Introduction: Making an Army of Gromit's (Claymation Mold Making)

Picture of Making an Army of Gromit's (Claymation Mold Making)

Fancy making a clay stop motion animation Aardman style?
Chances are that you will need more than one clay figure, in fact you'll probably need a small army.
Here's an inexpensive way to make 'clones' of your original sculpture.

Materials Needed:
Armature wire (1/16")
Van Aken Plastalina Clay
Foam Board
Packing Tape
InstaMold Mold Making Compound
Petroleum Jelly
Baby Oil (Mineral Oil)
Electric Drill
Double Boiler (or cooking pot and glass mixing bowl)
Sculpting tools
Paint and brushes
Imagination, patience and a video camera (optional)

Step 1: Draw Your Character!

Picture of Draw Your Character!

First draw your character on a piece of paper (full size).
For a full sized character aim to draw it about 9-14" in size.

In this tutorial Gromit (being a dog) was fairly short at about 9".
Make the drawing fairly simple, something that will be possible to sculpt in clay, and for which you can envisage a simple wire armature (skeleton).

Step 2: Give 'em Some Bones!

Picture of Give 'em Some Bones!

Using your drawing as a guide you need to measure and cut the lengths of wire for the armature (skeleton). You need to double up the lengths as you will be twisting the wire together to make it stronger and more flexible.

You will end up with 5 pieces of wire (2 arms, 2 legs, a torso), Assuming you are making a humanoid.
Each piece of wire will be double the length of the body part it represents. For the head leave a big loop in the torso wire, and put loops for the hands and feet.

After you have cut the wire to the right lengths and use the drill and pliers to twist them together.

Use the Sculpey to block out the chest, pelvis, hands and feet of the skeleton, and to hold the wire together. When you are done put the armature on a baking sheet and bake the Sculpey permanently hard in your home oven, 15-20 minutes at 275ºF. Remove and leave to cool.

Step 3: Sculpt Your Clay Figure.

Picture of Sculpt Your Clay Figure.

Use the Van Aken Clay and sculpting tools to fashion your figure.

I won't talk you through this, but their are plenty of sites with good tips on sculpting clay:

If you already have a figure you wish to copy skip to the next step.

Step 4: Make a Box

Picture of Make a Box

Make a box out of the foam board using the packing tape, which when complete will be 2 times as deep as your clay figure is thick and have at least a 1 1/2" border around it limbs when out stretched.

In the case of Gromit the dimensions were 8" deep, 12" long and 8" wide.

When, you have made your box, make sure the seams are water tight (use packaging tape to line all the corners) and then line the bottom with about 1 1/2" deep of squished 'pellets' of clay.

Step 5: Bury Your Buddy.

Picture of Bury Your Buddy.

Remove any parts of your figure that you do not want to duplicate (in Gromit's case his eyes and nose).

Use the petroleum jelly to lightly coat the back of your figure.
(Your original figure is likely to need cleaning and touching up after the mold creation process, petroleum jelly makes this an easier task as it acts as a lubricant/mold release).

Lay your clay figure backwards onto the base of clay pellets.
Gradually build up the clay pellets around your figure until it is half submered by them.

When the clay pellets are burying your figure to half it's depth start to apply thin smooth sheets of clay onto the pellets.

Push the smooth clay up to the very edges of your figure making sure they form a tight seal around it. Make sure there are no holes that mold compound can run down.

Now push four 1/2" ball-barings half-way into the clay (one in each of the four corners of the clay) and leave them there. This creates 'keys' in the mold which allow it to fit back together again once the clay original is removed. (You can use anything to make a key, I typically make protruding clay ramps on the clay surface as keys).

Step 6: Encased in Algenate!

Picture of Encased in Algenate!

Now mix up a batch of InstaMold (an algenate substance).

InstaMold is very simple to use, it is a white powder that when mixed with water forms a jelly like substance (algenate). Follow the instructions on the side of the canister as to how much you will need to cover the area of the box. You will need the algenate to be 1 1/2" deep to get a (fairly) strong mold.

You can use any number of different molding compounds for this step, algenate is by far the cheapest.
The best quality molds are made from silicone rubbers, although not all of them are suitable for use with clay originals.

Algenate molds are fairly fragile and short lived, you will probably get 4-6 castings from an algenate mold if you are careful.

Step 7: Flip Side Up.

Picture of Flip Side Up.

When the molding compound has fully cured, remove the sides and bottom of your box and flip the mold upside down.

