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Twi'lek Pam

Basic Lifecasting Supply Information

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Twi'lek Pam    3

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Like most projects, there are a number of options you can use when you decide to make a life cast. Here is some basic information about some of the most commonly used materials.

 

 

For the mold, which is applied directly to a person's body:

 

Duct Tape - This is the easiest and roughest version of lifecasting. It involves covering the area of your model that you are going to lifecast with a protectant layer of material, such as lightweight clothing or plastic wrap, and then covering them with a thick layer of duct tape. The greatest challenge is caused by the flexibility of the tape. If you do not build up enough layers, or if you fill it with a material which pushes too hard against the tape, you may end up with a warped copy of your model. This type of casting is best for large, smooth areas with little detail needed, such as the torso. It works well for creating a lifecast which will be used to make armor or masks.

 

 

Plaster Bandages - This produces a good quality lifecast. The plaster gauze comes pre-coated with plaster and can be purchased at most craft stores. All you have to do is cut it into pieces, dip it in water, and then smooth it over your model. The plaster layers need to be well blended as you work, but with a bit of effort you can create a durable and stiff lifecast mold with very tight seam lines that will not warp out of shape even if you put them through quite a bit of abuse. This method is best for fairly detailed lifecasts. It can be used for small areas, or even for a full-body casting. Like the duct tape, this method works well for creating a lifecast which will be used to sculpt armor or masks.

 

 

Alginate - This is what the professionals use. It is more expensive and takes a bit of practice because the alginate has a limited work time before it begins to set... but the resulting castings will be EXACT and highly detailed duplicates of your model. Every wrinkle and pore can be reproduced! Alginate must be backed up with layers of cheesecloth and a plaster bandage shell, and will require a few other special-order materials as well. It contains a large quantity of water, and must be protected from drying out, or your mold will warp. This method is best used when the lifecast will be used for making latex appliances that will be glued to the costume wearer, so that the appliances will be an exact fit.

 

 

Silicone - There are silicones which have been developed for painting directly onto skin for life casting. They have the advantage of requiring very little release, and they can be used for casting dupicates over and over again. They also capture an amazing amount of detail. But, this material is quite expensive. It is best used for projects which will require multiple castings, such as artistic sculptures which are mass produced. Silicone isn't cost effective for one-time body castings.

 

 

Moulage - This material, and a few others like it, are very similar to alginate. They have the advantage, however, of being reusable. The material is damp, and must have water added to maintain the correct moisture levels. It is a rubbery solid at room temperature, and turns into a thick paste when heated on a double boiler. The trick is to heat it enough to soften it for spreading, but not so hot that it burns the product or your model's skin. Because it is expensive, Moulage is best for small life castings, such as a face or hands. It is spread over the skin, and then backed with layers of support material such as gauze or cheesecloth. A support shell is built up over that, and then the mold can be removed from the model. After it is finished, it can be torn into pieces and heated once again.

 

 

DO NOT use plain plaster to make a life cast. It heats up and can burn your model, and making a seam line for opening the mold afterwards can be very difficult. The last thing you want to do is trap someone inside a sealed lifecast that is burning their skin!

 

 

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Once you have finished making a mold of your model's body, you will need to fill that mold with something. To create a replica, or the casting itself, you can use:

 

 

Plaster - The cheapest and most readily available material for casting a copy of your model. You simply pour the plaster into the release coated mold, let it set, and then open the mold. Disadvantages are that plaster is heavy and breaks or scratches easily. Since the castings need to be solid, you also run the risk of warping your lifecast mold when you pour a large amount of heavy liquid into it.

 

 

Ultracal 30 - This material is used to make a 'stone' copy of your model. It is easy to work with, can be cast hollow, and cures to a rock hard surface that can be used over and over again. If you coat it with the proper foil release, you can even "float" your clay sculpture off the stone without damaging either of them. The main disadvantage is that if you cannot find Ultracal locally, you will have to pay quite a bit for shipping because of the weight.

