taking one frame at a time since 1999

Ok guys, so after a very stressful week I have a devil puppet made from silicone. However the weight of the puppet is ridiculous and he doesn't bend mush at the torso, which is a royal pain as he will be sitting for many shots!

the limbs and the head mechanism work well but I am now thinking i may need to take some time out and have a real think about remaking the whole thing from a different material. I have never used foam latex before but I assume it would be far lighter and have bend better in thick sections compared to silicone? The other method I was thinking about would be to skin the mold with a layer of standard latex and then backfill will a very soft expanding polyurethane flex foam.

It is a real shame because I have spent so much time and money on trying to make this the best puppet I have created but I am thinking further down the line that animating will be too tricky in its current silicone form. If anybody has any ideas they want to share then as always your input is valued. Thanks.  

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Great looking puppet. If he's sitting most of the time, is there an option of cutting slits in the back to allow him to bend? Anything that doesn't show on camera- nobody will ever know... Or frame him from the waist-up during those sitting shots?

I thought about doing some tricks with the framing, and it is a possibility. I was also thinking about possibly cutting him open along the seam lines and cutting out some of the silicone in thick areas and replacing with foam, but I am not sure if I want to risk it. It is frustrating to have got this far and have to consider remaking the puppet, but you know what it's like when you have spent so much time and effort on something to be left dissatisfied with the end result. I think i will certainly finish the puppet off and have him at a workable stage as I intend to start a Kick starter campaign at some point so depending on how successful that is I may be able to think about recreating it.

I have just been making some silicone heads using the very soft Dragon Skin FX pro. This seems to be quite light, but I have still made an armature inside to hollow it out - saves money on the costly silicone too.

The way I did the armatures was to line the mould halves with soft clay (Plastiline) to the thickness I want the silicone, then put about 3mm of Milliput inside the clay (Next time I'll use some cling film before putting the Milliput in.) I then pulled out the now-set Milliput, joined and sanded it, added eyebrow paddles, jaw and a neck wire etc etc.

The tricky bit seems to be holding the armature in the correct position in the mould while filling it with silicone. You could have some little supports at the back that rest on the mould. Paint the first layer of silicone into the mould to give the surface, then place the armature, using more silicone to fix it in place. My head armatures were positioned by the eyes, which were held in place by wires set in the plaster mould....

Then you seal up the mould and pour the rest of the silicone in, resulting in a hollow form with a skin. This has to be lighter and more rigid than solid silicone.

Good luck - nice sculpting, by the way!

What is the shore hardness of the silicone?  And what thickness of wire, and how many strands?  (or is it a jointed armature?)  The devil just isn't that bulky, with a strong armature it should work.

I had that problem with a very fat Sumo wrestler - he can't bend at the waist.  He was cast in Platsil Gel-10.  The first attempt, with 2 strands of 3mm wire in each leg, couldn't stand up either, it was too heavy.  Cushion foam inside the belly actually made it worse - I cut it open and the silicone had soaked into the foam, making it even stiffer than the silicone by itself.   But a much bigger Sumo guy, cast in foam latex, is much much lighter and works fine with the same amount of wire.  The drawback is the way the latex skin can wrinkle.  That wouldn't be so bad with the devil, the 6-pack abs acts as a guide to help the foam bend in the right places.

My second attempt at the smaller sumo puppet used 3 strands of 3mm wire in legs and spine, and a softer Smooth-On  Ecoflex 00-30 silicone, and it now stands up and does most things ok, but still can't bend it's thick waist very well.  And his arms won't go up much past the horizontal. But I did a female figure is silicone that is closer in bulk to your devil, and it animates ok without going to extra wire that makes it hard to bend.   I really think that devil puppet of yours can work in a soft silicone.

For a large Allosaurus puppet I made lots of horizontal cuts in the neck area to help it flex it's neck more when stretching forward to take a bite.   The cuts don't show on the surface, I inserted my small curved scissors and made the cuts inside, so there is only a tiny hole on the surface.  But inside the neck is like a lattice.  But that was foam latex -  once cut, silicone is much more prone to tear open than latex.


The silicone is shore A 13 so comparatively soft anyway, I know Platsil is shore 10 but i was put off using it by the short working time. I have some silicone deadener  but i decided against using it as the silicone becomes like a gel and remains tacky, and I did not want to take the risk. 

The armature is a ball and socket and does hold tension very well, i think it is solely due to the fact the silicone is about 40mm thick! I imagine it would be hard to fight the resistance against that amount of silicone which always wants to spring back to its original form.

