Mask V2: Paints, Casting and Varnishing

Posted in Design, Fantasy, General, Halloween, Horror, Masks, sculpting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2016 by Jim St Ruth

Here’s my finished second mask, painted and varnished!

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Bob II, as he’s called, was cast in liquid latex in a Platsil Gel 25 mould.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s perfectly possible to cast liquid latex into silicone, but there are some things to be aware of:

  • As there’s no porous plaster mould to absorb the liquid latex’s water, it will take a long time to cure and dry. Bob II took a whole 48 hours in a well-ventilated room. I left it in my work area over night with the window closed, and there was very little change to the curing process by morning – keeping the window kept things moving along.
  • Smaller areas, and areas where the latex has been applied more thickly, will take longer to cure… So, whilst the main body of the mask is fine, you can peer into those horns and see that the latex is still a very obvious white. It will cure. Just leave it be. Don’t be tempted to look; you’ll separate cured latex from non-cured… although this can give you some nice severed horns with suitably ragged edges. Just be careful!
  • The liquid latex won’t work with silicone with the dwell method of casting. Since there’s no plaster, you won’t get a skin forming around your negative. It’ll just sit there. Instead:
    • Get your liquid latex and add some latex thickener – check instructions on the bottle for the right amounts, as too much will just slow the curing process even more.
    • Pour this latex into your mould, but don’t worry about filling it up to the top. Just use a decent amount so that you can slush the latex around in the mould. Swish it around so that it gets to cover every part of the mould, then drain it into a pot.
    • Leave it thirty seconds.
    • Drain it again into the pot. What we’re looking to avoid is pooled latex, which will cure much more slowly. You don’t need to worry about it being a very thin coat. Just be aware of it gathering, and try to drain it. If it does pool in areas that are hard to drain, or there are areas that refuse to be coated, don’t worry. For the pools, use a cotton bud and gently spread the latex out. Don’t push the the latex so that it touches your negative, as this will drag on any latex skin and mush up the detail you’ve spent so much time sculpting.
    • Leave it 5 – 10 minutes. You’ll most likely see gaps in the latex, where the material’s surface tension has pulled the latex away from the underlying silicone. Don’t fret! Leaving the latex for those few minute will have started the curing process a little. It’ll be thicker, but still soft, so don’t touch it!
    • Repeat the process of swishing with liquid latex, sloshing it around so that everything’s covered. My castings have been fine at this point. Those gaps in the latex have disappeared, and everything’s been covered.
    • Drain back into the pot and leave for another while – 15-20 minutes.
    • Repeat the process 3 – 5 more times. You won’t really be able to gauge how thick the latex is but, as long as you’ve not sloshed it around the edges of your positive too much, it should be nice and thin there, and thick enough on the rest of your mask.
      • You’ll need it thin around the edges to blend the mask into your skin – I haven’t blended the mask at all in the picture, it’s just sat on my melon.
    • You might get ridges that do appear to be thinly covered, just dip a cotton bud in latex and lightly drag the bud over them. This will cover them to your satisfaction, though you might need to repeat the process a few times.
      • Very thin areas on the interior of the mask (away from the edges) will tear much more easily when you remove it from the mould.
    • Leave the mask overnight, and carry out a quick visual check the next day.
    • The edges of the mask might start lifting away from the silicone. Lightly dust these edges with baby powder to stop the latex sticking to itself if these edges start dipping inwards/ folding over.
  • The mask is ready to remove when all the whiteness has vanished. Brush the inside with baby powder again, and gently tease the mask out of the mould, limiting how much you pull. I’ve found teasing it out and lightly brushing at any stress points with a large, soft makeup brush that’s been dusted with baby powder helps a great deal – again, it stops the latex sticking, and the bristles will help detach the latex from the mould in a very gently fashion. Work with the shape of the mask, not against it, and don’t hurry! Take your time!

A Quick Note on Painting and Varnishing

I used acrylic paints in an airbrush, thinned with acrylic thinner for air brushes. You can use water as well, but that tends to make it much thinner, and getting that particular mix right is difficult. If you spray with it being too fluid, it’s easier to get unwanted spatters.

I didn’t bother sealing the mask first, which is fine, but there’s another note for caution. If you don’t seal it and your airbrush is at a higher pressure, it will blast into the mask, creating little tears and open bubble formations. You can choose to seal with a 50/50 mixture of Prosaide (a medical-grade adhesive) and water. Apply this gently with a sponge, to prevent unwanted stippling and brush strokes on your mask.

The finished paint job will need sealing, as although the acrylics will stick, if you accidentally scratch them, they will peel. The acrylics will also be liable to damage by UV light, making the colours fade over time.

