Creating, Recreating and Reinforcing with Plaster

Plaster is an adaptable material that has been commonly used since time immemorial. Therefore, many traditional as well as contemporary works owe their existence to the ever-versatile plaster!

Plaster is a simple powder made of gypsum, sand and lime. Simply adding water to the material will form a paste that can be used in many different ways. The very first thought is obviously in construction works, not just for plastering walls but also to create frescoes and other reliefs.

In direct contrast to this are the plaster bandages which are used to form shell molds that will reinforce the original mold and help it retain its shape. Then there are other varied uses like making original sculptures and other decorative elements apart from casting in molds to make replica casts and even life casts. Plaster can be carved after drying, which further increases its utility.

Getting into plaster casting

Making a plaster cast is as simple a task as anything can be. All it requires is mixing the plaster powder with water to get the desired consistency before pouring it into the mold. Once it has hardened, the mold can be removed to reveal an exact replica of the original model. What’s more, numerous replicas can be made in quick succession in the same mold as the plaster will set and cure pretty quickly.

However, alginate body molds tend to shrink on exposure to air and cannot be reused. Moreover, plaster also tends to give off heat while curing and therefore, should be used with caution.

Getting into plaster shell molds

Using plaster of Paris bandages to form a mother mold is another story altogether. This is nothing but thin gauze that has been impregnated with plaster powder and is available in the form of rolls. The usual method is to cut long strips of the gauze before wetting them with water. Gently squeeze out the excess water and apply it over the mold to form a covering. The bandages should be applied in an overlapping manner with each layer being smoothed out with a gentle hand to ensure that air does not get trapped in between and warp the mother mold.

Plaster gauze is generally used with alginate, silicone rubber and latex rubber molds. As these molds are flexible; they tend to flop over during the casting process which can distort the casting. The plaster in the gauze will harden to form a rigid covering which encases the flexible mold and helps it retain its shape.

In sum, plaster is a relatively inexpensive material. It is easy to use and does not take much time to set, thus giving quick results. The beauty of this simple material is that it has been an intrinsic part of many artistic movements of the olden days and yet manages to retain its utility till date! In fact, there’s so much more that can be done with plaster – the only limit is the imagination for sure!


The How To’s of Latex Molds and Casts

Latex rubber is a versatile material that lends itself well for different uses. It is relatively easy to make latex molds and casts, though the processes vary a lot. Find out more about them right here.

Liquid latex rubber is an impressive rubber that finds varied applications on both the mold making and casting platforms. The rubber forms a thin and flexible skin which is used to make different items like gloves, swimming caps, rubber bands, balloons, catheters and other hollow-molded objects. The most common application is in making props apart from regular things like mattresses, tennis shoes and other sporting goods. The same latex finds its way into chewing gums and even serves well as an adhesive for bald caps. Not to mention that latex rubber is widely used as a special effects product to create wrinkles, scars, gashes and other simulations of injury, age or non-human characteristics for television, movies and theatre. The rubber lends itself well for making a latex mask which is popularly used for Halloween!

How to use?

One of the best parts about working with one of the most economical, resilient, versatile, tough, tear resistant and durable materials, latex rubber, is that it can be used to make both molds and casts. The mold making variations are generally more viscous than their casting counterparts, however, experienced artists even use them interchangeably.

A latex mold is usually made by painting the rubber on the model. This is a slow and lengthy process as it requires a good number of coats to build up the required thickness while allowing sufficient time for each subsequent coat to dry. This rubber can even be applied on models where they are, without the worry of the material running off the vertical surface. These molds can be used to cast plaster, polyester resin or urethane parts.

When it comes to latex casts, they are usually made in plaster molds. The process is quite simple and straightforward. Fill the mold with the rubber and allow it to sit for around 15 to 20 minutes before pouring off the excess back into the container. A thin layer of latex will remain in the mold. The plaster will slowly suck the water from the rubber, thus creating a latex ‘skin’, around 1/8th inch thick, inside the mold. The mold should be left as it is overnight or so for curing. The latex cast can be demolded after dusting the inner surface with talcum powder so that the latex does not stick to itself.

