The Super Chibification Workshop

As mentioned in my previous post, having created a Chibi version of Vampifan for Bryan Scott, fellow bloggers and contributors to the wonderful The Gamer’s Cupboard blog Steve and Hilary Gilbert and Tarot Hunt were both complimentary of my efforts and envious of Bryan’s gift. And because I’m an all-round good egg and love a bit of a challenge, I’ve sort of agreed to create Chibi versions of the three of them…

Steve very kindly provided photos of the three of them for reference purposes, and based on these images and my (apparently) instinctive ability to know what sort of Chibi character they should be, I will be attempting to create the following; Clockwork Mage Stevie, Pulp Avenger Hil and Shrine Guardian Tarot.

Now, the challenges I will be facing regarding this are that I’ve never sculpted a Chibi figure from scratch before and I’ve never sculpted a female character before. But will I let that stop me? Of course not!

So, I thought I’d document exactly how I’m going to do this. Not because I’m an expert and providing a tutorial, but because I’m a semi-talented amateur – which means I’ll be showing my mistakes and proving that anyone with opposable thumbs can do this.

The first thing I do when planning any kind of project is to get out my sketch pad and doodle some designs – unless I get distracted, in which case I’ll draw cartoon stick figures of Harry Potter characters…

This is mainly to get an idea of the pose of each character and a rough idea of what they’re going to look like. Usually, they don’t end up looking like the initial sketch, but it serves as a starting point. Below you’ll find my initial ‘designs’ (Hah!) – be warned, I’m no Michelangelo…
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Once I’ve got the initial idea on to paper, it’s time to get out my ‘tools’, which is what I use to sculpt with, and my modelling putty;
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I use Milliput, rather than Green Stuff, because I always have some knocking about, I’m familiar with its properties and best of all, it’s cheap! It’s about £4.50 for 113 grams, rather than about the same price for 20g of Green Stuff, but you can usually find it cheaper online. We also have some toothpicks, a couple of tablet styluses, a Boots tooth probe, a couple of craft knives and a set of silicon-tipped colour detailers bought from The Works for £3.00. Not ‘professional’ tools, but they work fine for me.

The next thing to do is create your armature. Various companies do produce ‘dollies’ in a variety of scales, but I make my own…out of paperclips! I am sooooo cheap…

For each 28mm figure, you will probably need two paperclips. The first thing to do is straighten them out, by hand and pliers, then bend the first in half, so you have two parallel lengths of wire – this is the head, body and legs. The second paperclip will be attached at ‘shoulder’ height, to create the arms.

Now, I’ve tried various ways of attaching the second length of wire, from soldering, wrapping in fuse wire and even tape. However, the easiest way to do it is to bend the paperclip around the tip of a pair of needle-nosed pliers until you have a loop, you then feed this over the top of the body, until it’s at the correct ‘shoulder’ height, then squeeze it hard. This will then ‘lock’ it into place, although it will move slightly, which means you can reposition it, if necessary. I have an article from Harbinger magazine, which gives the exact measurements of where the waist, hips and knees should be, but it’s in the loft somewhere, so I’ll just show you some WIPs for normal 28mm figures, which give a rough idea of what the armature looks like with a bit of putty on.

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As you can see, the ‘feet’ of the armature has been pushed into a cork, as this gives you something to hold the figure with when sculpting. Usually, you don’t need the whole cork, as a standard wine bottle cork (or Champagne cork, as above) can be cut in half to provide two ‘bases’.

So, for this project, I needed suitable Chibi armatures. Now, based on my measuring of the few Chibi figures I own, they are roughly 28-30mm tall, and the ratio is that the head, body and legs are roughly one-third of this measurement. So, from the top of the head to the shoulders is 10mm, from the shoulders to the hips is 10mm, and from the hips to the soles of the feet is 10mm, with the knee being roughly halfway between the two. Bearing this in mind, I created my first two armatures for the ladies (ladies first, obviously…), and here they are, with the normal armature behind, to give a sense of scale:

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Now, as you can see, I did try using tape to secure the arms on the armature on the left. However, whilst this did work, once I’d started adding putty to it, the body ended up looking rather barrel-like, as the tape made it too ‘thick’. So, I removed the putty, sliced the tape off and re-added the arms using the technique on the right.

The two armatures are in the poses I have selected for each figure, with the ‘arms’ roughly bent into their almost final positions. I then mixed up my putty and got to work, adding the chest first, which secures the ‘arms’ in place. I tend to work on more than one figure at a time, because this allows the Milliput to cure somewhat on the first figure whilst you’re working on the second, meaning that the next parts can be added without it all melding into one big blob. Next came the hips, which was just a case of a small sausage of putty being wrapped around at the correct height, then blended in.

I then decided to add some putty to the ‘head’, as Chibi characters tend to be a bit top-heavy, just to ensure that I’d got the proportions right. Next came the thighs – I’ve found it’s better to do the individual parts of the legs and arms separately, as it enables you to get the shapes right.

And then I stopped. The reason for this is that Milliput only has a finite working time, after which it assumes the consistency and flexibility of hardening chewing gum, which is not an ideal sculpting medium.

And this is what they currently look like:

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Whilst the heads look a bit oval at present, they will fill out as additional putty is added. I’ve also trimmed the ‘arms’ down to the correct length – the figure on the left has slightly longer ‘arms’, as the kinked parts are actually where her guns will be.

