Sculpting Prosthetics: Reptile Skin Textures

SculptScaly reptilian skin is a fertile area to draw inspiration from, and can be used in a lot of ways.

This blog post takes a look at the basic kinds and how you can create them.

I’m going to cover the main kinds, going step by step through each one, and then rough out a makeup design using them in combination to demonstrate how a design can be assembled from them.

Then I also take you through the paint scheme by actually painting directly onto the sculpt so we can see what the final result would look like without needing to make a mould, cast and apply it first.  It’s a neat trick which means you can show off a finished makeup design and still be able to make alterations afterwards to the sculpt!

Check out the video below to see how it was done, and a few other neat tips which will help you make things look cool.

Painted Sculpt

Its important to mention that reference is crucial, so do some digging and take a look at the variety of scales and skin textures, from Ostrich feet, snakes and crocodiles, lizards and all kinds of crazy things you may not have realise existed.

Nature has an incredibly varied palette, and it never ceases to amaze me.  The ostrich feet skins shown in the video for example (which by the way were kindly sourced and photographed by Karl Derrick) look like something out of Jurassic Park. Who knew?

From a sculptural point of view, I have bunched scales and reptile skin textures into 4 classifications which is a hideous simplification, no doubt offensive to any naturalist experts who may see this, and to them I apologise.

1. Granular scales which are basically a rough, bumpy texture which can vary in scale.

2. Keeled which can be like a large scale granular scale, but specifically have a ridge or number of ridges on the surface for added strength.

3. Cycloid the overlapping scales most commonly thought of on fish.

4. Scute plates almost like horn or tortoise shell. Often found on the bellies of snakes and on well protected areas of areas like fronts of feet on crocodiles and ostriches.

So because there are different kinds of reptilian skins and scales, so Todd and I have done our own approaches to this theme to show you different ways of doing it.  We have both created videos, and I have added mine here first as I am still editing the others (a lot of footage was shot, and I don’t want to rush them out).

As soon as that is done I will add them below and let everyone know when they come through. Todd has done a particularly fantastic tutorial on making a Pros Aide transfer, which these textures lend themselves to tremendously well, so stay tuned for that upload soon!

Please do leave a comment here if you enjoy this post, and also remember that we need your suggestions for future posts.

You can email Todd & myself direct through this email: stuartandtodd@gmail.com.

- Stuart & Todd

 

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Sculpting Prosthetics: Skin Textures

Texture smallThis video covers the first in a series of texturing for prosthetic sculpts, and in this one we’ll take a look at creating natural skin textures.

I have tried to cram in as many of the commonly needed skin textures in this sculpt which are pores, wrinkles and folds and raised goosebumps.

These textures could of course be amplified or reduced by using a heavier or lighter touch depending on the effect you need.

It’s worth pointing out that texturing needs to happen after the form is there. You can’t texture your way to a good form, if the shapes aren’t right then change them until they work.

Think of textures like a wallpaper. You need put it up onto good, flat walls.  If the walls aren’t flat, straight and level then neither will your expensive lovely wallpaper.

As such I want to start of by quickly showing you how I block out the form onto the core. I am sculpting onto a urethane resin cast of part of a face (FC52 from Mouldlife in this case).

The lifecast was cleaned up, smoothed out and modified to get rid rid of as many undercuts as possible, such as the join between the lips, nostrils and the eyelids, which often have little overhangs due to the weight of the materials on the face during lifecasting. If you want to know more about how to make cores, check out my video on making them here.

Blocked out form

You have to start with the right shapes before you begin adding texture. It’s like trying to wallpaper a wall which is still being built otherwise.

I start by adding small blobs of plastiline.  I like rolling each one into a kind of sausage shape, and pressing this in place, plattening as I go.  This gradually builds up into the rough shapes I want, and then I blend the blobs together with sculpting tools, usually a flat wooden tool and a twisted metal loop.

This makes those individual blobs blend out into a new shape, and you see it as a single, complete shape.  The texture of the tool marks can be smoothed with a finer tool like a guitar string loop, however as you will see as the texture starts to go in, it really doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth before texturing begins. If you want to know how to make your own loop tools, check out my old tutorial on that here.

It’s worth just pointing out that texturing can look just plain wrong when you start, as your smooth blank surface starts having little dents or scoops put into it and it just can look like you are ruining a nice smooth surface. I know that feeling!

Starting Texture1I call this the ‘blank canvas syndrome’, where it just looks like isolated dents in an otherwise perfect surface.  Have faith and keep at it, because soon, there will be lots of little dents, and the more area you cover, the more they will look like they are supposed to be there!

Anyway, check out video to see how different kinds of pores, wrinkles, folds and goosebumps can be created on the surface with just a few simple bits of kit. 

We also cover a method of creating ‘texture stamps’, where you harvest existing textures from objects (stone, leather, fruit skins etc.) which can also be used on appliance sculpts.

Remember, if you have any questions about makeup FX and want to see a blog post dedicated to your question, email us at stuartandtodd@gmail.com.

Thanks for watching
Stuart & Todd

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Lifecasting Tips & Tricks

Lifecasting is a basic, essential skill in creating custom fitted prosthetics.

Often it’s the first process before work begins in earnest, so it’s really a good idea to do it well. Errors made at this stage get passed on throughout each process.

Scroll down to the bottom to hear the latest podcast on this.

We had a couple of questions regarding lifecasting, and seeing as there are as many techniques and variations as there are people taking lifecasts that it would be cool to bring together some of the best tips and tricks picked up from working with others.

This won’t be an exhaustive tutorial on lifecasting, as this has been covered so well by others in great detail.  A great example is Lifecasting with Silicones and Alginates by Neill Gorton, available as a DVD and stream which pretty much covers everything in great detail! Rather than reinvent the wheel, we thought sharing our tips and tricks to build on the information available would be beneficial to you life casters at large!

If you want to check out a little lifecasting to whet your appetite, take a look at some videos of a face and hand cast I made with artist and well known makeup tutorial YouTuber, Klaire De Lys a while back:

What is a lifecast and why do you need one
Lifecasting is making a three dimensional duplicate of a real body part, usually a face or head, of a live person. Usually you do this because you need a copy of the performer in order to make a custom fitting prosthetic which needs to fit them exactly. It can also be used to make bodies or body parts which are accurate to the performer without sculpting it from scratch.

This severed head was for a TV production of Dracula, for Kristyan Mallet.. The original headcast was done by Kristyan, who then filled the alginate cast with melted plastiline. I simply cleaned up the cast, opened the eyes and added some gory neck stump textures to create the severed head.

This is often the case for severed heads etc. where it would be a lot more effort to sculpt a lifelike portrait when an accurate lifecast can be made in twenty minutes.  By melting plastiline and pouring this inside the negative mould taken from the person, a positive version can be made which can easily be sculpted and modified once the plastiline has cooled and returned to a solid state.

Digital Alternatives
An alternative to lifecasting is to take an accurate 3D scan. There are different ways of doing this with hand-held scanners to booths in which a subject sits or stands in either a static chair or a turntable.

There is also software such as 123 Catch from Autodesk and Photomodeller by Eos Systems Inc. which can stitch a series of images together and creates a 3D virtual model which can then be modified and output to a 3D printer or cutting machine.

