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Author Topic: Custom Tips and Tricks  (Read 2240 times)


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    • Gregorbian's Customs
Custom Tips and Tricks
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2012, 09:28:08 AM »

This thread will be dedicated to "tips and tricks" related to customizing.  Please feel free to post any helpful tips you have.

I recommend using Acrylic paints when painting figures.  Many model kits require enamel paints; however these tend to be tacky when applied to a plastic figure. 

Priming - many customizers choose to apply a layer of primer (or a base coat) to their figure before painting.  This will help the paint adhere to the figure and tends to be more durable.  If you choose to prime your figures, make sure the layer of primer is thin so you do not lose any details on the figure.  It is also helpful to wash the figure in soapy water prior to painting, as this will remove any residue from the factory.

Personally, I usually apply a base coat of regular black or white paint. 

Citadel paints are my absolute favorite and pretty much all I use for all of my customs.  They adhere very well to plastics.  If you are just getting started and want a cheaper alternative to Citadel Paints, you can go to your local craft store (A.C. Moore or Michael's) and purchase the craft acrylic paint.  I am a fan of Martha Stewart's line of acrylic craft paint available at Michael's Craft Stores.

- dry-brushing - This will highlight the edges/details of a figure.  This technique is a great way to show the raw metal of armor, to highlight dirt/grime, to bring out the details of a piece, or to bring depth to a sculpt.  Simply take the color you want to highlight (ex. Citadel Mithril Silver to highlight the metal of the armor showing underneath the regular paint job), dab a bit on your brush, and wipe most of the paint off.  Then apply quick brush strokes over the area you want to highlight.  Since the brush is mostly dry, the paint will not seep into the recesses of the figure and will only adhere to the raised portion of the sculpt. 

(this was a custom reimagined Dulok from the old Star Wars Ewoks cartoon.  I figured it was the best picture I had representing this technique.  You can see the base coat was black and I excessively dry-brushed green over the base coat.  The more layers of dry-brushing, the more saturated the colors become.)

- washes - This technique is essentially the opposite of dry-brushing as the paint will enter the recesses of the sculpt.  To do this, take a darker color paint (I usually apply washes with black or dark brown), dilute it into a small container (soda bottle caps or old paint bottles work great).  You can play with the ratio of dilution, but I usually fill a soda cap about 3/4 full of water, then dip my paint brush into the base color I want to use, then wash it in the soda cap.  Make sure the brush is saturated with the diluted paint and liberally apply it over your figure (or the area you want the wash to cover).  The paint will probably get everywhere since it is so diluted, so be careful.  After you have finished covering the area, take a paper towel and wipe the figure.  This will wipe away the "wash" on the raised areas and will leave the "wash" in the recesses of the sculpt.  Combining a wash with dry-brushing can really add a lot of depth to a custom paint job. 

- Sealing a figure - There are many good sealants available.  They are usually available in an aerosol can.  Some sealants may turn a whitish color if you apply too much (or sometimes just as a reaction to the paint).  I highly recommend Testor's Dull-Cote. It is a matte sealant available at craft stores (I get mine from A.C. Moore and Michael's).  You also can't go wrong with anything made by Games Workshop/Citadel, but they are a bit pricier.  For gloss coats, I recommend Citadel 'ard coat.  It is a high gloss sealant that works great for painting visors or eyes. 

- Putty - I use various 2-part epoxy putties in my customs.  My favorite is Aves Apoxie Sculpt.  It hardens pretty quickly and you can sand and paint the putty when it has dried.  You can use a wet finger to smooth over the surface and remove any finger prints.  I also like using Mighty Putty ( "As seen on TV" bathroom putty).  This hardens in a few minutes, but is slightly harder to work with.  It is great for securing parts together, but I wouldn't recommend using it to sculpt small details.  Finally, I love Games Workshop "Green Stuff" putty, which was already discussed in this thread.  You can get some amazing details with Green Stuff.  The only draw back is the price - it is fairly expensive and comes in small quantities.  I try to save my Green Stuff for small detailed portions and use Aves Apoxie Sculpt for the larger areas. 

- Sculpting tools - Obviously, most craft stores sell clay sculpting tools, but you can usually get by with cheaper alternatives.  I highly recommend checking out your local Dollar Store.  I use dollar-store fake XActo knives and precision (jeweler) screw driver sets for my sculpting purposes.  You can get interesting shapes and details using the various screwdrivers and fake Xacto knife blades. 

- Boil and pop - this is a tried and true customizing technique dating back to the vintage Star Wars figures days (and maybe even earlier).  It is used to separate pieces safely and without permanently damaging the figure.  I put a cup of water in the microwave for about 3 minutes.  The water will be extremely hot when you take it out.  BE VERY CAREFUL - SOMETIMES WHEN YOU PLACE AN ITEM INTO A CUP OF MICROWAVED HOT WATER, THE WATER WILL EXPLODE OUT[/u].  Place the figure or the part you want to separate into the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove the figure (I use a plastic fork or chopsticks) and place it on a paper towel to dry off.  Again, be careful since the boiling water can get into the hollow inside of the figure and come out as you are handling the figure.  The figure should be extremely pliable at this point.  You can then pop the joint out.  This technique works best on knees, elbows, wrists, feet and heads.  Sometimes the torso of a figure is made from a harder plastic and will not become as pliable as the limbs.  This makes it very difficult to remove shoulder joints from the torsos.  Unfortunately, this is true of many modern hasbro figures.  However, I have boiled and popped many elbows/knees/etc. with great success. 

If you have any other customizing tips or tricks, please feel free to post them here!
The scariest thing that I've ever seen,
is the terrible AT-AT walking machine.
It's as big as a house on walking legs,
and whatever it steps on it crushes like eggs.
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