Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Twi'lek Pam

How to Make a Plaster Bandage Lifecast - Head/Shoulders

Recommended Posts

.

 

 

This tutorial is for a lifecast of a model's head, neck, and shoulders. It will be made of plaster gauze bandages.

 

 

 

The bandages can be found in any crafts store, though most sell only small rolls of the stuff which are terribly overpriced. Purchasing in bulk is far more cost effective. It can often be found in 15, 20, and 50 pound packages. I purchase mine from the local Nasco store.

 

 

Making a lifecast of a person's head can be a scary experience for the model. Their head will be almost completely covered with plaster, which can create problems if they are claustrophobic or if they become afraid that they might not be able to breathe. Talk to them first and make sure they're comfortable with this. Assure them that the mold material can be pulled off at any time if it has to be. It's also a good idea to agree on an "I'm okay" signal and a panic signal. My husband and I use a thumb's up gesture for everything's good, and hand waving if something is wrong.

 

"You doing okay in there?"

"Mffff!" ::thumbs up::

 

Although the person cannot see, it's also good to keep a notepad and pencil nearby. They can scrawl a note to you if sign language isn't working and they need to let you know about any problems. (Or if they're bored and want to write something silly to pass the time while they wait for the plaster to set.)

 

 

Above all else, you need to keep your model's safety and comfort as your prime concern. If you cannot do that... then don't make a lifecast of their head.

 

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

 

- Prepare your materials. Cover your work area. (I use a plastic painter's tarp.) Set out a bucket of water, and use scissors to cut the plaster bandages into a variety of sizes. For large areas such as the torso you can cut the pieces very large, but for detail areas like the face you will need a number of small pieces, about 3 inches square. Cut much more than you think you will need... it's safer than running out and having to cut more while your model is sitting there waiting for you. Organize the bandages into piles based on their size, so it will be easy to grab the size you need as you work. It is also advisable to have a space heater on hand. Your model might get cold as the damp bandages are applied, and the heat will also help to set the plaster more rapidly.

 

 

- Prepare your model. Cover their hair with a bald cap or a swim cap. The bald cap will make a smoother surface, but they are expensive and must be properly glued down with an appliance adhesive. Swim caps are cheaper, and can be used over and over again. If you aren't worried about a few wrinkles, then a swim cap is good enough. If your model has long hair, pull the hair into a ponytail through a hole in the back of the cap. Roll it into a bun, and cover it with a plastic bag. Use rubber bands to keep the bag tight. Your mold will end up with a hole in the back, but you can seal that closed later. Cover their ears with the cap. (Plaster is not good for taking casts of the ears. If you want them to be included, you'll need to do an alginate cast.)

 

 

- Use a brush or your hands to thoroughly spread a layer of Vaseline or Nivea face cream over all of the model's skin where the plaster is going to touch. Both have basically the same ingredients, but I prefer the Nivea because it is white, so I can see better where I have spread it and what places I have missed. Make sure to rub the cream thoroughly into the eyebrows, eyelashes, sideburns, and any facial hair or hair coming out from beneath the cap, or those hairs might get locked into the plaster. If that happens, the hairs will be pulled out when you take off the mold. Your model wouldn't enjoy that very much! Make sure the coating is thorough and thick enough to have a protective layer across all areas of their skin. If you miss a place or put it on too thinly, the plaster will stick to their skin and hair, and will pull painfully when you remove the mold. I also put cream on the cap, to keep it from sticking to the plaster.

 

 

- The plaster is going to drip as you work. You can wrap your model in some plastic sheeting so the plaster won't drip down their stomach or back, and onto their lap. This can get pretty hot, though, and unless you have a comfortable way to attach it at the top, the plaster just runs right underneath. Another option is to cover their stomach and back with more Vaseline or Nivea, so that plaster drips will flake right off when they dry. Or, you can simply have them wear clothes that they won't mind destroying. The plaster won't wash out once it sets.

 

 

- Have your model take a set and get comfortable. If they need a cushion to sit on, find one before you start the molding process. Once you start, they will need to sit still for up to half an hour.

 

 

- I advise wearing latex gloves. Your model's skin will be protected by the release agent, but yours will be subjected to the drying effects of the plaster. Gloves are also easy to remove if you need to have clean hands on short notice!