This interesting video shows how a simple idea can be turned into an incredible effect – just imagine how this could be used in makeup effects: http://vimeo.com/43442146#

Polystyrene machined tool of body scan

Polystyrene machined tool of body scan used by Millennium FX for Dr Who.

Digital scans are already sometimes used instead of conventional body casts.  Due to the size, it is machined out of a lightweight material like polystyrene by companies like Bakers Patterns, so the fine detail isn’t available in the cast but for large body suits this detail isn’t necessary anyway.

However, lower resolution detail is compensated for with the accuracy scans can have, as the pose isn’t required to be held for long periods as with conventional casting.

There is no distortion or discomfort due to casting material weight, and modifications can be made to the virtual model before being machined, such as elongation of limbs to offset the effect of shrinkage in foam latex.  The lightweight styrene parts can then be finished and remoulded as usual to create master moulds yielding multiple casts in whatever materials you need for the job.

It is also possible to scan a performer in one country and send the data to another for production.  This is useful if an actor is located far from where the suit is being made and can remove the need for flying a performer in for a lifecast or transporting a lifecasting crew with a heavy or awkward mould.

Other industries are using technology like this all the time, so just like you learn to mix alginate and use plaster bandage, it makes sense to get familiar with the emerging technologies.

Safety!

  • Lifecasting should not be attempted without supervision when you start out. There is scope for error when doing this – it’s not terribly difficult to do a lifecast. Nor is it difficult to do it badly, so make sure you know what is involved before you start.  Get supervision and training first.
  • Make sure the subject is well and safe enough to take part.  Conditions and illnesses which could put them at risk are not worth taking a chance on just for a lifecast!
  • Don’t use straws up the nose!  It may seem like a good idea, but not only does it mean the cast will be a distorted one with straws stretching the nostrils out, but if they get knocked accidentally then it could cut into their nasal passage. Yikes!
  • Setting up the lifecasting room and getting everything you need beforehand is very important.  Make sure you have help, so the person in the cast is never left alone if you need to leave the room.
  • Make sure you have sufficient protection for the floor, tables or working surfaces and clothes!  Plastic sheeting on carpet is essential – although better to try to not work on carpet!
  • Make sure any plastic is taped down securely and pulled tight so you don’t trip up over wrinkles or folds in it.
  • Think not only about the room you are working in, but the route you will need to take to get to sinks/toilets/outside etc.  Plastery footprints trailing through hallways are a nightmare to clean up!
  • Do not pour any plaster or plaster-water into the sink or drains as it can set in the pipes and cause a very expensive blockage!  Fit a plaster trap if possible, or allow the plaster residue to settle overnight in the buckets so the water can be poured off safely the next day whilst the remaining sludge can be scooped out and put into the trash or waste collection.  It’s worth getting extra buckets so you can get fresh water if needed without emptying the dirty water first!

This little excerpt from my Awesome Latex Ecourse shows how a simple plastic tub hooked up to the waste pipe under the sink can help stop the drains from getting blocked with sediment from plaster, clay and general mould-making mess.

Alginate or Silicone?

Alginate
Dental alginates have been used for years to make lifecasts, and it works well.  The main benefits of alginate are they are quicker and cheaper than silicones, but the trade off is that you can really only get one cast out of it.  This isn’t a problem as you usually clean up the original cast and make a master mould in a silicone afterwards.

H0wever, if you are only intending to make one anyway – or don’t have the time or materials to make a master mould which can produce multiple copies later – then you need not waste the extra on using silicone.

Alginates are usually a powder, mixed in a bucket with water by hand or using a mixer attachment in an electric drill.  It is often quite quick setting, although you can get slower setting alginates for body casting large areas.

By adding a small amount of a slower setting alginate to standard set alginate, you can increase the working time more gradually, although emphasis on the subjects comfort mean quicker is usually better.  A full head should really be covered in alginate within two minutes, so a working time of more than five is excessive for most purposes.

Once alginate has set up, fresh alginate does not usually stick to it, so any areas which need additional coats will need an alginate bonder.  It is therefore desirable to get the cast done in a a single mix.  To be more clear on working times, it makes sense to do a test mix of the material and time the setting with a timer or stopwatch so you and the subject both know how long you have before it sets.

As alginate remains flexible once set, it needs a rigid jacket applied to the outside to support it and retain the correct shape.  If you peeled it off now, it would just be a big flexible face-shaped bowl and would distort, making it impossible to fill with plaster.

Once set, alginate quickly dries as the water content begins to evaporate and can shrink, so it needs filling with plaster quickly to retain accuracy. If you are unable to fill the cast immediately, you can keep the alginate damp with wet tissues and sealing in a plastic bag to keep air out.

Plaster bandage is used to keep the soft alginate steady so when plaster is added, it stays the same shape and creates an accurate cast.

This will be ok for a day or so, but it will eventually become mouldy and unusable, so fill it as soon as possible. Alginate can tear easily so be careful when handling, however it can be repaired with superglue for a quick fix.

Silicone

There are a number of makes, most notable Smooth-On’s Body Double, and Mouldlife’s Life Form.  Essentially the process is the same – two parts are mixed together (usually in equal amounts) to create a pate which is then applied to skin before setting.

Mould Life make Life Form, a great life casting silicone which releases beautifully from hair!

Silicone can be built up in multiple layers, as unlike alginate, it sticks to itself well.  This means any thinner areas can be reinforced easily, and missed spots or holes are easily repaired with additional mixes added.

Because of this, it can take a little longer to do a cast which isn’t ideal if the subject is nervous, although with experience you can take casts using silicone just as quickly by working efficiently and applying it well.

Once the silicone has set, it still needs a rigid jacket to keep the shape and usually this is still done with plaster bandage.  As there is no water  involved in mixing silicone, it doesn’t shrink and there is no need for immediate filling unlike alginate – handy if you are travelling with casts.

The final mould is reusable, and much more durable, yielding many casts from it.  Although this is handy, if you have not done a great job of applying it, each cast from the mould will naturally have the same air bubbles, defects and distortions.  You may still therefore need to make a master mould anyway.  The benefit however is several people can get plaster casts and go to work on sculpting whilst the master mould is being made.  Silicone is more expensive than alginate, but the extra costs is worth it if you intend to reuse moulds and make multiple casts.

Accuracy
With any lifecast, it is advisable to take photos from all angles, and take head measurements with a tailors tape so you can refer back after the cast and check accuracy.  After all, the idea is to get as accurate a duplicate of the person as possible, so taking time to make sure you have a record of the real thing is helpful once they have left the studio and you are wondering if the lumps and bumps on the cast are down to your technique or their diet!

Measuring the head circumference and marking the hairline will enable you to check that the final plaster cast is indeed accurate, and any mass created by hair under the baldcap is accounted for and shaved down.

Uneven shoulder shoulders, twisted noses or eyes at different levels may not be noticed in the flesh but may be apparent in the plaster cast later so verify with the reference to be sure.  Usually casts need to be made in a neutral position, so care must be taken to avoid slouching, head tilted to one side etc. unless this is needed in the final cast.

This image, courtesy of Todd shows a bodycast taking place. Picture courtesy of Todd Debreceni.

If the purpose of taking a cast is to make a corpse lying on a floor, it makes sense to cast them lying in the correct pose.

