How are Hot Toys Made?

Hot Toy figures are renowned throughout the fantasy and sci-fi industries for their beautifully realistic and detailed figures. Whether it is Darth Vader, Iron Man or Harley Quinn, it is clear to see the difference in quality between a Hot Toy figure and your off the shelf toy for children.

Creating an ultra-realistic Hot Toy figurine can take anywhere from 3 months to a year, making it a detailed and painstaking process. For example, while the 2015 film the Avengers: Age of Ultron was released on the 23rd of April 2015, the Hot Toys figures were already in the planning stages in May 2014, meaning that it took nearly an entire year for the figures to be sculpted and painted in time for the cinema release.

So what exactly goes into making Hot Toys?


Step 1 – Choose the Model

With so many different films coming out each year, and so many heroes, villains and supporting characters also being introduced into the film industry, it can be difficult to choose which model will sell. The company needs to make a prediction as to the popularity of each character so that they can spend time making fantastically realistic figures that will simply fly off the shelves.

If the team choose a character that ends up not being as popular as perhaps an anti-hero or sidekick in the film, this could mean thousands of hours potentially wasted in creating the likeness of that character. It is a big risk to take, but one that has, thus far, paid off pretty well in regards to profit and success for the Hot Toys company.

Step 2 – Get the License

Once the team has decided on their model, they will need to obtain the relevant license, so that they can make and sell the character that they have chosen. While parodies and other similar things are listed under ‘fair use’, if you want to recreate and sell licensed characters, you will need to obtain permission from the license owner. Once the license has been obtained, work can begin on creating the Hot Toys figures.


Step 3 – Reference Pictures

The team collate a wealth of information using stills from the films, concept artwork, reference pictures found online and pictures of the actors themselves in order to start creating the figures. The biggest selling point of the Hot Toys brand is its attention to detail, so extensive research is needed to make sure that there is no hair out of place when the modelling begins.

Step 4 – Modelling and Sculpting

Hot Toys uses a team of experienced Korean artists who specialize in head sculpting and painting in order to get the perfect amount of detail for each figure. Modelling clay is used to create the heads, which is then baked and painted. The artists use a huge variety of different tools including sculpting tools, paintbrushes, cocktail sticks and chopsticks to make minuscule marks that represent wrinkles, facial lines, hair follicles and other minute details that make each character so unique.


Step 5 – Painting
Painting is an incredibly delicate art. The artists use a range of different paintbrushes, some just a single hair thick, in order to get the right amount of detail and shading they want for the character. The sculptors will also use sponges and other tools to create a number of effects; for example, a different paintbrush would be needed to give a five ‘o’ clock shadow, in comparison to a paintbrush needed for adding details to eyelashes. The artists continually refer to their reference pictures during painting, so that they can get the character model as accurate as possible. 

Step 6 (Final Step!) – Distribution

The distribution of Hot Toy figurines starts with the Licensers. The Hot Toys are first sent to the owners of the license of the character created so that the company can confirm as to whether or not they are happy with the product. In many cases, Hot Toys will also send their figures to the character actors, to get an idea from the stars themselves. After all, what better way to gauge whether or not you’ve done a good job than by asking the actor you’re using as inspiration?

Once the licenser has confirmed the quality of the product, the artists and sculptors will then create additional body parts and accessories in line with the original figure and market them for sale. Because of the length of this process, it should come as no surprise that Hot Toys are well worth the money you would spend on one. These figures are utterly lifelike, fantastically individual and ideal for any passionate collector. So don’t get caught out with a slipshod fake, if you’re going to buy a Hot Toy figurine, buy it from a reputable seller!


Mike James: geek, film buff and hot toy fan boy working together with UK based specialist MovieMania UK.

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