So, this is my turn at soloing for a brief episode of Battles with Bits of Rubber.

And, depending on responses to my musings, perhaps Stuart and I can extend this into a longer broadcast with tips from you all on how to get rid of unwanted and no longer needed stuff.

As usual, you can get the podcast on iTunes/apple podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, Soundcloud….basiclally wherever podcasts are found. Not sure what this podcast nonsense is all about? Email me for help:

Hi. My name is Todd. And I’m a pack rat.
(Hi, Todd!)

Let’s face it, most of us have too much stuff. Stuff we don’t use, stuff we don’t need, and stuff we don’t even remember getting.

So how do you get rid of it?! I can look around my office, shop and studio and wonder when the crew from Hoarders is arriving. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because at least I’m not navigating through canyons of stacked magazines and newspapers, but… it’s easy to lose sight of my office from certain vantage points because of props, molds and masks… I can be looking for something – and it can even be in plain view – but it will take me a bit to see it amidst everything else. I either need more space, or less stuff. The answer is less stuff.

But how do you part with something you may need later? There’s a psychology to it… maybe even a pathology… I’ve been collecting and adding to bins of doodads and thingamabobs (I swear they even multiply by themselves!) for what seems like eons that I know I’ll find a cool use for someday.

I need help. I’m never going to use that shit. Who do I think I’m kidding? 2018 may be the Year of the Dog for China, but for me it is The Year of the Purge. I started reading a book by Japanese author Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

I haven’t finished it yet, but the gist of it is this: Figure out which items ‘spark joy’ and which don’t. The items that don’t, heave ho! I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, but I confess I am making headway.

Perhaps I need to put in a call to American Pickers. It’s just that I’m in a business that requires stuff, and lots of it. There has to be a way to make do and do well with a leaner inventory and library of stuff. This is my start. Take a listen and let us know what you think.



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I had the great privilege to be asked to teach some masters degree students at Theaterakademie August Everding in Munich, Germany recently.

I had a splendid time!

The three students I worked with all had ambitious, figurative projects which they had been working on for some weeks when I arrived for my five day stint there.

Click below to stream or download the file. You can subscribe to our podcast, Battles With Bits Of Rubber on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and pretty much all podcatcher apps or platforms.

  • Daniel Riedl had made a full size figure leaning out of a bath and was in the final sculpting stages preparing to make ready for moulding.
  • Julian Hutcheson had just moulded his sculpt of a male torso, and in the week we mixed and cast out the silicone in the chosen flesh tone (Moldstar 20 from Smooth-On).
  • Caterina Veronesi had sculpted a scale figure of herself which will be cast in silicone and was also in the final sculpting atges and preparing to make the mould.

Left to right: Stuart, Daniel, Julian & Caterina.

We had a great group chat to discuss how things work there, the education system (It’s a free, government paid education which requires an extensive interview process which is a completely different model to the business-style version most makeup education systems work to) and the expected quality of work such a system produces.

One great project they had was to take classic roman marble sculptures and create realistic portrait busts based on them. This was a great project as it revealed the licence artists took to portray an idealised version of someone who perhaps would really have been a good deal less attractive in reality – the Photoshop of it’s day.

By studying the people depicted, discrepancies between reported ages and health reveal how much the idealised versions deviated from reality.

The original marble bust and lifelike interpretation by Julian Hutcheson.

We also chat about how important beer is, making your own silicone wig blocks, using Monster Clay in a cold environment as well as the re-emerging point of the unavoidable trinity in all creative endeavours:

Dividing up large appliances

Michael Pennington got in touch through our email ( with a question about how best to know where one should divide up appliance sculpts to break them down into smaller pieces. As Todd points out, much of this is a hangover from foam latex and the shrinkage which was inevitable with that material. Silicone howver has none of these shrinkage issues, so we don’t always need to divide it in the same way.

That said, there are often good reasons to make a large appliance makeup into smaller, more manageable pieces. The most logical place to do this is where the sculpture is at its thinnest, and to try and keep edges in easier to hide areas where possible, such as where there is naturally a crease or shadow.

This was covered in more detail in a post from a while back, ‘Floating Pieces‘ where you will also find a workbook with lots of in-depth information:

‘Cheap Cheap Cheap’ shouldn’t be ‘Shit Shit Shit’

Whenever we do a video tutorial, I can guarantee that someone will want to do it for less money.  This is of course an inevitable occurrence, as it is quite sensible to not spend money you don’t need to. However, there does come a point where substituting can become so obsessive that eventually the end result can just look like a pile of crap.

I do a wax scar, someone wants to make their own wax becasue it’s too expensive. If I had a makeup using good wishes and exhaled air, someone somewhere would want to economise on that somehow.

(I know of people who have made their own wax, but if you don’t put a dollar value on your time or you seriously have a great idea to improve it then fine – but to me wax IS the cheaper and quicker way compared to sculpting, moulding and casting an appliance!)

