Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sculpting Tut: Basic Supplies

Okay so we are going to start this tutorial/q and a thing now. I apologize if my first couple of posts are a bit wordy, while I’m trying to figure out a good pace and format to explain what I need to. Since some of you mentioned you might want to follow along on your own sculpts, I’m going to start with a list of supplies you will need. Most of these you can find at your local art supply store, or you can order from I will give you the links so you know what you’re looking for.

Supply List

1. Super Sculpey- Super Sculpey is a semi-translucent, beige-pink clay that offers excellent modeling and tooling qualities. It can be baked in a regular kitchen oven.

*Tip: You can mix a 2 oz block of black and white Sculpey III to turn it gray and make it easier to pick out details. Or preferred with some professionals is Super Sculpey firm which is made in gray. (see below for more on clay)

2. Armature wire- I suggest Aluminum armature wire because it is more pliable. But any non plastic coated wire will do. You will want to get a medium thickness for the base skeleton, and a thinner one for arms, legs. (I recommend 6 or 4 gauge and 16 gauge to start)

*Tip: Gauge on wire is strange the smaller the number the larger around it is. So 16 gauge is thin while 4 is much thicker. For comparison a standard earring post is 18 gauge.

3. Wooden base- This can be any piece of smooth flat wood with no finish on it. I use cheap plaques from the art supply store.

4. Tin foil- Used for bulking out items, you can get this at any grocery store. I find the cheaper the better as it compresses much tighter. I usually wait for jewel to do a 10 for 10$ and stock up.

This ends the MUST HAVE part. Everything past this point is nice, or can make things much easier but is not necessary.

5. Plumbers putty- You can get this at any home depot/ace it’s a two part fast curing putty that you mix with your fingers and it sets in about five minutes. It will come in a tube its used for securing places where wires join. Here is a picture of what it will look like.

*Tip: I use Aves Apoxie for almost everything now. It has a much longer cure time but I use it over tinfoil or by itself to reinforce the frame work under thin areas. Some sculptors actually sculpt out of the Apoxie itself. I use it in maquettes because it makes them much sturdier for repeated transportation and display.

6. Wooden base- It makes a good finishing statement, and takes away any problems you might have with balance on a figure. They are a little harder to find some people can pick them up at collectible stores. You could sculpt directly on to the display base, but as they usually have a finish on them, when its baking it often bubbles and you end up having to sand it all flat again, and it is discolored if your not priming it.

7. Smoothing solvent- I have heard/used several different types, all do the same thing. It’s a liquid applied to the clay to smooth its surface prior to baking. Most commonly used is Turpinoid (A colorless odorless turpentine substitute), Sculpey solvent, Rubbing Alcohol (97%) or Lighter Fluid (I really do NOT recommend this)

*Tip: Once you learn the properties of each you might find yourself using more than one. I use alcohol on my sculpts because as it dries it leaches the oils out and can help firm up clay that I think is too soft. Turpinoid I use in the end because it dissolves the top layer and allows it to be smoothed down. A little goes a LONG way.

8. Primer- Probably the best kept secret in the world of maquettes is the liberal use of spray primer. You can buy it from any number of places, hobby stores, art supply stores, auto supply stores.

*Tip: make sure that its SANDABLE auto primer. I usually get fast dry in gray.

This ends the supply list, I will make another full post on tools as it deserves its own entry.

Also I would like to write a little more about Sculpey clay mix. This is as personal to most sculptors as a thumb print; some are very picky about texture, or firmness. Also like the solvents each mixture has a little different properties to it. When your first starting I recommend using Sculpey right out of the box, or mixed with some black and white for color as there is no need to spend time and money for a fancy mixture you may not even like. However for those of you that have a little more experience with clay and are looking for some different attributes you may find one of the recipes below helpful.

Please note these may not be the mixes the sculptors are currently using. These are just the mixes I have heard them or they have told me they use. I keep them on file under the names supplied so I remember where they came from.

Smellybugs Maquette Mix (Peter Konig’s Mix)
1 box Super Sculpey (1lb)
1 2oz block Sculpey III White
½ 2oz block Sculpey III Black
Nature of the mix: A soft mix that’s very easy to smooth and is very responsive with tools, very good for larger pieces and very delicate work if you have a smooth hand. Will bake up to a medium matte feel.

Popeye’s Mix (Tony Capraino’s mix, I think)
1 box Super Sculpey
1 2 oz block Fimo White
1 2oz block Fimo Black * (can use Sculpey’s Premo! For same results)

Nature of the mix: A more firm mix with a slight waxy feel, that will allow you to cut away more detailed designs. I have found it to be much more resistant to baked in cracking on thick parts. Cooks to a smoother matte finish.

Morty’s Mix (Mark Newman)
1 box Super Sculpey
1 box Super Sculpey Firm

Note: I have never used this mix, I was told that it’s more a “pinch” of one and a “pinch” of another worked together in his hands.

Shape Strong’s Mix (my mix)
2 boxes of Super Sculpey
1 pound of Premo! translucent
3 2oz blocks of Premo! White
1 ½ 2oz blocks of Premo! Black (or more if needed)

Nature of the mix: Very waxy feeling mixture that is very stiff to the touch and requires a lot of working to soften. Very good for carving away small details and building up vertical details. Cooks to a very smooth matte.



DivaLea said...

Hey Shape! I've been following you on DA for about a year.

I'm digging those recipes for sculpts. I hope it's okay to share mine:

1 pound Super Sculpey
1 block Kato black
1 block Kato white
(Kato comes in 3oz blocks)

I prefer Kato because of its flexibility, and its tolerance for re-curing. (Which is a fact of sculpting, those many small, light cures.)
It's also wonderfully stable and resilient even with very small, thin parts of a sculpt.
Super Sculpey, which is a misery on its own, is a good stretcher for Kato. I have a piece that is now 19 months old, and there are absolutely no cracks.

I smoothed with acetone and alcohol. (And ventilation.)

houseofduck said...

Plumbers putty is some of the nastiest smelling stuff this side of the garbage dump... My wife wont let me even think about using it in the house...

Thank you for doing this I am really looking forward to reading as you go!!!

MrTractor said...

Great stuff! It's amazing to see someone so talented share their insights.