Welcome to Giraffe and Elf

With this site we endeavour to share with you some of the projects were working on, and give you the opportunity to get some in depth knowledge about them.

if you'd like to keep up-to-date with all things Giraffe and Elf, follow us and our projects on Social Media.

That Little Bit Extra

Large Lego Minifigure with transfer and minifig

Detailing with water slide transfers is a great way to get allot of precise detailing on a small figure. However, combined with a little bit of extra time and paint you can make the transfer stand out even more.

Water slide transfers printed with a photocopier don’t have a white backing and are transparent, when stuck onto a dark surface they lose allot of their colour. This is fine when placing dark eyebrows on a yellow head, but doesn’t work when wanting a bright white smile, white pupils in the eyes, or a white and tan vest on a black chest. The way this was solved on the extra large Lego wedding figures was to mask out the areas where a white undercoat was needed and paint it with regular acrylic white before applying the printed water slide transfer over the top.

Large lego minifigure masking with white paint for sticker

Masking the white areas was a task of ‘close enough’ as the water slide transfers had dark outlines that would cover the edges of the white paint, forgiving any bleed. This simple technique adds allot more to the design of the figures and the detailing of the faces, which was well worth the extra effort of masking and painting. This technique was a must for the Grooms chest in order to get the shirt and vest to stand out. A continuous strip of white was painted down the middle of the chest area from top to bottom matching where the shirt, tie, and vest are located, the suit jacket effect would not work at all without it.

Large Lego minifigure parts with water transfer decals applied and undercoat

This techniques of laying down a white masked area over dark surfaces before applying the final colour is used in the production of screen printed fabrics, plastics, and even Lego bricks and Minifigures. The end results are fantastic and help solidify the look, feel, and bright colours of a regular sized Lego Minifigure. The water slide transfers are a really simple way of adding clean crisp detail to a model without spending excessive time manually painting each shape, line, and colour.


Detailing With Water Transfers

Lego Minifigure chest with water transfer detailing

How can fine details be added to a model without relying on moulded, cut-in features or precision painting with fine brushes? In the case of the Wedding Minifigures the aim was to keep the cell shaded and clean look of regular sized Lego Minifigures without it adding tremendous amounts of time to the project. The solution was to use custom water slide transfers, a simple and quick method that produces great results. There is however some nuance to the process, read more below on how you can include these into your own creative workflow.

Traditionally water slide transfers are little sheets of paper that are included in Tamiya kits to help add branding or insignia to your 1/35 scale model. They work very effectively, you cut out the decal you want from the sheet, soaking it in warm water to soften the glue. Then using a paint brush and tweezers you slide the loose decal from the paper backing onto your model. The decals are very detailed and usually specific to the model you are building.

Water slide transfer sheets lego minifigure custom decals

What you may not know is that you can purchase blank A4 sheets of water slide transfer paper that can be printed on using a laser photocopier. They work the same way as those included in scale model kits but with the added feature of simply using a photocopier to get your custom artwork from computer to object.

custom lego minifigure face water slide transfer cut out

With this process comes a few tricks, and your mileage may vary depending on the device you use to print. The glue is heat reactive and passing several sheets of transfer paper through a copier in succession, or running a transfer sheet through after a long print run can make it react with the internal rollers and become sticky. The toner may not adhere properly or the paper may jam. Laser copiers will also need time for the toner to set as it passes the sheet through itself, you need to set your copier to a thick paper setting and slow down the speed, this helps prevent the ink on the transfer paper from scraping off before it passes through the copier. Going slow and steady when setting out to print your sheets helps resolve both these issues.

When the transfer paper does come out it is still fragile, and ink can still easily scratch off. Be sure to catch the transfer paper or have it slide onto a sheet of clean regular paper so it does not lose its print while sliding across the plastic output tray. Also, by running a regular sheet of paper through the machine between each transfer page it will help pick up any toner residue and prevent it from ruining the next transfer print. To be safe we had several copies of the same design on each sheet of transfer paper, to not have to repeat the print in case of a small error scratch, but also to have a backup if we broke or folded the decal while trying to apply it.

lego minifigure water slide transfer face loose in water

With all this in hand, and enough successful prints we were able to apply the transfers to the extra-large minifigure models using some tweezers a paint brush and some careful hand-eye coordination. The end results look fantastic and after drying there wasn't any visible seam lines where the water transfer ends on the models parts. Water slide transfers are a very simple and effective way to add a complex amount if detail, even at small scales, to a model without spending excessive time masking, cutting, and painting.


