Introduction: Sculpt a Head...later Stages Have LED Eye's Built In

About: long time collector and tinkerer with industrial castoffs....presently un-empoyed and looking to turn my passions into a career.

this is my first attempt to sculpt a head for one of my projects.

it may go no where / horribly wrong, but I figured I would bring the rest of you along and hope I get some input along the way....oops, see the later steps, I need to go through the whole thing and make some changes. I found an instructable that clears up some mis-conceptions I had about Sculpley

materials I used:

1)... Super Sculpey low temp polymeric sculpting compound.

2)... Aluminum foil

3)... assorted X-acto knives and dental pick's (instead of dedicated sculpting tools....)

4) ...input from instructables that I will credit as I progress through the steps......

first step:
1)... form a loose (?) roughly egg shaped ball out of aluminum foil....
2)... add a second layer of foil, forming the neck on the narrow end of the egg ....fold the foil on the top back to form the back of the skull.
Note: Sculpey will shrink up a small amount when fired, it is very important that you allow for this making a loose armature out of a compressible material (aluminum foil) the modeling compound doesn't crack during the curing / firing process.

3)... form the Sculpey into thin sheets and "work" over the aluminum. (do not compress the armature as you apply the layer of compound) for this first attempt I am keeping the "skin" about 1/16" thick on the anterior / facial area, as I figure I will be adding features and layers to "flesh it out".

Step 1: First Layer of Sculpey

the image attached doesn't give much detail, but trust me it is basically skull shaped, with the face area an inverted egg shape....

also: the Sculpey has been re-used several times and has picked up oils and dust from the hands and work area. this has generally not been an issue since I tend to paint the completed projects with acrylic paints.

after the initial layer of modeling compound let it air cool (Sculpey get's softer as it picks up body warmth, it is easier to work, but sloth's off the armature if "worked excessively".....I have found that making the features separately and applying them to the surface works better than trying to form them out of the base material. Placing the item in the fridge for a few hours is always an option, but warm to room temp before firing.

an important step: once the initial layer has cooled tap it lightly in the area's with the loose armature interior. it should have a slightly "hollow sound" to it to indicate that there is sufficient"give for the shrinkage"

also: slightly wetting the fingers (use a sponge!) makes smoothing the surface much easier and does not seem to have any effect on the fine details with curing. (apparently baby oil works well too)

Step 2: Outlining the Face

while I'm letting the base cool I'll "attribute" the next step to:
.....I will paraphrase his work and encourage you to visit his page for details...
the picture is slightly off center....
1)..I measured from crown of the head to the chin and made a score at the half way point (C/L for eye's)
2)..measured up from the bottom line and made another score halfway up to the first (bottom of the nose).
3)..measured down 1/3 of the way down from there and marked it (approx position of the mouth)
4).. divided the first line into 5th's (vertical end points).
a couple of mis-measurements and stray marks later I have the basic way points for the facial features

Step 3: Adding Facial Features

went sort of wrong, but it looks more like a real face than I've done before.... I'm considering cooking this one and seeing how it set's (see if the internal structure gives enough to stop any cracking) but first I'll work on ear's and detail around the eye's.
baked up nicely and crack free.....gave it a coat of parchment acrylic....
the eyes still need work.....I need to try again (it was supposed to be a female character and it came out looking like a cross between Jim Parsons and Leonard if it had been intentional)

Step 4: Second Try

will try again...

a note about Sculpey.....I opened a fresh "brick" and it seems extra moist and "sticky", is not attaching to itself or the armature.... it is possible this has to do with the extreme humidity here in Florida's gulf coast, I broke off about a third of the "brick" and let it sit out over night un wrapped and put the piece I was working on into the fridge.

(it turns out that the "white brick" is a very soft version of Sculpey.....see below. also: if you place it on a wood surface it will stain, it also soaks through paper)

researched on line (instructables "mostly") found a different approach to forming features. this one involved applying a thicker base and pressing the mouth and eye area's in with a "Popsicle stick" then manipulating the compound, and shaping / adding material as needed..

the left eye is slightly off center (any attempt to fix chanced damaging the surrounding structure..

I found an instructible from someone who actually read the instructions regarding Sculpley:

in brief....