If you take a cast of a person standing up, and lay a copy of it on the floor, it won’t look like it is lying down at all! The way the body flattens out and limbs sit when relaxed is completely different to when the body is standing up and defying gravity!

The cast, being taken whilst lying down, is an accurate version of the body in repose, with the skin and limbs flattening and spreading naturally as they would in that position. Picture courtesy of Todd Debreceni.

Face casts for prosthetics are normally taken sitting upright, as this is the position the face is likely to be when the appliances are worn. Having a face cast done lying down or at an angle may make the face distort slightly, especially once the additional weight of the casting material is applied to skin.

Check out our lifecasting podcast to stream or download here:

And remember, if you have an FX makeup question, sling it our way so we can get busy! Email us at stuartandtodd@gmail.com!

Stuart & Todd

 

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Sticky Situations – The Zen Of Prosthetic Adhesives & Removers

Welcome to the first of these tag-team posts with Todd and myself.

We will be kicking off with a great question from Stuart Webb about adhesives & removers. 

We have a free podcast and a PDF download for you on this too – scroll down to the bottom of this post for the links!

He asks “What I would like to know is what you both use to remove various prosthetic glues. I used Pros aide to glue some bondo transfers I had made & tried Telesis Super Solv to try & get them off. It took AGES! Would I have been better off using something else?”

There are a number of adhesives and removers designed applying prosthetics to skin, and it can seem confusing when you start looking.

They have different names, ingredients and come in varying quantities making the possible combinations of what to buy overwhelming.

Although they are more readily available, it is worth pointing out that Spirit Gum (in it’s standard form) and Liquid Latex are not serious contenders where prosthetics are involved.
These old-school adhesives are okay for some things, but they are they often irritate skin the most, and have relatively weak sticking power so for the purposes of this blog post, we won’t include these.  Check this video on doing a simple cut effect using wax with spirit gum to see it in action – it’s about the only thing I would use it for.

So lets start settling the mind by establishing a basic point – there are essentially two types of glue used with prosthetics.  These are:

Water based acrylic emulsion adhesives: These are great for sticking latex, foam latex, gelatine and silicone appliances which have a cap plastic barrier.   They tend to be less expensive so are great for when you are starting out – although they are still great professional adhesives.

Solvent based silicone adhesives: These cost more, but stick pretty much anything.

Glues: Water based acrylic emulsion adhesives
Pros Aide (The Origianl)
Pros Aide 2 (The Sequel)
Telesis Beta Bond
Aqua Fix
Kryolan Prosthetic Adhesive
Ben Nye Prosthetic Adhesive
Technovent ProBond Adhesive G609
Graftobian Theatrical Pro Adhesive
Glues: Solvent based silicone adhesives
Telesis 5
Telesis 7
Snappy G
Kryolan Medical Spirit Gum
Bluebird Silicone adhesive
Removers
Isopropyl myristate (often an ingredient in many removers)
Super Solv, Super Solv Gel
Pros Aide Remover
Mavidon Body Makeup Remover
Ben Nye Remove It All
Ben Nye Bond Off
Kryolan Medical Adhesive Remover
Pro Clean
Mouldlife Life Wipes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Good Points for Water based acrylic emulsion adhesives:
  • Sticky and flexible; relatively inexpensive
  • Bad Points for Water based acrylic emulsion adhesives:
    Sweat; can’t use with silicone
  • Good Points for Solvent based silicone adhesives:
    REALLY strong
  • Bad Points for Solvent based silicone adhesives:
    Very pricey.  That’s about it for bad points…
Telesis 5

Telesis 5. The newer formulas have bigger numbers.

Proas Aide 2_128x192

Pros Aide – the classic!

Telesis Beta Bond Plus_128x192

The very lovely Beta Bond.

Aqua Fix_346x585

Mouldlife’s Aqua Fix is pretty darn good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Application Technique
To apply the adhesive, some people like brushes, other like cotton swabs(Q-Tips, Cotton Buds etc.), other like to use sponges.  A lot of it is personal preference, although for large areas sponges work great.

Cotton swabs work well for small pieces as they can easily be disposed of, and remove the need for brush cleaning and solvents.  For larger pieces, I use a large paintbrush in the main, and switch to cotton swabs for the edges.

Rolling bud_614x460

Twirling the swab around allows you to lift and glue the edge in the same smooth motion!

Swabs are great for edges, as they can be used in a rolling action, allowing edges to be lifted up by the rotation of the swab.  Also, you can use swabs with solvent to dissolve the edges of the cap plastic barrier.

Often a little alcohol on a swab allows you to temporarily reactivate the glue so you can reposition a folded edge.  The alcohol evaporates, and the edge remains in position, held by the glue which returns to it’s dried state.

Some people prefer to apply glue to the skin only, others to the appliance, some do both.  Just don’t ever drop an appliance which is covered in glue!  When starting out, I suggest you apply to the skin only, just make sure you don’t add too much -this stuff aint cheap, so you don’t need a thick layer at all!

If you slap a piece of rubber over wet glue, the air can’t get to it so it can’t dry properly and it won’t stick.  This is something a lot of newbies get wrong because it seems so counter intuitive.

Let the glue dry before applying?  Sounds like madness!

Pros Aide is white when wet and clear when dry.  It remains shiny and sticky.

Pros Aide is white when wet and clear when dry.
It remains shiny and sticky.

These glues do not stick when they are still wet.  Pros Aide, for example, is very tacky and shiny when dry, and this one of it’s great features.

Telesis 5 feels dry to the touch but ‘grippy’ once the solvents have evaporated.

However if you press a clean appliance onto it, it sticks.  The firmer you press, the better it sticks, and after the piece has been worn for a while, the bond increases slightly as the body heat warms the glue.

Other reasons to allow the glue to dry first include:

  • Bubbles of white Pros Aide can be seen through translucent appliances like silicone.
  • Wet Pros Aide has water in it, so applying gelatine over Pros Aide that is still white means water is in contact with gelatine – another no-no!
  • If you put silicone over wet silicone adhesives, the liquid solvent can’t evaporate and is held against the skin, not drying.

Let it dry off, and you will get better adhesion.

Contact
For areas which get a lot of stretch, wear, movement and maybe moisture such as the mouth, silicone glues are more durable.  If the character is shouting a lot, drinking or getting blood everywhere, then anticipating the extra hold required is a wise move. For areas like these, often glue is applied to both skin and appliance and allowed to dry before applying.  This method is known as a contact, and can be done with both silicone and water based acrylic glues such as Pros Aide.

This can be a tricky manoeuvre because once the surfaces touch, they stick very well straight away.  It will need careful unsticking with a solvent such as 99& alcohol should you accidentally place the piece incorrectly.  If you were to apply Telesis 5 or Snappy G to two surfaces and leave them for a week, they would still stick amazingly well once pressed together.

To paraphrase Lance the drug dealer in Pulp Fiction, “That stuff costs more, but when you use it, you will know where that money went!

Pros Aide & Pro Bondo Transfer Appliances
There are a lot more flat moulds and transfer pieces being used nowadays which use a thickened Pros Aide mixture for the actual appliance material instead of silicone or latex.

Bondo pics

Todds application of a bondo transfer.
They stick mighty well!

