and Kitbashes, Oh My!
Last Updated 4/12/21
Broken links fixed.
The stuff that started it all for me...decoys. Oh, I did a few projects here
and there before the decoys, but it was in painting 150+ of these little
rubber guys that I gained the painting skills and confidence that led me to
go on to other projects. Of course, I also managed to be a victim of my own
success...decoys are now so popular I can't find the last one I need for my
What Are Decoys?
These are decoys in their natural form, little rubber guys which came
with the 1986 Transformers toys.
Hook on the left, Snarl on the right.
This page is devoted mainly to
painted decoys, although there's some general information.
One thing that's worth noting about the decoys is that while they were mainly
based on the animated versions of the characters, elements of the toy
versions do tend to creep in. So, for example, you get Ironhide and Ratchet
with real faces, Reflector as a single homogenous guy instead of being made
up of Slyglass et al, and so forth. But you also see things like wheels on
Bumblebee's arms, Megatron with a sword and Brawn without a real face. In
painting the decoys, I had to make compromises sometimes when the decoy was
halfway between toy and cartoon versions, or when I owned the toy but lacked
a good cartoon reference for a mostly-animated-version decoy (believe it or
not, at the time I did these, I only had the movie and MtMtE on tape of the
US-release episodes...my collection of Japanese episodes was far more
With the exception of the group shots, all of these images are the result
of simply placing the decoy on a scanner and scanning them up to 200%
In 2016 I joined a decoy collector group on facebook, and the guy running it commissioned me to
paint a set for him. He sent me the Cybertron Hero Collection No. 3 to use, and asked for some
Diaclone designs. Since some of the characters' Diaclone designs were identical (or nearly so) to
their G1 designs, I did other stuff for them.
- Group Shot - Misidentified Tap-Out as Rook in the caption, oops.
- Diaclone Dinobots - They're not all exactly the Diaclone
versions, in one case there wasn't much difference between Diaclone and G1, and in another I
couldn't find good reference pics, so I just sort of faked it to make them hang together visually.
- Diaclone Trailbreaker - The Trailbreaker mold came in
black, blue, and yellow in Diaclone. Blue is easier to paint.
- Inferno as Heatwave the Fire-Bot - Diaclone Inferno is
basically the same as G1, so I went with Heatwave from Rescue Bots.
- Prowl as Chase the Police-Bot - Same problem as with
Inferno, same solution.
- Cliffjumper as Tap-Out - I'd already done the color swapped
Cliffjumper and Bumblebee reputed to be from leftover Diaclone, so I did these two as their
BotCon convention exclusive redecos.
- Bumblebee as Glyph - As above.
The BotCon 100
Okay, the disposable camera shot is still blurry, but I took a better scan of it in 2021
and tried to identify all the ones in this shot, so people have a better idea of what
figures are authentic BotCon 97 Dinner Exclusives. (Note, I had nothing to do with
making the bases or backdrops, I just did the decoys.) In the upper right of the picture
you can see my old bucket of paints, those weren't all of my paints, but the rest were
Testor acrylics. Some of the decoys in this picture have closeups later on, but many
- Top Row: Kickback, 3 Shrapnel (2 light purple, 1 dark purple), Starscream, Thundercracker,
2 Skywarp, all six Constructicons and Devastator with light purple.
- Row 2: 3 Bombshell (2 light purple, 1 dark purple), Starscream (darker color variant?),
Thundercracker, Skywarp, Hook (experimental other green), all six Constructicons and Devastator
with darker purple.
- Row 3: 4 Shockwave (various shades of purple mixed with silver), Megatron, Ravage, Laserbeak,
Rumble (Frenzy Decoy), Frenzy, Soundwave, Soundblaster, 2 Reflector, 2 Astrotrain, Blitzwing.
- Row 4: This is all variants. Japanese Astrotrain, Camo Blitzwing (my invention), Japanese
colors Megatron, another Soundblaster, Hufftimus Prime, Stepper, Twincast, Blue Bluestreak, G2 Slag,
G2 Grimlock, Battle Damage Ironhide, Artfire.
- Row 5: Slag, Snarl, 2 Cliffjumper, Prowl, Ironhide, Skids, Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, Grapple,
- Row 6: Sludge, Snarl, 2 Huffer, Prowl, Ironhide (dirty), Skids, Optimus Prime, Red Alert,
Inferno, Mirage, Sunstreaker.
- Row 7: Grimlock, Snarl, 2 Bumblebee, Bluestreak, Ratchet, Skids, Wheeljack, Jazz, Trailbreaker,
- Row 8: Swoop, Windcharger, Brawn, Smokescreen, Wheeljack, Jazz, Hoist.
