Originally published February 17, 2018.
"Why doesn't mine look as good as that horse?"
"Why didn't mine win?"
Do questions like these sound familiar? While a number of factors affect the answer (especially to the question, "Why didn't I win?"), I am going to share with you one of the biggest factors I almost always see that distinguishes great customs from sub-par and winners from those that just placed. It's a little secret my art professors drilled into me, so it will help you in other areas of art too.
The secret is excellent craftsmanship.
And how do you get excellent craftsmanship? With a lot of care in details, process, and technique. It also means putting a lot of effort into the not-so-pretty parts of creation, like prepping. What helped improve my customs and what I always see in winning models is excellent craftsmanship in prepping all the way to painting, and it's the prepping I usually see people over-look. While it's tempting to hurry to the fun stages of creation, your model will suffer for it.
Don't under estimate the power of prepping! If you want to start making winning customs, excellent prepping craftsmanship is your first step. Without it, your sculpting may look rough and your paint job will most certainly look pebbly.
My first biggest step is to smooth out as much of the epoxy as you are sculpting. In the case of the manes and tails, be sure to have a brush on hand that you can dip in rubbing alcohol or water to help smooth out the little chunks created from your sculpting tool.
My next biggest step is sanding the model all over with several types of fine-grit sandpaper (you'll probably need to shop the automotive section to get the really fine grain you need to insure perfect smoothness for your paintjob). I recommend a couple different sheets in the 600-1000 grit range.
And lastly, be sure the dive into those nooks and crannies! Fold your paper in half or into little triangles to help you reach, or get diamond-crusted files like this one below for the really tough spots.
That's my customizing secret for the day! Best of luck to all you customizers!
The author of this blog and a model horse customizer, painter, and sculptor.
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