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Tutorial: Custom Figures minus the glue, paint and sculpting


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#1 Peppermint_M

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 12:00 AM

As I wandered the highways and byways of the internet, I happened upon eBay, and hoping to pick up some interesting clones I haven’t reviewed yet I searched for things that “fit Lego”. This led me to amazingtoys4all... An eBay business seller of “custom” Lego figures. As I browsed deeper into their shop, all I could think was how these figures were really bad. All using a mix of official parts, aftermarket products and accessories from clone brands.
Discussion with some fellow Fellows led to ideas and I decided to share my tips on making cool custom figures without touching those sharpies, gluing a thing or sculpting plastic clay.

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Step 1: Sort ‘em out!
Here is how all my minifig parts that are not being figures are stored. I have a box of “historic” a box of random parts, a box of torsos by arbitrary “themes” a box of legs (printed, coloured hips and solid) and lots of other divisions I decided on as I sorted my collection. If your un-built figures are stored like this, it makes it much easier to make custom figures as and when you want to.

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Step 2: Purpose
What is your figure going to do? Is he/she just a normal citizen going about their business? Are they a knight ready for battle or a Spaceman off to explore? Once you have decided what they are going to do, you can start building. Real people are exempt  as you already have a solid idea(more on this later).

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Step 3: Colour scheme
Colour scheme is important, you don’t want them to look odd with non-matching colours or headgear that clashes. Just as you would plan a MOC, the colours of the figure are important.

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Step 4: Face
The face of your figure gives personality, a super angry face would look strange on someone shopping in Legoville (unless there is poor service I suppose) but a calm happy smile on a warrior in battle would also be a bit off. Even with little view of the face, like in the ninja headwrap, face is important.

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Step 5: The Figure
Choose one that fits purpose, sticks to your colour scheme and looks cool. Remember that some printing doesn’t match others, so always use a critical eye when pairing legs and torso, a figure can be ruined by too much going on between top and bottom.

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Step 6: Accessorise- Armour
Not needed for all figures and if it is a full top cover, no need to worry about much beyond colour for the torso. Make sure it stays in colour or is just the right “wrong” colour for the job.

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Step 7: Accessorise- Headgear
Remember your colour scheme? Once again it comes into play with headgear. A helmet or hairpiece looks better when it matches the rest of the figure, or is just the right different colour to the rest.

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Step 8: Accessorise - Tools
Choose a weapon or tool both suited to the person’s role in a scene and to their personality. The warrior maid wouldn’t suit a troll sword would she? And the sniper looks badbrick’d with a rifle like that.

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Step 9: Accessorise- Accents
This is an extra little tip to colour scheme, those little extras that make a figure “pop” really juxtaposed colours on the little details. Match them to the printing or just choose the spectrum opposite of the main colour. It helps to make a figure stand out from a crowd.

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Step 10: Accessorise – Extras
Cyborg arms, peg legs, hook hands. All these features help make a cool figure and all of them at once will make you a space pirate. Keep it cool and for figures like this OTT is the key! Not all figures need these things so don’t add them just for the sake of it.

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Step 11: The Final Figure
By now you have certainly built a figure, I can’t think of anything else possible to add to it. Once it is done, take a long look. Can you improve it? Does it look ok or does it look silly? Most importantly, does it look like you want it to?

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Real People

Get a picture, fire up Bricklink and start matching. I was able to make my friend, known for his love of blue shades, quirky T-shirts and fondness for jeans. I also whipped up a Tommy Cooper, all from a bit of browsing. These are much "easier" to make as you have a clear picture to work from, the hardest part is matching parts!

Don’t be afraid to use clone gear or aftermarkets if they provide just what you want but respect those who prefer to keep it “pure” and likewise for purists, respect those who like to use non-Lego.

