I love making puppets and I'm always pushing for high quality. But I have been teaching silicone puppet making to BA animation students, and trying to train some people when they work with me, but as soon as I start talking chemicals or silicone with new people they blank out or think "Never mind stopmotion, drawing is easier - all you need is a pencil".

It is a shame that many people look at the Frankenweenie puppets and think to create a puppet that they have to dive into the deep with silicone etc. And so often excuses to not make puppets is down to money or time or resources.

So I thought, let's talk about cheap and easy ways of making puppets that still have good results!
This thread is both for the experienced and new puppet maker. Of course not everything gives the best results, but it's not about that - it's about puppet making on budget!

Here is a few things I use when I go cheap (I'll add more when I think of some!):

- PAPERCLAY
Paperclay doesn't give you the ability to add a lot of sculpting detail, but if you have simple or stylised puppets it is great to create heads with, because it is incredibly light when it dries - and so even the most fragile armature can hold it up.

- TWO COMPONENT CLAY
Oh you lovely lovely stuff. This helped me more often than I like to admit, sometimes when sculpting a quick face, buttons for clothes or props in the set. Unfortunately it's still relatively pricey for the amount you get, so use it wisely - e.g. when sculpting a head I use a base of a wooden ball or someting to sculpt around. The most known one is called Green Stuff and you can get it for about £7 at Games Workshop.

I also use it to "bone" wire armatures and/or hands: just make the wire armature, mold the clay around and let it dry. The exposed wire bends, but the bits with clay don't.

- LATEX
If silicone is not at hand, I did my wire hands into latex to coat them into reasonable hands. You can get quite a good level of detail with it!

- UPHOLSTERY FOAM
Upholstery foam is great to fill up anything up to the point that you only have to coat it in the other material to finish - this goes for clothes and hair. When I made wigs for my puppets, I would first shape them with wire mesh, then coat with thin upholstery foam, and then layer strands of hair on top. 


PLEASE SHARE YOUR TIPS AND TRICKS AS I'M SURE IT WOULD HELP EVERYBODY! :D

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For sculpting solid pieces, I use a two part epoxy putty called Milliput. I tend to use the Standard type, however I've recently looked into using the Superfine, which is great for sculpting details (water helps too). The Standard Yellow-Grey Milliput is great for making armature 'bones', very rigid when set. 

I just recently 'discovered' a painting mix that beats the pax paints I've been using.

Basically you take 3 parts Rubber Cement (I used Elmer's ), 1 part (2 parts for stronger color) acrylic paint, and 1-2 parts nail polish remover depending on how thick/runny you want the 'paint.'

Paint starting with light colors progressing into dark.

So far this mix has superior adhesion and realism to pax paints.

Use washes or inks to add shadow to the model.

Cadmus,
I've seen people use this method. I personally don't like it because of the smell. And sometimes the paint would peel off after a few bends at the joint or create creases. Also it gets a bit sticky so after painting it and letting dry, you can add a bit of powder (baby powder I think is what I saw being used) to make it less sticky.


Thanks for the input, I'll keep that in mind for the future, but also for the animation process in case of peeling. The formula above was modified from something I learned in a SFX latex mask making class. The paint has stuck pretty nicely on the mask, we'll see about the puppet though.
Alejandra Medina said:

Cadmus,
I've seen people use this method. I personally don't like it because of the smell. And sometimes the paint would peel off after a few bends at the joint or create creases. Also it gets a bit sticky so after painting it and letting dry, you can add a bit of powder (baby powder I think is what I saw being used) to make it less sticky.


I'm kicking myself for not specifying that this was used for painting latex. It peeled right off the sculpey head I made. Please, if anyone uses this- keep it to latex if at all.
Cadmus Rimbaud said:

I just recently 'discovered' a painting mix that beats the pax paints I've been using.

Basically you take 3 parts Rubber Cement (I used Elmer's ), 1 part (2 parts for stronger color) acrylic paint, and 1-2 parts nail polish remover depending on how thick/runny you want the 'paint.'

Paint starting with light colors progressing into dark.

So far this mix has superior adhesion and realism to pax paints.

Use washes or inks to add shadow to the model.

there was a tip my previous college professor gave his students when it comes to gluing wires to KnS tubes. For a stronger hold he advised to use a combination of baking soda and super glue. It gets really hot so be careful! I did a small post on it on my blog if you guys want to check it out. 

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