Since the early days of LEGO, children and adults alike have been customising their LEGO kits and Minifigs.
Customisation can be anything from changing a few bricks or tiles on a model, to full on MOCS (My Own Creations), Minifigures and signature pieces by prominent LEGO designers and artists. Artists and designers are finding more ingenious ways of achieving very complex designs using LEGO. There have been many excellent examples of LEGO builds containing hundreds of thousands of pieces. Only when you examine the build closely do you realise that it is made from LEGO.
Build Our Dreams
From the start, LEGO has encouraged its supporters to think big and be imaginative. We can literally build our dreams. When you design a project and then see it coming to life, there is no better feeling. LEGO fills a creative space in the minds of children worldwide, allowing them to express themselves while building something unique. A mini world built with imagination.
Our children will be the next builders, artists, construction workers, engineers, designers and influencers of the future: LEGO can help them realise their dreams.
My LEGO Story
My LEGO story started out when I was very small in England during the 1970’s. I remember building a LEGO Fire Station complete with Fire truck that was given as a gift from my grandfather. Those red bricks still leave a lasting impression to this very day. Then just a few years ago my wife brought home some discounted Star Wars Lego Microfighters. I’m a massive Star Wars fan and thought they would look great on the shelf of my Mancave along with my video game collection. I was quickly hooked and started collecting mainly Lego Star Wars kits, though I am now more of a Minifig collector.
I soon realised there was a lot of gaps in my collection. LEGO has some amazing LEGO Star Wars Minifigs, but I found myself looking at custom figures online and was drawn to some of the fantastic creations of the other Minifig designers. I couldn’t believe just how big the custom LEGO Minifig scene was! It’s awesome to be part of such a great community of LEGO enthusiasts and an excellent stress reliever.
I decided I’d start to make my own custom Minifigs; coming from an artistic background it was great to get back to the basics of being creative. I had some acrylic paints at home, so all I needed was some imagination, brushes and other materials.
Minifigure customisation types
There are many kinds of customisation options if you are looking to add to your existing collection, or just want to make something that’s not available from the official LEGO catalogue.
These are usually pad printed or UV printed designs. LEGO uses pad printed designs on their Minifigs which results in a smooth finish and can incorporate multiple print designs on top of each other. Over the years LEGO has perfected its printing techniques to include complex detailing using a varied colour palette complete with metallics.
It’s not uncommon to find LEGO prints on all sides of an official Minifigure. LEGO introduced printing to the sides of legs on some Minifigure models, this really adds to the overall look of the design in my opinion. These tweaks help to keep LEGO designs relevant and on trend with other Custom Minifigure brands.
UV digital printing methods are just as complex and have a specific look with a slightly raised texture. The quality of that print is determined by the quality of the printer. If the design is executed well, the result is an amazing custom Minifig and I personally collect both pad and UV printed.
Custom Minifigures provide the best option for collectors looking to add to their Minifigs that LEGO do not currently make. The popularity of customs has increased through demand over the last few years.
Clone Army Customs
Hand Painted Custom Minifigures
Can you paint on LEGO Minifigure parts? Yes, you just need to ensure good preparation of the surface. I personally use a very fine grade of wet and dry sandpaper and then apply a basecoat. It is important to use a quality sealant or acrylic varnish to seal your design because the natural oil your skin produces can affect the paint finish. When I am producing a design on a figure, I tend to go with simple geometric designs with strong lines, which are similar to LEGO, to keep an overall consistent look. I take my inspiration from Star Wars literature and images. I’m a big fan of various Minifig customisers who display their creations on YouTube; many of which have directly influenced me to be part of this growing community. It’s exciting to see other people’s creations and I have found their techniques invaluable in my art work. Notable mentions are:
Sculpted Custom Minifigures
These range from the very subtle to the more complex sculpted figs. The most popular sculpting method for Minifigures is by using an epoxy putty called ProCreate. It is a two-part package containing a hardener and epoxy resin. When the two are mixed together they start to harden. Making it great to sculpt onto Minifigures as a base as it is extremely good at sticking to plastic.
There are other types of air-dry clays that can be used but these involve sculpting the specific shapes or designs and once completed sticking them to the respected LEGO parts. For me It’s about getting creative, using what’s around you. I’ve been known to use small household items, crafters card, pieces of wire. I’m constantly finding items that can be used to customise a figure. Give it a try.
Purist Custom Minifigs
This is where it really all started for many LEGO fans and collectors. LEGO provides a catalogue of endless possibilities with the shear variety of printed parts available. You can achieve a specific look from clever sourcing of parts or add to an existing figure by fitting parts that are more accurate or detailed. Creators are constantly coming up with custom characters from beloved T.V shows, Movies and video games. If it’s a sig fig you want to create this too can also be achieved with cleverly chosen parts.
Custom Decal Minifigs
The best method is by using waterslide decals.
Water slide decals (or slip decals) are water-mounted decals generally printed face up and rely on the dextrose corn sugar residue from the decal paper to bond the decal transfer to a surface.
When these are applied correctly can result in some amazing Minifig creations with decals on all four sides of the figure adding that extra depth of detail. Some of the best examples of these can be seen within the LEGO community and social media. Don’t take my word for it take a look for yourself.
3rd Party Customisation
There are lots of 3rd party LEGO compatible parts on the market. These include custom weapons, accessories, headgear and bodywear. Some of my favourite brands include: Brickarms, BrickWarriors, Arealight, Clone Army Customs and SI-DAN toys to name but a few. These products can be the perfect companion to any official or custom Minifigure enhancing and creating a unique look.
Disclaimer: LEGO does not endorse any customisation discussed in this blog post.
Thank you FireStarToys for giving me the opportunity to talk about my favourite pastime: LEGO. I’ve tried my best to cover the different aspects of LEGO customisation in this post but I’m sure there’s more out there. I hope to bring you all more content in the future and I’m looking forward to reviewing sets, Minifigs and customs.