Varnishing works to solve this. Both Liquitex and Golden make varnishes for acrylics, in both matt and gloss. Just make sure you get one that sets to transparency. They’ll make your colours really pop, keep your paint safe from scratches and stop them fading.

Bob II was varnished with Golden Polymer Medium (Gloss) in a thin layer.

You can clean your brush with plain water if it’s still wet, too – bonus!

Monster Mask Update

Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2016 by Jim St Ruth

A quick update with the holes for my eyes, nostrils and mouth cut out of the latex.

Latex Monster Mask… A Tutorial in Seven Steps.

Posted in Design, Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 5, 2016 by Jim St Ruth

monsterMaskTitle

I decided to get my head out of the PC and away from Zbrush and Maya for a while. I did my own zombie makeup with liquid latex for Halloween a couple of years ago, but wanted to be more adventurous… so making a full face latex monster mask was the only logical choice!

Here’s a step-by-step guide, with pictures of my process. I’ve set this up as one long post as I like to copy tutorials into OneNote so that I can view them when I’m offline and annotate. I’ve found it’s easier for me to just copy the whole tutorials in one go, plus I get to keep the link to the original pages as well.

The Idea

So, the idea is to create a latex mask that fits relatively snuggly onto my face. I’m not going to produce a full head mask. It’s a lengthy process, and much of it’s pretty messy. Bring newspaper or the sides of a cardboard box to work on, to protect your work surfaces. Prepare to get your fingers covered in plaster and gel gloop… and have fun!

To make the final mask, we need to break it down into separate, manageable activities. We’re going to start off with making a plaster mask of the face, which will then be used to create a plaster lifecast. We’ll then use clay to sculpt the form and detail of the final mask, which we’ll then cover in a silicone gel that will be our negative for the final latex mask.

Note: I bought the materials for each stage separately, mostly to ensure that I could just focus on one step at a time. The whole thing’s cost around £120 in total, including tools and clay, but for the clay I chose ‘Monster Clay‘ that you can buy online for around £35; it’s wax-based and so is completely reusable for future projects. It’s also solid at room temperature, so will keep its shape for a long time, meaning you can try the latter steps out several times if you need to, or just keep the sculpture indefinitely. If you’re unhappy with the sculpt, you can also just remove the clay and reheat it, put it back in its container and start sculpting from scratch with no loss. It’s also extremely good to work with, it’s non-toxic and it doesn’t stick to your fingers.

This will take several days in total, not counting the waiting time for the next set of materials to be delivered. In total this has taken me around four weeks, but I was busy. You should be able to do it in a lot less… just note that if you’re making a mask for a specific event, then you’re going to want to leave yourself lots of time.

Each step takes less than an hour, except for the sculpting, which can last however long you want it to.

Safety Warning!

Don’t ever apply anything more than bandages impregnated with Plaster of Paris to bare skin to make a lifecast. A little on your hands and fingers whilst you’re working won’t hurt, but remember that plaster heats as it dries and sets, and that it also contracts. There are some well-founded stories of people that have plunged their hands and arms into Plaster of Paris and let it set onto their limbs. The heat increases, and can do up to at least 60C/ 140F. You can’t pull your hand out. It’s absolutely the result that you will get burnt. If you submerge bits of you in plaster, blood supply can easily be restricted as the stuff contracts and hardens.People have lost fingers doing this

I’ve never had any trouble using plaster impregnated gauze, and letting it dry on my skin, but then it contains very little plaster, and so don’t really heat up at all.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat any plaster, clay or other non-edible materials either. Always leave gaps in any gauze or latex so that you can breathe completely easily. Don’t breathe in plaster dust. Neither should you eat food without washing stuff off your hands. Don’t jam it up your nose or into any other cavity. Don’t rub it into your eyes. Don’t make a cigarette with plaster or Vaseline-covered fingers; they taste absolutely foul.

Now lets get the ball rolling!

Step One: Making a Plaster Mask to Create Your Lifecast.

Time: 45 mins – 1 hour

Aim:

  • Create a plaster cast of your face that we’ll use to make the lifecast.

Materials:

  • Gauze bandage impregnated with Plaster of Paris
  • A small bowl with water
  • A mirror
  • A tub of Vaseline
  • Your fingers!

