Monday, January 2, 2012

First Custom Action Figure Complete

New Year is a time for many things.  Resolutions.  Hangovers.  Actually getting some snow in Minnesota for the first time this winter.  And new beginnings.  Which means its time to be done with the First Custom Action Figure Project.

Applying the clear coat.
As I write this paragraph, I am waiting for the sealant to dry on the figure so I can reassemble it.  While I wait, I'll reflect on what I did well and what I didn't do so well in this project.

What I did well.

1. Got a clue.  I wanted to do some custom painting, but I didn't know jack about how to actually paint.  I read some forums, watched some youtube videos, and found several great tutorials, but the problem with that was that most of them assumed the reader/viewer had at least some background with painting.  I didn't, so I bought some books aimed at beginners.  This was a good move.

2. Fully disassembled the figure before I began painting it.  Yes, it took time and was irritating, but it made painting everything much, much, easier.

3. Rotary Tool down the rub zones.  Again, this took time, but I think it was the right way to go, if all of the folks on the internet who know what they are doing are to be trusted.

4. Priming the figure.  Some people do not prime their work pieces before they paint.  Those people are taking the quick and easy way.  That is the path to the Dark Side.  If want are taking the time to actually customize a toy, take the time to do it right.  Primer makes the paint adhere to the object being painted.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I expect my customs to be family heirlooms that David Draper XXXVCII  hands down to his children.  That means I want them to last.  That means I prime my damn figures.

5. Come up with a color scheme before hand.  This was a very good idea.  I knew what I wanted.  That made it possible for me to not second guess myself when I was painting, which was good, because at my beginner level of painting I need to be able to concentrate completely on the actual painting, not on doubts I have about the choice of paint.

What I didn't do well.

1. I didn't know my paints.  Just because something looks one way in the bottle does not mean its going that way when it is applied to a surface.  That's a grade school mistake.  I ended up making swatches of all my paints, but I should have done this before I started.  It won't happen again.

2. I painted myself into a corner.  By painting details like eyes and ammo onto my figure, I made it impossible to paint a wash onto the figure without screwing that stuff up.  Washes are watered down mixtures of dark paint that fall into the recesses of a model and give the illusion of shadows and depth.  I could repaint, but eh.  Now I know the correct order to paint a model (once it is primed) is:

  1. Apply the base coats.
  2. Apply wash.
  3. Apply details. 
I won't screw that one up next time.

3. I didn't layer my paint.  When I started the project, I incorrectly thought the idea was to paint dark colors onto the object first, then lighter colors because the darker colors would show throw the lighter ones.  Yeah.  Not so much.  Lighter colors are painted on top of darker ones so the lower, more recessed areas of a model look darker, which, like the washes, helps give a sense of depth and and shadow.  I get that now.  I didn't when I started this project.

Ok- I think the clear coat should be dry now.  I'm going to go get everything from the porch and try to reassemble the figure.  Through the magic of blogging, you won't even notice the gap of time between when you read this paragraph and the next, even though the next will will be written minutes to half an hour after this one!


Ok.  This is the project that will not die.

All I had to do was reassemble the figure, right?  How hard could that be?

Ha ha ha!  Funny!  Ha ha ha!

These are the joys of doing something for the first time.  Surprisingly long and rather frustrating story short: the little pegs that go in the joints did not want to go back into the joints.  At all.  No matter how hard I pushed, they only went in about half way.  So I had to come up with a plan.  Here is what I did.

Fire it up! Fire it up! Fire it up!
1. Use a hair dryer to heat up the joints and make the plastic nice and flexible.
2. Insert peg.
3. Use my little desk vice with rubber grabbers to CRUSH THE *&^% JOINTS back together.

And this worked great, except for one thing.

THE *&^%^$^%#$ &$^%$#%^_)(*(*$&# vice rubbed the paint right off the pegs!!!!!

So some touch up work was needed.


Talhk, you Svine!  Vee haav your friends in Astreeah!!

Not so much.

In any case, things are back on track now.  As I type this, the second coat of paint is drying on the ends of the pegs viable from within each joint.  I am very happy that I had my little desk vice here- without it, I would have never been able to get those pegs back into their sockets. If and when this phase of the project is complete, my little desk vice is getting the MVP for this inning of play.

I really was not ready for the pegs to not pretty much slide right back into the joints. Sure, I figured I would need to heat the joints up again, but I thought that they would be soft enough for the peg to fit back in, but it became pretty clear pretty fast that this method was not going to work.  Thank goodness for the vice.  Too bad the paint came off.

Enough stalling... I think the paint should be dry at this point (my paint dries in about 20 minutes, and I only needed a bit, so it should be good now.)  Be right back.


Ladies and gentlemen.  It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, the NEW and IMPROVED Kinji "Rain" Shinto, of The Corps.  First a quick run back down memory lane- here is what he looked like fresh out of the package:

From the front.

From the back.

And here is what he looks like now!

Woo hoo!

Yee ha!!



I'm really happy with how this turned out.  I learned a lot of stuff from this project that I will be able to apply to future work.  And it ended up looking pretty good.  I'm pretty stoked right now.

Yeah baby!

This is a good time to mention I could have never finished this project without the support of many people, including most of all my wife, who was nothing but supportive of me spending so much of my free time here in my workshop putting this together.  I would also like to thank Mystic, Numbers, and all the rest of the folks who had supportive comments and advice here on the blog and in the threads on

I had a great time with this project, but I am also glad to move on to the next one.  It is going to be a vehicle.  Alpha class.  I think you know what project I am talking about.  If not, tune in next week at the latest to see.

Until next time,

David D.


  1. Yeah, sorry... always assume you'll have to do some touch-up work once it's reassembled. That said, I agree he turned out quite good.

    Because I've been mostly taught by Sensei Trylunaror (i.e. self-taught), I've even learned a couple of things in your little journey. For one, I have got to get a copy of that bloody e-book. I have yet to get a wash to look good, and my dry-brush attempts look like chaos incarnate. These are techniques I really want to learn more about.

    Can't wait to see what you do with the Cobra Trimmer! wait, is that right? :P

  2. Clipper, Knomadd! Clipper! Did you ever find a link to the ebook from MiniWarGamers?

    I've done a little dry brushing. You may already know this, but the best advice I have is pass the brush over a paper towel or something else until you don't see any paint come off of it, and THEN use it on your work piece. Other then that... I think its just you and your Sensei. ;-)

    Good luck.


  3. Clipper! Right! My bad. No I never found any link to the book. Some great threads in there forum covering a bunch that is likely in said book, but nay the book itself.

    I'll get around to trying the dry brush again soon enough. Returning to work after a lovely holiday break today means it will have to wait for a bit.

  4. Great work with the figure! You've put a tremendous amount of work and thought into it and it shows.

  5. Thanks, 1337W422102! It was a lot of fun. I learned a bit too.


  6. Dave, I am also a customizer in minnesota. Hit me up on Facebook. My name on there is Chris Happydaycustoms.