Customizing ponies - a brief How-To.
Well, there are a lot of things to consider before you start repainting ponies.
Before you paint it at all, you’ll want to wash it with some basic soap to make sure there aren’t any factory oils left on it (just like you would do before painting a model car kit you buy from the hobby store). You’ll also want to sand it a bit, if you can. When it comes to the paint that comes on them, HOLY DAMMIT CHRISTMAS. It’s like they painted these things with truck bed liner - it is very, VERY difficult to remove. I didn’t try using turpentine or anything, but both nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol barely puts a dent in it. If you can find something stronger to remove the original paint, I would suggest doing so, but you don’t necessarily have to remove all the paint. It’s just that doing so will make it so your pony isn’t just utterly thick with paint. Sanding the pony a bit will also give the paint a better surface to stick to.
This is how that Rarity (formerly a Sweetie Swirl) looked before I began painting.
Now, depending on what you plan to do, you may find that you want to carve parts off of the pony. Exacto knives are great for this - just your basic one will do. I personally also use a special tool for shaping the pony a bit - it’s an old battery-powered salon manicure thing that turns out to be a decent dremel as well. It’s just as good for smoothing and shaping ponies and clay as it is for shaping fingernails. I also sometimes use a metal nail file to sand/shape them. Of course,all of this is up to you, depending on what you want to create.
You can see here with another Sweetie Swirl that I carved up to convert to a Trixie - Exacto knives and their tiny blades are ideal for this.
Should you decide to add sculpting to your pony, the best option to go with are your basic polymer clays. Sculpey is the most familiar name, but there are other brands that work just as well. These are nice clays that you can bake in your oven at home (though, if you have something like a toaster oven, that might be a better option. I’m lucky enough to have one that’s specifically for baking clay.) The nice thing about the blind bag ponies is that you can sculpt directly on them, and then stick the whole thing in the oven in order to bake the clay. The ponies won’t melt at the temperature needed for baking. They will feel a little odd, and their limbs will be a little softer, but they’ll be fine once they cool down. As with all polymer clays, make sure the area you’re baking in is well-ventilated, and be careful not to bake the clay for too long.
Another nice thing about polymer clays is that they can be carved into after baking. I normally take that makeshift dremel, and use the different tips to smooth out curves in the clay areas, and to make fine edges. You can smooth it out with sandpaper, or also use a nail file to achieve the desired effects. I just happen to have a fuckton of different crafting utensils and apparatus at my disposal, but they’re not necessarily a requirement.
Behind Rarity here, you can see Vinyl Scratch and Octavia in-progress. Scratch I had already begun painting, but Octavia I hadn’t. It doesn’t matter what color clay you use if you’re going to be painting over it (though obviously, a lighter color or something close to the paint color is most ideal). I tend to just use scrap clay left over from other projects. You’ll notice the patches of white all over Scratch’s mane - that was modelling paste that I added on to repair a crack that occurred, and to add more dimension to her mane. While it takes many layers to get volume, modelling paste is a great tool for adding minor touches, or for fixing mistakes after the pony is already baked. Once it hardens, it can be painted over, and can also still be sanded/carved if need be. I used the dremel to make all those grooves in their manes and tails.
Once you’re satisfied with the carving/sculpting and smoothness, you’re ready to paint your pony. When it comes to repainting on plastic, always use acrylic paint, and thin it out with either water, or a flow medium. It may be time consuming, but the best way to do repaints is to do multiple thin coats. VERY thin coats. This way, you won’t end up with that obvious painted look, where you can see all the brush strokes. Multiple thin coats will leave it looking nice and smooth. It will take a few before it stops being “streaky” and the color looks full, but it will be worth it. Also, you don’t necessarily need high-end paints - craft paint will work fine. Artist’s paint will be more heavily pigmented, but you would have to thin it out a lot more.
Of course, when it comes to working with any paint, always use the appropriate brush type. Nothing with natural hairs should ever be used with acrylics, because they hairs may break off into the paint. A soft vinyl brush is best - I find the ones with white bristles are softest. You’re gonna need a hella tiny one for doing any small details, because these are really tiny ponies. For the tiniest details, I actually have a very old brush that’s literally down to it’s last couple of hairs. However, you could improvise an extremely tiny brush if you happen to have a pet that sheds. Just collect a few hairs and tape them to something. Heck, even your own hair could work. I’ve heard people talk about using a single cat’s whisker, but well…not owning a cat myself, I’m not so sure those ever fall out on their own, and I wouldn’t wanna go plucking one out of a poor kitty’s face.
