Tattoo my iGuy!
September 5, 2005 9:34 PM   Subscribe

For reasons I cannot fathom, I just bought an iGuy. I want to paint him. Artists please help?

I have no prior art experience of any sort, and don't know anything about paint. But the white iGuy is so boring. So that needs to change. What kind of paint should I use to make sure that the posability of the iGuy isn't effected? (It's made of silicone rubber with a wireframe skeleton inside). Is there a kind of paint that I can just dunk it in to give it a base coat, and then paint a design on over that without it getting crusty and chipping or something? Would I be better off just taking a sharpie to it?

Any suggestions for what exactly to do with the iGuy are welcome as well. I haven't quite decided.
posted by TTIKTDA to Media & Arts (19 answers total)
Ah, yes. I have seen these things out and about!
Acrylic will peel off, oil paints will never dry, a sharpie will bleed and turn purple around the edges. A paint marker may work though. Tool dip could be a lot of fun.

I wonder how temporary tattoos would hold up...
posted by idiotfactory at 9:43 PM on September 5, 2005

Is it plastic or rubber? If it's plastic you could dye it, no?
posted by dobbs at 9:57 PM on September 5, 2005

Response by poster: It's sillicone Rubber.

Think Gumby.
posted by TTIKTDA at 10:10 PM on September 5, 2005

i had personal experience with this type of plastic/rubber/silicon...
Very hard to paint... as mentioned above.. NO oil based anything. Even if prime it .. it won't work.

Silicons are meant be colored during the molding process.... You can try flexible vinyle based paint... but it won't last too long with too much flexing...

Stickers or fake tatoo probably make it more interesting and you can change it later...

Markers are also bad idea...

Personally I kinda like it white...
posted by curiousleo at 10:12 PM on September 5, 2005

Dress it in doll clothes? Glue sequins and rhinestones? Cut off one leg and make a little crutch?
posted by LarryC at 10:14 PM on September 5, 2005

You could opt to sew it some tiny clothes instead.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:15 PM on September 5, 2005

I like the clothing/accessories ideas. Maybe iGuy could wear a thong - it would probably look better than the ones on cell phones.
posted by PY at 10:29 PM on September 5, 2005

You could try acrylic craft paint. Either sanding it a little first or possibly (this sounds insane, but I hear it works) mixing the paint with a little dish soap might make it stick better. Or you can accept the peeling look. I'd go to one of the big cheesy craft stores and see what they recommend. How about gold leaf? Or you could tape all the important parts and then spray paint it with that fake stone look spray paint.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:32 PM on September 5, 2005

Best answer: Ok, since it's made of smooth plastic/rubber it's going to be difficult to get most mediums to stick to the surface. Acrylic would probably do the trick the best but, on a surface like that, it'll apply thinly and transparently.

What you'll need to do:

Get a little sandpaper and apply a fine texture to the surface. Gently, though. You don't want to chew up the rubber. Use 180 grit or something really fine like that.
Get some gesso (at an art supply store like Utrecht or Pearl. Be careful, though: the Pearl brand gesso is really crappy. If you wind up at a Pearl, get the Golden brand gesso. It's in the paint aisle) It's an acrylic-based primer coat for painting. Apply it thinly to your sanded surface. You should use a sable or synthetic white nylon 1/2 or 3/4 inch flat brush on something this size (gessoing larger things, you can just use a brush from Home Depot or something) Usually, I water it down a little but in your case, dealing with a generally smooth surface and a small object, I wouldn't recommend watering it down at all (although you should keep your brush damp). Just put only a little gesso on the brush and gently and thinly apply it. All you need is enough for the acrylic paint to grip on to a little.

Once it's dry, you can apply your acrylic paint to it. Then on to the next step:

So, you've sanded it and put a matte gesso base on it. You've added your colorful design, but all the parts that you've left blank/white will look a little dull and crusty. It'll also be kind of fragile, especially the parts that flex. You can restore it's glossy finish (and seal in the acrylic paint better) by applying another coat of clear, gloss acrylic paint (after you've let the previous paint job dry a while, of course)
The absolutely BEST product for that PERIOD is Golden brand Clear Tar Gel . They make, hands down, the best acrylic paint products on the market. Any and every art supply store will carry their products (and if they don't, yell at the manager). Don't be worried that the Gel comes out of the jar all milky and opaque. It dries totally clear and brilliant. Also, there are a number of other clear acrylic gels and mediums, none of them are nearly as ideal for this kind of varnishing. They're mostly for making the paint transparent without making the consistency all thin and watery. Apply the Clear Tar Gel thinly and evenly.
While you're at the store, get a can of Krylon Crystal Clear acrylic coating. It comes in a spray can.
After you've applied the Clear Tar Gel (don't forget the bottoms of the feet), give the whole thing a blast of the Crystal Clear.
If you do it this way, you won't have to worry about your acrylic paint peeling off. It'll be sealed in there for good.

