Custom Toys and Action Figures by Blayne

Friday, March 16, 2007

Custom Toy Services and FAQ - Blayne's Custom Toys & Action Figures

Update 2014:
Please note that currently, I'm no longer taking on commission work due to other time commitments. However, if you are interested in purchasing any existing work I have displayed in my portfolio, let me know. Most pieces are commissions from years past, but a number are figures that are part of my own collection that I could be convinced to part with. If interested, please contact me by email with your offer. eMail:

The Process

What's a custom action figure? How do you make it?

Custom action figures are the product of a skilled hobbyist who uses sculpture, painting, and the combination of a variety of different toy parts to produce a new and unique figure.

I "customize" toys using a series of techniques to produce a professional looking action figure suitable for play or display.

These techniques include:

: An old term that model-builders used to describe taking parts from one model kit, and attaching them to another. When customizing a toy, I can take existing parts from 5-10 different pre-existing figures, and attach them together to create something new.

Custom sculpting: I use a high-quality two part epoxy sculpting material by Aves. The result is a sculptable surface that dries bone-hard. Aves product was originally designed with hobbyists in mind, and it gives me the freedom to sculpt detail on to existing figure parts or create my own.

Custom mold making and casting: Using a liquid rubber mold making and liquid plastic process, I can make a cast of existing parts, or an original sculpture. The final piece is more durable than toys you'd find in a retail store!

Custom painting: All paints are not created equal. For this reason, I use only high quality Vallejo and Tamiya acrylic model paints. For Transformer customs, or as base colors on 6" figures/accessories I use Mr Hobby and  Mr Color Lacquer based paints for extra durability.

Sealant and varnishes: Once a figure is put together, sculpted, and painted, it's sealed using a varnish. This prevents paint wear, and lets the finished product be played with, posed, or displayed. An additional level or protection is given to high-activity areas of the figure (hands, elbows, knees, and other joints) by applying a shielding layer of super-glue, topped with varnish. I use Vallejo matte or glossy finish varnishes that dry on clear.

Magnets!: Using high-powered neonium 'rare earth' magnets embedded inside figures and accessories, amazing things are possible. A spiderman who actually sticks to walls, toys that won't accidentally drop their weapons, and magnetic speech bubbles are only a few of their applications when making a custom toy.

Custom display stands: I can also create an optional display stand for your custom figure using either hobby-plaster (for a natural, rocky appearance), plastic display bases (for a indoors or street setting), or "papercraft" stands (objects, shelves, desks) constructed from printed cardstock. These stands can also include magnetic accessories and other exciting features. Imagination's the limit!

Together, these process produces a one-of-a-kind toy or display set. 

"How do you determine pricing on your work?"

Pricing for custom figures is always dependent on these factors:

1.) Cost of base figure parts:
 How much does it cost me to buy the material to work with? Figures purchased at retail or on eBay can cost between $12-$30 US each. Add in the cost of multiple figures or parts, and the price rises.
2.) Cost of supplies: Superglue, Aves Sculpting compound, model paints, and varnishes all cost money, and the amount used to sculpt a figure is factored into the projected cost.
3.) My time: Customizing a figure can take a few hours for a simple repaint, or stretch on for days and weeks if it's an elaborate job. I typically charge $15 / hour.

Generally, I follow the pricing guidelines below:

6"/7" Regular Custom Figure:

$250.00 US - $350.00 US + ($X.00 parts cost + $X.00 Shipping Cost) (example: DEADPOOL, Optimus Prime, or other existing character)
This type of figure would be an existing character, made from one or more base figures with some resculpted details, fully repainted and sealed. Please note, if you provide the parts or materials needed for a commission figure, I deduct the average going rate for those pieces (via eBay Completed auction search) from the total.

6"/7"/8" Complicated Custom Figure:
$350.00 US - $500.00 US + part cost + shipping (example: A real person created as a fully sculpted, posable action figure, or a highly detailed character based on reference art)
This type of figure takes a significant amount of time and resources to make, so it's reflected in the cost. Typically, a fully resculpted figure that is either an original design based on reference art, or an action figure based on a real person (+using to generate the rough headshape).

If you're placing an order of more than two figures, I can be flexible on the total price. I also offer the creation of Dioramas (sets for your figures to stand in), custom designed (and sturdy) Papercraft stands for your figure(s), and more. Tell me what you'd like to have created.