This material works incredibly well for small appliances, and sticks especially well because it is made of the very material which is used as a glue. If you have ever used it, you may have seen just how tenacious it is, bonding very well to clean skin.

Glue removers which work well with Pros Aide will work best on ‘bondo’ transfers.

Surfaces & Why They Matter As Much As The Glue Itself
It is worth pointing out that the surface to which the adhesives are applied counts as much as the glues themselves.  Pros Aide sticks great to normal skin, but skin ideally needs to be clean, and free of oil, makeup or dirt etc. so they glue can do it’s job properly.

Also check and clean appliances to ensure there is no  residue of release agents, powder or talc used in the casting and demoulding process.

Silicone appliances which have a cap plastic barrier can usually be applied using both types of glue, as the material in contact with the cap plastic surface rather than the silicone gel behind it.

This cowl appliance has a Plat Sil Gel 10 skin, not a cap plastic skin!  This means I had to use Telesis to stick it rather than Pros Aide.  Using an A&B skin meant the appliance was reusable, so this huge chunk of silicone didn't need to be remade for every application.  It instead had fresh, small appliances on the face which overlapped the edges on this one.

This cowl appliance has a Plat Sil Gel 10 skin, not a cap plastic skin! This means I had to use Telesis to stick it rather than Pros Aide.
Using an A andB skin meant the appliance was reusable, so this huge chunk of silicone didn’t need to be remade for every application.
It instead had fresh, small appliances on the face which overlapped the edges on this one.

You can also choose to use a silicone adhesive instead with cap plastic coated appliances if you wish – it sticks very well.  However if you are using an appliance which doesn’t have a cap plastic barrier (something like a large overhead cowl appliance for example – see picture) then you HAVE to use a silicone adhesive.

If you think about it, silicone appliances are made out of….silicone.  Remember moulds get made out of silicone because of it’s amazing release qualities where not much sticks to it.  That is a bit of a problem when appliances are concerned, so using a silicone based adhesive designed for the purpose fixes that.

These silicone/solvent glues tend to cost more, as the hoops that manufacturers have to jump through to get a skin-safe material out to market mean a lot of extra work.

 

Sweat
Heat and moisture build up behind an appliance can reduce the effectiveness of a glue.  Pros Aide can kind of melt away if there is enough sweat, and I have mopped up many bubbles of milky perspiration from bubbles forming under appliances.

This was less of an issue with foam latex as foam can absorb and ‘wick’ out perspiration to some degree, whereas silicone is not absorbant in the slightest.  You can also use a glue primer on the skin such as Top Guard which is sprayed or brushed on to provide a perspiration resistant surface which also sticks better to the adhesive.

Try to minimise perspiration by keeping the performer as cool as possible and hydrated.  Usually this isn’t something you have a whole lot of control over, as heavy costumes, lights and physically active performances are all contributing to the heat build up.

Also a trick I learned was to dilute some Telesis 5 with 99% alcohol to make a primer which improves the strength of the glue.

Repairing Lifted Edges
Appliances which become loose or unstuck can be repaired quicker with silicone/solvent glues.  If you can, clean the exposed area under the appliance with an astringent like Seabreeze to get the sweat and oils off, dry it and reapply silicone adhesive.

Often edges in a certain area will continually pop up no matter what you do.  In this case you should be able to restick the edge down without more glue being added.  There comes a point when simply adding more and more glue will not help the situation, and it could turn into a gummy mess.  Silicone glues usually can be restuck just with pressure.

Hair
If applying over hair, it may need flattening down first.  Arm hair for example is usually thin enough to stay down with the glue used to apply the appliance, but eyebrows may need gluing down flat first.

If gluing into and over hair on the head which often happens when forehead pieces creep over the hairline, it may need sticking down with something like Gafquat first so the volume of hair is pressed and held down as flat to the skin as possible before applying the glue and the piece over the top of it.

This also helps removal, as the layer of glue is actually on the Gafquat rather than the hair itself, and Gafquat can be washed out with water. http://fx.wikia.com/wiki/Gafquat

Problems With Glues & Removers
It is important to check that the adhesives you intend to use are suitable for the person wearing them.  So long as you use products intended for skin use from an approved manufacturer (you may not use paint stripper or turpentine from a hardware store!), there is unlikely to be any serious problems, but it makes sense to check.

Most performers will be aware if they react badly to something and may tell you, but ideally you would do a patch test at least a day or two before the application is required.  By placing a small amount of the glues and removers on the skin for a short time and seeing if any reaction develops over the next 24 hours, you can be more certain of success.

Don’t do the patch tests on the face, as if there is any reaction you don’t want it to be something that will make them feel self conscious.  Usually the back of the neck and inside arm is a good place to test.

Skin reactions and allergies are not the same thing.  The skin can react to a material, or more likely it often appears red after the continued rubbing and wiping action.  Mild skin reddening after removal is quite common and usually fades after a short time.  Irritation which is persisting is different, and you should discontinue use of the materials if his is the case.

Allergies involve the immune system, and are much more serious.  I have not had  anyone truly allergic to the materials used when wearing prosthetic makeups, only irritated with some adhesives requiring us to change products.

Allergies need treatment, so be sure to supply all packaging and ingredients to medical personnel.  It makes sense to have MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) available for any materials in direct contact with the performers skin for the same reasons.  Most suppliers and manufacturers will have them available online.

Patch testing small amounts in advance can help flag these issues up before you start slapping it all over, giving you time to modify your approach and keep everyone happier.

Dry Skin
It is not uncommon for people with dry to skin to find that the glues tend to stick better to them than most which can make removal more time consuming and uncomfortable. Depending on how dry, it may be helpful for them to moisturise before application.

Also, thinning the adhesives down so the bond strength is appropriately reduced is helpful.  In the case of water based acrylic adhesives, a 10-50% solution of water will do it.

Silicone adhesives should have their own suitable thinners or solvent available from the glue supplier.  By adding a thinner to the glue, you again reduce the strength of the bond to suit.  You may need to do some tests to determine how much dilution is required, but by testing small amounts you will save a lot of time later, especially if large appliances are being used.

Oily Skin
Skin usually secrets natural oils to protect it, so cleaning the skin with a toner or mild astringent will help the glues do their job.  Silicone adhesives may be a better option in this case, and even using a primer like Top Guard for more severe case.

Removal

When it is time to remove the appliance, you need to get the remover on the glue.  It sounds like an obvious thing, but I have seen people futilely brushing remover on the outside of the appliance, hoping it would just soak through and magically fall off.  Mrs Doubtfire has a lot to answer for – it doesn’t just fall off.  If it did, it may do that halfway through a take, so these glues are designed to keep that sucker on there!

Super Solv in a Gel form

Super Solv in a Gel form

Pro Clean_363x715

In the UK, Sherman Labs ‘Pro Clean’ is big.

Ben Nye Bond Off_128x192

Todds personal favourite & remover of choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is often an issue in makeup schools where appliances may only be worn for a short time before being removed.  The glues are at full strength, having not been perspired into by a sweaty stunt performer for eighteen hours.

First, make sure you have covered costume or clothing with towels, cape or paper roll of some type.  This is usually then end of a long day, so removal is happening when you may be at your most tired and ready to get to bed.  Make sure the sloppiness and spills are protected against before you start.