This is how latex masks are usually made. In case numerous copies of the cast have to be made, it is prudent to first make a master copy with rubber. This is because plaster molds tend to wear quickly. The master can be used to make subsequent plaster molds for repeated use.

The cured and demolded latex rubber cast can be finished using special latex dyes and paints before being used as desired.

The Clay Medium for Artistic Creations

Clay has always been the quintessential product for making molds, sculptures and more. The soft and supple medium makes it easy to work with. Clay is formulated in many different forms to suit varied applications.

Sculpting is an age-old art form that involves creating three dimensional figures by hand. Clay is the common medium for sculpting as it is malleable and can be shaped with the fingers into the desired shape and form. Just holding clay in the hands can ignite creativity and the mental image can easily be transformed into a physical piece.

Clay modeling is popular among everyone – from little children to mold makers to seasoned sculptors and more. The benefit in mold making is that the artist can not only use clay to capture the shape of a model for casting purposes, but also fashion it into a novel mold straight out of his/her mind’s eye. This same material also lends itself well for making masks, special effects, etc. Clay animation is quite popular in the world of films and television.

While many artists prefer to work the clay with their hands and fingers, tools like knives, rasps, wire brushes and other trimming tools are often used to get the finer details right. Metal wires may also be used to form an internal frame (armature) to support the clay sculpture.

Types of Modelling Clay

Dough – Popularly known as PlayDough, this is preferred by children and beginners. This cost-effective medium tends to dry and crack easily, making it unsuitable for professional sculpting. It can be reserved for practice work at best.

Ceramic clay – This is regular water-based clay that is used for fashioning ceramics like earthenware, stoneware, terracotta and porcelain. It has to be baked at high temperatures in a kiln to give it a permanent shape. This makes it strong and long-lasting too.

Paper clay – This is clay mixed with cellulose fiber which increases the tensile strength of the material. It does not require firing as the clay will air dry to deliver a firm and lightweight structure.

Plasticine - Plasticine clay is the most popular oil-based clay. It can be shaped easily and can capture fine details. It will never dry even when left in the open for long periods of time. This way it remains reusable forever. Available in a multitude of colors, this clay is most preferred for professional mold making, mask making, sculpting, etc. Keep in mind that it cannot be fired.

Polymer clay – This is another oil-based sculpting clay that will remain soft and malleable until it is heated, which will harden it permanently. Therefore, it will never dry out unlessit is exposed to extreme heat! It is used by professional sculptors as well as for animation works wherein the static form can be manipulated frame by frame.

Ballistic clay – Not exactly clay, this material mimics human tissues which makes it perfect for using as the backing material for testing body armor and helmets. Ballistic clay can be molded into any shape and always remains reliable, easy to use and reusable.

Decoding the Benefits of Fiber Alginate Formulations

Alginate is the go-to material for making molds from the human body. But when high tear resistance and low shrinkage is required, it is better to opt for an enhanced version called FiberGel alginate.

Alginate is an organic, water-based material that is considered ideal for making body molds for life casting projects as it is safe for the skin. It is mixed with water to form a creamy paste that can be applied on the hands, feet, face and other body parts to capture a detailed negative impression of the same. These are single-use molds that can be used to make one or two life castings at most before they shrink out of shape.

As we know, alginates are flexible and therefore, need to be reinforced with a shell mold. Plaster bandages are commonly used to form a rigid covering that will hold the alginate mold in place. However, this will work for small body molds only.

When it comes to bigger molds like the torso or full body, higher tear strength is required. Therefore, it is better to opt for fiber-infused alginate instead. These will also capture all the fine details – down to the pores and fingerprints – thus allowing for an accurate reproduction in the final life cast.

How does it work?

