This simple and easy to follow tutorial on how to make an a custom action figure will explain the tools required and how to set up your workbench.
But what is a Custom Action Figure?
Why do people make their own Custom Action figures?
In this article we’re going to be looking at the materials that I use when I customize my action figures.
We’ll start with the general area itself.
Firstly there’s the desk.
The one I have is Ikea and I’ve covered it with the plastic sheeting that is used to cover your furniture when you’re decorating around the house. I threw it over the table, taped it down, and it helps protect the desk and over time makes it easy to clean.
I’ve also got a cutting mat, which is where I do most of my work. I would always try and have a desk that you work on with a surface you’re not afraid to damage and is resistant to heat, impact, cutting, and your own blood and sweat and tears. That’s why I have the cutting mat there.
For light, I have this standing light with a white light bulb, not the yellow light that you normally get for light bulbs. It’s also an LED light, so it’s pure white. This is important to ensure I have a good idea what the colors are going to look light in dayligh. A yellow light can alter the shades of colors. I’ve also got light from two different angles as this helps to eliminate shadows when you’re working.
The most expensive single tool I use is my Dremel Stylus but I really recommend your getting one. You’ll can get a lot of different rotary tools, and these will be used extensively.
Essentially, it’s just a thing that spins and has variable speed settings at the end, it’s difficult to do one-handed but this has a nice grip.
You can get many different types of rotary tools that will do much the same job but they will wear out very, very quickly. Dremel is a really reliable brand and this is a really good model.
The Dremel Stylus also has a base that you can charge it on. You can also get corded ones, so you don’t have to charge them, which can be useful as there have been times when I have run out of charge while customizing a figure, with a cordless one you also have to wait a minute or two for it to re-charge before you can continue. However, on the up side a cordless Dremel you the freedom to move about without the cable getting in the way.
You can get different ends for it and this is a cutting end for going through plastic and whatever, but there but I’ve got lots of others for sanding down etc.
Dremels are very good for everything, I would say, for all those brutal jobs where you’d really have to get in and get right to the plastic but for more intricate work, you’ll need to get your sandpaper out and then smooth things down. But you can do a lot with a Dremel and really if you’re serious about customizing, you have to get one. That’s all there is to it.
Moving on, you shouldn’t forget the safety goggles, but this is something I always forget. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t wear them or it’s a waste of time.
I always forget to put them on and then I end up getting flying bits of whole plastic coming off and flying into my eyes when I use the Dremel so please do use your safety goggles.
It feels stupid and whatever but you don’t want to go blind really, do you?
For the sculpting I use Milliput Superfine White. It tells you how to use it. This is a British product made so it’s easy for me to get.
If you live overseas, there may be another brand that’s more easily obtainable than this. I find it’s very reliable. I’ve never used anything else so this is what I’ve adapted my customizing to suit the materials. It’s actually very good. This is a Superfine White but you can get a lot of other kinds of epoxy.
Now an epoxy putty, for those who don’t know, is like clay. But with clay, you have to wait for it to dry and then you have to put it in a kiln and fire it and then it becomes hard, or you can get some other air drying clays that become hard without the kiln part.
Essentially, epoxy putty is a type of clay that comes in two parts and you mix them together in equal amounts which causes a chemical reaction when the two substances meet and they harden over time.
This really depends on the temperature so it can take two hours, it can take four hours, but generally within six hours, it’s rock hard and it’s basically much like a ceramic or stone when it’s hardened. That’s what I use.
To shape the putty, I use cuticle sticks from just a drugstore. This is a cuticle stick. So it’s just a wooden stick and it has this kind of sloped end. This is really good for sculpting. When you sculpt, you want to keep your fingers away from it when you’re putting in the detail.
Your fingers are good for general shaping but they leave fingerprints and this sort of shape is great for sculpting. You can get one with a sort of rubber tip on that I think is used for oil painting. Those are also good and very reusable but they’re quite an outlay at the start so I just use these.
Toothpicks are always useful as well. They always come in useful for sculpting and just little things.
Flossers, this might be useful for Dormammu if he’s got that black frame cage thing around his head which is pointed. This, I’m not so much interested in this end.
This end is very useful for creating spikes and you can also bend it a little so it’s good for creating a little bended shape and that’s probably what we’re going to be using for the frame around Dormammu’s head.
I also have here a mug.
Now this is a really old, gross mug, as you can see. When I sculpt, because it can take, like I said, up to six hours for it to be really firm and fully cured, I will boil some water, put it in here, and put the sculpted stuff in here and hold it for maybe five minutes.
Like I said, the heat makes a difference and the heat of the boiled water, not boiling—don’t be using that hot water on it; your figure will warp—the boiled water and the heat from it will just cure it within five to ten minutes.
That’s going to be really useful for something like Dormammu where we’re going to be sculpting some flames and then coming back later.
What have we got next?
Next up we’ve got a glue gun. Glue guns are really useful for when you need to attach surfaces that may not match exactly.
Super glue is very good for attaching two surfaces that are completely flat to each other but if there’s any unevenness, super glue has a problem and that’s where hot glue can come in.
It can create a sort of, I would say, a temporary bond that you can then sculpt over or make a band or attachment. So hot glue is really good and extra hot glue sticks. Super glue will be your amazing friend. But be prepared to glue your fingers together.
