The Horned King: Alginate Life Casting to Latex Mask Making




Introduction: The Horned King: Alginate Life Casting to Latex Mask Making

About: Indie game developer, illustrator, comicker, costumer, sword/spoon fighter, Viking enthusiast & wears many hats

...Soon the Black Cauldron will be mine. Its evil power will course through my veins, and I shall make you Cauldron Born... Yes, yes, oh yes! Then you will worship ME! Me...

The Black Cauldron; It was the best of cartoons, it was the worst of cartoons. If you haven't seen it*...just check out a few clips of The Horned King online. He's one of (I think) the best Disney villains around. He's creepy, (un)dead(ish), feared and beloved by children; what more could you ask for? So here's how I made my interpretation of him.

*Better yet, go read The Chronicles of Prydain. Not like the movie at all. The Horned King is different, but books! Books are good!

Now, life casting isn't something you should just jump right into - do additional research and get some experience doing other types of life casting (ie plaster of paris bandage cast of the arm, face) before doing a full head alginate life cast; it's a safety thing. Really.

I've done several of these types of tutorials before, but this is the first one involving alginate. Please, reference those Instructables (and all the other great ones on there!) for more details (or if, say, you want to make something with silicone and resin, instead of ultra cal and latex)

Step 1: Gather Supplies

It's best to get everything beforehand - not only because you'll need to do several steps right after one another, but also because nothing it more disappointing that starting a project and having to put it on hold because you're missing supplies.

We used what we had around the house. Use what you have I say! But prepare in advance. You are making something that needs to hold - and support - your head cast/mold without it crushing itself.

  • Large Plastic Garbage Can
  • Sticks o' Wood
  • Foam Mat
  • Saw


  • At Least Two Friends. You should definitely have two people help make the mold. And they should like you.
  • Alginate. This is the stuff I used. I needed 2.5lbs for my (small) head and tops of the shoulders.
  • Plaster of Paris Strips/Bandages. Cut 'em into narrower sections.
  • Water-Based Lubricant/Vaseline. To be used as a release agent.
  • Bald Cap and Spirit Gum (and Spirit Gum Remover). You can get these online or at a local costume store.
  • Ear plugs
  • Straws.
  • Bandage/CurvedScissors
  • Butter knife
  • Ultra Cal 30 Try a special effects store (online), or building supply store. I needed 35lbs for my head/shoulders.
  • Water
  • Buckets For the Alginate stuff, the Ultra Cal, the water...
  • Duct Tape
  • Drill with Big Mixing Bit
  • Metal File


  • Plasticine. Or any sulfur free oil based clay
  • Horned King Reference. Yay internets
  • Sculpting Tools. Craft stores will have these, you can also make your own if you like. I like experimenting with different tools. Dental tools are great. Grab some ziplocks too.
  • Release Agent - Lemon Pledge. Normally I use Vaseline, but I wanted something a little less goopy. I tried a bunch of different products and this worked the best for me.
  • Fake Nails. These will be your teeth!


  • Ultra Cal 30
  • Water
  • Cheesecloth/Burlap. Try your local fabric or building supply store
  • Silicone Brush


  • Liquid/slush latex. Get it online or from a special effects store. Halloween party stores that pop up carry it too but it's more expensive there (unless you buy it the day after on sale!)
  • Babypowder


  • Paint - PAX paint, latex paint, green, brown, purple, yellow, black and white acrylics
  • Latex Paint sealer
  • Brushes
  • E6000 Glue


  • Spirit Gum or Pros-Aide
  • Liquid Latex
  • Makeup


  • goggles
  • work gloves
  • latex gloves
  • dust mask (respirator mask if you have it)

Step 2: Create Jig for Head Cast/Mold

I feel like this step is often overlooked in tutorials; making a stand for your final cast and/or a stand where your head-mold can rest while you wait it to cure.

As my head-mold included my shoulders,I didn't need to make a final stand for it (it stays up fine and sturdy) but I needed something to hold the alginate-plaster-of-paris-ultra-cal-filled-mold, that also wouldn't damage it. It was important not to have the head resting fully on the ground (as it would be smooshed) so the weight of the mold had to be distributed to the shoulders.