Whilst it is true that skill will ‘work well with anything’, I can assure you top pro makeup kits do not have packs of cured meats and jam instead of makeup products to use on their screen talent. If mashed banana looks just right for fat, or pus or brains then fantastic.

Just don’t extend that to ‘I’ll never need to buy another makeup product again’.

Good – Quick – CheapPick two because you can’t have all three“.

Once you’ve seen outsanding makeup work done first-hand, then your priorities change. You decide instead of trying to do something as quick and cheap as possible, you would rather try and do something as good as possible. Like that trinity of choices above, pick two and decide which you would rather have in your portfolio.

Make sure that ‘Good’ is one of the options, because in the final picture which lives on, you can’t see cost or time.

Latex is a material that often gets used in colleges because it is cheap and easy to get. Howver, it requires more skill to paint it to appear like real skin than silicone appliances, so there is always a trade off. We would encourage you to get good at using cheap materials on a small scale, and then gradually scale up as you improve.

Beware clickbait and attention grabbing use of foodstuffs – if there was a way of not buying makeup then we can assure you working professionals would be the first in line at the grocery store!

Jam may be fine for a kids Halloween party, but it won’t do you any favours in a working portfolio.

Till next time.

Stuart & Todd


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Podcast Episode: #27 – Stu Musings

Seven hours is a big time difference to deal with when trying to synchronise a podcast with two people.

To help with that, Todd and I figured we’d add some extra single features to help keep the show moving.


Stream or download below, we are also on Spotify, iTunes…wherever you get podcasts!

At Pinewood studios, I was teaching a great class which had me thinking a lot about whatwe teach and why. I seized the moment to share my observations which briefly were:

  1. When and why to premake pieces way in advance versus fabricating something up directly onto the skin.
  2. The difference between knowing about something and mastering it.
  3. Keeping a record of your efforts when trying to solve a problem.
  4. It’s hard to be subtle – heavy handed is way easier to do.
  5. The importance of mixing the correct base tone to your appliance material.
  6. Making V buying fake blood.

Links you may find useful which were mentioned:

Neill Gorton’s Make-up FX 911

Rob Smith – Blood Podcast Part 1

Rob Smith – Blood Podcast Part 2

Maekup – David Stoneman’s FX materials range

Eyeblood (Kryolan)

Questions or comments either on the blog, the facebook page or email us direct

Until next time,


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Studio Sangeet – open source and open mind

Most people learn techniques and perfect them.

Some people then take those techniques and look at what can be improved.

Sangeet falls into this camp.

He is now pretty well known for creating high quality prosthetic transfers, moulds made which contain the appliances and are used directly in their application.

As far as I can ascertain, this system was developed by Conor O’Sullivan and Rob Trenton and involves making silicone mould inserts which contain the appliances during application, speeding up the process in the chair and allowing multiple appliances to be run from the same sculpt.

Check out the podcast below stream or download it here or get it on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, iHeartRadio…whatever podcatcher app you use we should be there. Just search for Battles with bits of Rubber!

Sangeet has taken this process and developed many techniques and methods to push it even further. The transfer technique involves a lot of moulding and remoulding, and is not for the faint of heart but the results can be fantastic.Check out his website  and his range of anatomivcally accurate injury appliance flat moulds.

I chatted with Sangeet in his home studio in North London, and we spent four hours talking about moulds, standing on the shoulders of giants, using old-school materials in new ways. We covered a number of topics, including:


Check us out on Facebook, or email us direct at!

If you dig this, then share it! It would really help us out to grow the podcast.

– Stuart & Todd


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Chris Dombos & 3D Printing

3D printing is having an effect on the way things are made.

This episode talks about what those things are, how it benefits us all and how you can get involved.

Chris Dombos knows a thing or two about 3D printing, and he is also a massive FX nerd so we got on rather well. Having met him first at LA IMATS in Jan 2017 (I discovered he had some of the original Lost Boys moulds), it made sense to catch up when he came over to London recently. Of course, I figured bring the mic and make a podcast out of it. Listen below or subscribe for free in Spotify, iTunes, Apple podcasts, Soundcloud…whatever podcatcher you like to use.

We recorded in a cemetery in London, so there are background noises. The whole gamut of life – cars, sirens, passing people, kids, birds in the sky, aircraft, wind – it’s all there in a place of the dead. It’s all background, our audio is clear and we chatted about a number of great topics which matter to anyone who makes things. This includes:

  • There have been a number of auctions as big FX shops started scaling down! This means that the larger shops have all but disappeared but more smaller operations opening up.
  • Props Store London
  • Importance of design and the danger of generic, the process informing the look.
  • Occulus Medium:
  • Cost of CAD programs – the free and the fortunes.
  • Digital sculpting revealing an artists lack of anatomical understanding, and how an understanding of form is essential to good sculpture regardless of the medium – clay or pixels.
  • Costs of materials v digital process. It exists as a process, will only get better.
  • The increased incidence of joined up thinking, and how digital FX uses a team to create what would have been the job of one person, teams fitting together. For practical FX this wider collaboration is a new thing.