Old Group Shots
Thanks to Drew Dederer for taking some of the photos I scanned in below.
- 100 Decoys!: All 100 decoys that I
painted for the BotCon Dinner Exclusive, laid out on a table and somewhat
blurry because my camera doesn't do close shots very well.
- Japanese Painted Decoys: From the back of the box
my Japanese decoys came in, the Cybertron Hero Collection No. 3.
- Group Shot: Ten painted decoys all together from
the front. Rear view of same grouping.
- Melee Scene of ten decoys.
- Rear shot of six more decoys.
- Trivial Pursuit: Thanks to Malin Huffman for
this picture. I painted decoys of Shockwave, Skywarp, Slag and Perceptor for
BotCon 99, which were used as the player pieces for Transformers
Trivial Pursuit. Not that I found this out until a month after BotCon. Veil
of Secrecy held up a little too long....
- Megatron Decoy: Note sword, pistol, and
underslung barrel, a la the Japanese toy.
- Japanese Megatron Decoy: If I get a
spare, I might do it up in the color scheme Megatron was originally released
in for the Japanese market. Grey instead of silvery, basically. This one I
did for BotCon.
- Starscream Decoy: Actually a Thundercracker
decoy. But that's okay, I've painted a Starscream decoy as Skywarp.
- Starscream SuperGold: Another
Thundercracker decoy, painted as a red, black and gold Starscream variant.
- Thundercracker Decoy
- Skywarp Decoy: As mentioned above, this
is actually a Starscream decoy painted as Skywarp. I used an old catalogue
as the basis for this paint job, so it may not match the one from the cartoon
(TF:the Movie had about half a second of clear shot of him, and that was from
- Soundwave Decoy
- Sound Blaster Decoy: In the Japanese
cartoon, Blaster and Soundwave had a climactic battle which left both
destroyed. Laserbeak snagged Soundwave's head and the Decepticon
communicator was rebuilt into Sound Blaster, with a nifty new black color
scheme. Blaster was similarly rebuilt, in blue, as Twincast.
- Red (Frenzy) Decoy
- Blue (Rumble) Decoy: Just the Frenzy
decoy painted in Rumble colors, more or less. I've painted, but not yet
scanned, one with purple and medium blue instead of the dark and light blue
scheme seen here.
- Ravage Decoy
- Laserbeak Decoy: Only made in Japan,
I made a deal for a somewhat warped one and did my best to straighten it
out. Actually, I think it's supposed to be a Buzzsaw decoy, but I painted it
red instead of gold.
- Shockwave Decoy: The BotCon version comes in
three distinct shades of metallic purple, as I experimented with various
mixes of violet, purple and silver paint. The one pictured here is at the
- Astrotrain Decoy: I have since retouched my
Astrotrain decoy to add the forearm and chest colors seen on the Japanese
decoy below, but haven't rescanned it.
- Blitzwing Decoy: This one finally
convinced me to give up on trying to mix specialty purples to match the
various colors on the toys. It just doesn't work, and you get a greyish goo.
So I washed off the grey stuff and just used straight purple. See Bombshell
for an earlier attempt at that bright purple.
- Camo Blitzwing Decoy: For one of the
BotCon exclusives, I had the idea to do Blitzwing up in military
camoflage colors (especially since I lost the light tan color I used on the
- Reflector Decoy: I had to guess a lot in
painting this one, since the decoy doesn't look like the toy, and the playing
card set that came with my Japanese decoys uses the toy appearance.
All of these are done in the classic lime green, but I also did three of them
in modern "government cheese" orange. Next time I try to paint a decoy
orange, I'm giving it a base coat of some flat color...these guys were sticky
for days! For the BotCon editions, I just went and found a
container of green paint about the right color rather than try and mix the
color each time, and I did a set with dark purple as well as a set with
- Optimus Prime Decoy: This was the first decoy I
ever painted, and in some ways it shows. Here is
another Optimus Prime decoy I later painted for Ben Kutcher, reflecting
30+ decoys worth of experience. I went back and touched up the original
after seeing how cruddy it looked next to this guy.
- Jazz Decoy: You can just barely make out
the "4" I spent so much time trying to paint on his hood.
- Stepper Decoy: In Japan, Jazz was given
a recolor and released with a recolored Targetmaster partner as "Stepper."
Since I came into a slew of Jazz decoys as part of a package deal, I painted
one up as Stepper.
- Inferno Decoy: Ignore the big block of
green, it was supposed to be transparent, but sometimes that piece of
information is stripped off in transfer.
