Here’s my update on my dragon puppet so far:

 I’ve very drastically changed his character and appearance, which I’m much happier with. I’ve started sculpting and everything’s going well so far. I’ve got a few questions that have come to mind, so I hope you can help!

For starters:

He’s roughly 28cm from chest to top of his head, and his arms are roughly 17cm long. I’m only doing the first half of him, as explained in THIS post.

  1. Eyelids. How the heck should I go about doing this? I want them to be able to be pulled over the eye, so I can animate accordingly. I’d like to have a wire inside of them so I can move them about. Should I sculpt the eyelids on now, partially closed? Or should they be something that I add after the fact?
  2. I’m going to be casting in both foam latex, and silicone; two puppets, different trials of materials. This is for a uni project, so that’s why I’m experimenting.
  3. I figure I’m going to do a 3-piece fibreglass mould on this guy. Each side, then in the middle, between his chest and arms. Correct?
  4. As from StopmoNick’s advice, I’m sculpting the mouth partially open, with a block in between, and enough of a lip so I can put wires in for the armature. I’ll also be sculpting the inside of the mouth separately. Yes? 
  5. Should I mould and cast the ears separately? He'll have long, rabbit-like ears. I just think this will make my life a lot easier...

Thanks everyone for reading and helping out!

 

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The only bit I can weigh in on is the molding and casting part. If you plan to do two casts (one latex and one silicone), it would be best to make two separate molds. Most silicones (at least the different types I've worked with) do not like to share molds with latex. Certain combinations even react after they've cured. It can produce bubbles, prevent the silicone from curing, or, at worst, slowly dissolve the silicone after it's cured. Very very difficult to clean a mold thoroughly enough to use for both, especially one made from a porous compound like a plaster.

Other than that, I really like this sculpt. Nice design, interesting and natural looking forms. Very cool.

1. Eyelids.  I usually sculpt some eyelid on the head, so it's not looking too pop-eyed.  But for blinks, I don't usually rely on stretching the foam latex eyelid over the eyeball.  I have used 3 methods:  

A.  Cosgrove Hall's Wind in the Willows had metal shells that fitted over the eyeball, and inside the hollow foam skin.  I think they were pivoted at the corners.  I simplified this, by forming half-spheres in styrene sheet (about 0.5mm thick) over the blank eyeballs.  Vac forming is ideal, but I was able to do it without a vac former as well.  I held a piece of styrene in front of a heater until it got soft, laid it over the eyeball which was sitting in a slight hollow on a piece of wood, then pressed some tube that was slightly bigger than the eyeball over it.  The styrene cooled, and I trimmed of the creased part so I just under half a sphere that fitted the eyeball perfectly.  I did it again for the lower eyelid.  I cast the foam with a blank eyeball in the mould.  The foam latex easily stretched enough to fit the thin shells in between the eyeball and the foam socket.  I built up a ridge on the edge of each eyelid with epoxy, so I had something to grab to pull the eyelids down to do a blink.  Mine just floated in there, there was no hinge required.  Here they are in an almost fully open position:

B. I make plasticine eyelids as needed, and stick them onto the eyeball while shooting.  A film I animated on with silicone puppets Isabel Peppard's "Butterflies"  http://butterfliesanimation.com/  ), had a set of silicone eyelids to stick on with a dab of petroleum jelly while animating, in 4 or 5 stages from fully open to fully closed. This was a definite improvement on making and destroying the plasticine eyelids each time, they were nicely painted and also had eyelashes attached. Some of the thin slivers that only closed the eyelids a little bit stayed on for the whole shot.

C.  Sometimes I do the blinks in post-production, in TV Paint Animation (like Photoshop but for video, so you can see all the frames on the timeline and save the whole shot at once when you are done.)  I sample colours and even clone bits of texture to add eyelids on another layer, and can also do a little stretching and warping of the image.  This is good for rapid blinks - typically I do 4 frames, from fully open I do half closed, 2 frames fully closed, one frame half open, then back to fully open as shot.  Not so good for keeping eyes half closed for a long time as the puppet moves about, for that I would recommend Isabel's method of silicone eyelids.

2.  Cast the silicone first if possible.  Once you have cast foam latex in the mould, traces of sulphur can prevent the silicone from curing.  I wrecked a good plaster mould for a head this way.  However, with a fibreglass mould and release agent, you can probably clean it off and re-apply release agent so that there is no trace of sulphur left.  Probably.