We also mention some great artists. These include:

Software and websites to help include:

Hope you enjoy this episode – It’s exciting and scary at the same time for me.

Check us out on Facebook, or email us direct at!

– Stuart & Todd

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Eryn Krueger Mekash

This podcast was a lot of fun to do.

I met up with the Mekashes (Eryn and Mike) at their hotel as they were over for The Prosthetics Event here in the UK.

I was lucky enough to squeeze in a face to face interview and had a frankly wonderful time chatting with a couple of lovely people who also are amazing artists and FX nerds.

Her credits include TV shows Glee, Nip/Tuck & Movies such as Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, My Sisters Keeper. As per her IMDb bio:

Eryn Krueger Mekash has 30 years of television and film industry experience as a makeup artist and is diversified in beauty, makeup effects and design. Her credits cover a wide range of productions. Eryn started her career in the special makeup effects field in Los Angeles.
Eryn has won 6 Emmys and 6 Artisan awards and well as 29 Emmy Nominations for outstanding makeup, prosthetic and non-prosthetic. She is the department head for FX’s anthology, American Horror Story (2011), and can still make a nice mold in a pinch.

Listen here, or on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. Soundcloud or whatever podcatcher you like to use. It’s a hefty one, almost 2 hours so get stuck in!

We are also now on Spotify, so check us out there too!

On Soundcloud

We talk about the great book Leading Ladies of Makeup Effects in which Eryn features, being a department head for FX heavy shows like American Horror Story, how much fun Halloween is at Rick Bakers place and recreating The Lost Boys thirty years on using pieces from the original moulds.

Todd was printing a head of himself to make ‘Chocolate Todds’ so that’s the sound you can hear in the background. Todd discusses the finishing up of his third edition to the well-known FX bible Special Makeup Effects for Stage And Screen! Hear all about the goodies in store there in the podcast.

Incidentally, the antler in question which frankly I think looks like something which needs batteries is this:

I think this looks suspect. Is it just me…?



The winner of the Steve Wang Sculpting Tool Set is Darren Pastor –

well done fella. These will be on their way to you soon!

As ever, get in touch on our Facebook page, comment here or email us

My sincerest thanks for the Mekashes for giving up their time so generously and for all the beer and pudding!

Until next time!

Stuart & Todd

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I’m still learning every day. I still make mistakes and I am still worried that every job I am about to start will go wrong. That feeling has never gone away and I suspect it never will. The trick is to get used to the sensation, understand that it isn’t abnormal and to get on with the job anyway.

There are many things which often get taught again and again at makeup school, but along the way there are also things I noticed which are vital and yet which never seem to get the same level of spotlight. In this blog post and podcast, Todd and I discuss 5 of the big ones which deserve looking at in some depth.

We gave this subject as a talk at IMATS LA 2017, but this is a recording done recently (Nov 2017) so we’re up to date and happy to hear your thoughts. Our email is

Listen or download the podcast below or from Apple Podcasts or your favourite podcast app.

If you prefer soundcloud:

1. It’s hard to be subtle.

Like a toddler learning to walk, you take massive, clumsy steps. Over time, you strengthen the muscles and acquire the motor skills to allow you to refine the walk, and gradually if all is well, you can walk without it being hilarious for other people to watch.

The same is true of making things. At first, a good proportion of your brain is overwhelmed with getting to grips with tools and materials, how they behave and what they feel like. It’s distracting at first, and you need to give yourself some time to become familiar with them and get past that in order to start using them right.

This is true for sculpting, where form is usually a secondary concern in the desperate sprint towards the fun of adding skin texture. It’s also the case for painting, where applying a small enough amount of a colour is a real skill.

Steps To Success:  It’s worth doing to big ugly messy stuff for fun, to get it out of your system, because then you can move past that desire for loud noise and move towards subtle and realistic stuff. I recommend starting out doing something small but well. Don’t spread yourself too thin over a huge makeup for a first attempt as it uses a lot of materials and if it goes wrong is an expensive way to find out something that can be established with a nose or a small cut.

I think creating small casualty effects is a good training ground for people starting out, as errors can be hidden with a bit of blood or bruising. As your confidence grows, you can start to make things cleaner and less bloody. The lessons of good edges and good colour matching can be learned with that safety net in place and then you can creep out into the light, hiding less behind the blood.

There is also an element of randomness in real skin, and allowing those real variations into the way you work will help create something that looks less contrived.

Things like flicking on washes, holding a brush from further back and  using a sponge or a second brush to move the colour around all help add a natural ‘jitter’. This measure of ‘controlled randomness’ helps the paint land on the surface in a way that better approximates the way colour is seen on real skin.

2. There Are Other Important Qualities To Recreating Skin Other Than Shape and Colour.

I remember trying to recreate The Lost Boys vampire brow with wax and then later with a latex appliance I had made as a clumsy 15 year old. I remember thinking that if I mixed up some paint that was the right colour for my skin that it would look like a piece of skin in the cup.