If your edges are still blended in well, you may need to encourage them up by wiping remover over them using a cotton-wool pad.  These work well at gripping the edges, allowing you to then work into the piece with a dedicated brush.

Work remover into the skin, getting under the piece and lifting the appliance off as you go.  Try to not ‘pull’ the piece off  – you may get a performer who like to tear it off heroically at the end of the day.  Well, the glue is still there, so no real time has been saved.

Saline rinse_77x90

Saline ampoules for easy eye rinsing.

Take care near the eyes – I think it is a good idea to keep tissues and eyewash on standby should some remover accidentally get into the eye.

I think the quicker the better so if you can get help during removal then do so. For big appliances get as many involved as can comfortably fit around them if you can.

Also, if your performer is happy to the have them hold a cup of remover for you near the appliance. They probably want out more than you do, and it saves you from moving back and forth constantly to dip your brushes.  Plus it  reduces the chance of knocking the cup over too.

Removed silicone_729x547

You will almost certainly destroy those beautifully thin edges of the appliance during removal.
This is just a consequence of thin edges being stuck to skin, and can’t be avoided. I mean look at this…once a feather thin edge appliance and now after removal it looks like bacon.

Foam latex may absorb remover, so be sure to apply it onto where the skin is attached to the appliance, as the foam may soak it up instead.

Foam has a tendency to swell and distort with removers too, so often it helps to tear off large unattached sections especially if they flop about and get in the way.

With cap plastic encapsulated appliances, it is not uncommon to find that the cap plastic peels away from the silicone.

Essentially, the plastic may just be bonding better to the skin that the silicone. Because cap plastic is so thin and clear, it may not be obvious so ensure the remover gets under the appliance and onto the skin where the remover can work on the glue to unstick it.

Hot Towels
After the bulk of the piece is off, hot face cloths work wonders to loosen remaining glue and feels fantastic after a day under makeup.  Hot water can be used to soak the face cloth first, and then be twisted to dry.

However, heating a damp cloth in the microwave works wonders too.  Just be sure to check the towel isn’t so hot that it can cause burns – wave it around and allow it to cool to a sensible temperature.  If it is too hot on your hands, their face is probably going to feel the same!

To Finish
A good skin cleanser and moisturiser work well as a final flourish to help skin recover from a days prosthetic makeup wear. Most prosthetic glue removers have some kind of oil content, and this greasy film can be removed afterwards using a cleanser or from simply washing the skin as normal.

If the makeup has to be applied many times in a row, you need to take care to reduce irritation as much as possible.  This may mean taking rest days, thinning the glue down and using good moisturising and face creams.  Most appliance makeups are wanted once or twice, but regularly appearing characters may well need to have rest days from prosthetics as part of their routine.


We also did a free podcast and notes on this blog post.  Click on the links to download and save these, and please do comment below so we can get feedback and do this better.

 

Remember, if you have a question you want to see made up into a post then be sure to get in touch: stuartbray@yahoo.com is my email or ask below in the comment box!

 

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How Can We Help You?

Todd Application against BluescreenHow Can We Help You?

In this blog so far I have posted things in order to try and address areas are useful when doing my job.

Thing is, makeup effects and prosthetics covers a huge range of stuff, so there are going to be things you would want to see covered which I might not think of.

What I want therefore is for YOU to get in touch and tell me what you want to see covered.

Todd & Stu workingI want hear your story, what you have done so far and what has gotten you stuck or confused.  Maybe there is a weird, technical issue you have or maybe you don’t know exactly what the right question is!

If YOU have that issue, chances are there are travellers on the same road who would love to know the answer too.

And I’m not doing this alone!

Todd & BookTo help me, I am enlisting the help of a friend to help give a different perspective on the same issue.

I’ll be working with none other than Todd Debreceni, makeup effects artist and author of Special Makeup Effects For Stage And Screen: Making and Applying Prosthetics.

To that end, here is what I propose to do. 

  • Get in touch through email and tell me what you want to see covered, what you think is missing.
  • We will go through the responses, and each month choose two that I hope will cover the most bases.
  • I will then get back in touch, and we can chat about it and see how best to help out.  I am even happy to call you up on Skype or the phone so we can speak one to one and get something rolling on it.
  • Then Todd and I will work on it and create two posts a month here which address these issues with pictures, illustrations, video and podcasts.

Request letter pic.So drop me line, and we’ll get stuck into it and see what we can come up with.

We want to post regular and relevant to you, and we can do this better with your questions!

-Stuart (and Todd)

email me: stuartbray@yahoo.com

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Split Tongue Effects – Video Tutorials

Split Tongue 1_640x427Having made a fake tongue for a show last year, I figured it would make a fun tutorial.

So here it is.

Creating a split tongue that is worn is different in that you can’t really glue it like you would a nose or a chin – at best maybe using a denture fixative but I tried that once with some creature teeth, and it really isn’t pleasant to use.

For these tutorials, I made two different tongues – one is a diseased, fungal-infection thing and the other a split/lacerated tongue.  Starting by making a basic, natural looking tongue, it is then pretty straightforward to modify it and create all manner of mouth-related maladies.

I broke it down into two videos, plus did a quicker shortened overview video for those of you in a hurry.  If you want to know more then check out video 1 and video 2 (to be uploaded Wed 20th Nov).

The two longer videos also have a downloadable workbook with pics and info for you to follow along later if you want to have a go yourself. 

Click on the pictures below to get your copy.

Tongue Trauma Cover Pic large

Click here to download Part 1 workbook

Tongue Trauma Cover Pic 2 small

Click here to download Part 2 workbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please do let me know what you think by dropping a comment below!

The shortened video:

======================================

Full video part 1:

Video Part 1 workbook download here

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Full video part 2:

Video Part 2 workbook download here

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If you have been following the blog, you will know there has been quite a long time between posts.  This has largely been due to working on the new season of Game Of Thrones, and whilst I do love to be working on big, exciting jobs, it does mean the blog (and you) were sadly left neglected.

So, to remedy this I will be announcing some exciting developments which is going to turn that around – and I will want you to be involved!

Plus there is a time-limited offer on the Awesome Latex eCourse – just use the coupon code torntongue to save money – valid until Monday Nov 25th!

torn tongue coupon pic

 

 

 

Stuart

Incidentally, if you never signed up for the free 7-part mini ecourse then you can get it here.  It is a no-hassle and one-click unsubscribe if you want out too – no spam from me!  It is from my older site originally, but don’t worry – the stuff still gets to you!






Get your free 7 part

prosthetic mini-ecourse!

 

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Making Tools

Triptych

Snickety snick – making wooden tools is a cinch when you know how!

Making your own tools is fun (if you like that sort of thing, which I do) but also jolly handy when you see the state of most wooden tools available in art supply stores.  It’s like knowing how to make bread or fix a bicycle, sorta.

In August I was in Texas, and did a sculpting workshop (post on that soon!) over at Brick In The Yard and we started with making the tools we would use.  Why would we do that? 

  • Well, sometimes great tools are harder to find than you think.
  • Making them and customising just the way you want is awesome.
  • If one breaks, you know what to do.
  • It’s cheaper (certainly if you want a load of tools, which once you start you realise that you do!)
  • It is a lot of fun.
Let me just say, there are some great tool suppliers out there – Alec Tiranti & Potterycrafts in the UK, PS Composites stock Ken’s Tools (which are beee-you-ti-full – I have many in my kit).  In the US, Kens Banks’ own ‘Ken’s Tools’,  The Compleat Sculptor in NY (their spelling, not mine) and Sculpture House stock all the goodies.

