September 19

How to Build Lifelike LEGO Built Figures

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Lexi from LEGO Masters 4 recently stopped by our showroom, signing bricks, snapping photos with fans, and building some amazing lifelike LEGO creations using our brand new and pre-loved LEGO parts. If her visit has you feeling inspired to create your own lifelike LEGO figures, read on – she’s shared her expert tips…

How did you first get involved in this style of LEGO building, and when?

Where do I begin?! In June 2019, I started getting targeted ads on social media about LEGO – one was for BrickResales. Attending my first BrickResales event was when I entered the LEGO world. It was amazing to have access to a large variety of LEGO pieces and be able to buy them in large quantities. Over the next year-and-a-half, my LEGO collection grew rather quickly and allowed me to try different things and experiment with LEGO techniques.

When LEGO Masters Australia S2 aired in April 2020, I became incredibly drawn to the characters Trent was building. I hadn’t done much MOC building outside of the Minifigure scale – I was mostly just creating cute scenes to photograph my Minifigures in. Minifigures are how my passion for LEGO was re-ignited.

I moved interstate to be closer to family in May 2020, and during that time of unemployment and lockdowns, I found myself building more and more. I started challenging myself to try different kinds of builds from things that had inspired me on Instagram, to keep my mind busy. My first attempt at a LEGO-built figure was for a Halloween challenge in 2020 – it was a witch with green skin and purple hair, and a pumpkin head figure. It’s interesting to look back at my first ever LEGO-built figures; at the time I was proud of myself for what I had created, and I remember realising how challenging it is to build figures.

When LEGO Masters Australia S3 aired, I built along with the viewer’s building challenges they issued each week. I tried to include a LEGO-built figure in each of my entries and ended up being one of the weekly prize winners for my Marvel-themed build.

My Instagram at this time had gained the attention of several past LEGO Masters contestants. After chatting to them via DM, they convinced me to apply for the show. I had never even considered it – I was unaware that they even took solo applicants, and I didn’t know anyone else IRL that built with LEGO. I began practising LEGO-built figures specifically to ensure I had the skills to impress. I had only built 10 figures at that point, and all the figures I built from that point on were in preparation for LEGO Masters.

I purposely tried different techniques with each build – no two were the same. Often, I wouldn’t even know who I was building. I would just start with a particular LEGO piece that inspired me and play and experiment until a face formed. I always start with the face. I’d experiment with different methods to build the arms, legs, faces and heads and I learnt something new with each build.

LEGO lifelike Marvel figures.LEGO mermaid figure.Lifelike LEGO man figure.

One day I decided to build a figure specifically because I wanted to use these round rubber tyres as glasses. I accidentally stumbled upon the specific style I’m now well known for. All my previous LEGO-built figures had brick-built heads and faces, but for this character, I used snot as an inner core of the head to attach plates to form the face. It was the first time I experimented with making the face from a plate base and I liked the way it came together – it had a more polished quality to it. I started with the nose and eyes first, so I could attach the glasses which inspired the entire build. Next was the mouth and chin, at which point I decided to give the figure a white beard. I hadn’t added any detail above the eyes, so it was essentially bald, and the figure started to resemble Heisenberg from Breaking Bad. I changed his beard from white to brown and created a yellow jumpsuit to finish the look.

Keen to build your very own Heisenberg? Lexi has kindly shared the instructions – for free – with our BrickResales community! Get instructions here.

This was one of the happy accidents that most of my early builds were. Heisenberg was actually just a façade: I didn’t have enough LEGO to fully complete his head and his body was very basic and immobile. He could only be photographed from one angle without looking incomplete. But I was so pleased with the style of this head and face and chuffed that I had created a figure that resembled a real-life character, so I decided to recycle the basic structure of Heisenberg and turned him into a self-portrait. Yep, Heisenberg became LEGO Lexi. LEGO Lexi was the only figure I kept fully built at the time, and she’s since had an upgrade from the original. I typically destroy and re-sort my builds after being photographed – otherwise, I would run out of parts.

I continued to experiment with different figures as I went through the audition and interview process for LEGO Masters. I only practised and perfected LEGO-built figures because I was applying to go on the show – I wanted to ensure my skills were worthy.

