Introduction: How to Sculpt a Head.

About: I'm all about Making and Mental Health. Reach out if you need a chat - find me on Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter as @KitemanX.

I was taught this several years ago by Bernard the Cunning Artificer.

I do not class myself as an artist by any stretch of the imagination, so if I can do this, so can you.

(This head is not much over an inch high - if you make it larger, it will be easier to sculpt.)

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You need...

Something to model with.

When Bernard taught me this, we used a special modelling wax, but it will work with most clay-like materials, especially if they can be smoothed off. I used Sugru* for this demonstration, partly to see if I could, but mainly because I came across a pack that was almost expired, and, er, needed to be used.

Something to mould the material.

You will mostly be using your fingers, but you can also use other tools for the finer points.  Fine screwdrivers, cocktail sticks, bamboo skewers and penknives are all useful.  For the Sugru, a damp knife-blade proved to be a very effective tool.

Cleaning materials.

Some modelling materials can make a mess - keep something to hand to clean tools and work surfaces, just in case.  If you are using clay, a damp cloth is ideal.

Sugru is especially unkind to unprotected surfaces.  I used it on a sheet of sacrificial waxed paper, over a cutting board.

*Sugru does not yet come in realistic flesh colours.  I made the brown here by mixing together two sachets of red, two of yellow, half a black and half a white.  I might have used more white, except I wanted to keep some for the eyeballs.  If you want to play with mixing Sugru colours, see the official site, or read the handy little pamphlet that comes in the pack.

Step 2: Skull.

Split your lump of material in half.

Roll half your material into a roughly egg-shaped, or slightly oval shape.  This will be the main part of the head.

Step 3: Chin.

Take about a quarter of the remaining material, and form it into a rough cylinder.

Stick this onto the egg-shaped piece to form the chin.

Do not stick it on centrally, like a stick in a candy apple.  Stick it to one side of central, and smooth the join off with fingers, suitable tools etc.

Step 4: Eyes.

About half way down the egg, make two dimples, side-by-side.  These are the eye sockets.

The depth of the dimples is up to you, as it will affect the expression of your final head.

Make two pellets of material, rolled into balls, and press them gently into the sockets.

Make two small discs of the material, about as wide as the sockets, and cut them in half.

Place the half-circles of material on the eyes to form lids.  Smooth over the joins with the skull.

You can change the expression of your head by changing the exact size of the lids, and by changing whether you cut the circles into simple halves, or if you cut small arcs out of the cut edges.

Step 5: Nose

Use part of the spare material to make a triangular pyramid.  Pinching it between both thumbs and forefingers works really well.

Shape this to make whatever kind of nose you want, and then place it on the skull - between the eyes and just above the seam between chin and skull.

If desired, press dimples or drill holes into the nose to form nostrils.

Step 6: Brows.

Eyes need eye brows.

Make two similar thin sausages of the modelling material, and lay them across above the eyes, on the seam where you smoothed in the upper eye lid.

You may want to leave the brows prominent, or smooth them into the skull, whichever looks right to you.

Step 7: Lips.

So far, this person is silent.

Roll two more thin sausages, and lay them next to each other, just below the nose.

Smooth the outer sides of the sausages into the surface of the chin and skull.  A narrow tool (fine screwdriver, cocktail stick) is useful here to smooth the top of the top lip into the skin below the nose.

Step 8: Finishing Details

The head itself is finished - all else is detail.

You can try:
  • shaping the nose
  • sculpting the brows
  • changing the shape or size of the chin
  • "drawing" hair into the scalp or chin.
  • Adding material below the eyes, or pressing in the cheeks to accent cheekbones
You could add extra material to make hair, either sticking on lots of very thinly-rolled sausages to be hair, or applying a shaped sheet of material that you then scratch or cut to make into hair.

You could add a hat or skull-cap instead of hair.

All I did to this version was add pupils to the eyes.  I had planned to use a dot of Sugru, but a dab from a 0.3mm drawing pen did the trick more accurately.

Step 9: Mounting.

You may want to display your sculpture, so you need to decide how you want to do this before any material like clay or Sugru sets too firm to shape.

You could drill into the skull from below, say with a flat-bladed screwdriver or an actual drill-bot between the fingers, and stand the head on a spike or pole.

You could poke a tin spike right through the head, so it can be used as a bead or pendant.

You could press small eyelets or loops of wire into the side of the head to use it as the head of a marionette.

You may also want to paint the head, but that is beyond the purpose of this Instructable, since the materials and methods you should use depend so strongly on the material you used to sculpt the head, and the final purpose you intend to put it to.

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