Posts Tagged ‘Customizing Transformers’

In 2012, I was invited to customize a Transformers figure for the upcoming Cybertron Con 2012 at Resorts World Sentosa.

Cybertron Con is a convention for all Transformers fans stunning exhibition of TRANSFORMERS collectible toys as well as activities for fans to experience a wide variety of offerings from Hasbro’s toy line and entertainment in this bi-annual event.

I chose to customize the dual model kit Optimus Prime with my “signature” battle damage finish. The other choice was Bumblebee. It was a thrill to have my custom displayed at the convention alongside professional customizers.

Hasbro sent me the model kit and I got to work.

This was quite a tedious custom to do. Gundam customizers will find it run-of-the-mill as they are used too painting models but generally, all my customs have been assembled toys that I dismantle to customize. As a result, the process of painting and battle damaging is quite differet. I painted as I built up the model. This was more time consuming but ensured I got the right colours and textures for the completed model.






Some of the customization includes:

  • For the exo-skeleton, I used a flat black base coat then gave a dry brushing of gun metal followed by a dry brushing of chrome steel. This gives a nice textured and layered realistic look.
  • Some elements are given a complete chrome steel finish or straight gun metal finish to highlight features.
  • Lots of copper and gold trimmings were added to give detail to the otherwise plain exo-skeleton.
  • I reprinted in the red and blue parts, maintaining the flame patterns through careful brush strokes.
  • Battle damage was applied – bullet holes, laser slashes, dents and scratches.
  • Flat Aluminum paint with delicate strokes were used to create the battle damage wear.
  • I also added a stainless steel “Autobot” emblem on Optimus’ right shoulder.
  • Parts of the model were given a black wash to give it a gritty look.
  • I also gave grass and mud effects in the wheels of the model.
  • To cap off the display, I cut off a Leader Class Starscream figure and applied severe decapitation damage complete with green blood.

This figure took about 38 hours to do including drying time.

The following photos were taken after painting but before battle damage and weathering effects were applied.

The following photos were taken after battle damage and weathering effects were applied.

I was featured in the 10 Mar 2012 edition of The New Paper for my customizations. Read the article online HERE.

With Transformers: Dark of the Moon movie released, I thought it would be fitting to revisit some of my favourite custom Optimus Primes that I hand painted and modified.

You can see all my customs at But here are a few of my favourites.

First, the one that a lot of people know me for. A transformable Battle Damaged Power Up Optimus Prime. The biggest custom I have done. You can see the full specs here.

One of my personal favourites, because it is a great mold, is the Voyager Class Optimus Prime from the Hunt for the Decepticons series. You can see the full specs here.

An army-themed Optimus Prime with military weapons and a real working flame thrower! You can see the full specs and watch the video of the flame thrower in action here.

Old-School Prime was another creative theme by repainting the 2007 movie Prime with his Generation One colour scheme. This was a popular custom too. You can see the full specs here.

Old School Prime 2

Now, the movie….

I should start off that I enjoy Michael Bay’s movies, visual style, trademark filming angles and almost-campy stylized moments. I take them for what they are… entertaining summer block buster movies, eye candy, visual bubble gum and just good fun.. So, I think it is silly when people criticize his story development, character development or fantastical plot or action scenes.

However, TF3 was just one incoherent almost-3-hour crap fest. Multiple subplots and seemingly unconnected & disjointed scenes. In fact, different scenes  seem like they came from different movies and this happens throughout the movie. I don’t expect a perfect seamless story but at least tell the story well. We sit through the movie for 15 minutes worth of action and maybe 4 or 5 Michael Bay moments.

Characters… I think we don’t expect much from a Michael Bay movie in terms of intricate characters BUT characters from his movies have always been well-defined albeit one-dimensional. In TF3, the Autobots seemed less effective at killing Decepticons than the humans and in fact often turned up after the humans killed or fended off the Decepticons. This happen significantly at least twice. Where were they? I know Optimus Prime was literally hanging around for an unimaginable point of time. For a robot who has energon laser swords and axe, it is strange he can’t cut himself free from entangled cables.

Speaking of OP, his character was reduced to an almost unimpressive incompetent second-in-command. Even Megatron had to save his a** at the end. How is Hasbro going to move OP merchandise if OP is made to look so weak. Megatron… the once all mighty Decepticon leader is now a brooding robot who lacks confidence and sits around to mope during the final battle. It takes a girl who has no previous knowledge about the robots to use psychology on an alien race to talk him into getting off his a** and do something about it.