Carefully remove the clay pellets from the underside of the mold and your figure.
Build new box sides around your mold, reaching 1 1/2" above the back of your figure. Make sure the edges are water tight.

Line the edges of the box with clay to create a tight seal with the mold and the box.

Coat the mold, and the back of the figure, with mold release or a thin coat of petroleum jelly. This will stop the second half of the mold sticking to the figure and the other half of the mold.

Roll up paper tubes and push them into your figure where you want your pouring holes (for the liquid clay later in the casting process) to be.

For Gromit I used 4 different holes to ensure that hands face and body all filled evenly and fully.

Mix up some more InstaMold and pour it over the figure (avoid displacing the paper cones).

Step 8: Impressionable.

Picture of Impressionable.

When the molding compound has cured remove the box sides and the clay original from the mold. (You will probably need to clean up your original clay figure quite a bit before you can use it again!)

Clean and residual clay and petroleum jelly off your mold using paper towel/tissue.

Step 9: Wirey Little Fellows Aren't They?

Picture of Wirey Little Fellows Aren't They?

Repeat step two and make an armature for your figure, be sure that it fits inside of the mold you have created.

Place the finished armature in the mold (making sure the feet face the right way).
Put tiny blobs of clay under the armature to raise it off the bottom of the mold, so that it is not touching. (Use clay that is the same color as the figures skin).

Spray both halfs of the mold with mold release and place the half with holes on top of the other half, making sure the keys lock into place snugly.

Use an elastic band to hold the mold securely together.

Step 10: It's Getting Hot in Here..

Picture of It's Getting Hot in Here..

Put half a pan of water on the stove and bring it to the boil.
Place the glass mixing bowl onto the pan and turn the heat down to a light boil.
Put the Van Aken clay into the glass bowl and allow it to heat up until it is liquid and runny (stir regularly).

Make sure it is fully liquid before trying to pour it into the molds' holes.
Do the pour quickly, clay cools fast and you don't want an incomplete mold pour.

Oddly enough, the clay color used for Gromit doesn't melt as well as other colors, so you may need to add a tiny bit of mineral oil to the clay while it is melting to make it more liquid.
Be careful though, the more oil you add the softer the clay will become. Make it too soft and you won't be able to animate it later.

You can use a double boiler instead of the pan/bowl arrangement, but the results are the same.
Do not try and melt the clay in a fry pan or on direct heat, burnt clay is toxic and useless for animating.

Step 11: They're Alive!

Picture of They're Alive!

While you are waiting for the clay to cool in the mold. Make the accessories for the figures (eyes, noses etc.)

I use small drilled beads as eyeballs. I paint them white, then I paint a wide black circle in and around the drilled center hole. I then paint the eye color on top, leaving a thin black line around the iris.

For the other accessories I use Sculpey and then paint them.

When the clay is fully hardened in the mold (15-20 mins), take off the rubber bands and open the mold slowly and carefully, trying not to tear the mold or damage the clay.

Remove your clone. Attach to a base for cleaning and finishing.
Make another (Step 9 onwards).

Take over the world.

Step 12: Movie Magic & Resources

Picture of Movie Magic & Resources

Give the figures to kids at summer camp, and let them make movie magic!

Resources list:

Computer Stop Motion Software
Stop Motion Pro: (Recommended)
Cost: $70 - $595 (depending on edition)

Animaatiokone Studio:
Cost: $99 - $639

Animator DV:
Cost: $200- $1500

StopIt: (Basic, Not recommended)
Cost: free

TrickFilmCam (Basic Not Recommended)
Cost: free

iStopMotion (Recommended)
Cost: $49 - 499

Cost: $39.95

Cost: Free

Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation: $25.71

The Art of Stop-Motion Animation: $29.99

The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion, and Internet Animators: $19.80

Timing For Animation: $27.95

Cracking Animation: $32.24


Animate Clay!
Armature wire (1/16"), eyeballs, instructional DVD's & plastic stick figures.

Clay, Sculpy, molding materials, and general art supplies.

Armature Wire, Clay.

Many art stores also carry the materials needed. Armature wire is 1/16" aluminum wire. The clay is Van Aken Plastalina.

Online forums / resources:


Can we use any alternatives to aluminum armature wire (like toothpicks)?

