Foam Latex or Silicone, need some suggestion. thx

I want to make some puppet and shot some clips for fun. I made some foam latex puppets before (way back to 07-10) and they are pretty good except the smell is not good if I make them in the basement with no way to get the smell out. I never tried silicone, while I saw some pretty cool puppets on internet. I am trying plasticine but the effect really not as good as foam latex. Need some suggestions to choose:

The reason for foam latex:

1. Light weight.

2. Easier to paint.

The reasons for silicone:

1. Puppet lasts longer time.

2. No oven and smell.

3. Cheaper? not sure...

One of the puppets I want to make is like the picture attached.


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The picture shows quite a bulky figure, and this can be a problem in silicone, which is quite heavy. There is a foam silicone, called Soma Foama, but it is expensive and sets off in 90 seconds!

If you can make that puppet in foam latex, it would be the best way to go. Any chance of installing some fume extraction in the basement? You could use the sort of fan sold for bathrooms and some flexible ducting to make a temporary extractor.

What a fantastic figure!  And yes, the bulk will make it difficult to animate in silicone.  It will be heavy, and the armature will need to be stiff to bend it very far at the waist without the silicone making it bounce back.  If you can get Soama-Foama silicone foam to fill it with that could help.

I made 2 Sumo wrestlers, one 10 1/2" tall, from silicone.  The first cast, with my usual 2 strands of 3mm armature wire in each leg and spine, could not be animated.  The arms could move a bit, but not as far as I wanted, the waist could hardly bend at all, and the legs struggled to hold the weight. I stripped it off and made a heavier armature with 3 strands of 3mm wire in legs and spine, and it was usable, but still couldn't bend as far as I would have liked.  And it was very stiff and hard to animate. 

The second wrestler was 12" tall and correspondingly thicker, and I used foam latex for that.  2 strands of wire were fine, it weighed about a third as much, and was easy to animate.  But I did get some wrinkling in the skin, which you don't get with silicone.

I can't buy Soma Foama here, but Ron Cole in NY has used it, and it does bond to the silicone skin, and make the puppet lighter and easier to bend.

I don't know if I can post this short test video of the 2 puppets directly from my computer  without uploading it at youtube or somewhere, I'll see... No, I need to post an embed code from Youtube or similar.  

The other difference is in the way they catch the light, the silicone is a bit translucent and picks up a glow from backlighting that the foam latex does not. 

After 7 or 8 years the silicone puppet is still in good condition, but the latex puppet is showing signs of ageing.  So solving the weight and stiffness problem would be well worth it.

If you use silicone, bulk the armature like you're making a build-up puppet and it should be fine.

I bulked the armature with cushion foam, like I usually do, but the silicone soaked in.  It ended up just as heavy as solid silicone, but even stiffer, because the foam in the silicone reinforced it and made it less stretchy.  For my second cast, I left the foam out, except for a thin coating of thin foam over the wire to give the foam something to grip on to.  If you could seal it all completely so the silicone can't get in it might work, but even a small gap and it soaks in like water into a sponge.

Sealing cushion foam can be done using builder's silicone, which is thick and doesn't soak in. But you would need as Nick says to make sure there isn't even a tiny gap for the liquid stuff to soak through. I have only done some experimenting with this so far, but will soon be making a bulky blacksmith character, so will try it out in earnest.

Thank you guys!

I think I will keep going with foam latex, while the arm/hand I will use silicone. I used GM foam latex before. It is very good if properly control the ration/time when building the puppets. The only concern is the puppet's hands. The thread of finger sometimes goes out because foam latex is not strong enough. 

I still have a conventional oven which I used to bake foam. It is perfect for baking the mold of small puppets. 

I am in Toronto and there is a distributor of Monster maker foam latex here. I never tried it but I think it has pretty good reputation. 

I found this very interesting to read, as I'm trying to learn the foam latex puppet approach next.. thanks guys..

For fingers that poke through,  you can coat the ends of the wire in latex base first, let it dry and then cast the armature in your mold with foam latex.  

For making a lightweight puppet in silicone, why not cast it in a fluffy foam latex first, then clip back the top layer of foam with scissors. Just enough to expose the cells.  Then coat it in a fast-catalyzing silicone with a brush. Paint a layer of silicone into your puppet mold, with a release like Challenge 90 sprayed on, then squish your foam puppet (with the scratch coat of silicone on it cured) BACK into the mold. Clamp it shut for 16 hours. The silicone layers will fuse to each other, and you'll have a silicone skinned puppet that can bend at the waist.  If the foam is too dense still,  make lots of uniform holes all over it so it can compress even more.  You can also paint in different tinted colors of silicone in your mold if you use Ultra Fast catalyst and do one color at a time, letting each section of color catalyze enough to push it back to the cut-off line or cut it gently with an X-acto knife. If you want to inlay colors, then lay them into the mold first, let them catalyze fully. And then paint the silicone onto your foam and squish in the mold. Just a few suggestions that I've done myself.

Thank you Kathi !

The silicone coated foam latex puppet is quite complicated for me, even I had some experience of foam latex puppet. I will try it when I find the way to tint silicone easily. Foam latex is good for non-shining surface like clothes, but not very good with skin. One of my puppet will be a boxer, so the wrinkle of skin will be ugly with foam latex. I may try silicone coated way.

Another bad side of foam is the smell. I need a workshop with good ventilation,while the only choice is my garage. I have to wait the weather changing warm here:(

Yeah I hear you Jet..  I'm thinking I need  a shed next if I'm going down the foam latex rabbit hole.. there's so much outlay and factors to do this.. Simon did warn me recently.. I'm looking at the now lol.. I think I am looking for a way to stay focussed on learning animation, capturing a good performance.. rather than getting into all this craft side of things.. it's a lot of work, and I was enjoying learning walk cycles and putting the puppet through it's limitations.. I just need a decent puppet.. ideally.. anyone want to make me one, but how much?

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