Unit 6 – How to Guide

Making a Maquette: As professionally as possible

In this tutorial my aim is to show you my combination of techniques to make a maquette. One that can be tough, painted, displayable and (hopefully) sell-able. There are many communities out there where people share techniques to sculpt or use certain materials but lets see how we can combine those.

The end product:

My example will be a Necromorph from the Dead Space video games. Of course I don’t own the rights for this so it will be homage and just use the style and inspiration to create a “Necromorph” of my own. In the games each creature is shaped for a purpose e.g. the leaper leaps. (usually obvious) I wanted my Necromorph to be able to hang from the ceiling and sort of sting the humans in the chests with a giant tail. So lets stick with the theme and just call it The Hanger.

Lets get down to the technical. Tools and materials you will need.

Materials:

  • 1/8 inch armature wire
  • 1/6 inch armature wire
  • Tin foil
  • Super sculpey
  • Turpenoid (or turpentine)
  • Sculpey II white, and Sculpey II black
  • Wood (basically any wood)
  • Wood varnish (button polish is easiest)
  • Vacuum forming plastic
  • Foam board
  • RTV Silicone
  • Polyurethane Resin
  • Fiberglass matte
  • Fiberglass tissue
  • Fast Cast

Tools required:

  • Sculpting tools (whatever you can get your hands on typically works)
  • Staple gun
  • Heat gun
  • Small stiff paint brushes
  • Small fine quality brushes
  • Medium disposable brushes
  • Mixing buckets
  • Disposable cups
  • Mixing sticks
  • Vinyl gloves

Design

I had a little extra time to play around and do a test sculpt in regular water based clay. I wanted to see how I would achieve a few textures and effects. I tested the exposed muscle on the right. Later on you will see that there is A LOT of this. It’s also a very complex pattern and will be what I spent most of my sculpting time doing. I also tested out the wound on the top of his head. Most of the magic of this will come from painting but it is still important to make sure it blends well and that you can tell the difference between the untouched skin. This is an unnecessary step for the final product so I won’t go into a lot of depth of how to do it. Feel free to do as much planning as you can it will always save time in the long run. Even sculpting is the same. I found at several points that when I was sculpting something new that wasn’t in this bust that I had to think about how to approach it longer.

Start off with a rough sketch. I analyzed dozens of reference images and this was my idea. This should just be evidence that you don’t have to be an expert at drawing to get the point across.

Draw some of the components on their own and at different angles. Here I have the head, hands, redesigned tail, chest and a side view. The more you draw it the more concrete your design will become and confident you’ll be.

Again, the arm by itself. I find it easier to draw it piece by piece so I can focus on the detail. With your design done, you are ready to start the armature. The skeleton for your sculpt.

A very basic head on view with a highlight on the thickness and lengths required for the armature. This will help make sure your armature is proportioned properly.

Armature

The armature is very important to get correct. It will not be able to change(except maybe pose) after you start sculpting. If the armature is too large you may end up with an area where the clay is too thin, and you are unable to add the detail you want. Reference your image and and make measurements to make sure the limbs are the same length.

For areas where the armature wire meets use Epoxy putty(or plummers putty, it has many names) to secure it. Epoxy putty comes in a tube of two chemicals that you have to kneed together to activate. It behaves a lot like silly putty or a sticky clay. Just build it up around the joins and wait until it cures before changing anything on the armature.

The next step is to make a workspace and secure your armature to it. This way you can work on your sculpt without having to hold it and risk losing details you’ve made.

Get a piece of wood large enough for your armature to fit in the middle of and varnish it. Making it a nice glossy, smooth surface. This assists when using the clay. Sculpey is reusable if treated properly. So you don’t want it sticking to your work surface. The glossed surface means clean up is easy.

Now to attach the Armature and make sure its secure.

With armature wire create a “tail” out the back(or wherever on your sculpt that you can sacrifice a small bit of detail) that will be stapled to the board. On mine because he doesn’t have  legs to keep him steady I built a stand for his hand to hang from.

Stapling the “tail” down in a circle helps to keep it steady.

Get your tin foil ready, its time to bulk up the armature to reduce the amount of clay you use.

Sculpey is expensive so you will want to bulk the armature up before applying. Simply add the tin foil like you do when making a ball. It also helps get a shape of the anatomy before you add the clay. As this will be your last chance to bend the armature. I had to adjust the shoulders a bit as they were too wide.

After you have the tin foil built up, wrap some of the thinner wire around armature. This gives the sculpey something to grip onto and keep it from sliding off the metal.

Sculpting

The moment has come to start adding the clay. But first a lesson on Super Sculpey. It comes in a sort of tan transparent color. This keeps the sculptor from being able to see flaws and can be aggravating when later you have lots of finger prints that didn’t show up in the tan/pink.