I thought TF3 would be a sure hit… hard to screw up. After all, you have a great fan base, impressive-looking robots and cool transformations & actions scenes and a ready summer movie audience. But… I guess this was his last TF film so he just “Michael Bay-ed” it.

A fellow Singapore magician, Alexander,  made good analogies to TF3 and magic. You can read his thoughts here. Basically, TF3 is a lot like a trend of magic stage acts. You probably know the ones I’ve talked about previously … endless barrage of canes, parasols, cards, snowstorm, confetti and kabuki streamers.

Show a 2min highlight and it looks awesome and impressive. Watch a full show and it becomes senseless flurry of incoherent actions and effects that do not result in a magical experience. Good movies are supposed to do the same, suspend the audience’s belief and get them immersed in the movie world.

Bad magic and bad movies keep the audience unsettled and even distracted because they have no idea what is going on and why certain things happen. I’m often distracted by magic acts that have a flurry of stylish poses and gestures that do not even end in a magic effect. Half the time, it is to look cool or to match a beat or timing in the music.

I’m all for visual bubble gum, flashy moves and effects, but at least have it make some sense and bring the audience on an enjoyable journey.

This is currently the star prize of my custom work.

I have yet to see a custom Power Up Prime that is highly movie accurate AND can “disassemble” so that Optimus Prime can reverted back to his original form and can still transform into truck mode.

What makes my “Power Up Prime” unique is that it is probably the most movie/ concept art accurate “Power Up Prime” that has detachable Jet Fire armour so that Optimus Prime can transform into truck mode.

Plus, the way the attachments are designed are so that different parts of the armour moves with body parts to maintain high articulation in “Power Up” mode. I solved one of the more difficult parts in designing the interchangeable feet.

All my attachments are through magnets hidden/ embedded in Prime as well the individual armoured parts.

The original toys from Hasbro allow a Leader Class Prime to combine with a Leader Class Jetfire but it is not really movie accurate.

My Power Up Prime stands at 18″ tall at its highest point. It is the most complex and elaborate custom till date as it involved “kit bashing” (building from scratch) many parts and custom making them from multiple toys.

Here are pics of Optimus Prime pre-Power Up.

This is the Power Up Prime with all of the Jetfire Armour parts fused to him.

With two weapons added. A concept art-accurate Jetfire combined gun with ammo belt in the right hand and a gatlin gun attached to the forearm on the left hand.

The Jetfire combined gun has a blue LED light mounted inside that can be switched on.

Watch the video here:

Here is the detailed breakdown of the custom scratch work:

All of Jet Fire Armour parts were built from scratch with Jet Fire and Gundam parts including a whole lot of “kit-bashing”. From head down:


  • The thrusters are completely custom made from a bunch of different parts.
  • The main extensions are secured to a base that has large magnets attached to the underside. The magnets attach through to the batteries inside Prime.
  • There are four arms that extend to the outer half shell of each thruster unit.

Shoulder Pads

  • Custom-made shoulder pads attach to magnets embedded under Prime’s shoulder pads. The magnet positions allow the shoulder pads to move as the figure articulates

Shoulder Guards

  • Custom-made shoulder guards attach to the steel pin on Prime’s shoulder with cylinder magnets. This allows the shoulder guards to swivel out of the way when arms are articulated

Back Wings

  • The entire wing assembly detaches as one unit and both wings can swivel to different angles.

Chest Plate

  • Chest plate with rib armour was made from different parts and fabricated as one assembled unit. They attach to cylinder magnets embedded into the sides of Prime’s body
  • The chest plate also pushes up Prime’s chest window armour to give him a more buffed look in “Power Up” mode

Front Thigh Guards

Inner Thigh Guards

  • Sculpted to fit around thighs from Gundum parts

Knee Guards

  • Custom made from different sculpted parts attached via magnets

Shin Guards

Leg Wheel Guards

  • Cut from Gundum and Jet Fire parts and each attach via two magnets to keep it in place without rotating with the wheel


  • This is my only ‘cheat’ in the custom. In designing the extended feet/ leg and creating a movie/ concept art accurate look as well as maintaining stability of the “Power Up” figure, I figured the best way to to just switch feet for the “Power Up” mode. The “Power Up “feet are custom made from many different parts including the feet from a ROTF Leader Class Prime

Forearm Guards

  • Cut from Jet Fire parts


  • Custom BFG with blue LED with ammo belt
  • Custom Double Gatlin Gun mounted on forearm with ammo belt

With this custom in the books, I just realized how many Primes I have. This is about 10% of the collection with the rest still mint in sealed boxes!