Here's some tips from the previous threads:
Beginners: practice on cheap figures first.
For sculpting on figures: use 2-part epoxy putty like Aves apoxie or fixit.
For tools: try a basic carving/sculpting set like the kind arts & crafts stores have, and calipers for symmetry.
Dental tools have also been said to work well.
Also, using a Dremel is recommended. Minimites (the small $20-25 ones) are fine for starting out, but the battery life is poor. Upgrade to a corded one only if you want to get deeper into customizing. They are useful for stuff outside of the hobby though, so it's a good investment regardless.
For paints: use acrylics. Paint in multiple, thin coats. Brands like Vallejo/P3/Citadel are recommended, because of pigment quality.
Use a sealer when finished to protect your work. There are matte varieties and sealers that give a glossy look. As with painting, use multiple thin coats.
A flex shaft attachment on a Dremel is a godsend and relatively inexpensive. The grinding shield is also pretty useful, but you can improvise one using a cut open soda bottle.