Arcade Control Panel Layout

Arcade Cabinet Control Board Printed Artwork sticker with buttons

Creating a control panel and button layout for the Arcade Cabinet play surface wasn’t as simple as drilling some holes into a sheet of wood. It took some fiddling, research, and testing to get it right. Read on to see what we discovered when designing a control panel for our Arcade Cabinet to help plan yours.

The control panel has a few needs and musts that are restricted by the design of the cabinet, ultimately comfort should be the number 1 priority. This is because out of everything an Arcade Cabinet is, if it isn’t functional or comfortable it won’t be used.

Scaled plans printout for arcade cabinet controller layout

For our cabinet, the width was limited to 600mm which was due to the screen fitting nicely without a massive bevel and the ability to easily move it through household doorways. With such a tight dimension having two people standing next to each other playing and still having enough free movement of their arms and wrists is critical. Initial designs of the control panel had the sticks and buttons angled outward and away from the screen diagonally. The idea was that two players could stand next to each other with a gap and play without touching shoulders.

So the plans were drawn up, printed at 1:1 scale and laid out on a temporary panel for testing. The end result was that rotating the Joystick differently from the line of the cabinet front or screen panel left the player making too many mistakes. Even when standing off centre to the cabinet it was expected that UP is towards the screen and not rotated twenty degrees towards the centre.

Arcade cabinet control panel mock-up plans computer render

This was a quick and simple test to an answer that the online community Arcade Cabinet maker enthusiasts also aligned with. The Joystick UP and DOWN motion should be parallel to the sides of the cabinet irrespective of the position the player is standing in. This was further confirmed when testing with a single player, if you angle the Joystick and a lone player is using the cabinet it further throws off the brains natural instinct to move the Joystick parallel and perpendicular to the cabinets sides and front.

Arcade cabinet control panel printed plans full scale

Next up was positioning the 6 Buttons in relation to the Joystick that allows all of the players fingers to comfortably reach and rest without contorting the wrist and arm, this is for both a single player and a two player position. From the same test we discovered the opposite was true from the expectations of the joystick. That the buttons were better at an angle to match the natural resting position of the wrist, and also that the offset angle or line of the buttons in relation to the Joystick movement was irrelevant.

Control Panel Arcade Cabinet full scale mock-up prototype

However what made a big difference was the line of the buttons itself, having a 3x2 button grid was uncomfortable after a short time and games requiring all 6 made it difficult to hit those buttons quickly. The solution was to shift up the middle column of the 3x2 grid to match the longer middle finger that humans have.

With all this information further 1:1 scale drawings were printed and further refinements were made to the positioning front and back as well as allowing for the wiring that needs to be positioned underneath the panel to ensure it fits into the rest of the cabinet.

Arcade Cabinet Control Board with inserted buttons and decal artwork

Once the player one and player two Joysticks and button layout restrictions were refined the rest of the control panel layout fell into place easily. It is important to; test your layout at full scale and be prepared to make changes, allow for electronic and wiring components underneath, and make sure you have room at the front for the players wrists to rest on the panel. Our cabinet control panel layout went through 4 full scale tests before settling on the final design. The last changes were mostly moving the grouped layout of the Joystick and 6 Buttons for each player up down left and right to maximise spacing between, while allowing for the wrist to also rest on the Control Panel.


Sand Paint Repeat

Custom Lego Minifigure Parts

What to watch out for when giving your model, figure, or 3D print a glossy finish. Knowing the correct procedure can make it easier and save you both time and frustration. Read on to see what to avoid as we prep the Lego Minifigure couple for their big day.

There isn’t any quick way to get a smooth glossy finish on a plastic model, the best results involve time and ‘elbow grease’. However the more effort you put into a base surface and priming coat the easier it is to finish the layers you put over it. For the wedding Minifigures it didn’t go as planned, resulting in days of trial and error. Each mistake blew out the timeline as it required the paint to be dry before any fixes could be addressed. A great first tip is to be patient, let your surface completely dry before attempting to fix it. Anything done to a wet painted surface will create a horrible sticky mess, and cost more time to then further fix.

