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Conceptualizing A Custom Minifig
Having learnt from Kaminoan how to print out a decal and Norbert how to paint a minifig, perhaps it's time I share with you how to go about conceptualizing and designing a custom minifig.
First of all, I like to make it clear that there is no such thing as a set of rule to customization. Everybody has their own unique style and ideal regarding minfigs, so when it comes to customization, that individuality should be explored to the full limit. However, that being said, there are still certain restriction/limitation to customization, in the sense that taking certain elements too far can risk the danger of crossing the fine line between your end product being a recognizable minifig, and that of a pseudo-minifig which actually looks more like a mini-action figure. For instance, take a look at this "custom minifig" by an unknown Taiwanese customizer:While there can be no doubt as to the creative genius that went behind this piece of work, it does unfortunately raise the question of whether it can still be regarded as a minifig or not. From what can be induced from this picture, the head, hands, and base of this figure are clearly minifig in origin. However, judging from the height and proportion of the figure, it appears the body has been replaced by a much more elongated torso (perhaps a Stikfas body?), and that the beautifully elaborated hairstyle and costume also contributed to its dwelling closer to the realm of Barbie than a minifigure. Thus in conclusion, we can say that simply using a minifig's head and hands in a creation does not necessarily qualify it as a custom minifig.
So how does one create a custom minifig with creativity but without going too far? Well, since LEGO was the original inventor of the minifig (although others such as Oxford and Enlightened have followed suit), and remains the leading manufacturer of construction toy today, using LEGO's style as a sort of difinitive guideline seems like a rational decision.
At the moment, LEGO produces 3 basic forms to represent a minifig, them being the long skirt (blue), the stubbie (brown), and the standard (red):Therefore, when it comes to designing your fig's costume, the best thing to do is to select one out of the three styles as your backbone, and place your design directly onto the minifig itself (either by paint or by decal):
Obviously, there can be great hindrance to this approach. The classic example is when attempts are made to render robed figures into minifig forms. There are two conventional ways of doing this, either by using the cape (first pic), or by using the long skirt (second pic):
But regardless of method, it would be useful to bear in mind what colors are available in terms of torsos and legs, so that you may utilize them according to render a minifig. For example, to make a yellow skin-tone fig with in yellow costume, you may wish to consider altering the original yellow color to either tan or orange, as I have done with Jean Grey (tan) and Cable (orange) here:
Meanwhile, try to remember that dark colors work well on light torsos, and vice-versa. So if you intend your minifig to be dressed in black robe, make sure you draw the lines in white or some similarly light colors:
And as Kaminoan points out in another article, make sure you make the lines thick enough to be seen (0.3 to 0.5 in thickness if you are using a vector-based computer program).
It should also be remembered that a minifig tends often to be more colorful than its real life counterpart. So don't be afraid of using additional colors in order to improve its overall look.
A minifig's head is the most reflective part of its being, but before proceeding with a design, one should keep in mind that in most cases, a minifig's face is designed by its simplicity, and only very seldom do they have noses. For example, most would agree that this probably looks a little extreme (thanks NickGreat for the picture!):
So until one has gained significant experience in cartoonizing a face, it might be best to avoid elements such noses, eyewhites, pupils, etc., in order to keep the face looking cartoonish.
Since minifigs do not have ears, ears represent another problematic area for minifig customization. Fortunately, this problem only occurs when attempting to customize a real-life figure who have distinctive ears, such as Legolas (or any elves) and Spock from Star Trek.
There are basically 2 ways of getting around this. The first is introduced by Norbert Black in which an incision is made to the hairpiece to represent a minifig's ears, such as seen in his Namor. However, since not every hairpiece can compliment this method, sometimes, one may have no other option but to simply ignore the ears and let the face speak for itself, as I've done with Spock:
I have also found a good way to make elves. In a Middle-earth or pretty much any fantasy setting, elves are supposed to have pointy ears. But since minifigs don't have ears (even if you draw them most hairpieces would cover them up, making them somewhat useless), so I give all my elves bluish-green eyes instead for the distinction:
The color setting for these eyes are as follows:CMYK: 93, 11, 43, 2
RGB: 22, 138, 128
Finally, Lego doesn't always do this but I find that making the eyebrows the same color as the intended hairpiece will make a fig much more handsome looking. It is also recommended that for light color eyebrows (white, light gray, etc.), a thin black outline be drawn around it to increase prominence, like this guy here:
Got any more questions? If so, please feel free to ask them here on the forum as I will be happy to update this article accordingly as I see fit!