Sculpting and Sculpting Materials
Custom sculpting a figure or parts of a figure is one of the best ways to ensure it is unique. Sculpting may seem daunting at first, but once mastered it is a very rewarding skill.
Here are some common customizing tools you can probably find around your house or pick up cheap.
- Stylus - A special sculpting tool, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common shape is a dual endel tool - one end being flattend for smoothing out, the other a dull blade for scoring and texturing.
- Water - Nothing smoothes surfaces better than a little water rubbed over the putty. A little on your fingers and tools stops it sticking to you while you work.
- Rubber Gloves - This is the best way to avoid leaving finger prints on a newly sculpted part. Household cleaning gloves or packs of latex 'surgical' gloves are the two best options.
- Dentist Pick - Maybe not common, but can be bought for about $3. A nice curved sharp hook for detailing and adding texture.
- Tooth Pick - Adding detail or rolling a small price flat.
- X-Acto or other knife - Between the sharp point, ability to cut off extra, and flattened edge this is one of the most versatile tools to work with Sculpey you'll already have.
- Other flat surface and flat edged items allow you get the shape you want.
- Textured Items - Sometimes it is easier and looks better to simply press a textured item like denim, fur, or burlap into the Sculpey than it would be to try to sculpt that detail on.
- Hands and Fingers - Nothing is easier than working with your hands to get the rough shape you want and using finger nails for minor details.
Types of Sculpting Material
There are several different types of moldable materials used in customizing. Sculpey, epoxy, kneadite and milliput all fall into this category and are discussed in detail below.
There are several different kinds of Sculpey that you can find in hobby shops or craft departments. The most common in the customizing world are Sculpey, Super Sculpey, Sculpey III, Bendable Sculpey. Each has distinct advantages and things to watch out for. Below are some descriptions of their uses and some general tips on how to better use them.
Sculpey can be bought for $5 for an 8 lb brick just about anywhere crafts are sold. It is white and pretty easy to work with once it is kneaded a little to loosen up. It retains its shape fairly well unless you need something small or really fine detailed. Like all other Sculpey you can either bake it separately or boil it on the plastic part. The boiling method is customizing favorite.
Super Sculpey I & II
Super Sculpey can be found at most hobby stores and some craft stores. It too comes in an 8 lb brick for anywhere between $5-$10. It is light tan/peach in color. It is tougher to kneed as it is made to retain its shape better than regular Sculpey and handles finer detail way better. Perfect for adding molded on details or adding layers of clothing.
Sculpey III comes in small 2 ounce cubes for about $2-3 each. It comes in a multitude of colors that can be mixed to get the right color to work with. It retains it shape extremely well and can handle the finest details. Like Super Sculpey you will get a hand cramp trying to loosen it up to work with.
Sculpey and Super Sculpey are perfect for adding molded on features to a custom, creating parts from scratch, creating molds for casting, and even creating a cast itself. They can be baked or boiled. Once cooked and hardened they can be sanded to achieve a smooth finish.
Bake and Bend Sculpey or Bendable Sculpey is a relatively new product. It is supposed to be able to be completely bendable once it is cooked. However it is not as much bendable as it has a slight give to it. It is a lot tackier than the other kinds of Sculpey. While it is a good idea to use rubber gloves so as not to leave finger prints when working with all Sculpey, it is almost necessary when working with Bendable Sculpey. It also does not hold its shape very well and won't work for smaller finer detailed items. It is great for making removable hats/helmets, hair, skirts, tails, straps or any other item that could hinder a figures articulation and would need to have a slight pliability.
Another common material, epoxy putty is an air-drying compound usually sold as a tube or stick in the hardware section or at hobby stores. Epoxy is often comparativly cheap, but non-modeller specific brands (such as plumber's epoxy) is often not suited to fine detail work. Epoxy also must be kept wrapped when not in use or it will dry out. The "As Seen on TV" brand Mighty Putty is probably the most widely known but there are thousands of brands. Customizers have also used ones made for car repair like Bondo for larger jobs.
A two part epoxy compound, kneadite comes in several diffent forms and from several diffent manufacturers (though kneadite is a brand name). Kneadite comes in a long, bi-colour strip and the two sections need to be kneaded together before use. There is usually a blue strip and a lighter colour strip (either white, green or yellow). If more of the darker strip is used the mix will be firmer and hold its shape better. More of the softer, lighter strip and the material will be easier to manipulate, but very soft and sticky. Another common name is "green stuff" - the name it is sold under by Games Workshop.
Aves Apoxie Sculpt
Is a two part air drying compound that comes in two jars. When even amounts are mixed together, it becomes a mold-able, sculpt-able material closer to soft clay than putty. It holds fine details very well. When seriously wet down goes on smooth like a paste. When it dries it is rock hard and can be sanded or drilled.
For a tutorial on the use of Mighty Putty, Kneadtite, and Apoxie Sculpt please see the following article: Putty in my Hands