The issue here is the joint. You need to have joints which will allow the model to move realistically and hold its pose. Professional stop motion models use a skeleton made of ball bearings and metal which doesn't get weak at the joints eventually like a wire framed model will. The process of making one of these is much more drawn out but is worth it - outside of using a simple wire frame, I'm not sure there's any material that will offer the right level of felxibility and strength at the joints.

Javin007 (author)2014-11-20

Do you have any suggestions for something to use to make a more robust mold? Something that could be stored, and recovered a year or so later?

jhaskell2 (author)Javin0072015-08-06

Silicone rubber is the best material for making molds, the process is essentially the same. It is considerably more expensive but will make a mold that is very chemically stable and will last for years.

SherifS (author)2014-10-20

Hi there

I have a question about step #5. When you say add clay pellets, put your figure in, bury it then add a film of clay, could you provide more information?

Did you keep adding clay pellets and smooth them over, or did you apply a flat piece of clay on top of the pellets?

Thank you

Javin007 (author)SherifS2014-11-20

The idea of the pellets is just to "bulk up" the back end of the mold. Once you get to the height you want, that is the only part you have to smooth out, making sure the edges are RIGHT up to your main character model's sides. You don't have to fill in or smooth out the pellets any more than that.

KarateLover21 (author)2009-12-25

Very nice. I am currently making a stop motion with lego characters.

thepelton (author)KarateLover212011-01-11

I had been thinking I would like to try Lego-mation. I really want to see how that turns out. What are you using for a camera?

KarateLover21 (author)thepelton2011-01-12

I am using a Canon FS200, it is amazing.

9ale7 (author)2011-01-03

For a start,
what motion software would you recommend
Free versions :P

sharlston (author)2009-05-04

use spell check you spelt ball bearing wrong

edwatkins (author)sharlston2009-05-05

Before commenting on my spelling, which is not particularly constructive, you might want to check your grammar. You know, for things like capital letters and punctuation.

Kryptonite (author)edwatkins2010-05-26

He was just trying to help...

jamiec53 (author)edwatkins2010-01-28

Haha! He got you there sharlston!

dolabil66 (author)2008-04-19

Awesome Instructable....I especially like you character

porcupinemamma (author)dolabil662010-01-31

Couldn't have said it better! I totally agree withdolabil66.  Way cool Instructable!  Thanks :0)

beanz55 (author)2010-01-22


moo of the cow (author)2009-06-17

OMG how to you sculpt so good??????? awsom job great ible

Punkguyta (author)2008-01-08

That's pretty nifty, I did always want to try sticking my hand in claymation, I've done stop motion but just with random objects. OH and by the way I think the intention most people have when they do the bowl-in-pot-of-hotwater thing, the intention is to actually have it site inside the pot??

edwatkins (author)Punkguyta2008-01-08

Hi, The clay sits inside the glass bowl which rests on the pot with the hot water in it. Sorry if that wasn't clear. The reason you do this is so that the clay is heated by indirect heat (not a direct gas flame/electric element). It also stops the clay getting any hotter than the waters boiling temperature, and thus ensures it won't burn.

Punkguyta (author)edwatkins2008-01-08

I know why it's done, but when you did it, did you have the bowl sitting in/on the water or above it?

edwatkins (author)Punkguyta2008-01-09

Ah, got you. The bowl needs to be big enough so that it rests on rim of the pot. I had the water covering the bottom of the bowl, but not floating the bowl.

Punkguyta (author)edwatkins2008-01-09

Ah okay, I thought it had to float on top to work. Oh and 1+ just for making an army of little Gromits.

thebhgg (author)Punkguyta2008-01-12

Umm..... As a trained cook, may I suggest that heat transfer is much better if the bowl is above the water NOT touching.

The reason is that the heat transfer happens when steam condenses to water (heat of vaporization = heat of condensation) . That happens at a very even temperature. This heat transfer is much more efficient (i.e. a more constant temperature) than 'mere' conductive heat from direct contact with hot water (and convection heat, because the water moves). You don't need lots of water for the double boiler, just always keep enough in the pan so you don't boil it dry.

Also, the bowl will be more stable. It won't have buoyancy issues with the water, and won't be rocked by the boiling.

If your bowl is not secure enough in your pot, may I suggest a twisted wiping rag (I use those blue-checked things that come in a roll) soaked with water around the rim of the pot. If you are using a flame heat (gas or propane), do be careful of the fire hazard! :-)

Punkguyta (author)thebhgg2008-01-13

*Tunes into BBS mode*

>Umm..... As a trained cook, may I suggest that heat transfer is much better if the bowl is above the water NOT touching.

