I wanted a cast of my face: a 3D positive, as closely resembling my real face as possible. I considered using 123D Catch to model my face and then print it out on our fancy 3D printers. But that's needlessly expensive and inaccessible (except for 123D Catch, which you should look up if you haven't heard of it). This method is messy and fun, and can be done in your home.

So I got some materials online, a (mostly) willing volunteer, and some helpers, and we set about things.

I got a lot of help from this instructable, but we modified the process enough that I think it deserves its own step-by-step.

Why did I want a cast of my face? It will all be explained in time. But rest assured, I have further plans for it.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

plastercloth (it comes in rolls- get a couple of rolls)
alginate* (a 1lb jar of dermagel is plenty for casting a face or two)
plaster powder (I used something like three cups per face? I didn't really measure.)
the above things can be bought at Douglas and Sturgess online.

a mixing vessel- I used a biggish yogurt cup (see pictures later)
scissors you don't care too much about
a cardboard box or sheet of cardboard
ideally, a box-cutting knife (for cutting the cardboard)
old newspapers
a shirt you don't mind ruining (to wear while getting your face cast)
a couple of bowls for water

*A note on the alginate: I've plaster cast my face and those of others before, but I always just used plastercloth with some Vaseline on the eyebrows. So why use alginate? Two good reasons. Firstly, the internet now warns me that people have lost bits of themselves to  plaster molding themselves- plaster heats as it sets, and can get quite warm. It can burn you right to pieces, apparently. I think this is more of an issue if you're pouring mounds of plaster on something that if you're just using plastercloth, but good to keep in mind. The second reason is more important to me: you get wonderful detail with the alginate. Plastercloth is going to make you a mask that fits nicely to your face. Alginate is going to give you a mold that really looks like you.
<p>Please do try to avoid straws if applying this technique to another person again. Straws are not much liked by many special effects/prosthetic make-up artists. If using straws the model may feel they need them to breathe and may cause them to panic should they fall out, another problem is if you accidentally knock them they can cause discomfort. <br>Props to the advice on the use of plaster - we try to avoid even the smallest amount of plaster making contact with the skin to avoid irritation.<br><br>I have cast a face as a lead make-up artist within a team in a professional environment at college (Extended Diploma), I have also taken the other various roles on other occasions having taken the role involving looking after the model twice. </p>
What do you use in place of straws?
We use nothing in place of straws. We work very carefully to make sure the airway is clear at all times. <br>As students we worked in teams: Model Support was in charge of making sure nothing got in the way of the nostrils, clearing away anything that got too close with cotton buds (carefully so as to not poke the model up the nose). We established a set of codes for the model which could be used if she/he felt discomfort. If she/he had a problem with a breathing we had her/him raise a pointed finger on the hand corresponding to the left and/or right nostril (left hand for left nostril, right for right). Other groups used different codes. During the entire process up until the alginate with modroc was removed we had frequent check-ups: we asked how the model was feeling. We had a code which he/she could use at any time to establish 'OK', 'nervous' or 'not coping at all and I want it off immediately'. They were simple hand signals of which the team and the model had a mutual understanding. Model Support was to be with the model at all times making contact (something comfortable previously negotiated with the model) even if other members of the team had to be busy with other duties. When the cast is removed the model has his/her eyes shielded by model support having been forewarned his/her eyes may have become more sensitive to light. The model calls the shots - he/she decides where his/her eyes are ready. Reducing the light slightly in the immediate environment is reasonable. <br><br>Not everyone does it the same way as described above, things can be changed around. Some more experienced make-up artists work alone. I have a video here of Stuart Bray (he has worked on Doctor Who, Shaun of the Dead, Stardust, The Mummy Returns and others) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NyF5bKlkT0<br> I believe he is working alone here. He starts on the nose first so it is set before he moves on. He has a Youtube channel. If you're interested in this area I would seriously recommend him. He offers an email course for free via his website and personally I find him a joy to watch, I cannot say if you would find him the same. Oh, he also has a blog and is contactable through youtube and his website. <br>If I were working alone I would mix up a small batch of alginate to a paste consistency and work very carefully around the nose first, following Stuart's method simply because I am a beginner in comparison.