Not too bad a start, in my opinion. 🙂

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14 thoughts on “The Super Chibification Workshop

  1. Oh gosh you really meant it. I didn’t think you really MEANT it WOW that’s so incredible and so very sweet of you; made even more sublime by the fact I get to watch every stage of gradual development, which I find a fascinating process in itself. So far you find me nodding in total approval at your approach.

    You call yourself a semi talented amateur, well let me tell you Jez, you are going though ALL the correct steps and stages. I can only smile happily, seeing what promises to become a marvellous piece of precision work, become reality, from concept design all the way to finished piece of sculpted art. You are a LOT more skilled and talented than perhaps you know dear Jez.

    I watch this progress with an avid delight and a keen eye of interest.

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    • I am a man of my word, Hil – if I say I’m going to do something, then I do it – and I don’t hang about either.

      I usually just jump straight in and do stuff, so this is a first to actually detail it step by step. Hopefully, it will be entertaining even when I make mistakes (which is bound to happen) and the end result will be worth it!

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  2. WOW, I`ve only just got in and sat down and was told to go look at Jez`s site. I`m glad I did. WOW!! So very cool.
    I am delighted beyond words that Jez would honour us with such a delightful project, and I do admit, the prospect of seeing it finished fills me with quite a thrill. hehe, I have visions now of playing Chibi World dungeon crawls with a themed team of us all going into complexes together. I`m not sure if the thought of that scares me or excites me hehehe. WOW this is so smashing, and I am almost clapping my hands with glee here at the thought of it.

    I like your concept art, and the WIP looks spot on Jez. Interesting to read your words too, and they are clear and concise on all levels. What a fascinating project and being part of the focus for it makes me feel a bit like I`m walking on a red carpet. This is just simply delightful. thank you so much dear, dear Jez.

    Tarot xx

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    • You are more than welcome, Tarot. When I got such a clear mental image of what the figures should look like, including colour schemes, I knew it needed to be done. Partly an inability to resist a challenge, partly OCD, but mainly because I like being complimented. 😉

      My doodles are just to give me a rough idea, the end result will be probably be a little different – but hopefully still pretty cool.

      I’m excited and nervous at the same time – it could go horribly, horribly wrong or it could be very, very cool. Should be fun finding out!

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  3. Jez, reading this post really warmed my heart. I applaud what you’re doing and from my own knowledge of sculpting I can confirm what Hil said, you are totally going about this in the correct manner. I love your character doodles and even though they are very rough I was ably to instantly identify them all. You, sir, are a star!

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    • Thanks Bryan. I like to push myself, as you don’t know what you can do until you try and if it also makes people excitably happy, then everyone’s a winner!

      And my doodles sort of sum up each character concept – shorthand scribbles, if you will – which then allows me to work out what works and what doesn’t – such as Chibi Tarot’s hair, which isn’t right in my sketch. We’ll have to see how well I do…

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  4. OMG, I turn my back on things for half a week and I come back to Chibi mayhem…. I should go away longer next time, I might come back and find a whole legion of Chibi Gilbert family lined up on Jez`s workbench hahaha. This is outstanding stuff mate, and wow what a pleasant surprise. Excellent read (of course, it ` chibis are us` and its my favourite topic… custom tailor made jobbies).

    Would you like (what I call) a box of treasures Jez? I have piles of heads, guns, bolters, legs, whole figures, some whole, some with no bases, hats, bits, bobs, and the kitchen sink. Every few years I get rid of a load as the `maybe useful one day` pile mounts up. Its at that stage now and would happily thin the pile down and send a load to you…. any use to you?

    Steve :-))

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    • What can I say, Steve? Once I get an idea in my head, it can’t be restrained for long – that way lays madness!

      And thank you for the offer -at the moment I have plenty of ‘bits’, so don’t need any more at present. However, if you have any spare Chibi undead… 😉

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  5. Wow talk about jumping in at the deep end, female figs and recognisable characters are the hardest things to sculpt! Great start mate the only thing I would have done differently is I would have marked the position of the eyes on the heads with a couple of indentations, and then popped a couple of balls of putty in them as this gives you a reference point to build the rest of the face around and you can then just add the eyelids around the eyes, one of the hardest things to do is keep everything in scale (even when the figs are out of scale like these) you can make a perfect arm/head/gun etc.. but then when you look at it again you find that its perfect for a figure three times the size of the one your sculpting. Sorry not trying to put you off, if you need any help or advice (not that I will necessarily be able to help), remember I’m only at the end of an e-mail text or phone.

    Really the best of luck mate, I will be watching.

    Cheers Roger.

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    • Thanks Roger. Not only am I trying something for the first time, I’m doing in public – could be a horrendous failure or an awesome triumph. I’m hoping that the end result will be leaning towards the latter.

      As the heads will be rather ‘fuller’, I can still use your advice regarding the eyes and you can be certain that I will come to you if I need any further advice. I think I have a slight advantage, due to the subject matter, as Chibi’s are effectively caricatures. As long as I get the defining features right of each person, I don’t need to be 100% accurate. Or that’s the plan anyway…

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  6. Pingback: Super Chibification Workshop – Evolution | Carrion Crow's Buffet

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