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Forums » Creativity » Customs » My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers
My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers
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thatg33kgirl
Rapunzel Pony


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 4440
Location: Fairfield, OH (Cincinnati area!)

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

Hey all, I decided to write up my top ten tips for customizers (generally for those new to the customs world but some tips may help veterans too!) and I'd love to see yours too!!!:D
(Update: Manamaiden reworded this to sound loads better, so with her permission I've updated the post- enjoy!)

Here are mine (with edits)

10. Research is a good starting point.
-If you are starting out, there are many great tutorials out there, from the basic "how do I prep a pony" to the more detailed. At the top of the customs forum there is a sticky thread about tutorials and where to buy.
The search tool is a good tool, but some times it’s not so don’t be afraid to just post a quick thread in the customs board asking a question. ☺

-IF you are concerned about the rarity of pony baits, identify your pony before starting to customize it! After you know who it is, do a search and/or ask if it's "okay" to customize that pony. If it so happens that you have a rare/sought after/worth a crap load of money pony on your hands, even if you don't care to collect, you could sell it off to someone who will appreciate it, and get some extra cash at the same time!

- Don’t copy other customizers’ original designs or styles. There’s a huge difference between making something “similar” to someone else’s, and looking at someone’s design and copying their personal style they’ve spent years developing with their own talent and practice. It is dishonest, and can be taken as a slap to the face by the original designer if you do not have their permission.
On the flip-side, using other customizers’ tips/methods can help you grow as an artist, so PM other custom artists and have a chat and see if they’re willing to help you.
But remember folks- when it comes to movie/song/anime-themed character customs (not designed by you) you run a high risk of your custom ending up resembling someone else’s, if your materials/methods are main-streamed. So don’t freak out if someone posts a Pikachu custom 2 days after you post a Pikachu pony.

9. Get involved in the pony community!
-Even if you are not a collector, either joining the MLP arena, MLPTP, joining DA and posting your work, is a great way to get your work out there. I also totally recommend (once you get some custom experience under your belt!) to participate in swaps and trades- they are great ways to motivate you! (and, pony people are the best people)

8. Always experiment.
- Variety is the spice of life, and so on and so forth! No really, trying new things is great- not only to expand your knowledge of customizing, but you may come up with a new technique that really works and that’s never been seen! If your experiment doesn't turn out like you had hoped its ok!


7. If you’re looking into sculpting, Apoxie Sculpt is most popular.
But remember folks- clay is clay and it all breaks and is delicate. So if you’re allergic to Apoxie Sculpt or it just doesn’t work for you, there are several other options of oven-bake clays located at Michaels, and air dry clays that can be found at Joanne Fabrics.

The magic about Apoxie sculpt that has everyone enamored over it, is the glue that’s pre-manufactured into it. It makes it smoother and easier to work with, but the same effect can be achieved with air-dry clay if you seal it with mod podge.

Sand paper is your best friend when it comes to smoothing out lumps or undesired textures in your sculpt work, regardless the clay you choose to sculpt with.

6. Experiment with paints over time as you customize, to see which kind/brands work best for you. Testors/modeling paints are quite popular and work well with airbrushes, but are mildly costly.
Acrylics are cheap, but if used well, will be your friends. Acrylics tend to be smoothest when combined together, and there are certain pigments that have a different texture from others. You’ll mostly find this among browns, and burgundies; you would be best-off to custom blend pigments to achieve these colors.

An assortment of paintbrushes are good to have on-hand so you can try out different sizes and materials to see what works best for you. No matter how big your brush is, as long as you keep the tip of it fine and moist, it will blend your paints and put them on as you desire.
(That is a challenge of all artists- can you paint smooth lines with any size of brush?)

5. Listen to something while working on customs.
- This makes time go by much faster, and makes customizing more fun. Listen to some music, podcasts, YouTube, iPad, TV, movies.

4. Experiment to find out which re-hair method works for you.
Re-hairing tool is highly recommended if you stick with the main original hair line in the mane of Hasbro ponies, but there are a couple other methods used that when done right, can be just as quick as a re-hairing tool- such as the wire/needle method. Floral wire is abundant in spools found at most stores, and a sewing needle can result in sore hands; so thumbtacks and giant safety pins get the job done without your hands suffering for it.

Main difference between the re-hair tool and wire/needle method is with the wire method you put mod podge (glue) on the roots of your hair plugs BEFORE rooting them into the scalp; re-hair tool, you push the plugs through the scalp then slap some glue inside the pony’s head and let it dry. Overall, it takes close to the same amount of time to do it either way.

3. Always seal your customs!
-Even if you just paint the eyes and the symbol, be sure to seal those. Options for sealants are as follows:
Artists Varnish (mainly found at Michaels Craft store), Testors sealant, and watered-down mod podge.