Grey is a good color to work in. It shows shadow easily and will make flaws stick out. The same reason primer is usually grey. So this is where Sculpey II comes in. Sculpey II is similar to Super Sculpey. It bakes at the same temerature, the only difference is you can buy it in colors and its firmer. Mix the Super Sculpey with the blocks of Sculpey II. The short recipe is:

  • 1 block Super Sculpey
  • 1 block Sculpey II white
  • 1/2 block Sculpey II black

This recipe creates a slightly firmer and opaque sculpey which I find ideal for sculpting.

To mix the sculpey together, just kneed it like dough. It’s very long winded and will give you aches in muscles in your arms and hands you didn’t even know you had. It can save a lot of time and effort if you use a pasta maker. It quickly mixes the dough and all you have to do is crank a handle.

Take your home-made clay and start to build up on your armature. First just concentrate on getting the whole thing covered with a thin layer. Build up shape from there. It’s very satisfying as you’ll start to see your design take shape at this point.

I always like to pick one starting point(usually the face) that will give me a good idea of the proportions and keep motivated in knowing I can finish it. You’ll see that I had to redo the head several times, but after I finished getting it right,  it made the rest miles easier.

The face I’m happy with and I’m ready to start adding details. Also no shame if saving things you aren’t exactly excited about sculpting until last. (I hate doing ears, so that one is one of the last pieces I added details to)

I’m not an expert Sculpter and I find it hard to pass on techniques. I’ll try to give you an idea, but this will be the part that will change with every project.

With mine there was a lot of exposed muscle. To achieve this I used reference pictures of anatomy and tried to find a quick approach to achieving “overlapping” muscle. This was tough and took the most concentration of any of the detail but paid off.

I started by etching in the pattern of the muscles. Then digging into to it to make a layered effect. I smooth it out manually then use the turpenoid to give it a final smooth over. With the turpenoid, just use a smooth brush to paint it on and keep brushing till it works into the clay. You’ll notice the clay start to dissolve kind of like wetting water-based clay. I actually used a rough brush on the muscles to give it a more rough texture.

With the arm done I decide to cut it off to make sculpting underneath it easier.

The sculpt will need to be cut apart at some point anyway so this isn’t going to ruin it. In the end you will want each of the limbs and the torso/head separated.

Sculpey is bake-able. With a heat gun you can cook it enough to preserve the detail and cut through it. So if you wish to do the same get your heat gun out.

You won’t want to cook more than just the arm so create some kind of make-shift air barrier. I just used cardboard. Baking should take about 10 minutes per 1/4 inch of sclupey. Make sure to keep the heat gun moving. When you think it might be done just stop and wait for it to cool down. Sculpey while still hot can be a bit squishy and if you poke at it, it can leave some indents. If it starts to turn brown stop immediately.

This is an example of over baking. It will burn and start to bubble.

After its nice and solidly baked, get out the jewelery saw. It’s a very thin but sharp blade that will keep a lot of detail while being able to cut through the armature. Pick a spot with minimal detail and cut in a straight line.

A good line that should be easy to deal with when reassembling.

Back to sculpting. A close up of the unfinished innards.

For the teeth, I cut small shards of wood and just shoved them into the upper lip.

If you are having trouble getting into certain areas focus on the parts where he will be cut apart. The biceps, and the tail. Cut them off and work on each piece separately.

On the tail, there is no defined anatomy so just make the muscles random and asymmetrical.

After every piece is sclupted, even if they have been baked by heat gun they should still be oven baked. So put them all on your wood base and stick them in the oven. They will need to be baked for 15min per 1/4 inch of thickness on 120 degrees Celsius. It doesn’t hurt if you check up on it regularly to make sure it doesn’t burn. On that level heat there shouldn’t be much of a chance of damage unless you leave it in there for several hours.

You will also need to cut off the fingers as they will be too curved to get out of the mould the hand is in.

Moulding

Time to start the moulding process. So get the silicone, mixing sticks, scale, mixing cups, and disposable paintbrushes out.

The main body will be made by painting silicone on in 4 layers and then a 3 part fibre glass mother mould on top.

The body should still be attached to the board by the armature, this will come in handy.

RTV works with 5% catalyst by weight. It has a working time of about 45 minutes.

When mixing the silicone make sure to take a good long time to stir it. The stuff is really thick and needs to be thoroughly mixed to react properly. I mix for at least ten minutes.

After mixed, get your disposable brush and start brushing the silicone into the details. As the silicone gets closer to curing it will thicken up. When it gets thicker build it up in the areas where there are dips or lots of detail.

As you do all 4 layers try to build it out so that all the surfaces are rounded and with a ridge on back where you will cut it later. If you build up a ridge it will keep the seem line still when seated in the mother mould later.

It should start to look like this.

