With technology becoming more and more affordable in this digital world we live in, it is no surprise that custom printing has been on the rise… Whether is be a personalised gift card, photo album, coffee mug or t-shirt you are looking for, a quick Google search will reveal a plethora of companies willing to make your custom printed items, all for the right price, and the same applies in the Lego® and mini-figure world also.
The process commonly used to print custom mini-figures is known as pad printing, using a silicone rubber pad with a printing plate that transfers the desired artwork onto the substrate, which is the material to be printed. The inks used are typically solvent based and dry relatively quickly, leaving a permanent copy of the printed image on the mini-figure parts.
With so many companies now able to utilise this printing method, it is no surprise that pre-designed and printed custom mini-figures are easy to find on eBay, Amazon and many specialist mini-figure websites, but if you are feeling adventurous and have some knowledge in design and vector software like Adobe Illustrator or Freehand, there is also the option to design and print your own. I will include a list of links for companies who can help you with this at the end of the blog, as well as a template to help you design your own.
Custom printing really does make the possibilities endless for animators who are looking to take their animations to the next level. A lot of animators out there like to make animated versions of scenes from their favourite films, and often have to settle for creating the characters out of a mixture of parts from previously made, official lego products. With such a wide variety of parts available this can often work, but now we can tailor-print our characters to look as close as possible to our favourite film stars, tv-show characters or musicians. Attention to details mean we can print our mini-figures clothes to include logos that their real-life counterparts may wear, or custom print them accessories like maps or album sleeves on flat base plates, or even print up a whole load of different faces for one character giving us the option to vary our mini-figures expressions throughout our animations without having to get involved with digitally manipulating the faces in post-production… This allows us to bring in a whole new layer to our animations, bringing a richness of detail to the storytelling we are trying to achieve.
Custom printing has so many applications beyond animations as well… How about designing mini-figures of your friends or family? They make great gifts for birthdays, weddings or other occasions. Or custom printed mini-figures for promoting your company or charity with your logo on the body?
The only down-side to this is that custom-printing isn’t cheap, with some custom-printed figures costing $50+ on eBay and other sites, and setup costs from the printers sometimes being quite hefty if you are only producing one-off prints, but the results are often worth the cost, and if you order in bulk, then the costs per figure will come down.
Whatever it is you decide to have custom-printed, be it a mini-figure who is to be the star in your latest animation, or a batch of mini-figures to promote your website, I would suggest shopping around the various sites listed below to find the best price to suit your needs. I would also suggest asking for samples from them to check the quality of the printing before you order! Once you have found a suitable supplier, make sure you get a detailed spec of how they need the artwork supplied from you and any conditions you have to meet before submitting your designs to be printed.
List of Custom Printed Mini-figure suppliers: