Super-charge your JLU custom figure building and painting
We learned these the hard way after many years of trial and error. Now you don't have to.
For everything that can go right when making your custom figure, there's probably fifty things that can go wrong. Not just a little wrong, the kind of problem that's fixed with an extra dab of Super Glue or maybe a touch up. We mean project destroying, off-the-rails trainwreck wrong. While probably nothing can stop those occasional disasters, there's also ways to reduce the odds that they'll happen. You can also save money while doing it, and help make your figure look as good as you possibly can.
The seven tips below are in no particular order, but they're all equally good at saving you time and money, while making your figures look better. And good luck on your next project.
1. Plan out your customizing projects, and coordinate the parts you'll need.
It pays to be organized. Before you start customizing, make a list of the next five figures you want to make. Many of the figures will likely share parts, or you'll be able to recycle parts you already have from previous projects - which will save you money and prevent long trips to the store or having to order online. You might find you'll be able to make, say, five figures from three new bases and some leftovers. But consider what parts you need first, so you'll know ahead of time.
Don't be afraid to trade parts, too. The CJ message boards has a whole forum dedicated to helping customizers get the parts they need without haunting the Targets or ebay.
2. Different kinds of paints work better for different colors.
Not all brands of acrylic paint are created equal. Some paint manufacturers are better at making some kinds of colors than others. As a general guideline, use Americana for white and black paint but also for darker shades of primary colors including reds, blues, and greens. Delta Ceramcoat works best for lighter colors and pastels, as well as for orange and yellow shades. Folk Art and Apple Barrel have a wide variety of hues and tints, and they make great topcoats after you've applied a base coat of Americana or Ceramcoat.
3. Undercoat your figures to get the best shine from your metallic paint.
Metallic paint looks great once it's finished (see the Golden Pharaoh figures below), but its chemical composition makes applying it directly to primer become problematic at best. Get around this shortcoming by undercoating with a comparable, flat acrylic shade of the paint you want to use. The base coat will accentuate the metallics' color, while its texture provides an easy binding surface for the paint itself. By the way, DecoArt makes the best (and widest) selection of metallic paints, especially gold and silvers.
4. Prep with flat white paint instead of primer, and use white wash as liquid primer.
Primer paint can be sticky, dull, and quick to mildew if left to stand for more than a few days at a time (especially during the warmer months.) By comparison, flat white paint gives a shinier surface and often coats better to plastic compared to conventional primer. It's also easier to find in crafts stores and even at Wal-Mart. If you're planning to customize a character using a bright color scheme, flat white paint can give the lighter-toned paint extra body.
For smaller projects or areas where spray priming is out of the question (such as on faces, hair, et cetera), Americana White Wash can serve as a liquid, brushable primer to help prepare the plastic surface for the paint.
For characters with darker color schemes, using grey primer instead of white paint will help give the paint a darker finish.
||5. Use traditional craft supplies for odds and ends, costume insignia, and for special details.
Most craft stores such as Michael's, A.C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby carry dozens of traditional craft-making supplies that be adapted to customizing with only a minimum of imagination. For example, the plastic tubing used in beadwork or jewelry creation makes great piping and tubing for custom figures. You'll save hours trying to paint or sculpt straight lines and cuffs by replacing Sculpey or rubber bands with ordinary strips of craft paper. Small bits of plastic, taken from any number of sources, works well in creating boot and belt buckles and similar accessories on costumes and uniforms.
6. Think outside the box for customizing tools and materials, then organize your toolbox.
Wire cutters, cosmetics scissors, hole punches, grommet clips and pins, and rubber and plastic plumbing washers can help you take your custom figure construction to the next level. Wire cutters are a quick, safe way to cut through arm and leg posts, while curved cosmetic scissors can help you smoothly and snugly trim rubber bands and other costume details. Hole punches can trim capes and insignia decals and for making crescent and oval-shaped decals. Grommet clips and pins can serve as belt buckles, amulets and medallions, and plumbing washers make great collars and mantles.
Organize all your raw materials quickly and cheaply: plastic sandwich containers are stackable, sturdy bins for spare parts, and a fishing tackle box can store your extra figures and accessories.
7. Push the envelope with your customizing choices.
The custom-making hobby has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, but there's still two ways to make a name for yourself and your customs: attention to detail and originality. It's one thing to make a well-made figure; making a well-made figure that no one's ever tried before gives your audience an extra layer of interest.
Wikipedia and its satellite wikis (including the visual reference database located on this site) contain hundreds of hero and villain characters, often with detailed costume studies and graphics. The logo and emblem thread, also located elsewhere on this site, contains the symbols and insignia for both DC and Marvel characters.
8. Join forces with the customizing community.
Finally, remember that the whole point of these boards is to share knowledge, experience, and insight. If you have a customizing question, ask any of the established customizers whose work regularly appears. Without exception they're a friendly bunch who'll be happy and a little flattered to share their expertise. In the meantime, use the tips above and remember to take your time. Making figures, for some customizers anyway, is half the fun. The other half is having them.
- Dr. Solstice