Process:

  1. You can buy the plaster impregnated gauze online and at local craft shops. I bought mine from Hobby Craft, in the UK; three 3m x 10cm rolls for £1 each in store, though they might cost up to £2 each.
  2. Sit in front of a mirror, and apply a thin layer of Vaseline over your face. We’re going to need to take the cast off your face after it’s dried, and that will pull any hairs out by their roots. So pay particular attention to your eyebrows. If you’ve got short hair, then apply it around your hairline. If you’ve got longer hair, pull it back, cover your scalp in cling film, and stick it in place with either duct tape or masking tape around the sides of your face… Removing this might sting a little, but it’s better than ripping out the hairs and showing your odd bald patches to family, friends and colleagues… unless you’re weird, but I’m guessing that’s not your bag either.
  3. Wash your hands!
  4. Cut a roll of the gauze bandage into strips, making them different sizes. You’ll need longer, thicker strips and shorter, narrower ones too; larger for the main parts of your face, smaller for around the nose, mouth and eyes.
  5. I started with my forehead, because I’ve got cropped hair and it’s a big open space up there. Dip the first piece of gauze into the water, making sure both sides and the ends are wet. Then lay it across your skin, rubbing the gauze so that the plaster spreads out evenly. We’re going to overlap the strips of gauze, and wet plaster sticks to wet plaster.
  6. Work around the face, keeping your eyes and nostrils mouth free. Overlap the strips of plaster, trying to avoid any wrinkles in the gauze on this first layer. You’ll need to keep still too. The final mask will cover slightly less than your full face, so we’ll need to apply the gauze under and around the chin. With your mouth closed, this will be easier, otherwise the overall shape will stretch as the gauze is drying… we’re also going to pour Plaster of Paris into this to make the lifecast, and so we need a relatively even gauze mask to make sure the lifecast is full face.
  7. Move around the face, building the gauze up into two or three layers, changing the direction of the strips to make the gauze mask stronger. You’ll feel it tightening as it started to dry… tap it lightly and listen to the sound; you’ll hear it sounding more hollow as it dries. It’s fine to apply more wet gauze onto dry gauze, as long as you keep rubbing at the plaster with wet fingers. Make sure the gauze follows the contours of your face, particularly around the sides, top and base of your nose, around your eyes, your closed lips too. We want the lifecast to look like you.
  8. When you think you’ve got your whole face covered, it’s time to let it dry. In the UK’s climate this can take around 10-15mins. You can use a hair dryer to speed things up, just use a low heat setting and keep moving the hair dryer around so that the gauze mask dries evenly; plaster contracts as it dries, and you need to keep the shape of your face.
  9. Take off the mask! … Start by flexing your face muscles. Frown. Wiggle your eyebrows gently. Gurn. You’ll feel the gauze lifting from your face. Then tease the gauze right off your face, trying not to compress or distort it. Lightly pressing your palms against either side of your face and gently pulling from your forehead and under your chin will help a lot. It should be easy. The Vaseline will help, but it might take a minute or two to do carefully.
  10. Let the mask dry for five minutes or so, so that it can become more rigid… et voila!
  11. The pictures below shows my gauze mask before I covered my mouth, which I did as the last step, and of the removed mask.
  12. You’ll need more gauze now, because we need to cover up the nostrils and eyes on the gauze mask. Don’t worry about this being too accurate. You can get away with just applying a couple more layers of gauze, as long as you don’t change or exaggerate the forms. Gently smooth the plaster across the gauze here. The gauze mask underneath should be fairly solid, but you can break it if you press too hard.
  13. And we’re done! …It’s kind of eerie.

Step Two: Reinforcing The Gauze Mask.

Time: 30 – 45 mins

Aim:

  • Strengthen the outside of the gauze mask.
  • Create a relatively smooth surface on the inside of the gauze mask, so that we have a nice even surface that we can make the lifecast from.

Materials:

  • Plaster of Paris, about 2.5kg for the whole project
  • A measuring cup/ scales
  • Some cardboard or newspaper to work on
  • Either two large, disposable bowls or one that you can really scrub clean
  • A separate large bowl
  • A tea towel that you don’t mind getting mucky
  • Your fingers!

Process:

