Introduction: Minion From Polymer Clay
It seems like you can't look around these days without seeing Minions everywhere. Don't resist it, and just go along with the craze by making your very own Minions! Because you can never have enough of those cute yellow fellows. If you make one, post it as a separate Instructable (with pictures of your progress)! With your help, the Minions can take over this site :-)
We'll be making a Minion from polymer clay, a clay that is workable at room temperature and hard as plastic when baked. So your Minion should last a long time. I made one holding a boomerang. Want to know how to make a wooden boomerang? Check out one of my other Instructables:
I encourage you to try different poses and faces. I chose to use 1 color of clay and to paint it afterwards. However, you'll find my instructions will work equally well using different colors of clay. Sculpting should take you about an afternoon, and painting another afternoon. In case you're wondering if you can do this or not: this Minion was made from my second block of clay, so I'm definitely not an expert myself. Just go out there, buy some clay, and amaze yourself with what you can do! If you don't succeed right away, try again and again. As long as you didn't bake it, you can rework your Minion until you're happy.
Let's get to it!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
The most essential material is of course the polymer clay itself. I use Fimo Professional (from Staedtler). This one needs to be kneaded soft before you can use it. They also sell Fimo soft, which is already soft straight from the package. This makes it easier to manipulate, but you have to be more careful about where you hold your work piece so you don't ruin what you already sculpted. So choose wisely. In Europe, Fimo is easiest to find. If you live elsewhere, other brands (like Sculpey) might be easier to get.
Other materials for sculpting are (see picture):
- roller (mine is just a piece of PVC pipe, and about 30 times cheaper than the acrylic roller from Fimo)
- palette knife (to blend pieces I can't reach with my fingers)
- box cutter (to cut off pieces from the block of clay)
- wire cutter
- toothpicks (to add details)
- aluminum wire (for reinforcing the limbs)
- insulated wire (for the hair)
- tin foil
Additional materials not included in picture:
- acrylic primer (called gesso)
- acrylic paint and brushes
- super glue
Note: My work surface is a vinyl mat. Make sure it's not made from PVC, because the chemicals in the clay will react with it and make it permanently wrinkled (I know from experience). You might argue that my roller is also from PVC, but it's too thick to be affected by the clay and the contact time between the two is short anyway.
Step 2: The Body
We could make the body entirely out of clay, but that would be a waste of clay. Instead, we'll make a tin foil cylinder and cover it in clay. My first attempt turned out a bit on the small side, to I added another layer of tin foil. Feel free to use your roller to smash the cylinder into shape.
Next, take a good chunk of clay (don't be stingy), knead it soft and roll it flat (kneading should be done every time you make a part, so from now on I won't mention it every time). Wrap it around your tin foil cylinder and smooth everything out with your fingers. Then gently roll it back and forth over your work surface until it looks perfectly round.
Tip: If you let it sit for a while, it will become slightly harder again and less prone to dents and fingerprints during the next steps. (Not applicable to the soft clay version)
Step 3: Eye(s), Mouth and Overall
I chose a one-eyed Minion. To make the eyeball, roll a small ball of clay and press it flat on the body. For the glasses, roll a small sausage, loosely wrap it around the eye to test the length, cut it to the appropriate length and blend the two ends with your fingers. Wrap it around the eye again and press slightly so it sticks. I find this way gives a cleaner result than blending directly on the work piece. Simply repeat the above if you make two eyes. Next, roll a larger sausage, wrap it around the entire head and cut off the excess. Then press it gently to make it flatter.
For the overall, knead a good chunk, roll it flat and make the corners square. Test to see how much you need to cut off. Then wrap it around your Minion from front to back. Roll out 2 smaller pieces to make the sides of the overall. Blend them with the rest using your fingers. Add a small pocket with a toothpick.
For the mouth, I chose a slit (also with toothpick) and a tongue sticking out, because he's concentrating on throwing his boomerang. The tongue is a flattened oval with the bottom part cut straight, and a small indent in it (see last picture of this step). If the hair was made from clay, it would be too fragile, so we make it from wire instead. Poke some holes with a toothpick so that we can implant it later.
Step 4: Limbs and Final Details
Let's make some arms and legs. Roll out a cylinder with one thick end (see first picture). Cut it open with your box cutter and insert an aluminum piece of wire. Aluminum is very bendable for its thickness, but if you don't have it, use thinner iron wire (stripped). Then close it up again and make it smooth. Be sure to leave a bit of wire sticking out, to make attaching it to the body easier. Bend the arm in the position you want. Pinch together some clay were the arm ends and the glove starts. Do the same to make a thumb. Use your box cutter to make the separate fingers. I made 4 fingers including thumb, but while writing this I noticed Minions only have 3 fingers in total. Anyway, try to spread those fingers open a bit, and make them rounder with your fingers. Position the fingers like you want, and you're ready to attach the arm. (If you're using different colors of clay, make the hand separately and attach it to the arm later). Just press the arm firmly into the body and blend it using your fingers or an instrument (like the palette knife). Roll out a small sausage to make the strap of the overall and place it above the arm. This will cover up any sloppy attachment at the shoulder, so you really only need to worry about the armpit being smooth. Repeat this process for the other arm. If your Minion is holding an object (like my boomerang), make that too and place it in one hand.
