As you create more and more customs, your skills will improve naturally. However, there are a few things that have helped me over the last nine years of customizing, and I wanted to share them with you. Some of these seem obvious, but I think it helps to repeat these time-tested words of wisdom and applying them to our little hobby.
1. Listen to criticism
I picked the Doctor Who image above, because this was a case where the criticism I received from others directly lead to a better custom in the end. You can see a picture of my original Tom Baker custom here. I used that hairpiece because it was the best match for Tom Baker’s curly mop of hair. After posting it online, several people pointed out that his hair is actually much larger than the hairpiece I had chosen. One helpful individual even sent me pictures of his 7″ Tom Baker figure from multiple angles to help me see how his hair was shaped. I revisited my custom, and sculpted on some additional hair with Apoxie Sculpt. The result was a much improved likeness that I could really be proud of.
2. Don’t settle for fixable mistakes
If you make a mistake when you are working on a custom, such as a line that got too thick, or a smear of paint that ran over another color, it is always worth it to go back and fix this mistake. This will take a little more time in the end, but the final result will be a more professional looking custom, especially if you are posting pictures online. The camera is great at revealing every little flaw! Plus you will know that you didn’t cut any corners with your custom, and you put your best effort into it.
3. Look at customs from other lines
There are a lot of great minimate customizers out there, but the number of customizers for lines like Marvel Legends is much higher. I routinely look at customs from action figure lines such as Mighty Muggs, Marvel Legends, DC Universe, and 1/6 scale figures. Not only is it great inspiration for new characters to make into minimates, but these artists often find new customizing tricks that can be applied to minimates. When I decided to make a custom Sauron minimate, the first thing I did was to go online and see how other customizers handled the challenging subject of wings.
4. Follow your inspiration
I have always felt like my best customs have been the ones that I felt most inspired to create. After I watched a Dr. Who episode with Davros in it, I could not wait to customize him. I started on him immediately, and I had a blast making him. I don’t think he would have turned out as well if I hadn’t felt that initial spark. From what I have seen in looking at other customizers’ work, this seems to be a common factor. One minimate customizer that comes to mind immediately is Bob Harris. His gallery of work is smaller than most customizers, but there is a lot of passion behind it. When you read his comments, you can tell that each one of his amazing customs was a product of inspiration. You can see Bob’s gallery here.
5. Make a custom for another person
When you are making a custom for someone else, whether it be a commission or a gift, you have a slightly different frame of mind. You start paying attention to things that you ordinarily might not care as much about, such as adding details inside of the knee joints. This focus will help you make a better custom, and you will find yourself focusing more on all of your customs. This leads me to me next point:
6. Take your time!
When you are working on something as small as a minimate, the tiny details can be the most important ones. If you rush through a custom, you might have a line that is slightly crooked, or two parallel details that don’t line up as they should. Customizing should be a fun hobby, so take your time and enjoy it. Sometimes it also helps to take a break from a custom, and revisit it the next day with a fresh set of eyes.
7. Master the basics
There are some standard customizing skills that apply to almost any action figure line. If your paint jobs end up lumpy, take the time to learn how to do it right. Perhaps you need to thin your paint, or you might need a different paint brush, or the brand of paint might not be appropriate for your custom. If your sculpts end up lumpy, you should triple the time you spend sanding your sculpts, and you should consider starting with a lower grit sandpaper, and moving to a higher one. Once you learn to give a figure a clean paint job and a smooth sculpt, the sky is the limit! Which leads me to my final point:
8. Try new things!
I can’t believe how much I have learned by starting this blog. Without it, I might not have taken the plunge into new customizing tools like decal paper, packaging, LED lighting, and alternate materials like glass and metal. If you look at my customs before I started the Factory, and the customs in the months that followed, you can see a clear difference. The risks payed off, and I highly recommend that any customizer start trying some of these things, as well as others! I think that using decals is a great first step. They are easy to apply, and they will elevate your customs to a whole new level. We have decal paper available in the store, or you could start with one of our pre-made kits.
Can you recommend anything else? I would love to hear any suggestions you might have on becoming a better customizer. I am definitely not the final word on the subject, and I am still have areas that need improving, just like anyone else.
In the meantime, good luck with all of your customs!
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