I'm working on a puppet of a girl, and I want to use silicone for the skin. I tried to make it of Dragon Skin 10 but the result goes too smooth and looks very doll like - as in the picture here:
I want to get a realistic-looking skin. Is there any other type of silicone that is more suitable for this purpose? Or is there a problem with the model -should I make it less smooth or something?
And - what is the recommended way to make face replacements? She doesn't speak, but needs to change facial expressions - eyes widened and narrowed, smile, mouth open and closed. (I want to make the whole puppet from silicon because she wears very little). Should I replace the whole head or just the face, or maybe build a face armature? (the body has a boll and socket armature combined with wire)
The smoothness is because the sculpt was smooth, any silicone will come up the same. It's a nice character sculpt!
It is a flat even colour though, like it is just the base colour you mixed into the silicone. So maybe painting it with thinned-down washes of silicone and pigment would take away that doll-like appearance. Adding silicone on top will leave it glossy, so you have to sprinkle on matting powder while it is wet, then wash off with water when the silicone has set, to get back the nice matte texture you got out of the mould. (Matting powder, which I ordered from The Compleat Sculptor in NY, USA, seems to be icing sugar.)
I mostly have a wire in each lip so the mouth can open and close. With Neanderthal-like characters with protruding brows, having a wire loop inside works well for raising and lowering eyebrows, and tilting for a frown or sad look. But with flat brows like you would have for a child or more realistic human, that doesn't work very well. The external eyebrows I make for some puppets, with the wire sticking out and covered in latex and flocking, wouldn't be a good look for this character either! One option is to leave the forehead smooth, with movable eyebrows stuck on the surface, stuck on with a little vaseline.
The other way is replacement heads or parts. Replacing part of the face works best with hard resin heads. But you could have a few full heads with different basic expressions. You don't have to change them in the middle of a shot. This is what director Tony Lawrence did for his main character in Grace Underwater, a film I made sets for, and sculpted some bodies. http://www.graceunderwater.com/home.html
The heads are silicone with hair added, and have enough mouth movement for dialog. A bit like yours, but these were pretty small heads, true 1:6 scale. Grace is a little girl who looks grumpy for much of the film, so that is one head. For a couple of shots she is underwater holding her breath, with cheeks puffed out, and that was a different head. And in one scene she is giggling, so there was a happy face. I think there was a neutral one as well. Moving the mouth wires does give some variation to the expression, but the basic happy/sad/angry quality is sculpted in.
The hair was made onto a thin removable shell that was formed on the head, so it could be taken off and put on the different heads.
Full sets of replacement faces for animation is the way Laika have gone, with thousands of upper and lower faces 3d printed for Boxtrolls. It can be done on a more modest scale, but I haven't ever tried it.
Thank you Nick! I'm really a fan of your work.
My puppet is also in scale 1:6 and so I found it difficult to insert wires into her mouth during casting - her mouth is so small and I could not be precise in their spot.
About the replacement heads - if I want to copy most of the face and only change the part of the eyes and mouth - is using the puppet (the silicon cast), putting additional clay on it and make a mold for each head is the way to do it? I used NSP plasticine for the model.
How to make the shell of the hair - is it made of silicon? And how it attaches to the head?
I really liked the style of Grace, this realistic style is what I'm trying to achieve. What is the hair and eyes are made of?
And is a 10 Shore silicone soft enough or is it better to work with Shore 30? I'd appreciate if you can recommend on the type of silicone that you're working with.
I'm also working with silicone heads, and although the lip wires are tricky, it is possible to get them in, and then one has a mouth that can be manipulated fairly easily. I am finding eyebrow wires more difficult, as ideally the silicone should not be too thick or it just bounces back. I may well go with the stick-on eyebrows. I place the eyeballs back on their wire stalks, then fashion a wood 'skull' that fits against the back of them, then add the jaw wires to that.
The silicone I am using is the Dragon Skin FX Pro, which I think is their softest. It is plenty hard enough for me. I add colour to the mix, and then stipple or brush on colour mixed with thinned silicone to add detail/highlights/lowlights etc. Thinned with lighter fluid (naphtha). I can get good effects like beard shadow. Also, bear in mind that you can add make-up as a temporary colouring as well. Talcum powder works well as a flattening powder to remove shine from painted-on silicone.
