Thursday, 7 April 2011

Puppet Head Sculpt - Actress Part 2

Today's post is part 2 of the puppet head construction for 'Elle'. This is the part I really enjoy as it mostly consists of sculpting. Sculpting is a hobby of mine and you can see some of my work on my website


Above is a picture of the tools I use for sculpting. Firstly on the left are some different clays. Super Sculpey Firm is a grey polymer clay that can be baked hard in an oven. I use this most often and it's great for capturing detail. Next is Milliput epoxy putty. It comes in two parts and cures hard in about 5 hours when mixed together. I use this because its really strong and good for strengthening and sticking together armatures. The ball of grey clay is Plastiline. It's a non drying clay very similar to plasticine.
I've collected a lot of different tools for sculpting, but pictured above are the only four tools I ever seem to use. On the left is a scalpel used for cutting and carving the clay. Next is a playing dart without it's flight ( my favourite and most used tool). The tapered point works great for sculpting in details. The red plastic tool I use for roughing out shapes and smoothing surfaces. Finally the last tool is a pin with a home made Milliput handle. This is used for really small, fine details.
I wouldn't recommend spending lots of money on expensive sculpting tools. Often found items and home-made tools do the job. To smooth out clay I often just use my thumb and fine brushes but it requires a lot of time and patience.

Sculpting the face

In the picture above you can see I have roughed out the face onto the Milliput masks. For this I used Sculpey Firm. I've added features like the ears and nose and marked where the mouth will be.

In this profile shot you can see the seem lines where the different parts of the face will separate. Below are the two mask pieces away from the head core.

Above are all the different head components so far. Rather than sculpting multiple replacement mouths from scratch, I will be moulding and casting out copies of one mouth and sculpting alterations onto the casts. This way the shape of the nose and cheeks will stay consistent and only the mouth shapes and jaw will change.

The 'master' face above has no lips sculpted so that they can be added to the casts later. I have added a set of upper teeth because whenever they are visible they should stay constant in a fixed position.

At this point the head and masks have been baked hard. Above you can see the rough sculpt for her hair. This is made from Plastiline and slots onto the head with K&S. The hair (once finished) will be moulded and cast in silicone.

Because part of the hair covers the upper half of the face, the brow mask is reshaped to follow the hair line. This allows it to be removed from the face more easily.

Finally here is the finished (master) head sculpt ready to be moulded. My next post will show the molding and casting process.


  1. Before making the Silicone mold do you bake the Sculpy to make it hard or leave it as a soft clay?

  2. Hi James,
    The Sculpey is baked hard before moulding.
    (15 mins at 130C.) You could mould unbaked clay like sculpey or plasticine in a silicone mould, but traces of clay might get left in, and they will have to be cleaned out thoroughly before used for catsing.

  3. Thanks for answering my questions,
    I'm very impressed by all of your work.

  4. So you put the sculpey in the oven along with the epoxy putty? The epoxy putty is not affected by the heat?

  5. The epoxy putty wasn't affected by the heat. It might start to deform if its left in the oven for too long, or if the temperature is too high. I didn't run into any problems ( baking for 15min at 130C)
    gently heating epoxy putty is a good way to speed up the curing time.
    hope this helps :)

  6. Hi Nathan, I've followed you and your brothers work for a while now, and i love how you post your processes online for everyone to see and enjoy! Your work is very inspiring!

    I have a question about your stop motion character's eyeballs. Do you always use a pin hole in the center of the eye to maneuver the eye around or do you have any another techniques you use for this?

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thank you very much, I'm glad you like our work.
      I just watched some your films on youtube. Great stuff.

      I usually use the pin hole technique for eyes.
      Another method is to have a free moving iris/pupil that slides on the surface of the eye.
      That’s what was used for 'Frankenweenie' and 'Corpse Bride'.
      The white of the eye remains static on the head and the pupil is a small black disk that can be stuck on with vaseline or 'tacky wax'. Its a nice alternative, especially for characters with peculiar shaped eyes.

      I hope that helps and keep up the good work ;)

  7. Hi Fantastic love it !
    I'm hopeless at sculpting, so I'm looking for a one off face mould for Emily Corpse Bride, the body looks easy, just the face. Plse let me know where I can buy one many thanks