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My example figure was made this evening. I decided to make a Goth Guy figure and thus selected a colour scheme (black, black and more black). I found a head that suited the “character” I wished to create and found a torso that worked, a pair of legs with printing that went well with the top and a hairstyle that matched the figure. A minor alteration to turn a jacket into a vest and thus a (hot) Goth Guy figure is created....

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I leave you with the remaining thumbnails of figures I decided to photograph, after all, 90% of my built figures are custom created. Take a gander, maybe you’ll get a good idea!

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#2 Big Cam

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 12:08 AM

Nice tutorial, some simple rules to keep figs looking good, I think this is a good idea.

#3 Peppermint_M

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 12:12 AM

It'll help with sig-fig making too. Plus with the new collectable figures providing a massive supply of new parts, there is going to be a whole lot more to work with in the world of Lego  :thumbup:

I am death. A wingèd beast. I am born on the velvet wings of night and I'm hungry for a feast. I am the nemesis of the vole. My heart is black as coal. You could kill me with a trowel. I am an owl.

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#4 prateek

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 04:32 AM

Thanks for this tutorial. Some people would be surprised how many people make ugly minifigs. They need this tutorial :tongue:

#5 kill will

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 05:00 AM

View Postprateek, on Feb 26 2010, 11:32 PM, said:

Thanks for this tutorial. Some people would be surprised how many people make ugly minifigs. They need this tutorial :tongue:
*cough* rainbow figs *cough*

Yes, even though this is very basic and I don't think many people on this site need the help, some people on, perhaps, the BA forums should read this.
I actually never customize minifigs other than mangling an arm or putting a hole through a head with my zombie figs, Lego has plenty of official parts to use.
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#6 Rick

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 09:18 AM

That's an excellent article Pep! I really like how you mix-and-match across different themes and how all of them are 'pure' Lego minifigs. Who'd expect that from the queen of clone brands? :grin:

#7 LuxorV

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 11:09 AM

Thanks for sharing this interesting tutorial, Peppermint_M!

I added it to the Index.


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#8 Sandy

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 11:09 AM

A lovely tutorial, indeed! I also use only pure LEGO parts for my fig customization, but I'm not afraid to mix'n'match to my liking.

I sort my pieces a little differently, but then again, I have less pieces than you. I have all my torsos in a different bin, and the other minifig parts sorted in one of those "screws & bolts" containers (don't know what they're called, really).

I separate hairpieces, castle-themed hats, pirate-themed hats, historical helmets, adventurers-themed hats and modern/futuristic headgear from each other. One slot includes all the shoulder-pieces (except cloth capes). Then there's the legs: slope dresses, colorful legs, grey legs, black&white legs and short legs. I've separated all yellow female heads, beardless heads, bearded heads and heads with glasses from fleshie heads and heads of other color. Finally there's slots for skeleton and ghost bodies.

But that's just me. :wink:

Btw, one thing you forgot to mention, Peppy, was the basic technique of using most torsos for both yellow and fleshie heads just by switching the hands or arms. That's especially useful if you don't want to mix yellows and fleshies, but still grave for more variety.

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#9 Peppermint_M

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 01:40 PM

Thanks for adding this to the tutorial index :thumbup:.
And thanks Sandy for mentioning hands, I wrote this a bit late and knew I had forgotten something!

I have loads and loads of figure parts, they were always a favourite part Lego and it is quite jarring to come across poorly co-ordinated figures on the internet. The can detract from an otherwise good MOC and spoil a good scene.

I am death. A wingèd beast. I am born on the velvet wings of night and I'm hungry for a feast. I am the nemesis of the vole. My heart is black as coal. You could kill me with a trowel. I am an owl.

Got Questions? Need help? New member? Read the site guidelines& Index of helpful tutorials

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#10 AwesomeStar

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 08:48 PM

Really cool tutorial, Peppermint M!

This is what I do a lot of the time anyway (besides my wanton addiction to Saber-Scorpion's Decals...) as it saves time, money and, well... time!  :tongue:

I'm really digging that Tommy Cooper, he looks perfect! :grin:

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