Anyhow, lets take a look at the making of great wooden tools.  I have covered tool types in a previous post (click here to see it) and did an article on making wire loops (get that free here).

Step 1. Buy some cheap pottery tools.

Tool making (11)I bought a box of thirty cheap wooden pottery tools from an online supplier.  These hardwood tools are the right material but the wrong shape, so buying these is easier than getting raw wood.

You can of course buy hardwood pieces and do all these steps with them, but it saves time doing it this way.

Pottery usually doesn’t require the same finesse as prosthetic sculpting, so you will usually find these more readily.  They are bare wood, dry and too big for most appliance stuff so are an excellent starting point.

 

Step 2. Cut them in half to double your wood. (Oo-er)

By cutting them down the middle, you get twice as many tools.  This works better for wider, flatter tools.  If there are thinner tools

Tool making (15)Tool making (19)If you have access to a band saw then by all means slice away (mind your fingers!) but I do not so I went about it with a hacksaw, as the thin blade makes a nicer cut for the relatively small pieces of wood.

 

Step 3. Soak them in linseed oil.

Tool making (23)Tool making (6)Tool making (10)I used boiled linseed oil, and poured some into a Hefty/Ziploc type plastic bag.

Soak the wood in there for a day or two – at least overnight.  You get this usually in the paint department of a hardware store.

The wood is dry and are, and soaking it in linseed oil means that a wood-friendly oil will creep into the fibres and help protect the tools. It takes a while to get into the fibres so leave them to soak a day or two if you can.  (Obviously doing a bunch at once for future use makes sense).

Once they are fully soaked, take them out and wipe them all dry, allowing the surface dry and harden up for a few days.  Putting them on a paper plate or some kitchen paper towel will prevent staining of any surfaces.

 

Step 4. Shaping the wood.

Below are the tools which I like to use for shaping the tool.  Now, you are probably thinking “But Stuart, surely if I need to buy all these tools then it negates any savings I would make buy actually manufacturing my own tools”.

Tool making (14)You may have a point, but to be honest I used the Stanley craft knife and some sandpaper the most, and I think that is all you really need to do this.

Here is just an ideal selection as I am a real kit-freak.

 

Tool making (18)The knife is great as it can easily slice thin sections off quickly.  Ideally we want tapered ends with a thicker handle in the middle so I work from the middle outwards bit by bit.

Take care not to remove too much at any one time.  If you have a plane or a coarse file then get shaving down with those – but the knife is easily the quickest way of showing that bit of wood who is boss.  Occasionally you catch a bit of grain which ends making you take a huge chunk off unintentionally – that is another good reason to prep a load of tools at once.  Hmm….really selling it to you, aren’t I?

Tool making (22)

Using a little block plane makes me feel like Gepetto making my very own wooden boy!

Tool making (5)

A coarse file is also a nice tool for rounding down shapes quickly without taking huge chunks off in one go.

The trick is to take off a little at a time.  I like to make one end thinner than the other, so the one tool will have different uses.

For narrow, hard to reach areas a more delicate, thin end is ideal .

Sandpaper or ‘Wet’n'Dry’ abrasive paper is great for this.  Sanding papers are also usually in the decorating area of hardware stores, and a mix pack of coars, medium and fine papers will allow you to get smoother finishes, as you work through them.  I started with a ’120′ grit, and then finished with a ’400 grit’ – the bigger the number, the finer the finish.

Go too fine though and it’ll feel like wiping a plain piece of paper over it with no appreciable difference.  That would be just too fine – seriously, don’t get something like 1600 grit unless you are prepping a Ferrari for a respray.

Tool making (25)

The rounder end made with the file and sandpaper.

Tool making (4)

Sandpaper or wet’n'dry paper works well.
I used it dry, incidentally!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5. Finishing.

Tool making (8)

Synthetic wire wool. Great for sanding down for a final finish.
You can use fine grit papers instead, but anything higher than ’400 grit’ is probably not necessary on wood like this.

Tool making (12)

A nice bit of wax such as beeswax or this stuff is good to finish. The oil in the wood is still there, and this wax just gives the surface a shiny gleam which delights the sense of touch more than the eyes.

I buffed the tool surface up using a coarse synthetic ‘wire wool’ (although you could use actual wire wool).  This kind of gave it a final pass of sanding which leaves no visible lines or scratches.

A final polish with a wax such as beeswax, Johnson pate wax or even just a good furniture polish will work wonders.  I just whacked a load on there, let it dry for an hour, then buffed it like shine-junkie. Whatever that is.

Below, the finished tool.  It feels smooth and shiny, gliding over the plastiline surface like a golden skipping stone.  The wood, having been soaked in oil and polished to Billy-O and back is now not absorbent, so doesn’t grip the sculpting surface like bare wood does, nor does it absorb any of the oils in plastiline and discolour.

I still have tools 15+ years old which are going strong because of this treatment!

Tool making (9)Tool making (20)

 

 

 

 

 

…and, because someone on my YouTube channel pointed it out – yes, I know ‘it didn’t look this hard on Face-Off‘.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, please jump at the keyboard and spit me some feedback!  The next post will be looking at the sculpting workshop we did at BITY which was a lot of fun.

Til next time!

Stuart

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London IMATS 2013

IMATS 2013 was a blast!

I had a lot of fun doing demos on the Mouldlife stand, but especially enjoyed my first talk at the International Makeup Artists Trade Show. 

There are always lots of great demos at IMATS, and I wanted to do something different but also something which pretty much anyone can try.  After all, it is great to show someone what a month of working in a fully kitted out workshop can achieve when you know the ropes, but often that ends up being just eye candy and FX voyeurism if you can’t then put any of that into action.

Darren with a rather messy face!

The very patient Darren Grassby made these excellent dentures and I stuck one of the pieces made using the techniques used in the presentation.
The piece was made with Plat Sil Gel 10, deadened to 150%. I used Baldies as the barrier, and applied it with Snappy G silicone adhesive.
It was coloured using the Bluebird palettes.

So, I decided to put together a presentation showing how you can create some cool shapes and textures using processes rather than skills.  In the presentation, I demonstrated how many textures can be created or harvested from things which are easily obtained.  Then, by moulding and casting them with a little creativity, you can take aspects of them and turn them into interesting appliances.

Incidentally, this doesn’t involve throwing a bag of clay down the stairs and hoping it will arrive at the bottom as the perfect head-sculpt.  No, skill is never wasted and I am not trying to pretend otherwise.  If you can sculpt, then you can certainly modify and add to these.

Even if you have never picked up a loop tool in your life, it is nice to know you can still create some interesting textures quite easily. 

Besides, if you need to create a cracked skin effect all over the body, a healed burn covering an entire back or a body smothered with smallpox – it is kind of nice to know you could get something on set for tomorrow if you know how.

Adding a little randomness, and allowing happy accidents to occur can create some interesting shapes.  I know it feels good to be ‘responsible’ for every single mark, line and facet of the surface but just allowing some random elements can remove the unintentional patterns or regularities which people can put into their otherwise natural effects.

