It seems it would be handy to have some sensible steps to actually start making things. So check out the podcast on this very subject and also the lowdown on cap plastic.
After all, the longest of journeys start with a single step, so having some steps in mind will help you start if you are not sure where to begin making.
One thing to say is that you don’t have to go through all of the processes to begin with. Just sculpting is at least getting you involved in the act of making, without the added cost or time of making moulds, casts and applying. You can of course do those too if your means permit, but the point is that if you haven’t got all that, you can still start making things in some capacity.
We’d recommend making small things well, and then expand sophistication and scale once you gain confidence. Wounds and casualty effects are a good way to begin, because if you do make pieces to stick on, and things go a little wrong, you can smother a bit of blood or bruising over the offending edge or error. Then, as you get better, try to step away gradually from gore and try to hide your efforts less behind the red stuff.
Noses are great things to do, and if you can do a flawless nose which looks great, the scale up to noses and eyebags. Then cheeks, chin and a neck. If the nose isn’t right, then figure that first. Nobody worth their salt is impressed with huge full body appliances painted badly or with terrible edges if it doesn’t display a high level of skill. So get that skill by not spreading yourself too thin on big makeup jobs.
Todd’s nose appliance, showing clearly where the edges finish.
In the podcast I got a little mixed up with Moshers, so the Michael Mosher bald cap DVD we mentioned is here.
I recall seeing some lightweight face cores made from vacuform plastic from The Compleat Sculptor (their spelling!). I couldn’t see it on the site but maybe give them a call as they may know what they would be listed under or if they don’t not stock them now .
Know Your Mess From Your Mozart
As to getting better at sculpting, it makes sense to know what good sculpture is in terms of both creatures and effects as well as classical sculpture. After all, if you sincerely wanted to pursue anything to a decent level, you would likely have heroes and influences. If you want to be successful at something, it really helps to know what success looks like.
Looking at the work of the current masters of the trade is a great way to be inspired (and sometimes a little upset by how good the work can be) and then being able to place yourself more accurately on a continuum – where do you sit on the scale? It’s well worth checking these artists out if you haven’t yet seen any of their stuff. This is by no means a complete list – no doubt I will be blasted for the glaring omissions but it serves to start you off.
If you want to sculpt something and then see how it would look painted, you can lietrally paint your sculpt. If you simply apply either a cap plastic or latex barrier on the surface first, then whatever you paint on there will peel off easily enough.
To see a video of me doing just that, check out the video here. Zip to 11:00 mins in if you only want to see the painting part.
Cap plastic (not ‘cat plastic’ as some have misheard) is a flexible plastic usually supplied as a concentrated thick liquid, and thinned down with solvents for use either by conventional brushing or with an airbrush. Naturally, for airbrushing it needs to be thinned considerably to avoid blocking the fine nozzle. Clean the airbrush out after with the appropriate solvent.
Traditionally, bald cap plastic was acetone based and used to pretty much just make bald caps (although latex can also be used very successfully for bald caps), and the edges could be melted with acetone.
As silicone appliances began to use bald cap plastic as an encapsulant, so it was that more cap plastic was being used on the face instead of just as bald caps. The notion of a bald cap material which could be thinned with alcohol came about as a much less aggressive solvent to use on the skin.
Both work well for appliances, and like Canon/Nikon, Pepsi/Coke and McDonalds/Burger King, there are happy advocates for both. Typically the alcohol cap plastics happen to be a bit softer and more flexible currently, but some prefer the durability of using alcohol activated colours such as Skin Illustrator on a cap plastic which will only melt with acetone.
Cap plastic is applied to a mould and core surface before adding the silicone gel. The resulting appliance therefore comes out with a cap plastic surface which is better at bonding to adhesives and makeup whilst retaining the flexible, soft benefits of the translucent silicone gel inside it.
Todd mentioned those handy Preval sprayers he uses for cap plastic which are a great substitute for airbrushing, which requires an airbrush and an airs source like a compressor. Google it to find a nearby supplier – usually airgun and paint spray specialists will stock them.
If you want to see this being done, check this video I did of running some silicone appliances in open moulds which features cap plastic being brushed in and sprayed.
The Pro bond primer we mentioned is featured here in this video and is available from Todd’s site as well as many professional makeup supply stockists.
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It’s just me today as Todd is pretty sick with a bad cold, so get well soon Todd. Hope you get fixed up and back on track soon, fella!
We’ve got a great interview with someone who was the first person I ever got in touch with. Geoff Portass started Image Animation with business partner Bob Keen, and the company worked on some iconic genre movies and shows in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They also spawned the careers of some of the best known fx artists working today.
I still have my letters from 1990 when Geoff replied to my questions when I was 16! I sent foam samples of foam latex I had made at home and asked about the makeup they used and replied every time.
I also remember meeting Nick Dudman at my college in 1993, when I basically cornered him for half an hour and asked him all these questions that nobody else could answer – pre Goole etc.
(I then went on to work for Nick on a few Harry Potter and Mummy movies.)
Anyhow, I drove up to Geoff’s place and we chatted for a good few hours and I had to split this into two podcasts, as there was so much material and it seemed to fall into two logical topics – the film stuff and the teaching stuff. So, this is part 1 which looks at the film stuff and the next episode will be looking at the teaching stuff too.
I kept this cutting from a newspaper (well, ‘The Sun’) as there was precious little to see of makeup processes before the internet made getting information a breeze.
Lastly just to remind you that we’d love to hear from you. Feedback is always welcome and as we normally look at solutions to problems (hence the podcast being called Battles with bits of Rubber). Our email firstname.lastname@example.org
The podcast is available on iTunes, from Soundcloud and various other podcast directories. Please consider leaving a review or sharing this with people you think would dig it too if you enjoy this episode – it would really help us out!
Colour theory is a crucial part of makeup, especially if you are in the business of trying make a portion of the face out of rubber and make it look like it belongs there and is the same as the real skin which surrounds it.
This is especially true when mixing your skin tone into your appliance material in the case of silicone or gelatine appliances.
This post is going to give an overview of the article we wrote for Neill Gorton’s Prosthetics magazine #3.
The materials are different, but the principles of colour theory and how to create skin tones remain the same. This colour is IN the pieces rather than ON them.
