McFarlane Cutsoms

(the HOW TO section was created from discussions with Mark Duda: XXX Customs)

First off, I'd just like to state that everyone has their own way of doing these things. The following is what works for me.. not to suggest that this is the 'right' way... but the following processes are what seem to work best for me. I will will touch on the areas which I feel are my strengths in this hobby:

Additionally, I will provide a quick step by step guide to repainting and customizing these action figures into the player of your choice. I will also offer tips on painting, but you can take that for what it's worth..


Here's a real quick outline of the steps I would normally use to make a custom:

  1. Bathe the whole figure in hot water and TSP (or similar cleanser) for at least 10 minutes. Scrub with a brush if desired. You can't over-clean these things.
  2. While the figures are still hot from the hot water bath, remove the heads, arms, hands and accessories. Removal is fairly easy when the figure is warm. Removing the helmets from the heads can be a little trickier, but it is possible (although not always necessary) . Some helmets come off easy, some are damn near impossible. It seems to me that the later series (6-7) are alot easier to remove the helmets than the earlier series. The best way to get the helmets off is to simply pry them off with a small screwdriver while they are still warm. First remove the face mask by gently prying up at the pegs. They usually come off fairly easily. Try not to destroy the face mask as you will want to keep it for your 'parts box' for use with other custom figures. Carefully scrape off the chin strap with a exacto knife. Again try not to screw it up as chin straps are very valuble (couldn't imagine trying to fabricate a chin strap). The helmets are usually attached by a square peg in the center of the inside of the helmet going into a hole on the top of the head. Gently pry upwards, switching from the back to the front and to sides of the helmet until the glue becomes loose enough to remove the helmet. Many times the helmet will become mis-shapen or deformed during this process, but it can be fixed by simply putting it back into hot water. If you fell it needs more heat to fix, you can microwave some water to make it hotter.
  3. Now is the time to do any sculpting or limb alterations if desired. (including extending the sleeves or shaving and sanding unwanted plastic)
  4. After the figure is to your satisfaction as far as the pose.. Prime it.. (see above)
  5. Paint the base coat of the uniform, skin tone, shoes, gloves, etc.... (see painting section)
  6. Paint (or decal) the stripes (see painting section)
  7. Make, print, and seal the decals (see decaling section)
  8. Apply the decals (see decaling section)
  9. Fill holes, sand, and paint the helmet. I use bondo for filling the unwanted holes in the helmet. Then sand with fine sandpaper (400 grit or finer).. Then airbrush the paint on.. at least two coats.. usually three. Paint the front and rear bumpers and the inside pads with an off white paint. After it has COMPLETELY dried, apply the decals to the helmet, attach the face mask and spray helmet with a high gloss clear coat... set aside to dry
  10. Spray a coat of clear coat (KRYLON MATTE FINISH #1311) over the entire figure (while the helmet is still off). Repeat as needed.
  11. Attach any remaining accessories (football, towels, etc...) with super glue (gel)
  12. Reattach the helmet, put on the chin strap with super glue.
  13. Take pictures

Here are some fonts I have found usefull for nameplates and numbers.  They are free and easy to install from this website.. To install, simply click on the link, and save to a location you can easily find again. Then just unzip to your font folder (usually C:\Windows\Fonts).  DATAFONT.COM (Fancy>Old School)


1.microset setting solution 2. microscale decal film (clear coating) 3. Testors Decal bonder (Clear coating) 4. Testors Decal Set


On most figures (the favre is an exception) the head, helmet, arms, and accessories (towels, footballs, etc.) come off easily. On a lot of the figures the legs (below the knees) come off as well, but I rarely remove the legs. I start off by soaking the whole figure in hot water (with a little TSP or similar cleaner).. When the figures are warmed up with hot water, the parts come off easy... The helmets are a bit harder to remove.. The chin strap can be removed by using a sharp screwdriver or an xacto knife... they break easily, but if your careful you can remove them without harm...once the chinstrap is off, soak the head/helmet in hot water again and carefully pry off the facemask (a small screwdriver works good)- starting with the center posts and then the side posts... they usually come off easily...then soak the helmet again and just pry off the helmet using the small screwdriver.. the helmets are usually attached by a square peg on the inside of the helmet going into a square hole on the top of the head...not sure what kind of glue they use, but it seems to loosen up with hot water.. The helmet may become distorted or misshapen during removal, but can be fixed by soaking them in hot water (if your tap water isn't hot enough, you can microwave some water) ....its not all that hard as I make it sound. 


