PVC Figures Industrial Painting Process Unveiled!

Following last week’s unveiling of the PVC figure moulding and production process, Hobby Don’s episode now uncovers the secret behind the colouring of our Good Smile Company figures. Watch the video to find out how these flesh-coloured PVC pieces are painted and assembled!

Once again, I shall just summarise the clip for those who either can’t understand, can’t stream or can’t be bothered.

1. The unassembled finished parts are sent to the "Pen You Bu" (Mandarin for Paint Spray Section) for assembly and painting.
2. The parts that have been painted are painstakingly wrapped in white paper to prevent scratches and damage prior to assembly. The example shown seems to be Ureshiko’s skirt.
3. There is quality control (QC) at many stages of production. Each component is thoroughly checked before assembly. This probably contributes to the overall high standards of GSC.
4. The parts that fail QC are touched up with paint if still usable. Those that aren’t are discarded.
5. The painters use normal airbrushes. The type that hobby modellers use. The type depends on the painter’s role. For example, one who does the big parts like umbrella has a much larger airbrush than one who just does the graduations/tones/shadows. Yes, it’s all painted by humans.
6. Now this part is interesting. The mask techniques are surprisingly simple, depending on the type of mask required. Remember how in hobby painting, we use masking tape, which is so labour intensive? These guys use a cardboard box, cut holes in the bottom and stick the parts in, exposing just the surfaces which need to be painted. Ingenious.
7. As for more complicated patterns, for example, that woman’s umbrella, a specialised clamp-like device covers the piece and exposes just the parts which have to be painted.
8. The painters also apply pre-shading to give the effect of more tone. This was sort of made common by Watanabe Max himself, where he sprayed a part black slightly before applying the actual paint coat.

That concludes the spray painting part. The show moves over to the "Yi Yin Che Jian" (Tampo printing Garage). For those not in the loop, tampo printing is a method of painting which is just stamping an ink-covered soft silicone head onto the part. It’s cheap, fast and accurate. I recall having an early article on this.

9. The secret behind PVC figure eyes are revealed! It is not decals as previously thought, but rather multi-layed tampo printing.
10. The tampo presses look like breasts.
11. Almost the entire process is automated here, so the results are very consistent.
12. The eyes and other fine details are done here.

Now it’s the assembly stage.

13. The individual parts are glued here.
14. An extra layer of finish is applied to the panties.
15. Since the parts are painted before they are assembled, the presence of seam lines are inevitable. Here at the assembly stage, some painting is done on the seams to hide them.
16. Another thing is, the colour could be inconsistent for two separate parts. It is also at this stage that a transition paintjob is applied to reduce any obvious non-standardisation in colour.
17. The figures are moved from one station to another via conveyor belt. Like a true assembly line now.

The final stage is packing. Again, it’s all by hand. China does have a lot of people I guess.

18. Each person is responsible for only one step of the packing. Person A puts Takako into her plastic holder. Then conveyor belts it to B who adds the base into the slot. etc etc.
19. That’s all folks.

16 Responses to “PVC Figures Industrial Painting Process Unveiled!”

  • Kinda sorry for folks working in there, well, not that any other factories are better(like those responsible for the ipod in your hand or the mouse you’re using or the t-shirt you’re wearing).

    For your record, hardly anyone in there lives a otaku life, so feel relief, no one is touching your stuff(by stuff I meant figurines) with erotic intent…

    btw, my friend once ran a factory like this, “it’s no different from a babie production line”, really. Period.

  • Sweat shop labour is essential for the Otaku industry in order to keep the price of figurines affordable.

    Down with the Labour unions!!!

    Yay to Third World Workers and Child Labour exploitation!!

    Viva la Capitalism!!

    (and remember, for the money that you repatriate to Japan when you purchase those figures, some of it might actually trickle down to feed hungry mouths in China.)

  • Thanks for the second summarization! Got some slow overseas streaming action going on. T_T

  • *Prays TO THE Chyu-Go-Ku-jins!! OMG!! to think i manage to read the whole 19 process and think of it in my head is hard!! CHINESE ROX!! i;m a chinese!! thats why, learn your chinese!! and furthermore, there are many talents in China. Most of ya anime are finished there. (ok.. only some.) they can 1:Draw 2)Figurines 3)3D stuffs 4)Paint 5)create viagra 6)YOu NAME IT!! *Prays to china/chinese

  • I’m going to wait until I get home to watch the video, but hand painted? Makes sense, given the small runs of these figures, just I always thought most of the color was done by machine and a part here or there was done by hand. So no wonder the paint jobs have been getting better and better…the workers have become very skilled!

  • What the hell is wrong with the cameraman?

  • That was interesting. :O

  • Thanks for an interesting look at the mass production techniques for these figures. We all knew they were made in China, but it just shows that if QC is tight enough, there is no difference in quality.

  • Kyaah~! NOO! It’s taking forever to buffer the video! Thank goodness tj_han comes to the rescue with a summary…

  • Does the video say what happen tot he rejects? I am betting most of the rejects probably wind up in Hong Kong or on Ebay.

  • whoa, I learned so much from that.

  • To fellow figurines,

    I want to see the video but I hate streaming… Anyone know how to capture the video stream into a file?


  • i cannot view the video that you are talking about when i click on the video it is someone racing.

  • anybody knows what paint they use to paint the PVC parts?

  • A brilliant post, many thanks for this. The types of durable paint used on figures would be interesting to know. I am also unable to find much information on multi-layed tampo printing, the Hobby Don Good Smile video link does not work anymore and I was interested to know if all items are painted? I believe skin colours are often through-coloured PVC?

    Very informative thanks very much.

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