The Fiber-Reinforced Version of Alginate

There are alginates and then there is fiber-reinforced alginate. This comes with greater tear strength and delayed shrinkage which makes it ideal for larger life castings as well as for special effects works.

Alginate is the material of choice for making body molds. This is a natural compound that is actually derived from seaweed and is used to make dental impressions. Its quick setting and skin safe properties make it suitable for using as the base material for life casting.

A variation of the regular alginate – with a slower set time than the dental formula – is used for making body molds. This alginate is mixed with water and the paste is applied directly on the skin. It sets quickly while capturing a perfect negative impression of the body part – be it face, hand, foot, torso, abdomen or even full body. A good quality alginate, when used properly, it will capture all the fine details and indentations of the body surface down to the fingerprints as well. Everything can then be reproduced in clear detail in the life cast.

Now alginate comes in different varieties to suit diverse requirements. The traditional formula is in the form of a white powder that contains silica and offers a firm set. Yet, it needs to be reinforced with a shell mold as the alginate will not be able to retain its shape on its own after demolding.

In case artists want to steer clear of silica formulas, there are silica-free alginates that offer a softer set and are, therefore, gentler on the skin. This is especially favored when making life casts of a baby’s hands or feet.

Both these categories of alginates come in variants of slow set, regular set and fast set, to suit varying dexterity and applications. For instance, the slower setting formulas prove to be very useful when making molds of the torso or other large body parts. The slower set ones are again preferred when working with infants.

The best type of alginate is the fiber-reinforced alginate – like FiberGel alginate. This contains fiber which not only helps enhance the tear resistance and strength, but also increases the alginate’s capacity to hold moisture. It also serves to delay the shrinkage of the alginate mold, thus giving more time for the casting process.

Therefore, FiberGel is the best choice for larger molds and actually, all life castings. In fact, FiberGel E F/X Grade Alginate (available on the EnvironMolds website, is specially formulated for professional high-production, high-end detailed E F/X work.

This FiberGel comes with a patent pending duo fiber matrix system that has been independently tested 40% stronger than the best options in the market.

What’s more, the fiber content also serves to prevent runs and drips. The alginate mix (when made using the prescribed ratio of powder and water) will stay where you put it. This makes it suitable for working on vertical surfaces too. The molds also stay soft and flexible far beyond normal alginates, thus extending the window for casting times without any loss of detail.

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