So...we hacked together a simple jig. The husband, a good pal, and myself started with a big plastic garbage can/ They cut four notches into it the top rim of it, and I cut some wood trim pieces. The wood sat in the notches, and over that we placed a thick piece of foam over and down into the can (you can see this in the photos in the other steps)

Step 3: Life Cast

First off; if you haven't by now, read this whole Instructable. Or at the very least, read this step and the next one, because they need to happen back to back. Read it again. Now watch this video. Watch it again.

I basically watched and followed this video, with just a few slight changes; we were using different products, so I did some things a tiny bit differently, but more or less the step is the same. For example, I added some strips of plaster of paris to the alginate while it was still wet (to help it adhere to further plaster layers) and I used Ultra Cal, not hydrocal (and with a different ratio)

So. First have your plaster of paris bandages all cut out, your plaster-of-paris-water bucket ready, and your alginate and water separately measured out (which will vary depending on the amount needed). For me, I used 2.5lbs of Alginate 880 and about 10lbs of water (we used a 4:1 water to alginate ratio, but you could also do a 3.75:1 for a thicker mix. This stuff was already pretty thick). A slower setting alginate that allows for more work time; this stuff set in 8 minutes using 80degree water. I recommend using a slower-setting alginate as the time really flies by! Once alginate sets, it immediate starts shrinking - so this isn't a project where you can make the alginate cast one day, and then the next do the ultra cal. It has to be done the same day within the hour.

Have the model wear earplugs. Apply a latex bald-cap to the life cast model, using either spirit gum or pros-aide. Lightly coat the bald cap, eyebrows and eyelashes with a water-based lubricant. Normally I use vaseline as a release agent, but I wasn't sure how'd that react to the alginate, plus it's bad for latex, so I used the stuff I normally apply to my scuba-diving-latex-neck-seal. In the past I've had straws stuck up my nose for breathing, but as my husband has done this a couple of times so he knew what he was doing. (Plus, with the fast motion of needing to pile on the alginate, you run the risk of bumping the straws).

Start sprinkling the alginate into the water, stirring it vigorously as you go. Do this all quickly, as you only have so much time. When it's all stirred in, begin slathering it - scooping - it onto the model, smoothing and pressing it out, making sure there are no air bubbles. It'll be thick, but drippy, so you'll have to constantly be re-scooping it over sections, especially places like under the chin and behind the ears (if they are not under the baldcap). The two team members should be working to both cover the head and shoulders of the model at the same time. Mind the area around the nose! And make sure that the alginate is consistently 1/4inch thick everywhere.

The alginate will start to get harder to work with - once that happens, apply a few (slighty damp) plaster of paris strips across the forehead and down the nose. The alginate will not stick to the plaster of paris layer you'll be doing in a few minutes, so by adding a few strips to the alginate cast while it's still moldable, you'll help create a connection to the overall plaster of paris layer. Some people instead put a terry cloth towel over the alginate and rip it away - the fibers get stuck in the alginate and then the plaster of paris layers will stick to those fibers)

Once those 8 minutes are up (it may be a bit sooner, it may be less) and the alignate has set, begin applying the plaster of paris layers! Take your bandages and dunk them in water, and apply them to the front half of your model's head/shoulders. Do not do the back just yet! Do at least three layers, alternative strip direction for each layer, on the front, making sure to leave the nose-holes open!!. Wait for that to cure. Then, liberally apply a layer of vaseline along the edge (and extending well past it) of the plaster of paris front face mold. This is so when you do the back, you can separate the two pieces.

Do at least three layers on the back of the head/shoulders, just like the front. Overlap the bandages on the front section, but don't go beyond your application of vaseline. Let the back cure. At this point, we took a sharpie and draw lines over the front and back sections, so we could line them up better once we took the two parts apart.

While you're waiting for everything to dry, this is a good time to measure out your Ultra Cal 30 and water. Don't mix, just have ready. I used 35lbs of Ultra Cal and 13.3lbs of water - 38 parts water, 100 parts ultra cal. In the video I linked to, they don't give specifics and talk about having the consistency of river-mud; I find this is great for other uses but I use my formula for casting full pieces for strength (but maybe it's different for Hydrocal? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

When everything has cured...carefully take off the back half of the plaster of paris mold. Leave the front half on. You want to careful cut a 'T' in the back of the alginate (using a butter knife - or at least not a serrated knife!!). Have the model scrunch up their face, wiggle their nose, and holding their head(/plaster of paris front mold/alginate entire mold) in their hands, slowly pull up out of the molds.