- Artfire Decoy: This is the BotCon
exclusive, I don't have my own Artfire yet. Artfire was Stepper's partner
in recolor/re-release as a Targetmaster in Japan, a recolor of Inferno.
- Grapple Decoy: Got one for myself recently,
but haven't scanned it. This image is the BotCon one.
- Ratchet Decoy: I picked and chose from
the cartoon, comic and card art from the playing card set to come up with the
details of the color scheme.
- Ironhide Decoy: Note the simulated grit and dirt.
- Battle-Damaged Ironhide: After doing a
clean Ironhide and a "dirty" Ironhide (like the one above) for BotCon, I
decided to do up a battle-damaged version of Ironhide. This meant stuff like
wires hanging out, scorch marks, etc. If anyone should look battle-damaged,
it's Ironhide. Don't have one of these myself, tho.
- Prowl Decoy: His forearms are gunmetal,
but look black in the scan.
- Smokescreen Decoy: Notice how, despite
being a virtual clone of Prowl as a toy, he's significantly different as a
decoy? Shorter, squatter, etc.
- Bluestreak Decoy: I don't own the
toy, so I had to guess at some of the colors, but I'm kinda proud of the
pearly color I managed to make for him (not as visible in the scan,
- Blue Bluestreak Decoy: The playing card art
shows the blue version pretty well, so I did that version first for the
BotCon exclusives, before going on to make them a regular Bluestreak. And
before you ask, the Blue Bluestreak was never released as a toy in
the US, it was an old Diaclone color scheme which worked its way into some of
the early catalogs and box art.
- Hoist Decoy: Unlike both the toy and
the cartoon, the decoy version has two hands.
- Trailbreaker Decoy: Sadly, about the only
real splash of color on this guy isn't visible from the front.
- Hound Decoy: This guy was a real bear
to paint, with his stubby arms and very closed design. I would recommend not
painting Hound as your first try at decoy painting.
- Blaster Decoy
- Twincast Decoy: Not too fond of the color
scheme of this Japanese re-issue, but it looks better on this BotCon
exclusive decoy than on the actual toy, in my opinion.
- Mirage Decoy: Had to do some serious
guesswork on this one, since I don't own the toy and only had so-so picture
- Improved Mirage Decoy: Once I got my
own Mirage toy, I realized how incredibly bad my initial attempt had been, so
I repainted it.
- Perceptor Decoy
- Sunstreaker Decoy: To avoid having his
head lost in the shadow of the scanner light, I scanned him upside down and
then flipped the image. Frustratingly enough, the parts which gave me the
most trouble to paint aren't visible in this scan.
- Sideswipe Decoy: I have no idea where
those disks on his knees come from, must have been the decoy-maker's artistic
license or something. I painted the gun red like on the Japanese Decoy box
rather than white like on the toy because I felt that looked better.
- Red Alert Decoy
- Wheeljack Decoy
- Skids Decoy
- Tracks Decoy: VERY cool decoy.
- Bumblebee Decoy: I spent half an hour
fast-forwarding through TF:the Movie to get the proper color scheme for this
guy, since the toy doesn't look like the decoy.
- Cliffjumper Decoy: Ditto on the color
scheme from Bumblebee.
- Bumblejumper Decoy: Cliffjumper with a
yellow color scheme. In painting this guy I discovered that if you put too
many layers of paint on a decoy, they'll peel more easily as they start to
stick to each other more than to the plastic. Live and learn.
- Windcharger Decoy: Doesn't quite look
like either the toy or the cartoon version, so I had to make some best-guess
approximations. Looks like a Buckeye fan, doesn't he?
- Huffer Decoy: I painted several of
these for BotCon.
- Hufftimus Prime Decoy: After painting
several Huffers, I got kinda tired of the color scheme and decided to paint
this one as Optimus Prime. A sort of "What If Huffer Got The Matrix?" deal.
- Brawn Decoy: Notice how Brawn's a
fusion of toy and cartoon versions, with one proper hand and one claw.
A straight text file of pointers on making decoys like those above
Transformers Decoy List
I now own all the decoys, yay!
