Page name: Some Sculpting Basics [Logged in view] [RSS]
2007-01-02 20:51:39
Last author: Hedda
Owner: smakeupfx
# of watchers: 15
D20: 7
Bookmark and Share
Hi all, [smakeupfx] here, 
I get asked fairly often about simple instructions for making small figure sculptures, or Maquettes.  Molds and mold making techniques, and random questions on materials and tricks.  I'll keep adding to this page as I think of things or in answering your questions.

Maquettes are one of my favorite kinds of jobs. It's all fun and no molds or multiple fabrication. That stuff gets to seem an awful lot like work ;-) They are often small figure sculptures made as one of a kind art, character design "sketches" or a starting point for CG modeling.

What you will need
Polymer Clay - I use SuperSculpy, but fimo, sculpy or any other brand will work and each has it's pros and cons.

Epoxy putty - you can pick this up at almost any hardware store. It's a two part clay-like putty that will cure in 5 to 15 minutes when mixed together.  You can also use more professional materials like Magic-Sculpt, it's a very strong epoxy putty that has a working time of 5 or so hours and fully cures in 24 hours (less if you heat it a bit ;-)  Pick up some 5-minute epoxy glue too, it's useful in putting things together later.

Aluminum armature wire - I use several different sizes of this, but you have to have it. Copper wire or clothes hanger wire will work in a pinch. It's just harder to adjust the pose and bend.

Sculpting tools - Your hands are the best tools you have, and you can make your own sculpting tools pretty easily or just use whatever you can find (I still do). Cheap sculpting tools work just as well as expensive ones, I often get some of those little plastic kids paint brushes and heat one end with a lighter and shape it while hot when I need a special tool for something.

Step by step
First, get your idea sketched out 1 to 1 flat out on a piece of paper. Use that as a template for constructing the wire frame armature. Lay the wire on the paper and bend it until it centers the form you will be sculpting. This step really saves a lot of time and material. It's hard to get arms and legs proportioned right in wire frame without a guide since you're centering the wire in the form not re-creating the form... if that makes any sense. I also like to make the head so it can come off. pretty easy to do, just wrap some wire around the neck stalk so the head piece will slide in and out. Then you can focus on the head and when you get it just right, cook it so you can't bump it and mess up hours of work. For thicker pieces, twist two wires (or more) together, helps it not break as easily and the clay and putty sticks better.

Here is a piece I did from start to finish. The armature is bent from wire and that is glued down to a piece of wood with 5 minute epoxy. For bigger shapes, you can wrap the wire with some aluminum foil to fill it out and save you money and clay.


Next, mix up the epoxy putty and cover the wire with a thin coat. Make sure you leave room for clay on top of this (you can cut the epoxy away later if this happens in a place or two, no big deal really).


When the epoxy sets, you can start. I use SuperSculpy. If it's fresh (not sitting on the store shelf for years) you can just start adding. If it is crumbly, you can add a few drops of Mineral Oil and mix it up until it's the right consistency. Just start adding clay, getting the shape roughed out.


I like to get things roughed out, all the proportions the way I want them, then start finishing the most detailed parts, like the head, separately. When I get them just the way I want them I cook it. You cook sculpt in your home oven, follow the directions on the clay and watch it closely, if it starts to turn purple turn it off! don't over cook polymer clays, they put off toxic fumes then.


You can add more clay on top of clay already cooked, then sand or cut or carve...cook again, add more clay. It's a great way to work, and lets you keep adding details without messing up the ones you already finished.


When it's all done, give it a coat of Krylon Primer Paint (really it's the best...worth it to find, cheap stuff will clump, drip, come out of the can with a bad texture, or any number of BAD things when you're put in 60 hours on a sculpt. (and it's really not much cheaper). If Krylon isn't available where you live, ask at a paint store for the best primer paint they carry.


Once primed you can paint with anything. I often use acrylics, with washes made from acrylics mixed with alcohol, and then maybe some oil paints (they are great for gradations and the like.


There ya go man, hope that helps. If you have any questions or problems, I'd be happy to help if I can.  Have fun and make some stuff!

Username (or number or email):


2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: *gets popcorn and waits for Radioactive Flea to do her tricks:)*

2006-04-20 [Radioactive Flea]: *Looks at Trennas* Sorry love, I only do them with one person at a time and behind closed and locked doors. That way I don't have to worry about them trying to run away.

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: too bad XD chains work too:)

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: There are always ropes... (I prefere kernmantle with silk sheath)

2006-04-20 [Radioactive Flea]: Aww, too bad. I prefer to use rough twin with metal barbs.