The mermaids I built in episode one was only the fourth time I had built a figure using this style (after Heisenberg, Lexi, and the Joker). I am incredibly thankful to my teammate for allowing us to build the mermaids for episode one – my mind went completely blank in that crazy overwhelming environment so many times and I felt myself forget how to LEGO! But because I was building something I knew quite well my fingers were somehow able to keep building even while my brain was utterly useless.

When I got home from production, I redesigned a new Heisenberg figure so I could display him at conventions, and I created another figure to match my SigFig in both my hair and outfit. At one of the shows I went to after LEGO Masters 4 aired, people saw my LEGO-built figures and knew they were my style without realising I was there. It’s a style I’m now well known for, even though I don’t build them all that often.

What people/characters have you made?

My favourites are the Jack in the Box clown, Cruella de Vil, Heisenberg, LEGO Lexi, my ‘Singing in the Rain’ build, and the Joker.

How long do LEGO-built figures typically take?

About six to eight hours – it takes longer when I am experimenting and being creative. I had to accelerate the process on the show, which is why I repeated techniques and relied heavily on things I had tried and tested at home, that I knew would produce a quality result without requiring extra thought or time.

Have you learned tips and tricks from other builders? If so, who?

I’ve always taken inspiration from the Instagram LEGO community in general – no one in particular. Every time I come across something that intrigues me, I save a photo to my phone. I like using these pictures to learn new techniques and grow and adapt as a builder, and I’ve learned a lot through this method. I reckon I have about a thousand of these inspirational photos ready and waiting on my phone. The LEGO Instagram community continues to amaze and inspire me as a builder.

LEGO Heisenberg figure from breaking bad.LEGO 'Singing in the rain' figure.LEGO Joker figure.

Where do you look for inspiration when it comes to lifelike LEGO-built figures?

While I was practising, I was specifically looking for examples of LEGO-built figures and I struggled to find much out there. It doesn’t seem all that common, and even now as I take my figures to display at events, they are unique among the other LEGO displays.

There are so many elements that make these builds look lifelike. Could you share your top tip (or tips) for creating each element?

  • Hair and clothes: I just get inspired by the pieces I have available in the colour I wish to use. When you are forced to make do with what’s available, it tends to aid in creativity and experimentation. I love that your imagination is only limited by the pieces you have – and if you don’t have a piece, you can problem solve to find another way.
  • Eyes: Printed eye tiles are useful, as are the technic ball joint pieces as I used for the eyes of the Joker.
  • Nose: Tan-coloured slope piece attached to the face using the bracket 2×2 – 1×2 Centred.
  • Mouth: I quite like using any kind of curved pieces I can find for mouths, like red sausages, or the horn/tail pieces
  • Face shape: LEGO 4×4 Round Corner Plates to create the bottom of the face and chin shape
  • Arms/legs: I like to use ball joints and ratchet joints for the arms and legs to make the figures posable. Tan coloured technic axle pins on the bar piece with a clip create movable fingers, and they even fit gold rings.

Which LEGO parts do you always have in your collection for these kinds of builds?

SNOT!!!!! The brick 1x2x12/3 with 4 knobs to create the inner structure of the head (as pictured in the breakdown of LEGO Lexi).

LEGO Lexi figure hand.Breakdown of LEGO Lexi head figure.Breakdown of LEGO Lexi figure.

What would you say to aspiring builders who hope to make their lifelike LEGO-built figures?

Keep playing, experimenting and practising. With every new build comes a new opportunity to grow, learn and develop skills. As you can see by my timeline of LEGO-built figures, the more you give it a go, the more interesting they can become. You may surprise yourself! Most of my LEGO skill was created in the six months before appearing on LEGO Masters. I’m proud of every build, even the ones that weren’t so impressive – each one is a learning opportunity to better your skill, and I just enjoy the building so much. I think it’s so important to take pride in your work regardless of the results. When you are being creative and trying new things, there is no right, wrong, success or failure – just the enjoyment of the LEGO journey.

Feeling inspired? Click here to start shopping for the parts you’ll need to build your lifelike LEGO-built figures, just like Lexi. And – if you’re looking for more expert tips to help you on your LEGO journey – you can hear from some amazing builders on our blogs.


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