<p>What's a good substitute for alginate?</p>
<p>I have seen Silicone used as well but this is quite an expense. </p>
To make the removal of the casting easier, after inserting the straws for breathing, spray the face with PAM or some other cooking oil. I think just a light coating would be enough.
lol at what is written on the box in step 9: Essuie tout. <br> <br>That means whipe, (as in clean) eveything :)
I think it was a paper towel box. :P
Well done! <br> <br>Even though as an art teacher, I appreciate the face mask, I wouldn't do with a class of students, but then again I teach middle school/ pre-teenagers and this would be..messy and panic stricken with drama to say the least. BUT casting an arm or hand or foot is much the same process without the fear factor about breathing. <br> <br>I'm giving this a 5 stars.
Yes, casting a hand is a great idea! In fact, this is a common use of alginate, and you don't have to deal with the plastercloth. If you do this with a class full of kids, I'd recommend getting them each a small bucket (like my yogurt container) that can fit their hands, then filling each one most of the way with alginate. Then they can just stick their hands in, wait for it to harden, and withdraw. And after that it's all set up for plaster pouring! <br /> <br />As far as ratings, you go to the sidebar where you see the stars, and click on the number of stars you want to give. Thanks, and glad you liked it!
BTW- how does one rate this? I can give five stars, but I don't know how to do this in reality. Sad to say.
I've wanted to make a mask, but I do'nt own any hi-tech equipment, so this is very welcome. I have trouble breathing through my nose, is there a quick-get-out if the poser gets into trouble? or could there be a way to use papier mache or something to press one's face into and make the impression that way?
The way I did it, you don't breathe through your nose at all; I put the straws in my mouth. Wherever you put the straws is where you'll be breathing. <br />If you do panic, it's pretty easy to get off. Just sit up. Most of it will fall off, and you can wipe away the rest with your hands. <br />If it seems like a long time under the mask, I think the papier mache + a layer of alginate would work, though I haven't actually tried it (see Step 9). <br />Hope this helps!
Thanks, dear! that's good to know. lol maybe I'll report back on the papier mache angle!
Your alginate really looks too thin. And we always mixed water to powder so it's easier to control the amount of water. When you do the mixing with hand you can sense easier when it feels right.
Hi there, <br />Thanks. We did end up thickening the alginate significantly; my pictures include some too-runny and some too-thick as well as the right level of mixed alginate.
You have a beautiful and youthful smooth face. I would love to see the casting of the gentleman who like myself has way more nooks and crannies. Very interesting, and thank you for some good reading.
Well done! What's the total cost of the project?
Could be done for about $20, shipping and tax not included. (1 lb alginate, 6"x5' roll of plaster cloth, 10 lbs plaster- which is far more than you need)
While the alginate is safe for most people, it should be tested on the skin, first. <br> <br>The alginate begins to break down in about an hour after curing, so the subsequent casting process should begin immediately. The alginate is good for only one casting. <br> <br>The cardboard splash guard appears to distort the face because it it so tight. It's a good idea, but maybe allow a little more space between the mold and the skin. The void space could be sealed with adhesive tape. <br> <br>The face is also distorted when the subject is lying down, especially as the subjects get older, or if the subject is overweight. A sitting position may be better. <br> <br>The Smooth-on website recommends a thicker mix of the alginate, so that it can be poured onto the subject without falling completely off. The site also recommends several layers of alginate. <br> <br>The splash guard is a great idea, if left loose.
ok...i don't think i have the courage to do this yet! thumbs up to you guys
That was a fun morning (even though it took <em>seven washes</em> to get all the vaseline out of Conker's hair) - thank you for letting us help. <br>
Nice idea with the splash guard. If you are looking for a thicker alginate, try Alja-safe by smooth on, you can mix it to any consistency you want and it is great and safe for faces, it is my go to for hands as well. Happy casting!
I love instructables BUT I am not sure I would want to make one of these! I hand it to you guys! This is awesome! LOL! This is great! <br>sunshiine

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Bio: An engineer, seamstress, cook, coder, and overall maker. Spent a summer at Instructables; got a degree in E: Neural Engineering at Olin College; made a ... More »
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