Figma Samus Aran (SSB4 Light Suit Custom)

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I believe this is the first of its kind ever attempted – Figma Samus Aran, of which I’ve already reviewed once before – painted in her Light Suit palette swap from Super Smash Bros. 4.

I’ll say right now that this project started out as a bit of a fit of insanity – I preordered Smash months before its release, and played it for at least a week and a half straight from release day. My main has been Samus since Melee days, and one night I looked over at my Figma collection and decided that it really needed to be spiced up. I’ve been contemplating selling my entire Figma collection for a while now since they’ve lost their luster a bit, but I think I’ve reconsidered that option enough to keep everything for the moment.

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As I said, this really did start as a fit of insanity.

While playing Smash one night, I randomly decided to take my Figma Samus out of the glass towers and tear her apart, almost absentmindedly. Ever since Melee, I’ve always fought with Samus using her purple Gravity Suit palette swap, since I considered fighting with the Varia suit too mainstream.

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That being said, I had originally decided to paint my Figma Samus in her Gravity Suit colors as featured in Smash 4, to add a little customization to my collection. I remember I was really hesitant about this decision the night I made it – I kept debating about the figure’s value and whether I should really take the plunge or not, but then eventually conceded to the fact that I didn’t really like my Figma Samus anyway, so it wouldn’t do any harm to mess with it a little.

However, while I was tearing Samus apart limb by limb, the fleeting wonder of whether this had been attempted before floated through my mind. I quickly conducted a Google search, which yielded some saddening results.

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More than one person had already done a Gravity Suit. And a Fusion Suit. And a Phazon Suit. Let’s not forget a Dark Samus version floating around too.

All told, this made me very sad that night. They were all done really well too, so it’s not like I could take consolation in doing a better paintjob of the same palette.I mean yeah, could’ve still just gone with the Gravity Suit – it’s not like there’s a law forbidding me from making one if it’s been done before, but for some insane reason I really wanted to do something that hasn’t been attempted before.

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Therefore, I wrestled with this dilemma pretty much all night – I had masked the pieces for painting according to the Gravity palette at first, but the issue with the other customs still nagged at me. I was honestly kind of bewildered – here I thought the brilliant idea of custom painting a Figma was a completely unique and revolutionary idea when I thought it up, but it turns out people were already getting their act together back when this figure was released. I was a bit late to the party.

I think I went off to play a few rounds of Smash while I deliberated this issue.

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While I was Smashing the night away, I realized that I took a particular liking to Samus’ Light Suit palette swap too. I honestly didn’t like using it, since I didn’t want to get used to it and use those as my primary colors when they aren’t available in Melee or Brawl.

For a while I toyed with the idea of painting that palette, but as I studied the in-game model I deduced that it would be too difficult, what with the crazier color separation, most evident on the feet, thighs, and forearm.

Obviously though, I eventually caved. After probably ten 3-stock rounds where I might as well have been fighting my own indecisiveness, I decided I wanted that pride of being the first one to do a Light Suit repaint, no matter how difficult it would be.

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This project took place during the waning days of our week-long Thanksgiving break from school, so I didn’t have good reason to go to bed early or anything. I remember I came up with the idea of repainting Samus at around 9PM, commenced this whole process you’re reading about now, and finished masking at around 4AM. I then promptly woke up at around 10AM the next day to paint before the rainfall that was forecasted for that particular Saturday.

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Ripping Samus apart was a rather painful experience. I didn’t really have a good grasp on how the figure was assembled and what its specific weak points were, so it was tough to say the least. I don’t say scary because as I mentioned above, this was a really impulsive decision and I did it almost absentmindedly, not really paying much attention to the consequences of my actions and just doing it.

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In the end though, ‘most everything came apart carefully and well, without any serious issues. The only odd pieces out were the balled shoulders, which I had some serious trouble with. They’re connected on their own ball joints that are connected to both the upper arm joint and main body. In essence, there’s a three-forked ball joint for the arm-to-torso connection.

Unfortunately, the ball joints were ridiculously tight and I had a higher chance of simply tearing the plastic than actually removing the ball joints from their sockets. I also had to take into account the re-insertion of the joints after painting, which would definitely be no easy and delicate feat, and the risk of scratching the paint would be high.

Given that, my aforementioned absentmindedness during this process prompted me to conclude that the best option to getting this done was surgical removal of the shoulders on their joints, leaving the upper arm and torso connected for painting. I couldn’t keep the shoulders on no matter what, since they obscured a good part of the biceps that would need to be painted, but removing them left me enough room for both the torso and arms. This turned out not to be the greatest decision ever made, but I’ll elaborate a bit more on that later.

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I also realized that the Morph Ball is a thing with this figure. As I mentioned in Figma Samus’ review proper, I really didn’t care for this accessory and would’ve just forgotten about it, but my unrequited rivalry to those who had done Samus customs before me didn’t allow me to skimp, especially since they all painted their respective Morph Balls.

