How to Make a Polymer Clay Action Figure Prototype (Part 1)
An action figure prototype is a great project for polymer clay sculpture. You can think outside the box and you’re limited only by imagination. A prototype made from polymer clay makes a great presentation. Learn how to make a polymer clay action figure prototype and who knows, you may get lucky.
Do you have an idea for an action figure?
Creating a polymer clay action figure prototype is a lot of fun and it also makes a great presentation if you have an idea that’s keeping you up at night. Check out my toy broker article to learn how to submit your idea and possibly get it in front of the right people. Sure, there are digital means of doing this these days but what if you’re more talented in translating your ideas into something physical. I checked into the computer animation stuff and it’s just not for me.
Ultimately, if you have a really good idea and someone wants to go with you, the polymer clay sculpture is easily scanned and transferred into a digital version. My philosophy is to go with what you’re strong in and it’ll all come together. I’m not promising a multi-million dollar deal with a major toy company but you will have at least something to show for it. As far as success goes, anything is possible.
Our polymer clay project of the day
That leads us into our project for the day. I’m going to walk you through this step by step. If you follow my lead, you’ll have your own polymer clay action figure prototype to display on the mantle or wherever. After some practice, you’ll get even better at it.
Why use polymer clay when creating an action figure prototype?
Action figure and toy prototypes, in general, are ultimately created in multiple fashions. Sketches, digital animation, and different kinds of clay are all legitimate ways of presenting your idea to others. Of course, it’s always helpful to have an “in” when trying to reach toy executives. Ideas are a dime a dozen yet even though big companies have people developing ideas on the payroll full-time, some of the best ones come from unknown people like you and I. I choose polymer clay because it’s easiest to work with and I’m extremely comfortable with it. When sculpting is complete, the figurine goes into the oven and is carefully baked. Once it’s baked it hardens and the figure lasts a very long time if you’re not too rough with it.
Let’s get started and good luck!
In order to create a polymer clay action figure prototype we first need a skeleton. We do this with craft wire. It is essential that you have a good skeletal structure for your figurine. It won’t work out without one. No worries, it’s easy. What exactly am I making? I’m going for a muscular look not completely unlike the early Masters of the Universe figures. I’m not modeling this figure off of any specific one, in particular, I’m just going for a similar size and look.
1. Craft wire
This whole entire project starts out with a spool of craft wire. I prefer working with 20 gauge but you can go a little heavier or a little lighter. My recommendation is to avoid anything lighter than 18 or heavier than 22. A spool comes in ten to twelve yards of wire. Don’t worry, you won’t use an entire spool on one project. It should last for a while and you’ll get quite a few polymer clay action figure prototypes from it. The wire comes in silver or gold colors. I always grab the gold over the silver but it doesn’t matter in the least. In 98% of the projects I create, very rarely do I have any craft wire exposed. The only exceptions are when I make something like a bow and arrow. I leave the craft wire exposed representing the string that gets pulled back from the bow. I usually use a lower gauge of wire for this too. Usually around twelve. So, we have our craft wire and we’re ready to go.
2. How long must the craft wire be?
That depends on the project but for something like what I’m doing here I’d say a little over a yard will do. You can always go back for more if you come up short. This has happened to me on a few occasions and it’s no big deal. Snip the wire with an appropriate tool. I use needle nose pliers but tin snips also work. Be careful with the edges of the wire. I always get poked and this project is no different. It’s a zinger and hurts but it rarely draws blood. Pull the wire off the spool, carefully cut it and we’re onto our next step. It’s easy so far, right?
3. Making the craft wire skeleton
Next, take the entire length of craft wire you just cut and fold it in half so both sides are even. Then, make a circle at the top and twist it around a few times. This is the head, face, and neck. Now, take both sides and go out about an inch from the shoulders. Make sure that both sides are of equal length. Now that the head and shoulders are in place, let’s continue with the arms.
Check out this diagram
4. Creating the arms
Take each opposite end of the craft wire and pull it down from the shoulders. At the end of the length of the arms, make another smaller circle and twist the wire around the wrist.
5. Measure the arms
Measure out both arms so they’re the same length. Since I misplaced my trusty wooden ruler, I’m using a bent index card to measure out the length of the arms.
6. Don’t forget the elbows
Measure about halfway between the shoulders and hands to find a good spot for the elbows. Measure it out so the elbows are even and wrap the wire around both elbow joints a few times. Eventually, work your way back up to the shoulder at least doubling the wire along the entire arms. This makes the arms stronger for when the clay is finally added. Yes, the clay is heavy and will weigh the figure down to a certain extent until it’s baked. Now you can bend the arms at the elbows in any position you like. I’ll just bend them a bit for a normal action figure pose.
7. Double up the shoulders with craft wire and start on the body
Double up the craft wire making the shoulders stronger just like you did for the arms. Meet both ends of the craft wire together at the neck and pull both ends down creating a body. You’ll start out two-fold with the body for now.
8. Creating the hips
Similar to the shoulders, we’ll now create hips. Measure out two equal lengths for the hips. They need to come out straight just like the shoulders. Bend both corresponding wires down to create two legs.
9. Stand the figure up on its own two feet
While it’s time to start working on the feet, let’s stand our figure upright for the very first time. He (or she) is beginning to take shape. At this point, you should start bending the figure at a stance that you prefer. For this guy, I needed to bend the back backward a bit so it could stand up straight. There’s no time like the present to start giving your prototype its shape and stance that you want for the long-term.
10. Creating the feet
The feet are created just like the hands only you want the circle of the feet to be ground level. This is extremely helpful later on when you want your figure to stand on its own two feet without having to lean it up against an object. Once you’re done with that, begin doubling up the wire as you did for the arms. Measure halfway between the feet and hips to create knees. Wrap the wire tightly around the knee joints and work them back up to the hips. Bend the figure at the knees a little. I wouldn’t go to the extreme when bending the knees. Still, you want some bend to them so it looks more realistic. Once again, I stand the craft wire skeleton figure up on its feet and bend it where it needs it for a nice posture.
Tinfoil is used to suture the polymer clay to the skeleton while baking. It also saves on the amount of clay that you use. Be generous with tinfoil and use it to give your figure some meat and basic body structure. I like to reuse the tinfoil that I originally used on the cookie sheet when baking my previous polymer clay creation. You’ll learn quickly that tinfoil is your friend. It also stifles the two sharp ends of the craft wire so you’ll no longer be at risk of being poked.
12. Wrapping the tinfoil
Wrap the tinfoil around the figure tightly. Make sure the entire skeleton is tightly wrapped.
13. Begin shaping the figurine
You probably thought to add shape to your figurine started once the clay is finally added. Actually, shaping begins with the tinfoil. Notice how I keep the waist thinner while making the upper body, especially the chest, thicker. We’re creating an action figure prototype here and I want him to be muscular and in good shape. The plans for this start now.
14. Wrapping the tinfoil is complete
Okay, wrapping the figure in tinfoil is now complete. For the head/face, just wrap it once keeping it very thin. You’ll see why later. When I get to this point in creating the figure, I usually call it a day. Even though the entire process took about thirty minutes or so, I like to be fresh and well rested before adding any of the clay. This way I can usually get through it in one shot.