While the last coat is drying take some left over RTV cubes (about 1/2 inch square) and place a couple on the flatter surfaces.

These will act as keys to help the silicone mould align with with the mother mould.

After all the layers are done, figure out where the mother mould will be separated. This is a difficult part, just make sure there won’t be any mould locks. For the hanger I separated it into 3 parts. The back, the front, and the top of the head/neck.

Then build up a wall using the plastiline at a 90 degree angle from the silicone surface where the line will be. Stick in some keys. Anything rounded should work. I used small plastic balls. Then rub the petroleum jelly on the surface so the resin doesn’t attach to it. It should look like this.

Then it is ready to be fibre glassed.

Get out the resin, fibreglass matte, fiberglass tissue, mixing sticks, vinyl gloves, disposable cups, disposable brushes and a good fume mask.
This stuff is not good for your lungs.

Cut the matte and tissue into 1 inch squares.

Mix the resin which is 2% catalyst by volume.

Start putting on the tissue first, it holds the shape best as its finer. Put a piece on, wet it until its transparent and add another. It’s repetitive and requires a bit of practice to be perfect. Luckily for this mother mould the jacket doesn’t need to be perfect.

Move on and when you run out of resin wait about 30 minutes for it to set and do another layer. Do this 3 to 4 times, depending on how much you get on each go.

One layer of fibreglass.

When its done repeat the process. Build another wall of clay, add keys, and jelly it up. Also make sure to put jelly on the resin that is already cured. If you don’t you wont be able to separate the halves later.

And again for the last part.

Before we demould, we’ll do the other pieces.

Take an arm and find a way to fix it to a base. Here I used paper. To make a container I used the vac form plastic and made it into a tube leaving a 1/2 inch distance between the piece and the plastic. I hot glued the edges to make sure it didn’t leak(which still didn’t work perfectly) and poured in some silicone. It’s that simple. It will look something like this.

Rinse and repeat. Just do the same for all the components besides the body. You can do one mould for all the fingers at once.

The second arm before pouring in the silicone.

After the silcone is cured demould by cutting a zig zag line along the edge until you are able to free the original.

Casting

Get out the fast cast, mixing sticks and disposable cups. It’s time to cast the components.

Fast cast mixes at a 1:1 ratio by volume.

It sets very very very fast. In a matter of 5 minutes its unworkable and a minute of that you will be mixing it so be quick.

(to save on costs some people put filite into the fast cast to thicken it out)

Before casting make sure that your mould is put together securely and use some rubber bands or tape to hold it. Not too tight though or the shape of your cast will be distorted.

After thoroughly mixing the fast cast just pour it in until it bubbles on the top like this. Give it a few taps to help the air bubbles escape and let it sit and cure. It will be about 40 minutes before it’s safe to demould.

Some stuff to clean up, but a very successful cast.

And another.

Okay now back to the main body. Fully moulded. Time to trim the fibre glass around the edges. You can use a dremel to trim the edges so it’s easier to pull apart. If you don’t it might be impossible to get apart with out it breaking.

Then grab a screw driver and a chisel and start slowly prying it apart. Be careful because if it cracks you’ll have to start over again.

The mother mould taken off. Now take the silicone mould and cut a line down the back, again in a zig zag to help place back together. Only cut as much as you need to. Since it’s like a skin you should be able to turn it inside out to get it off the piece.

The silicone skin taken off. Now time to place it back in the mother mould. Just try to fit it in one piece at a time. Making sure to push it into the keys that are made for it already.

Once it’s back together secure it with some clips. Anything strong enough to keep it together because you’ll have to move it around a lot.

Use the fast cast again and when pouring it in just make sure to turn it around plenty to make sure it gets in all the details. Then wait about an hour and demould.

You may notice the teeth didn’t work but you can just replace them doing the same thing as before.

Assembly

Now time to piece him together. So get out the araldite and the dremel. First you’ll want to take the areas to join and clean them up and make sure they meet together. Use the dremel and sand paper to do this. Then drill small holes in it to help the araldite stick better.

Then mix the araldite up and put it on. Don’t use too much or it will ooze out the sides and be a bit messy to clean up. You’ll have to hold it together while it dries.

Rinse and repeat this to assemble the whole thing.

There will be all new seem lines to deal with. For these just use car body filler and sand it back. This just takes time. For areas that don’t match up very well you can also use a dremel to help out.

Painting

Time to primer it. Get a thin mix of a medium grey color. The grey will help show any issues that you might want to resolve before you start finishing it. I used an airbrusher to get an even coat. It’s not entirely necessary though.

Then on to painting. I’m no expert at painting and I spend ages doing it so I’ll have to direct you elsewhere for tips. I don’t believe mine would be very helpful as it’s something I really struggle with. Here’s what to shoot for.

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