Hi everyone! 

I'm currently undertaking a project at university to make a stop motion plesiosaur puppet. The current plan is to cast into a polyester resin mould with a condensation cure silicone, 'Tinsil Gel 10'. My question is, what is the best method, and the most inexpensive, to paint my cast? 

My favoured solution from what I've found would be to thin the silicone I have (Tinsil Gel 10) with naphtha (or lighter fluid) and add silicone pigments. However, the complications I have is I know platinum based silicones don't stick to other platinums, but is this the case for tin based?

Psycho paint is said to adhere all platinum's, and I've read 'Sil-poxy' can adhere all tins, but I really would like to avoid having to buy more materials, especially as 'Pyscho paints' and 'Sil-poxy' are expensive and aren't easy to get here in the UK. 

Finally, would anyone have any idea what the library life is of Tinsil Gel 10? Just found midway through writing this that tin based silicones don't last too long! 

I'd like to hear others thoughts, and to get some conformation on this subject. It's all very overwhelming as I'm still all quite new to the world of stop motion. 

I'll have another question on the armature soon! 

Thank you!

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I've used a couple different methods to paint silicone, but primarily paint with the process you described; thinning a batch of silicone with naptha and silicone pigments. Now it's not necessarily true that platinum silicones won't stick to platinum silicones. Some plat silicones are more temperamental than others so mileage may vary. I would guess that the problem might come up especially if you're using different types of platinum silicones on each other (say Platsil Gel on Dragon Skin FX or something like that), but using the same platinum silicone as my base cast has always yielded good results. The key to any silicone painting is going to be to make sure the cast is VERY thoroughly cleaned and any mold release is removed, and you shouldn't have a problem with it not adhering. I mostly airbrush my puppets but the thinned silicone pigment mix will work well for brushing on as well, just have to vary the amount of naptha a little bit. Also, after each coat you'll want to set each layer with a hairdryer to help evaporate the naptha and speed up the cure time of the silicone so that you don't disturb previous layers of paint as you build up layers. I like to start my next coat when the previous layer is still just a little bit tacky. I also try to get as close to my desired skin tone in the base cast and only use the silicone paint mix to airbrush/brush detail (color variation, freckles, scars, etc) on top of the base skin tone.

I mostly use Smooth-On Dragon Skin FX (platinum cure) for my puppets and have painted with a thinned batch of pigmented Dragon Skin on top of that with no trouble. I just ordered some Platsil Gel 10 and Gel 00 to try out, and was told by my distributor that there's no problem painting platsil on top of platsil, so I would guess that Tinsil will also be the same case. 

An alternative to mix a batch of silicone or using Sil-poxy as the silicone base for paint is to instead use 'GE silicone 1' caulking (a clear 1 part acetoxy cure silicone) thinned with naptha and pigment added. On the last coat I'll usually use something like Smooth-On Novocs Matte in place of naptha since it leaves a nicer matte/satin finish that looks more natural and usually doesn't require matting powder to dull any shine. I believe Sil-Poxy and GE Silicone 1 are both very similar acetoxy silicones, the big difference being that Sil-Poxy is rated skin safe and is less of a respiratory risk, but since it'll be thinned with naptha anyways ventilation/respiratory protection is still a must in both cases.

As far as library life of tin cure silicone my experience has only been with tin cure silicone molds and I've not used tin cure silicone to cast my puppets in. But I found that my molds would start breaking down after about a year or so of light-medium use, casting mostly urethane resins in them. Tinsil will likely last longer when cast as a puppet though since it doesn't get exposed to the same heat and stress that a mold goes through with resin casting and such. If I recall correctly from a previous thread a while back someone mentioned that Laika used a tin cure silicone from BJB for their puppets. So for a short project I'm sure library life won't be a major factor.

The main advantage of tin silicone is that (I believe) it can be cast over latex.  So you can cast a puppet in foam latex, trim it back, and then cast a tin silicone skin over it.  Platinum won't cure if it comes into contact with latex, it is the sulphur in latex that inhibits it.  

I can't even buy a suitably soft tin cure silicone in my country, so I have no experience with it for puppets.  

I paint my silicone with the same Platsil or Ecoflex silicone, thinned with naptha. It usually works but is temperamental, mix it too long or add too much pigment and it won't cure.  Add a bit more pigment to modify the colour a minute later, but still before it has started to thicken, and that can also stop it curing. But it usually sticks.  

I have also used the acetic acid caulking silicone to repair a life sized robotic crocodile that had been nibbled by mice while in storage, probably a tin cure but I didn't make it so not certain. It looked like a white mould making silicone, not very soft.  The caulking silicone mixed with naphtha did work to cast some replacement scutes and stick them on, and to paint over the repairs to blend them in.