A craft knife is really, really important and it’s also really important that you take care with of it.
These things are horrendously sharp. I don’t think you can really see down there that the joint of my finger to the hand, that’s an injury that Doctor Doom did to me back when I was but a teenager and I learned the danger of craft knives firsthand.
I just use this really cheap, basic craft knife. It was only about three pounds and it’s taught me well.
Paint, I use Games Workshop paint. People will discuss over and over what’s the best paint to use. The answer is the best paint to use is the paint that you have the best success with.
Different people use different approaches within different climates. Paint reacts differently to those different approaches and climates so just go with that works with you. I find that Games Workshops paints work for me.
They’re also called Citadel. I’m never quite sure of what the divide between Games Workshop and Citadel is. Anyway, they’re one and the same as far as I’m concerned.
They do have a habit of—I don’t know if it’s annually or every other year—they change the names of their paints. One year, you could be using Blood Red. The next year, you’re using Orc’s Tampon Red or something like that.
I have no idea. They keep changing it. You’ll see they keep changing the way the bottles look as well.
These ones are really old, with the black caps, and then they changed to one with white caps, and then they changed to clear ones. Anyway, it’s all good paint inside. According to the guy in the shop, they’ve recently really improved them.
Whenever you go in the Games Workshop, the staff have a habit of asking you what you are painting.
This is just one of my pet peeves. It’s frankly none of their business. It’s certainly not the little miniatures. I’m not going to go and get another Warhammer thing that they keep inviting me to. I’ll often go and buy one pot of paint. They say, “Oh, who are you painting?” I’m like oh, a custom action figure.
They’re like, “Oh.” End of conversation. Just don’t bother asking me. I just want your paint. Pet peeve, I’m ranting about.
Okay, so there are a few different types. I’ll just update you on what the current situation with the paints are. Basically, I only use two types of paint. I’m not saying two colors.
I use Base and I use Color. Now these are the different types of paint. The Base will cover almost any surface. You tend to have a problem, for example if I was to paint normal white paint on top of black, it wouldn’t cover it. You would see the black through it. You’d have to do more layers of white.
The Base paint is very good at covering. Like I said, it’s good for a base color. Citadel Games Workshop, they used to do these—it was basically the same thing—called Foundation. They’ve recently improved them to be the Base series.
The problem with them is that they come in very dingy colors. You won’t find any bright colors in the sort of Foundation or base series. For example, this is their yellow.
See, you can just see the difference between the Foundation yellow and the Color yellow. So they come in very dingy colors. They’re good for a base so that the other paints will cling onto them but you really shouldn’t be using them as the final coat on any of your customs.
Mainly, we’ll be using the Color series. These are very good. They come in so many colors, through the various tones as Golden Yellow and Sunburst Yellow. They’re just very good. I think I have a lot of success with them. So that’s the paint side.
Of course, to use paints we need paint brushes.
I’ve got a lot of paintbrushes that I’ve collected over the years for many uses. I do try and keep them nice but it’s not always successful. You forget to wash them or keep them well. In general, I would paint very roughly with a very cheap paint brush that you just get in a pack of five or whatever.
Then if I’m dry brushing, which if you don’t know what I’m talking about I’ll explain at the paint time. I use a broad bush. Maybe each brush is going to cost you o two or three pounds each. For a bigger one, it might be more expensive. These are Games Workshop and Citadel brushes as well.
Sometimes, you can go into art stores and there are some fibers and brushes. You just have to take your pick. If you just go to Games Workshop, I’d pick four of their brushes, a small one, a medium one, a big one, and then a sort of small dry brush one like what I’ve got here for dry brushing, very good for small dry brushing and sort of smaller it is. Come on. There we go. I’ll get it out of the way. You know you don’t need to buy more than five brushes really. I’ve got quite a large collection, like you see.
You’ll need some cloths. They’re good because you’re going to spill stuff. You’re going to make a mess. You’re going to have to wipe off your brushes.
Just get these cheap cleaning cloths from the supermarket. You’ll need water. If you’ve got a tin of Patak’s Butter Chicken and it’s got water in it. I will say that you should always try and have clean water.
Of course, I try. It’s just that never really happens. My water will often cross multiple customs and you’ll notice eventually when you go and try and paint something, it only just comes out black. You’re like yeah, I should maybe clean the water.
I think that’s about all of the essential materials.
I do have headphones here. This represents something that we’re not going to be using to actually customize but I think it’s a very important part of the process that while it’s a lot of fun to customize, it’s easy to get distracted so bring your own entertainment that’s going to keep you going through the customizing process.
Have a movie on. Have some music on. Watch YouTube channels. Just be prepared to keep yourself entertained so you can sit there for a long time. It’s a long process so the less distractions, the better.
Oh, one final thing. Just bring old and ratty clothes that you are not going to be sorry that you get dirty. There will be times when you’ll be painting and your cloths are on the floor and you just need to wipe it off. That’s fine. You’ll be sculpting. You’ll have the clay on your hands and you just need to wipe them off. So just go wipe them off on your trousers. Everything will be fine. I think that is everything now. Basically, we’re ready to get started on the custom.