1) Grimlock 14) Inferno 27) Huffer 40) Shrapnel
2) Snarl 15) Tracks 28) Cliffjumper 41) Bombshell
3) Swoop 16) Red Alert 29) Blaster 42) Hook
4) Sludge 17) Hound 30) Perceptor 43) Scavenger
5) Slag 18) Sideswipe 31) Optimus Prime 44) Bonecrusher
6) Ratchet 19) Prowl 32) Megatron 45) Long Haul
7) Ironhide 20) Mirage 33) Skywarp 46) Mixmaster
8) Smokescreen 21) Hoist 34) Thundercracker 47) Scrapper
9) Grapple 22) Wheeljack 35) Starscream 48) Devastator
10) Trailbreaker 23) Bluestreak 36) Soundwave 49) Ravage
11) Sunstreaker 24) Brawn 37) Blitzwing 50) Frenzy
12) Skids 25) Windcharger 38) Astrotrain 51) Shockwave
13) Jazz 26) Bumblebee 39) Kickback 52) Reflector
Note that with 52 of them, it's possible to do a deck of playing cards with
the decoy'ed TFs. And that's exactly what happened in the Japanese releases,
although several Dinobots had to be used in the Decepticon suits to make the
numbers work. Laserbeak/Buzzsaw is not available in the US as a decoy, but
is in Japan.
If you have a decoy that has a "wrong" number, especially one over 52, then
you have a Japanese decoy. The Japanese decoys used the sum of the
character's techspecs scores instead of an arbitrary listing number.
Transformers Decoy Pamphlet|
Front of Pamphlet
Note how they refer to Ratchet as First Aid.
Back of Pamphlet|
Listing of the decoys.
I used to have these images inlined, but they're kinda big and really slowed
down loading time for this page.|
If it looks kinda like a decoy, but it isn't a decoy, then it's a
There's a number of little rubbery robots available in the same general size
range as the decoys for those who want to paint stuff but can't get ahold of
real decoys (or who will paint anything they can get their hands on, like
- Cheapo 4/$1 plastic robots: Available at just about any Odd Lots/Itz A
Deal/All For $1/Dollar Store type place, these have varying color schemes,
all of them bad. Sometimes they get painted to mimic "hot" toys, like Power
Rangers or VRTroopers. They don't look like any real Transformers, which is
why I haven't bothered painting any of them yet.
- Transformers Train Set "Cybertronians":
Thanks to Jaymz Xavier Phule, I
have a set (one each) of the little metallic blue plastic robots that came
with the train set. He tells me there's about five of each type in the set.
They're smaller than real decoys, about two thirds as tall to three quarters,
and they don't look like any real Transformers either, but they're more
detailed than the 4/$1 robots. I've named the six models based on
Transformers they somehow remind me of:
- Cowl: This one bore a slight resemblance to my
Transformers: The Lost Years MUSH character Cowl, so I built it a cowl out of
Pro-Doh and painted it. So far, this is the only one I've had time to
paint. Unfortunately, the heavy clay cowl unbalances the toy, so it cannot
stand up without support on a flat surface. Click here
to see the original drawing of Cowl, and here for a
Cyberjet kitbash of Cowl.
- "Megatron": The feet are Megatron's, so I figure this could have been an
earlier mode for the Decepticon leader. Never painted this.
- "Soundwave": His weapon resembles Soundwave's missiles. Yeah, it's a
tenuous connection at best. Never painted this either.
- "Cyclonus": The ramrod-straight way this one stands reminded me of Cyc.
- "Goldbug": A real stretch, but this round-headed guy made me think of a
- "Not Rod": Even with a real stretch of the imagination, this isn't really
Hot Rod in any incarnation, but I haven't found anything to better match this
guy with his double gun.
- Robot Stampers: I got a bag of cheap robot
figure stampers from Kipp Toys (1-800-428-1153, item NC9812) and noticed that
several of the styles were ripped off from Macross and one from Orguss. So I
painted the five I recognized, mostly using existing toys as a basis
(especially on the Orgroid, which I have a small figure of already). Each can
still stamp its likeness onto paper as well. CORRECTION: Orguss is the name
of the show, the robot is an Orgroid.
- Robot Stampers: These look like they should
be from some show, but I couldn't identify them. The names in the GIF are of
my own devising, not those of the originals. I'd appreciate any help you
might be able to give in identifying these two, or the five below. UPDATE:
Thanks to Doug Dlin for pointing out a few of these. The Skymaster is, as I
suspected, an Orguss robot, the Ishkick. The Infantryman is Sasuraigar
(Wanderer) from the show of the same name.
- Robot Stampers: Another batch, both of which
look husky and football-player-like, so I painted them up in the colors of
the Green Bay Packers (go Pack!) and Da Bearsss.
- Robot Stampers: The last batch, and the most
likely to NOT be from a show, although "Earthshaker" looks familiar in a
Voltronic way. Again, the names are my own, not those of the originals.
UPDATE: Doug Dlin is pretty sure Earthshaker is a Gundam, a Dom, and
Flameforger may be a Gundam as well. ANOTHER UPDATE: Earthshaker is a Rick
Dom. Flameforger is a chimaera of bits, mostly from the Zok (Zeon
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