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Custom Figure Help?

Discussion in 'Action Figures' started by Hubert, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. Hubert

    Hubert Well-Known Member

    I don't really know much about making some custom figures, but I wanted to try and sort of experiment with it a bit. So I bought some Sculpey, and starting sculpting Zeke's head. I finished the head, but now I'm sort of stuck. What do I do next? I know I need to make his body, but when should it be attached to his head? Somehow attach it before it's baked? Bake the pieces separately and glue them together after? Like I said, I don't know much about custom figure making. Thanks for any help.
  2. bandit

    bandit Well-Known Member

    I don't know much about Sculpey, as I've never tried my hand at it but my best friend is all into that kind of thing and I can tell you what she did. Whenever she made figures, she always used pegs (usually toothpicks but it depends entirely on the size of you figure) and attached the parts using them while they were still unbaked. Then after she set them she baked them, pegs and all.
    It seemed to work pretty well for her. Try it!
  3. Hubert

    Hubert Well-Known Member

    I'll have to see if that will work. Thanks for the idea!

    The other problem I have is Zeke's neck shape. Since Zeke as a large beard, when you sculpt his head, beard and all, you basically have an upside down teardrop. The thing is, if you get what I'm saying, after the point of the beard in the front, it sort of slopes upward toward the back. I don't know how to make his neck to fit this shape. Should the top of the neck texture be sloped upward to fit his head shape?
  4. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    Photos would help us to give better specific responses, but just speaking generally...

    Sculpture benefits greatly from an under-structure. If you were building a real human being from scratch, you wouldn't start with the face and work your way down, right? You'd start from the inside, the skeleton, and work your way out.

    When I do Muppet figures, building the details over an existing action figure body saves me considerable engineering time. The points of articulation are already designed and worked out for me.

    But if you're making a figure entirely from scratch, here are some methods I would suggest:

    Sketch out the general shape you want on a piece of paper. Try to get it the size you want the figure to be, and don't be afraid to do several tries until you get it right. Once you have it the size and shape you want, draw lines down the center of each large area, where a 'skeleton' might go.

    Now you can use these measurements to make an armature, which is a fancy term for a wire skeleton to go inside your figure. You could use the armature wire that they sell for sculpture at craft stores, you could cut up a wire coathanger and bend it with a pair of needle-nose pliers, heck you could even crumple aluminum foil into the basic shape you want.

    Next, begin adding the modeling compound, in this case Sculpey, in blobs of the approximate shape of your sketch to the armature. Leave it a little smaller, because this is only the under-sculpture, the muscles if you will. We're gonna 'skin' it in another pass later.

    Normally at this point I would recommend also studying anatomy, understand where the bones in a person/animal normally are, how they move and why, where the muscles attach, where they bunch up and why. That's sort of a moot point in sculpting a Muppet, since they're more cartoony, but on the other hand the people that built the original puppets understood these things, so it could still be a beneficial course of study.

    Once you've got your undersculpture roughed in, start deciding about the placement of points of articulation. Do you want it to move at the neck and shoulders only? Are poseable hips important? Wrists? Think about these questions ahead of time and devise your internal connectors first. I recommend wooden dowels and simple rotation or 'pivot joints'. Hinge joints (like elbows and knees) and ball sockets (hips and shoulders) are much harder to create in miniature and should probably be left for more advanced projects.

    Figuring out the shape and mobility issues will be a matter of trial and error. Have fun. Experiment. Learn what does and doesn't work, and why. Getting these issues resolved at a crude stage will lead to less heartbreak than if you're trying to figure them out on an intricately detailed piece.

    When you have the under-figure the way you want, cure the Sculpey. I don't bake mine, I boil it. Less hassle, less fumes.

    Now you're ready to begin skinning the figure, adding the outermost level of details. If you want it to have the level of texturing that a Palisades figure has, you MUST cure the Sculpey in small areas as you go. For example, sculpt the chest, then cure it. That way when you're sculpting the arms, you can handle it by the chest without leaving fingerprints in the still-soft Sculpey of the chest.

    Always work from inner to outer. When I did my Link Hogthrob in disco attire, I did his chest, then his chest hair, then the open V-shape of the shirt buttons and buttonholes, and then the collar.

    Things like beards that cross a point of articulation can be a real engineering problem. On Link I had a conflict between the placement of the Palisades pivot joint at the top of the boot, and the new design which had long pants legs. I first tried to leave in the joint by leaving a horizontal split in the bellbottoms just below the knee, but the Sculpey kept shattering every time I would try to move it. Eventually, to give strength to the design, I had to lose the point of articulation entirely. I glued the pivot joints shut, and made the bellbottoms solid from the knee down.

    You may have to sacrifice the neck pivot to strengthen the beard by making it a solid part of the chest.

    I hope some of these tips help out.

  5. muppetlover123

    muppetlover123 Well-Known Member

    yeahh i always wanted to know how to make one too lol
  6. Mad Monty fan

    Mad Monty fan Well-Known Member

    I might just go back over and modify my Spotted Dick and Louis Kazagger figures. The noses on both of them look fine, but it's just the feet and arms that I'm going to fix, so that they don't look quite so big/small But my only question is will the paint on them wear off in water? Because I put a lot of hard work into painting them and I would hate to have the paint wear off.

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