After assessing the puppet some more, he can actually support himself on one foot ( hoof!) which almost makes my decision harder. At the moment I am trying to sort the paint job out. I bought some Pyscho paint base and used it with good effects on every other piece except the body, where it remained tacky. So last night i diluted some of the shore A 13 silicone and used it to try and seal the paint to the body.

As Even suggested in the first response, I could be clever with the framing of the shots. It is just hugely frustrating that it works so well, yet there is little bend in the torso. There are two rigging points in the back and in the pelvis which I suppose i could utilise during sitting shots, and actually rig him up to the chair kinda forcing him to bend in the middle.

I should hopefully have the devil completed in a few days so will be able to show you more of his restrictions, in the meantime I am going to experiment with a new brand of polyurethane flex foam and see what results I get using a latex skin back filled with the foam. However I imagine the wrinkles will be similar to foam latex?

The Smooth-On Dragon Skin stuff I have been using is I think Shore A 2, so very soft indeed. It has a consistency similar to foam latex, although it is probably heavier.

40mm thick silicone is a lot. I was wondering about Nick's issue with the silicone soaking into the cushion foam. What about sealing the cushion foam before placing it in the mould? Then the silicone would not soak in... A couple of thin coats of silicone??

Latex skin from liquid latex will not have the same sort of wrinkle characteristics as foam latex. If you need extra tear strength with the liquid latex, add pieces of ladies' tights inside.

I created a puppet a little while ago using the cushion foam that was sealed with cling film with a silicone skin, but the puppet bent very unrealistically and just didn't look right.  Maybe the foam was too soft?

I am hoping the latex skin with back filled foam will not have the same issue!

when you say it wont have the same wrinkle effect do you mean it will wrinkle more?

Foam latex forms very fine wrinkles, from the surface skin and paint layers being less soft and flexible than the foam underneath. A skin from liquid latex doesn't form such fine wrinkles, but if there is a softer material underneath, like 2 part urethane foam, it can form bigger folds. If the latex skin is thick, when the puppet bends at the waist, it can fold right in, in one spot, like a rubber boot. Probably similar to a skin of silicine with soft urethane foam inside.
With my wire armatures, I just make up another armature and cast a new puppet, and only if it is an improvement do I strip off the first armature. With your jointed armature I guess you would have to strip off what looks like a really nice silicone skin, then hope the next one is better... A real dilemma.
One thing concerns me, if it is a plaster mould. Casting latex in it could leave traces of sulphur, which will inhibit the cure of platinum based silicone after that.

My sumo puppet had a belly that's 70 or 80 mm deep, so 40mm doesn't sound so bad. But it's more than my female figure's waist, which is probably 30mm.
A softer silicone inside the skin, like the shore 00-30 or the A-2, would be softer than adding deadener to your A-13 without being sticky.

I think I would be tempted to leave the puppet for now because it is looking so good, and try out the different materials on a wire armature and see how they work. Maybe use the second puppet for certain scenes where it needs to perform actions the first one can't do.

Thanks Nick,

I am doing some tests at the moment with liquid latex and the flex foam I have due to waiting on some different foam which I think is softer, so when that arrives I will test it out thoroughly. That was exactly what i experienced with a previous puppet with irregular folds with the foam underneath, so it sounds like a good suggestion to leave the armature alone until i can see the results of the latex method.

Already I can see how much easier the latex method is to paint and trim and seam, there are no worries about adhesion like there is with silicone, and painting the final piece may actually be a pleasurable experience for once!

I will see how the test piece with the foam and latex behaves with a wire armature and if its a good method I will replace the armature. I should be able to wash the mold out with white spirit or toluene if i need to cast silicone again, I actually cast a tin cure silicone and a latex devil head before this platinum one and believe it or not this is by far the piece that came out the best!

It sounds like you are covering all the options!
I find that painting is one area where I definitely get better results on latex, because I can use something that is mostly a real paint. I too used Psycho Paint a couple of times, then went back to usimg the same silicone the puppet was made from - got problems with the Psych paint not always curing if I used enough pigment or enough solvent to actually make it work like a paint.

I know exactly what you are saying with regard to the psycho paint! I'm sure there is an optimum way to use this stuff but I am certainly yet to work it out. 

Below is a quick test on a leg , both have just a single piece of wire, the green leg is made from shore 20 tin cure silicone (so not the platinum base I was using for the devil) and the red one is a latex skin back filled with the flex foam, (my new soft foam should arrive tomorrow!)  Silicone leg weighs in at 23 grams,the latex one at half the weight!

More tests to come

What is the pose the leg was sculpted in?  And how does it look straightened out, and with the knee bent as far as you can?

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