But of course, it doesn’t. Even if you mixed the exact perfect colour, it wouldn’t look like a patch of skin because it’s paint. It’s horizontal and in a cup….it’s wet, level and smooth because it’s paint and real skin has texture, is not one single colour and catches the light differently as the curves of anatomy take the ever changing light.


It took me a while to figure out that there are others things at play which you need to be aware of if it is your job to recreate skin.  With silicone for example, you can achieve effortless translucency in a way you just didn’t with foam. However, it’s really easy to just make something ‘translucent’ and hope that will do the work for you.

The trick is to make something the correct amount, so it is as opaque as the skin is. Richard Martin did a demo makeup and I remember looking at it and before any makeup had been painted on, you could see the opacity of it already made it work well.

As Richard himself pointed out that if it’s too translucent, the sculpted wrinkles etc. don’t cast shadows like real skin does. That means all those folds and pores that get sculpted in don’t do the job of making a skin surface look like a skin surface. They are there but you can’t see them as it’s too translucent.

Likewise you don’t want to be too opaque, but the point is to make the colour and the opacity right. The right colour but too translucent is no good.


Also the softness of the material needs to be right. Typically, silicone is made soft but you need to be able to match the softness of the skin that it is sitting on.  Long pointy ears don’t want to be flopping about like a baseball in a sock. Similarly a throat piece which can’t squish and stretch and keep up with the range of movement a neck is capable of then it too is going to look fake as it folds oddly and causes the real skin to bulge around it.

Matching the softness matters, and that may mean multiple appliances of differing softnesses rather than one big appliance.

With foam latex, high rise and softer foams move beautifully, but typically a soft foam is harder to handle – both getting it into a syringe, not trapping air bubbles and getting out of a mould….all these tasks are easier with a runnier, lower rise foam which is stiffer.  Usually, the softer and nicer something is once on, the more of a pain in the ass it is to make.

Cap Plastic

The cap plastic barriers in silicone can easily be too thick and undo the work of a nicely softened piece. Make the cap plastic as thin as you can get away with – thicker cap plastic makes it easier to handle for sure but can cause heavy wrinkling. Leaving cap plastic overnight to mature allows it to firm up, making thinner layers more durable.  This membrane we add is just how we do it right now, things will improve and we’ll get better encapsulants but this is where we are right now.


Often, when spraying cap plastic into moulds, the overriding concern is release – you just want to know that if nothing else, the appliance will just come out of the mould easily or at least undamaged. That often stems from an early attempt with too little release leading to pendulum response of overkill in release agent.

This often means the surface is shiny, and the resulting appliance may come out too shiny too. If possible, a dulling of the surface using icing sugar/powdered sugar is helpful as that means the surface is no longer hi-gloss and the piece coming out can be rinsed in water to dissolve the sugar that remains.

Alternatively, you can use an anti-shine to matte down the surface. Sometimes a colour can be a perfect match but the sheen of the surface is just different from that of the skin, and so it looks wrong. Matting it down will help and it also allows you to see the true colour of the piece, with less reflection. Matting down the surface prior to spraying the cap plastic means the surface of the piece could have vastly matter surface so you would be asking less of any antishine.

Powdering can help, but that usually works best on oily or sticky surfaces. The appliance may be shiny bit not actually sticky. I have before used a watered down Pros Aide mix stippled lightly over the piece and onto the skin to fade off and help segue the blend between real and fake.

This can then be powdered to assist in removing shine, and also helps transition between a cap plastic edge and real skin, where the sudden shift in material causes noticeable changes in the way the skin moves at that point.

3. Believe in primary colours

Mixing and matching skin tones is a skill that takes time to perfect, and colour theory is important. Know that if something is wrong that it probably needs to be redder, bluer or yellower (or a combination of those). Trusting that this is the problem is the thing. It just looks ‘wrong’ and you can’t necessarily see that a wash of blue is what will walk you out of that corner.

The trick often is to add just enough colour to stop it being wrong. For example, many silicone pigments or makeup colours are orange, and so a touch of blue is necessary to neutralise the orangeness. The trick is to add just enough to neutralise, but not actually make it turn blue. If that happens then you’ve added too much, but finding the subtle shift is the hard thing to do.

It’s kind of like making soup, where you might add some salt to enhance the flavour of something which was lacking in bite. If you add just enough salt or salty stock, it tastes more satisfying. If it actually tastes of salt, then you’ve added way too much. So it is with tweaking colours. Know that if you can see the skin colour of the person with your eyes then it exists within the visible spectrum, and therefore you can recreate it by selecting the correct combination of colours.

If your desktop printer can make a flesh tone with three primaries and black and white then so can you.  Like Santa, you have to believe that’s true for it to work.

Check out our posts on use of colour Colour Theory In Practice and 7 Tips For Painting Skin Tones.

