Mask Making 101: Sculpting and Casting For Beginners
Hey guys, long time no write. I’ve been swamped the past few months and haven’t had a chance to write, but now I have some down time and I thought for my first returning article I would tackle the art of sculpting and casting. Now I am by no means a pro, nor do I have a paid education in this art form, I just did it the old school way of self teaching (trial and error). There are a lot of great artists here but some people are new to this and I thought that I would try and give as much help as possible. Here it goes…
Videos will also accompany each step, I believe seeing is easier than reading in mask making.
Hopefully you have the basics. Clay(oil and water base), Head Armature, Sculpting Tools (cheap set will do), Clay Cutter, Plaster (go to Lowes, it will work), Clear Coat (sealant), Screw drivers (Flat Heads), Burlap or plaster bandages, Measuring Spoons (Good for Keying the mold). Assuming you have that stuff, lets begin with adding the clay to the head to build up for sculpting. There are many ways to do this and I’m sure the longer you go at it you will find a way that best suits you. But this is solely for beginners, so, one way to build up your thickness is by rolling the clay into little balls (a swedish meatball size) and just do a one after another around the entire head until you have it completely covered, not think enough? just repeat the process. After that is done, use a damp sponge or a damp thumb to smooth everything out. This technique will ensure a uniform thickness all the way around. This way is good for Myers Masks and any type of mask that is going to look like a “normal” face. Another way to get the clay on the head even is the “copy and fill face mold”. This process I have never used, but it’s seems to be very easy and a great way for beginners to learn. It involves 2 extra steps and a foam armature, but again it’s very straight forward.
**Reference Pics are a must, the more you have the “easier” it is. If its an original design, draw it out so you have a “visual aide”
Sculpting Video Links :
Copy Tech :
Here are a few answers to some question that may pop up in the sculpting phase. When you’re sculpting a mask you want the sculpt to be about 10 to 15 % bigger than your actual finished measurement, why because the clay will shrink. A bit of knowledge on anatomy is helpful. I find one of the hardest things to do is noses, so just google that and pull up as much as you can on the subject. Don’t rush, take your time. If you get mad, walk away and come back to it later. Oil base is great for sculpting, but honestly I like working with water base. If you think you can go with oil right from the gate more power to you, but if not then just go with the water.
I’m not sure what else I could say on this step because it depends on what your making and I hope your first mask is not a demon with huge horns, but a Michael Myers mask (movies 1-10) so you are just sticking with human features.
So, lets pretend you have your armature all clayed up and your features of The Shape all sculpted in. I bet you wanna cast it now and start pouring your latex…Not so fast. you have a few steps that you wanna take before you do that.
Seal your work! Hairspray, Vaseline, pam, clear coat, crystal clear. It doesn’t matter just as long you have a barrier between the clay and plaster. This step really helps with getting the clay out of the mold. Put on at least 3 coats and allow to dry between each one. Now we can move on to building our mold “wall”.
The mold wall is what make your mold a 2 piece mold. When building the mold wall you are going to build up the middle of the mask and go behind the ear. This is a good way to hid your seam. Now there are two ways you can hide that seam, one is to put a slight channel in your sculpt so you can fill in the final product smooth or you can just do it the old way with scissors and a dremel. either way it turns out pretty well.
rather than try to explain the wall building process I found a video that explains everything to a T. It’s probably the best 2 part mold video on the net, so please forgive me and just let the expert explain it to you.
Mold Wall Links:
Best Mold Video Pt.1 :
Best Mold Video Pt.2:
Well if you watched the two videos above your off to a great start and probably don’t need me to explain anything else, but just to tie this up with a nice neat bow I will just point out the final basics.
After you have that wall built you need to “Key” it. Some like to do a long channel all the way around and others like to make nice neat circles that interlock. I like the circle keys. Take your spoon and just make the slightest circle above the head into the wall. Follow that with three on the left and two on the right of the wall. The next most important thing to do is “Pry Points”. These are spots where those flat heads will go to pop your to halves apart, but you will not add those until you have cast the first half of your mask.
Again I can not explain as good as the two videos above so please watch them over and over again. It will explain the mixing of the plaster, what it’s consistence should be and how many layers to do. *One thing the video doesn’t show is adding strength to the mold. Burlap of plaster bandages will help a lot! after a few coats add a layer of either or.
Pretending you watch the videos and you have learned the ins and outs of casting now comes the most delicate part. Separating the mold. If you pry to hard and break it your screwed! Cause that sculpt is going to be ruined underneath. So please be very careful and remember use the pry points! Once that is done you have to clean the mold and for that I just go for the hosing it out method. You can use the garden hose or a pressure washer. I have never heard of a person damaging a mold with water, but it is possible.
Hopefully this has helped out any new comers to the hobby of mask making. I know my written words are not the best, but the videos I provided should more than make up for it. So good luck and may the Shape be with you. If you liked the article, it was written by Rich Stile of TheDevilsEyes.com, if not then this is Vincent Paul of Rabbit In Red Radio! Have fun Everyone!
Where to get supplies :
Local craft store for the clay/sculpting tools (Sally’s ,Michaels)
Wig Shop for a Foam Head (small budget option)
Plaster/ Burlap (Lowes,Home Depot)