Undercoat Lego Minifigure 3D printed parts

When wanting a smooth even and glossy surface on your finished model, spray painting is a very cost-effective way to achieve a great result. Applied properly, spray paint can help hide irregularities and give off an even colour finish. With each positive there is however a negative, the nuances of spray paints are not always mentioned with how-to videos or the can’s labeling. Be aware that some colours of paint are oil based and some are water based, this includes ‘undercoat’ sprays too. If they are only touch dry when applying a second coat it can react and ruin your intended finish, or not adhere properly to the model itself. This even applies to different colours of the same brand.

One of the issues we faced was the reaction of the glossy top coat on the undercoat primer. The surface would ripple and look like a dry creek bed. After some follow up testing it was due to the incompatibility of the top coat to adhere to the primer. The result was to sand it down and spray again, and while the initial intention was to use enamels in order to get a high quality finish. With the increased drying time and complications of surface finishes we had with the whites and yellows, we ended up using a citadel paint and air brush, finished with an acrylic clear coat.

Lego Minifigure extra large 3D printed model parts

Traditionally when dealing with glossy surfaces and enamel paints the finished surface is left to dry and becomes a hard high gloss. However when working with so many irregular shapes there would always be a dust speckle or hair, or pool of paint on each part of the model. We even had issues with un-even drying that would result in fingerprints left here and there. The workshop didn’t afford a dust free environment and any fix would require recoating the entire piece. Our result, while more labor intensive, proved to be much quicker and not be so fragile. We sanded and polished each component instead of relying on the paint to cure without flaws. With a glossy paint applied each part would be wet sanded with increasing grit from 400 to 1200 and them polished on a buffing wheel with a mirror coat car polish.

Minifigure Lego custom parts printed model

This process gave a great and consistent result, as the more time spend sanding and polishing, the better the finished surface. This has now been adopted for all future projects as the go to for a high gloss and mirror finishing.


A Diary Full Of Colour

Diary page college term artwork

The approach taken to design the student study planner for 2020 was allot more elaborate and ambitious than in previous years. With a very elaborate theme, new layouts, and experimenting with some gamification. Overall it was well received, with allot of people having strong opinions about what they did, or did not, like. Let us guide you through the design's successes and the valuable lessons learned along the way.

To colour or not to colour that is the $10,000 question. Adding an unlimited amount of choices and appeal to any student diary book, it also comes at a cost both for the amount of time it takes to prepare the graphics and the extra charge of the ink that is used in print. This year's Study Planner was experimental as much as it was an update to all previous versions, one question the College wanted to know was "what would give the book the best appeal for the students?". Is there anything this book should try that has not been done before in order to see more use of it from the people who use it each day?

Study Planner page layout colour chart

Before any design decisions were made surveys were created, to ask about the features the students want to see the most. One recurring answer was to have more separation, a way to help better navigate the diary, find specific weeks or months, and also to visually define each day. From a graphical user interface point of view, the ability to utilise more colours would help break up the repeating nature of the book into easily identifiable sections and sub sections.

The biggest change to the planner was put into motion, use a full colour print throughout the entire book, and use it to break up the sections visually. Each page template was designed to be able to have a colour palette swap both to the page as a whole and to each of its own sub sections. This was used to give each month a separate colour while also overlaying stripes of colour around the page to tie it back to the term, and interior blocks of designated colour for the days of the week. As the user held up the edge of the pages blocks of colour along the side help define the month, while a blot of colour at the bottom separates the terms. Opening the page shows ribbons of colour to help define the days of the week.

Student planner college diary colour sections

The colour palette was chosen using soft colour tones, this was to ensure that any pen used to make notes would still be easy to read, while also allowing white text to be used over it. Six base colours were chosen Cyan, Pink, Lilac, Peach, Orange, and Green each separated with enough contrast to stand apart when butted up against each other. From this a lighter and darker shade was added to the colours to create the variances. The lighter variance was used as the base colour of the background page art, and the darker used for text displayed over the top of it.

The bulk of the book was sorted, however with full colour to be used on every page, it would be a wasted expense to not take advantage of it. Using medieval heraldry, and the college houses as the influence to include many more colourful pages, the study planner was onto its next challenge of creating the artwork of a theme.


Molding the Bride To Be

3D printed and cast lego minifigure parts primed

Giraffe and Elf was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to create a large pair of Lego Bride and Groom Minifigures. Having developed molds for these in the past it sounded simple enough, follow along as we take you through how these figures were prepped as a gift for the big day.