2. Always use lots of layers. (This is a sure way to make acrylic paints your friends.)
- Generally the first layer ALWAYS LOOKS LIKE GARBAGE!!! (especially when sculpting for the first time, or painting colors like white and yellow) So don't give up if it looks sloppy at first, just keep layering! (but make sure each layer is dry before putting down a new one!)
A common mistake, is people can’t get past that sloppy messy-looking first layer, and in consequence keep trying to layer over it before it’s dry; that is how you get sticky, lumpy full body repaints with tube-like brush strokes.

1. Take your time and take plenty of breaks.
- Never rush yourself on a custom and take breaks as needed. Be sure to step back, look at it, and don't stress out. At times you may feel you’re at odds with how your custom is turning out, and that’s okay! Take a step back, look at it, return to it later (heard of this as “looking at your work again with ‘fresh eyes’”) and adjust things as they come to you. You may at times have to just forget about the custom for a couple of days, before the “final finishing staples” of the design appear in your mind; but trust that it does happen and allow it adequate time.

So let me see your tips!!!
Energetic Flirty Pony


[stickied by pop-girl 5/1/11]
[un-stickied by pop-girl 6/18/11]

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nichole0059
So Soft Pony


Joined: Mar 11, 2010
Posts: 461
Location: South Carolina

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

11. Plan ahead. Sometimes I can just pull out my custom supplies and a bait and whip up a pony, but often times I find it much easier to sketch my bait and then map out the symbols and design. I will often paint this sketch with the colors I intend to use so I can match hair blends and everything. Sometimes it is just easier to have a road map.

12. Don't be afraid to deviate from your plan. Wait...what...you just said a plan is easier. Yes it is, but sometimes it can be stressful if what you put on paper isn't working out the same way on a pony. It's okay! Use your plan as guide in these instances. I've had this happen and the new design has ended up looking better than plan could have ever looked.

13. When working with G4s, put the head on the neck plug first then fit the plug back into the body. The reason being is that getting the heads back on is a PItA and you don't want to damage your paint job with all the pushing you'll have to do. At least this way you'll only have to touch up the head; which is probably much easier than touching up a complicated symbol.
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NeverKnowsBest
Big Brother Pony


Joined: Apr 16, 2011
Posts: 218
Location: Florida

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

Thanks for this! Especially the brush/paint recommendations! Having a good paint and brush makes all the difference! I'm very new to customizing (just finished custom number 4 today and will post pics tomorrow) and hearing what works for people really helps! Smile

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PinkRosedust
G3 Prototype Pony


Joined: Dec 05, 2003
Posts: 3482
Location: NoVA, USA

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

Well, I am NOT a customizer, but I do have a tip for newcomers since it hasn't been mentioned - ALWAYS identify your pony before starting to customize it! After you know who it is, do a search and/or ask if it's "okay" to customize that pony. If it so happens that you have a rare/sought after/worth a crap load of money pony on your hands, even if you don't care to collect, you could sell it off to someone who will appreciate it, and get some extra cash at the same time!

I'd also say make sure your pony is actually bait-worthy (i.e. in bad enough condition) but that is sort of in the eye of the beholder I guess.

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okiegurl1981
MIB Rapunzel Pony


Joined: May 05, 2008
Posts: 6463
Location: Oklahoma

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

PinkRosedust wrote:
Well, I am NOT a customizer, but I do have a tip for newcomers since it hasn't been mentioned - ALWAYS identify your pony before starting to customize it! After you know who it is, do a search and/or ask if it's "okay" to customize that pony. If it so happens that you have a rare/sought after/worth a crap load of money pony on your hands, even if you don't care to collect, you could sell it off to someone who will appreciate it, and get some extra cash at the same time!

I'd also say make sure your pony is actually bait-worthy (i.e. in bad enough condition) but that is sort of in the eye of the beholder I guess.

VERY good point! No one wants to customize a rare or HTF pony!

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EmberBright
Sweet Scoops Pony w/Charm


Joined: Jun 19, 2010
Posts: 2032
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PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

Excellent tips! I wish I could get a really tiny brush around here (and afford good paints, but that will come).

I'm still a beginner, so I don't have a tip to add as far as technique or supplies. I would say, though, that it's a good idea to remember that everything you do, even if it doesn't turn out like you wanted, is a learning experience. Don't give up just because your sculpting is a bit lumpy or you can't keep brush strokes out of your FBR (to use personal examples!)- take a good look at what you've got, think back over how you got there, and focus on what you'll do differently next time. I try to remember that the only way I can get better is by trying new things, and you can't expect to be perfect the first time you try anything.*


*That's not true- I totally expect it. I'm a perfectionist, and it only leads to disappointment. I'm working on it! Smile

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lizstaley
Scribbles Pony


Joined: Oct 02, 2010
Posts: 1213
Location: Waynesboro, PA

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

One of my tips is to know how you prefer to work! For example, I'm notoriously impatient. I hate waiting around for something, like paint drying for example! So I work on several ponies at once usually. Right now I'm doing FBRs on three different ponies and considering getting out another one or two to do as well!