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: tim likes to be handled with care ^^

2006-04-20 [Radioactive Flea]: Yeah, I know. Though I prefer to whip him then cuddle.

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: the good flea bad flea procedure ^^

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: hahahaha, the bad flea is the good flea

2006-04-20 [Radioactive Flea]: Then there's the biting . . .

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: and the itching :p

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: biting? hey, didn't you ever learn to respect your elders? ;-)

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: give it up:p it never worked on Saray either:p

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: bwahahaha!  yeah, was worth a go anyway ;-)

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: honoustly, what did you hope to accomplish? XD

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: Futile efforts, in both cases ... feed them chocolate, now that might get us somewhere :D

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: thats true capt'n ^^ nottin' works better than choc'late ay? :p

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: hummmmm,  *evil grin*  ;-)

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: muhahahaha! *evil laugh*

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: *cough* *cough*  yeah, well, remember to coat your armature with epoxy, otherwise it wont be stiff enough for the clay to suround... em, and things 

2006-04-20 [smakeupfx]: ;-P

2006-04-20 [playslashwrite]: nice saving :p

2006-04-21 [irulan]: Chocolate doesn't help all, nope. =P

2006-04-21 [playslashwrite]: sooo you wouldnt mind if we like.. ate it all for example?:p

2006-04-21 [irulan]: Ummm, no. Not in the long as you don't eat it all in front of me anyway. ;)

2006-04-21 [playslashwrite]: *eats it in front of you ^^ *

2006-04-21 [Jewl]: *steals the chocolate and runs up a tree*

2006-04-21 [Radioactive Flea]: *Munches on jalepenios* I prefer spice to sweet darlings

2006-04-23 [playslashwrite]: oow my :O

2006-04-25 [Radioactive Flea]: Awww, Tim isn't paying any attention. We've got to beat him now.

2006-04-25 [playslashwrite]: you first :p

2006-04-26 [irulan]: I'll volunteer! ;)

2006-04-26 [smakeupfx]: Hey now, what am I getting beatings for?  sheesh, tough crowd ;-)

2006-04-26 [playslashwrite]: for not paying attention XD

2006-04-26 [smakeupfx]: ahhhhh, damn, and that was my new years resolution too

2006-04-26 [playslashwrite]: then you deserve to be beaten ;p

2006-04-26 [Radioactive Flea]: More than that, we must first tie him to the bed and beat him. . . then oral sex!

2006-04-27 [playslashwrite]: and the spanking!

2006-04-27 [smakeupfx]: hahahaaha... you guys are too damn funny (but I want the peril!

2006-04-27 [playslashwrite]: naughty naughty bad naughty tim:p

2006-04-27 [Charybdis]: I was waiting for a Monty Python reference... xD

2006-04-27 [smakeupfx]: around here, you wont have to wait long ;-P

2006-04-27 [playslashwrite]: nope ^^ elftowners should be in the guiness book of records for fastest monthy pyhton references:p

2006-04-27 [Radioactive Flea]: I like the British and their little crumpets

2006-04-27 [smakeupfx]: "crumpets" are slang for "breasts" ya know ;-)

2006-04-27 [playslashwrite]: rofl XD

2006-04-27 [Jewl]: OMG really? Wow... I had no clue... XD NOW I know what Jary was trying to say...

2006-04-28 [playslashwrite]: suddenly it all makes sense XD

2006-04-28 [Perplexity]: Not all Brits have little crumpets - look at Benny Hill.

2006-04-28 [Sunrose]: Hmm I just this a female character? :P

2006-04-28 [Perplexity]: lol - no just an old British guy with big man boobs.

2006-04-28 [Sunrose]: How do you know it's a guy then? I don't see anything there.. :P

2006-04-28 [playslashwrite]: she wasnt talking about benny hill XD

2006-04-28 [Sunrose]: I know who Benny Hill is O_o I meant the troll/orc on the wiki >_>; *pokes [playslashwrite]* peanut :P

2006-04-28 [playslashwrite]: hey dont poke me in ze peanut!:p

2006-04-28 [Sunrose]: Peanuts? :P

2006-04-28 [playslashwrite]: yesh i have a bowl of peanuts.. dont poke them:p

2006-04-28 [Sunrose]: A bowl? xD

2006-04-28 [playslashwrite]: yesh.. a bowl.. an entire bowl of peanuts.. for me :p

2006-04-28 [Sunrose]: Mutant :P

2006-04-28 [smakeupfx]: A bowl of peanuts?  is that like a fruit basket?  ;-P

2006-04-28 [playslashwrite]: well.. kind of.. but.. more salty :p

2006-04-28 [Perplexity]: o.o

2006-04-28 [smakeupfx]: BWAHAHAHAHA!  (dude, you need to drink more water)

2006-04-29 [playslashwrite]: *stops lurking from the gardenhose* what does *that* mean??!:p

2006-05-02 [Jewl]: wow..................