The reason is that the heat transfer happens when steam condenses to water (heat of vaporization = heat of condensation) . That happens at a very even temperature. This heat transfer is much more efficient (i.e. a more constant temperature) than 'mere' conductive heat from direct contact with hot water (and convection heat, because the water moves). You don't need lots of water for the double boiler, just always keep enough in the pan so you don't boil it dry.
.From my years of scientific study, I've found that conduction works better rather than radiation, which as far as I'm concerned works better as far as numbers and efficiency. What this "heat of vaporization = heat of condensation"?? If physics prove me right, when steam "happens" it's because of evaporation, which happens at all temperatures of water above freezing. However when boiling it does occur in greater amounts because the water is hot and therefore evaporates quicker because of the water rushing around and we see this as steam, which is as hot as the water, it's just water vapor, just like if you set a glass of water out for a few days, it loses water from evaporation.

That being said, condensation occurs because the steam (water vapor) has cooled down so instead of being gas, it turns to a liquid which is the state of water at room temperature when there is enough to collect into a droplet. If droplets are collection on the bottom of the bowl, yes the steam is heating the bowl up evenly, but by the time it reaches the bowl, it has already lost some of it's heat (re: Nuclear plants have mega insulated pipes in the turbines to keep the steam hot). However if the bowl is sitting on the water, although it may rock around if you have too much water, it would generally heat up quicker and be a "hotter" heat. The only reason this is done isn't for even-ness of heating, but rather for the feature of not having as much heat capacity, you know, so you don't BURN things like what would happen if you put the clay in an aluminum pot, instead of said bowl idea. I'd hate to say, but your theory may be wrong.

>Also, the bowl will be more stable. It won't have buoyancy issues with the water, and won't be rocked by the boiling.
. In all seriouslyness, it all depends on how much of a klutz you are, if you have any kind of a steady hand (which everyone except those that are ill/high/drug users) should have, then you just need to fill it up to touch the bottom of the bowl, it doesn't need to be so full that it pushes the bowl up, even if it pushes it up 1cm, it's entirely do-able.

>If your bowl is not secure enough in your pot, may I suggest a twisted wiping rag (I use those blue-checked things that come in a roll) soaked with water around the rim of the pot. If you are using a flame heat (gas or propane), do be careful of the fire hazard! :-)
. Who said I was actually making clay armies myself? I'd KILL to have that kind of time on my hands, however I have previously constructed units to float containers (plastic) in pots of water with popsicle sticks and tape, just needs a few (re: two or three, some people are bad with the words "couple, few, several, many") and it gives it room to float around but also doesn't let it tip in any direction, it worked great.

waterppk (author)Punkguyta2009-05-14

Seems that you're confusing evaporation happening due to diffusion gradients, which are a difference in humidity levels (potential) from air near the top of an open cup of water to less humid air in a standard room. This phenomena is very different than what 'thebhgg' it talking about, where you're vaporizing (NOT evaporating) liquid from a boiling pot. Additionally, evaporation and condensation happen at a constant temperature, so you aren't losing any temperature by having the water vaporize from liquid to vapor and then condense on the cooler top pot (which really isn't cooler, it's just transferring heat out via a tiny thermal gradient through radiation/convection through the top of the pot), this condensation then transfers the heat of vaporization (heat of fusion) from the water which is condensing onto the pot into the liquid. This is why he recommends using a rag as a gasket on the top of the pot, as if you start with a very small amount of water and seal it in the pot (and remove conduction at the rim) you can recycle the water in a system in the pot, you'll not only heat up faster due to less mass, but you'll have to rarely fill your pot up with more water because it's sealed in the system. This all comes back to a fundamentals, you get burned not by the temperature of steam above the pot, but by the incredible heat transfer that occurs when the steam condenses on your skin and transfers the heat into your skin, which is unable to remove it quickly enough and hence you get badly burned. --- Side point is that you are burned by heat transfer, not by temperature, this is why on a really cold day (or really hot) you get burned/chilled by metal in your car, and not by your plastic/vinyl steering wheel. This is because the heat transfer in the metal is so much better than the plastic/vinyl, so more heat can be transferred faster than your body can remove it, and you get burned/frozen. If this doesn't make sense feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to clarify. If you're interested in learning this stuff go to school for engineering, you'll have to take a class (or two) on heat transfer!

edwatkins (author)thebhgg2008-01-12

Thanks! I didn't know that (I'm a filmmaker, not a chef) :) I'll use that method next time, makes sense!

silver912targa (author)thebhgg2008-01-12

This method is called "bain Marie" = Marie's bath
Probably because she invented it?
Lovely instructable!