  1. Plaster of Paris can be bought online and from most craft stores. It’s mixed at a ratio of two parts plaster to one part water, and this bit of the process is going to get messy! I don’t normally work in American cups, preferring weight. Here, though, I used a two half cup measures and one of water. Add the water to the plaster, and mix until there are no lumps left… but don’t whisk it. Whisking will create bubbles in the plaster, and it’s not always easy to get them out.
  2. With your gauze mask lying face up on your newspaper or cardboard, gently rub the plaster over its outer surface. It doesn’t need to be very smooth at all. We’re not going to mould anything onto the outside of the gauze mask. We’re really just strengthening it so that it can hold a much larger volume of plaster in the next main step. Keep this coat of plaster reasonably thin too. My attempts have all worked well with a layer of around 3-4mm; this is going to be removed from the lifecast eventually, and we don’t want it to be too thick and therefore too rigid.
  3. You’ll only have less than 5 minutes to apply the plaster before it starts to seriously thicken in the bowl. You’ll notice as you try and rub it onto the gauze that it can turn quite granular; if you keep rubbing at this drying plaster then you’ll risk damaging the gauze, but it’s not a serious worry.
  4. Let this dry. About ten minutes should be enough.
  5. This is a good time to wash all of the plaster off your hands. If you’re using disposable bowls to mix your plaster in, throw this first one in the bin now. You don’t want to mix new plaster over old. It’ll get all grainy and bitty, and it’ll thicken the consistency of your next batch of plaster; you need this to be more runny and smooth. If you’re washing your bowl, then put any old plaster in the bin rather than washing it down the drain wherever possible. Your drains will get clogged otherwise, and you’ll have to use something like caustic soda to clear it. You’ll also have to scrap some of the now hard plaster off the inside of your bowl… I’ve found soapy hot water helps, but it can take a bit of work; the only annoying step of this whole process!
  6. Take your separate large bowl and place your scrunched up tea towel in it. Then take the gauze mask and lay it face down onto the tea towel, so that its weight is supported. Don’t be afraid to pick it up again whilst you’re working during Step 8. It’s really just so that you can let it dry easily, but it’s easier to set this up whilst you’re hands are free!
  7. Mix a second batch of Plaster of Paris, using slightly more water, so that the mix is more runny. Then rub it around the inside of the gauze mask, making the surface as smooth as you can, and quite thin. Since we’ll be making the lifecast from this side of the gauze mask, you’ll need to preserve the shape of your features here. The final latex mask will conform pretty closely to your face, so if you add too much plaster then you’ll make that final mask too tight. 2mm should be fine. We’re trying to make a smooth surface that completely covers all gauze on the inside of this negative gauze mask.
  8. Try to go right up to the edges, working quickly. The plaster, since it’s more runny, will take longer to dry, but rely on only having a minute more; 6 mins in total, but probably less. Don’t stress. It’s actually pretty easy if the plaster is runny… for consistency aim for that of a gravy or light cheese sauce, rather than gloopy.
  9. Leave to dry. That’s the gauze mask completed. Time to wash up, chill out and plan the next step, which is a much quicker one; from that you’ll have your lifecast.

… And my pictures of this step have vanished, but the process is easy to follow.

Step Three: Lifecast!

Time: 15 mins

Aim:

  • To create the lifecast that we’ll then sculpt the clay onto.

Materials:

  • Plaster of Paris, about 1.5 to 2kg
  • More Vaseline
  • Your fingers!

Process:

  1. Apply a thin layer of Vaseline onto the interior of your negative gauze and plaster mask. Don’t leave any lumps. Make sure to cover every bit of the surface, and all of the nooks and crannies. We’re going to be pouring plaster into the mask, and without the Vaseline it would stick hard to the plaster you’ve already applied. Lumps and big smears will only show up on the lifecast, and we’re trying to keep this pretty accurate.
  2. Mix the Plaster of Paris with the same 2:1 ratio. Try not to get many bubbles. I actually thought 1kg was enough for my face, and I needed to mix more plaster; around another 500g – 1kg. The exact quantities are difficult to judge.
    1. You can mix more plaster and add it to the first layer that you pour into the gauze mould, but it’s very likely that you’ll then get two discernible layers when they’re dried and released from the gauze mask moulding. That didn’t matter to me. It’s still smooth enough without any ragged joins at all, and that’s all I was concerned about.
    2. For me, I mixed this second batch of plaster in a bit of a panic, using the same bowl with part of the first mix still in it. This resulted in a different consistency; it was thicker and more dense. Bear this in mind if you want a perfect lifecast to show off and keep long-term. It will last a very long time. Don’t be afraid if you’ve not mixed enough, though. Mix more. Make a note of the total quantities to make another lifecast with if you do want to show it off. It’s all about creativity, learning and having fun, after all.
  3. Start pouring the plaster mix into the gauze mould, using the fingers of your free hand to make sure it gets into every crevice, particularly around the base and sides of your nose. This will help make sure that there aren’t any bubbles, which would show up when you release the lifecast from its mould. Fill it almost right up to the top, keeping the layers of the gauze mask and its plaster showing. The tea towel should support its weight and keep it steady.
    1. This was one of the reasons that we built up the original layers of gauze so widely around the face. We need to be able to get at the plaster gauze mask, and the edges of the plaster we’ve previously applied to its inside when the lifecast is dry.
  4. Leave to dry. This could take a day or more. it’s easy to tell when the surface is drying, but the insides will take longer, particularly as the water in the plaster is sealed in by the layer of Vaseline you’ve applied. I ended up leaving it for two days, just to play it on the safe side.
  5. Remove the negative plaster gauze mask from the lifecast once the lifecast is dry. The whole thing will be pretty heavy. Start by teasing the edges of the gauze mask from the plaster lifecast at the edges, making sure that you don’t damage the actual lifecast. If it’s dry then you shouldn’t have any problems. The Vaseline will provide some lubrication and should stop anything from sticking.
    1. After I’d teased the very edges of the plaster gauze mask off the lifecast, I got worried and perhaps I shouldn’t have done. I decided to get a round-ended kitchen knife to pry the plaster-gauze layer off the lifecast,realised that everything was set, and so went in with the scissors.
    2. Cutting, and making sure that I wasn’t scraping the lifecast, I found that even opening up the negative plaster gauze mask by even five centimetres was all it needed. The gauze mask came off!1LifecastJimStRuth
  6. You’ll notice that there are holes and other areas where air bubbles got into the plaster. This is fine. Just mix a little more Plaster of Paris, and work it into those spaces, trying to make sure that you don’t leave any lumps sticking out.
    1. You an also see around the bottom of the picture, under my chin, where those two layers of plaster meet. They’re very noticeable, but the joins were smooth.
    2. The other patches of lighter-coloured plaster are, I believe, due to density, rather than parts not being fully dried yet. That cab look the same, but tapping the plaster gives the same sound. It feels the same too. I think some of that second layer of more dense plaster just sunk, which might explain the larger air holes on the right side of the image, just between the mouth and cheeks.