Just checked...the Dragon Skin FX Pro is Shore 2a hardness, so a lot softer than you have been using. I haven't found problems with tearing, especially pulling deep undercuts out of the mould. I wouldn't want to use anything harder.
The Grace face isn't my work - I sculpted half of the bodies, but only one or two heads for background characters, because I found it too difficult working that small with my NSP Medium plasticine. (If your head is only the size of 1:6 action figure heads, I'm amazed!) Priscilla Johnson sculpted the main character heads (and the terrific fat guy at the bbq, if you look at the photos on the site). And the director did all the mouldmaking and silicone casting himself. He also made the variations in the Grace head. I don't think he added plasticine onto silicone, that's very hard to do because the silicone is too soft, you can't press the silicone onto it because it squishes in. What I would do is make a flexible mould and pour melted plasticine into it, to make some extra copies. Then I would modify the plasticine, maybe cutting away as well as adding on.
I think Tony made the eyes the same way I do, from small white beads. They were about 4mm diameter since the idea was not to have large eyes but to stick with realistic proportions. I usually have bigger heads and 7mm or 11mm eye beads. You countersink the iris area around the hole in the bead, fill the hole and paint it black, and paint the iris around it. Then you fill the hollow with a drop of clear 5 minute epoxy adhesive, so it stands up slightly, to create the corneal bulge. Easy in the bigger sizes but very difficult in 4mm!
The shell for the hair was like a clear fabric glue dabbed on the silicone head, built up with a couple of layers, then hair glued onto that. I've done a similar thing with epoxy glue, the same stuff I use for eyes. I think I added a little fibreglass cloth to mine to make a stronger shell. That was for a puppet that had 2 hard resin heads, and I didn't have enough hair left to make 2 wigs.
I have been using Smooth-On Ecoflex 00-30, which is softer than the Shore-10a hardness silicones, to get a more flexible face. I haven't found anywhere here selling the Dragonskin FX Pro, don't know how Shore 2a compares with 00-30. The "double 0" is a different scale, don't know if it works like minus numbers so bigger numbers are softer or not. I will try the FX Pro if I can find a supplier in my country.
Thanks Nick and Simon! I'll try both types of silicon. Surprisingly, I found a supplier that sells them both here..
I am working with scale 1:6 but the puppet's head is very big compared to the body and she has large eyes, so I used 8 mm.
Just a few more questions about the replacements –
What is the flexible mold made of? Should I make it onto the Silicon puppet? (I don't have the original model because it was made of NSP plasticine in a plaster mold) and what kind of melted plasticine pour into it - the NSP medium?
The quick way is a mould made of Alginate - used by dentists to take a mould of your teeth, and great for face casts because it doesn't stick to the skin or eyebrows. But it is a temporary material that starts to dry and shrink pretty quickly. You'll get one cast out of it, possibly two, but that's all. There are some quick silicones, and some that are thick enough to spread over a cast instead of pour. Probably silicone is better so you can get as many casts as you need. Either way you need an outer mould to support the flexible mould in the right shape, a "mother mould" or "case Mould". It is a plaster or fibreglass shell made over the soft mould while it is still on the sculpt. With the silicone or alginate mould resting in the case mould, it doesn't sag out of shape. You would not be using the super-soft silicones for the mould, a shore A hardness of 20 or 30 is probably more like it.
Some plasticines melt and pour into moulds well, some don't. I haven't actually tried it with Chavant NSP so I'm not sure. Monster Clay is kind of waxy, very good for melting and is still sulphur free. Richard Swensson seems to be using it a lot now (Bluworm on Youtube, The Lone Animator on his blog.) And Tony used it for his face variations and for some cast arms and hands that I incorporated into a couple of kid body sculpts, saved me modelling the same hands over and over.
About making the mould from the silicone head - you would need release agent, and if that hair is stuck on it could be tricky... I've only done it from plasticine sculpts or hard objects. But if the hair comes off, and if you can get a clay wall around the head to stick, you should be able to do it.
I do not know how much work you want to put into something but you could try a hybrid approach to replacements.