Introductory: Tips For Repainting Figures

Discussion in 'Tutorials and How Tos' started by REDLINE, Jan 28, 2008.

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    REDLINE longer days, plz? Veteran

    Dec 2, 2004
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    Tips For Repainting A Figure

    Credit for this goes to Ops_Was_A_Truck:


    A. Some terms

    If you have never, ever repainted or kitbashed a transformer ever in your life, it’s start you with some very simple terms:

    A KITBASH is the process of taking one Transformer toy (or some toy) and converting it into something different. The degree of complexity in the kitbash varies.

    A REPAINT is just that – a repainted Transformer toy.

    A DIGIBASH is the process of DIGITALLY repainting or kitbashing (see above) a Transformer. The digibash does not exist in real life (which is unfortunate, in most cases, because Slayer’s digibashes look really awesome.)

    B. Basics of kitbashing/repainting: A quick “repaint” project

    Some of the most basic repaints simply involve taking a Transformer apart and repainting him. This is a simple process and can be a lot of fun. What follows is a step-by-step guide to a very simple repaint, including suggested paint types. Note that this is being written from personal experience, so other kitbashers may have slightly different methods.

    Let’s assume that you’ve purchased a Transformer, have an idea of what color you want him to be (let’s say, for this example, you’re repainting him in red) and you’re ready to go.

    You will need:

    1. A bucket of soapy water (trust me)
    2. A can of Testor’s basic Red spraypaint (available at most hobby stores)
    (You can experiment with different types of spraypaint, too…a clever spraypaint called “Fusion,” made by Krylon, is some of the most durable plastic-adhesive paint on the market these days…there are also Japanese model master spraypaints as well.)
    3. A can of Testor’s glosscoat (often spelled “glosscote” by them, because they think they’re cool.)
    4. Sandpaper
    5. A model knife
    6. A Philips-head screwdriver

    --Goo Gone
    --Paint solvent (most people use Testor’s, although I have heard of people using everything from Palmolive up to brake fluid to strip parts)


    1. Take the entire Transformer apart, using the Philips-head screwdriver to unscrew EVERYTHING. Regard your pieces carefully and decide which parts of the car body you want to be painted red and which parts of the robot “guts” you want to be painted red (or, do you want to just leave the robot guts as their original color?)

    2. WASH YOUR PARTS IN SOAPY WATER! You never know what type of grime either your fingers or the assembly workers’ fingers has gotten on your reissue. You want the parts to be completely clean and ready to accept paint.
    3. You need to remember something important: You are repainting a toy with moving parts. Because of this, you are adding additional layers of paint to a toy that was designed to function with one layer of paint. In other words, you’re increasing the mass of your toy. You will have to sand down some of the parts so that the Transformer can still transform correctly.

    Locations to sand include (this is NOT a complete list, just examples)

    On G1 figures: where car doors meet the die-cast hood area
    On Armada/Energon/Cybertron figures: a seam – i.e., where to repainted parts will meet
    On RID/Alternators figures: fingers and joints

    4. You may go two ways at this point. You can
    A) Strip the car parts of all pre-existing paint by using a solvent and/or the sandpaper
    B) Just start painting. Sometimes, this can result in the original paint job “bleeding” through your new paint job, so beware.

    WARNING! When you are painting the parts, make sure that you are spray- painting in a room with plenty of ventilation! If that stuff kills ozone, it’ll do a doozie on your lungs!

    Remember that there will be certain parts of the Transformer toy that no one will see when the toy is reassembled (plastic chutes made to hold screws, the undersides of car hoods, etc.) Hold your part there while spraypainting in order to create the effect of a “completely” painted part.
    There are several neat tricks that model-builders use to keep their painted parts from touching a surface. Here are a few:
    A. You can jury-rig a “grabber claw” painting rig by cutting out the center of a coat hanger and attaching alligator clips to either end of the coat hanger. Then, hang the coat hanger somewhere where you can easily spray paint the dangling parts.
    B. Hold ‘em with thumb and forefinger! Not the best idea because it covers your fingers with paint, but hey – when all else fails…

    5. Give your parts about a day to dry (12 hours minimum.) Then, using the same process mentioned above, go back and spray all of the parts with glosscoat. Now, the glosscoat is optional, but I highly recommend it. It will give your parts a “toy-like” gloss shine and it will also seal in the paint from minor scuffs. Remember that, before, we also sanded the parts down so that they should now move smoothly despite having an extra layer of paint. Once the glosscoat dries, test-fit some of the parts back together to see if you have to worry about paint wear at joints or corners. If so, sand that corner/joint down and repeat steps 3 & 4.

    6. The best part: Re-assemble! If you have kept track of your screws and your parts look nice and shiney, then start re-screwing that sucker back together. Remember that you will likely have to check out all sorts of reference pictures if you can’t remember where so-and-so part goes, so be sure to check out the galleries of your toy, if you get lost.

    That should do it! You now have a repainted figure.

    EDIT: Good Info From Greyryder:

    I know, I'm not the only one who's run into this. Some parts are made out of plastics that paint simply won't adhere to. Alternators hands and spoilers come to mind.

    The April 2006 Model Railroader has a short article on a solution to this. (they love to make little detail parts, and handrails out of acetal plastic) Before painting, spray the parts with a coat or two of Specialty Perfomance Products Plastic Adhesion Promoter #SXA 1050. You should be able to get it at automotive paint suppliers. It's distributed by PPG, and comes in a spray can.

    It's a bit pricey, though. According to the article, it's about $15. I'm guessing that this would also work well to prevent chipping, on regular plastics.

    EDIT: More info from Ops_Was_A_Truck:

    Honestly, it's just a bad idea to try leaving parts on newspaper and spraypainting them. There are easier - and better - ways to get your parts painted that mean will allow you to spray the entire part.

    The best thing going is a set that I've heard most people call the "Helping Hands." This is a device with a heavy base, several articulated joints, and two tweezers at the top. You can position the joints however you wish so that you can spray your part easily. Here are some links to Helping Hands, including images of them:

    Now, honestly, if you can't get these off the internet - I know some of the kitbashers here are younger and have to get help from parents - you can also find these on local hobby shops. You might be lucky and end up finding them in the local Home Depot, too. If you decide to check out the local Home Depot or Lowes, I assume that these would be located near the Dremel tools or any fine-scale drills or drillbits they're selling.

    If you can't find Helping Hands, my next best suggestion is to buy a set of small-scale electrical alligator clips from Radio Shack - you can usually buy a 4-pack for about $3-$4 dollars. Cut up a wire hanger and duct tape the alligator clips to the ends of the wire hangers. Presto! You now have a little spraypainting rig; it should resemble a stick with a clip on the end for holding the part to be painted.

    I actually hand-built a bunch of these myself. You can use blocks of wood as a weighted surface; just drill a hole through the wood, stuff the empty end of your coat hanger into the hole, tape it up like crazy, and voila! Now, you don't even have to hold the coat hanger while painting.

    Putting together a painting rig is pretty easy, and if y'all want pics, I can post some later on when I get home. Don't feel slaved to just buying Helping Hands; it's easy to build a homebrew set of them just as easily.

    Honestly, I can't suggest a way to spraypaint parts on newspaper, because I think it makes the process of getting your parts painted well into a real bear. I used to just balance my parts on newspaper - try to find ways that they wouldn't move or slide anywhere - and start spraying away...but small pieces of plastic, being hit by compressed air, have a tendency to slide all over the place. And man...once you switch to using some sort of clip to hold your parts in place, the difference in ease is like the difference between day and night.


    How to make your own (a diagram)

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