Are you a budding adventurer or an established one that can't find a mini that represents your character? Are you a DM looking for the perfect mini to represent that incredible boss monster you just came up with? Not a problem! Follow this guide and you'll be on your way to bringing your characters/monsters to life at a tiny scale!
I'm not a professional sculptor and I have no art training so this guide is written from experience and practice so there are probably better ways of doing many of the things I do in the guide, feel free to suggest them!
Step 1: Materials
-An Idea: This can be in the form of a written description by a player, your imagination, a drawing, etc.
-Super Sculpey: I use a combination of regular (beige) super sculpey and the firm (grey) variety. They'll each cost you about 20 bucks at a hobby shop so if you're on a very tight budget you may just want to use one of them. Each kind has its pros and cons. The regular kind is extremely soft and sticky when compared to its firm counterpart which can be great when making parts of a mini that are thin or added on later such as cloth, pouches, etc. On the other hand, it also has the problem that it is much more difficult to smoothe out at small scales. The grey kind is great because it's much more rigid while you're sculpting and can make sharp and smoothe edges with ease. Unfortunately it doesn't stick very well to the rest of your clay. Sometimes I even opt to mix the two clays together for an intermediate consistency, which may give you the best of both worlds in some cases or the issues of both depending on what you're making. On a side-note, You can make a lot of minis with a single block of super sculpey. I have yet to go through half a block and I've made nearly a dozen.
-Wire for armature: I use two different kinds of wire for minis that I simply happened to have on hand when I started making them. The first is a thick (1mm diameter) steel wire and the second is extremely easy to find "twist tie" wire. Every household has twist ties lying around, if you remove the plastic (or sometimes paper) layer around them, you have a handy and bendy wire!
-Pliers: Even if you're only using twist tie wire, two pairs of needlenose pliers make it much easier to bend the wire as you want it. Fingers are often too big for small bends for arms and legs.
-Sculpting tools: Because you'll be making something extremely small, regular sculpting tools aren't always the most functional. I've been told that dentistry tools are pretty useful, but I opted to make my own tool at a fraction of the cost. All you need is wood branch, a needle, a flattened out paper clip and some epoxy and tadaa! You have an excellent tool.
-An oven: I use a toaster oven to conserve energy. All it needs to do is go to 130 Celcius (275F) and be at least a few inches tall.
-Acrylic paint: The paint needs to be acrylic if you're painting super sculpey. Oil based paints will seep into the clay and make it even more brittle or even make it dissolve. Because I like to have a variety of colours I mainly use the primary colours and black and white and mix them to whatever colour I need at the time. I also have a few other paints on hand such as silver because it would be impossible to mix that.
-Small paintbrushes: You can buy a tiny paintbrush for a couple of dollars at most art stores. I bought a few different kinds to find out which kinds I prefer, So far the cheapest nylon brush I could find is the best for me.
-A flat, well-lit workspace: I use my desk and a fluorescent light. If you have an incandescent lightbulb, keep it far away from the clay. Because this project can take a lot of time, the lightbulb's heat can make your creation melt and sag so a fluorescent bulb (or if you're fancy an LED bulb) that generates little heat is optimal for use with polymer clay.
-Magnifying Glasses: I have tried a couple of different ways to magnify the minis as I make them. First I tried making an articulated stand for a dollar store magnifying glass, it's somewhat useful, but It'd need many more articulations to be perfect. Next I tried a magnifying headset. It's also somewhat useful, but kind of uncomfortable. These items can be useful for you to detect imperfections that are difficult to see with the naked eye.
-Time, patience and practice: I've made about 10-12 minis so far using the methods I'm about to describe and I feel that I learn something new with each one. They can be extremely time consuming to make at times or extremely fast to make depending on your level of inspiration, concentration and skill. My first mini took about 13 hours to make, but I am now able to make them in under 6 hours. My advice is to take your time and stop if you get frustrated. Skill takes practice to develop. I feel that I'm getting better at making minis, but that doesn't stop me from producing something sub-par every now and then.
(Optional) Sandpaper: More on this in step 6.