We have gone on a fair bit in the past about the importance of colour and colour theory in posts about using photoshop to match skin tones, and 7 tips for painting skin tones. The reason…? Because it really matters and it’s actually rather simple.
and the video further down – there’s a loooooot here!
The latest episode of our podcast ‘Battles With Bits Of Rubber’ deals with this issue of colour theory! Check it out and subscribe on iTunes , Soundcloud your podcast app or directory of choice!
Base Skin Tone
It’s important to get the base tone of your appliances right, as you don’t want to make things harder for yourself later by creating an appliance which fights you all the way because of poor base tinting.
It’s very frustrating to have to use the makeup to ‘correct’ a badly or inappropriately coloured appliance when you can get the base tone to do most of the work for you.
What exactly do we mean by a ‘base’ tone? The base tone is also known as the foundation tone. It’s the main ingredient, the support layer so to speak, to which other things – in this case, colours – are added to make something: a believable skin colour.
Translucent materials like silicone and gelatine are coloured intrinsically – that is the colour is mixed into the material itself rather than applied onto the surface. We’ll do that later when we apply, but the ideal situation is to have as little to do in the makeup chair as possible.
There are a number of products you can use to actually pigment the silicone base you’re colouring – such as oil paints and artist’s acrylic paint (yup, Todd tried this and it works!!), but by far the most reliable are silicone pigments.
These highly concentrated colours are designed to mix well with both condensation and addition cure silicones, and don’t affect the chemistry of the silicone setting, which some oil paints and acrylics may, for example.
(You should always do some testing before mixing a large batch of silicone with an untried colouring method.)
Silicone pigments are usually available from wherever you buy your silicone, and the concentrated pigments are usually very good value for money as a little goes a long way. Canadian company FuseFX, developed by the late and highly regarded Guy Louis-XVI offers a wonderful assortment of silicone pigments and paints, as do Mouldlife in the UK, and Tom McLaughlin’s Silicone Art Materials in the US.
You can also use foundation makeup such as MAC, Makeup Forever or even L’Oreal for that matter, but honestly, these are likely to work out more to be expensive than the pure silicone pigments. The amount of marketing, packaging and regulatory hoops they have to jump through to be available on a store shelf makes it an expensive alternative.
Light is rather important!
Usually, it’s better to match the base to the palest areas of the skin you are trying to match. You can usually darken larger areas of a paler base with makeup during application more successfully and easily than highlighting larger areas of a base which is too dark.
The same mixed colour in three different lighting situations appears different – the final pic is in natural daylight.
We recommend you start by taking some clear pictures in good natural daylight of your model’s skin, if possible. That way you can analyse the colours and determine what colours you need to match when mixing. Ideally, you would mix with your model present so you can offer up and compare, but this obviously isn’t always going to be a possible or realistic option.
We also recommend that you mix using daylight as your light source if possible, preferably near a window or a lamp with daylight bulbs. Moving around and comparing the effect under different light sources will also help you find the right tone. This mix viewed in three different lights shows the effect of light sources on colour.
Start by adding a small amount at a time, and then mix carefully to ensure that it isn’t too much. If too much pigment is added, it will become overly opaque and you will lose the benefit of having a translucent material!
To check the opacity, use a pale mixing stick and place a black dot using a Sharpie pen near the end of the stick – this will then display quite readily how the opacity is changing as you add more pigment.
If the dot is really easy to see – add more pigment; the dot should just be visible through the pigmented silicone.
We both attribute Neill Gorton with sharing this invaluable tip! Thanks, Neill!
Colour Theory In Practice
With regards to mixing a base colour, you are going to be using colour theory essentially to ‘correct’ the pigments. Whatever you’ve got in that pot is unlikely to be the same shade as the skin you’re trying to match, so get incrementally closer a bit at a time. You’ll find the pigments you have will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so you will essentially be steering the colour gradually by eye.
Looking at your base and comparing it side-by-side to your model’s skin, ask yourself in very basic terms, ‘What is missing?’ Is it too pale, or too dark? Is it red enough? Yellow enough? Green enough? You basically will be using colour theory to adjust the base tone until it is as close as time allows.
A pin used to put the tiniest amount of blue into a mix without causing drastic errors!
If you need to add tiny bits of primary colours, it often helps to decant a small quantity of that colour onto a surface and use a thin tool such as a pin or toothpick to drop a small amount into the base, rather than drop it straight from the pigment container.
The smallest drip from a dispenser nozzle may still deliver way too much and ruin the whole mix.
Flocking is tiny fibres of nylon or rayon, available in different colours and lengths.
Alternatively use flocking instead – small amounts of blue and green are especially effective when added as flocking, as pigment strength may vary from batch to batch whereas flocking is easier to judge.
If you are not sure which way to go with a colour, and you find yourself confounded as to which direction to go, simply drop a small dollop of the base coloured silicone onto a clean white mixing palette and drop a tiny amount of each pigment at intervals around the outer edge.
Drag some of the base out to it and mix it lightly to see what effect each pigment has on the base as it currently stands.
This will show you, in a small and less upsetting way, what effect green, blue or yellow will have on your mixture.
It should help you decide which way to go, and you may be surprised at what colours actually help. A tiny drop of black for example helps mute the brightness without darkening the mix too much.
So, go slow and steady, refer to reference of the colour you want to arrive at and then get closer one step at a time!
So, want to watch me put all this into practice and actually mix some silicone into three different skin shades? Alrighty then….
And for all you podcast freaks (…like me… I am a podcast addict!):
Leave a comment below! We love questions and podcast subscribers too!
Loop tools are a delight to make and use, and some of the daintier ones are cared for like beloved pets. Sometimes though, either through careless stowing or lending to a clumsy colleague we end up with a broken loop which causes distress and sadness.
I know because its happened to me enough times so I thought I would share with you a way of successfully restoring a busted loop to it’s original glory, and reduce the likelihood of recurrence too.
One note: this repair depends on the loop breaking at the base where it joins the handle – if the loop breaks in the middle then I think replacing the actual loop itself is the best option, or making a new tool from scratch. If so inclined then check out my tutorials on making loops and wooden tools.
The hero who saves the day is epoxy putty – a two part putty mixed together in equal amounts and placed on the break. It sets up hard and will secure the loop end in place, supporting it well and reducing the chance of it breaking again.