4. 90% of what you do won’t get noticed (Hopefully)

But that stuff really needs to done right! Kind of like personal hygiene, it goes unnoticed largely until you stop doing it.  Making prosthetics requires a series of processes, each building on from the previous step, and each step is an opportunity to mess it up.

Making prosthetics is really a series of sidestepped land-mines, and when you get better at avoiding errors, it’s very satisfying. That all takes a lot of effort and practice, and working on a perfect lifecast, doing a nice sculpt, making a nice mould and applying the first perfect piece cast out of that wonderful mould will all be the result of a lot of effort prior to that point. None of which anyone but you will know or care about. It’s not usually the stuff that gets seen in DVD extras and it’s not a spectator sport so it won’t get the fanfare.

It all boils down to knowing what you need to be good at to do it well, and you need to enjoy those things enough to want to come back for another round. If you do enjoy them then you’ll keep doing it and you’ll get better and have fun on the journey.

Like a duck seeming to glide over a lake surface, the hidden webbed feet paddling away unseen below and out of sight. Good edges, natural form and texture, good colour match and movement from a correctly softened piece will at best appear totally natural. People love to spot an edge or an air bubble

A good example is a wound prosthetic, where the injury itself if done well will elicit a satisfying disgusted response, as the torn skin and the fatty tissue and dried blood cause you to react as a normal human would.

However, the fact that this big piece of rubber with edges, texture and fake hair is sitting there in plain sight and not getting noticed is by far the biggest compliment and mark of the success of your work. It’s cool because it looked real enough to not even be noticed. That’s the best part for you as the maker, and it took you most of your effort and attention – but that’s not the part that people look at and react to.

A lot of what makes good makeup look real is that it ‘looked like it happened’ rather than ‘it looks like a person created it’.  Knowing the materials and techniques well enough to get out of your own way, leave yourself behind and focus on what needs to be there in order to make it look right. That’s where you main efforts lie, and if you do that then nobody notices.

5. Failure: when things don’t go to plan, it’s easy to beat yourself up thinking you’re no good.

Everyone done this to some degree, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling. If you have the audacity to create something new, there is no guarantee it will work or even be any good. If it doesn’t work out, it’s amazing how many nay-saying voices you have accumulated in the wings ready to comment on your performance.

To do that well, you kind of need to open up and that can make you feel vulnerable. Criticism of self is common and hugely subjective based on your mood, your upbringing, how you saw others respond to problems. Creative and artistic people often wear their heart on their sleeve, and it’s necessary to be in contact with your feelings if you are going to be authentic and feel satisfaction in your work. You’re allowed to feel shitty and grieve for the imagined outcome that never happened. You’re also allowed to move on and try again. That’s the important part – to come back for another round.

Because creating things is a deeply personal activity sometimes, it feels like a unique and customised version of Hell crafted personally just for you. You need to know that this is how everyone feels, and that your unique way of beating yourself up is not so unique.

An example is a bladcap class, where we take head measurements when making a head pattern for making wigs. I’ll have a class of maybe 6 or 10 students, and naturally because people are not identical, someone will have the smallest head and someone will have the largest.

Almost every time, the person with the largest head circumference will take it upon themselves to feel bad about this newly acquired neuroses. This happens with such regularity, and it serves to show me that we are all a veneer away from being hurt.

Knowing that we can be hurt and recognising this is true means that we can prepare for it and create with some measure of recovery time built in.  Just like the crumbs you have after making a sandwich, the hangover after a night of partying etc…

I’ve heard with regularity that someone will claim to be a ‘perfectionist’ as if that alone excuses them from settling on where they are. That is often just an excuse to avoid owning your current state, the design/sculpt/paint job your current ability is able to provide.

Feel free to comment here or get in touch on our facebook page or email us at

Til next time

Stuart & Todd

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Rob Burns of Cutting Edge

Rob Burns makes great sculpting tools because he sculpts and knows what works.



It helps to know your tools, and in the podcast, he chats about how he started the company and how he paid his dues. We also chat with Mitch of Brick In The Yard again, and we talk about the proliferation of information in the hi-tech age and how having so much information on hand doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes it into the brain.

Listen to the podcast here or subscribe in iTunes or whichever podcast app you use:

Incidentally, this is what the tribble-like recorder looked like which we mention in the podcast:

Sculpting Tools

Tools are something I have an unreasonable desire for, and I have far too many already but I’ll be damned if that will stop me buying more. I have done a few posts on tools, manufacture tutorials and loop tool repair. This doesn’t mean I don’t buy tools as well – just because I know how to make a sandwich doesn’t mean I don’t go to Subway on occasion!

Check out a tutorial video from BITY with Robert demonstrating some cool sculpting techniques:

When I met with Rob at BITY, I had a play with the Steve Wang sculpting set, a signature set of tools designed in association with the master creature designer himself!

I liked them so much I bought a set there and then for myself, and also got another set for a giveaway on the podcast. See the competition details below to enter!