You might be thinking that you could make stencils and spraypaint your design on your iGuy. But he's small, so it'd be really tricky. It's also really difficult to remove if you screw it up. Avoid the spray paint. It'll probably be a mess.

Since the majority of my work is miniature painting (like manuscript/ Indian inspired), I use the Princeton Art and Brush company's #0 gauge brush for smaller designs.
Chances are that whatever miniature designs you apply to your iGuy will look a little transparent (just because you're applying so little paint at a time) so be prepared to give it a second coat, once the first design application dries. You can find those brushes, probably, with the watercolor brushes. They're very tiny and are used for watercolor detailing.

I would NOT recommend using a paint marker for this job. You'll see all the nib-streaks and they often clog and run. It'll be really difficult getting the design to look good.
Temporary tattoos wouldn't work, either. They need a porous, organic surface like skin (or wood) to work the best.

Tips for acrylic painting:

Since you're likely going to have to apply more than one coat of paint to your iGuy (using tiny brushes on a tiny surface and all) it'll be ok to put a teeeeeny little bit of water in your paint just to keep it from getting clumpy.
Be sure to keep your brushes wet, too. In fact, working at the scale, the moisture from the brush may be enough to ensure a smooth application of paint. Just be sure not to put a big glob of paint on the end of your small brush. Work it around on your pallet or on a scrap surface before you apply it.
Small amounts of acrylic can dry very fast, by the way. We're talking in under an hour, depending on the thickness.
Acrylic will also clean up easily with soap and water (especially if you get to it before it's totally dry). mygothlaundry heard that dish soap is a good additive for acrylic but that's not correct. Only use it for clean-up.
If you're not slathering the paints and mediums on, you probably can complete this project in an afternoon (depending on the complexity of your design, of course).
Just remember to be judicious (maybe even stingy) in your gesso and paint application. Be patient, too.
Also, if you don't overly abuse your newly beautified iGuy, this paint job, if you do it properly, will probably last quite a while. You will hardly put a dent in your supplies when you're working this small so you'll have PLENTY left over if you ever need to retouch.

By the way, you can completely trust me on this. I just graduated from college for painting. I also use a lot of collage in my work and have had to find ways to paint on plastics and other tricky stuff.
Any questions, my email is in my profile.
Good luck! And don't forget to post pictures when you're done!
posted by Jon-o at 10:41 PM on September 5, 2005

I've seen *everything* now [shakes head].

Damn that thing's cute!

There's nothing like this for the Shuffle is there?

I'd take my old sewing maching out, sew a number of little outfits, get some little hats and dress him in matching colours to that I'm wearing, each day

...if I lived in an alternate world, that is...
posted by seawallrunner at 10:42 PM on September 5, 2005

After you've applied the Clear Tar Gel (don't forget the bottoms of the feet), give the whole thing a blast of the Crystal Clear.
And let it dry, of course. ALWAYS let each layer dry fully.

posted by Jon-o at 10:45 PM on September 5, 2005

What does anyone think of nail polish?
posted by leapingsheep at 10:50 PM on September 5, 2005

Nail polish will wear off within a week.
posted by Jon-o at 10:51 PM on September 5, 2005

I suppose Vinyl dye wouldn't work on silicone, would it?
posted by blasdelf at 12:20 AM on September 6, 2005

I would also suggest looking into vinyl or nylon dyes. Check your local hobby/model shop that has a good RC plane/car parts and paint stock.

Despite the detailed instructions by jon-o, I'm pretty sure that acrylics will flake/peel from silicon, especially bendable silicon.

Also, dyes will most likely bleed a fair amount if you attempt to paint contrasting designs or designs with white space into them. The dyes are usually made for dipping entire parts into, like, say a wheel rim or an A-arm or other medium sized part, and coloring the part one solid color.
posted by loquacious at 3:28 AM on September 6, 2005

Jon-o is my hero. But won't the paint crack when the little guy is bent and twisted and does various calisthenics?
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:16 AM on September 6, 2005

Since it's silicone rubber, nothing practical will adhere to the surface.
Sanding (or otherwise abrading) is not a good idea. 1-the paint will flake off anyway, and 2-sanding will tear-up the "skin" that forms the surface of the silicone and, generally, fuck it up.
It's nice white. Leave it.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:14 AM on September 6, 2005

is silicone even slightly absorbant? You could put it in a bath with a bunch of dyes for a few days and see if anything stuck.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:12 AM on September 6, 2005

But won't the paint crack when the little guy is bent and twisted and does various calisthenics?

Only if you really give him a serious work-out. High quality acrylic artists paints can be really flexible. I mean, I can roll a painting up to transport it and it won't crack.
But, if you've gone and put all that effort into beautifying your iGuy, you'd likely be pretty cautious about abusing him.

and 2-sanding will tear-up the "skin" that forms the surface of the silicone and, generally, fuck it up

Not if you do it gently with a really fine grit sandpaper. Carefully, in a circular motion, and just enough to apply only the slightest texture.
posted by Jon-o at 10:17 PM on September 6, 2005

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