut out the decal
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Make sure it fits
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Put the decal in water
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Use the tweezers to grab the decal

Take it to the area to apply the decal to and once on the toy, you can nudge it into place. When you are satisfied with the placement of the decal, get a cotton bud and press down firmly and dry the area. Be careful not to touch the decal for at least 24 hrs with your fingers as they tend to stick to them. Now rinse and repeat throughout the figure.

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Take decal to area to be applied
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Nudge decal in place
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Press and dry with cotton bud
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Rinse and repeat!

Just a tip, sometimes the decal does not come off the backing paper by itself but you can encourage it with your craft knife. When applying the same decal to two separate parts such as the arms, you can use the ruler to get the spacing right.

  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Use the craft knife to encourage the decal
  • Custom Toy Tutorial - Use the ruler to measure distance

After 2.5 hours, its all done!! Well worth it in my opinion:)

Custom Toy Tutorial - All Done!

Finished Product:

Let’s take a look at the finished product compared with the standard.

Arbalest custom vs standard


  • Arbalest custom front
  • Arbalest custom back
  • Arbalest custom leg front
  • Arbalest custom leg back
  • Arbalest custom arms and back
  • Arbalest custom top back

To see the full review of this action figure, go here.

Thanks for reading my tutorial!

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    yeah.. sometimes i feel pre-assembled AF are too bland for my taste. so far i only do panel linings, but seeing how decals could make a great difference, i might gonna try it too. thanks ^^

  • agreed, decals adds so much realism to a figure! I do this for a few of my pre-assembled figures as well:)

  • hey there! i just wanna know if i can panel line robot damashii figures?
    what markers do i need to use? will the paint wear off? thanks

    • Hi John, you can draw panel lines on robot damashii figures, it helps to bring out a lot of the detail. I use fine-tip gundam markers to do this and it’s worked out well, and it won’t damage the paint work at all. Just make sure when you are drawing the panel lines, be very careful as the gundam markers are not easy to clean off if you do make a mistake!

    Hi! Great job on paneling and adding decals on the figure. Great tutorial too.

    I just wanna know if you did decals also on your Robot Damashii figures? I just bought my first RD figure which is Unicorn Gundam [Destroy Mode], and I would like to add some details into it, like panel lines and decals. I was wondering if I could use Gundam Decals 1/144 scaled on these RD figures?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi again. I didn’t realize at first that this was a RD figure. I guess my decal question had been answered. Sorry about that. If so, did you apply any Top Coat spray (Gloss, Semi-Gloss, Flat) on the RD figure so that it won’t mess up the panel lines and decals?

      Thanks again.

    • haha, not a problem. I didn’t apply any top coat on the figure as I didn’t have any but if you have some matte / flat top coat it would be a good idea to give it a quick brush as some decals tend not to stick very well to the PVC material that RD’s are made out of.

    Hey. Thanks for the quick reply. I was assuming that the decals should be great and will look awesome on RD’s.

    By the way, how’s your RD now? The one you used on this tutorial. Does it still have the decals after you played with it? Maybe the Top Coat should help a little bit on maintaining the decals. But I’m not so sure though, what Top Coats would do to PVC/POM materials.

    • No worries:) The decals do look great on the RD’s, thats something they lack from the factory I recon! My Arbalest is holding up pretty good still, one or two of the decal did come off but the rest are ok.

      A top coat should help, not too sure how the oil based ones will react with the PVC material but if you can find a water based one, it shouldn’t react with the plastic.

    Thanks! I was thinking of Mr.Color Spray Top Coat. The ones we use on model kits. I’m pretty sure it’s water based than oil based. Hmmmm… Might order those 1/144 scaled decals for the RD Unicorn soon. Thanks for the advice. ;)

    • not a problem, one thing you can do if you are still unsure is to do a little “test patch” on the bottom of the feet, just to see if the top coat will react to the plastic. Have fun modelling!:)

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