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As I referenced the in-game model, it looked like the entire suit sported a glossy finish, both the black and white. I actually debated doing the white in silver for a bit to accomplish the metal-looking texture and feel of the game render, but eventually settled on gloss white with some dry-brushed silver details to do that.

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For complete accuracy, I really should’ve done gloss black, but I had two reasons (or two projects really) for not doing so. The first was my 1/100 Custom Duel Gundam, on which the gloss black finish really didn’t turn out as well as I wanted it to, scaring me away from that option a bit. The second was my MG 1/100 Jesta Sutherland Custom, a project I was actually still wrapping up simultaneously with this one (you can see some Jesta parts and Sutherland purple in some of these WIP photos).

The Jesta doesn’t have a review or photoshoot yet, but I had already completed the black on that kit and the flat finish I used turned out gorgeously. It was pretty much perfectly smooth and even, a far cry from the gloss black finishes I’ve accomplished before. Given that, I really wanted to give this Samus repaint my all (partially because I think I did such a poor job on the rest of the Jesta and partially because I had some insane obsession that I had something to prove to the world after seeing those other insanely well-done Samus customs), so I chose the option that had less risk attached.

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Now, the white…ah, the white. Y’know, I really do take consolation in the fact that I learn from each of my projects; even if I mess up on a certain kit or figure while painting and customizing, I can at least know what not to do next time and take something valuable away from it.

Admittedly, I could’ve saved a lot of effort if I had just done my research on a lot of this stuff (it’s no secret that matte and gloss finishes don’t mix well on top of each other, but I decided to learn that lesson first-hand) but I say to hell with theory, there are no absolutes here.

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Spraying white is one of those lessons I learned the hard way, with my ‘ol MG AGE-2 Gundam SP Custom.

I learned with that kit that you need some serious priming and multiple coats of white to actually achieve a nice white finish, and if you’re unlucky certain plastics don’t even allow that. The yellow and red plastics on my AGE-2 continuously bled through multiple coats of silver primer and white spray, constantly leaving me with pink or faded yellow parts. I carried the memory of that experience into this project; I was beyond fearful that I’d end up with some faded orange or whatever on Samus, but thankfully she isn’t quite made out of the same stuff as Gunpla.

The black I used was actually a flat black primer spray. I’ll show off the complete list of paints a bit down the line, but I decided to use the black primer as both a primer and the actual flat black coat for the black parts.

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I also added some primer on top of primer, because I’m into that sort of thing.

Therefore, the first coat of paint to hit the parts would be the flat black, followed by some flat gray primer to make sure the black wasn’t too stark with the white coat on top. Of course, by this stage the parts that actually needed to stay black were masked, though I hit them with some dullcoat first.

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As such, the pieces that needed to be painted white got the most coats of paint: flat black primer first, then flat gray primer, satin white, and gloss coat. Slowly moving up the shiny finish scale.

Parts like the torso that had both black and white actually got sprayed with some dullcoat finishing between the black primer and black gray steps. Because the white would be glossy and the black would be matte, I couldn’t exactly spray one consistent finish on parts like this at the very end. I had to seal the flat black first, then actually mask the entire section, topcoat and all. The gloss coat that would cover only the white parts would be the literal final coat of paint, because I’d then peel away the masking tape on the black, which was already finished and masked before I even sprayed the priming gray.

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It’s a complicated process. Part of why I said doing the Light Suit would be more of a hassle and a bit more difficult, but I think I pulled through.

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In all honesty, while I was moving through this whole process, the Morph Ball was a total afterthought.

I didn’t even really want to work on it at all because I was so excited about painting the actual figure, so I got careless with it early on. Make no mistake, it turned out great in the end, but for most of this project’s duration I could care less for it and used it more as a paint tester than anything else.

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The parts that didn’t need to be masked and painted in two colors were a godsend for me. So easy to just paint an entire piece white or black.

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But then there are the bastard pieces like these that I dreaded masking. I actually have very effective modeler’s masking tape that I’ve used in previous projects but I got lazy and decided to just use regular ‘ol painter’s tape to mask instead. Probably wasn’t the best shortcut.

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After scrutinizing the game model for longer than I really should have, I came to the conclusion that the closest match for Samus’ suit lights would be neon yellow. It actually looks more like white light tinged with yellow at the edges in-game, but that was some crazy stuff I didn’t really know how to accomplish.

I knew for a fact that I really wanted the light parts to stand out though, to be either metallic or clear. That didn’t work out so well. I thought actually doing a silver base coat with clear yellow over to create a metallic yellow look would be too ostentatious for the subtle feel that the lights have in-game, so I just went with a plain coat neon yellow instead.

