Intro: Making a Head Mannequin/dress Form
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my first Instructable.
In this Instructable, I will show you what I did as a preparation for making a full face mask, which is shown in my second Instructable.
I participate in a lot of LARP events and these events often have the High Fantasy genre as theme. This, in turn, often means you have the chance to portray a Fantasy character that barely resembles a human. When portrayed, those who portray such a character can wear a full face mask to make the 'transformation' more complete and/or more interesting.
For myself, I also had the plan to make a full face mask. I figured I needed a solid base; I knew from experience that wearing a mask that doesn't fit, is an absolute horror. So, I went to work creating such a base; creating a head mannequin/dress form.
The goal here: the final product should be the size of your own head, or very close to it.
Step 1: Preparation - Materials & Tools
Before starting on making your head mannequin/dress form (which I'll simply refer to as 'head' from here on), you need to gather a few materials:
1. Plastic wrap. The thin, 'sticky' kind.
2. Plaster bandages. The 'water activated' kind.
3. Water. Need I say more?
4. Glue. The exact kind doesn't matter, but, it needs to be able to glue clay to polystyrene.
5. Polystyrene bust. The closer to the real size, the better.
6. Air hardening clay. And lots of it!
7. Some kind of varnish. Optional, but useful.
1. Craft knife. Only used in step four.
2. Scisors. To cut the plastic wrap.
Step 2: Head Mold
Since this head is based on your own head, we'll need a way to capture the shape and size of your own head, atleast to some extend.
Thinking about my plans for my own full mask, I knew up front that I'd only need to concern myself with getting the top of my head captured true to real life, and nothing more. The way I did this step, then, only takes that into account; be very carefull if you want to try this technique for the front of your face! Something with the need to breathe ;-)
For this step, you'll need the plastic wrap, plaster bandages and water, plus someone to help you. If you're really handy, maybe you can do this step by yourself, but I wouldn't recommend it.
What needs to be done is this: wrap the top of your head in the plastic wrap. With that in place, wrap the top of your head in the plaster bandages. Don't forget to make them wet as per their instructions! Both these things are fastest if someone else does them for you.
Once you're done, your head will probably look a little as mine does in the attached photo. After the plaster bandages have hardened (again, see their instructions), you'll have a lovely mold of the top of your head and you're ready for the next step.
Step 3: Head Cast
Obviously, you'll need the head mold from the previous step for this step. Beyond that, you'll also need more plastic wrap and some of the air hardening clay.
The head mold by itself will do little to help you create your new head. We need something sturdier. That's why we, in this step, will create a head cast.
The cast will be made from the clay. Since we don't want the clay to stick to the plaster mold, you first need to cover the mold in more of the plastic wrap, mostly the inside. The wrap will function as a 'release agent'.
After you've covered the mold, start pressing the clay into it. Don't make the layer of clay too thick; it'll take (too) long for it to dry. Don't make it too thin, either, because then the resulting cast won't be sturdy enough. Furthermore, make sure all of the clay is properly blended into itself.
After you've covered all of the inside of the mold with clay, wait until the clay has fully dried. Check it every now and then. Air hardening clay has the tendency to shrink somewhat while drying and you may have to smooth it out somewhat more.
Once your cast is ready, move on to the next step.
Step 4: Attaching the Cast to the Bust
Now, at this point, you have, if everything went okay, a cast of the top of your own head. If you feel like a real sculptor, you can sculpt the rest of a/your head to it, but, personally, I'd go with what I did: attach the cast to a polystyrene bust.
Not only will this safe on clay, it'll give the resulting head a somewhat sturdier core.
As you might have guessed, you'll need the cast, the polystyrene bust and glue for this step.
What needs to be done is the following. Attach the cast to the bust in such a way, that the distance between the top of the cast and the top of the nasal bridge is equal (or close) to the same distance on your real head. Checking (regularly) in the mirror is the easiest way to achieve this.
Chances are that you won't be able to simply glue the cast to the bust. If you are able to do just that, consider yourself lucky, and move on to the next step. Don't forget to wait until the glue has dried before you actually do ;-)
If you, like me, are unlucky, you'll need to cut down the bust on multiple places to have the cast fit properly. Once you're happy with the fit, glue the cast onto the bust, wait until the glue has dried and move on to the next step.
Step 5: Smoothing the Head
I suppose that, in theory, you could have stopped with step four. However, smoothing the head properly will probably lead to better results during using it.
With smoothing, I mean letting the bust and cast merge into each other; smoothing the transition. Since my bust was far smaller than an actual human head, I also used the opportunity to beef it up.
For this step, you need the last of your air hardening clay. This step took a lot more clay than I had anticipated, so prepare to rush to the store ;-)
The process should be simple to anyone who has used clay before; it's a matter of covering the bust in a layer of it, smoothing out the cast-bust transition in the process. As before with making the cast, be careful not making the layer too thick. At the other hand, it's more important that the end result is the rough size of your real head.
Once the clay has dried, you're basically done with your brand new head!
Step 6: Closing Thoughts
As I said in the last step, after the clay from that step has dried, you're basically done with your new head. You'll have a head mannequin/dress form that's roughly the size of your real head, ideal for using as a base for, say, a full face mask, a custom hat, or whathaveyou.
However, there's one last thing I'd do. Given the 'abuse' your head mannequin/dress form will take during the construction of many things, and the fact that clay is a bit brittle, I'd give it a couple of layers of varnish. This'll help protect it from harm and will hopefully ensure that your new head will help you for many years to come :-)