2006-05-02 [smakeupfx]: The tutorial? benny hills manboob? or [playslashwrite]'s bowl of peanuts?  it's hard to tell what's "wow"hehehe

2006-05-02 [Jewl]: No exclusions.

2006-05-02 [playslashwrite]: "i have a lovely bowl of peanuts.. twidileedee..*

2006-05-02 [Radioactive Flea]: *Knocks over bole of peanuts* Look at how they run away.

2006-05-02 [playslashwrite]: grrrrrrrrr.. MY PEANUTS!!!

2006-05-02 [smakeupfx]: red heads can be mean .... they often need a good spanking (sorry about your nuts dude)

2006-05-02 [irulan]: But not us fake redheads, nooo - we;re nice! :D

2006-05-03 [playslashwrite]: vixens and succubi :p

2006-05-03 [smakeupfx]: mmmmm, vixens and succubi are yummy

2006-05-03 [playslashwrite]: understatement of the century ^^

2006-05-08 [Jewl]: yummy? Hmm... *licks herself* Hmm... interesting taste... but I may not consider it yummy... ((Is a red-head))

2006-05-08 [smakeupfx]: *tries with all his might NOT to make a Yoga joke*  hehe, they are an aquired taste ;-P

2006-05-08 [playslashwrite]: yesh.. very rare:p

2006-05-08 [smakeupfx]: rare as in hard to find or rare as in not overcooked ;-)

2006-05-08 [playslashwrite]: for their temperatures are always high :p

2006-05-09 [Jewl]: XD Funny thing is, I actually DO yoga...

2006-05-09 [smakeupfx]: hahahaha.... *twisted images come to mind* ;-)  much more intersting than Downward Faceing Dog 

2006-05-10 [playslashwrite]: youre speaking from experience arent you? ^^

2006-05-10 [smakeupfx]: *does proud warrior*  I don't know what you are talking about ;-)

2006-05-11 [playslashwrite]: *makes note to self..* cancel.. yoga.. class.. :p

2006-05-21 [Saray]: Whieee, I have Magic sculpt! :D

2006-05-21 [smakeupfx]: Ohhhh, Magic Sculpt is so wonderful! you can make just about anything with it...can't wait to see!

2006-05-22 [playslashwrite]: it smells really funny :p

2006-05-22 [smakeupfx]: some of the best things in life do ;-P

2006-05-22 [playslashwrite]: ... you know.. I was hoping you would give examples :p

2006-05-26 [Viperess]: That is truely amazing. I have wanted to try this. After reading this I do believe I will give it a go. Thank you

2006-05-26 [Jewl]: 0.o

2006-05-30 [Radioactive Flea]: Tim must have a new redhead, he's completely forgotten about me.

2006-05-30 [playslashwrite]: and me!!:p

2006-06-04 [Jewl]: *sigh* Whilst I sit here, a true, natural, firey red-headed woman with nothing to do but wait for him... XD

2006-06-04 [playslashwrite]: want some rum to make it easier? :p

2006-06-04 [smakeupfx]: Oh I never forget... even the engaged, wrong cromazoned or statitory ;-)

2006-06-05 [Radioactive Flea]: *Punches him in the rib* That may be so but I never forget the feeling of being forgotten

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: Hey, why do I get punched?  i'm old, you could break my brittle bones ;-)

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: come grandpa.. its time for your medicine:p

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: This is a job for nurse [irulan] !!!  ;-P

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: nu-uh! no sexy nurse for you today! *whispers* c'mone, we're going bowling later:p

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: harumph ;-\  no nurse for me? what if I "acidently" drop a bowling all on my foot?

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: fine fine.. we'll stop by the fastfood joint for the lady with the moustache and a burger:p

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: em... thats no lady... that's my Uncle Sue

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: ehr.. well.. why does he wear tights then? o_O

2006-06-05 [Jewl]: XD *laughs* Because they go well with his skirt.

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: thats his underwear..

2006-06-05 [Jewl]: Really? Well they have frills then...

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: i never said it was men's underwear..

2006-06-05 [Jewl]: *shrug* But the garter? I thought it was just a little too flashy for a fifty-year-old...

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: he does that on purpose..