Step Four: Sculpting!

Time: As long as you want!

Materials:

  • Sculpting clay
  • Sculpting tools

Process:

  • I’ll make this section brief, because it’s all down to what you want to do.
  • Be careful when you heat wax-based clay in a microwave; only heat it for 1-2 minutes at a time. Remember that anything in the microwave heats from the inside. So the outside of the Monster Clay in its over safe container will eventually turn pliable, but the core will be runny and molten. It might burn if you just dig around in it, and you might be cutting out a chunk of clay to work with, only to break through to a very molten layer. Be careful.
  • Shape the clay as you want, don’t worry about adding detail. You’re just building up form, and you don’t need to get it perfect. Try and smooth the joins between different applied pieces of clay whilst they’re still warm, because this just makes things easier later on.
  • Keep the edges of the sculpt pretty thin, because your latex mask will conform to the detail of your work. The edges will be right on your skin, and it will be easier to cover with liquid latex or scar war to blend it into your actual face… keeping an area around the edges of the lifecast clear of clay will also help immeasurably.
  • Monster Clay will harden quickly as it reaches room temperature. Don’t be afraid to stick it back in the microwave to keep the clay in its container pliable, just remember to heat it in minute-long bursts to stop it from burning, catching fire or turning molten without you realising.
  • Monster Clay can be useful if it’s heated until it’s a liquid, but read the instructions on the website and the packet. Sorry to stress this so much, but safety is paramount, and I don’t want anyone trying to sue me because they weren’t cautious and didn’t follow the manufacturer’s own guidelines and warnings… but I’ve not had any issues when I’ve followed them. I’d suggest removing clay from the container with a pallet knife or some other tool to make sure.
  • Avoid forming any spikes or other sharp edges, as this will only be more difficult when it comes to the casting and final moulding process. If you want this features, I’d suggest modelling them separately in clay, and sticking them directly into the finished latex mask. You could also try making a silicone mould for just these pieces and then moulding with latex, because if anything tears you only have to small pieces of work without having to restart the main moulding and casting process, saving you time and money spent on materials… Step Six can be expensive, at around £20 a time.
  • This was my rough, un-smoothed mask. I’m only a novice at sculpting, but this was meant to be a bit of fun. I’m really happy with the results, but you can see from the pictures that it’s a little rough in many places. I cut some shallow wounds into the face and forehead horn; enough to give the right effect, but not deep enough so that the gel from the next step and the final dried and cured latex would tear as they were being removed.

Step Five: Smoothing The Sculpt

Aim:

  • To get rid of any unwanted blemishes and seams between the different applied blobs of clay.
  • To refine parts of the form until I was more satisfied with the sculpt.
  • To produce the positive for Step Six; this is the application of the gel that we’ll apply the latex to, and that will give us our final latex mask.

