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Blind Alley Figures and TCAF!

Toronto Comics Arts Festival

These past five months I've been working on a project that has just been put out into the world! In collaboration with Adam De Souza (@kumerish), I made three character figures based on his comic Blind Alley.

Adam De Souza's table at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. The table is filled with his comic books, stickers, prints, t-shirts, and figures (art toys, resin toys).
There they are!

Let me walk you through the steps of creating these figures Gentle Reader... Step 1. Modeling

The first step in creating any 3D object based on a drawing is creating a turnaround sheet. Adam was kind enough to provide one of each character. Originally, we had planned to do 6 characters; Pip, Lula, Penny, Kaye, Crane, and Ten. Unfortunately it was quickly apparent that there wasn't enough time to do more than 3 of them, and the simpler 3 at that. In addition to the turnaround, I also asked for a colour key of the characters.

A turnaround sheet of Pip from Blind Alley.
Pip's turnaround sheet.

Working off of this turnaround sheet, I modeled it in 3D using Nomad Sculpt on the iPad. I have a bit of 3D experience, but I was honestly surprised at how easy it was to learn and navigate the software.

Pip in the earlier stages of modeling.

One hurdle we had in modeling Pip was their tail. You can see in the turnaround that Pip's tail is drawn as being spiky, so I tried my best to translate that into 3D. I spent a LOT of time trying different things, but nothing I did seemed to hit quite right. Here were the two problems. Number one, I was going to have to paint stripes onto the tail. This would have been very hard to do on such distinct spikes. Number two, balancing the simpleness of Pip's body versus the complexity of the tail. The tail was just too detailed compared to the body. It didn't mesh well. So I proposed instead to do a sausage shaped tail, and that worked out.

A turntable of Pip in 3D.
Pip's final model turntable (in the microwave).

Now, for ease of painting later on, I had to separate all the pieces that were going to be different colours. However, I couldn't just make Pip's body one piece despite it being one colour, because the backpack had to go on! If only I could have slipped it on afterwards like a real backpack... Alas, this is how toys are made. So Pip's arms were separated, as well as the face, tail, backpack, and flower.

Step 2. Printing

We printed many prototypes to see if the models looked as good in real life. This was to test the balance of the figure, and to see if the cut and keying fit well. After this was done, we printed out batches of parts and here came the worst part : sanding. The bane of my life. But it must be done.

For those that don't know, when you 3D print something, it doesn't just print the figure like magic. It also needs to print supports around the pieces to support the pieces as they get printed, so that they don't wobble and become distorted. These supports are called sprues, and when you take the sprues off the print, they can leave little craters or nubs that need to be filled in or sanded off.

Eight 3D resin prints of Penny from Blind Alley coming out of the vat of resin.
Pennies coming out of the vat. The columns connecting her to the plate are the sprues.

Step 3. Painting

After the figures are sanded smooth, I like to clean them in warm soapy water to get all that resin dust off. Otherwise the paint job could get bumpy.

After drying, they can be primed. I was using Mr Surfacer 1500, 1000, and even 500, but I found it to be too fine. It works for the smooth gunpla pieces, but doesn't do a good job filling in print lines on these. So I started using Dupli-Color's Filler Primer (something I picked up from Chris Lee @thebeastisback), and that did a great job.

After the primer dries, I start painting with my airbrush. It also took some time to find the right colours. In some cases I had to mix and create my own recipes. Finer details like the eyes, stripes on Pip's tail, and blushes on Lula's face were done with a fine brush by hand.

Penny's colour sheet.

Paints :

Vallejo Model Color*

Mr Hobby Acqueous*

*diluted to be suitable for airbrush use

Don't mix the two it won't end well!

Pennies with their basecoat.

After the painting is all done, I varnish them with Rustoleum's Semi-Gloss Clear varnish in a can, then do a layer of matte varnish after that dries for the desired look. Lula's paint job had some weird interactions with the varnish, but it wasn't too bad, and even worked out to create a cool yet subtle texture.

3d prints of Penny from Blind Alley painted and varnished.
Painted and varnished Pennys before their final matte varnish layer.

Step 4. Packaging

This part was exciting as I'd never had a properly packaged toy before. We decided to go with a classic poly bag packaging with cardstock header, reminiscent of old sofubi (soft vinyl) toys. Adam designed the header.

Lula had to go in upside down cuz she was too pointy, but she's a vampire/bat so it works out. I hope if you got one you are very careful with them, and enjoy them immensely!


Ahh...! It feels so good to know that they sold out in the first half day. Now I'm off to take a short break before starting to prepare to make more for the pre-orders (wink wink!). I always love going to TCAF. It's nice to see what other people are up to and gives inspiration to create more.

See you next time TCAF! and to you Gentle Reader, I bid you a good day.

P.s.:  To the man who I saw at TCAF buying the Lula and then walking off and immediately dropping her, I hope she survived. If not, you can use super glue to glue any bit back on.


1 Comment

Nick Ladd
Nick Ladd
May 13

Excelllent great work!!

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