Custom Tutorial

Learn how to design a custom and re-thread a pony's hair!

I designed this page in an attempt to answer the questions people often ask about customising ponies.
It explains a little about how to choose your pony to use, what materials to use, how to give her new hair and symbols, and some ideas about other things you might want to add as accessories and decorations.

How to use this page

  • Click on the name of the section you wish to visit (the links below) to jump to that section

Sections

1) First choose your pony


Peachy: a good example of a "custom bait"
- common, easy to find and with horrid hair!

Think carefully when doing this. Is the pony you're thinking of customising rare, or actually in very good condition? If so, stop and think whether someone else might want her for a collection instead.
Some rares are collectable, even in a poor condition (e.g. Mountain Boys, Mail Orders or rares from other countries).

If your pony to customise is fairly common, and has nasty knotted, frizzed hair, then this is a good starting point.

2) Pre-paint preparation


Carefully lever off head

Important: before you making a start, read dedredhed's customising safety tutorial.

Take the pony's head off and clean her thoroughly inside and out. To save time, cleaning is much quicker using an electric toothbrush!

If the head is really stubborn (e.g. post-1991 or harder plastic MLPs), use strong sewing cotton soaked in nailpolish remover. Hold it as if it's dental floss and work at the neck seam in a sawing motion.

Some examples of tools that can be used to effectively used to lever the head are:

  • "X-acto" blade, with the blade reversed
  • Flat, spatula-like dental picks/tools

Whatever you choose to use, something thin and blunt works best. That way you are levering/prying the head and body apart by pulling apart the glue, rather than cutting through the pony's head or body. Also safer for you, as you don't risk cutting yourself if the blade slips!

If you are going to add new hair, make sure you take out all the old stuff first.

Make sure to do a thorough job, as sometimes bits of hair and glue get stuck underneath the row of holes where the hair was originally sewn in.

I find the best way is to cut the existing mane near the base, then remove the remnants from the inside, using long-nosed pliers.

Remove the tail, also using the long-nosed pliers, which make the base of the tail easier to reach.

3) Painting and embellishments


Spray varnish, paints & fabric medium

Prepare painting materials :-

  • Acetone/nailpolish remover
  • Cotton wool pads/ q-tips
  • acrylic inks (the type in the "eyedropper" bottles are easiest to work with)
  • fabric PVa medium (to use with the paint)
  • mixing bowls/pallete for paint
  • small container for brush-washing water
  • brushes(make sure to find tiny ones for fine detail)
  • cocktail sticks/toothpicks(for VERY fine detail)
  • old newspaper to work on (to protect against paint spills)
  • paper towels (to wipe brushes, etc)
  • clingfilm, masking fluid/film, masking tape (for masking)
  • air/water soluble pen (optional - for rough marking)
  • Spray varnish ("Games WorkShop" brand for preference)


Remove old symbols

Work at the symbol carefully with nailpolish remover and cotton-wool pad or Q-Tip.

If you are keeping the pony's old hair, wrap it in cling film in situe and lightly secure with masking tape at the roots, so that you can paint the head easily, without the hair getting painty. It's also a good idea to remove tail and replace it later (after you've finished painting.

To get the head and body ready for painting, I find some small bottles that will fit the neck-hole and put cling film over them before sticking the head/body on the end. This gives a stable base to paint on and for drying purposes. If you can't find a small enough bottle, stick the pony head/body on a pen or pencil, and rest it in a bottle.

I tend to apply latex masking fluid (using a cocktail stick) over the eyes so that I don't need to repaint them later.

If you want to paint the entire body, using an airbrush and acrylic inks gives a good finish. Remember not to hold the airbrush too close to the pony, as this may make the paint blotch. You can use a paint brush, but the airbrush gives a more even finish.

When you are happy with the paintwork, peel off the eye masking and use a paintbrush to tidy up edges the airbrush missed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you are not airbrushing before applying symbol, spray varnish the plain pony before you start, as this may prevent the paint "bleeding" over time, and protect your artwork.


Rough out the design

Prepare your picture using an air/water soluble pen to lay it out, so mistakes can be corrected before paint is applied. (If you're painting freehand). This isn't neccessary, but it makes it a little more easy to plan your design


Start painting!

For the markings, either paint freehand using a brush, or make up/cut out stencils in artists' "Frisk film"and apply paint using a brush or airbrush.


Add fine detail

Add fine detail Paint carefully, using a small brush or cocktail stick for fine details. The PVa medium helps the paint to "stick", as the MLP vinyl sometimes repels paint! (It also gives a nice glossy finish).

To seal the paint in, use a spray-on varnish. I find the "Games Workshop" Purity Seal is the best, and dries very quickly too. You can also use stick-on gems, shapes etc. if you'd prefer your custom to have 3-D markings.