Materials:

  • An old dishcloth, clean
  • Tissues
  • WD40
  • A very-well ventilated room

Process:

  • WD40 acts as a solvent, and so is excellent to smooth out and help refine any large- and medium-scale detail. Spray a little on your cloth and rub it with a medium pressure onto part of the sculpt, paying attention to the surface of the clay softening and becoming mailable at room temperate underneath.
  • Then take a tissue and smooth out the blemishes, wiping away any WD40 as you do so. You don’t want too much WD40 as your sculpt can go squishy. Just be patient. Work on sections of the clay mask sculpt, polishing out the big blemishes, turning the whole sculpt and lifecast as you go.
  • Work on the smaller blemishes next, using clean parts of your dishcloth and fresh tissues as they get covered in clay. Brief, half-second long squirts of WD40 over your clay will give you enough to help smooth out small sections at a time. Applying less is easier. It stops other parts of your sculpt softening, and you can always spray more onto your cloth.
  • Pinching parts of your sculpt relatively gently between the cloth and tissue can also help define harder edges. This was great for me working the details in around the cheeks, lips and jaw line.
  • The dish cloth and tissue approach was also great for the insides of the nostrils, the eyes and the lips, but I needed a little help too. I used cotton buds sprayed with a little WD40, and a small, looped sculpting tool to help get tissue into the tightest areas. I used that same tool to remove some clay around the philtrum, and to refine the edges around the edges, polishing with my cloth and tissue. I used a small sculpting knife to get into the corners of the mouth also, sprayed a little WD40 directly onto the clay, then used the knife wrapped in a tissue to smooth and blend it until I was happy.
  • I knew that I was taking a risk with the forehead horn, and the small horn on the middle of the nose. I tried to keep them solid and not pointy, so that the gel and latex wouldn’t snag and tear in the final two steps.
  • I also balled up some of the excess Monster Clay that came off, and used it to create a couple of large pimples. I didn’t smooth the edges in, figuring that they might actually be extrusions of hard matter, like bone or a strange kind of miniature face-hugging limpet. Both the latex and gel in the next steps are stretchy, and I knew I wouldn’t be stressing the material too much to remove from around these tiny structures.

Step Six: Producing The Master Negative Mould.

Time: 15-25 minutes

Aim:

  • To produce the master negative mould that we’ll apply liquid latex to the inside of, thus giving us our final latex mask!

Materials:

  • Disposable plastic takeaway carton
  • Platsil Gel 25
  • Newspaper or cardboard to work on
  • Your sculpt!

Process:

This was a little bit trial and error, so I’ll tell you what I did to start with, what went wrong and why, before giving you the juicy path to moulding success!

It’s worth saying that I used Platsil Gel 25 bought from Amazon UK in a combined 500g package; 250g each of the gel and catalyst in separate bottles. At the time of writing this, the supply only lists a full 2kg package at £60. I bought the 500g product for £18, so it might be worth messaging the seller to see if they can give you a smaller size if it’s not listed in their stock.

I chose the Platsil Gel 25 because its a platinum-based silicone, and it’s advertised as skin safe. My research indicated that a platinum-based silicone master mould could last for a long time, in the order of years or decades. It would be nice to keep the mould to make many masks, if I wanted in future, or just for sentimental reasons. Monster Clay also lists platinum-based silicone as compatible and non-reactive with its own chemistry… and I also ended up having to buy two lots of Platsil Gel 25 because my first efforts went horribly south.

Hence, why I’ll start with this:

What Not To Do

The Platsil Gel turns into a very rubbery solid, and to do this it needs to be mixed with the supplied catalyst at a 1:1 ratio by weight or volume.

So far, so good.

I mixed 75g of the gel with 75g of catalyst, carefully mixing with a teaspoon so that I didn’t create any bubbles.

This worked out fine.

Yet as soon as I started applying the mixture, I realised that I was going to be in trouble. I’d not used this substance before. This was also my first attempt at mask making. It runs. A lot. It dripped, running off the sculpt and lifecast onto the cardboard it was resting on, and I hurriedly tried to scoop it up and drip it back on.

It thickened pretty quickly, becoming very gloopy and sticky. I really struggled to get it to adhere to the sculpt and lifecast before it just pooled, and that’s one of the two areas that I went wrong.

I then mixed the whole of the remaining gel and catalyst, trying to let it set a little as I covered the sculpt and lifecast. Things got better. Everything turned out quite bumpy, but that was fine; this is only the master negative mould, so we only care that the insides of the applied gel stick to the clay and plaster lifecast, and that there are no air bubbles where the two meet.

It dried quickly, but I left it a day to make sure it was fully cured.

I then took off the master positive mould… but the damned thing had torn. The areas around the forehead thorns were really thin, and although the Platsil is pretty tough and stretchy, it wasn’t enough to cope with my inexperienced application. I then tried applying the liquid latex to the insides, and the results were completely horrible. Everything tore. There were huge gaping holes in my mask. I wasn’t happy. I went off to do some research, realising and discovering a better approach to this whole step.