Our email is

Makeup Education

Todd is busy with the newest edition of his book, and I have had a few cool jobs and loads of teaching spots which led me to reflect on the differences between the job and the education side of things.  There are a few recurring issues I see partly because I think people think ‘makeup’ sounds like an easy option and partly because academic frameworks don’t necessarily make for a good approach to what is a vocational skill.

This being the case, we want to hear from anyone who is/was either a student or tutor in a makeup college/school/course and has a strong feeling either good or bad. What was your experience? What went well and what was pitiful? Did you find yourself surrounded with like-minded artistic souls or was it a difficult mixed group?

I’ve seen a lot of good thing and great tutors working hard to do right by their students, but sometimes any good they do is despite the system they find themselves in rather than because of it. Am I way off? Let me know by emailing

It’ll all be handled in confidence – I’m not interested in naming individual schools or people but I am interested in discussing the problem areas and what we can do to address them.

Check out Rob Burns and Cutting Edge Sculpture on Facebook, Instagram and the website.

Check out Prosthetics Magazine too, available as print or online subscription. This edition features a ton of amazing stuff, and we have part 2 of our latex tutorial – applying latex appliances.

Until next time

Stuart & Todd


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Dark Hour

Allen Hopps is the director of Dark Hour, a huge haunt attraction in Plano, Texas.

I wanted to take a tour and chat with Allen about what it takes to keep people scared and the business of running a haunt all year round. Podcast Time!!!

When people think about creating makeup effects, masks and prosthetics, its usually associated with film and TV shows. In the US, Halloween is pretty big and getting bigger every year.

The haunt industry is big business, and the work that goes into creating fresh scares show after show requires a coordinated effort utilising every trick in the book, from lo-tech jump scares from a well timed hidden performer to the latest sensor-tripped animatronics. This is all watched and monitored by an experienced crew and assisted by a system of hidden cameras, remotely tripped speakers, light effects, smoke and hydraulics.

Allen Hopps is an experienced and well respected director of Dark Hour, but he also regularly gets his hands dirty, making things for the show as well as running workshops where he will teach others the tricks to efficient working to deadlines and budgets.

I went for a tour of the huge show floor, and got to see behind the scenes where all the in-house stuff gets made – from sets, costumes, masks, prosthetics and props. The level of the thought and detail that goes into setting up a new show (there are several original new shows a year) is incredible. The team work year round updating and thinking up new ways to keep the screams coming. If you can make it to a show, I’d highly recommend it!

Allen Hopps at Dark Hour.

As the budgets and build times are often not anything like TV and film, a lot of creativity goes into making things from existing objects, repurposing and thinking way outside the box. The dollar store is a goldmine for creature making if you know what to look for.

A good eye for shapes and form can help create creatures from existing objects.

It was a real joy to talk with somebody who understands both the business of running a brick-and-mortar establishment which has to turn a profit to stay alive as well as how to make a mould that will do the job without breaking the bank.

All this and understanding the psychology  of what unsettles, and how to misdirect and create an atmosphere through the right combination of sight, sounds and smells. Yes, even smells. The simplest things can sometimes be the most effective, and this is often the case with many things.

There are a few absolute wisdom bombs in this podcast episode which many makers would do well to listen to.

  • If you’ve ever been guilty of having great ideas which seem to expand ever bigger, only to burst and fade away then this episode of the podcast is for you!
  • If you’ve been trapped in a cycle of indecision, dithering and not wanting to grasp the nettle of your creative masterpieces then this episode is for you.
  • If you think that movies are the ultimate end-game for creating creatures and masks and that if you can’t make that coveted position then what’s the point…? Then this episode is for you!


From thousands of doll moulds and doll parts (courtesy of diligent craigslist hunting) to stiltwalking, a child murdering character who makes his own choloroform, real tarantula skins on a pizza, mechanised werewolves, witches jumping down from the sky, rooms which shake, sparks, stairs which burst open and magic paint jobs which only work in the dark…..the toolbox of a haunt is a crazy mix and it has to be experienced to be believed.

Mazes and creating disorientation is a big part of managing the sense of unease, and making a safe environment which can allow the scares to take place is a big responsibility.

It really made an impression on me how much this first-hand experience with the event is so different from the experience of working in film and television.

Allen demonstrates the the oversized Krampus puppet


Horse skull mask made from sheet foam in a few hours.


The makeup room houses legions of horrors patiently awaiting performers.

Here’s that podcast again in Soundcloud if you prefer:

Till next time!

Stuart & Todd

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An image of a makeup I did recently had the rare honour of ‘going viral’ (sorta), and it led to an interesting series of developments.

This post is an attempt to process, quantify and clarify my findings.

I had an idea to do a steampunk-esque type of makeup as I had thus far never had the opportunity, and I had some notion of what I wanted to do. I liked the idea of a big jaw, a powerful looking character with a jaw which would serve as the central detail as well as provide some stark contrast.

I’ve seen a lot of steampunk-type makeups, and they largely consisted of gears serving no apparent purpose attached to the surface of the skin, coupled with playful use of scarves and big round tinted glasses. Asserting that the time period would allow for some extravagant war injuries, I decided the jaw could be a replacement, perhaps from a cannon blast or such.