If you do search out silicone caulk to use be careful of the type that you get, there's several types of acetoxy silicones. Like Nick said, some are opaque white and much firmer durometer. I'm not sure about naming conventions with brands other than GE, but at least with GE silicone there is type 1 and 2. Type 1 is the soft clear stuff (I think it's commonly used to seal exterior windows), and type 2 is the firmer white caulking (similar to bathroom/kitchen sealant). Another common type is designed for interior trim that's sold as silicone caulking but is actually acrylic latex caulking with silicone mixed in, also not ideal for painting.

I didn't realise that you can cast tin silicone over foam latex, although I guess it does make sense given how much more forgiving it is compared to plat cure. I've also been having trouble finding local distributors that carry low enough durometer tin cure that's water-clear, plenty of BJB and Polytek's colored mold making options in low durometers though, but that's not helpful.

Polytek has a silicone additive which they call 'Silicone Fluid' that can be used in their Tinsil and Platsil which might be an option. The example use case they have on their site is for a maximum 10% addition that only brought the durometer down from Shore A30 to around A20-A25, so maybe it's not enough of a reduction to be helpful depending on what durometer silicone you're starting with, but might be an option if you have a Polytek distributor? Other brands might have similar additives that work with other systems as well.

Hi Ethan, thank you so much for your input, it's given me lots of food for thought. I've given the silicone caulk a search, however I feel I'm going to struggle getting a hold of the right one given the current global situation!

You saying platsil can be painted on platsil has given me more encouragement to go down the lines of using a platinum base as I would like this to last me a few years at least (given the money I spending). I found a product from 'Neills Materials' called Sil-paint, a acetoxy-cure silicone, I'm wondering if you're at all familiar? 

Thank you again and thank you Nick, you've been very helpful. It's much appreciated!


Ethan Bartholomae said:

If you do search out silicone caulk to use be careful of the type that you get, there's several types of acetoxy silicones. Like Nick said, some are opaque white and much firmer durometer. I'm not sure about naming conventions with brands other than GE, but at least with GE silicone there is type 1 and 2. Type 1 is the soft clear stuff (I think it's commonly used to seal exterior windows), and type 2 is the firmer white caulking (similar to bathroom/kitchen sealant). Another common type is designed for interior trim that's sold as silicone caulking but is actually acrylic latex caulking with silicone mixed in, also not ideal for painting.

I didn't realise that you can cast tin silicone over foam latex, although I guess it does make sense given how much more forgiving it is compared to plat cure. I've also been having trouble finding local distributors that carry low enough durometer tin cure that's water-clear, plenty of BJB and Polytek's colored mold making options in low durometers though, but that's not helpful.

Polytek has a silicone additive which they call 'Silicone Fluid' that can be used in their Tinsil and Platsil which might be an option. The example use case they have on their site is for a maximum 10% addition that only brought the durometer down from Shore A30 to around A20-A25, so maybe it's not enough of a reduction to be helpful depending on what durometer silicone you're starting with, but might be an option if you have a Polytek distributor? Other brands might have similar additives that work with other systems as well.

I'm not familiar with Sil-Paint, but it sounds pretty similar to Smooth-On's Sil-Poxy. Neills Materials' website didn't have a ton of details about it so I'm not exactly sure how close to Sil-Poxy it is. Neills Materials seems to market it more specifically towards use as a paint base than Smooth-On does with their Sil-Poxy, so Sil-Paint may be a lower viscosity or lower durometer or something like that, but that's just a total guess.

If you already have some silicone on hand I'd try out using that as a paint base on a small sample piece first to see if that works for you. Check out 'Brick in the Yard Mold Supply' on Youtube, they're a US distributor that does tons of great instructional videos on special effects processes like casting/moldmaking/painting, and I'm sure they have a couple on painting silicone too.

The one part silicone paint bases are nice though since you don't have to measure out tiny batches of your regular two-part silicones. It can be really tricky getting an accurate mix when you're only working with a few grams per batch, so I find the extra cost of another silicone product to be worth it if you can swing it. I'd definitely give Sil-Paint a try if clear caulking and Sil-Poxy are both hard to come by. Their website doesn't specify compatibility with particular types of silicone (although most acetoxy silicones I've seen seem to be compatible on top of both tin and plat cure) so I'd definitely do a small test sample first before using it on a cast puppet. Also a 90ml tube doesn't sound like a lot, but for mixing a paint base you won't need a lot of silicone at all. 90ml should get you through quite a few puppets.

I have dealt with Neill's Materials, and they are a good company. I also use the Plat-sil to paint with, and like Nick, sometimes it works well,sometimes not. Naptha evaporates very fast, so you have to keep topping it up, I also use D-limonene, which is a distillate of citrus and smells of oranges. It is a lot less nasty and does thin the silicone. It also regards it, so one has to be careful not to add too much.

Neill's Materials do a very good line in skin tone silicone pigments, and I also have the sample pots from Silc-Pig, which seems to cover it.

For matting, I now use icing sugar all the time.

this is one of the beat silicone caulking to paint tin silicone

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