Introduction: Alginate Mold - Face

Picture of Alginate Mold - Face

EDIT: Please also read the comments, especially danzo321 has written really good advices, since I'm not an expert but sharing my experience reading the comments would make your process easier =)

This time I am going to show you how to take an alginate mold of a face (and fill it with plaster)

What you need,

A model ;)
Plaster bandages
Several cups (to mix, pour water etc)
A pillow (you have to make the model comfortable =)))
Small pieces of paper (or you can use straws, I didn't have any so I used paper)

Step 1:

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Have your model put vaseline all over her face and hair and put the cottons in her ear, roll the paper and well stick them into her nose so she can breath =D

Mix your alginate with water

Now if you have people around you make them help you =) It would be much quicker if someone else also mixed alginate with water in another cup so you guys can pour it together. I had only one extra so I made her take the pictures and did all the mixing myself.
If there isn't someone to help, be patient, don't try to mix huge amounts of alginate cause they are going to dry quick and you probably will waste a lot of alginate. 

REMEMBER! If alginate is getting light pink it means you only have a few seconds to pour it on the face. Best to use it while it is dark pink/purple. 

Step 2:

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I needed the ears and the chin for my project. If you need the ears, make sure you blow air to the ears while pouring the alginate, if not it won't get in the ears and you won't obtain an ear mold =)

Make sure to put an extra coat of alginate on the ears and lips. 

And wait for a few minutes, not much 2-3 is enough =)

Step 3:

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Have your cup of water near you and dip the plaster bandages into water and cover the alginate mold. 
Make sure you have big and small pieces of plaster bandages, use the small ones on and under the nose.
I used 2 or 3 packages of plaster bandages. 1 is not enough and each package was 2 meters. 

This time wait for 10 to 15 minutes. You have to be sure that the bandages are hard enough to hold the alginate. Cause you are going to pour plaster in it afterwards and if the plaster bandages are thin or are not hard enough all your work will get wasted. 

Step 4:

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This is the hardest part
Taking out the mold. It would have been a lot easier if I didn't need the ears... 
Slowly wiggle the head out of the mold. While the model shakes her head hold the sides of the mold so they won't tear. 

Step 5:

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Now on to easier steps,

Mix your plaster with water. Pour it into the mold. Don't wait for the plaster to get thick, the first coat should be more liquid-like, so there won't be any bubbles and you would get every little detail =)  Mine wasn't and thus I had a huge bubble over the lip, though after I remade it by slowly adding thin coats and coats of plaster, which was just because I poured the plaster while it was a little thick, like whipped cream. 

Step 6:

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Wait for a day, two is better cause the layer of plaster in there will need a day or two to harden. 
than wiggle out the head, use a sandpaper to polish it and voila =) 


yellowcatt (author)2012-04-15

Good instructable.. A friend worked making props for film and theatre, he used this technique for making a base to build close fitting costume masks for several productions.

giritberen (author)yellowcatt2012-04-16

Thank you =) You should tell your friend to make an instructable ;) One of my friends said that they pour the alginate and at the last moment they ask the model to do the facial expression (because some expressions are hard to keep on for more than a minute) did your friend work on props like that? =)

yellowcatt (author)giritberen2012-04-16

I will suggest that he post here though it is a while since he worked on props and masks, he is concentrating on painting at the moment:

LoveLearn (author)2012-04-15

Human model faces significantly change shape while lying on their backs as compared to having the top of their head up and their chin down as they normally interact in social circumstances. For that reason, the resulting facial cast from lying prone while a cast is taken results in a significantly different shape. Should you want to see a different and usually-considered less flattering facial shape caused by another gravity-altered shape, place a mirror on a horizontal surface and carefully examine your face while facing down to see your reflection. So the described casting strategy is interesting but very flawed if your objective is to create a negative cast of the model's face as they normally appear during upright social interactions.

When I had my face cast taken years ago, this error was made. Careful photographic comparisons of the positive taken from that mold clearly showed how gravity had altered my face during casting compared to usual upright facial presentation. Also, my cast had a many more eyebrows and a few eyelashes despite heaving mold release coverage. That made removing the plaster casting a balance between pain and time consumption.

