Making a Head Mold




Introduction: Making a Head Mold

About: I make special effects prosthetics and costumes! I'm particularly interested in mythical creatures.

A lot of prosthetics are sculpted on top of a generic head. You can buy these heads at a few different online stores, but no prosthetic you sculpt and mold off of those are going to fit perfectly on your model. At these points, you're going to want to make a mold of your actor/model's head and sculpt directly on top of that.

In this instructable, I'll show you how to make a mold of a head in a fairly cheap and easy way. I do suggest if you've never done this before to first do a simple face mold first!

Material list!

  • Plaster Bandages
  • Ultracal (you can use plaster of paris but I would highly advise against that)
  • Alginate (1.5 pounds)
  • Plastic Bags
  • Vaseline
  • Bald Cap
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Pros Aide and Pros Aide remover
  • 5 gallon buckets
  • 1 gallon bucket
  • Water

Step 1: Step 1: Cover Your Model's Head!

First things first, have your model take off their shirt and cover them from collarbone down with plastic wrap. Alginate does not stick to hair, but it will rip very easily. Keep alginate away from clothing.

A bald cap is ideal in this situation, but if you are unfamiliar with bald cap application or are short on funds, saran wrap will do. Tape around the edges of the forehead and neck. If you model has long hair, gel the hair down so that it lies flat along the skull.

Step 2: Step 2: Plaster Gauze

Break out your plaster gauze and start covering the back of the skull. Many people will continue to use alginate around the back of the head, but if you don't have the materials plaster gauze will work fine. It will, however, cause more sanding at the end.

Cover the back of the model's head just to the center of the skull and back of the neck, avoid undercuts around the throat and top of the head. If it couldn't pull straight off, you've got an undercut.

Step 3: Step 3: Alginate

Mix your alginate with cold water following directions on the packet. Warm water will make alginate set at a much faster rate. This alginate will be applied with your hands to the parts of your models face that is not covered with gauze.

Don't overlap the gauze, the alginate will stick to it and potentially rip. I generally start with the nose, that way the alginate will harden around their nose first. This makes it easier to be sure your model can breathe. I don't put straws in my model's nose because it distorts the nostrils. Just watch their nose and make certain they are able to breathe.

Let the alginate sit for 10 minutes or until completely hardened.

Step 4: Step 4: More Plaster Gauze

Cover the edge of the back head plaster piece with vaseline, about 1-2 inches from the edge. After this, start covering the alginate with more plaster gauze. You're going to overlap the plaster gauze over the back piece. Work the gauze as close to the alginate as possible and avoid air pockets. Those will cause lumps in the final head casting. It is also acceptable to mess with your model at this point. Smiley faces are always fun!

Let the plaster set for at least 10-15 minutes. It should be cool to the touch and hard.

Step 5: Step 5: Pull Off the Piece!

When they pull this off, have them lean forward and cup the plaster in their hands. You'll have to help the alginate let go of their head, because it has a pretty good suction on it. Run your fingers along the insides of the alginate and let it naturally let go of their face.

Step 6: Step 6: Seam, Pour, and Break It Out!

At this point, seal the two pieces together with more plaster gauze around the edge, at least 4 layers. This will give you one solid piece to pour your ultracal into.

Putting the head into a bucket so that there's no need to hold it. Mix up your ultracal or plaster following directions. I suggest ultracal or a gypsum for a head to sculpt upon because the material is naturally harder. Plaster will start breaking apart somewhere between 3-10 pulls.

Pour the ultracal into the head mold, and let it sit. Once it is cool to the touch, you can break it open to pull out your bust.

Step 7: Step 7: You're Done!

And voila! you have a head to sculpt upon!

You will need to stand the back of the head quite a bit because the plaster gauze will leave a rough edge. You can see on mine that the alginate ripped on the forehead. All of these things are easily fixable!



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    20 Discussions

    Little bit confused as to how you handle the ears.


    1 year ago

    How much Ultra Cal is needed to make an average bust roughly?