Quickly put the back and front half of the mold together, securing it with some plaster of paris strips running down the seam and duct tape wrapped around the entire head. Mind that the alginate mold doesn't flop over on itself - have it rest snuggly along the walls of the plaster of paris.

Head to the next step!!

Step 4: Ultra Cal Head Copy

Place your alginate-mold-in-your-plaster-of-paris-mold in your jig!

Ready your fancy drill and drill-bit, and slowly beginning adding the Ultra Cal to your water (which you had prepped beforehand, right?? While you were waiting for the plaster of paris to cure??). Mix thoroughly, making sure there are no clumps.

Pour the mix into the alginate mold, pouring it down the inside wall - this'll help prevent air bubbles. Fill it up to the top. And give it a little slosh, to help with any air bubbles, but be careful that the alginate doesn't fold in on itself.

Wait overnight for it to cure. It should be cool to the touch (you can feel the heat off of it when it's curing). Remove the plaster of paris layer, and the alginate layer, and carefully chip off any stuck pieces (this happened with my nose. My nose never turns out great, but it's fine, because I know it's because my husband really wants to avoid killing me accidentally).

My alginate layer folded a little bit in the back, so it has the visible 't' cut in it. You can file this down if you like (and doing so sooner than later will be easier, as the head will get stronger over time) or just be sure to fill it in with clay when you sculpt.

And for comparison, the last photo is of a headcast, done just with plaster of paris, and casted in cement. Note the squished head (because I didn't have it resting in a proper jig) and the big ol' lack of nose.

Step 5: Sculpt Mask in Clay

Looking at your reference pictures, begin sculpting. I use sulfur-free oil-based clay - it's reusable, doesn't dry out, I can heat it up when working with it, and it doesn't react with the other materials I use.

Cover your mask area with a thin layer of clay, then begin building it sections. The Horned King has a skeletal face, so I needed to build up areas to make other parts look hollow. I actually sculpted (and casted!) the mask twice; the first time, I did a more realistic sculpt. I had trouble with a new release agent, so my mold was ruined. The second time around, I looked just at the drawings of The Horned King - so while not the most anatomically correct, I feel like it captured the character more (and didn't just look like 'a skull.')

Work on smoothing things out (a bit of rubbing alcohol will help with this) and sculpting in details. I recommend watching some youtube videos on sculpting (especially this one for detail ideas!!). You can do a lot with dental tools and plastic bags and tools your make on your own. Make sure to view your sculpt from all sides as you work on it.

I used fake fingernails for the teeth (that I removed when I made the mold). You'll add them back in later!

Step 6: Ultra Cal Mold of Clay Mask Sculpt

Argh, I forgot to take pictures during the mold making here's a few of the hands I did and the final mold. Happily this is just a one-piece mold as it doesn't wrap around the head and have hard undercuts. If you make a bigger sculpt that wraps around the head/beyond the ears, you will likely need to do a two-piece mold.

First surround your sculpt with a clay wall, then coat your sculpt/the wall with a release agent. Traditionally, I've used vaseline, but I wanted something a little less clumpy. I did more research, asked some questions, and did some tests (...after I destroyed my first mold :'(...) and, for the type of clay I used in my climate with the mold materials I have... I found a layer of lemon pledge worked best. No "sealing" the sculpt needed.

Cut up the cheesecloth or burlap into little squares. Add a little bit of water to a small amount of Ultra Cal 30 and mix until you get a consistency similar to river-bed mud. Apply this mix all over your sculpt carefully (using a silicone brush to smooth it around). Mix up more water and Ultra Cal, and begin coating the squares in the mixture. Put them all over your sculpt, building up layers (4 is a good amount I say). Let it cure overnight, then remove the mold from your sculpt and clean out any remaining clay (rubbing alcohol helps with this). Let the mold continue to dry for a few days; you want all the moisture from it gone, so wait until it's a uniform light colour before casting latex in it.

