If you're just getting started with Skylanders, it's a mess.
Nowadays the used Skylanders market is huge. It's a great way to bulk up your Skylanders collection cheaply. You can find used Skylanders at pawn shops, flea markets, garage sales, and even some used book stores. There is a very good chance that the employees at these locations (or parents selling off their kids' collections) have no clue about what Skylanders are or how they work.
So when you go to buy used Skylanders (which are no longer in their oh-so-helpfully-labelled original packaging) you're on your own.
You need to know how to identify loose figures.
The first thing anyone who knows Skylanders will tell you to do is look at the base color. This is good advice.
The base color determines which game the figure was released with, so it will greatly narrow your search field. Currently there are six possible base “colors”. (I use the term “colors” loosely here as SuperChargers changed the basic structure of the bases as you can see in the images below.) These include:
* Eon's Elite is not a separate game, but the figures utilize a separate base color. They were originally released alongside Trap Team, but they do not belong to any one game. You can find the complete list in the View Only menu in the left-hand column.
Once you know which game the figure is from you could click on the corresponding link from the View By Game menu in the left-hand column and try to match your figure to a picture. This will still take a fair amount of time, but as I stated earlier, it will narrow your field of search.
The only other identifying feature of loose figures is the Element to which it belongs.
The other part of each figure's base (the part that isn't the base color) represents the figure's Element. Skylanders began with just 8 Elements, but now there are 10 Elements. These include:
You can read more about the Elements and how to identify them in this article.
Once you have determined the Skylander's Element and the game it came from, you will have less than 10 possibilities.
Now to determine exactly which Skylander you have I would go to the specific Element page. You can once again find links to these pages in the left-hand column under View By Element.
On these pages I have also broken up the figures by game. So knowing the Element and game can greatly speed up your search.
Occasionally you may run into a figure that does not appear on the Elements page or looks just slightly different than another figure.
There's a good chance that you're looking at a Variant.
You can find a complete list of all Variants here.
While I have not separated these by Element, they have been separated by game. These lists are not quite as long so it should still be pretty simple to find the figure you are trying to identify.
Because there are only really two identifying features on loose figures, identifying Skylanders without the use of a pictorial directory, like you find here on SCL, can be very difficult in the beginning.
However, as you grow your collection, play the game, and immerse yourself in the world of Skylanders, you will find that character identification becomes second nature.