I suggest finding a way to make facial molds with living model faces upright. Rigid death masks probably are not subject to enough gravity reshaping to be worth considering.

giritberen (author)LoveLearn2012-04-16

I actually needed it reclined not upright for my project =) That is why I made the model lay down =) But thank you for the advice =)

kirkb150 (author)2012-04-15

Pros use an alternate technique for the nose than the straw/cone insertion. Having the model take a big inhale and hold it. Dab a tiny bit of aljinate in the nostrils followed by saying "now big exhale". This gets good coverage in the nostril opening and clears it so the model can breath.

giritberen (author)kirkb1502012-04-16

Wow I would have never thought of that! thank you!!

wixworks (author)2012-04-16

One thing to keep in mind is that the casting of a face on a reclined person will differ from a cast of an upright person. Gravity will pull the face in different directions depending on the orientation of the castee and there may a strange difference between the two.

giritberen (author)wixworks2012-04-16

I actually needed it reclined not upright =) That is why I made the model lay down =)

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

New alginate sees no good reason to stick to old algy. If you mix some baking soda with water and swab it on the old, the new will stick better.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

How much should I add baking soda and mix it with water by the way? If I put too much would it affect anything?

danzo321 (author)giritberen2012-04-15

Does not seem to be important, maybe a teaspoon in a glass of water.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

They did though really wasn't expecting them to =) maybe because I supported them with plaster bandages they didn't tear? And this really is a process one should do with several people =) I didn't have anyone else that is why I had to use this method.

FO The Turk (author)2012-04-15

It is nice to see good instructables coming from this part of the world. Waiting for more.!

giritberen (author)FO The Turk2012-04-15

Thank you =))

studleylee (author)2012-04-11

Very cool!

giritberen (author)studleylee2012-04-15

thank you =) make sure to read the comments if you are going to do one =) There are a lot of good advices =)

dchapman10 (author)2012-04-15

Cool. Did the model ever feel claustrophobic? Looks like you have to find one who won't have a panic attack when senses are all being blocked.

giritberen (author)dchapman102012-04-15

I was lucky enough to have a model that was basically ok with anything through the process =) If your model is claustrophobic, well don't use him/her. She would have to stay like that for a good 20 minutes cause you have to wait for the plaster bandages to dry. And when the plaster dries my model told me that the mold becomes really heavy and her head started to hurt even though there was a pillow underneath her. And also the mold tends to tighten.

sfc_mark (author)giritberen2012-04-15

I am very claustrophobic and modeled for a plaster life mask cast my sister did when she was in art school. In retrospect I would have used something bigger than the small straws we used for breathing tubes (I like your paper cones), and I wish she had told me the plaster was going to heat up (a lot) as it cured.

I somehow got through it and the end result was a quite good life mask. I think if you work closely with your models and keep them at ease, claustrophobia doesn't necessarily have to rule them out.

giritberen (author)sfc_mark2012-04-15

Yes the plaster heats up a lot! we did the same process and got a really good mold but someone else destroyed it after pouring polyester resin in it. We had to break the plaster mold to get the polyester resin face out =(

danzo321 (author)giritberen2012-04-15

Agreed. For claustrophobic models I may do half the face only.
Mold does not really become heavy, it just becomes stiff and does not move with the live person. This is really a problem when I cast the diaphragm (belly) which must move as we breathe. (It took a while to learn how!) And since I use a direct-plaster method, which is not safe for inexperienced workers, I will not give an Instructable lesson. My website shows/tells as much as I am comfortable revealing.
By the way, you can simply dispense with the costly alginate and make great lifecasts with only the bandage. There are plenty of tricks with it too, but worth a try.

