Introduction: Easy Stop-Motion Puppet With Sugru Face and Hands
So, you want to dabble in stop-motion animation but you don't know where to start? Well, aside from having, y'know, a story, you're going to need some puppets to take the place of your actors.
In this tutorial, you're going to be shown how I made the Kostas puppet for the upcoming "Kids Today" shorts series. Now, this is hardly the only way to make a puppet, but this is just how I do it, in a way that is relatively cost effective, and which will produce durable puppets whose construction does not require a lot of time or extra equipment.
Plus the hands and face being made with Sugru gives them great range of movement while maintaining some incredible structural integrity. Because some of us haven't got the means or patience to work with foam latex.
1/16" armature wire
polymer clay (like Sculpey)
2 rare earth magnets
EDIT: What is wrong with the bloody image uploader! Five hours and 2 browsers later and I submitted this thing to the contest at the last possible second! Hope it still qualifies!
Step 1: Make the Armature:
Using your 1/16" armature wire, begin to make the basic skeleton for your figure.
Remember basic proportionalities and build from there:
-shoulder = 3x width of the head
-elbows at mid torso
-hands at mid thigh
-legs 2x length of torso
Twist the wire around itself to double the skeleton's thickness. And be sure to provide
extra wrapping around important joints.
Notice the head; it is composed of a vertical loop for the cranium and a lower
horizontal loop for the jaw. This provides a hinge for the jaw and makes it easier when
you have to start worrying about actually making your character speak.
Step 2: Planning Your Joints:
Unless you want your character to look like his/her arms and legs are made of
spaghetti, and subsequently need them to be disturbingly flexible, you're going to want
to find a way to stiffen any areas of their body which should not be able to bend. This
means the forearms, upper arms, thighs, and calves. You also will want to cover any
areas heavily covered in wire, to make certain that things stay in location and nice and sturdy.
I used Sculpey polymer clay and worked on aluminum foil because I immediately transfered the puppet in this stage to the oven to cure the clay. I also began preliminary construction of the head, in order to be as timely as possible.
Only the top of the head is completed, though, as the bottom half needs to be composed of Sugru, which will allow more freedom of movement than Sculpey will, but more on that later.
Step 3: Reinforements:
Once cured and cooled, cover the Sculpey'd areas with duct tape, to ensure that the polymer clay does not begin to crumble after repeated bendings of the puppet at the joints.
The joints themselves are then covered in a thin layer of Sugru silicone putty to preserve the integrity of the aluminum armature wire still exposed.
Step 4: Hands:
Oh, hands. The bane of many an artist. Whether you've got a three-fingered or four-fingered character, you're going to want hands that look at least halfway decent and are super-durable.
For this puppet project, we've got wire hands with the the fingers stuck in place by a blob of cured polymer clay, which also gives us nice and sturdy and static palms.
Cover the polymer clay palms with a thin layer of Sugru, and then begin to pinch it up and over the individual wire fingers, begin sure to cover then sharp edges a little more thickly.
Finally, use scupting tools or a toothpick or whatever you've got handy (<- speaking of handy, your own nails will usually work fine for this) to apply folds and wrinkles as seen in hands. Don't get too detailed, though, as that can actually come back to bite you in the ass if you're anything less than a professional sculptor.
Step 5: Sculpting the Face:
Now we're going to use more Sugru to sculpt the bottom half of the face, being certain the centre and cover that bottom bit of wire to construct the jaw. Smooth a bit of the
silicone putty on the cheeks at the sides to blend the halves of the face.
Since we want those lips as pliable as possible, we now are going to sculpt the top lip and some of those lovely and all-concealing wrinkles, ever careful to not let the two silicone
halves touch, lest they fuse together during the curing time.
If there are any other small imperfections that you would like to literally smooth over, use any leftover Sugru to cover them up.
Step 6: Feet and an Alternative to Tie-downs:
Kostas has got some nice, clunky old-man shoes. You'd think that they would have, therefore, been easier to sculpt. Ha. Nope. Of course, that's mostly due to our sculpture medium. For this, we used Mighty Putty. The stuff is fine. It's nice and strong. But the stuff that I was using must have been a little on the older side of things because it felt partially dried already. But I digress.
Mix the two parts of the epoxy until it becomes an even colour throughout. Spread it thinly over the feet as they are already and shape it into whatever shape you happen to need.
Kostas' big feet are partially to keep him bottom-heavy, partly to fit in with his big head and big hands motif, and mostly to be big enough to house the rare earth magnets that will be embedded into the Mighty Putty. These magnets in the feet will act in place of tie-downs, so that to set the character standing on the set, there need only be a thin sheet of metal in the floors beneath him. Easy peasy.
Step 7: What I've Got So Far:
And you should have something relatively similar. Let this baby sit overnight to make sure that everything cures up nicely.
The change in colours? Don't worry about it; I ran out of orange and the larger packs of Sugru come in a variety of colours. Either way, we'll be painting over all of this later.
Step 8: Filler:
Take your cotton balls and place them over your figure,planning whereabouts your little old man will need padding. Don't forget the backside.
Cover the areas loosely but completely with duct tape, giving him a nice and firm analog for skin.
Step 9: Painting:
Begin by painting the face and hands a flat skin tone. You'll want to cover the area completely, and that might take multiple coats.
To give your character a little more realism and depth, add a little bit
of colour to the skin. For Kostas, I added a little bit of pink to his cheeks
and nose, and a bit of grey to his jawline to indicate a five o'clock shadow.
The hands can be painted one uniform colour.
The Greek fisherman's cap and shoes are painted a uniform black.
For Kostas, the eyes will be largely overshadowed by bushy
eyebrows, so a bit of grey is painted on the eyes to indicate a squint.
Step 10: Done!
Now wait for him to dry as he runs away from a malfunctioning cardboard-and-duct-tape robot!
Your puppet is now done. The only thing that he still needs are his clothes, but that's a subject for another Instructable.