Simply put, have a strong original idea. It’s okay to be inspired, we’re all inspired by the fantastic work being made by the artists and designers that we love. But it’s harder to take that excitement and energy and use it to fuel your own creativity.
Maybe you want to make a small run of resin, maybe a large run of vinyl, either way, it’ll take a ton of time, and a pile of cash. If you’re investing your resources and sanity in a project like this, you’ll want to be sure that months down the road and thousands of dollars later, the piece that you’re making is your own in all possible ways.
So nail that concept. Work it over and over again, refining it until it shines. Don’t fall in love, throw away misses. Don’t work on it only when you’re excited. It will be a drag at times.
You’ll need a sculpture. It doesn’t matter how you make it.
Sculpt it yourself, there are great materials to work with, wax, clay, polymer clay, putties, and tons of online forums to help you through the process.
Beg a friend or hire a sculptor. We can’t all be a jack-of-all-trades, and often it’s best to focus your limited time and energy on what you are great at. If you’re a designer, be a designer, and find the best sculptor you can locate to help you make your vision a reality.
Your sculpt might be made by hand, or it might be digitally sculpted and rapid-prototyped. Whichever option you choose, you’ll end up with a single physical model, just one, so you’re still not done.
It’s time to turn that master prototype into an army.
Some artists are making their own silicon molds and pouring their own resin duplicates. Again, there are incredibly helpful forums that will happily guide you through the process if you would like to do it yourself.
Some artists use local or overseas studios to produce their run of toys. Some of the studios only do casting, which is a fine option, as you can take the blanks they make and paint them yourself, adding your personal touch to the final product and making them more valuable to the collectors who love your work. Other factories will cast and paint, following your directions and examples of how you would like the decoration to be applied.
Are we done yet?
You’ll need packaging to protect and promote your toys. The D-I-Y option is to hit up U-Line and order plain boxes and peanuts and bubble wrap and print a custom sticker to seal them up. You might also like the look of a simple plastic bag and stapled header card.
If you’re prepared to use a facility to make your packaging, they will give you formatted files that you can open in Illustrator and you’ll be able to design your own boxes. They might be simple one color packages or four color with a custom die cut window. You’ll have to measure the value of a fancy box to the expense of the extra ink and tooling.