Often, brass or iron effect pieces are used, and I decided that a suitable jaw replacement would be ceramic. Within the imagined storyline, as clay it would be easily shaped to the wearers defect, and as a makeup-design it’s bone-like colour would be appropriate enough yet have a stark contrast to the skin.

Not being a gifted artist when it comes to pencil renderings of imagined things, I sketched out a few scribbles until I found something which caught my eye.

This long faced fellow popped out of the page, and whispered something about viable believability, and that I should seriously consider him for the part.  Not having any other contenders, I heeded his virtual advice and began work on a clay sketch to see where it would go. Lets call him Max Mandible.

It looked for all the world like Paul Ewen (a regular associate, largely due to his full immersion and dedication to character) to me, so I set about prepping his headcast in the flat grey basetone which usually signals that creative battle is about to commence.

As is usual, the sculpt is to be finished as a design without care or heed to how it will be achieved. At this stage I want it to look right – the ‘how’ part we figure out afterwards. Once sculpted, the pieces are sliced at the appropriate points to make separation easier when this is floated off. In this case, the front of face and ears was a single piece, the jaw was another piece and the  forehead/back of head and neck was another.

For an in depth look at the ‘floating’ pieces and why separating out sculpts into smaller pieces may be necessary, check out this post with a downloadable workbook.

I wanted this to be lightweight and opted for foam latex, and once everything was finished onto their respective cores, the mould were made in fibreglass to allow swift baking and speeding up turnaround time.  For this, I turned to Rob Smith, blood and foam maestro of many years experience.

(Catch our 2-part podcast with Rob Smith if you haven’t already – part 1 here and part 2 here).

Rob quickly turned out a couple of beautiful sets of foams, light and soft yet strong (sounds like a toilet paper ad) which were easily seamed and painted. For this task, I had Jess Heath give me a hand. She basically seamed and painted the makeups at the trade shows that we applied them at (UMAE 2017 & London IMATS 2017). As you can see, foam doesn’t look like skin at all and needs to be painted correctly to supply the appearnace of translucency.

For hairpieces, Jutta Russell knotted me some lovely brows and a moustache in a very quick turnaround. Within a few days, they had spirited from her head block and into my hands via a swift postal service. I always enjoy the thrill of opening the cardboard box and peeling away the waxed paper veils to discover the magic inside. As per the Victorian ideal (and my own desire for waxed-curl perfection) the tonged and styled twirl remained handsomely in place, patiently awaiting a heroic top lip on which to take up residence.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a splendid top lip in possession of a ceramic jaw, must be in want of a moustache.

Prepping pieces at a show table with people watching and asking questions can be a stress, but I thought part of what I wanted to show was how this stuff gets done, as this is the kind of thing that is hidden from view usually. At UMAE, Jess trimmed, filled and painted everything right there on the Saturday.

As you can see, Jess was busy and helped me apply these pieces whilst I was off and about doing stage spots and jumping back in every now and then. We finished off the makeup at UMAE and it went down a storm.

The neck was always an issue for me, as I didn’t want skin visible. I reasoned a bellows of leather, sealed around under the jawline would supply a decent range of movement and allow a better segue between the makeup and costume.

I had artist and all-round talent Violet Casselden make me a custom faux-leather neck piece. Real leather was a bit too firm, and as comfort and movement mattered, we decided this was the best option, and being easier to stitch meant there was plenty of scope for details and seams without too much extra time and work involved.

Very happy with the result, but as is always the case when you apply, the first time shows you the issues and the second time around is better. So, we decided the crowd at IMATS London would like to meet Max too.  So it was on the PS Composites stand that Max was once again born.

As I usually take pictures of progress, I myself am never in the photos so I am indebted to those who kindly take pics and send them to me. I am particularly grateful to Mauro Zenoniani, Horacio Martinez, Markus Glazner and Jeff Daniels.

Image courtesy of Mauro Zenoniani

So, job done and fun had by all. As is my way, I regularly updated followers with progress shots, often zipping out 10 updates a day so as to keep interested parties abreast of developments in almost real time.

That way I am able to demonstrate how some things are quickly achieved and others are more involved.

It was a month or so after that I first was alerted to the image being is someone else’s Instagram feed. Another account had used it, not asked nor had they credited me. I’m not amazed or stunned – the internet does this I realise. Then I got notifications from others, and others still.

Once I had mentioned this on my own account, others started appearing and I stopped counting after 40.  There seemed little point, as clearly it was doing the rounds and at a rate that any formal complaints procedure was unlikely to outwit.

A selection of some of the posts from various accounts.
They got more likes for my image than I did.

As is the way, those that ‘repurpose’ the image for their own ends have themselves also had it swiped from them, so much so that nobody seems to know where it came from or that it was even remotely unkind to do so.

It even came to something when the original hulk, Lou Ferrigno posted it on his Facebook page.