 

 

- Begin the molding process by dipping a long piece of bandage into the water. Use your fingers to wring out most of the water, and then lay the strip sideways across the top of your model's head. It should be placed just behind the widest part of their head. Continue placing strips of plaster down the sides of the head and neck, and then across the top of the shoulders. Overlap each piece of bandage, and smooth everything together well. This will spread the plaster so that it will seal the layers of gauze together.

 

 

- After you have created the 'parting or dividing line', continue placing bandages across the back and sides of the head, neck, and shoulders. The plaster should be at least five or six layers thick on the back areas, and should be at least 8 or 9 layers thick at the front edge and around the bottom edge. The added thickness at the edges will help your mold keep its shape when removed. As an added precaution, you can also roll bandage pieces into strips and create a thick 'support frame' which runs up the back of the head and across the back of the shoulders. It helps make the mold sturdier.

 

 

 

Lifecast1.jpg

 

 

 

 

- After you have finished the back half of the mold, allow a few minutes for the plaster to cure. This process can be sped up by using a hair dryer to get rid of the excess water and to help the chemical reaction that is taking place. Don't hold the dryer on any one area of the mold for too long, just keep sweeping it from side to side until the plaster begins to look dry and turn hard.

 

 

- Use a marker to draw a line about 1 inch from the front edge. This will help you with the placement of the front half of the mold, which will overlap the back half.

 

 

- Use a brush to thoroughly cover the front of the mold with Vaseline. Be sure to cover the front edge where it touches your model's skin, and go at least 1/2 inch past the line that you drew. This step is very important! It will keep the front half of the mold from sticking to the back half. If you forget, then the front half will seal itself to the back, and the only way you'll get the mold off your model is by cutting it off!

 

 

 

Lifecast2.jpg

 

 

 

- Begin forming the front half of the mold. Begin at the top again, placing strips of plaster so that they overlap the back half of the mold by 1 inch. This is where the line that you drew comes in handy. If you overlap to that line, you know that you've gone far enough and that all of the area where you're working has been coated with Vaseline. To insure a tight seam, make sure to press the soft bandages close against the now hard bandages that make up the back half of the mold. Continue downward, covering the face with small pieces of bandage. Be sure to smooth out any air bubbles that might form in the eye socket areas and the sides of the nose.

 

 

- DO NOT get the bandages too close to your model's nostrils. Leave plenty of room for air flow. As you place pieces around their nose, be sure to ask them if they're doing okay, and if they can still breathe well. Most of the time you'll get a thumb's up and you can make the nostril holes pretty small. If the model is not comfortable with the holes becoming small, then leave them large and plan on filling the holes in later, after the mold has been removed.

 

 

- Once again, make sure to create thick layers of plaster. I advise making the face area at least 7 or 8 layers thick to protect the contours of the face and jawline. Also make sure that the edges are all at least 8 or 9 layers thick to create a sturdy edge. You can make support ridges if you want to.

 

 

- Allow the plaster to set. You can use the blow dryer again to speed up the process. Make sure not to blow hot air into the nostril holes.

 

 

- Use the marker again to draw lines across the front and back halves of the mold. When the mold is opened up, sometimes it is difficult to line the two halves perfectly back together again. By drawing lines every few inches, you will have guides to help you line up the two halves later on.

 

 

Thumb's up! He's doing okay!

 

 

Lifecast3.jpg

 

 

 

- Give the mold a bit more time to cure. You really don't want to open it when the plaster is still soft. After all that work, the last thing you want to do is to warp the mold and end up having to start over! The mold will get slightly warm as it cures, but not enough to bother your model.

 

 

- When you and your model feel that you've waited long enough for the plaster to set and harden, then begin by carefully breaking the 'seal' between the two halves of the mold. They should pop easily apart with only a bit of careful prying. Then, it is usually easiest to remove the back half of the mold first. Lift it away and set it on a soft surface. I usually use some old towels that are bunched on the floor to make a soft, wrinkled support. Then have your model lean slightly forward and help you lift the front half of the mold away from their face. Because of the contours it sometimes takes a bit of wiggling to get the mold to come loose. Let them do this part, since they know better than you what hurts and what doesn't!

 

 

- Put the two halves of the mold back together, making sure to line up the marker lines around the edges. Then, use some more pieces of plaster bandage to seal the two halves together. By looking inside the mold you will also be able to see any light areas where the plaster is too thin. Add a few bandage pieces to those areas, and use another piece or two for sealing the nostril holes.

 

 

- And now, you have a lifecast mold that is ready to be filled with the casting material of your choice, and a model who is happy to be free to move once again!