1)... if you buy the 3 pack.....the flesh colored is mid range density, the white is extra soft, and the grey is very hard (almost too hard for my old arthritic hands). I have used up all of the flesh colored, so I may have to go back to other projects until Amazon can reload me with this.

2)... I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but she says that the internal aluminum foil should be packed tightly to avoid air pockets (?)

Step 5: Fired and Painted

a little better.....the thicker surface of modeling compound over the armature didn't result in cracking. it is getting a little more feminine, but I think I'm making the skull too large and angular.
I will need to explore a bit and look into shading and detail work....
I used up the last of my Mid-density modeling compound, but my Prime account should get me a refill overnight, I want to try to "embed" some circuitry into the next firing.......the temperature and duration shouldn't have any affect on insulated wiring, but it remains to be seen if the moisture in the Sculpley will short out a PC board....

Step 6: Some Additions


these are the four in order from left to right...

1)... the original using the beige / flesh colored Sculpey

2)... Second attempt using beige...a little more feminine looking (left eye off center)

3)... first attempt using the white / (too) soft compound, smaller more rounded skull....a little "bug eyed"

4)... the most recent...the grey compound was difficult to work with. so I experimented with mixing it with the white to make an easier to "work" compound.... it helped a bit, and the swirls of white gave it an interesting look (almost hate to paint it)....

I also made a basic "box" out of the grey compound to experiment with the electrical property's of the compound (e-mail me and I'll tell you a story about an engineering error in the mid 80's where chip carriers were attached to an early C3 display panel with epoxy that turned out to be conductive and we ended up having to scrap "the works" and start over from scratch)...

gimme some comment's you all.....

Step 7: Light It Up

I just wanted to experiment, so slapped this together this morning...

scavenged 2 LED's from a dollar store Halloween light string and built them into an armature then fired it into a Sculpey head....wasn't expecting much (figured there was a 75% chance the bulbs would not survive the time in the oven, and since they were really cheap they may burn's usually a bad idea to build a component into a sculpture because removing and repairing it is probably impossible).

it turned out that the bulbs are way too bright, but the addition of another resistor or possibly making them pulse with a 555 timer may lessen the the 3rd pic I tried "masking" them, not bad but thinking a resistor might be more effective...

Step 8: The Definition of Insanity

of course the title is a reference to "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome every time'

since I have lot's of white Sculpey and strings of LED lights I just keep making heads and look for improvement's / consistency...

the first 2 pic's are of one's fresh out of the oven and not ready for testing of the lights or detailing....a semi fail....the detailing came out pretty good, and the lights worked originally but the wires to the lights were too close to the surface and got nicked during the detailing...

"a poor workman blames his tools"....though they didn't photo well I think the detailing turned out pretty good....I am starting to notice improvements in each attempt, but.....I rushed through these 2 and made some stupid mistakes.

the violet LED's are sort of cool / creepy...I have an idea for the next one that will take advantage of the LED's excessive brightness......keep stopping by to see the updates.

Step 9: Christmas Eve?

for now I will blame the camera on this one....the optics in the camera really keyed in on the color of the LED's and spoiled the effect...

I "inset" the LED's deeply into the head and the effect was that the forehead and sinus area glowed an eerie violet color with pinpoint pupils (pretty cool effect, I will experiment with the camera and try to get a good picture of it).

I tried with the camera flash off.....noticed that the detailing paint was opaque to the light (which is sort of cool actually.....I can apply a coat and scrape it off for details that will glow)

also note that the pictures are before much detailing, I need some fine sand paper and other supply's but the "snow birds" are in town and I'm really trying to avoid sharing the roads with them.

with every attempt it is looking more detailed, but I still cannot seem to get them to look feminine....went to the mall yesterday and found a store that sells "high art" sculptures of fairies.....sort of discouraging to see how well the professionals do it, but if the market wants "perfect / soul less / cookie cutter art" they can go to the mall.....if they want "one off" thought provoking art they can give me a call.....

Step 10: Christmas Day

starting a new instructable (I haven't decided on a title yet)

above is the armature, slightly larger than my standard, and not sketched out......just going to build and see how it go's....

a respectable number of views but not a lot of comments (note if you want to comment, but don't want me to reply just say so I will respect your wishes) I don't mind negative reviews as long as they are constructive.

check out "figure sculpture 1/1/16" to see how this is going.....when I'm ready to sculpt a head for this I will return to this page.