Page name: Some Sculpting Basics [Logged in view] [RSS]
2007-01-02 20:51:39
Last author: Hedda
Owner: smakeupfx
# of watchers: 15
D20: 7
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Hi all, [smakeupfx] here, 
I get asked fairly often about simple instructions for making small figure sculptures, or Maquettes.  Molds and mold making techniques, and random questions on materials and tricks.  I'll keep adding to this page as I think of things or in answering your questions.

Maquettes are one of my favorite kinds of jobs. It's all fun and no molds or multiple fabrication. That stuff gets to seem an awful lot like work ;-) They are often small figure sculptures made as one of a kind art, character design "sketches" or a starting point for CG modeling.

What you will need
Polymer Clay - I use SuperSculpy, but fimo, sculpy or any other brand will work and each has it's pros and cons.

Epoxy putty - you can pick this up at almost any hardware store. It's a two part clay-like putty that will cure in 5 to 15 minutes when mixed together.  You can also use more professional materials like Magic-Sculpt, it's a very strong epoxy putty that has a working time of 5 or so hours and fully cures in 24 hours (less if you heat it a bit ;-)  Pick up some 5-minute epoxy glue too, it's useful in putting things together later.

Aluminum armature wire - I use several different sizes of this, but you have to have it. Copper wire or clothes hanger wire will work in a pinch. It's just harder to adjust the pose and bend.

Sculpting tools - Your hands are the best tools you have, and you can make your own sculpting tools pretty easily or just use whatever you can find (I still do). Cheap sculpting tools work just as well as expensive ones, I often get some of those little plastic kids paint brushes and heat one end with a lighter and shape it while hot when I need a special tool for something.

Step by step
First, get your idea sketched out 1 to 1 flat out on a piece of paper. Use that as a template for constructing the wire frame armature. Lay the wire on the paper and bend it until it centers the form you will be sculpting. This step really saves a lot of time and material. It's hard to get arms and legs proportioned right in wire frame without a guide since you're centering the wire in the form not re-creating the form... if that makes any sense. I also like to make the head so it can come off. pretty easy to do, just wrap some wire around the neck stalk so the head piece will slide in and out. Then you can focus on the head and when you get it just right, cook it so you can't bump it and mess up hours of work. For thicker pieces, twist two wires (or more) together, helps it not break as easily and the clay and putty sticks better.

Here is a piece I did from start to finish. The armature is bent from wire and that is glued down to a piece of wood with 5 minute epoxy. For bigger shapes, you can wrap the wire with some aluminum foil to fill it out and save you money and clay.


Next, mix up the epoxy putty and cover the wire with a thin coat. Make sure you leave room for clay on top of this (you can cut the epoxy away later if this happens in a place or two, no big deal really).


When the epoxy sets, you can start. I use SuperSculpy. If it's fresh (not sitting on the store shelf for years) you can just start adding. If it is crumbly, you can add a few drops of Mineral Oil and mix it up until it's the right consistency. Just start adding clay, getting the shape roughed out.


I like to get things roughed out, all the proportions the way I want them, then start finishing the most detailed parts, like the head, separately. When I get them just the way I want them I cook it. You cook sculpt in your home oven, follow the directions on the clay and watch it closely, if it starts to turn purple turn it off! don't over cook polymer clays, they put off toxic fumes then.


You can add more clay on top of clay already cooked, then sand or cut or carve...cook again, add more clay. It's a great way to work, and lets you keep adding details without messing up the ones you already finished.


When it's all done, give it a coat of Krylon Primer Paint (really it's the best...worth it to find, cheap stuff will clump, drip, come out of the can with a bad texture, or any number of BAD things when you're put in 60 hours on a sculpt. (and it's really not much cheaper). If Krylon isn't available where you live, ask at a paint store for the best primer paint they carry.


Once primed you can paint with anything. I often use acrylics, with washes made from acrylics mixed with alcohol, and then maybe some oil paints (they are great for gradations and the like.


There ya go man, hope that helps. If you have any questions or problems, I'd be happy to help if I can.  Have fun and make some stuff!