 

 

- Many thanks to my husband Scott. He was patient enough to sit through this casting project for me, and to let me take pictures of the process for this tutorial. :-)

 

 

Lifecast4.jpg

 

 

 

.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

.

 

 

I mentioned in the tutorial that you can still do a lifecast of a person's head even if they have long hair, simply by pulling their hair back out of the way and protecting it from the plaster. Here's a photo example of what that process looks like. My hair is waist length (though rather fine). After I put on a bald cap, we cut a small hole in the back and pulled my hair through. It was then wrapped into a bun, and covered with a plastic grocery bag. A couple rubber bands held the bag tightly closed and somewhat away from the back of my head, and then the plaster bandages were applied around it.

 

When it was time to remove the plaster, we took off the rubber bands and bag, unrolled my hair from the bun, and then slid it through the hole in the plaster bandages. After that a few layers of bandage were added to fill in the hole, and the head cast was complete!

 

 

LifecastPam.jpg

 

 

Pam :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cleverlilminx

Ok I have to ask...

 

How hard is it to breathe in there and how long does this stuff take to cure?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yay, a question I can answer!

 

As long as the person putting the bandages on doesn't cover your nostrils, it's a piece of cake to breathe. You do have to make sure to stay calm and breathe through your nose, but there's no problems.

 

I think start to finish, it took about 2 hours to do my head cast, with probably about half an hour or so of drying time for the back half before we started putting on the front.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cleverlilminx

I would have to get out of cold and allergy season before I can think about breathing out of my nose right now. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous

What a fascinating tutorial, thanks Pam and Scott!

 

 

Would having straws in the nostrils help for breathing and getting more plaster around the nostrils?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read about folks doing the straws in the nose thing, but honestly, it seems to me that you'd just be inviting sneezes that way. The straws wouldn't be steady and would rub and irritate the inside of your nose.

 

But, even if that wouldn't make you sneeze, you can get really close to the nostrils without worrying about blocking the airway. As long as your plasterer is careful, they can actually cover everything but the nostril holes themselves. (Straws would also get in the way of getting a good casting around your nose and upper lip.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous

Very good points.

 

I was just thinking of worrying about breathing while in there but you are right straws would be a hassle in more ways than one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The amount of time you have to sit coated in plaster really depends on the weather at the time. Scott sat down for his life cast session in the winter, during a cold and humid day... so he was stuck waiting for the plaster to set for quite a while. (I have no idea how he was able to sit so still for so long!) We've done two castings of my head so far (for lekku sculpts). The first time was in the summer, and the plaster was setting nearly as fast as Scott could apply it. The second time was in the fall, and it was considerably slower. Temperatures and humidity play a large part in how long you have to sit!

 

 

From what I've heard, most professional lifecasters prefer not to use straws. Not only is it uncomfortable for their model, it also makes it difficult to put enough alginate or plaster around the upper lip area, a thin little straw is actually easier to plug up if they aren't careful, and it runs the risk of distorting the shape of the nose. I think I would pass!

 

Pam :=)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Darth Revan

I see that plaster bandages are sold by wieght. How much did you use on your hubby?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I see that plaster bandages are sold by wieght. How much did you use on your hubby?

 

I honestly have no idea! We do a lot of projects and I use the bandages for other things as well... so we buy it in bulk, usually in 15 or 20 pound boxes. It lasts for a while that way, but keeps me from having much of an idea of how much I've used each time. It's best to have plenty on hand, because if you run out you'll end up with a too-thin mold that won't hold it's shape and then you'll have to start all over again. If you think you're going to do more projects or if you just want to err on the safe side, then get a big box like we do. It's wrapped in protective plastic and won't go bad, and you'll save a lot of money in the long run. If not... well, I'd hate to make a guess on a small amount and then have someone get mad at me because they took my advice and then found that they didn't have enough material!

 

Pam :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cleverlilminx

Ok this weekend my friends and I did a plaster mold of my friends chest to make custom boob armor for.

 

We went through two packages of Rigid Wrap for just the front upper torso.

 

 

Hopefully that helps somewhat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Out of curiousity, how did you get the cast onto the lekku stand? Cut holes in the back and slide it on? Did you fill it before or after it was on the stand? What did you fill the head cast with? :|

 

Yup, cut holes and slid it onto the frame. I've filled them with plaster and different kinds of foam, basically whatever I had on hand that needed to be used up at the time.

 

Pam :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×