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ImmortalPanda
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PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

This should be stickied. Wink

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NoDivision
I am vengeance, I am the night


Joined: Mar 03, 2010
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PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

Seconding a stickie! It's a very good post Happy

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thatg33kgirl
Rapunzel Pony


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 4440
Location: Fairfield, OH (Cincinnati area!)

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

PinkRosedust wrote:
Well, I am NOT a customizer, but I do have a tip for newcomers since it hasn't been mentioned - ALWAYS identify your pony before starting to customize it! After you know who it is, do a search and/or ask if it's "okay" to customize that pony. If it so happens that you have a rare/sought after/worth a crap load of money pony on your hands, even if you don't care to collect, you could sell it off to someone who will appreciate it, and get some extra cash at the same time!

I'd also say make sure your pony is actually bait-worthy (i.e. in bad enough condition) but that is sort of in the eye of the beholder I guess.

Ya know, I meant to put this in my original one, but forgot! YES! This is MOST important!!! Right up there with 10. Do your research- make sure its not rare!!! Thanks for reminding me Pinkrosedust

And awesome great tips everyone, keep em coming!

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TwistedRainbow
Bay Breeze Pony


Joined: Mar 01, 2011
Posts: 757
Location: fredericksburg virginia

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

ok im new to customizing but i have a tip for new people. ALWAYS test everything!!! test your paint, your brushes, your sealer, everything before you put it on a pony. i made this mistake and my pony didn't turn out how i wanted because i used the wrong thing.

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Diamond
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Joined: Oct 09, 2004
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PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

Buy some fine grade sand paper or sanding sponges, nothing worse then a finger print in an otherwise excellent work. Sometimes all it take a quick run over with the sanding sponge to make you work go from zero to hero.


Another good tip is to prime or seal your sculpted work, different surfaces absorb paint at different rates so if you are trying to get a nice even color from say the plastic body of the pony onto the sculpted bits you did you may find it is easier and last longer if you prime or seal the apoxie or other material you use.

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miss_tuneful
MIB Rapunzel Pony


Joined: Aug 07, 2006
Posts: 6138
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

I'd like to add that a base coat of either sealant or sealant mixed with paint is a very good way to start your custom. I'm not overly fond of spray base-coating, as it can flake off, but I am very fond of my matte spray varnish for top sealing. I spray varnish the whole pony (without hair in of course) and then high-gloss (or satin varnish or whatever) with a brush on eyes and other parts that needs to be glossy.

always be careful not to paint too thick layers. thinpaint is the key to success and no brush stokes!



great tips everyone :3 now I want to work with customs... x3
(am in the wrong town D: My baitbox is at my parents')

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Kalavista
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PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

I'll give some India ink tips, since that's usually what people ask me about, hehe! India ink pens are GREAT if you're starting customizing and haven't mastered the paintbrush yet. Teeny paintbrushes were hard for me; it took me probably 2 years to get comfortable with them, and in the meantime, the India ink helped me learn control with designs.

I use Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens:
www.dickblick.com/prod...tist-pens/

The black pens are HEAVEN. They're perfect for outlining and doing small, fine details. The different nibs act quite differently, in my experience, so here's a little run-down:

Extra Fine Nib - this is the smallest nib. It's TINY. It also dries out so fast it's a waste of money.
Superfine Nib - THE BEST. 5 stars. Perfect for tiny details, and lasts for quite a while.
Fine Nib - decent. Probably the best after Superfine, but seems to dry out faster.
Medium Nib - meh. Doesn't dry out quickly, but isn't small enough to do intricate details.
Brush Nib - good for larger surfaces. You can do a full body repaint with this brush nib!! It lasts for ages without drying up.

For the colors - colored India ink is harder to work with. When you're using the black, it dries quickly and can be sealed within a few hours (I use watered down matte Modge Podge).

The colors do NOT work that way. First of all, if you apply the colored brush nibs directly to the pony plastic, they'll "slide off". Plus, even if you manage a design, they'll smear like crazy when you go to seal.

That said - the colors ARE worth using because the colors are so bright and vivid. And the solution is pretty simple - just lay down a thin layer of acrylic paint before applying India ink. Let dry for a few hours, then seal. Using that method, I have no smearing.

Oh - one last tip, whenever you apply India ink over acrylic, use something to make sure there is NO trace of paint on your India ink pen! Otherwise it dries out! And note that even if your acrylic paint is completely dry BEFORE you use India ink on it, you can still end up with traces of paint on your pens. Not good!
(I use baby wipes to clean my India ink pens. Baby wipes rule!)

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thatg33kgirl
Rapunzel Pony


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
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Location: Fairfield, OH (Cincinnati area!)

PostPosted: 0    Post subject: Re: My Top Ten Tips for MLP customizers

^ I double approve of the Pitt Artist's pens- I looove them- they are great for pony eye lashes and eye liner!!!

Great tips so far everyone! Keep em coming!

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