Step 7: Cast Latex

Whoops, forgot to take a proper pic again!

Anywhoo, after your mold is completely cured, pour some slush/thick latex into it. Sloosh it around and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, before pouring the latex back out. If the latex isn't thick enough to your liking you can do this again (or leave it sitting longer). Yet again leave it overnight for the ultra cal mold to suck out the moisture from the latex cast - and in the morning it should be good to go. Powder the inside of the mask with baby-powder (this will help prevent it from sticking to itself) and cut the eye-holes and mouth open carefully with scissors.

Step 8: Paint Mask

Painting latex masks is, by far, better explained by this guy. So you should read that first and foremost.

I coated the entire mask with a mix of PAX paint, latex paint base and a bit of brown paint. This custom mix I did worked well enough and didn't crack on application, and top layers of acrylic paint didn't crack either. This will prevent future layers of paint from cracking. After that, I went in with green, brown, purple and yellow paint (and a bit of black/white).

The teeth/acrylic finger nails were painted with acrylics, then coated with clear nail polish. They were glued to the mask with E6000, and left overnight to cure.

Step 9: Apply Mask

If you're wearing contacts, pop them in first. (Mine were not only red and comfortable, I need them to actually see)

Apply a layer of spirit gum or pros-aise over the back edges of the mask (along the outside edge and eye sockets) and stick'r onto your face. For comfort/time reasons, I didn't blend the edges in with liquid latex and additional makeup...but you could if you want to!

I also didn't apply adhesive around the mouth - it sat there fine without having to add it. (I could drink fine with a straw through the opening and later discovered it looked like I was 'talking' if I over-exaggerated my mouth movements)

Step 10: (Add the Rest of the Costume)

The rest of the costume consisted of a two-sided sheepskin "cloak", worbla-horns, ", a hooded monk rob, latex gloves, and some really really tall boots. These were all constructed pretty fast and easily, and the choices of materials/fabrics could be swapped out.

The Horned King wears some sort of furry fluffy skin over his shoulders. So I took two Icelandic sheepskins and sewed them together.

The robe was based on a monk pattern with a few sleeve and hood adjustments. It was made of a nice purple-red-brown wool that I soaked in dirty water, distressed with a cheese-grater and sandpaper, and finally painted.

The horns were made out of worbla: First I made a paper-towel and tin-foil model. Wrapped the worbla around that. Primed it. Painted it. Done. Ish. I didn't like the look of I went back, coated the worbla in latex, repainted it..and then mounted the two pairs to two dollarstore headbands.

I also made a ring-pin out of latex (sculpted first in clay, molded in ultra cal, casted in latex) that I glued a hairclip to, so I could "pin" it on my cloak (without having to actually puncture it)

I made gloves in a similar way to the mask - I did an alginate life-cast of my hands (using the "bucket-method") but the ultra-cal mold/latex cast of them didn't turn out too that's why I didn't make an Instructable about it aheh heh.

I actually had shoes taller than this, but I wanted something tall AND comfy. So I bought a pair of these for cheap online. The only bad thing was that they were bright pink...or was it? Your costume is only as strong as what you wear underneath it.Since I had the bright pink boots...I thought it would be fun to wear a funky spunky raver type outfit underneath. So I only painted the platforms of the boots black, and then accessorized with HK kneepads (in case I fell while walking), padding biking/riding shorts (for extra booty comfort) and my HEMA sportsbra (which has an extra shelf layer for a breastplate - or in this case, an ice pack)

Step 11: Wear and Terrorize (and Party)

Now I call on my Army of the Dead; the Cauldron-born! Go now...and pick up some apples from the grocery store for me, would you?

Happy making!

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    5 years ago

    Thank so much I want to do him for a costume contest and your tips will help alot.


    6 years ago

    That is Awesomely awesome awesomeness!!!


    6 years ago

    I love this! Going to have to find a way to make it for my husband for next year as a surprise... I loved the books and he loves the movie!


    Reply 6 years ago

    "Honey, can I do an alginate life cast of your reason..." ;)


    6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, great Ible and some good tips in here for when I try making my first latex mask next year. Keep up the good work :)