Getting the parts back on is a bit more difficult.. especially after you paint and have to be careful of your new paint job.. I usally shave some of the plastic off of the male end so it goes back into the hole easily... then I glue it.. (most of my customs do have any moving parts).. what I usually do is put a first coat of paint on with the parts still detached, then put the parts on, then put on a final coat of paint. I do it this way because I usually screw up the paint a little while putting on the parts, so I can touch up the screw ups and put on the final coat in one step. Sometimes the parts will go back easily and if that is the case, I will keep the parts as movable... it depends on the figure... alot of times if you exchange parts between figures the new parts will be slightly different as far as length or the angle might be off... If that is the case, you have to cut the new part and glue it on.. no big deal... but sometimes I have to put a small screw in to secure the new part.. and that means filling the screw hole and or gaps with putty (more on putty in the supplies list)
Sometimes in the case of heads, I have to put a wedge (a piece of scrap plastic... usually a piece of an old pen or pen cap) between the neck and the body to get the angle of the head right.   kind of like a washer cut in half... then glue it up..OF course its nice when you don't have to go through all that, but whatever it takes.. right?


I usually end up putting about 5 or 6 coats of paint on a figure after touching up all my grimey fingerprints, and mistakes, and touch ups and whatnot... I put a thin coat of paint on before I attach the head and limbs.I try and put the paint on a little thicker on all the places where parts will be attached ( like the collar area, the ends of the sleeves, etc...). and let it dry completely.. then attach all the body parts ... I awlays screw up the paint job when I reattach the body parts.. you might not have that problem with acrilic paints but the testors paint does like to be handled or touched at all for the first couple of days... anyway, after all parts are reattached I go ahead and put on a nice coat of paint.. It cover easily because I already have a undercoat.. and I dont have to cut in around the arms and head because I already did that before they were put back on...  anyway.. then when that coat dries, I put on the decals.. and then touch it up again...  usually the last thing I paint are the shoes because I am always holding the figure by the feet or using my thumb on his shoe to hold it on the field base while I work on it

the other thing is the stripes on the pants... could be just some glare, but it looks like you had a tough time painting a straight edge... well, those stripes were a tough task because of the color scheme.. there are two light colors (yellow &white) bordering the dark green... Its hard because you have to make both sides of the green stripes straight.. and there is a lot of contrast on both sides so every little flaw shows up big time... If you were doing.. say, dark blue pants with red outer stripes and a white inner stripe, it would have been easier.. First you paint the white stripe-- making it wider than it needs to be.. you dont have to worry about the edges at all.. just make sure there is white where white needs to be and feather the edges so the paint is not clumped up at the edge... then you'd paint the red outer stripe (after the white has dried)... you'd only have make sure that the edge touching the white is straight.. again making it wider than it needs to be and not worrying about the outside edge being straight.. just feathered... then you'd do the blue.. once again you'd only have to worry about the  edge that is touching the red.. see what I mean???  You couldn't have really done it that way on the bart starr because the yellow would have never covered the green in one coat..  So here's a few tips for your situation:: make sure the paint is thin enough to flow easily, but not too thin that it wont cover.. make sure you have a new or good brush or you'll struggle every time trying to use a frayed or old brush...try going faster when painting your straight edges.. its easier to get a straight line when your going quickly instead of trying to go slow and steady.. but your paint has got to flow or going fast wont work...  you need to load up the brush brush with a good amount of paint so you have enough to paint the whole stripe in one swoop  (takes a little practice, but its not that hard once you get the hang of it)...


For the faces, I try and match the closest match I can find with the extra parts that I have, then repaint them as needed... sometimes it works out better than other times.. I did a cris carter and used a shaun alexander head.. I repainted the eyebrows so they would look look like carters 'puppy dog' eyebrows... it came out looking just like carter... and I did a robert smith that I used an emmitt smith face repainted with a lighter skin tone and it looks almost exactly like robert smith.. sometimes the faces work out great and sometimes they just sort of barely resemble the player.. What I do is take about 10 or 15 figures (I buy them by the case) and disassemble them all.. then when I think of a player I want to do, I pick the best suited parts for that player.. obviously, it is easier when the pickings are deep, and by the time I get down to only a few more raw figures, I have to let the parts that I have dictate what players I can do or not do

As far as bending the arms and legs... Yeah, i do that when I have to.. Like when I'm trying to recreate a certain pose... I bend them a couple of different ways.. either by heating then up, bending them and putting them in cold water (for slight changes)... or by cutting them (not all the way through, just enough so they bend) at the joints and then adding glue and/or putty... or sometimes I just cut off the hands or feet or cut them off at the knees or elbows and then cut the angles and reglue them. Its pretty tricky, though.. It s easy to screw them up... 


