Tools of the Trade

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Working with custom figures will require a few basic items, but luckily there's nothing horribly expensive that you need to get started.


  • Small Screwdriver - Most people report that what are often sold as "Glasses Repair Screwdrivers" work. Find a size that fits well into the figure screws and tightens/untightens easily. A magnetized tip helps to pull out screws. If you don't have one of these, you're customizing experience is either going to be short lived, or a nightmare. Hardware stores, grocery stores, you can find these in a lot of places and they shouldn't be too expensive. Read here for a review of an excellent screwdriver by JM70.
  • Paints - Each customizer has to test out the paints on the market and find what works best for him or her. Model paints are a safe bet, and there seems to be a favor of acrylic of enamels by most customizers. Hobby shops, comic book stores, craft stores; paints aren't too hard to locate. Most places that sell toys sell models... and almost every place that sells models sells model paints.
  • Paint Brushes - Paint is going to be pretty useless without these... they come in a variety of shapes. Usually you can find ones with smaller brushes (ideal for the details on figures) where you can find model paints.


  • Pliers - From holding body parts while you paint, to opening paint bottles, a pair of these will make your life easier.
  • Dye - Dye is a popular way to colour a figure without paint chipping. However only darker shades can be acheived. For more information see the dyeing tutorial
  • Sand Paper - Finer grain sand paper works great to modify figure parts. The difference a little sanding can make might surprise you. Rougher paper works well on customizing vehicles.
  • Craft Knife - Commonly known as an X-Acto Knife, you could probably use a couple of these. From reworking accessories to adding detail to figures, they're just one of those items that have lots of uses. They're usually sold near models and paints, or you can find them in the craft section of your local Wal-Mart. Most knives can accept a variety of different blades (chisels, heavy duty and very fine) as well as razor-saws and other special tools. Most hobby stores will have a section for these.
  • Clippers - Also called snips, wire cutters and side cutters they are small, sharp cutting tools. Good for removing hands, feet and larger parts, they can be found in hobby stores and hardware stores (often in the electrical section).
  • Drill - A small hand drill for making pinning holes, hollowing out holsters and more. Drill bits start as small as 0.3mm.

Advanced Tools

  • Clamps and Clips - Either custom made or store bought ('Helping Hands' being the most common), small alligator clips and the like can be used to secure parts during painting.
  • Dremel - A dremel is a certain brand of power tool that works by spinning numerous attachments at high speeds. In addition to shooting plastic in every direction, there are attachments for making a lot of custom work easier. Drilling, sanding, cutting larger pieces (such as vehicles) are easy with this. See the Rotary Tools section for more.
  • Hacksaw - Perfect for taking off a neckball or cutting a vehicle in half.
  • Modeling Compound - These are a variety of different materials that some customizers use to sculpt new features onto their figures. Various types such as epoxy putty, sculpey, kneadite (aka green stuff) and milliput exist. For a detailed look at the different types of compound, see the Sculpting and Sculpting Materials guide.
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