 

 

Rigid Foam - This is a two-part material available at most special effects supply stores. The two components are a liquid which, when mixed in the proper ratios, begin to expand into a very strong and lightweight foam. Rigid foam will provide a solid work surface for sculpting on, but will have a fraction of the weight of a stone casting. The main disadvantages are the fact that the foam can easily be knicked by sculpting tools, and the medical risk when you are mixing and pouring it into the lifecast mold. You MUST wear a respirator when working with this material in its liquid form. As the foam expands, the chemical reaction will give off gasses which should not be breathed, as they can cause lung damage or cancer.

 

 

Fiberglass - This material takes a bit more work, but it creates a very strong and lightweight copy of your model. The fiberglass supplies are cheap and easy to find at any automotive or hardware store, and once you finish your casting, nothing short of a hammer will do it much damage! Once again a respirator must be worn to protect your lungs from the resin fumes, and long sleeves are advised.

 

 

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Guest Darth Revan   
Guest Darth Revan
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Ultracal 30 - This material is used to make a 'stone' copy of your model. It is easy to work with, can be cast hollow, and cures to a rock hard surface that can be used over and over again. If you coat it with the proper foil release, you can even "float" your clay sculpture off the stone without damaging either of them. The main disadvantage is that if you cannot find Ultracal locally, you will have to pay quite a bit for shipping because of the weight.

 

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Can you link a supplier of the foil release or manufactorer info, please?

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Guest Cleverlilminx   
Guest Cleverlilminx

Have you checked with Monster Makers Kyle? Some guys in my garrison just purchased their lifecasting supplies from there recently.

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Guest Darth Revan   
Guest Darth Revan

I have called several suppliers about Ultracal30 and asked about fiol release. They seemed a little confussed about what I was asking about, so Ithought Pam could give me a link to the product, so I can let them know what I was talking about. Oh by the way, it is cheaper to con a local supplier to carry Ultracal then have it shipped from an internet supplier. Shipping costs will kill ya good.

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Twi'lek Pam    3

Foil releases have their origins in the dental industry. Everyone who's had braces probably remembers seeing those creepy little plaster copies of their teeth, right? When dental work is done, they often make a stone copy of the existing teeth, they coat the stone copy with a foil release, and then they use clay to build up new tooth designs, such as for dentures or for special effects teeth (vampire, bucktooth hillbilly, etc). Once the clay design is finished, they then soak the plaster copy, and the foil release allows them to remove the clay sculpture without damaging it. Special effects sculptors caught on to how effective the products are, so foil releases can now be found at both special effects supply stores and dental supply stores.

 

 

There are many brand name products out there, such as Liquid Foil, Foilcote, Super-Sep, Alcote, and even one that is named "World's Best Seperator." Alcote is the most widely used in the special effects industry, though I'm sure any other would work just as well. I get Alcote from the FX Warehouse. You can find a link on the lifecasting supply thread.

 

In order to use a foil release, you must sculpt your clay design on a porous surface. I use Ultracal because it's what I'm familiar with and already have on hand, but I've heard that Hydrostone works even better for this because it soaks up the water better. The lifecast must be hollow, so water can get inside.

 

 

It works like this:

 

First, cover your stone lifecast with 2 or 3 coats of foil, letting it dry between coats. Don't let it pool anywhere, because the coating will flake away when it dries if it gets too thick. (I've heard that you can also give a light coating of vaseline to help make the clay easier to remove, but I haven't tried that.)

 

Then, you design your sculpture on the stone lifecast with an oil based clay. (Water based would fall apart when you soak it)

 

When the sculpture is finished, you put the whole thing into a tub of cold water and let it soak overnight. The water cannot soak through oil clay, but it can soak through the stone. When water reaches the liquid foil, it will "reactivate" the foil, turning it back to a liquid form. At this point there is nothing but a thin sheet of liquid between your clay sculpture and the stone lifecast... which means you can simply lift or "float" your sculpture off the stone since it is no longer truly attached.

 

To do this technique, it is best to have a fairly thick clay sculpture. It's difficult to handle a thin sculpture without damaging or distorting it.

 

 

 

Hope that helps! (I will try to post a tutorial for making a stone lifecast for you tonight. I already have the pictures uploaded... I just need to type the info that goes with them. )

 

Pam :-)

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