Repainting a figure You provide: *
$40.00 + $X.00 Shipping cost back to you when finished (example: Painting The Hulk a different color)

3 3/4" figure custom figure: * GI Joe sized action figures. 
$100.00 US - $180.00 US + Parts Cost $X.00 + Shipping Cost $X.xx (example: Bill from the 'Left 4 Dead' Video Game)

* Please note, I typically don't do this type of custom. Given the demands on my time for other projects, and my own, it's not worthwhile for my to take on straight-on repaints, or 3.75" scale commissions of existing toys. Still, if you have an idea for a really neat commission, please contact me with the details.

"Wow! Why can't I just buy one or your figures for $20? Toys in the store don't cost much above that".

Very true - action figures produced for the mass market are casted, assembled, and painted en-mass overseas (sometimes by machines, and other times by task-specific workers). This mass production lowers the cost to a level affordable for children and adult collectors at retail. This is the same reason you can buy a pair of pants at retail for $10, but it would cost a tailor much more than that to make.

Creating a custom figure takes a significant amount of talent, effort, creativity and time - all of which cost money in one form or another. I aim only charge an amount that's fair, based on the amount of time/effort/costs that factored into a project.

How much would job X or Y cost to make?"

When it comes to pricing out a custom figure commission, I work on a case-by-case basis. Most commissions run in the $300 level if creating the figure involves a significant amount of part swapping and sculpting. For example, creating a miniature version of your best friend in his day-to-day clothing.

A lower costing custom would be one that requires less time and materials. For example, creating a custom version of your friend that has his head on the body of Batman with a new paint job and some accessories.

Can I send you a figure to customize, instead of you buying the figure or parts?"

Absolutely. If you are providing some or all of the material to work with, it significantly lowers the projected cost. The value of these parts will be calculated based off of current ended eBay auctions for loose versions of those figures. This is at my discretion, but can be discussed prior to any commission agreements.

"What if the figure I commissioned ends up costing you more to make than you thought?"Then the cost of the figure parts and materials eats into what I charge for my labour, and not your wallet: I'm firm about quoted costs. This works both ways - once a project is completed, there is no room for haggling on the price. However, if you choose to revise what you want done mid-way through the development process, I'll need to revise the total quoted price to reflect any changes made.

To date I've not had a customer unsatisfied with my work. If there was an issue, or something that needed modification/alteration, I would take the time to make it right.

"So, what do people say about your work?"
For custom figures, check out the comment postings on any of my work at

I don't typically ask for publicity reviews from my customers - I'm happy enough to let my work's appearance speak for it's self, combined with the number of repeat customers I've had over the years. However, one fellow I worked with liked my work so much, he wrote up a formal testimonial about the process:

"I was searching for an artist to create a custom action figure as a gift for one of my best friends. I wanted to depict my friend as the character of Jake Sully in the movie Avatar. Several artists turned the project down saying that it was too difficult, but Blayne Scott seemed excited to take on the challenge. He perfectly captured the likeness of my friend and translated him into the Navi warrior without losing my friend's attributes. For an artist to change the noes, eyes, and ears and have you still feel the presence of that person is a major accomplishment. Blayne was amazing to work with and made sure that I was happy. This is a gift my friend will never forget. I will use Blayne again in a heart beat." -Eric Keith, New York City"

How long will making figure X or Y take?"
Estimated turn around is 3-4 month on most projects. If parts are unavailable, or delays are expected, you will be informed ahead of time.
I'm limited to customizing at night, and on weekends as I do have a day job. :) 
Circumstances allowing, I can reduce that to a special 2-month rush job for an additional fee, but each commission is a case-by-case basis.

"Can I see what the figure looks like as you make it?"
Sure! Throughout the process of creating your custom, I can provide you with digital photos (shot with my 8MP Nikon camera) of the making-of, and take input about changes in the figures design. These can be emailed to you or posted on a private webpage for you to browse, along with a white-box photoshoot of the finished product. Check out an example of my Work-in-Progress shots here.

"Once the figure is finished, how do you get it to me?"
The buyer pays for trackable shipping via Canadapost. Within North America, this typically cost $20-$30 for a normal Marvel Legends size/weight figure. This will vary based on each project's size and weight. Unfortunately, I cannot ship to Italy due to repeated problems with sending eBay items to that country (issues related to Italian customs/postal delivery services).