Some specialty art manufacturers have designed a special form of alginate powder with additional fiber in the mix. What makes the FiberGel alginate formula stand out is that the fiber matrix in the alginate enhances the strength and tear resistance of the mold. Additionally, it can even hold moisture which delays the shrinkage by a considerable margin. The mold stays soft and flexible beyond normal alginates, thus allowing for additional life castings to be made. What’s more, it prevents runs and drips too. So, it will stay where it is put, making it ideal for vertical section alginate molds. Any clean up that is needed can be easily done by wiping with warm water.

This alginate formulation has been independently tested to be 40% stronger than its closest competing brand! Therefore, it is preferred for professional high-production, high-end detailed E F/X work. The duo fiber matrix system is patent pending.

What can you expect?

FiberGel E F/X Grade Alginate comes in a one pound box. The powder mixes smoothly (avoid using hard water) and goes on easily and uniformly without irritating the skin. It allows an even, creamy, one-coat coverage. For a thicker or thinner mix, simply vary the mix ratio. The mold will set in 5 to 6 minutes to a firm, rubbery consistency. Any water-based material can be cast in the mold.

The alginate works well for everything from small projects such as reproducing an infant’s hands to big projects to molding an entire human body. It lives up to its name in the most complicated of applications, like special effects.

Turn ideas and concepts conceived in the mind’s eye into designs and tangible finished products courtesy the special alginate formulation!

Making Plaster Work for Mold Making and Casting

As we all know; plaster is a very versatile material. A modified version works well for making molds, casts and life casts. The trick is to use the right formulation from a reliable source to get best results.

Plaster is simply a mixture of sand with lime and cement. This soft white powder is mixed with water to create a workable paste that can be applied on different surfaces. It yields a smooth and hard surface finish when dry.

Primarily used as a construction material, plaster can form a protective or even decorative coating on walls, ceilings, etc. The same plaster has found its way into dentistry, orthopedics and other applications. What’s more, it lends itself well to arts like plaster casting, mold making and life casting too!

Indeed, this material can be used to make both molds and casts. Plaster molds serve as the base for industrial applications for making metal castings wherein molten metal is poured into the mold and allowed to harden to form the cast. When used as a casting material, it yields crisp details with an excellent finish. And plaster happens to be the material of choice for making life casts. Be it face, torso, hands, feet or the whole body, the stark relief of a bright white plaster cast stands unparalleled!

Additionally, plaster is infused into gauze that serves well for making shell molds. As the plaster turns stiff on drying, it helps reinforce flexible molds so that they can retain their shape without flopping during the casting process.

Some artists even use the same plaster bandages to make rough belly molds and masks. This captures the basic shape and form of the model without getting into too much detail.

How to use?

Mold making and casting artists should keep in mind that they cannot use regular plaster (or plaster of Paris). This will tend to turn chalky and flaky, not to mention that it fails to hold details well. A specially formulated form of plaster is considered better suited for mold making and casting applications.

Keep in mind that plaster cannot be used directly on the skin. The paste will emit heat as it cures which can even burn the skin. Therefore, it is better to stick to applications on inanimate objects. However, plaster infused bandages can still be used for making body molds.

What is important here is to use the right form of plaster. Take CastRite Art Casting Stone for instance – this comes from a trustworthy manufacturer and is considered the perfect choice for castings and life castings. It has been specially heat-treated and will set fairly hard, but can still be carved and tooled as desired. This fine arts casting stone also holds excellent detail without chipping, cracking or even becoming chalky. The plaster can be used for making castings in alginate, resin and silicone molds.

In sum, indulge in the goodness of plaster, but make sure to opt for the best option!

Delving into the Look and Feel of Cold Cast Pieces

All castings don’t have to look like regular plaster, resin or rubber. It is possible to duplicate a metallic, stone or ceramic effect by using cold casting powders. Even the feel will be very authentic!

Cold casting may sound like a complicated and intricate procedure. After all, who would think that regular resin can be used to replicate the look of metal, ceramic or stone! And the effects achieved are indeed quite realistic and believable. That too, without the expense, risk or other issues associated with crafting the original ones.

But who would think that the procedure is as simple as adding a special cold casting powder to the resin and catalyst!

