Post by AK_Brickster on Jul 27, 2016 11:27:22 GMT -8
The Art of the Minifigure - Tutorial and Community Discussion
Hi there MB'ers!
I thought I would start a thread that's somewhat a tutorial on how to make top-shelf minifigures, since that is somewhat a passion of mine. We'll be focusing primarily on "purist" minifigs, and how to mix-and-match official parts to create original combinations that look terrific.
Topics: Purpose of the Fig Color Blocking Personality Accessorizing Mixing Old and New Parts Customizing (non-purist)
Post by AK_Brickster on Aug 4, 2016 16:13:47 GMT -8
Purpose of the Fig
If you're like me, your fig building usually starts out as getting side-tracked from sorting, haha. In these cases, I'm usually building a single fig because I came across some torso or set of printed legs that inspired me to try to work out a combo for it..
However, if you're sitting down with the express purpose of fig-building, you can put a little more thought into what your objectives are. Namely, are you looking to build a single fig, a small squad, or an entire army? If a single fig, is it going to be a focal-point figure, or more of a background character? If multiple figs, do you have enough torsos/headgear/weapons/accessories of a similar style or color to give them the desired degree of uniformity?
For example, if I'm building a "hero fig", he/she is going to get outfitted with the best I have to offer. The coolest torso print (usually something I only have one or two of, because I saw it on BrickLink and thought, "WOW, that would make a cool fig!" and only bought one), the best headgear, most expressive face, and the best weapons/accessories. If I'm building a background fig, a more common torso, less unique head, and more common weapon will be used. I also really like printed legs on my heroes, but background figs are more likely to get an un-printed set.
Hero Fig Examples
If I'm building a small squad, I look to see if I have several of the same torso, or at least torsos with similar style (new vs. old / detailed vs. simple / similar color palette), as well as faces that look like they work together (prim and proper for a group of nobles, wiley and evil for a gang of rogues). Usually, my squads will have a leader (who somewhat resembles a hero fig), and then a couple of "sidekicks."
Small Squad Examples
If I'm building an army, then I usually go for an even higher degree of uniformity, or varied uniformity. I'll look for common elements to tie them all together (silver helms for all, for example) and then create some variation by assigning a certain torso to spearmen, a different helm type for swordsmen, or various combinations of that nature. Again, my armies usually have a general or leader who stands out from the rest somehow.
Post by AK_Brickster on Aug 4, 2016 16:15:18 GMT -8
Color Blocking / Color Coordinating
We'll now discuss, what in my opinion is the most critical part of making a great minifig, color coordinating and color blocking.
Let's start with color coordinating. Here are some examples:
In the first fig, notice the consistent use of browns throughout the fig. The torso has both reddish brown and dark brown elements, as do the legs. The cape is dark brown as well, which picks up the dark brown in the fig elements. This ties the whole fig together.
In the group of figs, even though they have some variation, all of them are sporting dark brown legs, shields and capes. They also all have blue arms and silver helms. This gives them a feeling of consistency, despite their differences.
One of the more difficult aspects of color coordination is getting the metallic elements to work together. In the above small group of figs, all of them have silver metallic highlights and silver weapons (other than the archer). Silver is one of the most common metallic colors among the castle theme, so it is one of the easiest to work with. Black could be considered a metal and is also quite common. Less common are dark pearl silver, gold and copper. The single fig on the left is sporting copper elements in his torso, so a silver helm would not look very good on him. A copper helmet would be the way to go, but unfortunately those are relatively rare and limited in selection. Gold is another tricky color to use, particularly with yellow-skinned figs, because there isn't much contrast there. Fortunately, more gold elements have come out recently through the CMF lines, so we have a few more options, though most are in pearl gold, which sometimes clashes with metallic gold. In any case, matching gold with gold will look better than a gold torso with a silver helm.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Here is an example of using silver and gold together effectively:
Since the lion armor had gold printing, I used elements that had both silver and gold in them. Notice the gold details in the legs, shields, and helms. These are all gold accents. The main color is still silver, in the armor, helms, and spears. Even the legs have a base color of light grey. The dark red is tied together in the legs, shields and capes. This is actually a good segway into the next topic, color blocking.
Color blocking has to do with taking splashes of a contrasting or highlight color and using it in different places to tie it all together. In the above example, the dark red is the color blocking element (though gold could also arguably be considered the same way in the above).