When I'm shipping a figure, the buyer pays actual shipping cost for an trackable, express mailed package. This is for both your protection and mine. Please be aware, I'm
 not responsible for any customs duties/tariffs your country may levy against insured parcels. For both our protection, I insure outgoing packages for the actual total value. Duties/tariffs levied by your country's postal system are the responsibility of the buyer (just like on eBay, Amazon, or other online retailers).

"What about all these amazing figures listed on your web site / blog? Can I buy those?"

Please contact me about the purchase of any pre-existing custom figures. Some were commissions for others people, but many are part of my own collection. I can provide pricing for each on a piece by piece basis.

A note on the revision process during a custom figure commission/modification:
Keep in mind: something that takes the customer 10 seconds to type out can result in an additional unbudgeted 2 weeks worth of work for myself. For further customizing of existing figures I have available & for new commission pieces, be CLEAR with what you want up front.

I've dealt with customers who submit four or five revisions to the shape/accessories for a custom figure project
 after a figure has been approved, painted, and sealed. This is not acceptable, as it effects the budgeted time allotted to the project and could affect the durability of the figure. If you want specific details (spikes, pockets, armor, etc.) added to the figure, it *must* be stated early on in the project.
If a revision is submitted during the sculpting phase and is significant enough, it will require a modification to the original quoted price, as additional time and material is necessary. If it's easily accomplished without additional cost, I'll make the change to the figure at that time before painting/sealing proceeds. This is at my discretion, as I must weigh the durability/feesability of the modications requested.

If this modification is requested 
after the commissioner has approved the look/design (i.e: changed their mind, or realized X or Y would look really neat) - the design/addition will not be approved. Be clear with what you want for your figure early on. Attempting to add in complicated 'freebies' late in the project is dishonest, and won't be tolerated. I strive to ensure your custom figure is made to specification - but if a customer keeps changing their mind on what this design is - I hold discretion to keep the project as-is.

"Can you make a figure just like A or B?"
I can create a similar figure (based on the availability of parts) to one I've already created, or one you may have seen in a magazine or on the internet. Let me know what you're looking for, and we can discuss by email the details. Typically I don't reproduce my own work (i.e: "Can you make another figure just like XYZ you made before?" unless it's a significantly different take on the character. I compare this to re-writing a report or essay after a computer crash deletes your hard work: Creating the same thing twice isn't fun.

"Can I get you to sign/number your work? / Can I get a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) with my custom figure?"

Sure, I can draft one for your figure if requested. If you'd like me to sign the actual figure, the best place is on the bottom of a foot, as I prefer not to use a sharpie over top of my painting work. :)

"Do you have any references or experience in online sales? "
Absolutely. Buy from me with confidence. I have 700+ /100% positive feedback on my eBay account, dating from 1998 to present.

"How can I pay you a deposit and/or the final price for a custom figure?"

Option 1.) an online money brokering system run by eBay to facilitate safe and private online commerce. Also, paypal offers an additional level of buyer protection for both the seller and buyer. When paying online, US funds are the preferred currency of payment.
If sending money to me, please ensure the "Send Money" payment type is set to
 "Payment Owed".

Please note, particularly for larger payments, the buyer is responsible for the associated "seller" feels from Paypal, and will be added to the final invoice. If I specify that a deposit is $XYZ, $XYZ must be the amount that's deposited after Paypal has taken it's fees. This might seem odd, but check out to see how much is deduced from the total sent. It's necessary to make commission work viable.

Option 2.) Bank Drafted money orders are also an acceptable form of payment if you live within the USA or Canada. Please note, I cannot accept "U.S. Postal Money Orders", only those made at a bank.

Option 3.) If you're paying in person by cash (at a Canadian Convention, for example) CND funds are acceptable. Sorry, I don't accept personal or business cheques. Please let me know ahead of time if you'd like a receipt when paying with this method.

"Great! Where do I sign up for a one-of-a-kind figure from you?"
Contact me by email any time to place your order. Each project is considered on a first come, first served basis.

"Awesome! So what do I need to provide you with to create my custom figure?"

A few things:

1.) Your contact information - including phone number, email, and shipping address.

2.) Reference pictures - Either photo(s) of the person you'd like made into an action figure, or reference images showing a particular style or element found using Googles Image Search. You must include all information/details on what needs to be included/appearance. After construction begins, 'last minute' modifications cannot be guaranteed to be made, as customizing is a layered process.

3.) Deposit - Once we've worked out the specifics of your project, a deposit is required to cover my initial outlay of materials, and evidence you're committed to the project. For each project, this amount is 50% of the estimated price (before shipping cost).