Often it is just the amount of leverage placed on that tender stem which causes it to break, and soldering may cause the metal to weaken too. In any event, the first thing to do is clean the affected area with a wire brush or abrasive cloth.
Mix up a tiny amount of the putty – ensure you have equal amounts of the two components. You’ll need less than a pea-sized lump in total.
It’s well worth wearing disposable gloved when handling it as I have here, as you’ll want to avoid getting epoxy putty on the skin – check the packaging for safe use recommendations.
Sometimes the loop is happy to stay in place, but sometimes the spring in the loop causes the errant end to stand out and refuse to sit within the confines of the handle. Fear not, as such an inconvenience is not long to suffer.
If you have an errant end such as this, then you’ll need to do this in two hits. This first hit involves creating a small lip to hold the loop in place when it eventually sets. Then, when that is done you can hit it with round two.
It’s best to surround the handle near the loop with a small amount of he putty and massage it around to create a thin shroud. Water is a curiously sufficient solvent which allows you to smooth the finish with fingers alone. Use a small tool to pull and pick a small lip to later hold that prong in place.
Putties vary in setting times, and typically the slower they take to set the stronger they are, so weigh up your requirements. I would ideally leave this to harden up overnight.
Now that the putty has set rigid, the loose prong should be able to be directed to sit in the lip you made allowing you to add a second mix of putty carefully to surround and hold the prongs firmly up their base. The putty should chemically bond to itself and create a firm sleeve to hold the loop base.
I put the blob on one side and gently push it through, smoothing and massaging it around evenly with water and a small tool. You could sand this smoother later once it has set if you like, but I like to get the smooth finish now.
Put this to one side and allow it to set up again overnight before using. You broke this thing once already… For crying out loud, give the fella a chance.
All being well the putty is set rigid and will hold the loop in place handsomely.
I actually think it’s a worthwhile exercise to pre-empt the tragedy awaiting such delicate loop tools and do this on the thin stems before use to head that damage off at the pass.
Doing so should ensure years of break-free sculpting.
What does the targeting system of an acoustic torpedo have to with painting skin tones?
Quite a lot actually, and it’s rather straightforward when you see how. Each time you stick some rubber onto a face, there usually follows the task of making that piece of rubber look like it belongs to the rest of the face, to hide itself in plain sight. To accurately reproduce skin colours is a thankless task, as when done correctly it ceases to look like anything has been done.
I still get nervous EVERY time I have to do it because each time is a performance and nothing is guaranteed – there is scope for error.
However, despite that there are a few very simple principles you can cling to that remain regardless of your level of confidence. Lets look at them to help you create your own step-by-step method for making the fake match the face.
There’s three videos in this post so if you are having trouble making your appliances match the skin, then these could help you!
This was the presentation I did at the 2015 UMAExpo in London this April, so I have reworked it and added some extra things as I think it would be a helpful resource for fellow travellers on the skin-tone matching journey.
Assuming everything has gone as planned in the manufacture of the appliance, making a prosthetic blend seamlessly into surrounding skin isn’t always easy. Matching the colour involves recreating how the colour is distributed within the skin. It isn’t just one single flat colour.
There is variation in skin colouration from very obvious things like freckles, veins etc. to barely perceptible flecks. Outer forearms tend to catch more sunlight over time than the back, instep or upper arm for example so usually are darker or exhibit sun damage more readily for example.
Unless it is an intentional, heavily made up appliances with thick layers of foundation will look opaque and flat, and appear very ‘masky’ and fake. This is why paint primers for car body work are a flat, matt neutral colour like grey – it will show up the imperfections in a surface allowing you to identify and repair them before the final colour is applied.
With a pre made prosthetic, it is made as a single mass of material which is usually one colour – albeit a (hopefully) good match, but still a single tone over the entire area. The larger the appliance, the greater the area of real skin and variation you will have to recreate.
Typically, extensive prosthetics will be pre painted before application to speed things up in the makeup chair, but unless you know what colours to put where, it isn’t much use. Here are a few tips and tricks you can do to help oil the wheels of success and damp the flames of frustration.
When painting any appliances, it helps to consider the three main factors involved, and they all have a bearing on how the paint job will go. To make this sound more important, I have chosen to call them pillars.
1. Skin colour
For the sake of argument, we are trying to make the appliance look like it is the same colouring as the person’s real skin. If you want to smother someone in solid green, that’s going to be easier than recreating their natural skin tone.
2. Appliance base colour
This would ideally be a good colour that matches the person. This is not guaranteed. Sometimes you may have a piece which isn’t the right colour and you will have to correct it to make it match. This may be because the person who mixed up the silicone base made a mistake, or the performer has gotten a tan since the pieces were made. Damn you, lazy days on the beach!
The products you use and the manner in which you apply them is of course the critical step in you being able to bridge any gaps between the first two factors. I mean pillars.
Tip 1 – Be familiar with the face before you start slapping anything on it.
Get to learn what colours are in the face and where they are. It helps to start with a picture of the person beforehand. Have a good clear image of their face in good light and study what colours they have and where. Almost meditate to it, get really aware of their colouring.
It takes a while, kind of like being outside in bright sunlight and stepping through into a dark and gloomy room, your eyes need to physically adjust to permit the reduced amount of light in. So it is with colour – often when you start you just see ‘skin’. After a while you can start to see subtle variations on pigment, and then they gradually become more obvious.
If you are matching the skin tone of the person, at least to begin with, it helps to have a clear image of what you are about to cover up. If you can make the piece of rubber you stick on look like the skin underneath it, then any kind of character makeup you do over the top of this will be happening over a realistic looking face.
Tip 2 – If the colour is wrong, it probably only needs a touch of one of three colours to get better.
It essentially boils down to the three primary colours. It needs to be bluer, redder or yellower – or a combination of those colours.
Your average desktop printer can shoot out colour photos using just those colours and black. I’m not suggesting you go back to basic and only carry primary colours – we have makeup which is formulated to better approximate a variety of skin tones. But it helps you so much to focus of the rough direction it needs to go, and choose the appropriate colour accordingly.
This is when really analysing the persons skin colour in advance pays off. If you have figured they are ruddy, olive toned or tend to redden easily then you can quite confidently select the appropriate shade for around the nose, under eyes etc. and pack in those variations quicker.
Tip 3 – Use Photoshop to Reveal Where those colours are hiding.