Sometimes, you can get in the way of what you are trying to create.  At the very least, causing shapes to occur, and then examining them at leisure can give you some good insight into how they were created.

These techniques are just a few of the ideas I had, and once you have see how it works, you’ll no doubt be getting ideas for all kinds of things which can be used to create new appliance ideas.

If you do, be sure to send me a picture of what you do.  I have already heard from several people who are looking at Savoy Cabbages with their veiny leaves in ways that they didn’t previously.

Thanks for checking, and please be sure to comment or ask questions if your interest is piqued!

Stuart

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Oh, and until Friday 28th June, there will be a discount coupon for the Awesome Latex Ecourse

To use it, just scroll to the bottom of the Ecourse Homepage and enter the code IMATS2013 to get a the ecourse for just £20.13 (normally £45).

3Dbox

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Thanks, Mr Freeborn.

Freeborn_Dummies_01With the recent passing of the rightly revered Stuart Freeborn, I was put into a saddened and reflective mood.  Stuart was one of the original pioneers in makeup, and is mostly known for his creature work in 2001 and Star Wars.

However, looking at his entry in IMDb, and you can see he has credits stretching back to the late 1930′s.  He was a master at his craft – the real stuff, not just the ground breaking monster suits and masks which made him popular among the FX community and fans.

I met him only once, back at an early IMATS in London, where both he and Dick Smith were in attendance.  It was spectacular, and he spoke candidly and with great energy, even for a man near 90 years of age. (Click here to see a cool little documentary about Stuart Freeborn on William Forsche’s YouTube channel).

I have been lucky enough to have worked for Nick Dudman, who was an apprentice with Mr Freeborn during the original Star Wars trilogy.  This leads me to the point of this post, which is the lineage of knowledge, and how this FX stuff gets passed on.

Now, Nick was the first person I ever met who actually did prosthetic makeup for a living.  I met him at my college (Wimbledon School of Art) in 1993, not long after the first Tim Burton Batman movie had come out.  Nick had of course done Jack Nicholsons’ Joker makeup, and being the nerd I was (and still am) you can imagine my excitement when I learned he would be taking us for our prosthetics module of our course.

To this day I am eternally grateful for this encounter.  He had come in a few days before to prep, and I waited around until he was done, and asked him if I could bug him with a few questions.

Bearing in mind:

  • I was 19
  • this was pre-Google
  • I had come from a small town where nobody cared about makeup and I had thus far gotten all my information from Gorezone, Fangoria and Baygans book.

I had so many questions, and so far nobody had understood what I was talking about, let alone offer solutions.  Well, Nick heard my questions, and answered each one thus putting out a thousand little fires which had burned away in my head for years.

I wanted to know what a cutting edge was, what plaster did he use, where to get foam latex, what was mould ‘rocking’, what to sculpt with etc, on and on.  All the material names and brands I had read about were American, and either had different names or were not easily available here in the UK then.

I left the room feeling so elated, I can’t even begin to describe it.  I still get that feeling on occasion when I overcome a long worked obstacle, and it has been my ambition to make other people feel that way when I get a question that I can answer the hell out of.

I know what it is like to want to know and do something, and if I can pass it on then I do.  I don’t place myself at the top of the tree by saying this – I know people whose work makes me want to cut my hands off and many of them are friends (which doesn’t help the envy).  I simply love what I do, am lucky enough to have worked a lot over the years and I love talking with others who care about it too.

I am also aware that much of what I know was learned from and influenced by the people I have met who shared (either directly or indirectly) their skills and approaches. I realised that there were key people and lessons that I learned working in the industry, and I thought it would be good to share some of these with you.  So, below are a few of the people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, and the lessons I learned from them.

Geoff Portass
Geoff Portass & Bob Keen were behind Image Animation, probably the biggest FX company after Hensons in the UK at the time.  Responsible for the Hellraiser movies and Nightbreed, the rollcall of FX artists which started there reads like a Who’s Who of makeup FX.

I wrote to Image several times to get opinions of foam latex I had ran (I actually stapled samples to the letter!), pictures of my makeup efforts and advice on getting into the industry and each time, it was Geoff who wrote back.  Bearing in mind, this was before email, he actually read my letters and wrote back with advice each time to this annoying kid.  How cool is that?

I have actually had the chance to work with Geoff since, and told him about it – I still have the letters now.  He is a singularly lovely man that taught me about the power of helping people out if you can, and how much it matters to those who take the trouble to ask the right questions the right way.

Nick Dudman
As mentioned before, Nick was instrumental in helping me at a crucial point.  I knew what I wanted to do, and I had technical questions.  Nick had answers and I learned, as with Geoff, that a little generosity goes a long way.

I also recall later, working on The Mummy & Potter films, how he managed a large crew – a skill I will never have.  Knowing the work from the ground up meant that Nick was a great makeup artist, but had gone to another level by now being able to mastermind an entire department.  Not just the makeup FX but animatronics, large scale stuff and working with CG etc.

Looking back I am so impressed with how he did it all, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside the best people on some of the biggest films this country has seen.

Daniel Parker
Animated Extras (Daniel, Nick Williams and Pauline Fowler) gave me my first break in 1994, and Daniel looked through my portfolio at the interview.  Still terrifying to this day, anyone with a portfolio of work knows that those pictures usually bare your soul and people looking always makes you a bit nervous.

When working, although not usually directly with Daniel, I did pick up lots of tips and advice.  I watched him do a Richard III makeup test on Ian McKellan which – if you haven’t seen it – is a master work of subtlety.  He made me understand how to add as much as necessary but as little as possible.  Even today, I tell people when painting pieces to match the piece to the skin because the skin is already the right colour – a mindset I attribute to Daniel directly.

The year before, Daniel and the team had done Frankenstein which was nominated for an Academy Award (losing out to Rick Baker for Ed Wood – no small competition!) and there were still lots f De Niro pieces about the workshop.  Needles to say I was gratefully examining everything and trying to understand how everything was made.

Daniel made me realise that the makeup isn’t about you and your makeup – it’s about the character and that you do what you need to, and know when to let the character take over.  He also taught me that it is better to do what you can with colour, and use appliances as a last resort.  Despite making a living by making appliances, I couldn’t agree more.

Watching Pauline sculpt realistic animals and heads was an education, and I saw incredible work by Julian Murray, painting by Marion Appleton and animatronic mechs by Nick Williams and his team.  The whole three months was a crash course education in makeup effects for which I got paid and it turned my life around.

Neill Gorton
I first worked for Neill on a creature movie filmed in The Isle of Man (Breeders, 1996).  Neill also has Mortal Combat 2 at the same time, and we also made some armour for that.  Then came Saving Private Ryan, and others and I worked for Neill on and off as a freelancer for the next twelve years.

Neill was (and remains) fearless so far as I could tell.  I remember him experimenting with various materials for moulds and appliances way back, and he always looked at why things went wrong and never seemed to get rattled like I did by them.  He would remain ‘bigger than the problem’, figure it out and try again.

I also learned about how important it is to be creative to a point, and then break it down into tasks and then just do it.  Often in makeup FX, it feels like you should agonise continually about something but if you do, it becomes about how you feel rather than the job.  And it is a job!  So be creative, figure it out and then get on and do it.  That is what I learned.