Problem:

Platsil Gel 25 applied too thinly, especially over ridges and the horns, resulting in tears that I couldn’t repair, or couldn’t find out how to do so whilst preserving the form of the clay that it was a mould of.

What I Did Do!

  • Bought a second batch of Platsil Gel 25.
  • Mixed one batch of gel and catalyst, each 64g by weight, and mixed thoroughly but gently.
  • Spooned the mixture into the cavities over the eyes and in the mouth.
  • As the gel started to thicken, I spooned it onto the main features, smoothing it with the back of the teaspoon and spreading it around the sides of the clay and the lifecast base.
  • As the gel really thickened, it dripped it over the nose and forehead horns, as well as those on the temples. As the substance got even tackier, the last of it now globbing together in my takeaway carton, is pressed it firmly into the wounds and the nostrils, making sure that there weren’t any air bubbles.
  • Mixed the last of the gel and catalyst in two equal batches, applying one before mixing and the applying the second.
  • I applied each batch in the same manner as above, working around all of the features as the gel was still runny, spreading it out as evenly and completely as I could manage. As each batch thickened, I paid close attention to the horns, the bridge of the nose, the chin and the outer sides of the cheek ridges. When the mixture got so thick that it was almost unworkable, I applied it to the back/underside of the nose and forehead horns, relying on the increased viscosity to make it stick firmly.
  • Letting it dry, everything seemed much better, and this approached work very well.
  • I then applied several more layers of plaster gauze over this. I knew that the positive mould would be very flexible, which is very good when removing it from the sculpt and when removing the latex in the final step… but I needed some rigidity when applying it and letting the latex dry, so that the final mask wasn’t stretched or lopsided. After this had dried, I removed the gauze bandages from the positive mould, being gentle in case the Platsil tore. It didn’t. It was stretchy and thick, so pretty strong too. I didn’t pull hard, but even the horns came out without being damaged.
  • There’s a photo of this bandage structure, and the lifecast, sculpt and Platsil Gel below…
    • Note that the white goop on the Platsil Gel is actually liquid latex, because I was curious to see if the two would stick. This was only applied to the outside of the Platsil, so it didn’t matter if it did stick… and it did, eventually, but was runny and dribbled a lot. This is important for the next and final big step; the creation of the final latex mask.
  • I then applied a very thick layer of Plaster of Paris over this plaster gauze support mask, about half a centimetre deep in total, leaving it to dry on the table overnight. The Platsil was also a little tacky too. That really benefited from being left well alone for a few hours; it was a hot and very humid day, though I’m not sure whether the residual tackiness was due to the humidity.

Step Seven: Final Step – Creating The Mask!

Time: 5 x 30mins

Aims:

  • To produce the mask!

Materials:

  • Liquid latex
  • Tissue
  • Foam pieces, generally used for crafts, face painting and sculpting
  • Baby powder
  • A very well ventilated room
  • Tissues
  • Two metal sculpting tools; one small and looped, the other pointed

Process:

  1. This last set of actions was really, really simple. I bought a 1L container of liquid latex from Hobby Craft for £11, and I used only about an eighth of the contents.
  2. I removed the Platsil positive mould from the clay sculpt and plaster lifecast without any problems. The clay didn’t even break. There weren’t any tears. I said my second approach to applying the Platsil had worked, and this is when I found out! I was… more than a little thrilled. I think I might have hooted. After waiting a couple of days for the second batch of Platsil to arrive and then putting aside time to apply it, I felt pretty entitled too as well.
  3. I reinserted the Platsil positive into the supporting plaster and plaster-gauze frame that I’d built at the end of the previous step, once more resting it on my tea towel in the large bowl.
  4. After seeing how the liquid latex ran off the surface of the cured Platsil Gel without initially sticking, I opted to used baby powder; a very fine coating applied gently with my fingertips, with the excesses emptied off and with my eyes shut to stop the baby powder getting in my eyes, blew hard and a lot over the bathtub to leave only a very fine residue.
  5. I poured a small amount of liquid latex into the positive mould, swirling it around gently to stop it forming any bubbles. I then used the small sections of cut foam to coat the inside of the mould thinly, adding a bit more liquid latex, but not being too concerned with getting full coverage at this point.
  6. After a five-minute break, I returned and swirled the latex around some more; it had started to thicken, and it started to adhere to the baby powder-coated Platsil much more.
  7. I applied several coats in total, waiting until the previous layer stopping running when I rotated the positive mould; five layers in total, and left over night to dry and cure.
    1. Liquid latex is generally made from a mixture of latex and water, though there’s usually a very small percentage of ammonia added to increase its shelf life. It stinks. Any British person that grew up in the 1970s or 1980s will know it smells of Copydex glue; pretty nasty and a little acrid too. Hence the ventilation, though this also helps with drying and curing.
    2. The drying and curing involves the evaporation of the water, and the curing seems to be when the latex actually is ready to be removed, worn and/or have makeup applied to it. During drying the latex will stop being tacky, turning into a solid. During curing, from what I can tell, the colour turns from white to a yellowish, semi-transparent. I was very tired when I researched this, hence my uncertainty… but when the latex is yellowish in this way, you can take it from the positive; it’s ready!

