Red Nebula Studios

Fantasy art, costumes, crafts,
and creative endeavors.

Tip: Using Pre-made Objects while Sculpting

Work in progress sculpture of a male argonian mask from the Elder Scrolls series.

Eyes, teeth, horns... often times, a sculpture requires features which repeat and need to appear nearly identical, or which need to be an exact shape and size each time. Instead of trying to sculpt each part individually, it can sometimes be easier to pre-make an object (like the spikes in the argonian photo) or use an existing object (the glass cabochons being used as eye placeholders).

The argonian character has several spikes along the back of his jaws, and two more beneath his chin. I crafted a single spike from clay and made a mold of it, then filled it with various levels of resin to create a pair of spikes in each of the sizes I would need. I've also seen people pre-make horns and other features using polymer clay which, once baked, is a very nice hard material.

Similarly, the eyes on the argonian sculpture are 22mm glass cabochons. Rather than trying to sculpt a very precise dome shape in clay - a very tricky, tedious task - I simply added in placeholders of the exact shape and size his eyes will eventually be.

Not only does this trick save time, but it also means these features cannot be deformed by an accidental nudge or nicked with a sculpting tool, allowing you to work around them comfortably. You can also decide whether you want to cast the add-on pieces as part of your final mold, or remove them and cast them separately.

The final sculpture for a sad grim reaper skull mask commission. Here's the same technique used on the eyes for the sad reaper mask commission, crafting a single dome in clay with a pit in the center, and then molding and casting it so that both eyes would be precisely the same size and shape.
My completed spider mask sculpture, shown from the side. For my spider mask, I needed a set of six extra eyes, which needed to match on either side and be perfectly smooth and round, so I used a variety of small domes I had handy to create the effect.
The sculpture of Cullen's lion helmet in progress. Similarly, Cullen's helm required some hardware on either side that needed to match perfectly, so I sculpted one of each piece and molded and cast them ahead of time.
The rough sculpture for my Krampus mask. My Krampus (or horned demon) mask's horns were much too large and unwieldy to be included as part of the main mold, so I crafted them ahead of time and used them to determine the size and shape of the hole they'd be fitted back into once the full mask was assembled. It also meant I could cast the horns individually to be worn separately from the mask!
Sculpting the Blue Spirit mask. Most of the Blue Spirit mask made sense to cast as one single piece, but those tusks would make the mold more difficult to cast. I created them separately first, and then used them to leave an appropriately-sized gap for them to be glued in later.

© 2018 Artwork by Sarrah Wilkinson

Page last updated: 1/19/2016

Keywords: sculpting tip, creature features, pre-made objects, sculpture, oil-based clay, eyes, horns, teeth

Categories: Costuming, Tutorials, Tips and Tricks