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2006-04-12 [playslashwrite]: awesome and very helpful tutorial man! I bet Saray can use this extremely well for her solo stop motion animation :)

2006-04-12 [smakeupfx]: I hope someone can use it ;-)  I'll add more to it based on any questions that come up. I might do another on some simple mold making. Is she going to be sculpting? fun! both you guys need to get all 3D-alishous

2006-04-12 [playslashwrite]: she's going to do a stop motion.. im not sure if tthis tutorial is suitable for that however XD you tell me :p

2006-04-12 [smakeupfx]: most likely not so much, but I can always do one on stop motion armatures ;-)

2006-04-12 [playslashwrite]: now that would be convinient ^^

2006-04-14 [Daisy_Sandybanks]: Oh, this is wonderful! Great tutorial :D

2006-04-14 [smakeupfx]: Thanks :-)  are ya gonna make some stuff?

2006-04-14 [Jewl]: I like this. Very easy to understand, good directions, even a few small commercials in there. =D I'm astonished, it makes me want ot go out and sculpt...

2006-04-14 [Daisy_Sandybanks]: I might, I might. I've always wanted to ... And well, now I know how :)

2006-04-14 [smakeupfx]: :-D thanks, glad you like it... (commercials?)

2006-04-14 [Sunrose]: Maybe this wiki is something for Elftown Tutorials? :D

2006-04-14 [Jewl]: yeah, the type of clay, paint, etc.

2006-04-14 [smakeupfx]: Ah, got ya, yes, Product loyalty is very strong in most sculptors I know hehe *loves 3M*

2006-04-14 [Phoxx]: It's great to see how you make your sculpts. I can learn alot from this!

2006-04-14 [smakeupfx]: Alrighty [Sunrose] i submited to the Tutorials page :-)  thanks, didn't know about them

2006-04-14 [Sunrose]: Coool! ^___^ You could become one of the Tutors then ^^

2006-04-15 [LadyMoon]: Wonderful tutorial! :D

2006-04-15 [smakeupfx]: Thanks :-) hope it's usefull

2006-04-15 [playslashwrite]: soon Tim will be known throughout elftown as MASTER TIM :p

2006-04-15 [Perplexity]: He already calls himself that. (jkjk hehehhe)

2006-04-15 [playslashwrite]: only when he's dressed in leather :p

2006-04-15 [Perplexity]: o.O

2006-04-15 [playslashwrite]: WHOOPSIE!

2006-04-15 [smakeupfx]: Humm, "Master Tim" I like that, now were did I put those leather chaps?

2006-04-15 [playslashwrite]: why.. in the basement of course:p

2006-04-15 [Charybdis]: o_o I wonder if I can find my box of polymer clay... I used to use it all the time, but schoolwork got in the way - this has inspired me to try again! ^^

2006-04-15 [playslashwrite]: master tim is an inspiration to us all:)

2006-04-15 [Charybdis]: Indeed :) Muahaha, I've been stalking his house for ages ;P

2006-04-15 [playslashwrite]: naughthy stalker person:p

2006-04-15 [Charybdis]: Sshhhh! >>

2006-04-15 [Dark Wizard]: WOOOOOOOOOOOW this is amazing, I loved it!

2006-04-15 [irulan]: Leather chaps huh? You really must find those. >:)

2006-04-15 [Jewl]: hm... interesting conversation this has turned to..

2006-04-15 [smakeupfx]: Sculpting, Stalking, leather chaps,  it's the natual order of things LOL

2006-04-16 [playslashwrite]: dont forget the whips and chains:p

2006-04-16 [Nyaah*]: :O :O :O just found this wiki!!!!!!! waited for so long for something like this tim!! :D :D YAY for sculpting ^.^

2006-04-17 [Radioactive Flea]: We should all gang up together to take turns beating Tim for taking so damn long to put up something like this.

2006-04-17 [playslashwrite]: in his world, that would be the ultimate reward :p

2006-04-17 [Jewl]: or the ultimate dream...

2006-04-17 [playslashwrite]: or both:p

2006-04-19 [Radioactive Flea]: I know, but it would be a stress reliever for us ;)

2006-04-19 [playslashwrite]: *evil grin* ^^

2006-04-19 [Jewl]: and maybe for him... ;D (((Uh-oh, run for your life, you've got my perverted side out...)))

2006-04-19 [smakeupfx]: hahahaha, naughty Jewl!  bad bad naughty, jewl ;-)

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: GET ON WITH IT! :p

2006-04-20 [Radioactive Flea]: *Looks at Tim and gives him a mischevious grin* Be careful love, you still haven't a clue what I'm capable of.

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: makes me curious ^^

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: I'm with you Stefan  hehehe

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