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: Hahaha, yeah...and his cute top

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: and the wig.. *shudder*

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: well duh, bald and shiny doesn't go with his outfit

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: that reminds me of bowling again :p

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: jesus loves to bowel  *licks bowlingball*

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: ..eight year olds dude..

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: Oh no, I'm not licking any eight year old dudes, you should be ashamed

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: *enters a world of pain XD*

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: what on earth are we talking about LOL

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: you started the Big Lebowski thingy XD

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: si, but I easly get lost in tangents .... and besides, [playslashwrite], this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: .. I am the walrus..

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: I could be the walrus and I'd still have to bum rides off of people

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: XD hahahah XD

2006-06-05 [smakeupfx]: ;-) a Ferris quote is never out of place

2006-06-05 [playslashwrite]: exactly ^^

2006-06-06 [Jewl]: What does that Entail?

2006-06-06 [irulan]: I miss so much while I'm at work - somehow I'm a nurse, then bowling balls & walruses. ;) And I really don't want to know about the eight year olds. ;)

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: hehehehe, I know, it's tangentlishous here sometimes ;-)  *nurse uniform Dirty-Wrong-Thoughts*  ;-P

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: Now in who's tails are you refereing to [Jewl]? ;D

2006-06-06 [irulan]: Til I get out the needle anyway, you don't like those so much. ;)

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: nooooooo!!!  you'll have to be one of those "sponge bath" nurses....not the pernty needley ones ;-)

2006-06-06 [irulan]: OH, okay. It's important to get these things straight! 

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: a sponge bath will always get things straight.... hahahahaha, (sorry, it was too good a set up ;-P

2006-06-06 [irulan]: Haha, I seem to have an unwitting knack for that. =P The setting up that is.

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: hehehe, um... yeah, that too ;-P

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: Bowling, and nursing, and what the walrus said. I may not be learning about sculpting but wow...

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: *snorts milk XD*

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: easyly fixed... I'll do a walrus nurse bowling sculpt tutorial :-)

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: ~.~ that I gotta see. A nurse walrus licking the bowling ball before releasing it down the lane :)

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: uhm.. are sources of inspiration also included in the tutorial? :p

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: who needs to be inspired to lick a bowling ball? (makes em slide better ;-P

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: never mind XD

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: And they they slide right down the alley smooth as silk ;b

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: thats what they do.. them licked balls..

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: *nods* yea it is..hope the walrus gets a strike

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: hahahaha.... i'm sure there is a tutorial for that somewhere... no doubt ;-P

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: i wonder if the walrus will do the fred flintstone move after he rolls a strike XD

2006-06-06 [smakeupfx]: that... or the church lady superior dance ;-)

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: oh that poor walrus dancing on his toes while shacking his tail *.*

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: cha, twil be a sight fer sore eyes.. garr...

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: I have the filling will need a drink in hand to witness that though

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: make it a bottle ^^

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: To true. and forget the wine, Jack Daniels if you please

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: who said anything bout wine? ;)

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: At first I thought to have a glass but had to rethink that idea real quick.

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: so i sense a little addiction there? ^^

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: laughs to walruses or drink?

2006-06-06 [playslashwrite]: both:)

2006-06-06 [Viperess]: Well old southern rock, a smooth drink and good company...course not sure how much company a bowling, dancing walrus would be though ;b

2006-06-06 [irulan]: Well it would be entertaining at the very least. ;)

2006-06-07 [smakeupfx]: cha! what could possiblly be better company than that?  LOL

2006-06-07 [Viperess]: hummm a lapping leapord...j/k :p

2006-06-07 [playslashwrite]: you mean tim? ^^

2006-06-07 [Radioactive Flea]: "The time has come, the Walrus said, "To speak of many things, of shoes and ships and ceiling wax, of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot. . . or whether pigs have wings"

2006-06-07 [Viperess]: Nooooooooooooo

2006-06-08 [smakeupfx]: It's not time yet?  alright flea, you'll have to wait on that... perhaps we can talk about...hummmm the enigma that is... the Redhead? hehe

2006-06-17 [Radioactive Flea]: The enigma that is the redhead has become far less complex. That is she wants what she can't have, is a touch of a hypocrite, and is generally abusive to those that annoy her or any small children. She hates children.

2006-06-17 [smakeupfx]: hahahha... well that simplifies everything ;D  (yeah, childeren can be a pain ;-P

2006-10-27 [Rasperel]: I really love that you added this to your page :)

2006-10-27 [Jewl]: WOW. I'm a redhead. C'mon now, what I want is mostly what I have, and the rest is what I COULD have if I work for it.
Okay, I admit I may be a little, tiny bit of a hypocrite.
Yeah, that part about abusiveness and children is true.
Whoah, are you stalking me, or all redheads like that?