Here are a couple of recent figs I did that used color blocking:
You can see in the first fig, I was inspired by the blue Chima orb in the belt of the torso. I found a head with the same color blue lipstick, then eventually stumbled across matching blue hair while shopping around BrickLink. The blue top of the staff further utilizes the color. Notice the coordination of dark browns throughout the fig as well. Dark gray in the torso is picked up in the owl companion. I really like this fig!
In the second fig, the color obviously is the purple in the Maleficent torso/dress slope. This was a tricky color to color block with, because there aren't many medieval elements that use that color. I got lucky and found the back of a black man-bat head with the color in an enigmatic design. The trans purple elements in the accessories further pull the color to the forefront of the fig. The release of the hood in more colors makes that an easy element to use for color blocking as well, as seen in this variation of the Laketown guard fig, where I capitalized on the dark red in the legs with a dark red hood:
Color blocking can be even more simple, as can be seen in this group of knights:
The original "Heroic Knight" CMF is pretty monochromatic in all-gray, but I wanted these guys to be clearly associated with my Garheim faction, which is blue. Swapping out the gray arms for blue ones, then adding a matching cape, as well as some blue flags makes the faction association of this army unmistakable. The lack of other colors in the fig makes the blue stand out. You wouldn't want to just slap some blue arms on a green torso to change the faction identity of the fig. I eventually swapped out the white plumes shown in this pic with blue ones to further accentuate the color blocking.
One final note on coordinating colors, it's always ideal to match the color of facial hair on the head to the hair/beard you're using. Notice in the above knight battalion, the general has a dark orange beard which matches his hair. The exception to this is if the head has simple black eyebrows and no other facial hair. In these cases, it's generally pretty easy to make most hair/beards work with this.
Post by AK_Brickster on Aug 4, 2016 16:15:52 GMT -8
Personality (more to come)
Personality is a relatively simple concept. Before you just grab any old head and put it on your fig, take a second to think about what type of character this fig is meant to represent. Is he a clean-cut merchant, or a shady used camel dealer? Is he an angry "get off my lawn" old man, or is he kind and generous? In my building for Lands of Roawia, I typically envision a stereotype for each faction, and try to assign heads that go along those lines. Loreesi sport clean-cut hairdos and are mainly smooth-shaven (beards are too hot for the desert!). Garhims, by contrast, are burly with longer hair and are typically bearded, or at least sport a little facial hair. Lenfald lies somewhere in the middle, and the Outlaws are wily and cunning.
When building non-human races, you can also steer your race in a specific direction with what head/hairstyle you choose. For example, my "yellow" (non-fleshie) elf faction are all clean-cut and most carry an intense expression. A lot of them also have visible cheekbones. In contrast, my new group of fauns all have facial hair and are more jovial in expression.
When placing BrickLink orders, or putting together figs from the Build-a-Fig bins at a Lego Brand retail store, keep an eye out for interesting heads and hairstyles to toss in with your purchase. They can be a little expensive if you buy a bunch at once, but adding 1 or 2 new ones to an order here and there won't break your wallet, and will add a lot of diversity to your cast of characters.
Also, don't be afraid to choose expressive heads for certain situations. Is the minifigure battling a dragon? Unless he's Mark of Falworth , he probably won't be sporting an ear-to-ear grin! Better to go with an intense or angry facial expression.
Is your fig a wealthy merchant? Choose some opulent-looking attire for him, and give him a cunning grin! Is she an orphaned peasant girl? Go with a sad expression and some tattered robes.
Post by AK_Brickster on Aug 4, 2016 16:16:39 GMT -8
Basic Customizing (non-purist)
Decals take a fair amount of work, but the results can be pretty terrific! I suggest getting well-acquainted with a photo-editing program like PhotoShop or GIMP (which is free!). There are also many templates available on the internet, so you don't have to start from scratch.
Below, the shields and torsos were both achieved with decals, simply printed on adhesive labels and carefully cut out and applied. I used a dark blue marker to run a border around the kite shield. This helped to hide the white edge of the decal on the black half of of the shield after I'd cut it out.
Paint / Sharpie Marker:
This is about as easy as it gets. Grab yourself a yellow permanent marker and just start carefully coloring over the flesh-colored parts of the torso. You can do this with flesh-colored elf ears also, but paint yields a better result. Keep in mind that light-colored skin tones cover better than darker ones. You probably won't have much success getting a good color match with a dark medium flesh torso print.
