by sun yun

Here are 10 tips to help you get started building.

1. Look for inspiration.
Whether it be a comic book, a sports car, or an old toy, find stuff that gets you thinking and begin to explore the ways in which you can integrate those forms and ideas into your own creations. Naturally anime and sci-fi are good places to start. I buy lots of concept books and magazines like Hobby Japan for my inspiration.

2. See what's already been done.

I'm not the first person to build Lego® brick mecha and I am certainly not the last. There are dozens of fellow enthusiasts whose work has directly and indirectly influenced my own. Seeing what's out there will help you get a jump start on building mecha by being exposed to different ideas and approaches. The Lego Mecha Hall of Fame is one of the best compilations of Lego® brick mecha builders I've seen so far and a good place to start.

3. Purchase sets across themes.
There's a natural tendency to seek out Technic and Bionicle sets as they seem most "mecha-like". These sets are great but it wouldn't hurt to purchase sets from other themes. Some pieces only come in certain themes and by limiting yourself to a narrow scope of sets, you limit the variety of pieces you could use to build an arm or an leg. I actually have a lot of castle sets because they have lots of slopes and plates which can come in handy when building mecha.

4. Get lots of plates and hinges.

Plates and hinges are the bread and butter of Lego® brick mecha creation. Although The Lego Group was built on bricks, plates reduce that same volume by a third. It provides the smallest increment of volume allowing you to gesture forms with more fidelity. Having a wide variety of hinges will allow you to make complex forms and shapes in multiple axes.

5. Decide on a color palatte.
It helps to mass a few colors so you'll have enough pieces to work with when it comes time to build. Look at your current collection and continue to acquire more parts in the colors that are most plentiful. If you have colors that you like in particular, steer your set purchases to augment those colors. Or you can be like me and just get a lot of everything.

6. Find a size you're comfortable with.
Small, medium and large, all have their pros and cons. Small mecha tend to be easier to manage, require less parts, and are playable. The downside is it's harder to add a lot of features and details to them because of their size. Larger mecha are engineering marvels and allow more space to add detail and develop more complex forms. Unfortunately, they require a huge investment of time and money and aren't exactly playable.

7. Maintain balance in your model(literally and figuratively).
Aesthetics, form, proportion, color, size, weight, leverage, and articulation all play a hand in your finished product. Juggling all these variables together is what sets apart Lego® brick mecha from other themes. Finding a balance between these variables is the wonderful problem that you'll have to solve. Building something 3 feet tall is quite an accomplishment but if it can't stand on it's own you're not finished solving the problem.

8. There's no such thing as a bad part.
"I'll never use that piece!" If you want to stay creative you'll eat those words. Don't discount the odd parts because you never know when that odd piece maybe just the one you need. The key is to think of pieces as forms and shapes and not what it's "suppposed" to be. A frying pan can become a scope for a gun or a head detail.

9. Don't listen to Lego.
The Lego Group thinks you should build brick on top of brick. Forget you ever learned that. Instead of utilizing their already extensive portfolio of parts, Lego® continues to create new ones which seem to further stray from the classic formula. Do yourself a favor and grab yourself a handful of bricks and explore the different ways in which the simplest pieces can be used to create complex shapes.

10. Build what you like.
This is the Golden Rule.

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