For what it’s worth, I applied a clear gloss glaze over all the neon yellow areas but that hardly did anything. The neon yellow actually ended up turning out to look kinda green, which irked me a bit, but I figured it was good enough.

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The round shoulder pads were probably the most difficult to paint. Not to get a smooth finish or anything, but simply handling them was a challenge. Since I wear gloves when I paint, they’re so ridiculously round that they slipped out of my grip more than once.

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As a result, disasters like this sometimes happen. The gloss finishing coat hadn’t been applied yet, so I just touched up the blemish with some gloss acrylic paint and called it a day.

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Speaking of touching up with acrylic, that’s pretty much how it worked for all the little in-betweens of Samus’ suit that I really couldn’t be damned to spray.

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The acrylic paint palette. The gloss white and matte black were used to touch up some of the sprayed parts, while the gloss black and gunmetal gray were used to actually add suit detail that I didn’t spray.

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The torso straight out of its final white coat, ready to be touched up.

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I couldn’t spray the final sealing coat of gloss until all the little suit details had been added in via brush. I actually brought a brand new set of micro brushes just for this, to make sure all the edges were as smooth and clean as could be.

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A good amount of the pieces done on the second night. Because I wanted this to turn out well, I didn’t actually rush through it as much as I normally do one some of my projects. Granted, it was all still finished in like two days, but I didn’t cut too many corners just to save time.

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At some point I decided the Morph Ball was worth saving. Had to sand down the blemishes caused during the initial painting and spray several new coats to make things work.

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As I mentioned briefly above, the blue masking tape wasn’t the best idea ever. Aside from leaving some tape residue on some pieces, there was quite a good amount of paint bleed, most evident around the thighs. The few parts where I used the actual Testors modeling masking tape turned out nigh-flawlessly. Lesson learned, I suppose.

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I touched up the paint bleeds with a mixture of lining and actual touch-ups with brush-on acrylics. I used Gundam lining marker for most of it, which actually worked out really well.

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…for the most part, anyway.

Initial lining results were actually pretty terrible. Because of the sprayed paint, I couldn’t rub off the lining marker if I messed up, and honestly the paint was so thick it obscured a lot of the panel detail, so it was tough for me to follow the guides. A lot of my first attempts were incredibly sloppy and thick, so I had to correct those by painting over the overbleeding bits with glossy white acrylic paint. It managed to match well with the sprayed white, and this method was already tried and true on another Gunpla kit that had a lot of lining and was painted white.

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As most of the parts neared completion, I just had one final tidbit to do – some silver drybrushing to add a bit of a metal feel to the suit. I mentioned it above, but the in-game model has a distinctive white metal texture to the suit.

Part of why I actually wanted to try this on my Figma was so I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about keeping the white paint pristine if it would deliberately look a bit weathered and textured. I’ve only dabbled in dry brushing before, so I’m not extremely experienced in the art, but it’s not exactly rocket science. I used sharpie on one of my older paint brushes and proceeded to mark the suit up wherever I could, taking care to be fairly subtle about it all.

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And finally – complete assembly. I’m kind of surprised I even remembered which joints go where and how the parts connect, given how randomly I tore into this thing at first. Everything generally went together pretty smoothly – I had some slight issues with the knee armor accidentally scratching some paint off the thighs, but some light sanding, touch-ups, and dry brushing concealed everything pretty well.

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Remember how I mentioned my mistakes with cutting the shoulders apart though? It turned out to bite me in the arse, since reattaching those things turned out to be harder than imagined. They were inherently unwieldy and heavy parts already, and the layers of paint didn’t do much to improve that. I tried using Krazy Glue at first, but it took quite a while just to achieve a delicate bond, hence why Samus has tape over her head to keep the shoulder in place while the glue dried.

Over 24 hours later though, the shoulders were still loose and rolled off the moment I tested the arm articulation. The pegs on which they were held together were simply too thin; there wasn’t enough surface area for the glue to adhere effectively.

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As a result, I decided to switch over to some more heavy duty stuff. This crazy industrial strength glue is toxic enough to cause cancer in one breath (exaggerating here, otherwise I’d be long dead by now) but is pretty much guaranteed to hold anything together. The only downside is that it’s extremely difficult to work with, due to it being very stringy and goo-like.

By some insane luck, it actually worked. The shoulders are still a bit loose since it’s difficult to line up the pegs precisely, but at the very least they hold on when I move the arms. It’ll forever be doomed to be a loose end, I’m afraid. If I ever decide to do one of these again, I’ll have to make sure not to do anything this destructive.

P1110373And at the very end, back to the Morph Ball. Everything else is pretty much finished by now, this is one of the final bits.

The base color would be just straight white for the entire ball, with all the black bits and miscellaneous detail painted in by hand. The copious amounts of thick paint layers that I threw on this thing kind of muted the line detail though, so to ensure I didn’t end up with some painfully sloppy edges, I drew in all the sections with lining marker first. Then it would just be a simple matter of painting within the lines.