      10LatexLayersJimStRuth

      Latex Inside The Positive Platsil Gel Mould

  8. In the morning, the latex was still white in several areas; especially inside the horns, which had neither cured nor dried. It took another day next to an open window to dry and cure almost completely. It started to peel away from the Platsil positive mould as well. I tested the latex. It was all firm where it was exposed to the air…
  9. I removed the latex gently, and it wasn’t completely dry or cured. The deepest layers of latex, inside the nose and forehead horns, were still tacky and I almost lost those parts to tearing… but I was careful. I’d already removed the rest of the mask and thought I’d gone past the point of no return. Everything came out fine. My final picture is below, and you can still see the uncured parts; all white.

The mask is now on the table next to me, lightly propped up with kitchen roll inside it.

It’s cured and dried.

The detail’s been well-preserved and carried from my sculpting. Despite the pics, the surfaces is very smooth, and I’m completely happy.

My next step’s researching and applying makeup… I’ll let you know how that turns out.

11LatexMaskPartCuredJimStRuth

Attack Ship

Posted in 3D, Maya, Photoshop, Pictures, science fiction, Substance Painter, zbrush with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2016 by Jim St Ruth

ship1-1

It’s been a long while since I posted to my blog… Busy world, lots of distractions and a lot of home improvement.

I bought Substance Painter a few months ago, and have been blown away by the ease of texturing a model. With so many filters, so much control and a great ability to customise, paint and make a model worn/ dirty, it’s an exceptional piece of software.

The model was sculpted in ZBrush, then retopologised and UV mapped in Maya.

ZOriginal

Original ZBrush Sculpt

To allow for high resolution textures, there are nine different texture sets/ UV groups, each with their own materials assigned, set up as different objects. The component objects are then unified into a single object that now has multiple texture sets, and it’s exported as an .obj file; importing this into Substance Painter then allows for the different texture sets to be worked on. I’ve included a UV snapshot of three of these texture sets below for reference and, whilst one of them doesn’t fill up the space as efficiently as it might do, it did the job.

The modelling took far more time than the texturing. Completing the ZBrush sculpt was pretty rapid, and I was happy with the overall design. This was created via Dynamesh and then reduced from 5m polygons to 36k using Decimation Master. The model was then made live in Maya, curves drawn across the surface which were then smoothed to make the flow of the individual piece of the model in the next step more regular.

The retopology was then completed at a low resolution; only around 25k polygons for the whole ship. The borders of the model’s pieces were checked with smooth preview, before the next step in Maya.

Substance Painter doesn’t have an option for smooth preview, so to prevent any blockiness the objects need to be at a higher resolution. So the pieces were subdivided, and unwanted edges were deleted. The final object is around 100k polygons which, when imported into Substance Painter, made my machine run like a dog.

However, because I’d UV mapped in groups and created several texture sets, the various pieces can be viewed and worked on in isolation in Substance Painter, speeding things up considerably. It’s also worth pointing out that by cycling through the material options with the ‘m’ shortcut key, you can effectively turn lighting and shadows off, allowing the whole object to be visible with very little slow down.

I was going to take everything back into Maya to render… but the in-built renderer in Substance Painter does a very nice job using HDRI maps for lighting. Since this is just a static image, just some beauty shots of the model and no scenery or posing, I’m just going to leave it as it is.

Trainers!

Posted in 3D with tags , , , , on October 4, 2014 by Jim St Ruth

Sculpted, retopologised and then textured in ZBrush.

trainersComp1

507

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2014 by Jim St Ruth

Paul Dundon's Weblog

Overwhelmed by meaning
I sit located
In a plethora of networks
Symbols surround me
Gateways and connections
To every lived experience
I feel I could reach out and touch
Humanity itself
I feel inspired
A thousand ties
Connect me to eternity
Destiny and history
Well up within me
But I find I am the puppet,
Not the master
The very cords that raise my eyes
Bind my hands.

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Head Bust

Posted in 3D, Design, Pictures, science fiction, zbrush with tags , , , , , on June 28, 2014 by Jim St Ruth

HeadBustJimStRuth2014