The Basics – Sticky Tack

Sticky Tack or Blu-Tack can be a toy photographers best friend. If you’re not familiar with this amazing substance, it is a little piece of removable gummy substance you can attach to your toy to help with a difficult pose, an uneven surface, an uncooperative accessory or a stiff wind.

I love tack and rely on it to help me quickly manage any unruly set up. I even have a wad on the front of my camera so I can access it quickly.

I know there are a few photographers who shun the use of tack in all its forms because it almost always requires some amount of post processing. Not everyone has access to Photoshop (or the equivalent) or has the inclination to edit an image to remove the offending little blue (or white) blob. While this is definitely a draw back, rarely will you need a lot of it.

I enjoy the challenge of balancing my mini figures on rocks, dirt, moss and the like. But sometimes even my patience is tested and I will wad up a small bit of tack to save me time and keep my frustration level down. Of course there a few photos that would have been impossible to capture without this handy trick. One of my favorite photos of Boba falls into this category…

A Need For Speed
A Need For Speed

Tack comes in a few different variations:

  • Blu-Tack – the classic, is sturdy, never fails but is bright blue
  • Double Sided Adhesive Dots – little dots of extremely sticky tape and invisible
  • Museum Putty – just like blue-tack, but white and easier to hide
  • Holding Wax – a stiff clear wax used for holding small items in place. perfect for really tiny toys like HO scale figures

I’ve had the pleasure of using all of these items and I can assure that they all work great. They all grip onto rock or other rough outdoor surfaces; one caveat – they generally don’t work on wet surfaces. I would recommend the double stick dots as a great method, especially if you don’t want to do any post processing.

The quiet calm of this photo belies the reality that I was fighting  a stiff wind off the Bay. Lucky for me, Wikitoybox was nearby to give me a little double stick tape ditto use on this guy to keep him standing, otherwise he would have blown away in the wind!

What do you use (if anything) to keep your toys in place so you can grab that perfect photo?

~ Shelly 

You can see the tack in this image; what a pain it was to edit out. If I could have managed this another way, I would have.

Welcome to a new category on Stuck in Plastic, called The Basics. Over the next several months I will be writing short posts on The Basics of Photography and how these concepts relate specifically to toy photography. I hope you will enjoy this series. If you have a particular topic you would like me to address, feel free to leave a comment or message me. 

20 Replies to “The Basics – Sticky Tack”

  1. Oh yeah, Blu-tak fan all the way! If you check on Facebook for “gravity glue” you’ll see a guy that does amazing things with rocks and patience, but ain’t nobody got time for that when it comes to toy photography so it’s Blu-tak to the rescue.

    Sounds like a great new series of posts you’re starting here and this seems like the perfect spot to kick it off. Looking forward to future updates.

    1. Thank you my friend, I’m glad you like the first in this series.

      While I like to start with gravity, sometimes you need an assist. Wind, uneven ground, gravity defying positions, all need a little assist. I for one would rather get my photo than be a purist. But I respect those who keep it natural. :)

  2. Oh yes, I use Blu-Tack all the time. I will often pre-emptively tack stuff in place even when it appears to be stable, I’ve had too many set collapses just as I’m about to push the shutter. I’m also adept at knocking things with my lens, so any extra stability is welcomed!

    1. Its nice to know that use outdoor photographers aren’t the only ones who know the joys of Blue-Tack! I can’t imagine going to all the trouble you do with your figures to have them fall over at the last minute. Aggggghhhh! Anything to make a tedious job a little easier is fine by me. Thanks for chiming in Mike!

  3. There is always a stick of Blu-Tack in my bag whenever I’m out shooting Lego. It’s not only good for saving Lego from tumbling beyond retrieval, but it also saves onlookers from hearing me cuss at uncooperative minifigures! :P

    1. I bet your language is as colorful as your mini figures!! Lol!!

      Yes, it really is the toy photographers best friend. I’ve put my figures in some pretty precarious locations with only a spot of tac between them and certain death. Luckily I’ve not lost one yet!

  4. Blu-Tak..this mysterious thing I heard about during Baltic Toysafari, never understood what i was, wondered what the white stuff on peoples cameras was but never dared to ask. Took me months to figure it out I never found Blu-Tak but found Tack-It, some white sticky stuff. Everything changed, all of a sudden the figs could stand still
    Thank you for a good post

    1. Stefan! First rule of toy safari: always ask! Im so glad you figured it out though. :) It really is life changing in the field! Will you be going to Hamburg for the safari this year?

      1. Well, I am a bit shy around new people and have always taken photos by myself. Shy at the start ;) Hotel and flight to Hamburg already booked

        1. I hope you have a great time in Hamburg! I wish I could be their, but alas, not this time. :(

          This year, don’t be so shy! Take a leap of faith, my friend! :)

  5. Aye.
    One of the most basic ingredients in the field.
    And happy to see that it is also extensively used in the studio.

    Now, dont do like me and have it laying around with all the figurines as I keep on having to remove some of the stuff in post where I am sure I did not put any sticky before. It seems those little minifigs love to stick it everywhere :D

  6. Every time I check my bag before going on a trip, I check that I have some tack with. But because I’m lazy I rarely use it. I’m too lazy to get it from my backpack and take the time to put it on the figures. I’m also concerned about the tack being visible and having to spend time to remove it on my computer. The worst is that every time I check I have some tack in my bag before going out, I think “this time I have to use it”.

    1. If you haven’t used it, you must not need it. Because if you really needed it, you would have by now. Dont worry, its good to have in the bag “just in case”. Also if you’re worried about post editing look to an office supply store for a role of those double stick dots. They are invisible when place just under a mini figs foot. It might be a better alternative for you…if you need it. :D

      1. It’s true most of the time I don’t actually need it. I used tack a few times when it was a necessity, but it often ends up with the problem that it’s in some way visible even though I thought it wasn’t. In particular there’s one studio photo where I used some (white) tack in studio to make sure Yoda and Ackbar weren’t falling down and realized on my computer screen that it was visible. It wasn’t easy to edit, and even though the tack is not visible anymore, Yoda still seems a little bit raised. I’m pretty sure nobody has seen it but it still annoys me.

        Anyway I can’t wait for the next posts in this series ;-)

    1. Yup, that works great. I use something similar its called “Quake Hold” / museum putty. I like the white over the blue color because its easier to remove in post if I can’t disguise it on site.

  7. Yeah but what if i want to sell it and TAKE OUT the sticky tack?
    I’m selling my action figure from Toei of Broly and my little brother used to use sticky tack to make poses for his stop motion, but he ended up not liking Broly, so he gave it to me to sell it. But he left it to me to take the sticky tack out. I was able to take some out from his clothes with wet wipes. But there’s some sticky tack left in between the fingers, and I’m having a very hard time taking it out. So my question is if there’s an easier way too take it out. Like do I soak it in something or what?

    1. Have you tried some fresh blu tack and dip on the old one?
      Or just gently rubbing with a dry cloth on it?

      This normally does the trick for me, but it also depends on which “sticky” you used, as there is one of the more commercial brands here in Europe that is extremely aggressive and difficult to remove and on that one the dry removal did not work. But classic blu tack (the brand) and the conventional white “putty” I managed to remove with a dry cloth, a pencil eraser or some fresh putty to dip it off.

      Wet never worked for me :)


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