Before we attach the feet, now is the time to work a bit more on the details. They will transform your Minion from "pretty okay" to "awesome". I added some buttons to the straps of the overall, I added a breast pocket, I did all the stitching on the overall (with a toothpick) and I carefully sliced open the headband with my knife to make a groove along its entire length.
Last step is making the feet. It's hard to explain, but you just have to make two lumps that look like feet (see picture), and stick two pieces of wire in it for attachment. Place the feet in a tray with baking paper. Press the body firmly onto those feet. Make sure they are centered when viewed from the front AND from the side. You could try and blend them a bit with the body, but I didn't bother because I made two sausages to make the borders of the overall (see last picture).
One thing I noticed is that the arms don't really like to stay in position, so I put some wooden blocks underneath for support. Don't use plastic for this, because it would melt.
Step 5: Baking
Now off to your oven to preheat it. For Fimo, set it at 110°C (230°F). While waiting, read this first because the last thing you want is ruining your Minion at this step:
- carefully read the instructions on your clay for baking temperature and time!
- don't exceed either of those, otherwise your Minion will get ugly warts and produce harmful gases
- it's best to only use an oven that you can set at an exact temperature. If that's not possible, use an oven thermometer. The temperature really needs be exact, or you risk under- or overcooking it.
- this should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: don't use a microwave oven! (Unless it has an oven function like mine)
- Once your oven is at the right temperature, put your Minion in and respect the maximum baking time. For Fimo, that's 30 minutes. Get it out using oven mitts and let it cool down. It only becomes strong when fully cooled.
I hope I didn't scare you with these warnings :-) If you respect baking temperature and time, your Minion will look exactly the same as when you put it in. The only time I had a failure was when I used an old oven with a knob that wasn't precise. If you must prepare food in your oven the same day, it's best to leave it open a couple of hours and to ventilate the room.
Step 6: Sanding and Priming (optional)
Once fully cooled, you can sand it to get rid of small imperfections and fingerprints. I used 220 grit sandpaper to remove fingerprints, followed by 400 grit to make it extra smooth. Don't sand the underside of the feet, because you could make your Minion wobbly.
Before painting, I applied a white primer for acrylics (called gesso) so the paint sticks better. You could probably do without, but it also covers up smudges you may have made during sculpting. I also primed the insulated iron wire that we will later use for the hair.
Step 7: Painting and Varnishing
Not sure painting needs explanation, but here it is anyway. I used acrylic paint. I dries fast and leaves a plastic-like layer that can't be washed off (so be careful with your clothes). Because it dries fast, it's best to keep the paint moist to prevent it from drying on your palette. I have a stay-wet palette that does just that, but if you don't have any, you could easily make one yourself using just a tray with some wet paper towel and baking paper on top. White baking paper is preferred so you can better judge colors.
I mix all colors myself. Using the 3 primary colors (magenta, yellow and cyan) and black and white, you can make any color you want. But I cheated a little by also using brown. You'll need 2 brushes, a small one and an even smaller one. Use the smallest for the tricky places, like the boundary between skin and overall, the breast pocket logo and the eye(s). Don't worry if you mess up e.g. by accidentally putting darker color on the yellow. Just paint it white again (white has good coverage) and when it's dry redo the yellow. Here's a little color guide for all the colors you'll need:
- skin is made from yellow with a tiny amount of magenta (red) and some white (best to give it 2 coats)
- overall is cyan (blue) with some red mixed in to give it a more purple hue and some white to make it more jeans-like
- gloves and headband are brown mixed with black, because I thought black from the tube would be too harsh.
- feet are black
- tongue is white with a bit of red
- goggles are white with a tiny amount of black (this gives light grey), mixed with some special paint that gives a shimmering effect
- eye is brown with a black dot in the middle and a tiny white spot to mimic reflection
- the boomerang got a light brown coat and then I added stripes of darker brown (all in the same direction) to mimic wood grain
After you're done painting your Minion, don't forget to give that insulated wire from earlier a brown coat (for next step). Wait a couple of hours after painting, then apply a varnish. I used a polyurethane varnish that is approved for toys. After painting, my Minion feels somewhat sticky, so I don't wait too long to varnish because I don't want any dust sticking to it.
Step 8: The Hair
Let's give our bald Minion some hair. Once the paint on your wire is dry, go ahead and clip it into tiny pieces with your pliers. Bend the piece (if you like), add a drop of superglue to the base and press it firmly onto the head. Repeat this about 20 times.
At this point, I like to give it another coat of varnish, and tadaaaa, you're done!
If you liked this Instructable, please give me a vote in the Clay Contest or the Fandom contest (or both). And don't forget: if you make one, make pictures of your progress and put them into an Instructable! Together, we can make the Minions rule Instructables :-) I'd love to see what you all come up with.
Step 9: Bonus
As a bonus, I added 2 pictures of other Minions I made. The first one is my very first Minion, which admittedly is a bit poor on details. Now enough with the reading! Go out there, buy polymer clay and get started!