The clay parts you would paint in the same way as the plastic - multiple thin coats. It won’t take long working this way before you become a pro at not leaving any brush strokes in the paint.
While optional, if you wanted, you could try mixing different paints and adding other mediums to your colors. I have a bottle of Iridescent Pearl by Golden acrylics that I use with a little white paint for white ponies like Rarity. I also have a pearlescent medium from Folk Art that you can mix in with other colors to give a slight pearly sheen. With Vinyl Scratch, I also experimented with mixing in glow-in-the-dark paint, but I find that just mixing the glow paint with a nice satin or gloss varnish/glaze is probably the better option to actually see any glow. Unfortunately, most glow-in-the-dark craft paints are unusually grainy after they dry. You could very lightly, very carefully sand the paint if the graininess is taking too much away from the finished look. Metallic paints can also be used for either an actual metallic look (like Celestia’s royal accoutrements) or for a slightly metallic shine (just a wee bit different from the pearlescence).
You can see here that both Vinyl and Octavia have a pearlescence on the body, and with Octavia, I mixed in a touch of metallic silver into the brown I used for her mane and tail. With scratch, I just used a flat, darker neon blue, and then in the bright teal, I mixed in and painted over the top with glow paint. It’s a shame it doesn’t photograph well enough in the dark to see it glow, but it glows very well. Over the tops of the eyes, mane/tail, and cutie marks, I use a simple gloss varnish. Over the bodies, however, I mix a touch of satin varnish in with the paint/pearlescent combo, so that they aren’t too shiny, but are still “sealed”, i.e. have a proper protective coat.
One last note - since you’ll likely end up mixing colors, you may want to consider getting some little sealed paint cups/jars, so that you can mix enough of your color without having to worry about it drying out while not in use.
Lastly, you might decide to create accessories for your pony that aren’t attached to it. If making a hat, for example, you’ll want to sculpt it around the hair of your pony prior to painting, and then push in the inside just a tad more so there’s room for the paint. If making something like a cape, I suggest having a layer of foil inside the clay to help maintain the shape, and for added strength. Things like glasses can be made by fitting the clay over a very small wire form, such as I did with Scratch’s shades:
You might notice from the other pictures above that I made rather large, hollow areas for her eyes - that is how I got the glasses to sit on the face unassisted.
I made Trixie’s hat and cape so that they could be removed. A removable cape is not something I’d want to attempt very often, as it can be very tricky. You can see on the hat and cape, though, that I ended up adding touches of glitter. Glitter is great, but only when used in moderation.
As a final note, should you decide to add something to the pony that can’t be sculpted on without changing the pony too much (like a tongue sticking out, for example), these things can be made and baked on their own, and then glued to the pony prior to painting. Any strong glue made for sticking non-porous surfaces together should suffice.
That’s pretty much how I’ve been going about it. I hope this information (long-winded as it is) proves helpful in your own pony painting endeavors.
I don’t know what to sculpt today.
I finally have some aluminum rods and a clear plastic Krimmus ornament to do a Benson, but now I’ve also got the itch to sculpt other things. This leaves me with a few options:
- Make a Benson (which has the potential to be finished the fastest).
- Finish Mordecai and Rigby (which I dread, because there’s actually a LOT of work that needs to be done that is going to be incredibly difficult now that they’re already wired onto the base)
- Finish Doktor Frogg (he has no head, and past experience with tiny Jack Spicer is telling me I’m gonna end up having to put wire inside every single spike of his hair.)
- Start a two-set of Dipper and Mabel (I would likely only finish the armatures today).
- Make a little sitting Robbie in HoodieVille (since it would be sitting, I wouldn’t have to reinforce the legs, and the fact that only his nose would be sticking out would save me time on sculpting the face).
I hate decisions.
AND I HATE MY BRAIN FOR COMING UP WITH MORE IDEAS THAN I HAVE THE TIME OR MOTIVATION TO FOLLOW THROUGH TO COMPLETION.
Looked in my sculpting folder…read the file names…
^ This is how you can tell a person isn’t pleased with their progress.
Hostile file names.