Introduction: Lifecasting a Face
One of the most frustrating thing when you’re starting to do special effects makeup is getting a proper lifecast of your face (or someone else) done.
There are millions of tutorials already made, and each teach you something different. There are also those, that teach you unsafe ways to do your own lifecast.
Before I dive into explanations and such, let me tell you when you would need a cast.
Basically is when you are in need of a prosthetic that is build upon the face (or other parts of the body), for a film, tv, photoshoot, cosplaying, etc… so when you glue it on place it will set nicely.
Another reason is when you need to do several copies of said prosthetic, due most of them will be thrown away after a day of use. So you need to sculpt the prosthetic on the cast, mold it properly, and then you can make as many copies as you like (hence you have the mold for it).
Step 1: "Do I Always Need a Lifecast?"
Well, no. Small prosthetics can be sculpted into flat surfaces, and molded that way. Those are usually details that won’t be so hard to apply later with the curves of the face/body.
Depending of why do you need a prosthetic build of a face you can actually get away by using a mannequin’s head, as long as you choose a more human-like mannequin than stylised-doll. I say this because I know a lot of people have only interesting in doing a mask or prosthetic for a con or a costume party, and doing a lifecast would, honestly, just waste your money.
“Why waste my money? If I can do it in my house, by myself?” Here comes the nasty part where I say: most tutorials lately are covering building a lifecast using plaster gaze directly on your face. After the gaze has set, it will go hard, and you will have a negative mold to run another plaster, and get your lifecast.
Sorry BUT, that is extremely dangerous! Don’t get me wrong, my first face cast was exactly like this. I’ve saw some people that I’ve trusted doing it, and I did one myself. Nothing bad happen however when I decided to do a proper lifecast of my face I’ve realize why it is so dangerous!
Basically the plaster gaze can burn. When the plaster starts to set it will warm and then cool down. This process takes usually around 10-20 minutes, so imagine you, sitting down in your house and your face starts to burn. Yeah, no fun.
I was actually lucky because I didn’t do so many layers for the plaster be so thick the “warming up” process would burn instead of just feel warm. However, doing it properly I could feel how much the gaze can warm up.
Besides, doing this won’t give a perfect cast, hence the plaster won’t gather every detail, and it’s not very stiff, so it can actually deform even before you pour the plaster inside, meaning that you would end up with a wrong positive.
Step 2: “How to Build a Proper Lifecast Then?”
I gotta you there!
I’ve done a video telling exactly what you can and can not do.
SPOILER: As my luck usually is, the cast didn’t come out perfect, so I had some things it needed to be fixed. But I will consider this a plus so you know what to do if the same happens to you.
I, however, have to write some things down:
• Ask for someone to help you, a professional!!; and
• Use alginate directly on your face and the plaster gaze on top of that. Building a thick layer of the alginate will make sure the plaster won’t burn you.
Some tips I can give you to work with the products:
• Cold / icy water will prolong the setting time of the alginate. Depending of the brand, and how hot the local you’re, the alginate will set more quickly, sometimes even before you’ve actually used it (believe me, I speak from experience);
• Check on makeup forums of your country what type/brand of alginate is best to use for the cast you need. This will make you find out how long it will take it to set, how it will translate the details of the body, and where to buy it;
• Working with stone plaster instead of plaster of paris is better for life casting. You can get away with the second option, but the texture of the stone is much smoother to work with it, hence is more creamy and thicker, as for the paris is very porous and very dry, even tho it feels more watery (I know it sounds like crazy talk, but I swear it’s not);
• For last, if you will be using dentist alginate and stone plaster, as I did, you will need to do some deep research in where to buy them without a license. I end up buying mine online, on a non-official site. However some countries sell these products on fx makeup stores, or even a more fancy beauty one.
And that's all you need to know :3 Please, I cannot emphasise enough: do the proper way. Don’t go follow every tutorials you see. And if you’re anxious about getting yours, go ask for help of a local professional!
Okay, I’ve said enough…
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