Like many other collectors of McFarlane Sports Picks, I wish that I could have a seat at the table when they decide what players are made, what poses they have, and what uniforms they are in. This is where custom figures come in. Maybe I can’t have a say in McFarlane’s decisions, but I can create a custom figure of anyone I want!
Simply stated, custom figures involve taking an existing figure apart, making modifications to it, painting it, and putting it back together. There are many different ways to make a custom. What I included in these directions is a combination of my personal experiences and of those of other customizers. Feel free to email me if you feel there is anything important that is left out. I plan to regularly update this page based on the feedback I receive.
Making a custom for the first time is not cheap. The good news is that once you get these things you probably won’t need to replace most of them for a while. In parenthesis I put approximate prices so you get an idea about the costs associated with making a custom. The best place to get most of this stuff is at an art store like Michael’s. You can also get a lot of this stuff online.
- Brushes – get one or two as small as 10/0 and 5/0 for details as well as some wider brushes for larger areas ($10)
- Acrylic craft paint value pack (usually contain around 32 1/6 oz. colors). This is great for colors that you just need a little of ($15)
- 2 oz. acrylic paints for colors used more frequently ($1 ea).
- Testors Primer ($4)
- Microscale decal solutions: Micro Sol, Micro Set, and Liquid Decal Film ($10)
- Testors Gloss Clear Acrylic and Flat Clear Acrylic ($8)
- Decal paper ($1 per sheet, usually sold in quantities of at least 20)
- Scissors, masking tape, crazy glue, brush cleaner, exacto knife, sand paper, clay, and anything else you think you may need ($40)
- Figure ($10 and up)
- Decide who you want to make and find as many photos of them as you can. Google and eBay searches are great ways to find pictures, as well as old magazines, sports cards, and posters.
- Decide which McFarlane figure that you want to paint. A good place to look at pictures of all the figures is on the McFarlane site. Try to match special features like the style of helmet they wear, wrist bands, shoe styles, and anything else that might cause you excess work to add or remove.
- Purchase the figure. You can compare figures for sale on eBay, Amazon, and SportsLizard.com to find the best deal.
- Open the figure and clean it with a mild soap and water.
- Decide what you are going to need to disassemble to be able to paint the figure. This varies from figure to figure. You want to make sure that you will be able to easily paint every visible part of the figure. Sometimes this requires a lot of disassembly (head, helmet, facemask, hands, etc on a football figure) and sometimes there is no disassembly at all (a basketball figure).
- Soak the figure in very hot water to soften the rubber. This will enable you to take off any parts that you need to. An exacto knife can also come in handy here to assist in the removal of parts.
- Prime the figure with a few thin coats of white or gray primer. Remember to mask off any parts that you aren’t going to paint over.
- Paint the figure from light to dark, leaving a white patch in any area that will need a decal. You usually need to do about three coats of paint to get it to look good. If you need more, do more. A lot of it depends on the color of your primer and the color you are painting.
- Find numbers and logos for decals. The best place to locate numbers to work with is the ‘Logos and More’ section on Jomo’s Customs. They have templates for all NFL teams and many teams from other sports. If they have the team you are looking for then you are all set. If not, look on LogoServer to find your teams logo and use Jomo’s to find a team with similar letter/number font to the team you are looking for.
- Create decals. Use a photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop to size the images and change colors if necessary. Be sure to print once in black and white on regular paper to make sure they are the proper size before using the decal paper.
- Coat the decals with Liquid Decal Film. Make sure to do two or three coats to ensure that the colors won’t run when the decal gets wet.
- Cut the decals out, leaving as little room as possible around the image.
- Apply the decals. Coat the area on the figure with Micro Set before applying. Wet the back of the decal paper (either with a brush or by dipping in water) and slide the decal into place. Coat the decal with Micro Sol to soften it and carefully push the decal into any folds or irregular surfaces.
- Paint around the decals to blend them in.
- Put the figure back together. Use an exacto knife to trim the joints to help them fit together better. Use the crazy glue when necessary.
- Add dirt or grass stains to your figure if you want. The best method is to brush it with “dry paint.” This can be done by letting paint dry on your brush and then brushing the dry paint on to the figure. Make sure to use an old brush when doing this.
- Apply a few light coats of the Flat Clear Acrylic to all surfaces except decals and helmets.
- Apply the Gloss Clear Acrylic to the decals and helmets. You can spray this on with a spray bottle or gently brush it on.
- Make a stand. You can modify the original stand, mount it on a piece of wood (drill holes the same size as the pegs on the figures), or create your own stand. Some people also like to make custom packaging for their figures. You can have packaging made for you by VansCustomFigures.
Visit our complete customs guide for more information and photos.