TIMarshall (author)2009-02-24

I love your tutorial, I'm going to be using it for my College Course, hopefully it will make it easier to use, and cheapish to get materials. Thanks for uploading this, TIMarshall

spider007 (author)2009-01-04

hi there anybody know were i can purchase Van Aken Plastalina Clay and InstaMold Mold Making Compound in the uk hellllllllp

Sunny124613 (author)2008-08-24

nice instructable and i love wallace and Gromit!

bubba77 (author)2008-06-15

i grew up with wallace and gromit : ) great instructable

evilgenius 398 (author)bubba772008-08-20

me too

saintshortckt (author)2008-01-14

1) is that modelling clay? 2) the sculpture u make after putting it in the oven, is it flexible? 3) is the product 'deformable'?

edwatkins (author)saintshortckt2008-01-14

1) Yes, the brand is Van Aken Plastalina Clay. I reckon it is the best clay to use for stop motion animation. 2) You only put the skeleton (armature) in the oven. The baking sets the Sculpey (heat hardening clay) holding the armature together on the torsos and waist. You only add, and sculpt, the modeling clay after baking the armature and letting it cool. The armature itself is flexible as the wire is aluminum and by twisting it together you give it greater flexibility and resilience to multiple bends. 3) The finished model is indeed deformable, the Plastalina clay is very mailable and the armature flexes easily under the clay. I will probably do an instructable on claymation model making and sculpting, in the near future, a couple of people have asked for one. Hope that helps, Ed

saintshortckt (author)edwatkins2008-01-15

Yes thanks! What IS stop animation exactly? and that figure that you've kept on the paper in that photograph, is THAT figure itself deformable? and did you actually sit down and sculpt it yourself?!?! must be pretty hard work!

tony stark (author)saintshortckt2008-05-27

take a picture, move, take a picture, move, do it 900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 more times, mess up, and try to start over!

edwatkins (author)saintshortckt2008-01-15

Stop Motion animation is the process of making a motion film using a still photography camera (or video camera setup to capture only a single frame at a time). It works by moving the models a small amount, capturing a frame or two, then moving the models again etc. When you combine the frames (in an editing/capture program) you see the objects move as if they were alive, just like hand drawn animation. It's great!

Here's an example straight from Aardman

The figure on the paper is deformable too, it was made using an armature and clay. Yes, I sculpted it (It took a while!).

saintshortckt (author)edwatkins2008-01-15

A frame or two once?! Does that mean that a one minute movie would take approximately 1500 different shots (at 25 fps), meaning a VERY long time! Is that how they make the movies on the commercial levels?

edwatkins (author)saintshortckt2008-01-15

Yes they do. Depending on the way you animate, you shoot individual frames for fast motion, for slower motion you'd shoot sets of 2 identical frames. Generally you'd make the film 15-24 frames a second depending on how smooth you wanted the animation. Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas (stop motion) took 4 years to complete, with multiple sets and animators. They used silicone based models rather than clay, with multiple replacement heads and body parts for different expressions.

Hawaii00000 (author)2008-04-02

Very cool

Sarsen (author)2008-03-22

Great job! Very easy to understand ,but is there a way to make this mold last more than 4-6 or so uses? Thanks!

morCadillac (author)2008-02-27

W-o-w-! I'm speechless! This looks really professional and like a lot of work! But I guess the results are worth it :) Very nice instructable! Loves, Eda

Sedgewick17 (author)2008-02-18

Very nice job. I would like to try this with some of the characters I have made.

Modelmaker93 (author)2008-01-27

Hi am new to this site and i was just wondering can you use Newplast Plasticine for this? Here is my gromit made without a mould:

deafasianguy (author)2008-01-25

did u use the half of insta mold for front and back?

Cartoonguy11 (author)2008-01-17

Thanks for the tutorial! It is very helpful!

foobear (author)2008-01-14

Ooh, cool. thanks for the info on making 3d molds. And silicone molding is sooo expensive. Really great instructable.

the_burrito_master (author)2008-01-11

Nice, very good quality instructions and what happened to there ears in the intro pic.

I added them after I'd taken all the photos. Sorry!

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