Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to Customize a Dunny

Since I have completed about 75 custom toys at this point, I figure I've worked out enough kinks to give a decent tutorial on how to customize a Dunny. This is just my own personal approach to customizing a Dunny, and can be applied to pretty much any vinyl toy on the market.

The very first thing I do is remove all of the original art from the toy with some acetone. Acetone is very potent, and I always do this outdoors. You don't want to be breathing this stuff in. With an old rag I dip a small portion of it into the acetone and wipe the toy down a number of times until just the base vinyl is left. I did not post photos of this step to avoid offending the artist who designed the work for this particular Dunny. You would't want to see your work smeared all over the place, would you?

*Special tip - Make sure you strip all the paint off of the Dunny arms. Sometimes they are slightly sticky and trying to paint over them can be a nightmare and they may remain sticky. Strip them well and you won't have any problems.

Acetone evaporates very quickly, so if you just wait a minute or so the toy is ready for primer. Sometimes I use white primer if I want to use brighter colors on the finished piece, and sometimes I use black if I'm going for the darker look. Any color will accomplish the main goal, which is to help the acrylic paint stick to the vinyl. Priming also provides a consistently colored base to paint on, since a production toy like this one may often have different color head, body, and arms once it's been stripped.

Next, aftet the primer has dried, I use another rag to buff out any roughness or uneven overspray. Little spits and sputters from the aerosol tip will show up when you start painting, so get rid of them now. If you are sculpting on the toy, this step is not so important, but since I am painting directly on the primer, I want it nice and smooth.

I usually like to paint the feet black, even if I use white primer. This is because the feet will be touching some kind of surface at all times when the piece is finished and on display, so the more paint on the feet the better. I choose black because if for some reason the toy is picked up and moved from place to place too often and the feet were to ever sustain any scratches, black will be the least noticeable color if it appears through most surface colors. Does this make sense?

At this point I put down about three to five good layers of base color, which usually consists of two or three different pigments blended together to create a nice custom color that cannot be purchased at your local art store. I don't always do this, because sometimes I find a color so beautiful right out of the tube that I just put it on the way it is, then build my custom colors on top, but for this piece I've used a pink and a purple mixture. Sorry, I won't divulge exactly which ones. You can experiment on your own to find something you like.

This stage can take me an hour or two before I am happy with the color and saturation. Be patient, don't rush. This is art.

*Special tip - If you are using multiple coats of a base color, give the toy plenty of drying time between them so that you don't wipe the paint back off while you are working. Same goes for when you are done and ready to begin painting your details. A standard hair dryer will speed up the process, but don't let the vinyl get too warm or it will become soft.

So far everything I have shown you is pretty standard and most other toy customizers will arrive at this point the same way I do. Now is the time where the road tends to branch off into many routes. Some artists choose to draw directly on the Dunny with pencil or marker to plan out where to go next. Some will just start painting away waiting to see where the piece goes on its own. I take this path sometimes as well. Since this piece is going to be in my Beast Buddies series, it will include the pencil drawing used to plan out the piece, so I have a shot of that below. This will be my road map for this Dunny.

From this drawing I begin with the messy stuff so that the details I add later can be crisp. On this piece I start by spritzing some of the raw purple I used in the base mix onto the Dunny 'ears'. Once the purple is dry, I spritz some pearl satin gold over it. There are a variety of ways to spritz or splatter paint.

*Special tip - Try using an old toothbrush with paint on the tip of slightly damp bristles. Use your thumb to flick the bristles and the paint will spray off nicely.

Now that the messy work is done, I begin adding the features that were planned out on the drawing. In this case, I first lay down the toenails and fingernails. I use a color that will flow well with the gold on the 'ears'. I also map out the eyes with the same raw purple that I sprayed on the ears.

Now I further define the eyes by adding contrast above and below the ball of each eye. Highlighting the top makes the brow appear to be set above the eye in 3D fashion.

*Special tip - Turn the Dunny's head as far around as you need to be able to paint underneath its cheeks and chin. At some point in each of my Dunny customizations I have the head turned a full 180 degrees.

The personality of the Beast Buddies really start to come through in this stage. I add the pupils, some spots on the top of the head, and a little more contrast under the eyes. I couldn't decide between green or blue eyes, so I chose a combo of both. More wrinkles are also added between the eyes.

This guy is called the 'Purple Platypus', so he gets a bill on the part of the Dunny's face that is already a protrusion. The belly has a little lavender on it now, getting ready for a little lighter fuzzy looking cream color. A lot of my Beast Buddies have spots, so this guy has some dark green ones now on his legs and arms.

I like to keep the backs fairly simple. Even though this is a 3D piece of art, the finished product is only viewed from the front when displayed. If I put anything too fancy on the back I am worried that there will be excess temptation to pick it up often and this is not a great idea since the work should be treated like any other hand painted canvas or panel. I gave the little guy a bandana style design on his back and a couple rear toenails and that completes the back side.

Now the bill is sharpened up with nostrils added, the tummy is fuzzy, the eyes are highlighted, and more contrast is added to the brow, and with that, the 'Purple Platypus' is born.

If you would like to grab one of my Beast Buddies for yourself, click over to and click the custom toy category.

I will try to answer any questions you may have about this tutorial, so please ask them in the comments section below. Hope you enjoyed it.

God bless,
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