taking one frame at a time since 1999


As you can see from the picture I'm having trouble finding a material which I can cover the ball and socket and hinge armature (mostly brass and steel) with, which the clay will hold on to, so it doesn't crack and fall off all the time as it does here. I'm currently using black fabric tape. Is there any sort of thing I can cover the metal with which will do the job?

How do Aardman do it? I guess they have clothes on don't they. 

Any help would be amazing!



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I don't use clay, but have found in a book that the way to get clay to stick to wire (and I reckon this will apply to stuff like fabric tape) is to melt the clay for a first layer. It will then penetrate the tape and hold firm. Subsequent layers of clay can then be added cold and will stick to the first (inner) one.

This was advice given for Van Aken clay. I am not sure whether it applies to the Newplast stuff. You will have to experiment (carefully) in trying to melt it...

Thanks Simon. I found out in my last film that you can't melt newplast...

I guess I'll try and find some Van Aken when the shops open. Does anyone know of a good place to get it online or not?

Oh, that's a pity. 

So you are restricted to a purely mechanical key in that case. It needs to be something like a metal mesh, perhaps. Hmm....

Have you used Polymorph? It is a bit like a very solid version of hot glue, in that it can be heated to melt. As it sets hard, and can be persuaded to adhere to ball and socket armatures (I like to squeeze it on with wet fingers, then use a hot air gun to re-melt it so it gets as firmly attached as possible. While it is good for making smooth shapes, it can be sawn a bit and could also be applied in blobs around a core. And you can manipulate it to make e.g. a rough knurled pattern. Might be worth trying.

Incidentally, it is recommended to put the Polymorph into a bowl and pour boiling water on it to melt. I only do this the first time, when I get the soft mass out of the water I spread it onto the metal edge of my sink to make a long stick of the stuff (like a flattened cheese straw!). Then when I need some, I just use the hot air gun to soften it (it goes transparent when soft) and pull it off with wet fingers - always wet...try it dry and you will know why!

BTW, the answer about Aardman is that they are using silicone and making it look like clay these days!

Have you looked into Puppet Putty?

The Stopmo Store usually sells it but I see they are out of stock. It's good stuff. Clay is a lot of work no matter what but this clay is optimized for stop motion.

I messaged Don Carlson at Puppet Putty who told me that his product will be available in a few months. Meanwhile, he has this advice about Newplast:

“For one thing, fabric tape is not ideal. It has too many fibers, and would be like trying to stick clay to a piece of cotton. Instead, painter's blue tape, duct tape, electrical tape, or masking tape will allow the clay to adhere. If the animator wanted a tape that stuck even less for the purposes of lip sync with the tape in the back of the mouth, they could use vinyl tape... But for the purposes of adhesion, any of the above tape types will work. 

If even that does not let the clay the key into it, what will do that is taking a very thin piece of steel wire and wrapping it like a screw thread around the puppet, twisting the ends and shoving them into the body where it isn't handled often. I would follow that up with a piece of tape to hold the ends in place. That screw like thread really grabs the clay and keeps it from shifting around. I always use single strand wires with replaceable parts armatures, if the character needs to be used in multiple scenes. If not, then the armature can be as simple as an Alumaloy 1/16" single strand wire with the steel wire wrapped around it and no replaceable parts system. With one of those, I've gotten several shots without breakage, and when it finally did break, it still hung on by the thin steel wire. The only project I ever used Newplast on was Ether B, and it's not my favorite clay, but it's pretty expressive and the heat insensitivity to hot lighting was very nice. Actually used a yellow bug light on that project, and it started to smell because I had touched it and it was burning the finger oil that had smudged on the bulb. That Newplast character didn't have any armature in it at all.”

I just found a nice new clay that has been really fun to animate with.  It is called "JOVI plastilina".  It has some similarities to puppet putty in that the color doesn't go all over your hands, it is lightweight, and it holds its shape pretty well in many conditions.  It is softer and can be used right out of the pack without having to condition it or heat it up.  I used it over a twister wire armature and had good success.  The twisted wire and indented "bones" helped hold the clay to the armature.  Stop Motion University has an in-depth course on making wire armatures and does a special section on clay.  I found it very helpful.

Just how lightweight is the Jovi plastilina?

Currently, I'm building a puppet mainly using ultra-lightweight foam clay, which is a bit like modeling with whip cream, until it starts drying.

I'm missing a lightweight non-drying clay.

Cosclay is too heavy and rigid - reminds me of Sculpy - just a lot more durable.

So how heavy is Jovi compared to ... would you say?

Thanks so much everyone!

Jovi is heavier than the ultralight foam clay but seems a bit lighter than sculpey.  

From the website's description: "Composed primarily of vegetable material, it contains 33% more volume per ounce than mineral-based modeling clay."  So I guess by their claim it is one-third lighter than other clays of a similar type.

Hans Jacob Wagner said:

Just how lightweight is the Jovi plastilina?

Currently, I'm building a puppet mainly using ultra-lightweight foam clay, which is a bit like modeling with whip cream, until it starts drying.

I'm missing a lightweight non-drying clay.

Cosclay is too heavy and rigid - reminds me of Sculpy - just a lot more durable.

So how heavy is Jovi compared to ... would you say?


I feel I am a little late to this tread. But maybe this will help. I paint rubber latex on my armature. I give it 2 or 3 thin coats. Don't put talcum powder or anything on it. let it stay sticky. once it dries completely, I paint a melted layer of clay on the armature or put thin sheets of clay to form a base. then build up on that. 

Another tip use a double boiler to melt the clay add a little mineral oil to loosen it up. Not much maybe half a teaspoon to a standard pack of clay. This will give you a smooth melted clay. I heard a crockpot on low will melt modeling clay good as well but I never tried it. 


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