[editor’s note: this piece about repainted toys comes to us from John Starling, reporter at large and man of leisure.]
Take a look at a photo of LEK Custom’s work, and you’d swear you’re looking at a 2D animation cel. But these are repainted, off-the shelf toys! Mostly Transformers and other robots, like Macross, Gundam, and Voltron.
We found the Thai artist’s creations online during the pandemic, and just had to own one for ourselves. His work is meticulous, and his commissions are so popular that the waiting list to get one was over 2 years.
But it was worth it.
His attention to detail is nothing short of amazing. His YouTube paint process videos show how much work is involved in each creation. There’s a lot more involved than just slapping some cel shading paint over the top of the toy. It involves reworking the factory paint job from the ground up.
Steps can include meticulous masking of original decals to preserve them, stripping off any chroming with bleach, covering the whole robot with new matte primer, and THEN starting the repaint process.
(Sometimes with very creative new color choices!)
We asked him about his background and his process:
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself
A: I work as a Creative Director at an advertising company in Bangkok, Thailand.
I love doing custom models and I truly appreciate everyone who likes my works.
Q: Why did you start customizing models and toys?
A: My previous job was related to illustration so I have had a lot of experience using an air brush.
At the same time, I am also a cartoonist. With this combination of skills, I like to create my own pieces
by painting and customizing.
Q: When did you start making customs?
A: I started making custom work in 2008 at the urging of my wife. At the time, she sold regular (non-custom)
models via E-Bay and saw a lot of custom work people were doing, so she guided me to try and from that time I began to practice until I was confident in my work and posted my first piece for sell on eBay. Fortunately, the item was sold and I have been continuing the work ever since.
Q: How many projects are you working on at any given time?
A: It depends on the difficulty of each work. Some works need only painting and it takes around 1 week
per model. But if there are a lot of modifications required, I have to find needed parts, think creatively
and see how best to modify them. In this case it would take around 2-3 weeks to complete.
Q: Is there one of your pieces you’re most proud of?
A: Actually, I cannot pinpoint which one is my most favorite as I do love them all. But some pieces to which
I did a lot of modifications on are the special ones.
Q: Do you have a favorite toy line to customize?
A: TRANSFORMERS, absolutely!
Q: Which models or toys are the most challenging to work on?
A: Sometimes it’s more than painting. Sometimes I also have to do a lot of custom modifications. It is quite exciting for when I can practice my skills and become more concentrated in my pieces.
Q: Any advice for other repainters/customizers out there?
A: Don’t give up. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, you will definitely get more
experience from your failures.