There are a couple of tools in Photoshop which are great for simplifying to colours on a face, and allow you to focus your search if looking at a photograph of a face doesn’t seems to reveal much to you at first.
Posterize for posterity.
One is Posterize (Image>Adjustments>Posterize). If you are not familiar with the term, it basically means taking the millions of available colours in an image and reducing them into fewer groups so a simplified version of the image is created.
It was used for creating cheap posters, where the colour printing process was not especially sophisticated and so colour images would be rendered in three or four colours, like this:
How does this help? Well, in Photoshop, you can choose the level of simplification to recreate the image from level2 to level 255.
Doing so will reveal in a much simplified way where the significant dark and light areas are located – usually around the base of the nostrils, mouth corners, under eyes and above the lids etc. Not so much pushing boundaries as actually locating them.
Check out the video below to see posterize in action!
Tip 4 – The Channels Window
Aha! The Channels window (Window>Channels). An image on any screen – no matter how detailed or complex it may appear is basically made up of red, green and blue light and is therefore known therefore known as an ‘RGB’ mode image.
You can actually toggle off any of those individual colours in Photoshop which is a great way to reveal where abouts in the image they are.
Photoshop is able to be display images in a number of modes, so switch the mode to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key black) by clicking on Image>Mode>CMYK. This is the mode which is used for images intended to be printed.
Looking at an image of a face, by dropping all but the red channel, you get a better idea of where the reds are situated. It basically gives you an exaggerated map of where those colours reside in that image. That can help you understand where the colours are distributed about the face. Use that information to inform where you will need to add more of those tones in your makeup.
Check out the video on the channels window below!
Tip 5 – Use Photoshop to put numbers on those colours.
I did a blog post on this a while ago, and it is still a handy trick to help quantify the rather abstract notion of colour. By using the colour-picker tool, you can choose an area or even an individual pixel and see what percentage of that colour is Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black.
This is really handy for identifying amounts of red/yellow/blue in any given area. Often the numbers are surprising and it’s quite an education to see precisely what goes into making up a skin tone.
Check out this example of an image I took from a workshop I did recently. You can see the skin colour of the arm, and the appliance colour. It is clear there is a difference between the appliance and the skin, but specifically what is that difference and how do you make up the deficit of colour to correct it?
Using the colour picker tool, you can see quite clearly that the skin has a lot more cyan, magenta and yellow, as well as black to darken. By actually having numbers on there, you can locate roughly the amounts needed to add to get much closer to a match.
Check out the video below to see what I mean!
Tip 6 – Think like a torpedo.
Think like a what now? Well, a sea-launched torpedo has an interesting way of finding its target. It usually has a sonar system which ‘pings’ out a sound wave and listens to the returning echo to decide where the target is.
Given that boat, the submarine and the torpedo are constantly moving in water, it needs to constantly ping out a sound, listen to where the strongest echo is coming from and then change course accordingly, constantly modifying.
When it is first launches, it is far away and naturally the biggest changes in direction take place, and it steers left or right to align with the centre of the target as best it can.
As it gets closer, the adjustments of left to right become smaller and smaller until it finally is travelling straight and BOOM, it it’s the target.
That is kind of how I approach painting appliances. Once the piece is on and all gluing is finished, I start out with an honest judgement as to what is missing on the piece – what exactly does the skin have that the piece does not? It’s about spotting what’s missing first before adding. Is the skin darker? Redder? Yellower? Greener?
Usually start with red or pink. Absence of red is common with pieces because the blood under the skin is showing through in some places more than others. Sides of nose, cheeks, lips etc usually will have more red. It may be vague misting or it could be quite defined as with capillaries and veins etc. You usually need some red to make it look real.
Choose the right red, cooler or warmer. Warmer usually has more yellow in it, and for people with warmer skin tones then a warmer red is better.
For some people who are paler, pinky reds are better. I use the Rose Adjuster a lot for this in the standard Skin Illustrator palette.
Once you think there is enough red, you can go in with yellow, or a yellowy brown if you think it needs to be yellower and darker. The Cedar Brown is nice, and Midnight Brown is excellent at muting and darkening too.
Each of these colours is making a smaller and smaller amount of adjustment – the first choices as to whether it needs to be darker/redder etc. are bold and the most drastic. As each layer of colour is laid down, they become more subtle and less obvious. Each colour makes a tiny tweak and nudges the piece ever closer to correct. When the difference between the skin and the piece is not noticeable, then you’ve hit your target!
Tip 7 – Failure
Painting skin tones, especially on appliances that you have made yourself from start to finish means it can carry so much weight in your head. It feels like a lot is riding on it, you’ve invested so much time and along the way all the processes that could have gone wrong didn’t so the final piece feels like a precious and unique jewel.
That can make anything less than perfection feel like a crushing failure. If that is not you, then congratulations, you are a rare and lucky individual. If it is you, then you have to acknowledge that feeling of disappointment. Feel it, swim in it then step out and look afresh at it objectively. What, precisely, is wrong? Is it too dark/yellow/muddy/messy/pale/clean.
Identify the problem in a broad way, then tentatively nudge it towards what is missing. The issue is a colour issue, – not a ‘you’ issue. That way it isn’t failure any more.
As the late, great Zig Ziglar said ‘Remember that failure is an event, not a person’.
This last update on the UMAE makeup will take you through the casting of silicone appliances, and how the ear moulds were made.
Thanks to Julie-Ann Ryan for the application and hair skills and to Chris Lyons of Fangs FX for the teeth. Jonathan J. Joslin from Fangs FX also jumped in and helped with the makeup for the arms too after he fitted Emma for her teeth, so double duty!
Thanks especially of course to Emma-Louise Procter who sat through the whole thing, endured full head casts, teeth casts and gave up a day just so we could make her look fugly! I owe ya.
It’s just that character makeups don’t come along nearly as often, and so I am indulging myself utterly.
For this years UMA Expo (United Makeup Artist Expo) in London, I have decided to create a character makeup which is a lot of fun. Working on Emma, a fab artist whom I met on season 4 of Game of Thrones, I am creating a messed up and scary-assed individual who wouldn’t look out of place on a Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer show.
To see where it is up to now, check out the video below. Warning – technical geekery afoot.
As ever with these kinds of makeups, the first task is to acquire the head to work upon, and so lifecasting earlier this year in silicone we got an absolute cracking lifecast to start work on.