P1110374I chose a mixture of gunmetal and gloss black for the Morph Ball detail, though I’m pretty sure the in-game model has it as all gunmetal. The green strip down the middle was painted with the same neon yellow paint used on the rest of the suit.

And lastly, the very last bits to be done – the beam effects. I was originally going to leave them be, but I remember when I first got the Figma, I lamented how lame the pale pink was. As a result, I managed to actually snag some non-airbrush clear paint and did both the beams in separate colors, which I’ll show off in a bit.

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Finished.

I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out. This is my first real attempt at actually customizing an action figure; I’ve only done model kits up until now. Unlike the latter, the former is never really meant for repainting.

I decided to leave the Arm Cannon alone, since the actual game model had it in stock colors anyway. I probably should’ve painted the lights in to match the neon yellow, but it was close enough that I didn’t bother.

P1120172All the manipulators were painted in flat black, which kind of negated all the hard work I spent panel-lining the original mold.

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Thumbs up? Thumbs down? I haven’t played Other M in so long that I’ve totally forgotten why Samus does this again.

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I made some slight adjustments to the cannon nozzles by painting the insides of the barrels black, since the original left them almost half-painted inside, which looked unbearably cheap.

I’m still kind of bitter that Max Factory didn’t include a missile effect, but what can you do. It still looks cool.

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I’m actually proud to say that Samus’ articulation hasn’t been limited by much thanks to my painting. Not many of the parts actually scratch against each other, so I don’t have to worry about paint chipping.

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I should mention now that my overwhelming laziness struck again when I didn’t sand any of the pieces prior to painting. Given I used two coats of primer on most of them, adhesion wasn’t an issue, but I really should’ve done so for areas like the feet and toes to give the paint some more room and make sure things weren’t too tight.

As always though, pre-painting sanding is always a massive chore for me in the customization process, and whenever I can I’ll opt out of it.

The only thing that really irks me with this final product is how delicately I have to handle it whenever I’m moving the arms around. As I mentioned earlier, the shoulders will always be perpetually loose, and I’m pretty sure they’ve been pushed to the limit of almost falling off again by the end of this photoshoot.

All the other articulation points are pretty much sound, though the arms are now quite limited thanks to the threat of those giant balls rolling off.

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A look at the finished Morph Ball, gloss finish and all.

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I never had much of an affinity for the Morph Ball (it’s an awesome and staple power-up, just not in figure form) but I do like this new color scheme more than original. Too bad I lost the clear green in the center, but what can you do.

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The beam effects, as promised. I’m actually really happy with how these turned out. The regular blue one is actually the most interesting – as I mentioned above, I managed to get my hands on some translucent paint that didn’t involve an airbrush.

Testors actually makes them, though so far I’ve only seen clear blue on the palette options. I had my doubts, but after trying it on the first beam effect I was taken aback by how beautiful it looked.

Without a doubt, it looks gorgeous. I didn’t even have to do anything to the original beam effect; I just painted the clear blue straight on there and it came out absolutely vividly. I had originally chosen blue anyway to emulate the Samus’ beam from Smash; the fact that Testors only makes the blue in clear was just a happy coincidence.

The purple double-pellet beam was more a paint testing experiment more than anything else. I had originally picked up the paint to try out Testor’s new “metal flake” color line, and since there were no other clear paints available I decided to just do the second beam metallic.

It obviously doesn’t look as nice as the clear blue, but I can live with it since it’s really just an afterthought. It doesn’t actually look very metallic purple though, I may be having second thoughts about this new palette line up.

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In the end, this turned out to be a very quick and very satisfying project. I’m very fond of the results, even if upon reflection my motivations seemed to be totally out of whack at first.

I’m usually not motivated by being the “first” to do anything, much less a custom figure. That’s part of why I look back on how I started this thing and came up with the idea and pass myself off as suffering from exhaustion or fatigue. All told though, I’m extremely glad I ended up going with the Light Suit colors, since it does look much better than what I imagine the Gravity Suit would be.

If nothing else, I’m confident now that I can actually accomplish figure repaints. I might even buy six more Samus Figma and complete her entire Smash 4 wardrobe (kidding, I’m not that filthy rich).

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So what of my other Nintendo Figma, Link, you ask? Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t immediately intrigued by his Fierce Deity palette swap in Smash, but that seems a bit ambitious right now. I may or may not get around to a project like that one day, but for now I’m happy enough with my one-of-a-kind Samus.

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I’d like to now take a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come with my personal talents as a photographer and reviewer. My original Figma Samus post was one of the first on this site, right after it was formed. It’s been nearly two years since then, and this is where I’m at now. It almost embarrasses me to go back and read my old stuff, but I’m glad they offer such a clear way to measure my progress and growth.

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