Saturday, November 1, 2014

Body casting & Halloween

Halloween 2014

Goodness gracious, casting with alginate is super fun and super easy (which I guess just adds to the fun-ness). I wanted to build a face prosthetic for Halloween this year but wound up pivoting midway through. In the end I won the "scary" contest at work and caused several children to gasp in fear upon my doorstep so I'd say this whole thing can be written down as a success.

Highlights of it all?

  • A small frightened princess on my doorstep placed a hand to shield her eyes as she turned away from my visage.
  • Suko standing above me and happily saying "It's like frosting a strange cake!" as she poured cold alginate over me. This caused my smirk to be captured, I believe, which Adam claims adds to the creepyness.
  • At least three little ones silently shaking their head and attempting to back up as I descended the front steps.

Casting with alginate

To stress how easy this was, let me run through the process really quick.

Step 1. Acquire supplies, both of which are available on Amazon (Prime eligible). 1lb (454g) Alginate Molding Powder ($15) & Plaster Gauze (4"x15') ($7). The other ingredient is just plain old water. It helped that I had a food scale, but they include directions for mixing by volume as well.

Mise en place
I learned the phrase mise en place!

Step 2. Cut out a shield. Exacto knife + cardboard-- though technically this isn't required, it made things a lot easier. Use packing tape to create a lip/guard around the edge in case your alginate is runny.

Step 3. Mix. The package tells you 3.75 (water) : 1 (alginate) by weight and that works. (also says 1:1 by volume) Error perhaps for a pinch more water, I liked runnier over thicker mix.

Step 1: Be Ready Step 2: Alginate Step 3: Bandages

Step 4. Pour! Don't wait till it's totally white (I did and that's why Suko's nose got screwed up). Mix till smooth and then pour even if still pink. Sets in about 3.5 minutes!

Step 5. Support! Dip the cut bandages in the water briefly and then apply to face. Takes 5-8 minutes, only needs about 2 layers (can be applied at the same time). Be aware the bandages will NEVER dry all the way. The alginate is too moist. Just let them set 8 minutes and be done. The whole thing will always be a bit delicate, so be careful.

My face Poor Suko's Nose


Bonus Round. Buy some plaster of pairs and pour into the molds (as soon as they come off your face). Be mindful, the plaster HEATS UP as it sets. Never pour plaster directly onto your hands to cast. People have lost fingers doing this.

Suko did a shallow cast of her face and I did a deep one (I wanted a lot of chin) and to fill them it took two full containers of PerfectCast ($10) which luckily is exactly what I had ordered.


Be aware that the alginate picked up lots of details but still had a couple air bubbles in it, which lead to bumpy casts. I think if we had worked in the thinner mixture, spreading it around with fingers or a brush rather than just pouring it on we could have worked out a number of the bubbles. Also, the thinner mixture had more but smaller bubbles.

Messy Casts

Luckily an exacto knife proved perfect for cleaning up some of the bumps. The faces remained warm for quite some time, making it feel extra creepy under the finger tips as I worked my blade.

Cleaned up faces

On a whim I thought it'd be interesting to try and make a latex mask with the face negative. I'd picked up some liquid latex ($20) a while ago from my local Tap Plastic and hadn't really successfully used it yet. In between building up the jaw device (which was eventually abandoned) I applied a coat. After 8 coats and a day of work I figured "what the hell" and pealed it off (I only let it sit 12 hours as opposed to the suggested 24).

The results really surprised me and I immediately re-thought my entire costume. And started laying down layers for a second mask. And then later cast both my left and right hand the following day (by myself!)

Un-Supervised Crafts Another layer on My hand on my hand

Notes about making a liquid latex mask

  • For a mold the container says you need 8 - 20 layers. I found my mask to be great and it was (I think) only 10 layers? The hands were less, 8? which was reasonable but the left was only 6? and that I think was getting too thin. Somehow I failed to keep a reliable count for each of my 4 masks.
  • It doesn't tell you how long it takes to dry, only that you need to let it dry fully between each layer. Online I saw a range listed as 15 min and 2 hrs. I found 15 min early on if it's thin enough, but later I was waiting up to 40 min or an hour. I'd test dryness by tapping the latex with my finger. If I left a finger print or I got some on my finger, then I needed to wait longer.
  • If you wash the brush off right away with warm water you can get most the latex off but little gummies will build up over time no matter what. I managed to need only 2 cheap brushes for all 4 masks (both brushes winding up in the trash by the end)
  • Dabbing the brush with a bit of water really helped. Thinning the latex with a little water (or just by using a damp brush) helped.
  • I have the pint sized container of liquid latex. All four masks put a dent in it but I'd say it took less than half of what I had. (I'm apparently really bad at estimating volume)
My two masks
  • The alginate will start shrinking the moment it's cast. This meant that my second mask (started ~25+ hours after the initial casting) was noticeably (when worn) smaller! If you want a permanent mold, just invest in a latex one (but that sounds more complex and expensive)
  • Using a pair of good scissors I could easily snip the latex for threading & ring addition. For the hands I used an upholstery needle. You can't just push the needle through, I had to use a pad of sticky notes and press the needle tip into that to puncture the mask (otherwise it just stretched). The thinner glove seemed to be harder to puncture for some reason (it just stretched and then some times tore open next to where I was trying to stitch)

So... yeah.... Good times. Multiple people informed me that I looked scary. At least three people tried on my second face mask. Learned a new craft. Won a prize. Have a face cast to build on for future projects. Am happy.

Halloween 2014

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