4. Adding the mane and tail


Knot some hair to use

Materials required:-

  • Suitable hair (from "donor" pony, or hair extension hair)
  • Long-nosed pliers
  • Very small rubber band or cotton, to secure tail hair bundle
  • Plastic-coated wire fastener
  • Scissors
  • Needle & thread
  • "Fray Check" (a haberdashery item, used for fabric neatening)
  • Old newspaper or similar to work over
  • Infinite time and patience ;)

Prepare some mane sections. Cut hair sections double the length you need, with enough strands to fill a plug when the length is doubled over.

Fold the length in half and double-knot at the top, leaving 5mm or so free at the top to allow for slippage.
For curly doll hair, or if you only have short pieces to use, tie the bundle of hair at the top without folding in half first).

Secure the knot with a small blob of Fray-check liquid, this will help keep the knot secure. Not essential, but handy!


Thread the needle

Get a length of sewing thread and a needle ready.

Fold the thread in half lengthways and thread BOTH loose ends through the eye of the needle at the same time.


Pull needle through using pliers

Push the needle from the outside of the head, through a hair plug hole, through the neck so it pokes through the neck hole.

With help from the pliers if needed, gently pull the thread through so the LOOP end is at the neack an the 2 LOOSE ENDS are at the top/outside of the head.

You can use a loop of jewellery wire instead of needle and thread, but you need a supply of wire (breaks occasionally)and it's not recommended if the whole body has been painted. This is because it flakes the paint the hair's pulled through).


Pull the hair through!

Catch the loose end of your hair bundle in the thread loop and pull! You can pull through two small "bunches" of hair at a time this way, which is about all you need to fill each hair hole. You may need to experiment a little to find the best bunch size to use - too thick, and the thread will break. Too thin and you'll need to repeat with extra sections.

Use of a thimble, flexible (leather) Quilter's Thimble or fingerless cycling gloves is recommended to prevent blisters, as pulling the thread through a lot can hurt your hands after a while.


Keep on threading that hair...

Repeat until all plugs are filled. You may need to do each several times if you cannot pull enough hair through at once.

This may result in much time used, many broken lengths of thread and various amounts of screaming.
A nice long film is recommended to thread hair to (Buffy episodes work equally well).


Cut hair lengths for a tail

For the tail, cut section of hair double the length of the tail-base to tail-tip (using an actual pony's tail for reference is useful to gauge length and thickness required.

Secure with a tiny elastic band or tightly tied thread at mid-point of tail.

Get a plastic-coated narrow flexible wire (the type that hold toys or electrical goods into their packaging).

Bend wire in half and place over central part of tail.


Put in the tail

Use the wire to thread the tail into the body from the OUTSIDE inwards.

Make sure you don't have too little or too much hair in the bundle or you'll end up with a skinny tail, or a mass of hair that won't fit in, and may damage the paint if the whole body has been painted.


Secure the tail

Pull as far as you can and bend over the wire, twist as neccessary to secure.

You could use a tail washer as found on ponies originally, but this method works easily and you don't end up with rusty washer problems.


Pull tail to fit

Pull tail back to its correct position.

You can also use these hair rooting steps when restoring ponies, rather than customising.


"Teletubbies characters and logo 1996 Ragdoll Ltd.
Licensed by BBC Worldwide Limited."

You may need to tidy off paint chips around mane/tail if neccessary; try to blend this carefully with the paintwork.

Congratulations - hopefully, you should now have finished your custom pony!

5) Fixing in "Twinkle-Eyes"

A new addition to the custom tutorial

Drilling out the eye-sockets

Materials:-

  • Matched pair of facetted beads (plastic or crystal)
  • Scalpel
  • Small metal spatula
  • Mini-drill (optional)
  • Vinyl modelling compound/airdrying modelling material

It's possible to make your own "Twinkle Eyes" for custom ponies, using facetted plastic beads of the right size. Be careful to pick beads that are the same size as the existing eye pupil

Remove the eye pupil area. The quickest, most even and accurate method is to use a mini-drill with a "burr" drill bit attachment. Although it's possible to use a scapel instead, it used very carefully.

It's wise to drill a bit at a time, to reduce the risk of drilling a hole that's too big for the intended beads.

Use the small spatula to tidy up the edges of the drilled eye socket (you could possibly use very fine sandpaper instead)

Again, check that you don't overdo this, as you need the eye socket to be a good, close fit for the bead.

Carefully position the eyes, so that they are evenly positioned and stick out to the same degree.

Using the end of the spatula, fill in the gaps behind the beads with the vinyl modelling compound, or other airdrying modelling material.

Leave to dry - you may need to add additonal layers if the eyes are not fully secure.

Tidy up any remaining bits of modelling material that might have seeped through, and touch up the eye paint as neccessary.

The completed Twinkle-Eyed custom pony.

6) Finishing touches


Customs with accessories

Add any accessories or hair decorations that your custom requires.
Does she need ribbons, clips, or even jewellery? If previously a Flutter, will she need wings? If she is "to order", take some nice pics of her before she's posted off!

"My Little Pony " is the copyright of Hasbro Industries Ltd.
Images property of C. Lonsdale unless stated - do not use without permission