Monday, August 30, 2010

Masking Basics

Masking is an old painter’s trick dealing with one of the most commonly used masking materials in custom painting, masking tape. Masking is a very basic part of painting any object, however masking often takes a long time to do and is therefore often skipped or done quickly and poorly.

Masking however is as important as the painting and when mastered it becomes a valuable tool that will give what ever your painting a truly professional finish.

In the beginning there was only one type of masking tape, crepe (as in crepe paper, pictured above) and takes some time in acquiring the skill to lay it down so that the paint doesn't bleed under it.
These days there are also new types of masking tape available on the market made from plastic  called 3M blue Fine Line. It's known for its ability to produce a nicely defined sharp edge (line) for even the most inexperienced painters.
Because this tape is plastic it can be manipulated to go around corners and curves with relative ease but again it will sill take a bit of practice. If you can not get the plastic type tapes regular crepe masking tape works just fine, and has done for a long time. Do not feel that you can not do it because you don’t have the new wiz bang product, focus on your technique first and foremost.

Masking tape comes in varriety of different widths so finding just the right width for your project is pretty easy, it also comes in many different qualities’, however it really pays to use the best quality masking tape available to you. The best masking tape that I know of is 3M and all of there masking tapes are readily available online.
3M also now have a huge range of different masking types for different projects inclding masking tape developed especially for automotive custom painting (very similar to custom toy painting, dont you think?). You can find their full range of products on their website…

3M also have a whole bunch of masking product information, tips and tricks(which in time I will also supply here), product demonstrations and custom sizes shapes and rolls…You can also check your local hardware stores, paint shops/ suppliers or if there is one, a automotive paint specialist.

As lot of the custom painting we do is on surfaces that are not flat, masking tape seems to work the best as it will conform to just about any shape object with out producing a bunch of wrinkles. Wrinkles not only make design lay out difficult but are areas where under spray is likely to occur defeating the purpose of masking the surface to begin with.
Most masking tape is solve proof which is very important as most of the better paints (auto and metallic’s) used in custom painting are usually solvent based. This is important because the solvent (in the paint) will not cause the adhesive to separate from the tape leaving your painting surface a mess or allowing the paint to bleed under the edges of the tape (this is also called “creep”)
This shouldn't happen with a good grade masking tape however it will often happen if you try to use cheaper masking material with solvent based paints.
If you are using water based paints (acrylics) this is not as much of an issue but I would still ere on the side of caution and buy a good quality tape.

If you are not sure about the quality of your tape (as is often the case for me here living in Japan and unable to read the packaging and labels) do a quick test. Lay some tape down on something (ice cream container plastic bottle whatever) and spray/brush/sponge your paint over the edge, just as you would if you were painting your figure... watch as the paint goes on and wait for your paint to dry a bit, then peel and check the edge of the tape and paint… if it is not solvent resistant you will see it almost straight away. This test will only take you a few minutes but I guarantee it will save you tears later down the track.

*Tip Avoid laying your tape down on its side as doing so will allow dirt, dust and shit to collect and stick to the sides of your tape, possibly getting onto the painting surface when you go to use it. It will also produce a fuzzy edge on the masking tape something you want to avoid. One way to avoid this is to keep your tape in a zip lock bag, not only will it keep your tape clean but it will also help keep you organized.

During the custom painting process we often need to mask over areas that we recently painted. For an added measure of safety you can make the tape less likely to pull paint up if you reduce how much tack (stick) the adhesive of the tape has. This is easy to accomplish by simply sticking the tape to your CLEAN (not flannel) shirt or jeans before applying it to your paint surface. You can also take some of the tack (stick) off with your fingers but be aware that if you wish to paint the area being masked again your fingers may leave unwanted oil on the surface. This is a good trick when painting hard surfaces like plastic and metal.

What brands and materials a custom painter devotes his loyalty to, is decided by personal experience and preference.
One more thing you should consider when using masking as a customizing technique is what else can I use, masking in the end is just blocking paint from a particular surface area which could be achieved by using all manner of things.
Like Gmunny who customized this black and silver munny here with rubber bands... Awesome! check out more of there work and munny goodness here....