Once the whole head was master moulded in silicone (for this process in detail, check out the video series on this very subject I did a while back), cores for sculpting could be made.
The sculpting core was plaster, and painted with grey acrylic paint to match the grey plastiline I like to use. That way, the sculpt doesn’t appear separate from the face and is less distracting.
The cast is then prepped with a couple of coats of a release agent (Scopas parting agent from Tiranti, similiar to Alcote) which can be sculpted onto when dry, and later reactivated in water when I am ready to make individual moulds of the pieces.
I plan to sculpt the face as one, to see how it all looks and then break it down into a face piece with nose and both cheeks, a separate chin and a neck with two ear appliances, making it a total of five individual appliances.
I also cover how the modified cores were made for the various appliances in the video too, so check out the processes there.
The biggest effort goes into making the cores nicer to work on and mould later, so taking the bottom lip and chin out to make it easier to sculpt the top lip, and vice versa for the bottom lip…moulding, remoulding, core moulds. It’s always the most amount of effort on the things people don’t actually see. I liken it to working as a chef – it’s cool to like good food and all, but you have to love the back of house stuff that goes into making it if you want to run a kitchen.
Just enjoying a nice meal doesn’t mean you can be a chef, an likewise seeing a cool makeup in a movie doesn’t mean you would enjoy doing what it takes to actually create one. Those processes are for me fascinating and I get lost in doing them. This video is a bit of a geek fest for which I make no apologies.
As always, comments below and questions always welcome.
UMAE 2015 is in London, April 11th and 12th. Come & say hi if you can make it!
I apologise for such a lengthy radio silence, only for me last year kicked off early and didn’t stop until last orders.
There was a couple of movies and then a long stint on season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones which was fun. If you watch the show, you will no doubt imagine the kind of work involved, and it kept me busy as part of a pretty big crew.
Todd and I have been chatting, and as we both let the blogging slip because of work we are back with a plan to do more podcasts to give responses to email questions on a regular basis.
Todd has been swamped in theatre stuff, notably productions of Shrek and Pinocchio – both with huge makeup challenges given the live performance nature of theatre. No change for a second take or touch ups!
So, we caught up in this podcast to get the ball rolling again – listen here or download it from here to listen to later. It was recorded on Friday 13th….so it isn’t about the movie Friday the 13th, so sorry to the Michael Myers fans…..this time we’re talking plaster heads and master moulds, plastiline and apps to help design.
One thing I realised is that to make blog posts (and of course especially videos), I really need to make something which of course takes time. Last year was so solid that there really wasn’t any spare time to make much, and when the trade hows rolled around, I had prepared much at all.
So this year I am making a few character makeups to give me deadlines and spur me on just like my normal work life.
Plaster head cast, all ready to mould.
To that end, I did a full head cast of Emma Procter, a fantastic trooper who I met in the workshop last year. The cast was done in silicone (I tried Go Cast by PS Composites which worked great) and I had the help of Julia Plant and David Brown, two folks who have worked with me in the past and who I trust implicitly.
The plaster head from this silicone mould was cleaned up (the odd air bubble and the bulk of hair from the bald cap shaved down) and fitted to a base board, made level and smoothed out at the base to make it smooth, solid and ready to master mould.
On Instagram? Be sure to check me out as often live updates will get posted fresh from the workshop.
Plastiline is the main material used to sculpt appliances. Essentially it is a wax based clay which doesn’t dry out, much like Plasticine that kids play with.
There are different brands with different qualities, and like anything where there is choice, people prefer different things and it can see confusing when you start out.
One make which is popular is Chavant, which make a number of plastilines in different softnesses as some people have stronger fingers or prefer a softer clay. They also make harder types for sculpting things with sharper detail.
One benefit of plastiline is that being a wax based material, it softens with heat and hardens with cold. This being the case, the temperature of where you work is a consideration. Blazing hot summer time? Plastiline will be soft in the heat. Freezing cold because of a rubbish central heating boiler of excess of air conditioning? Then you plastiline will be firmer.
Another plastiline which is popular is Monster Clay, which is a great plastiline and comes in a tub which is microwaveable for easy reheating. Thoughtful! Many FX supplierss tock it so try some if you fancy a quality sculpting material which is endlessly reusable.
In the UK, a lot or workshops use a grey or ivory coloured plastiline from ‘J. Herbin’. It comes in different grades and the lower the number, the softer it is. 50 and 55 are most popular but there is a 60 which is harder and a 70 which is harder still. Jacobson Chemicals and Neills Materials supply it in the UK, so hunt around for stockists.
I’m am not a great creature designer. The reason I know that for sure is because I know personally some great designers who can do it and trust me….I can tell. That’s not to say I can’t create something from a design given to me – making isn’t the issue. It’s coming up with the initial concept which I find difficult. If you are the same then here is a little tip that could be helpful.
I had an email from someone who wanted advice about doing a human/ape hybrid makeup.
I figured, as such a well trodden path that it would be tough to do something which would stand out. It occurred to me (given that I didn’t know the design ability of this person) that a good way to get started may be to use a morphing app.
I figured if you get an image of an ape you like from somewhere, and then took a picture your subject at the same angle, you could use a morphing app to create a series of images which would essentially do some of the work for you.
By selecting a satisfactory mid-range image of the transformation, you can get a rough idea of what the face would look like at varying percentages of ape-ness. Although the image it creates won’t be perfect by any means, it certainly can give a solid starting point from which you can start blocking out a rough design.
This quick test using a pic of me and a monkey took no talent or skill whatsoever, but would be a great starting point for a design.
I find this almost always gets me over that initial hump of starting out – once there is something there it can gain momentum. I think a decent app can provide that starting point, and it doesn’t take any creativity to get going. If like me you have creative blocks at the start, it can be a real lifesaver.
Try it with other creatures/animals/insects/sealife and see what turns up. It’s a little like rolling ‘design-dice’ but there aren’t any expensive consequences.
Just a chance that you can stir up the creative sediment in your brain!
Flat moulds are very handy, and can be used to make even rather sophisticated makeups.
However, each time you cast out an appliance it is a performance, and of course things can go awry.
Here are five of the main mistakes often made when making pieces with flat moulds and how to address them! Scroll down to check out the video Mitch and I made at Brick In The Yard to illustrate these easy to avoid issues!
