David Bowie Funko Pop Custom on cut map with paints and palette

Funko Pop Customs: First Steps (Part 1)

The number of Funko Pop figurines is growing every day. Some Pops appear, some disappear, become vaulted and suddenly the price rises so high it’s hard to follow. Funko acquires more and more licenses, new, exciting figurines flood the market but there’s still nothing about this old-school movie you loved as a child? Maybe your budget doesn’t cover the price on a Pop you desire? Maybe your Pop has some badly painted surface you can’t look at? Or simply you don’t like where Funko went with your favourite character and you can’t look at it anymore? Pop Customs are here to help you out.

The term custom is obviously from customising and in case of Pops, it can take many different ways: repainting, creating a new Pop from parts of others, sculpting and adding details to a figurine, or sometimes even modelling it from scratch. It depends on the customizer, their skills and ideas.

I am not an artist in any way. I am a programmer professionally and my whole education was technical. But I always loved art and creativity. I have no talent nor predispositions. Please take my advice as a fellow beginner. I don’t intend to make money out of my customs and I can’t give you any tips on how to be a professional.

However, as a long going Funko collector, I decided to travel in Funko Pop Customs direction and educate myself. Here’s what I gathered.

Collecting Your First Working Kit

What you actually need to start is one Pop you no longer want in its current state and acrylic paints. If you plan to do something small or just try if you would enjoy it, any art store kind will do. The paints are usually in bottles or tubes, you can find many types of sets so pick whatever you like. If you’d rather go fully professional I am a very satisfied user of Vallejo Model Color. I’ll write more about them in another article, but now just FYI.

Obviously, you’ll have to grab a paintbrush or even more than one. The choice is quite wide and there’s no one correct answer. Each guide I found suggested different sorts of brushes, depending on your personal taste. Myself, I use flat synthetics for bigger surfaces and tiny rounds for details (for instance sized 000 or 5/0).

Paintbrushes in line on white surface

The sizes here depend on what you plan to do to your figurine. In my opinion, you need at least one big for surfaces like faces, one very small for details and one medium for painting near lines. That should do for now.

If you don’t know how to treat brushes, take some cheap ones. The only rule is they shouldn’t have each piece of hair in a different direction. As long as they keep together, it’s all right and you’re ready to have some practice first.

Next, you need to prepare your working space. I am not going to teach you that you should sit straight and have enough light, you do you. But you will need:

a) a palette – that can be any plastic-like surface (lids from any jar or ice cream box is enough, as long as it’s flat), I don’t recommend paper for that since acrylic paints dry out quite fast and paper only make the process faster. Remember to keep it clean so the paint doesn’t get too much dust or any substances – it can really mess the final result. The size is up to you. You can also buy proper pallette. Professional ones later.

b) a glass and water – you need barely any water so don’t take the whole glass. Pick glasses/mugs/cups no longer in their intentional use or plastic cups. Or ask at home which one is the pain in your mama’s eye. She’ll thank you for its disappearance. Then take less than half the cup of water; even one third. It’s more than enough.

Paintbrushes in a mug on white table

c) desk cover – a bit of paper is a must. You need some paper to cover the desk, it will be a good asset to also dry out excess of water on your brushes and check paints. I also use old plastic document sleeve if I spill water or something. You can use any other cover, there’re ones for that purpose to buy, too. But a nice layer of newspaper or used papers is enough. Recycling is the way!

d) varnish – this is a little advanced but you should have some. If you don’t want to bother, you don’t have to, I didn’t varnish my first “projects” at all but it is a proper way to assure your work is protected. If you don’t want to spend money on the actual thing, just steal some transparent nail polish from your sister or girlfriend, but you didn’t get this idea from me. I am using the actual varnishes and they aren’t too big of an expense. For Pops, I’d recommend satin and matte. You can buy just matte one but remember that its protection properties can be not as good as glossy ones.

e) * primer – if you only want to do some tiny corrections, no need, but with every major change in colour, especially from dark to light, you’re gonna need one. There’re many colours of primers, but I’d recommend white.

f) * paint remover – of course to remove paint. Nail polish remover is good enough to start. It can be more useful than you think.

Starting Out

You must remember that acrylics dry quickly so time is your enemy here. Don’t take out a lot of paint from the bottle nor leave bottles open. You’ll be surprised how little paint you’ll actually use, even with bigger surfaces.

My first “job” was repainting eyes of my Pop Keychains. I use them with my keys and the eyes get scratched quite often. For doing that kind of tasks, to do them “right”, you don’t need much skill, but a bit of knowledge. Don’t work on them only with paint. It is possible, but you’ll really appreciate paint mixed up with a tiny bit of water. The consistency is way better and it doesn’t look like a blob that much. Also, paint the whole eye, not just this small piece that got scratched out. Blacks won’t stand out that much, but they will stand out enough. If you don’t feel comfortable going near the edges of the colour – don’t do that, but let the paint go around a little.

The consistency of the paint depends on what you need to do. Usually, you go with the tiny bit of water just to make it more fluid but not too much – then it won’t exactly cover anything and will spill around. Remember it’s better to do more layers rather than cover the place with a plump of paint.