2006-10-27 [Radioactive Flea]: I'm a redhead, and I was basically talking about my general personality. The redhead is most definatly an artist but waits until a massive mood swing to be inspired.

2006-10-27 [Jewl]: true!

2006-11-30 [SilverFire]: images stopped working? :(

2006-11-30 [playslashwrite]: think tim's server is down..

2006-11-30 [smakeupfx]: damn, I compleatly forgot about that... I'll transfer the images over here...sorry everyone... I'll get the pics up soon

2007-01-02 [Hedda]: I downloaded the images to Elftown now.

2007-01-03 [playslashwrite]: weeeeh, its working again ^^

2007-01-04 [smakeupfx]: Awww, Thanks Hedda!  I have been procrastinating finding a hosting webpage... like I do ;-)

2007-01-04 [playslashwrite]: that is a shitty thing to look for yes.. those that are free have either lots of banners and popups or are really slow XD

2007-01-04 [smakeupfx]: yes... me get all confussed and ..... stuff ;-)

2007-01-05 [playslashwrite]: tell me about it.. i have been nothing but websites for the past two weeks XD

2007-01-05 [smakeupfx]: nothing?  poor Saray ;-P

2007-01-05 [playslashwrite]: oow and Saray ^^

2007-01-06 [Jewl]: teehee

2008-08-03 [Sir. Robert]: I was inspired to go out and try this :P I always had problems sculpting with air dry modeling clay because it dried too fast, and my recent endeavors with foam, fiberglass, and epoxy were fun, but not very practical in such a small scale, but they are nothing compared to this Polymer clay! If the whole baking in the oven thing goes well, SuperSculpy will be my new best friend :)

2008-08-04 [smakeupfx]: it should be :-)  and don't forget.. you can add more, sand, carve.. add more, cook again, it's perfect for refining :-)

2008-08-04 [Sir. Robert]: I was really stubborn about that and wanted to just bake it once...that was before I dropped it on the floor and magically erased most of my hours of I cook it once about every 4 hours to "save" what I have done :P

2008-08-06 [smakeupfx]: Hahaha, now if they can come up with a clay that has "undo" ;-)

2008-08-06 [Sir. Robert]: ...that is why I a in love with my new drawing tablet because the undo button is so much more efficient than an eraser :P

A few things I learned so far:

Take your time and Don't skip steps...I got too excited and forgot to cover the aluminum foil with a layer of the epoxy putty which made applying the SuperSculpy harder and continued to cause problems until the first time I cooked it...

Things that can not handle the heat of the oven should not go in with your project...I forgot to remove tape from the bottom of the base, and the objects I used as the eyes couldn't take the heat of the oven and smell really bad when baked

If spending a few more dollars saves you time or gives a better result it is worth it...I bought cheap reasonably heavy gauge steel wire which saved me a few dollars but I ended up wasting a lot of my time making it the way I wanted it :S

2008-08-06 [smakeupfx]: That.. and buy low... sell high, always good advice ;-)

2008-11-27 [Saray]: The first sculpture I want to make when you're gonna teach me, is a really hot mermaid, so I can give it to you because I never finished that painting years ago!!! :D

2009-05-30 [Sir. Robert]: I am really having trouble smoothing out finger prints and tool marks on my project. Is there a good way to get rid of those before baking them in so I don't have to sand for as many hours?

2009-06-08 [smakeupfx]: yes, use a brush just barely dampened with water for water based clay, alcohol for oil and mineral oil for polymer clays... it's like very fine sand paper and you can brush much of your work lines away ( I have a collection of various sized and stiffnesses that I only use for sculpting)  Sometimes it helps to cut the bristles short on a few of them too.  hope that helps Robert :D

2009-06-09 [Sir. Robert]: I guess I will lube up my project and see if it smooths out, and I have plenty of different brushes to try out from my painting projects. Thank you!

2009-09-30 [Sir. Robert]: I feel like I am spamming this wiki with questions, but you always seem to have a good answer, and my normal source of information (google) seems oblivious on the topic:

I left out a project in the open air for around 2 months, and it seems to have "dried out." This is ok since most of the details which are now set in stone are to my liking. Can I still bake the dried SuperSculpey, or will it crack or something worse?

Number of comments: 248
Older comments: (Last 200)

200 older comments
(0, 0-13):

Show these comments on your site

Elftown - Wiki, forums, community and friendship. Sister-site to Elfwood