So most importantly be creative play around, test out a bunch of things and have fun... Oh and if you find a great product or technique come back le us know so we can share it.

Also if you have any cool examples of masking techniques and would like to share email me and we so we can put hem in our gallery...

I hope you found the above information helpful and you can apply it to your next custom painting project. Please book mark this site and come back often as I will add more info as time allows.

Ps: The photos here were found using google image search if you are the artist who painted the awesome red/ white Munny let us know so we can give you credit ad link  to our site or photo gallery...

have an awesome day


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Started...

The most used and possibly most popular customizable vinyl toy on the market is Munny by Kid Robot.

While Munny comes in many different sizes, the standard Munny figure size is 4'-7" tall. Generally speaking this is a good all round size to customize as it gives you a good amount of surface to work with, while smaller toys can sometimes be very fiddly especially if you are customizing for the first time…. However this will of course come down to your own personal tastes and what you are trying to achieve.

Munny is available in a variety of colours for example white, black, blue, pink and glow-in-the-dark and is readily available at many online toy shops as well as at the KidRobot website, or you can visit the store if you live near Los Angeles.. Note that, at $24.99 each, they're not cheap… but well worth it in my opinion.
Kid Robot, now also make a few other additional platform shapes as pictured below...

Now if the Kid Robot shapes are not for you, thats ok too. There are literally dozens of designer toys that come as blanks (platform toys) a Google search for blank vinyl toys will give you a huge variety of shape options and also places to buy them.
 So now onto the important stuff.... Once you have your toy take it out of its box and wash it with soap and water to remove any excess oils... let it air dry... this takes a measure of patients (if you anything like me) but using a towel or something to dry your toy with may leave unwanted fibers on your toys surface...which you will not see until its stuck in your paint, badness then insures

In preparing your toy/s it is also a good Idea to lightly sandpaper the Munny's or other toy/figure of your choices surface to make sure that there are no rough spots particularly in design areas that will be painted; this light sanding will also help the paint to grip.

Another optional step but highly recommended is to apply a Gesso paint primer to the figures surface. Again this will help give you a good surface to work on.

Once this is done, you can start sketching your design on the figure with a pencil, pen, Sharpie-style marker or any of your favorite drawing implements. *Note that if you are planning on painting in light colours use a harder style graphite pencil and draw your design on lightly before you prime. Then give your figure a light coat of gesso or some other kind of surface primmer; this will stop the graphite from smearing when you start applying paint. Also be aware that sharpie markers are permanent markers and can not be removed if you make a mistake.

You can use masking tape for blocking out areas or to prevent over spray if you’re using spray paints that you don’t want on other parts of your character's design. If you are masking onto areas that have already been painted take some of the stickiness of the tape off with your fingers this will make sure that the tape doesn’t peel your paint off when you remove the tape...or you can by special painters masking tape from hardware stores.  

If you want to move beyond painting and customize the shape of the figure you are using there are several options,

You can use an X-Acto knife/blade or scalpel to cut into the figure… Some times softening the toy with some hot water can help get a nice clean cut. A small rotational multi tool like a dremel is also good for making holes, sanding and just about anything else you can think of.

Another option is using a product like Sculpey bake-on clay as an add-on element… If you plan on adding wood pieces to your munny, Elmer's wood glue may also come in handy.

*Note Any sculptural changes you make to your figure should be done before you start applying any paint or primer.

Last but not least, once finished, use clear coat fixative to prevent paint, ink, and other applied media from smearing. You can usually get this in three different types Matt (not shiny) Semi gloss (a little shinny) and Gloss (super shinny)

Now this information is just the very brief basics and beginning steps of toy customizing we will get into the nitty gritty of different products and techniques in future posts…

Stay tuned and happy customizing!

Lets get started!

Custom Empire is a one stop shop for all your customizing needs, ok it isn’t a shop its more like a library for all your customizing informational needs.
 As you can see our little site is under construction this is because we are but a new little chibi site and will take some time to grow.
 Our aim here is to provide an easily accessible resource of information on all things customizing, from tools and equipment, painting tips, sculpting, links to sites, materials, tips, tricks and anything we and hopefully you can think of to help everyone who is into the toy customizing world.

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