Neill is an amazing sculptor, but he is also incredibly quick.  I watched him work, and I came to a conclusion as to how one can become better and quicker – hard work and practice. Knowing him over the years, there is obviously interest and talent, but largely it is about sustained graft and that sets him above most.

To make an analogy, when you learn to speak, you learn first how to make sounds, then you learn words.  Gradually you then string sentences together, eventually speaking fluently.  You then reach a point when you cease to think about how to speak and focus instead on what you want to say.

This is so with sculpting, painting and other commercial crafts.  Being utterly fluent in the hand/eye coordination and how to lay down colours and shapes is crucial and only comes with continued practice.  Once you have them down reasonably well, then you can apply it to a brief much more efficiently.  As Freeborn would say, ‘Max Factor versus Time Factor’.

David White
David has an impressive range of credits, and heads increasingly large productions, including Captain America, and Thor: The Dark World.  He has been working in the industry from the early 80′s (Krull, Lifeforce) and has a great design ethic.  What impresses me about David, and which I really enjoy, is that he thinks about the character and effect before thinking about makeup.

There is beautiful mix of logic and creativity, and neither prevents the other from making improvements.  I remember making miniscule changes to sculpts at his request, and at the time thinking how unnecessary they were only to realise later how right he was.

He also taught me about how to get value from an effect – that is if you are going to the trouble of sticking a piece of rubber on someone, make it worthwhile.  That doesn’t mean make it huge or obvious – but squeeze every last bit of value out of the piece.  Really think about what you are adding, and why.  That way, you can be certain that everything you have done is truly the best you can do and that little voice whispers away every time I pick up a tool or brush.

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So, there is a potted history of my prosthetic lineage.  There are others, too many to list here.  Martin Rezard sculpts in a way that makes me stare in amazement, the animatronics of Gustav Hoegen and Chris Clarke make me want to buy a lathe.  The paint work of Henrik Svensson is incredible and Brian Best has the most incredible mould-making mind I have ever seen.

All of these people are motivated, hard working and damn good at what they do.  When I get a chance to find out something new from them, I get that floaty feeling again and I know something good just happened.

So, in conclusion I think it’s great to be interested and inspired but you only get better by doing, failing occasionally, doing again.

If you have any cool stories or recollections about influences, please share them in the comments below or drop me an email.  I would love hear what got you fired up.

Stuart

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Thanks, Mr Freeborn for the inspiration.  The things you made then made me want to make too, and when I got there I met others who were also inspired by you.  Rest in peace.

There is a radio documentary ‘Stuart: A Face Backwards‘ available on BBC iPlayer at the time of writing. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01k2df5

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Frankie 2 paintin’ and putting on hair

The last post finished with the silicone poured up.  Happily the first one out was okay.  A few air bubbles but nothing so bad.

Incidentally, the silicone I used here was Pro gel silicone.  I hadn’t used this before, but did an application job for Kristyan Mallet which used appliances made from it just before Christmas. 

That was hardly a coincidence, as Kristyan is part of a new materials company called PS Composites, so naturally he used his own material.  I decided that I would give it a try on my next project, as it worked great on the shoot we did.

Silicone head in mould

The front half of the mould removed, you can see the silicone filled the mould nicely.

The release I used for the mould was a couple of coats of washing-up liquid and water (about 1:1 ratio), allowing each to dry by leaving the moulds in front of a desk fan.  This worked really well, but if it was a little sticky, it’s nice to immerse the whole mould in water.  This would reactivate the washing up detergent, making it slip out more easily.  This is then easily cleaned up with just water.  Love it!

The silicone is nice – needs less deadener (I didn’t use any, and it was plenty soft) but most importantly it is thinner, kind of like cream in consistency.  It fills up in the mould quickly because it is more fluid, and had less air bubbles as a result.

Silicone once out of the mould, but before removal from the core.

Silicone once out of the mould, but before removal from the core.

Once the mould was off, a quick assessment is made to see if there is any damage, air bubbles and the seam is okay.  The seam was fab, so no great work in filling that.  There was a big air pocket on the back, a touch down where the brown Lycra touched the mould surface (as it was  thinner in the sculpt at that point).

There was also the nub where the injection point was.  All these three things were on the back, two of them would be under hair, and all of it is easily fixed.  I clean the whole head up with acetone to make sure the surface is ready to accept new silicone.  Without this step, it may be that any silicone added could peel away later as residual release from the mould could still be on here.

Seaming

Thickening a little of the silicone with a silicone ‘thixotropic’ meant I could make a paste of the same silicone to fill any bubbles and seams.

I kept a little of the silicone back after they were poured for just this purpose.

By adding some silicone thickener (or ‘thixo’) I can create a thickened paster version of the same colour silicone to fill the holes.

I used a flat bladed spatula to fill the seam after snipping the excess away with little curved nail scissors.  By slightly snipping too much away. you can fill the tiny trough left, and create a smooth finish.  Once the seam is filled, another pass over the top stippled on to put some texture back can really help hide the join.

Once the filled areas have set it is time for paint. I must acknowledge Waldo Mason as the main source of my silicone painting knowledge, as he has been incredibly generous with his time explaining things to me in the past.

I used flowable silicone compound from RS as a base, mixed with naphtha.  I found this in the form of car panel wipe, a solvent considerably less expensive than buying cigarette lighter fluid.  That can then be tinted with oil paints to create washes of colour airbrushed or painted on, building up layers gradually.

First pass was a red, then blue, a little blood red and bruising in places, followed by a matte layer of the silicone mixed with Cab-O-Sil.  Obviously, when using solvents and especially when using an airbrush, make sure that you work smart and wear a suitable respirator!

Paint pass 1

Leaving the paint to dry for an hour or so, I pick apart a cheap wig to attach to the head.  I bought a really cheap wig from a party store which essentially was wefts (lengths) of artificial hair stitched onto a fabric cap shape.  By snipping the wefts away from the cap, I can attach lengths onto the head where I want them, using the silicone compound as the glue.

Finished stack

I build up several layers of hair, each overlapping the last and pin them in place allowing them to set up.  I really don’t ‘do’ hair as you can see, but it was fun having a go. I had the hair finish suddenly where the different skin was (as the head is supposed to made up of two different men).  The other skin of the head was made to look shaved, as well as having a distinctly different skin tone.

To create the shaved head look, I mixed a little blue/green and black silicone paint and stippled it on with a sponge.  This left a pleasing ’5 o’clock shadow effect.

Once all the painting was tweaked, and the hair trimmed to shape, the head is nearly ready to use.

I paint some eyebrows on to help give him that mean, glowering look without having any real hairs get in the way.

One finishing touch was to have some blood coloured silicone smeared and dripping down the hair – partly to keep it in place and partly as it looks utterly disgusting to have those wounds weeping down.  The silicone dries shiny, so it looks nice a wet even though it is quite dry to the touch.

I made two heads, one as a spare or to allow alternating nights giving more time to repair and touch up any damage done from performance to performance.

There were little wound appliances which can be applied over the cheek edges fresh on each night.  I designed the makeup so that these were the only real edges to see.

I should get some pics from the set soon, and will get some decent pics of this thing on for next time!  Any comments or questions are always welcome – please drop me a line below!

-Stuart

 

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