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

Paper cones or straws risk being jammed into the nose and just the slightest touch may make model sneeze. I work without them, and am very careful moving the algy around the lower nose to keep nostrils open.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

Well you are right but not everyone is experienced enough and I don't think people who just needs to do it once would do few try outs before they actually did it. Paper may be a bit risky but straw would be enough I guess?

danzo321 (author)giritberen2012-04-15

Not wanting to argue, but whoever comes to Instructables should see a simple but best-procedures technique. You are a beginner.. but, you were brave enough to post this, and i was not!
Merely touching a short straw may make most people sneeze, possibly ruining the mask.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

Well they say "share what you make" and I don't think it is bad to add beginner leveled instructables =) There are not many alginate mold (face) instructables in here and with people like you to comment on we could learn where we went wrong or where we could have done better =) which is a rare chance to get in real life =D I don't have any sculptors around me who could give advice like you did =)

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

You got your face, and your model is okay, so - success! I will just say that at ALI we have looked at every step of this procedure and there are better ways to do most of them, if you are interested in the quickest, cheapest, safest path.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

Well I'm a student still learning =) I edited and wrote that people should read the comments before going on with the procedure =) Thank you for your comments, they were really helpful.

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

What do we see on the cheek at right on the last picture?
Very interested what is in the open mouth to form that flat plane.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

That is the cotton that I sticked into the ear
And I put a napkin into her mouth cause I didn't need teeth, I am going to drill that part =)

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

I see artist is a lady not a man, pardon me. Plaster can be mixed thick, just right, or thin.. It grows thicker as it starts to set up. So mixing it just right gives you a thin, pourable fluid, and after a while it gets thick enough to start to stay where you slush it. These faces are generally cast hollowed, not solid, because the weight of that much plaster deforms the mother mold.
Air bubble holes are wetted and filled with a thimble-ful of plaster in one step, and sculpted with a brush or sponge or - whatever.

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

Rather than cotton balls in the ears, try this: Use a paper towel to clean vaseline from hands. Tear off a small bit of greasy paper and ball it up and put in ear. You'll see why.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

I'll do that the next time I take a mold =) thanks!

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

This does show the algy sticking with the mother mold as he removes it. Trust me, it doesn't always, without the fiber as I described.

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

This shows huge amounts of algy spread on the table next to the head - wasted. I think he's working too thick. Alginate should be thick enough to spread easily but not so thin as to pour off the model. Our artist has not gotten into the careful ratio of water to alginate, but it is a study in itself and not to be guessed at. It should be easy to move algy into the ears where it will grasp that paper towel i mentioned.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

I just didn't want to risk not getting it into the ears so probably I made it thinner than it should have been =) I really am not an experienced sculptor or anything =) it was my second try to use alginate =D

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

Opinion is divided on this. Most people lightly press some sort of fiber into the still-sticky alginate, forming a hairy surface so that 'mother mold' of plaster or plaster gauze will lock to it. If getting both ears, this shown way might be best, so mother mold is free to part from alginate.
Plaster gauze is not merely dipped (in warm water), it should be 'smushed' to make its plaster a thick liquid. I prefer painting some real plaster on the hairy algy surface because poking the delicate algy mask is bad and i want a good surface to lay bandage on. I think you need around six layers of bandage to have a strong enough mother-mold.

vanhooren (author)2012-04-15

did your diferent alginat layers stick together ?

giritberen (author)vanhooren2012-04-15

Quoting from danzo321 " If you mix some baking soda with water and swab it on the old, the new will stick better." So if you are going to do it all by yourself buy baking soda beforehand =) but I really really suggest you find help and just make it on the first try.

giritberen (author)vanhooren2012-04-15

Yes they did =) that was a risk to take but they did. Though if you are not going to use plaster bandages to support them I suggest you not to to it like I did.

danzo321 (author)2012-04-15

Not to rain on Giritberen's parade but I am an extremely experienced lifecaster and I feel the need to comment on some of his procedures.

giritberen (author)danzo3212012-04-15

*her ;) wow I wish I had seen this website before I did this, it would have been really helpful! And feel free to comment I would be lucky to read critics from an experienced lifecaster =)

gardenwitch (author)2012-04-15

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

About This Instructable




Bio: Sabanci University visual arts graduate
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