Adding Greeblies

Thoughts on those intricate details that make a model come to life

Intro to Greeblies

Greeblies or greebles is a term used to describe smaller bits layered on models to make them look more detailed and complex. In the world of Star Wars, ILM kit-bashed parts to add greeblies to the bodies of the vehicles. This made them look more interesting as well as more industrial. Also, some greeblies are mirrored on both sides, others are not. ILM created some interesting balance by adding say a large a sensor dish to balance out the side-mounted cockpit of the Falcon.

From the photos to the right, you can see how ILM added parts onto the 5-foot Falcon model. These parts were added in layers to build up the desired level of detail. You can also see how ILM added panels to build up the flat areas before adding more parts. Also, look at how ILM added pipes all over the surface.

My Approach to Greeblies

When I start a model, particularly of my own design, I often don't know where I'm going with the design. So, once I get the hull together, I pull out my boxes of parts and start adding the greeblies wherever they seem to fit. Now, this can be a slow process since I can be indecisive in the placement. But I have found some ideas that tend to help me.

  • You can have TOO many greeblies. I try to focus on patches or recessed areas/panels. One area with a lot of greeblies stands out more than a ship covered in greeblies. Think about the story you are trying to create - what kind of ship is it?
  • Work in layers to build up detail and don't worry if you want to come back to an area later.
  • Greeblies don't need to be symmetrical, but it helps to have a little balance. Maybe you can have some neat wires sticking out on one side and a sensor dish on the other. See the pictures to the right for some ideas.
  • Create interest. Along with balance, you can add interest by having something unique on one side that isn't mirrored on the other.
  • Greeblies don't always have to be super-detailed pieces. Simple detailing can be done with ejector pins found in model kits.
  • Also, slices of styrene strips can add a lot of detail. These can be as thick as you want and look like little power boxes. Channels are great for connecting greeblies or just adding something different.
  • For smaller scales, you can slice the super-thin .13 mm styrene sheets with a paper-cutter seen here. Then cut them with a chopper to make super-thin rectangles to add to your model. These make great panels and look more "in-scale" than the slightly thicker .25 mm strips.

All of these ideas play a part in how I like to do my models. I like to create visual interest by having different things on different sides on the model: different greeblies, different paint, different weathering. I want that when people see one side of my model, they then want to look at the other side. Every panel or area can be it's own canvass and create interest for the viewer.

In addition to balance and interest, greeblies can create a sense of direction. Think of how most of the greeblies on the Falcon or a Star Destroyer run parallel along the hull, indicating the direction of travel. I like to add most of the greeblies similar to this, following the direction of the ship. Then, if I want something to stand out, I place it perpendicular. Look at the photos to the right and at what stands out the most.

Finally, you'll see a lot of piping on Star Wars ships. You can replicate this by using styrene rods, pre-formed kit pieces, or brass rod. Kit pieces are sometimes fun since their pre-defined shapes force you to work in a certain way to place them. Styrene rods are really easy to use, just bend them gently over a little heat to make them retain the shape you want. Brass rods look stunning, but can be difficult to place - so take your time measuring and pre-drilling mounting holes.


  1. Wow… I talked about search of a good greebling theory tonight with friends. Haven’t see this so interesting page before! It will be translated for French fans in few days… 😉
    Thanks a lot Jonathan. Couldn’t come at a better moment

    • Awesome. I probably could have added more to the article, but it’s a good starting point. And thank you again for translating it.

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