Now. Its important for me to make something very clear.

I didn’t write this because I was angry, upset or felt cheated. Well, maybe a bit.  This all started weeks ago, and in all fairness I did feel those things. On some occasions, I was credited but more often than not I wasn’t (I suspect it is now so far removed from the source material, the scope of investigation to track down the original owner was far too involved for the casual poacher)

I am in fact writing this because I chanced upon a makeup design which seems to have grabbed imagination but it takes on a life of it’s own, beyond it’s intended purpose.  The vast majority of accounts that have used my images have exposed them to many more people than my account has. The output of these accounts is almost exclusively made up of stolen images from others.

You can see in the accounts that they often use the same images over and over, all presumably to swell follower numbers. The idea is simply to use striking images, regardless of their origin, in an attempt to grab attention and followers. Usually the accounts are selling either a social media marketing course (great indication of their methods if in order to do so they need to steal other peoples work) or to accumulate followers so as to be able to charge for shout-outs, or to simply sell the account fully furnished with many eyeballs attached.

‘Go Viral’ on Instagram, I’ll show you how I used other peoples images so you too can use other peoples images.

‘DM for shoutout rates’. That’s right. the only reason you are following me is so that I can charge you for shouting out to others like you who apparently want to be successful but bringing nothing whatsoever to the table.

One ‘user’ of my image claims to love my work and not sell anything.
This from a ‘Social Media Marketing Manager’
whose profile consists of a bandana-masked face.

They are not artists using these images and claiming as their own.  I’ve had a lot of support from friends who have been angry on my behalf assuming this was the case, but it isn’t.  That would be a precarious and risky business as the creative world is pretty small, and when someone is paying for your ability, that is a pretty silly way to get work you can’t do.

No, this is all ‘online marketing’.

The reason this is interesting – and the reason for this post – is that it’s a very clear that in a desperate attempt to get as many eyeballs and followers as possible that they will basically poach all their images without conscience.

There is usually a call to action or response in the post such as ‘Real or fake?’ or ‘Who can explain this?’. This then causes a slew of responses as the many followers are compelled to weigh in with their sharp observations such as:

Or this considered masterpiece:

I like to respond with my own attempt at recovering some value from the thousands of likes their posting of my work is getting:

This has led to some direct messages essentially defending the reuse of an image:

I admit, I could make my account private. However, I do want people to see my work so does that mean in my own way I am just hungry for eyeballs? Perhaps, but the images I post are my own work and not there to sell crappy gadgets or a dubious marketing course.

In a response to something mentioned on Facebook about watermarking images, my reply was this:

I do now watermark my images as you’ll see but it’s another step on what was a very fluid process. I often instagrammed live progress shots but now I need the interruption idea second app to watermark the image first.

I’d like it if Instagram supplied a watermark capability as a filter as they have a number which are useless. There are regramming apps which automatically include the original profile so credit can be traced back easily.

What I object to is someone being called on their bullshit and then adopting a defensive moral highground where ‘just because I could have asked for credit’ makes it ok in their head. Messaging me as if they are the injured party.

Like taking things from a shop with money in your pockets claiming it isn’t shoplifting ‘if only you’d asked me to pay.’

Their accounts all seen to be using the same images over and over and they are mostly selling ‘marketing’ courses (whilst displaying a pretty poor show of their methods in the process) or else I suspect swelling follower numbers to sell the account on to whoever is happy to pay them.

I appreciate that watermarking images is sensible and the responsibility of the account user. So I have adopted this to my time cost.

We lock our front doors because without that we’d freely have intruders no doubt. However if you break in and take something you’re still a thief and unlikely to be released without charge simply because the lock was easy to pick.

Point is they are twats and it’s my right to say so.”

So, what is the conclusion? Essentially that there are two strands to the equation.

One strand is there exist people who are capable, creative individuals seeking to matter, be heard and influence others with their output. In a world increasingly seeking to automate with cheaper, more reliable alternatives than trained people (understandable from an economics point of view) there is an excessive of unfulfilled creativity. As a result there are people who just want to make things – be responsible for something – and have that matter.

The other strand is a group aware of people who want to make money by selling, to not be directly responsible for anything original but to just reconfigure existing ideas and content and endlessly recycle them for profit.

I remember in City Slickers, that Billy Crystals’ character has a moment where he recognises his frustrations of his job selling air time for radio commercials. He recalls his father was an upholsterer and had something tangible at the end of his working day to look at as proof of his time spent.

I think that lack of proof of influence on things, where individual output is swallowed up in a big machine – certainly if you are a team member contributing to something larger then it’s hard to quantify your input despite the accumulation of effort as producing bigger results overall. I suspect the less hands-on you are with something, the greater the scope for dissatisfaction.

There are plenty of people just looking to ride someone else’s wave, and bring nothing to the party. I suspect that’s a pretty unfulfilled life however. I urge you all to keep creating and keep coming with the new. It matters. That is what I have learned.


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