#1. Not releasing the moulds properly.
Vaseline, cheap and cheerful and readily available. Ultra 4, a good Epoxy Parfilm isn’t cheap but t is excellent!
Silicone is renown for it’s release properties – it’s one of the reasons its a great material to make moulds out of. However, it it can grip cap plastic well enough to ruin a piece during removal.
If cap plastic sticks a little to the mould, it can cause the silicone gel of the appliance to come away from the cap plastic, and this is known as delamination. It can be repaired if it happens in a small patch, but it’s naturally better to avoid this completely by ensuring the mould is correctly released before the cap plastic is applied.
Silicone is a material which is thirsty for oils. It is certainly waterproof (show close up of mould in water and beading up) but oils and some solvents can be absorbed into the surface of the silicone mould – solvents including those of the cap plastic. It is possible to paint your cap plastic onto a bare mould and have it stick either completely or just slightly enough to damage the edges of the delicate appliance.
The way to help stop this from happening is to smother the mould in a thick layer of Vaseline and leave it for an hour or two. Let the thirsty mould absorb and drink in as much of the oily Vaseline as it wants. Then, you can wipe out the excess which is filling in all that precious detail, and either apply a thin layer of Vaseline (or any petroleum jelly -I’m not brand-fanatic!) rubbed well in, or spray it with a mould release such as an Epoxy Parfilm.
This is especially true of new moulds which have not yet had any release applied to them.
The point is, if the mould has been allowed to suck up all that oily Vaseline, it won’t suck the release you apply or the thinned cap plastic. The result is the appliance should more easily come out from the mould, meaning less stress on that precious, fine cap plastic barrier.
#2. Not Applying The Cap Plastic Barrier Correctly.
Super Baldies, the magical barrier which works amazingly well for appliances.
Appliances obviously need a thin edge to successfully blend into the surrounding skin, but it is possible to apply it too thinly which can result in a barrier which has holes in it.
This could mean it can tear when removing the piece from the mould, and make it difficult to apply if the flashing is no longer attached.
If airbrushing, make sure the cap plastic is thin enough to successfully go through the airbrush without clogging or cob-webbing, but also not so thin that there isn’t enough cap plastic actually being left behind on each pass. The more thinned the cap plastic is, the more layers you will need to apply in order to achieve a desirable thickness.
It is important to spray your cap plastic right to the edge of the mould, so that you can pick up the edge and lift it with a pin to see the thickness remaining.
Remember the solvents will evaporate – it is the cap plastic which remains.
By lifting the edge with a pin on a few different places around the mould, you can monitor the actual thickness of the barrier. If it isn’t thick enough, you can add more and by checking at the edge of the mould, you won’t damage the appliance itself.
If you get the barrier too thick and apply too many layers, then the final appliance will leave a noticeable thick edge on the skin and make it hard to blend. If you do have a barrier which is too thick, it’s better to pull out the barrier and start over, making sure to step back this time. You can add more layers if it’s too thin, but you can’t take them away again!
How thick is too thick?
It’s hard to define it because the thickness’s involved are too small to measure, but once you have a cap plastic barrier which has tiny pinholes visible when stretched out on the pin, it’s time to add another layer and that should do it.
I usually thin cap plastic with 5 parts solvent when airbrushing, and 3 parts when applying with a standard brush.
It is hard to say just how many layers you apply, as more solvent-heavy mix means you will need more passes to accumulate the plastic thickness. Remember, the solvents evaporate away – only the small percentage of that mix which is cap plastic will remain! It may appear like a heavy slick applied, but most of that will evaporate away!
Some people panic and whip the airbrush across the mould really quickly, leaving a light coat each time. Others are slower or use more pressure when spraying, and consequently leave more cap plastic as a result. The trick is to do what you do, and regularly check the result at the edge of the mould to see what you have left. That way, you will get a feel for how many layers YOU need to apply, based on how you work.
Airbrushed barriers are thinner, more consistent and evaporate quicker but naturally require you to have access to an airbrush and compressor. If you have a wide makeup brush (or even a chip-brush at a push) to use instead, this will be fine as an alternative.
It won’t be as neat, but it will work!
#3. Not Scraping The Mould Properly.
Once the cap plastic is applied, you pour in your silicone gel and you need to scrape the moulds quickly and cleanly to make sure edges are thin. Make sure you use a scraper which is wider than the mould so you can do the manoeuvre in one, swift movement. You can use plastic or steel scrapers – it really doesn’t matter which.
Scraping at a good angle will help ensure the silicone is scraped properly. Too low an angle means that the blade of the scraper flexes too much. If the scraper is held at 45° or more, then you are likely to get a cleaner edge.
It may take a few attempts, but if you press firmly when you wipe the scraper, you should completely wipe clean the silicone from the cutting edge.
If you place a light source such as a desk lamp on the opposite side from your viewpoint, you can see the light reflecting off the shiny surface of the silicone. This will make it much easier to see if the cutting edge of the appliance is totally clear of silicone. You will know it is clean when you can see the edge of the mould as a bone-dry ridge, surrounded either side by shiny silicone. If it isn’t bone dry, then you need to scrape it again or use cotton tipped swabs to wipe it.
The bone-dry cutting edge of the appliance is a sign that the appliance should have good edges.
Using cotton swabs will take a little longer than scraping it correctly, so if you have many moulds to run at once, it really helps to get your scraping technique down!
Wiping the edges of twenty moulds at once with cotton swabs may mean the silicone starts setting up before you get to the last mould and that stress isn’t fun.
If you do have lots of moulds to run or the weather is warm where you are, consider running fewer moulds at a time so you have enough time to adequately scrape them. You can also chill the components or use a retarder to slow the cure!
Obviously make sure you pour and scrape on a flat and level work surface, and allow some space between each mould. If you are using he same scraper for multiple moulds then be sure to keep some paper towel handy to help clean the scraper and deal with any spills or drips that can easily happen when you are working fast.
#4. Not Allowing The Cap Plastic Enough Time To Evaporate Before Removing Appliance.
Patience, Jedi! Allowing time for the cap plastic to mature and firm up is an important consideration.
This is a big one, and can make a huge difference to the quality of your appliances. Essentially, it takes a while for cap plastic to reach it’s full strength, and rushing the demould can stretch out the cap plastic too much.
