A little while before completing the figure and weapons in late October 2000, I began work on the packaging. When I began the project the year before I hadn't really considered designing a box for it, since I collected loose and complete TFs with techspecs and instructions. I had one boxed G1 Transformer, Hound, which I got in an auction in November 1998 for less than a loose and complete one usually cost, around $50 if I recall correctly. This proved to be extremely handy in making a box from scratch.
I began by taking careful measurements of the Hound box parts and translating them to tiny pieces of paper (just under 1/3 scale as it turns out) to see if they were correct. I then purchased a sheet of white posterboard to make the first full-scale prototype box for purposes of test-fitting the printouts of the panels. The biggest trick of the project was finding the proper grade of cardboard. The insides of TF boxes (and consequently the backsides of most techspecs) are a certain color of gray cardboard. It took me until late December to find the perfect kind of cardboard that would work well enough for me. Where I got it is my secret but it took a lot of experimenting.
I used Adobe Photoshop 5.0 to make the box. The file was HUGE! It turned out to be more than 70 layers and 29.3mb in size. I matched the colors perfectly, found the correct fonts for every piece of writing, and scanned logos and such from either the Hound box or other box parts that I have in my collection. The Hound box was missing the Robot Points so I had to do some research to find out how much a standard TF was worth back then. I've got a baggie full of Robot Points and GiJoe Flag Points (Hey if they'd just accept them again...) so I scanned the proper one and grafted it onto the hole. The techspecs were a whole different file to be discussed later. Up to the last moment I had everything ready except the images of the actual figure on the box. I was waiting for Ravestrike's stickers to arrive so I could take final pictures for the box. They arrived within a few days of me graduating from college (Go Wildcats! I need a job!!!), going on a Western Caribbean Cruise, Christmas at home, and moving from the crappy old house to my new apartment. There was a month right there. Moving sucks. I resumed the project once I got settled again in early January. I am apparently a terrible photographer when it comes to 35mm film and my camera. Steelskin is just too small to take good pics of with a normal camera. I blew 1.5 rolls of film taking fuzzy pictures so I settled with my webcam pictures, which came out a lot better than I had originally hoped. I set up a small studio on my desk with lights everywhere. The same images were also used on the instruction booklet.
For those of you not collecting or not fortunate enough to have an early G1 boxed Transformer, the insides of the boxes are different than how I imagined. The figure is inside of a bubble which is attached to a gray card inside, and where the character's image is on the box is where the instructions, weapons, etc. are stashed behind this little white cardboard insert. The bubble and gray card were very difficult to produce. The bubble was made from a Hallmark cards box cover, clipped, formed and heated by hairdryer to fit the car. This process took about 3 weeks. I'm not kidding. What a pain!! Burnt fingers and discouragement all over the place. The gray background was a piece of the same cardboard I used for the box, but I had to print out a solid gray stripe on a piece of photo paper in order to match the sheen of the original, plus I had to match the color of the original. After a few tries I got everything right, and I ended up cutting a small flap so the bubble can be easily lifted to insert the figure for display. There was also a spacer piece to make the car sit at an angle for display that was made from scraps of the Hallmark card box. The white cardboard insert was probably the easiest piece of the entire project to make. Thank goodness. I used some Elmer's wood glue to assemble the back to the front flap. I got some small dabs of glue on the top of the box which have now left some marks, but now I suppose it looks even more like a genuine 1984 G1 box.
In order to print the box panels I had to slice the image into sections and then layer the paper sections when I put it together. Once the file was done I printed it an assembled it in less than an hour so I sort of forgot to take progression pictures. I used a cheap grade of photo paper to simulate the original sheen, and some Krylon spray glue (magical stuff, spray glue) to affix it to the blank box. I cut the window out carefully with an X-acto knife, and the window pane was another clear cover from some Hallmark Christmas cards. I sanded down all the rough edges with the same nail files that I used for the figure, and it worked pretty well. Here's the result:
The techspecs were enough of an ordeal to warrant its own separate file. When I scanned Hound's box his specs came with it, but I had to do so much work to remake them that it turned itself into another project. I reworked all of the lettering, numbers, colors, and even the blue line that tells how good the character is. I actually removed and replaced the blue line that was on top of the pink lines but underneath the black grid on there. This required lots of pixel-by-pixel reworking, color matching, etc. Hours and hours of work. I also had to consider all of my character's attributes and how they would be portrayed on the chart and in the text of the techspec. Once this was all perfect I transferred it back over to the box image. Per request, here are the stats in plain text so you can actually read them. Sorry for making everyone squint.
Quote: "Shoot me first, I dare you"
Bio: STEELSKIN enjoys fighting Decepticons on a whole different level. It's not just about the war; he enjoys the tactics of a clean battle. Heavy Stainless Steel body panels absorb and channel common laser blasts into deadly energy return cannon, which has a blast as strong as Megatron's. Small missile launcher accurate within 6 inches from 6 miles. Body panels make him a bit sluggish. Vulnerable to non-laser weapons.
Designing the instruction booklet on the computer was a lot of fun, but printing it out was another story. My printer accepts paper up to 8.5"x14", or legal size. Unfortunately for me the common 5-step instruction book is just over 15" long. I checked out several sources for help or a possible outsource, but nothing sounded right. I got some 11"x17" paper and cut several sheets down to 8.5"x17." The problem was that no matter what I told my printer, it wouldn't accept the concept of a paper longer than 14". My solution? I cut the instructions file up into 4 segments; on one side the first 3 panels were right-side up, the other 2 were upside-down, and the opposite for the other side. I had to feed the custom sized paper in 4 different ways and had to get the 4 print cycles to match not only upside down and centered, but also end to end. The first one I got to print correctly I dubbed "beta-1" and it's the black and white version with no pictures. Fine-tuning this process produced a lot of duds and two perfect copies, one for the box and the other for my instruction booklet collection. The pic of the pile of dud instructions is just the ones I goofed in a matter of a day or so, not the entire process of more than a week and a half. This is the last piece I did, and it about drove me nuts. Don't try this at home, kids ;)