3. That's a pretty standard way to split a mould.

I did my big allosaurus initially as a front half, with head, neck, chest and little front arms, something like what you are planning.  What you see in this photo is what there was:

(Later I made the tail as another piece, and a pair of hind legs, and assembled the pieces after casting, to make the whole animal.)  I splayed the arms to the sides a bit more than you have, and had just a front half and a back half of the mould.  No split on the back half.  There was a bit of thin neck wattle that would have made a very narrow deep mould in the throat area, so I made that as a separate piece to stick on later, rather than split the mould in front.  I think I had a third piece, a mouth insert, with a seam line along the top and bottom lips,  to get that bit around the back of the lips. It was so I wouldn't have clay trapped in the mould around the corner from where I could see, looking in from the back of the front mould piece.  

You have a bit of a neck wattle as well, but not as narrow based as mine, so it may be ok to dig the clay out, and pull the latex out.

4. There was a separately sculpted pair of denture plates for the gums and teeth.  The hatchling, however, had the inside of the mouth as part of the main mould.

5.  I usually make long rabbit ears as a separate thing.  They can be sculpted as part of the head if that is where the mould splits, but I liked to make them with a thin membrane of liquid latex so it was translucent, rather than with the foam latex.  I suppose this would work with silicone, too, but haven't done it.

 

Thank you so much! That's a good thing to know; I guess I'll have to think about making two moulds then. Thanks for your help!:)

Mike said:

The only bit I can weigh in on is the molding and casting part. If you plan to do two casts (one latex and one silicone), it would be best to make two separate molds. Most silicones (at least the different types I've worked with) do not like to share molds with latex. Certain combinations even react after they've cured. It can produce bubbles, prevent the silicone from curing, or, at worst, slowly dissolve the silicone after it's cured. Very very difficult to clean a mold thoroughly enough to use for both, especially one made from a porous compound like a plaster.

Other than that, I really like this sculpt. Nice design, interesting and natural looking forms. Very cool.

Again, thank you so so so much Nick. I really, really appreciate all your extremely thorough advice! Beautiful work on the dinosaur puppets! I'll have to some experimenting with the eyes, but you've given me a good start. Thanks again:)

On the mouldmaking, it just depends on how complicated you want your mould to become. Multi-part moulds can get quite problematic, and often need a jacket to hold all the pieces together. You will need a chest section as you indicated. Think about the seams and how you might disguise them later. Bear in mind that a straight line will stand out.

Undercuts are not too much of a problem provided they are not too deep to damage the flexible material, in this case your actual puppet. So a separate mouth mould may be a good move. Gluing latex together is OK, but silicone is famously reluctant to stick. There is some special glue from Smooth-on that should do the job.

I did ears for my hounds integrally as part of a 4-part plaster mould. I had to take care not to introduce any undercuts in the mould pieces themselves! But they were fairly straightforward as they were wide and flat on the back of the head. In the end, though, I made latex extensions as they turned out too stubby!

Translucency in silicone works well. See all the ears in Paranorman lit from behind! Just a matter of getting the sculpt reasonably thin and not putting too much pigment in. Here's a tip from my TV days - I used to snip red crepe hair into the mix (this was gelatine, but would work in silicone) to simulate veins.

Nice sculpt, looks quite a jolly dragon!

Cheers Simon, thanks for all your advice! I'm going to stick with doing him in silicone. Do you think that having the seam line run down the front of the face is a bad idea? Should I do what Nick said and splay the arms a bit more, and just have a 2 piece mould; one of the back and one of the front. Or should I still do a 3-piece mould; chest, left side, right side?


Simon Tytherleigh said:

On the mouldmaking, it just depends on how complicated you want your mould to become. Multi-part moulds can get quite problematic, and often need a jacket to hold all the pieces together. You will need a chest section as you indicated. Think about the seams and how you might disguise them later. Bear in mind that a straight line will stand out.

Undercuts are not too much of a problem provided they are not too deep to damage the flexible material, in this case your actual puppet. So a separate mouth mould may be a good move. Gluing latex together is OK, but silicone is famously reluctant to stick. There is some special glue from Smooth-on that should do the job.

I did ears for my hounds integrally as part of a 4-part plaster mould. I had to take care not to introduce any undercuts in the mould pieces themselves! But they were fairly straightforward as they were wide and flat on the back of the head. In the end, though, I made latex extensions as they turned out too stubby!

Translucency in silicone works well. See all the ears in Paranorman lit from behind! Just a matter of getting the sculpt reasonably thin and not putting too much pigment in. Here's a tip from my TV days - I used to snip red crepe hair into the mix (this was gelatine, but would work in silicone) to simulate veins.

Nice sculpt, looks quite a jolly dragon!

I wasn't thinking about those big spines on the back of your dragon's neck - you need to either go with the left and right back pieces like you planned, or make the spines separately and attach them after the head is cast. Spines can be made from epoxy putty, wood, or other hard materials, without casting them in a mould, so you don't need to get a seam line down the middle of them.