The solvents used in cap plastic, either alcohol or acetone, do appear to evaporate quite quickly. However, small amounts can remain for some time and this can mean the cap plastic remains weak until it has completely flashed off. It’s a good idea to leave the cap plastic to dry up for an hour or more before filling with silicone if possible, and leaving the mould for a few hours or preferably overnight before actually removing the piece from the mould.
If you do leave it long enough to mature like this, you will find you can get pieces out of a well released mould with much thinner edges than you thought, making it possible to have pieces which blend into the skin much better.
#5. Storing Appliances Badly Before Use.
A appliance stored badly can fold and flap about, damaging it permanently.
The best way to keep appliances safe until they are ready to use is to pin them to foam core board through the flashing. This way they are kept flat and secure, allowing them to be transported more easily.
By trimming the foam core to a size which fits neatly into a box, you stack layers of pieces in this way, protecting the lower layer from the one above it with layers of tissue paper or paper towel.
If appliances flap around and get folded over or crushed, they can take on creases and become damaged permanently. By pinning them onto a board carefully, you can be sure that the piece is kept flat and won’t move around during transit.
Pin that bad boy down, and it will stay nice and flat no matter how bumpy the ride!
I like those beaded pins you can get, although T-Pins (the kind used for holding wigs to wig blocks) are also pretty good. They don’t need to be especially long pins either – 25mm/1 inch would be plenty long enough.
When pinning them, make sure the pins go in at an acute angle rather than 90°. That way, they appliance won’t slide off the board, and the pins will stay in the foam core better rather than poking through the other side. If that happens, you can damage the piece underneath, or even yourself. Ouch!
If foam core isn’t easy for you to get hold of, then sections cut from a cardboard box will do the job okay. Essentially, it just needs to be flat and thick enough to retain the pins. The ‘Really Useful Box’ company make various sizes of plastic storage boxes. These kinds of boxes are ideal for stacking layers of foam core laden with appliances for ready access later.
We needed to make some bull guts for a scene in which a seer would use the innards of a slayed beast to predict the outcome of a battle (as you do in the absence of solid intelligence of your enemy, drones and remote missile launch capabilities).
(Stuarts note: I had made a lot of guts for Saving Private Ryan and Shaun of the Dead, but these were not moulded from real guts!).
It was mentioned that they wanted to use real guts for the scene, as it was thought fake ones would look fake (Ahem! Challenge accepted!) Of course health and safety issues rang up, among just the eeeew! of it all. So we decided instead to make some. A brave soul went and fetched some freshly removed innards from an abattoir and before moulding, I decided to take some pics.
They were enormous – much bigger than I realised. We had lungs, a liver, a heart and a kidney. I was going to sculpt the intestines as I figured their lengthy, floppy and gelatinous nature would not be easy to mould. I used the real guts as reference to inform how these would look – there are always gloopy bits of non-descript tissue hanging off stuff and I had enough pictures of intestines to keep me going.
I have also done similar things using something called ‘fat-back’- from butchers which is basically a 12″ square of pig skin with half an inch of fat still attached (pork rinds, anyone?). It was handy to smash it, stab it, hit it with hammers, burn it and just generally abuse it to recreate the surface trauma that skin can receive.
It could then be moulded so we could study what the surface actually looked like. Also the idea occurred to me if you can, for example, burn the skin surface with a blowtorch and then mould the result, you would be able to observe the three dimensional surface only without the distraction of colour!
Often when you look at pictures of real wounds, they are smothered with bruising and blood which can make it difficult to discern what is shape and what is colour. Doing this, there can be no doubt as to what the surface topography was without the distraction of colour or blood, dirt and other elements.
It’s interesting to me, as you realise how much you embellishment you can add when sculpting wounds. It’s really easy to go over the top in the name of dramatic effect when in fact, the surface indications of real damage is often understated.
I don’t have images of these experiments, so Todd and I thought we should do something similar for your delectation. Moulding real things instead of sculpting is nothing new – but we figured as the final post of the ‘sculpting’ trilogy it would be fun to focus on harvesting real textures to create some gore.
Only this time, we figured it would be interesting to focus on the effects of firearms.
Gunshot trauma varies with the myriad of variables possible, from type of gun, type of round, range, whether the round passed through wall, glass or ricochets before hitting the body….there are so many possible outcomes.
If you need to create the effects of a gunshot wound then reading up on the weapon and circumstance will help. For the most part however, there are many similarities. Obviously the skin is broken by the round passing through it, and penetrative trauma of some degree occurs.
The round may or may not exit the body, there may or may not be stippling of powder residue, the edges of the wound can be burnt, the skin may split….etc.
Well, by shooting up a load of large pieces of meat with skin intact, we study the effects up close and see how it looks from all angles, including the back to examine the effects first-hand without any human injury involved.
If you’ve already listened to our Podcast on this subject, now you can see the images that I… we… hope will help it all make more sense.
Also, check out the video of some of the shots, you get an idea of just how much power is emitted and just how quickly:
Let me start off by saying, “I F#*KING LOVE SCIENCE!” And I’ll tell you why after a brief preamble. Stuart and I have been talking recently (we talk quite a lot, actually, when we’re not both up to our eyeballs in one thing or another) about textures. Not skin textures, which we do actually talk about, but tissue textures. Veins, muscle, tendons, bone, fascia, fat… you know, cool stuff.
Not a lot of people know that my career path started out originally down a surgical medicine track, so I still have somewhat of a vested interest in the sciency side of makeup effects, and tissue is a big subject to cover. If you’re going to be creating tissue and tissue damage, etc. as part of a makeup, you want to get it right, right?
There are four groups of tissue in the human body:
There are two kinds of epithelial tissue (epithelial tissue protects your body from moisture loss, bacteria, or bacterial infection, and internal injury):
One kind covers or lines almost all of your internal and external body surfaces, such as the outermost layer of your skin and other organs, and the internal surface lining of your digestive tract, and your lymph system.
The other kind secretes hormones or other stuff like stomach acid, sweat, saliva, and milk.
Nervous tissue forms your nervous system (duh), which orchestrates all movements and activities of your body. Parts you may be familiar with are your brain, your spinal cord, and the nerves that branch off of those two important parts. Nervous tissue is made up of two kinds of nerve cells:
Neurons, which are the basic structural component of your nervous system, and
Neuroglia, also called glial cells, which provide support, such as insulating or anchoring neurons to blood vessels.