Painting is a little more involved, just because you have to have paint and a brush, not to mention a steady hand! I am currently using an acrylic paint brand called, "Americana" in the color, "Bright Yellow" and it seems to be a near-perfect match. The brush is a nylon one that was the smallest I could find, with a pretty stiff tip, to help with control. I highly recommend acrylic. It is easy to clean up if you make a mistake (which you will!), and generally pretty easy to find. I use a drop at a time, dispensed into a bottle cap, so as not to waste a bunch of paint, as it doesn't take much to get the job done. I also suggest wetting your brush with water in between each bit of work, as a slightly thinner paint will be easier to move around, and it helps to reduce clumping. Be prepared to do 2-3 coats this way for uniform coverage.
One downside of acrylic is that it will flake off if you're using it on the grip of a utensil or weapon. You might be better off with an oil paint or permanent marker for that type of application.
AK - hope that you don't mind me barging in on your thread but there are couple points I think worth considering.
When I build my figs I consider continuity and flow. What do I mean behind that? Well if I have black armor then I utilize black torso to make it look like the armor wraps all the way around. Another point is that the torso (for me) has to fit when the armor is off. For example sir Kejtar (detailed pics to follow when I get a moment) has brown armor and a brown torso which is also castle related so that when he takes his armor off the torso 'worls' for the fig. Granted - I could have a spare torso to put on when the armor is off but that is a bit extreme for me. There would be certain scenarios where I might do that but those would be one offs (I.e. ceremonial robes, toples torso for swimming and so on). Then there is a matter of legs - the legs in this instance have to match now both the torso and the armor. Even if you do not want a torso that looks good when the armor is off, there is the issue of that little opening that is there to accommodate saddles - it shows enough that torso has to match the legs and armor
So long story short of my discourse - it gets expensive. Brown armor, brown torso castle related. Green armor, green torso castle related and so on. The end result though is highly practical - I have a fig that can be demilled and still looks good.
I'll try to add some pics when I get a moment to illustrate what I mean
Post by AK_Brickster on Mar 2, 2017 8:37:55 GMT -8
I think having a torso under armor that works when the armor is off is more of a personal mental thing, not really relevant to what the fig looks like while armored, haha. I'm similar to you, in that I don't prefer to have a City or Space torso under my fig's armor, but it doesn't change the look of the fig. Yes, there's the small bit of the belt buckle that is visible, but most torsos won't have anything garish down there that would detract from the fig. If nothing else, you swap the arms so that the back is to the front, and it would normally be a plain torso showing, at that point.
That's a fair enough point, about wanting the torso color to match the armor, but in most cases it isn't practical, since there aren't many flat silver, pearl silver, or pearl gold torsos out there, and that's what the majority of armor is colored. Additionally, the sides of the torso are not very visible most of the time, so it's not worth the expense to get an rare silver torso just to hide it under the armor, especially for a large number of figs.
I did try to mention in the color blocking section that you should try to match your metals, which I think is what you're saying about the legs matching the armor.
I guess you're right The torso being usable after taking off the armor is more of a personal "peeve" To me it's just being somewhat realistic cause we all know that magic makes the minifigs come alive at night
Matching torso to armor is a major PITA. I have some that match near perfect and some not so much.
Below are two of sir Kejtar. If you notice the match is perfect.
Jules also was matchable though finding the right torso took a while (went with lighter green for the feminine look )
My "grunts" use the heroic knight armor which is probably the easiest to match
And of course there are the variations on the black armor (not even going to post pics of those cause we all know that black is easy to match I have matched the scorpion armor (red) as well as one of the red Kingdoms II red armors. It's all about the search I think that one of these days I might buy a minifig encyclopedia so that I can browse through all the figs and torsos at my leisure as I search for the perfect fit.
In any case - back to the subject at hand - there is also the aftermarket armor. I was able to achieve matching armor to torso even with aftermarket stuff. Here's one of my light scouts
Where things get hard is with speckled armor as there is no "solid" shade/color that would match. There you can get as close as possible and in "theory" it kind of works as the front of armor could be decorative and sides not so much and the base armor (under decoration) could be the color of what's on the side (yup - I got good imagination at times )
What bugs me though is that the scout captain is not as close as I'd like, but I'm yet to find a castle related torso that would fit to any degree....
When I have more time, I'll take each of the example figures apart and show show what's underneath the "kimono" but in essence I tried to match the torso to the armor and the legs so that the figure looks good both in armor and without and I do have to admit that it gets expensive as I could use the criminals from city for quite a few of those setups but they're not castle ready figs