As for the facemasks... I solder any old style face masks that I need... the main secret to soldering is in the materials.. regular solder will only frustrate you... You need SILVER solder and most importantly SILVER SOLDER FLUX. they are usually sold in a set.. a small tube of flux and a coil of silver solder... the flux is liquid, not paste...It is available at most hardware stores and sometimes wall mart.. with the silver solder and silver solder flux, you can solder paperclips or just about any type of wire.. I like to use welding wire for a MIG welder for face masks.. but if you can get away with using a stock facemask, you are better off..  but the two bar facemasks that most retro figures use are not that hard to solder .... like I said, paper clips work fine if you have the right kind of solder and flux... first straighten the paper clip and then bend it into a "J" shape... make 2 of those and then go from there.... you can use the long part of the "J" for a handle while soldering and snip it off when your done.. If you have no experience soldering, I don't know what to tell you.. some people make their masks by cutting or combining the stock facemasks... sometimes that works fine,, sometimes not...

Additional (can also use): The custom facemasks are the wires used to hold the figures in the clamshell. When I make a custom Shield I use the plastic from one of the packages. I just use an exacto knife and cut it to the correct size and then glue it to the facemask.

For the helmets and facemask, testors gloss model paint is probably the best paint to use ((NOT the acrylic{water-based} stuff))
 it does come in spay cans.. in lots of pretty colors.. so that might be an option besides getting an airbrush or trying to brush on a smooth coat... I've never used it, so I can't vouch for it... but its probably high quality paint...

DECALS (matching colors):

The away uniforms are usually easier... especially the decals... when you do home (or dark) uniforms, you have to use white decal paper.. You make the numbers/letters white and use the uniform color as a background  (you have to match  a computer color to a 'real' color... not easy. because the color you see on your monitor is different than what is printed.. at least on my computer) I print out a swatch page with a bunch of different colored squares (an assortment of each basic color and the color ID #s underneath ...then pick the closest one and go from there...  and don't forget to scrape off the NFL logo on the back of the helmet...  no NFL logos before 1991, you know

keep in mind that, depending on the figure,  applying the decals on the sleeves can be almost as hard as painting them... but if you pull it off it will come out looking better than you could possibly paint by hand in a thousand years... sometimes you have put the sleeve decals on in two or more pieces... and don't worry if the decals gets wrinkled... it will add to the realism of the figure... usually...  you have to remember that in real life the material would wrinkle,,, 

ANYTIME YOU PUT A DECAL OVER A DARKISH COLOR, IT MUST BE ON WHITE PAPER... no matter what color the numbers are, if they are going over a dark background, they must be on white paper.

Since you basically rule out option 1, that leaves the latter two choices, (unless you don't mind the visible decal background) 
Cutting out all the background color is the way to get the absolute best looking decals.. On some decals it is no problem.. like for instance most decals that are a uniform shape like a circle , triangle, square  etc... you just cut the decal out right up to the edges and have at it... no problem...  but when you are trying to do numbers that way.... BIG problem!!!  When you cut out the background on the numbers, it will cause the decal to become too flimsy and next to impossible to apply...  I still do it that way , but usually end up ruining 2 or 3 before I get it on right ..  It s harder than hell, believe me...
So, what I sometimes do, and what I would suggest for you, is kind of a combination of cutting out the whole background and touching up the flaws with paint after the decal has been applied and set up.
cut out the decal all the way to the edges, but leave the center (Like the middle of a "0" for instance), and leave the inner area of a number (for instance on a "3", you would cut it out all the way to the edge on three sides and then cut a straight line down, making a rectangle-shaped decal.. ]see the carson palmer]))
On most of my customs, I cut out the entire colored background on the large numbers.. even the middle area... So they would look like the sew on numbers you would put on a real jersey... But It is extrememly difficult and I would recommend it (you might try it out, though.. )  I use small sharp scissors for the outside edges and a razor knife for the inside areas.....
But do it the way I mentioned earlier.. cutting most, but not all of the excess off.. then carefully touch up what you can after the decal has set up and dried...
a few other hints.. soak the decals for NO LONGER THAT 5 TO 10 SECONDS in cold water.. then put it on a paper towel while you put a coat of decal set ( I hope you have some) on the surafce to be decaled, and then a coat on the decal itself,. By that time ((about 10 to 15 seconds) the decal should easily slide off of the paper, but not be too flimsy too work with... But if you do not get it on right at first, the more you screw around trying to get it in the right place, and without any wrinkles or bubbles, the flimslier the decal gets and soon will become too thrashed to use...  You have got to get it right within the first 15 or 20 seconds or you willprobably wind up screwing it up and having to try another one... PRINT AT LEAST 6 OR 7 EXTRAS...
I use a small paint brush to apply the decals.. I can move it, and smooth it, and put on the decal set with the brush... And when its is finally in place, carefully and gently blott it down with a paper towel.... when the excess water is soaked up,  the decal will become bonded to the surface and you should be able to press it and wipe it with a paper towel with out disturbing the decal...but be careful, nothings worse than finally getting a decal on after 5 or 6 attempts, only to ruin it by wiping it down with a towel.. been there, done that.. sucks