Materials and mediums for modeling: sandpaper, paint mediums, glue
Brush cleaning remover, glossy varnish, (hard) paint remover, glue, sandpaper and clips

Paint Removal

If you want to paint the whole part of the Pop, it will be better to remove its colour first. It is not necessary but it looks better. You’ll have another couple of layers covering the surface, especially with primer, and this will look bulky and unprofessional. Since Funko also protects its paint, it can be a long and annoying journey. Remember to open the window often while using removers and be patient about it. It took me sometimes over a week to remove the paint from Pop’s hair because I couldn’t work on it for more than an hour per day. It is, after all, acid.

Remember to wear gloves here. Your hands won’t survive long acidic rendez-vous unless you want to have some sort of Freddy Krueger’s limb. Find some good ones that don’t dissolve quickly and let you hold the figurine sturdily. I use thin ones but whatever fits you.

To remove I tried some sponges, but I noticed makeup pads and ear sticks work best. You will need plenty of these. Remember not to scratch too hard because you’ll damage the Pop. After each session wash it with water so the acid doesn’t damage it. And don’t scrub for too long with the same instrument. First, because it will damage the figurine, second, it won’t remove much. If there’s too much paint on your pad, it will colour the plastic rather than remove it.

Nail polish remover, cotton pads, ear sticks, nail file on white background

Priming

This is for covering surfaces with more friendly colour and for making the surface take in paints better. Primers can be in many different colours, depending on what you want to paint. If you need a green army uniform, you can also use a green primer and so on.

Most often in figure painting, people use white, black or grey primers. For now, I didn’t go with more advanced techniques so let’s just stick to white. It is easy to handle and paint on. And it fits every single project.

Primers don’t need much water but I’m recommending wetting the paintbrush. Depending on the primer it can differ, though. Just pay attention to bubbles and clods and if they appear, you need to adjust the water or your strokes.

Secondly, go with many layers and wait for each to dry. It takes plenty of time, I usually paint one or two layers and leave it until the next day.

Bonus: I’m using paints, but feel free to experiment with spray

Funko Pop George Weasley's head with palette and paints in the background
Priming Funko Pop to Change Its Hair Colour

Painting

Paint slowly and carefully. Change brushes depending on the surface so you have as little possibility of smudging as possible. Fast strokes create bubbles on the figurine and you need to avoid them to have a clear layer.

Experiment with your paints and understand how they work. Try them out on paper and on plastic (or some spare Pop) to know how they behave. If you want to custom Pops longer, play around with your tools and know them.

You want to paint with a tiny bit of paint-water-mix on the brush. Don’t dive your brushes into paints, it will only destroy your brush (and possibly the work on your Pop). Don’t leave brushes in the water and after you’re done, keep them hair up – mohawk style!

Every time you want to change paint, you should wash the previous paint in the water, if it’s a major change in colour, go clean it under running water and gently remove the paints with your fingers. If it doesn’t go off completely, it’s all right.

Clean brushes often, at least when you finish painting session. There’re mediums on the market that remove paint excesses from brushes if you need some help.

Varnishing

It is said the glossy varnish keeps the paint more secure, but for the looks, you usually want a matt finish. You can “mix” it: just paint one-two layers of gloss and then one matt. It will turn out all right. Let each layer dry out. Long.

Bonus: I’m using paints, but feel free to experiment with spray

Sculpting

I didn’t touch this subject very much so not much comment there. For my figurines, I used air-drying clay from Fimo (Fimo air-light) but honestly, I don’t recommend it much. The most important quality is it is very light in weight so the Pop won’t fall because of lack of balance. But the sculpting itself is a nightmare. It is literally playable for like 3 minutes tops and it’s often not enough to make what I need. Plus it is hard to make tiny elements out of it.

I suppose I’ll make another post about it if I’m anywhere near having proper advice.

Off With His Head!

I suppose I hate this part the most. There’re a lot of different methods to remove the head from the body, my personal favourite is a hairdryer. I just put the figurine in a bowl or sink, on a towel, head down and keep heating it until it’s flexible enough to take it off.

Some tips:

  1. Apparently the hotter setting is better, it goes off faster.
  2. Time and effort depend on your hairdryer. You gotta try to know.
  3. Don’t touch the Pop for too long. It will be burning hot. I always take the head through a towel etc.
  4. The head comes off with a stronger pull. Don’t worry, it won’t damage your Pop, but also don’t try too hard, if it doesn’t go off, heat it a bit more.

And the most important part – the disc. It is somewhat glued to the head and can be taken off with the body, depending on what you want. I personally always try to keep it inside the head since many discs differ from one another. If you take it off by mistake, don’t worry, nothing happened. It can be easily put back inside the head. Just warm up the head and the disc so they’re flexible and put the disc back in. It shouldn’t fall out but if it does, just glue it with some super glue or something.

Funko Customs Removing Head with Hairdryer
Others also suggest putting the figurine into water or keeping it above boiling water or something like that. The key here is heat, whatever you use will be fine. Or buy a heat gun, if you want something fancier.

Remember that Marvel and Star Wars lines are bobbleheads so you’ll deal with springs. Bonus info: older ones have longer spring radius so they aren’t all the same. After one attempt I decided not to full around with these. Annoying.

Funko Pop with Body and Head Separated
Let the Pop cool down after removing the head

Thank you for reading! Feel free to ask questions via comment section or social media. I am planning to make a further guide to custom in the future so if there’s something I didn’t cover and you want to know – let me know, I’ll add it to the list! (This post was already long enough)

Leave a Reply