Indeed, the whole casting procedure basically proceeds as usual. Mix the resin with the catalyst and the cold casting powder – there are options of porcelain, marble, limestone, brass, tin, bronze, copper and even wood. This is brushed or poured into the mold to form a thick coating.

The primary difference is not to fill the mold at one go. Instead, the coating is allowed to cure before backfilling the mold with resin mixed with a filler – this can be fiberglass, steel shots, calcium carbonate or even sand – to get the desired weight. This is the usual process for smaller pieces. For bigger ones, many artists opt to dust, spray or slush the cold casting powder so as to conserve the usage.

After curing, all that is required is abrading or burnishing the surface with fine steel wool. This will remove the microscopic binder to reveal the pure filler powder effect beneath. Keep in mind that tin powder can be used to achieve the look of pewter, aged iron, nickel silver or stainless steel.

What’s more, the metal surface will even tend to oxidize just like the original foundry cast metal sculpture! It can be also be artificially oxidized using patina acids to create a variety of artistic effects.

How does the cast feel?

The best part is that the realistic effect is not limited to the look and weight of the casting. It will even feel like the metal or stone that is being imitated to the extent that it becomes difficult to tell it apart from an original.

The only difference is that it will ‘clink like ceramic’ and feel cool to the touch. Also, it will not take high polish as well as the original. Therefore, cold castings are considered best for cosmetic use. They can be used for making replacement parts and for refurbishing antique items.

When it comes to sourcing the cold casting powders, EnvironMolds is the best resource. It offers a selection of brass, copper, tin, bronze, limestone, pecan shell, marble and porcelain powder 325-mesh that lend themselves well for achieving different effects.

Indulge in the simple and easy procedure of cold casting and enjoy watching the way the replicas turn out looking indecipherable from an original carved from metal, stone or porcelain!

Face Casting Process Decoded for Beginners!

Making a face casting forms the pinnacle of casting and life casting projects. The challenge of working on a living person is amplified by the prospects of covering the eyes, mouth, nose and so on!

There are castings, life castings and then there is a face cast! Indeed, making the cast of a face is about the most complicated and challenging of all art works. But the satisfaction remains unparalleled as well!

Indeed, imagine being able to create a spitting likeness of a person’s face. That too, in three-dimensional form!

The ins and outs

A face casting is just that – a life cast of a person’s face that captures everything from the contours of the nose and lips to the pores and indentations on the skin to even the expression of the person!

The process begins with making a mold of the face. For this, skin safe materials like alginate or special silicone rubber are used. Most artists prefer to use alginate which is basically a dental impression material.

Prepping the model for what lies in store is crucial. The skin should also be prepared by applying a suitable release agent. A fine layer of petroleum jelly is usually preferred as it will keep the alginate from snagging in the fine hair on the face. Go little thicker on the eyebrows and lashes.

The alginate is mixed with water in the requisite proportions before being patted on to the face. It should be applied gently on the eyes and lips with special care not to clog the nostrils. Note that different types of alginate are available with varying set times, soft set options and even silica free variations.

Once an even layer of alginate is in place, it has to be reinforced with plaster reinforced strips. This will form a stiff shell mold that will enable the inner alginate one to retain its shape. Otherwise, it will be too flexible and tends to flop over during the casting process which will distort the final output. The plaster bandages have to be applied while the alginate is damp to the touch.

The process may sound long and cumbersome. While it does take practice, the face mold should usually be complete in about 20 to 25 minutes. It sets quickly and can be demolded simply by twitching the face a bit while inserting a finger from any of the sides.

Once the face mold is ready, making the cast just requires preparing the plaster and pouring it into the mold. The cured cast can again be demolded and finished as required before being presented to the model or put on display.

While face casting is a straightforward process, beginners may still feel overwhelmed with the minute details. In such cases, they can opt for a ArtMolds Face Casting Kit instead. Indeed, EnvironMolds offers the Face EZ CastKit which is very popular among new artists who want to try their hand at making a face cast!