Having already made a set of molds for a 10:1 XL scale Lego Minifigure the most difficult part of replicating the little plastic models was done. However the RVT silicone molds of the minifigure parts had been in storage for a while and weren’t optimal for repeated casting. When used in the past each cast part required a lot of clean up and fixing. Along with the casting both the bride and groom figures needed additional custom parts to be able to stand apart.

The custom parts were modeled in Maya using LEOCAD geometry from the Lego Minifigure library. With details added, cleaned, and prepped for 3D printing, the Grooms Hair, Brides Hair, and Brides Dress/legs were all additionally 3D printed for this project.

lego minifigure groom hair 3d model

With the unique parts being printed, the next task was dusting off the silicone molds and casting the rest of the common minifigure parts. The cast parts all came out well with some flashing and only a few air bubbles, getting these parts ready for painting wasn’t going to take long.

lego minifigure parts cast in silicone with flashing and sprues

The XL minifigure molds were the first two-part silicone molds made in our workshop and as such had some errors in their design, with air getting trapped and undercuts. The most difficult parts to cast were the arms, the arm mold consists of four shallow halves sitting side by side with the pour spouts on the face of the mold, rather than in the seam or separation. This mold has two pour holes per arm half and requires allot of rocking to get the air out as the resin hardens.

lego minifigure parts cast with two part epoxy unfinished

The result of the poor mold is lots of trapped air bubbles, lots of flashing, and general mess as the casting polyurethane leaks out everywhere, however this all happens on the insides of the arms and isn’t seen once the parts are glued and assembled. As the molds have been sitting in a box for nearly four years and the rough handling it requires to get the cured parts out, it is a good example of how good mold design makes it last longer. Three of the molds we used tore as we were taking the casts out meaning this may be the last time we make any new XL Minifigure castings.


Hyo Neko Priming and Sanding

hyoneko cats undercoat primed prototype models

Every rapid prototype requires some sort of clean up or finishing process if the intent is to use it as a finished piece. While this may not be necessary for every 3D print, it was a requirement for Hyoneko's process testing. How best can we quickly achieve a smooth and finished model without resorting to hours of sanding?

Unfortunately for this time around we needed to test the method requiring hours of sanding. After all the best way to get a smooth model and perfect finish is to involve allot of elbow grease. While this isn't ideal we will have a baseline to test other methods against and know if the results and time are comparable.

With a back and forth between spray filler and sanding at various grits this takes time and for Hyoneko it was a layer of spray filler then sanding once dry. We started with 80 grit to remove most of the Z layer lines, then applied another coat of spray filler and used 180 grit. This process was repeated until the bumps were smooth and gaps filled. With the final layer of spray filler 250 grit sand paper and then 400 grit was also used to remove the sanding scratches.

hyoneko cats prototype models gloss coat chocolate and vanilla

To further help a smooth finish, the models were washed clean and then had a few coats of glossy spray paint added. These weren't sanded between coats and were applied very carefully and repeated every 15 to 20 mins. This took some practice and won't work with every spray paint or colour, as different brands and colours within the same paint brand have different properties. The glossy paint would apply slightly rippled but slowly smooth out as it dried, we re-sprayed before the recommended time on the can to build up the layer and keep it smooth but not so much that the paint started to run. In the end we had a very chocolate and vanilla looking pair of Hyoneko. While this was successful it was a very time consuming process that also took about two weeks for the glossy paint to finally cure.


Website Launched

giraffe and elf logo banner

Giraffeandelf.com is live and we'd like to welcome you to our corner of the internet. It has taken some time and behind the scenes development to get the page off the ground and we look forward to showing you more of what Giraffe and Elf Design has to offer.

Let us know your feedback and comments by following our social media channels and sharing our project and development content.

Website Launched

Giraffe and Elf Design Logo

Behind the scenes developments are well and truly underway. With allot of help and support, the cranks and gears are turning, ready to get projects started. First and foremost was this website.

Well and truly into 2018 the site is up and waiting for all the news and content Giraffe and Elf can throw at it.
To start us off on this journey, welcome to our humble corner of the net. We cannot wait to show you what we have in the pipeline. While initially progress may be slow, each project needs to pass a few checks and clearances before we can post about it, a few may only be announced upon completion, however we'd love to share all the hints and tips on the process discovered along the way.

Thank you for taking the time to visit, if you do have an interest in creative design and development, we'd love to more. Please connect with us on facebook.