    This is a great tutorial! I had a few questions about what is possible after the head cast is made. I am going to make two head molds as sculptures in an art project, and I would like to be able to paint the busts and also have them be handled gently by people. Is there a way of sealing the ultracal? What kinds of paints would you recommend using on this material? Thanks

    2 replies

    I've seen recommendations for "superseal" - ive never used it

    I would recommend using acrylic paint on something like this. if you used acrylic you wouldnt need to seal the cast before painting, just afterwards as an extra measure for handling- wherein you could use your standard paint sealer/ finishing gloss from home depot or craft store.
    mod podge has a sealer but there is the basic spray you can get at just about any store (walmart, home depot, etc) with varying finishes (matte, glossy, etc)

    I've seen recommendations for "superseal" - ive never used it

    I would recommend using acrylic paint on something like this. if you used acrylic you wouldnt need to seal the cast before painting, just afterwards as an extra measure for handling- wherein you could use your standard paint sealer/ finishing gloss from home depot or craft store.
    mod podge has a sealer but there is the basic spray you can get at just about any store (walmart, home depot, etc) with varying finishes (matte, glossy, etc)

    This is awesome! glad i read this before trying the mold because i would have used a straw in the nostrils.
    I am looking to do a life cast of myself for general sculpting with clay.
    A question that i have is should the ultracal be sealed with something? if so, what would be recommended? I would like to preserve the cast for multiple projects.
    any recommendation where to buy these products?
    Also, i've seen some recommendations for using vasoline on the eyebrows and hairline to avoid any sticking, i see that you wrapped her hairline, does it make a difference for the eyebrows?
    I'll make sure to post photos when completed!

    The likeness is... uncanny.... almost as if you had cast a human head!


    2 years ago

    Do you know how I could turn a head cast into a planter??


    As a lifecasting pro, [] may I offer some suggestions. You haven't done anything so wrong but there are better techniques. Alginate won't stay with the plaster bandage without a mechanical bond, so we pat the hardening algy with a ball of cotton or pillow stuffing so it has hairs embedded, which plaster bandage will stick to. This also means you can work quicker. Your bandage does not look like it was slicked, which makes a much cleaner texture. As you pull it out of warm water pan, smoosh the bandage and it will move the plaster to fill the gaps in the cloth.

    2 replies

    (I forgot I posted this instructable)

    Thank you SO much for those ideas! The cotton is an awesome tool that I'm definitely going to use next time. I've been just slowly peeling it back and settling it back into the bowl of the plaster bandage, which can distort it a bit. That would definitely fix the problem haha. Thanks again!!

    Did u leave the plaster bandages on the alginate part and then use more to attach to the back part.. I followed yours but I got alginate stuck to the plaster so therefore the alginate ripped after 3 hours the only thing I have left is back gauze head piece I should just be able to do front face part and attach it to the back I hope... At the end when its says attach both do u pour the ultracal into the Alginate attached to the back mold or do u leave the gauze on the front of the alginate and attach that to the back of the mold that was a little confusing in ur tutorial..

    Have you thought about using silicone? I watched a thing where Tested was working with Frank Ippolito to make a Zoidberg cosplay. Part of this was making a life casting and they did a video where they used Norm as a proxy, they did another for the actual mask for Frank. They used silicone from Smooth On to do it. It seemed to be easier to use than algenate.

    1 reply

    Silicone is for those with plenty/too much money, mainly needed when making multiple casts.

    It's funny, I was literally wondering how to do this yesterday, and then this pops up in my feed! Great Instructable!

    great idea to pat the alginate with cotton wool to help it bind to the plaster, I'll definitely do that next time. I like smooth -on's dragon skin silicone, but it makes the process way more expensive.

    I can't tell if you filled the mould completely or just rolled around a slush cast, just be careful as that volume of plaster in one go can burst out if you haven't reinforced your mould sufficiently.

    One final thing, if you can rescue the alginate and it isn't stuck to the mould then I like to drape it over a balloon and let it dry out slowly, it shrinks by about a third in size and then gives you the option of a mini-me version, or shrunken head version of your subject. Two casts for the price of one.

    This is really cool! I've been watching a Face Off, a special effects makeup competition and it's amazing to see what people make but they often gloss over how they make it. Thanks for posting this!