Making a Head Mold

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Introduction: Making a Head Mold

A lot of prosthetics are sculpted on top of a generic head. You can buy these heads at a few different online stores, but no prosthetic you sculpt and mold off of those are going to fit perfectly on your model. At these points, you're going to want to make a mold of your actor/model's head and sculpt directly on top of that.

In this instructable, I'll show you how to make a mold of a head in a fairly cheap and easy way. I do suggest if you've never done this before to first do a simple face mold first!

Material list!

  • Plaster Bandages
  • Ultracal (you can use plaster of paris but I would highly advise against that)
  • Alginate (1.5 pounds)
  • Plastic Bags
  • Vaseline
  • Bald Cap
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Pros Aide and Pros Aide remover
  • 5 gallon buckets
  • 1 gallon bucket
  • Water

Step 1: Step 1: Cover Your Model's Head!

First things first, have your model take off their shirt and cover them from collarbone down with plastic wrap. Alginate does not stick to hair, but it will rip very easily. Keep alginate away from clothing.

A bald cap is ideal in this situation, but if you are unfamiliar with bald cap application or are short on funds, saran wrap will do. Tape around the edges of the forehead and neck. If you model has long hair, gel the hair down so that it lies flat along the skull.

Step 2: Step 2: Plaster Gauze

Break out your plaster gauze and start covering the back of the skull. Many people will continue to use alginate around the back of the head, but if you don't have the materials plaster gauze will work fine. It will, however, cause more sanding at the end.

Cover the back of the model's head just to the center of the skull and back of the neck, avoid undercuts around the throat and top of the head. If it couldn't pull straight off, you've got an undercut.

Step 3: Step 3: Alginate

Mix your alginate with cold water following directions on the packet. Warm water will make alginate set at a much faster rate. This alginate will be applied with your hands to the parts of your models face that is not covered with gauze.

Don't overlap the gauze, the alginate will stick to it and potentially rip. I generally start with the nose, that way the alginate will harden around their nose first. This makes it easier to be sure your model can breathe. I don't put straws in my model's nose because it distorts the nostrils. Just watch their nose and make certain they are able to breathe.

Let the alginate sit for 10 minutes or until completely hardened.

Step 4: Step 4: More Plaster Gauze

Cover the edge of the back head plaster piece with vaseline, about 1-2 inches from the edge. After this, start covering the alginate with more plaster gauze. You're going to overlap the plaster gauze over the back piece. Work the gauze as close to the alginate as possible and avoid air pockets. Those will cause lumps in the final head casting. It is also acceptable to mess with your model at this point. Smiley faces are always fun!

Let the plaster set for at least 10-15 minutes. It should be cool to the touch and hard.

Step 5: Step 5: Pull Off the Piece!

When they pull this off, have them lean forward and cup the plaster in their hands. You'll have to help the alginate let go of their head, because it has a pretty good suction on it. Run your fingers along the insides of the alginate and let it naturally let go of their face.

Step 6: Step 6: Seam, Pour, and Break It Out!

At this point, seal the two pieces together with more plaster gauze around the edge, at least 4 layers. This will give you one solid piece to pour your ultracal into.

Putting the head into a bucket so that there's no need to hold it. Mix up your ultracal or plaster following directions. I suggest ultracal or a gypsum for a head to sculpt upon because the material is naturally harder. Plaster will start breaking apart somewhere between 3-10 pulls.

Pour the ultracal into the head mold, and let it sit. Once it is cool to the touch, you can break it open to pull out your bust.

Step 7: Step 7: You're Done!

And voila! you have a head to sculpt upon!

You will need to stand the back of the head quite a bit because the plaster gauze will leave a rough edge. You can see on mine that the alginate ripped on the forehead. All of these things are easily fixable!

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19 Comments

How much Ultra Cal is needed to make an average bust roughly?

This is a great tutorial! I had a few questions about what is possible after the head cast is made. I am going to make two head molds as sculptures in an art project, and I would like to be able to paint the busts and also have them be handled gently by people. Is there a way of sealing the ultracal? What kinds of paints would you recommend using on this material? Thanks

I've seen recommendations for "superseal" - ive never used it

I would recommend using acrylic paint on something like this. if you used acrylic you wouldnt need to seal the cast before painting, just afterwards as an extra measure for handling- wherein you could use your standard paint sealer/ finishing gloss from home depot or craft store.
mod podge has a sealer but there is the basic spray you can get at just about any store (walmart, home depot, etc) with varying finishes (matte, glossy, etc)

I've seen recommendations for "superseal" - ive never used it

I would recommend using acrylic paint on something like this. if you used acrylic you wouldnt need to seal the cast before painting, just afterwards as an extra measure for handling- wherein you could use your standard paint sealer/ finishing gloss from home depot or craft store.
mod podge has a sealer but there is the basic spray you can get at just about any store (walmart, home depot, etc) with varying finishes (matte, glossy, etc)

This is awesome! glad i read this before trying the mold because i would have used a straw in the nostrils.
I am looking to do a life cast of myself for general sculpting with clay.
A question that i have is should the ultracal be sealed with something? if so, what would be recommended? I would like to preserve the cast for multiple projects.
any recommendation where to buy these products?
Also, i've seen some recommendations for using vasoline on the eyebrows and hairline to avoid any sticking, i see that you wrapped her hairline, does it make a difference for the eyebrows?
I'll make sure to post photos when completed!
thanks!

The likeness is... uncanny.... almost as if you had cast a human head!

Do you know how I could turn a head cast into a planter??

HGTV2491939-RMS-Gardens_Planter-Heads-KatG_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960.jpeg

Thanks for the heads up!

As a lifecasting pro, [www.lifecastmemphis.com] may I offer some suggestions. You haven't done anything so wrong but there are better techniques. Alginate won't stay with the plaster bandage without a mechanical bond, so we pat the hardening algy with a ball of cotton or pillow stuffing so it has hairs embedded, which plaster bandage will stick to. This also means you can work quicker. Your bandage does not look like it was slicked, which makes a much cleaner texture. As you pull it out of warm water pan, smoosh the bandage and it will move the plaster to fill the gaps in the cloth.