209 Posts
I’ve been posting renderings of custom LEGO minifigures on Mecabricks for a while now, and have received a number of requests for a tutorial showing my process. So, here we go.

(Oh yeah, it might help to check out Scrubs’ “Decoration workflow” (https://www.mecabricks.com/en/forum/topic/268) thread before reading this.)

1) Learn to Vectorize
This is kind of a key ingredient, because otherwise you can’t really make the textures in the first place, now, can you? You can use any program you like to create the textures, but I’ve been using Blender. This gives a lot of freedom and the ability to make very small manipulations (plus I’m just more familiar with it face with stuck-out tongue)

2) Learning LEGO Minifigure Anatomy
This is probably one of the single most important steps in the entire process. The graphic designers at LEGO have spent many years of trial an error attempting to find the proper stylization for the minifigure prints and hair/hats (relative failures include the Clone Wars mini figures, many of the characters in the early 2000s, and Galidor—wait, that last one doesn’t count…), and in the end they realized that the proper mode was very similar to what they started with—just the plain smiley face, except with the addition of two white dots to represent some sort of chromatically inverted pupil.

Learning the anatomy is so crucial because otherwise the minifigure just looks wrong. And the best way to learn the anatomy of a minifigure is by doing. Try vectorizing real LEGO parts and study every little detail—the thickness of the lines, the colors most frequently used, the proportions of the eyes to the mouth, how negative space for hips is communicated, how and when to use muscle lines, etc. Incidentally you can post your results in the dropbox to help Scrubs out in his never-ending quest to fill the parts library. smiling face with open mouth

3) Studying your subject
Once you’ve chosen a character to translate to the minifigure medium, find some good references (at least showing the torso, legs, face, and back) and download them. Study each of the body segments and decide which areas should go onto the torso, hips, or legs.

4) Set up your character.
Download a minifigure (with decorations on all parts of it) from the workshop. Import it into Blender or your software of choice. Find a hair/helmet piece that represents the character well, and if you can’t, then you’ll have to model it yourself (YouTube can help with that if your unfamiliar with modeling.)

4) Draw version 1
In whatever software you’re using, load up the reference files and UV maps for each of the body/face parts (you can find UV maps here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3dmCtByvZwEZU5xY1d4Smg2ZGM). Begin to put what you think are the correct lines on what you think are the proper areas of the minifigure. Is the character thin? Begin with some properly shaped negative space for the torso. Is your character gaunt in the face? Add some pronounced cheekbones. Are they muscular? Add some muscles (borrowing from official minifigures). Are they fat? Add some lines to show it. Copy the shape of the eyebrows and mouth. Make sure it all fits properly into the UV map.

5) Draw v.2
Check how your decoration looks on an actual minifigure in Blender (the UV maps come in handy here). See what needs improving, go back to your decoration, and begin tweaking everything to make the decoration basically scream at you what it’s supposed to be. This can take some practice, so keep at it.

6) Draw v.3
Once you’re reasonably happy with the decoration, go back one last time and see if anything at all still looks wrong. This is the obsessing-over-the-details stage, and it lasts only as long as you want it to.

And you should be done! Hopefully this helped a little bit. I’m looking forward to seeing more custom minifigures on Mecabricks!
5 May 2018, 15:58
Edited 5 May 2018, 16:02
14 Posts
Really nice and detailed! Thanks.
5 May 2018, 22:32
543 Posts
Awesome tutorial Qwerty7556! Though, I initially thought you were going to mention how to make a bendy minifigure in this tutorial?
6 May 2018, 12:24
209 Posts
Thanks!

@Samino No, never said that. Simply a tutorial on making custom characters.
7 May 2018, 23:12
367 Posts
How do I use the UV maps to work the decorations? Confused face
12 Jun 2018, 16:23
543 Posts
Here is an example. You use the UV map.
Image
Then you load it into blender using the "Background Images" in the viewport's toolbar.
Image
You can also use other reference photos for creating official decorations or the workshop too!
Image
12 Jun 2018, 16:49
367 Posts
But how do I use the UV map to UV-unwrap the object? Or do I do that by hand?
12 Jun 2018, 19:24
543 Posts
You could use a part from Mecabricks? Most of the parts have their own UV maps. Just look in the UV Image Editor in Blender to investigate it.
12 Jun 2018, 19:30
367 Posts
Oh, I think I get it... I'll try it now, thanks!
12 Jun 2018, 19:31
543 Posts
No problem!
12 Jun 2018, 19:32
100 Posts
So do you texture paint the minifigure, or use other software to make the decorations?
1 Sep 2019, 02:52
543 Posts
You can use any vector program such as Inkscape or GIMP, or even Blender (that's what I use). Also, I would not recommend texture painting as it can be at best a finicky and inaccurate tool for making a texture, especially for a Minifigure.
1 Sep 2019, 11:03
100 Posts
I thought so, but I didn’t realise you could vectorise in blender, I’ve been using Inkscape. This helps a lot, thanks! smiling face with open mouth
1 Sep 2019, 11:49
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