Alginate Mold - Face





Introduction: Alginate Mold - Face

About: Sabanci University visual arts graduate

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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 =) 



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    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.

    2 replies

    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? =)

    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:

    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.

    1 reply

    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 =)

    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.

    1 reply

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

    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.

    1 reply

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

    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.

    3 replies

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

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

    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.

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

    1 reply

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

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    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.