A front-and-back 2-piece would set your seam lines behind the eye sockets (say, down the temple area) and at the sides of the arms. Splaying them out would make the mould easier. You might need to look at the way the nose spreads towards the front, to be sure that it releases OK, as it will now create an undercut. Also the mouth. If the silicone is soft it should be OK.

You could go for a 4-part, with the interior of the mouth being one section. This would allow you to sculpt quite deep sections in there The other sections for the front part of the mould would be top of head and then the rest below the lower jaw. Do the back in one piece, attach spines as per Nick's advice, then the back becomes quite simple.

This way you get a seam line coming back from the corners of the mouth and then running along the lips top and bottom, which would be easier to conceal. It would make it easier for you to get the interior mouth section if the mouth is more open than you have sculpted so far. (For my hounds I simply sculpted a box-shaped hollow inside, then added hard palates (as Nick described), made in Milliput. but then I did do the lower jaw separately, so that was cheating! I've attached a couple of shots of my very unfinished hound (in latex, not silicone). One has the lower palate removed. Seams with the fur are still conspicuous, they need some hairs over them. Fur hides a multitude of sins! The jaws have aluminium wire set into them so they can be shaped a bit.... Looked at the photos - ouch, too sharp and shiny, good thing he will be seen at night in a thunderstorm! Still lots to do, you should be able to see the seam line going back from the lower lip.)

When you separate the mould, you would remove the back first, then the top of head and lower piece, and finally the interior of the mouth, which would otherwise get stuck because of undercuts, but will now release because the model will be able to open its mouth.

So the casting would be in this order: Interior of mouth with clay walls along lip-line. Then upper head, with clay wall to join onto back section, lower body ditto, and finally the back section. Or back section, mouth, then head and body. Make sure the mouth mould section keys well into the head and body sections, because they will be supporting it in space. If they work well, then you just need some tape round the outside of the assembled mould to keep everything together during your pour. If the mould tends to fall apart, you need to make a jacket......hang on, I think you said you were going to do the mould in glassfibre. I was thinking plaster..... OK, so you make flanges, with keys, for the GF sections, and simply bolt them back together. Drill the holes before separating the finished mould. You don't need a jacket.

Does any of the above make sense?

Attachments:

Thank you so much! Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I'll have to weigh out my options and see what works in the amount of time that I will have. Obviously, the dragon's not finished, and I haven't really finalized on a design in terms of his finish. But seriously, thanks so much for your very detailed advice! I'll post updates when I finish sculpting/moulding, and maybe I will have more questions:)

Thanks!

Simon Tytherleigh said:

A front-and-back 2-piece would set your seam lines behind the eye sockets (say, down the temple area) and at the sides of the arms. Splaying them out would make the mould easier. You might need to look at the way the nose spreads towards the front, to be sure that it releases OK, as it will now create an undercut. Also the mouth. If the silicone is soft it should be OK.

You could go for a 4-part, with the interior of the mouth being one section. This would allow you to sculpt quite deep sections in there The other sections for the front part of the mould would be top of head and then the rest below the lower jaw. Do the back in one piece, attach spines as per Nick's advice, then the back becomes quite simple.

This way you get a seam line coming back from the corners of the mouth and then running along the lips top and bottom, which would be easier to conceal. It would make it easier for you to get the interior mouth section if the mouth is more open than you have sculpted so far. (For my hounds I simply sculpted a box-shaped hollow inside, then added hard palates (as Nick described), made in Milliput. but then I did do the lower jaw separately, so that was cheating! I've attached a couple of shots of my very unfinished hound (in latex, not silicone). One has the lower palate removed. Seams with the fur are still conspicuous, they need some hairs over them. Fur hides a multitude of sins! The jaws have aluminium wire set into them so they can be shaped a bit.... Looked at the photos - ouch, too sharp and shiny, good thing he will be seen at night in a thunderstorm! Still lots to do, you should be able to see the seam line going back from the lower lip.)

When you separate the mould, you would remove the back first, then the top of head and lower piece, and finally the interior of the mouth, which would otherwise get stuck because of undercuts, but will now release because the model will be able to open its mouth.

So the casting would be in this order: Interior of mouth with clay walls along lip-line. Then upper head, with clay wall to join onto back section, lower body ditto, and finally the back section. Or back section, mouth, then head and body. Make sure the mouth mould section keys well into the head and body sections, because they will be supporting it in space. If they work well, then you just need some tape round the outside of the assembled mould to keep everything together during your pour. If the mould tends to fall apart, you need to make a jacket......hang on, I think you said you were going to do the mould in glassfibre. I was thinking plaster..... OK, so you make flanges, with keys, for the GF sections, and simply bolt them back together. Drill the holes before separating the finished mould. You don't need a jacket.

Does any of the above make sense?

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