Connective tissue is the glue that provides structure and support to your body, and there are two kinds of connective tissue:
Fibrous connective tissue is found tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone, and is the more rigid of the two types.
Loose connective tissue also holds structures together, but is more flexible, and holds the outer layer of your skin to the underlying muscle tissue. This stuff is also in fat, lymph glands and your red bone marrow. Yum!
The fourth group of tissue is muscle. It differs from the other tissue types in that it contracts; muscle tissue is available in three styles: Cardiac, Smooth, and Skeletal. Those muscle tissues are made up of fibers that contain many myofibrils, which are the actual parts of the fibers that do the contracting.
Cardiac muscle is obviously found in the heart.
Smooth muscle lines the walls of blood vessels and certain organs, such as your digestive (stomach, intestines) and your urogenital (naughty bits) tracts.
Skeletal muscle is attached to bones (by fibrous connective tissue) and allows movements of your body by bending at joints (which are cushioned and protected by fibrous connective tissue!)
All that being said, what Stu and I want to do is show you this stuff for real so you will have good reference material to work from, as well as to show you ways to create your tissue sculpts by actually using REAL TISSUE!
I am now considered to be a very strange fellow at several butcher shops around the city where I live. Go with your strengths, I say…
Note : I think this looks like Alien Labia. Just sayin’…..
The first stage of the Real Tissue Project was to hit up my local grocer for some meat I would never willingly put in my mouth. Such as beef heart….
…a big ‘ol hunk of beef bone with some muscle, veins and fat attached (for making soup)…
…and a heaping portion of beef honeycomb tripe.
If you don’t know what tripe is, it is made from one of the three chambers of a cow’s stomach: the rumen (blanket/flat/smooth tripe), the reticulum (honeycomb and pocket tripe), and the omasum (book/bible/leaf tripe). If you do know what tripe is and actually eat it, you need help (JK).
Stu and I decided that it wouldn’t be enough to just show you good, high resolution photos of these various tissues. No. We need to mold it so we can do clay pours and incorporate the actual textures into a wound sculpture.
Now the obvious comment would be, “Why not use the images as reference and just sculpt the tissue?” The obvious answer is, “Well, you can.” But Stu and I figured there’s nothing wrong with having authenticity on our side, and what’s more authentic than clay tissue molded from real tissue? Answer: Using the real tissue.
Here are some of the fake guts that Stuart was talking about at the top of the blog. Real ones would have gotten pretty ripe as the day went on…
However, for our purposes, clay pours using Monster Clay into silicone molds made from real tissue is what I did, and I’m pretty pleased with the results:
However, there are a couple of other methods that can yield pretty good results too. One is pouring hot melt vinyl into cold water (this vinyl is clear so not really as visible) – I confess my results were less than remarkable as you can see here…
but I did have good results with soft polyfoam; this is Smooth-On Flex Foam 6 that I tinted to look like innerds. As the foam began to expand, I took a craft stick and just began swirling it around and when the foam began to set up, it began to take on a very random tissue-y look that I think will make an outstanding mold to work with.
So anyway, our task became acquiring portions of meat that we could abuse that would react similarly to human tissue damage that would/could occur in combat… without spending a lot of money. All in the name of science. The first lesson learned was that this was not going to be cheap if we wanted to do it right, and what’s the point if you’re not going to do it right?
In the name of science… and makeup effects… we got our hands on two slabs of pork belly (bacon) with the skin still attached (about 18” x 24” x 3”), and a slab of fatback (fatback is a cut of meat that consists of the layer of adipose tissue or subcutaneous fat under the skin of the back) and a slab of ribs about the same size. We all cried a little knowing we weren’t going to be able to cook any of it later…
This project was going to be conducted under strict rules of engagement, seeing as we were going to be firing live rounds into the meat from varying distances and with different caliber weapons by combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We would be firing .38 hollow point and full metal jacket, 5.56mm, .223, 9mm, and a 12 gauge shotgun (with 00 buckshot and a rifled slug), and a 20 gauge.
The second lesson learned was THIS WAS FUN!
First up was a Vietnam era Colt AR15 firing a .223 full metal jacket round. Yowza!
We fired rounds from a 9mm Glock with similar results, but a slightly larger entrance hole; what we wanted to see was a skin-contact point-blank shot from a .38 hollow point to show how the skin tends to split like a blunt force trauma avulsion. It did. Erk.
This went on for a while with the various calibers and pieces of pork. Here’s what a 12 gauge shotgun with 00 buckshot and a rifled slug will do from about 15 feet.
I missed a little…
Here’s the same 12 gauge with standard buckshot from the same distance.
That is a large hole. This is a 20 gauge sawed-off from 15 feet. Don’t ask me where it came from…
It makes a lot of noise, too. It was raining bacon. Literally. Mmm… bacon…
Next up, getting the forensic evidence back to the shop for molding. We took care to try and preserve the original shapes of the wounds, but we were transporting from a considerable distance, and even though we had a huge cooler filled with dry ice, there was going to be some disturbance of the evidence. I think we managed to save most of the original integrity of our mayhem.
We had a lot of gaping holes to choose from, and wound up molding quite a few entrances and exits.
I’m pretty sure this is a .223 entrance hole.
These are a couple shotgun entrance wounds; a 12 gauge (bottom) and a 20 gauge (top).
This is the point-blank .38 entrance.
Thanks to my stellar record keeping, I have no idea what these guys are… but they’re nasty, and very cool! Pretty certain this is one of the shotguns.
I believe this one below is the 20 gauge.
I hope you get the idea.
We now have way more molds and photos than Stu and I can possibly show you here, but we hope you can see the value of actually having molds of a real gunshot wound that can then be cast and modified to suit your particular prosthetic needs. In these wounds are all four types of tissue – Epithelial, Nervous, Connective, and Muscle. And now you have a much better grasp (we hope) on what various firearms can do to it.
PLEASE do not attempt this on your own without proper training and/or supervision! Perhaps Stu and I can incorporate these molds into our offerings to you if you are interested. Until next time!
We’re Stuart and Todd, a couple of FX guys.
We love to hear your comments and suggestions – if you like what we did then please share. Retweet the Meat, so to speak.