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How to Make a Custom McFarlane Sports Pick
Like many other McFarlane Sports Picks collectors, I wish I could sit at the table as they decide which players are made, what poses they have, and what uniforms they are in. That’s where custom figures come in. Maybe I can’t have a say in McFarlane’s decisions, but I can create a custom figure of whoever I want!
Simply put, custom minifigures involve taking an existing minifigure apart, making modifications to it, painting it, and reassembling it. There are many ways to create a custom. What I have included in these instructions is a combination of my personal experiences and those of other customizers. Please feel free to email me if you think there is something important missing. I plan to update this page regularly based on the feedback I receive.
Doing a custom for the first time is not cheap. The good news is that once you have these things, you probably won’t need to replace most of them for a while. In parentheses I put approximate prices so that you have an idea of the costs associated with the manufacture of a custom-made one. The best place to get most of these things is at an art store like Michael’s. You can also get a lot of these things online.
- Brushes – get one or two as small as 10/0 and 5/0 for detail plus larger brushes for larger areas ($10)
- Economy pack of acrylic craft paint (usually contains about 32 1/6 oz of colors). This is great for colors you just need a little ($15)
- 2oz. acrylic paints for more frequently used colors ($1 each).
- Testers Primer ($4)
- Microscale Decal Solutions: Micro Sol, Micro Set, and Liquid Decal Film ($10)
- Testors Clear Glossy Acrylic and Clear Flat Acrylic ($8)
- Decal paper ($1 per sheet, usually sold in quantities of at least 20)
- Scissors, tape, crazy glue, brush cleaner, exacto knife, sandpaper, clay, and whatever else you think you need ($40)
- Figure ($10 and up)
- Decide who you want to do and find as many photos of them as you can. Google and eBay searches are great ways to find photos, as well as old magazines, sports cards, and posters.
- Decide which McFarlane figure you want to paint. A good place to look at photos of all the figures is on the McFarlane site. Try matching special features like the style of helmet they wear, straps, shoe styles, and anything else that might require you to add or remove excess work.
- Buy the figure. You can compare figures for sale on eBay, Amazon and SportsLizard.com to find the best deal.
- Open the figurine and clean it with mild soap and water.
- Decide what you will need to disassemble to be able to paint the figure. It varies from figure to figure. You want to make sure that you can easily paint all visible parts of the figure. Sometimes it requires a lot of disassembly (head, helmet, face mask, hands, etc. on a football figure) and sometimes there is no disassembly at all (a basketball figure).
- Soak the figurine in very hot water to soften the rubber. This will allow you to remove all the parts you need. An exacto knife can also be useful here to help remove parts.
- Prime figure with a few thin coats of white or gray primer. Don’t forget to mask all the parts that you are not going to paint.
- Paint the figure from light to dark, leaving a white spot in any area that will need a decal. You usually need about three coats of paint for it to look good. If you need more, do more. Much 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 other sports teams. If they have the team you’re looking for, you’re set. Alternatively, look on LogoServer to find your team logo and use Jomo to find a team with a similar letter/number font to the team you are looking for.
- Create Decals. Use photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop to resize images and change colors if needed. Be sure to print once in black and white on plain paper to ensure they are the correct size before using the sticker paper.
- Coat the decals with Liquid Decal Film. Be sure to do two or three coats to ensure the colors will not run when the decal gets wet.
- Cut out the decalsleaving as little space as possible around the image.
- Apply Decals. Coat the area in the figure with Micro Set before application. Wet the back of the sticker paper (either with a brush or by dipping it in water) and slide the sticker into place. Coat the decal with Micro Sol to soften it and carefully push the decal into any creases or uneven surfaces.
- Paint around the decals to blend them.
- Reassemble the figure. Use an exacto knife to cut the joints to help them fit together better. Use Crazy Glue if needed.
- Add dirt or grass patches to your figure if you want. The best method is to brush it with “dry paint”. This can be done by letting the paint dry on your brush and then brushing the dry paint onto the figure. Be sure to use an old brush when doing this.
- Apply a few light coats of Flat Clear Acrylic on all surfaces except decals and helmets.
- Apply glossy clear acrylic to decals and helmets. You can spray it with a spray bottle or brush it gently.
- To take a position. You can modify the original stand, mount it on a piece of wood (drill holes the same size as the pegs on the miniatures), or create your own stand. Some people also like to make custom packaging for their figurines. You can have packaging made for you by VansCustomFigures.
Visit our complete customs guide for more information and photos.
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