1) mix it up in equal amounts  
2) with a toothpick, slop it on where you want it.. dont worry a whole lot about how it looks yet.. its hard to work with at his point because it is too wet and sticky
3) wait about 20 minutes.. then with a small trowel of some sort (i use a 1/2 inch strip cut out of a credit card) smooth it out using a dish of water -- dip the trowel in the water to moisten and make the stuff easier to work with.. it should still really moist without the water at this point and easy to manipulate as it has had a chance to set up a bit.. just try and even it out and form it into the shape you want... you should have at least a half hour to an hour to work with it before it sets up too much...
4) after about 2 hours (it should be pretty stiff..  almost dried, but still wet enough so you can easily put a groove or dent in it with a toothpick.)  take a small paint brush and a toothpick-like tool and form the wrinkles then paint water on it to really smooth it out nicely...
5) If this all works out, there should be little sanding afterwards.. a little sanding is usually nessacary.. but the stuff sets up really hard when its cured and it is not very easy to sand...


I do have a little box with all kinds of scrap plastic and little odds and ends that I use for all sorts of things like that.. I use pieces of those little plastic zip-ties for things like glove straps or elbow pad straps... I use pieces of  a credit card for things like elbow pads.. I use that teflon plumber's tape for ace bandages.. pieces of thread coated with krazy glue for shoelaces..  you gotta use your imagination..  and use what is available... check out this carson palmer..  I used the cap of a magic marker cut with a razor blade for the knee brace.. with pieces of a rubber band for the straps,, the mouthpiece is just a sliver of yellow plastic from the cap to a spray can.. the hip pads are just pieces of a credit card cut out w/ scissors and sanded..  same thing with this joey browner
 the elbow pads are pieces of a credit card that I cut out and then barely heat them up with a lighter until the are soft enought to bend and form (about 3 or 4 seconds about 4 inches over the flame) then pieces of a rubber band for the straps.. the gloves are just bare hands painted like a glove and I used a little piece of a zip-tie for the glove strap  (I coiled up a zip-tie into a tight spring-like coil, heated it up with a lighter and put it in cold water.. that makes it stay coiled and I was able to cut out pieces that were already formed to fit around his wrist and could be easily glued.. the ridges in the zip-tie look great for straps and the factory rounded end of a zip tie look perfect for the tip of the strap.. if the pic was bigger you could see it..


the way I do it is a technique called 'dry brushing'... I use a old oil painting brush (it has short, stuff bristles)... take a little yellow, a little brown, a little green.. and put a few drops of each on a piece of cardboard or a table or whatever... mix a few different 'dirt' colors from the three colors... I put a few drops of each color on a card.. then just kinda mix the colors, so theres about four or five shades of dirt...  then wipe the paint off the brush with a paper towel and kind of dab the dry brush where you want the dirt... remember to wipe off the brush every time you dip into some should have practically no paint on the brush.. experiment on a similar surface first... its easy to screw up your figure by putting on too much dirt or fake looking dirt... I tried using an airbrush. but dry-brushing looks better and is way easier..(I hate cleaning my airbrush)...   hint: a little tiny bit of dirt goes along way....  it does not take much dirt to make a dirty figure... a little on the shoes and socks.. a little on the knees a little smear of mud on his ass and maybe one place on the jersey will be more than enough to give the impression...   sometimes a little 'blood' looks cool... but just a tiny amount