Just had a request to write up the cost and process of making a toy. I can give some base costs, but it really all depends on what you’re hoping to do, and how big you’re wanting to go. If you have a small budget like I did, Polyester Resin is not a bad route to go. Making a true designer vinyl toy will START at around 5K, and is basically a similar cost model to recording and producing a top notch CD. The reason for the high startup is that you have to pay to have someone make a metal mold for it. The vinyl is poured into the mold and then the mold is spun to create a hollow space inside. Think a Munny toy or a rubber ducky.
All of that said, what I’ve done with Milo is basically the first steps of that process, and then I created a small scale Milo-making operation. I will likely get together the money to do a full scale vinyl toy soon, as I’m itching to take the next step.
Here’s how it starts: This is the first sculpt of Milo Pocket Art. It was done in Sculpy with a paper and tape armature. Bascially, I drew the character, then did a few rolled up balls of paper, with some tape around them to give a general shape to it. Then I applied Sculpy around that and built it up until it looked essentially like it should. Then I baked it, according to the Sculpy directions, sanded it some to get it a little more refined, and drew on a face just to see how it looked.
Next, I poured some silicon to make a mold. This process is best described here, by Tessetoys They’re the ones, whose directions I followed when making the first Milos. Once I had a couple Milos cast using this process, I did further sanding and refining. Here’s my first work in casting: The Workshop
The startup cost rundown is as follows, bare minumum.
Sculpy for initial sculpt – $10
Smooth-on silicone for initial mold – $30 -$100(if you buy a large quantity of silicone, you might end up with a better price (possibly half). I would say that in all you may end up spending somewhere around $75 for your silicone needs if you’re making several molds in order to streamline the process as I have. Keep in mind that your initial mold is going to end up being worthless, because you’ll want to sand and refine your sculpt, and then make your true useable casting molds.
I’m using Smooth-On brand and the product is called Rebound-25 to make my final molds. It’s Platinum Cure, which means it will last longer than Aluminum Cure.
Smooth-Cast 300 – $90 for the gallon size. Again, you can spend less if you buy in bulk, and commit to doing a larger run, but the downside to this is that you should USE what you buy rather soon. This stuff starts to go bad if you use a little and then leave it to sit. The larger sizes can be found at a plastic supply company. There’s a Smooth-On distributor here in Chicago, so I drive the twenty minutes and save myself the shipping on the gallon containers.
So, to do a short run of about sixty pieces, the cost for me was around 200 bucks. (not including paint. The Milo cast is white, so all I do is draw on the faces with a sharpie, and then give it a clear-coat of varnish: $5) Which isn’t bad. And I’ve actually gotten multiple runs out of these molds, so the cost goes down with each one. I’ll likely have to replace them soon, because they’re starting to deteriorate, but that’s cool because I’ve gotten better at the process and the toys will be even easier to cast now. At the moment, these molds have little flaws in them that I still have to wet-sand out. So, they’re kind of a bitch, but it wasn’t enough of a pain for me to go through the cost of making new molds. Now they’re starting to rip (because for a while I wasn’t using a releaser agent (always a good idea)) so I’m going to have to bite the bullet and do it.
All in all, it’s been a very cool experience, and I would recommend it to anybody. Considering THIS was the project that actually got me to start the comic(I hit a snag and decided I needed to be doing SOMEthing with Milo, so I started drawing him a ton and then thought of doing a webcomic), it’s pretty cool for me to have it going this well (sales-wise). Take a look at the vid and let me know what you think. Happy to hear any feedback. Happy casting folks, and if you need any pointers, please drop me a line.