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How to Make a Custom McFarlane Sports Pick
Like many other McFarlane Sports Picks collectors, I wish I could have a seat at the table when they decide what players are made, what poses they have, and what uniforms they wear. 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 put, custom figures involve taking an existing figure apart, making modifications, painting it, and reassembling it. There are many different ways to make a custom one. What I included in these directions is a combination of my personal experiences and those of other customizers. Feel free to email me if you think there’s something important I’ve left out. I intend to regularly update this page based on the feedback I receive.
Getting a custom made for the first time isn’t cheap. The good news is that once you get these things you probably won’t need to replace most of them for a while. I put approximate prices in parentheses so you can get an idea of the costs associated with making a custom one. The best place to get most of these things is at an art store like Michael’s. You can also get many of these things 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 contains about 32 1/6 oz colors). This is great for colors you only need a little ($15)
- 2 oz. acrylic paints for the most frequently used colors ($1 each).
- Testors Primer ($4)
- Microscale decal solutions: Micro Sol, Micro Set, and Liquid Decal Film ($10)
- Testors Glossy Clear Acrylic and Flat Clear Acrylic ($8)
- Adhesive paper ($1 per sheet, usually sold in quantities of at least 20)
- Scissors, tape, crazy glue, brush cleaner, exacto knife, sandpaper, clay and anything else you think you might need ($40)
- Figure ($10 or more)
- Decide who you want to make and find as many pictures of them as you can. Google and eBay searches are good ways to find images, as well as old magazines, sports cards and posters.
- Decide which McFarlane figure you want to paint. A good place to see photos of all the figures is on McFarlane’s site. Try to match special features like the helmet style they wear, wrist guards, shoe styles, and anything else that might cause you too much work to add or remove.
- Buy 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 water and mild soap.
- Decide what you will need to disassemble to be able to paint the picture. This varies from figure to figure. You want to make sure that you can easily paint all the visible parts of the figure. Sometimes this requires a lot of disassembly (head, helmet, mask, hands, etc. on a football figure) and sometimes no disassembly (a basketball figure).
- Soak the figure 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 aid in the removal of pieces.
- First the figure with a few thin coats of white or gray primer. Remember to mask off the parts you won’t paint.
- Color the figure from light to dark, leaving a white patch in any area that will need an adhesive. It usually takes about three coats of paint to get it to look good. If you need more, make more. A lot depends on the color of the primer and what color you are painting.
- Search numbers and logos for stickers. The best place to find numbers to work with is the “Logos & More” section in Jomo Customs. They have templates for every NFL team and many other sports teams. If they have the equipment you’re looking for, you’re good to go. If not, search LogoServer to find your team logo and use Jomo’s to find a team with a similar letter/number to the team you are looking for.
- Create stickers. Use photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to resize images and change colors if necessary. Be sure to print once in black and white on plain paper to make sure they are the right size before using the sticker paper.
- Cover the decals with Liquid Decal Film. Be sure to do two or three coats to make sure the colors don’t bleed when the adhesive gets wet.
- Cut out the stickersleaving as little space as possible around the image.
- Apply the stickers. Coat the figure area with Micro Set before applying. Wet the back of the decal paper (either with a brush or by dipping it in water) and slide the decal into place. Coat the sticker with Micro Sol to smooth it out and carefully push it into any creases or uneven surfaces.
- Paint around the stickers to blend them.
- Put the figure back on. Use an exacto knife to cut the joints to help them fit better. Use crazy glue when needed.
- 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 the paint dry on the 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 the gloss clear acrylic stickers and helmets. You can spray it with a spray bottle or brush it gently.
- Make a position. You can modify the original stand, mount it on a piece of wood (drill the holes the same size as the pegs in the figures), or create your own stand. Some people also like to make custom packaging for their figures. VansCustomFigures can make packaging for you.
Visit our full customs guide for more information and photos.
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