Custom Class with Rust This World: Lesson 2 – Sculpting

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Alright children, class is back in session after a long summer break. Today, we’ll be talking about sculpting. Sculpting is something that can really take your figure to the next level. More and more vinyls are coming with accessories these days; whether it’s a hat, a weapon, or even little stuff like the rim of Darth Vader’s helmet in Star Wars 2. Today I’m going to teach you how to do this yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share ideas for future tutorials. Just leave a comment here or tweet me @rustthisworld. Also check out Lesson 1 – A Beginner’s Guide.

Part 1: Common sculpting materials that custom artists have used.

Sculpey

Sculpey is everyone’s favorite hobby clay. Regular Sculpey is brittle and flimsy when it hardens, so I wouldn’t recommend using it. However, Super Sculpey is a different story. Super Sculpey hardens much harder and stronger. Super Sculpey is great if you want to sculpt something really detailed because it holds detail very well when cooking. Sculpey has a huge downside, you have to heat it in some way for it to harden. This means either baking it or boiling it, both of which can cause serious harm to your vinyl. If you heat it, you probably don’t want to put your figure in the oven as it could melt and release toxic fumes. Heather of Customations fame apparently bakes her figures with the Sculpey attached to it, but just heats at a low temperature. The other way to get the Sculpey to harden is to hold the vinyl and clay with a pair of tongs in a pot of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Now I need to move on and stop talking about Sculpey because the word Sculpey now sounds completely weird in my head. Sculpey.

Crayola Air Dry Clay

Pros: It air dries! No heating required.
Cons: It sucks in everyone other way. It doesn’t hold detail, crumbles and cracks very easily, and is very fragile and hard to work with. It’s for kids to sculpt snakes out of and eat, not for serious use.

Epoxy Putty

Epoxy Putty is a two part compound that when mixed together hardens. There are many different kinds of Epoxy, most are for industrial use, like fixing pipes and filling holes. This kind of Epoxy holds no detail or shape as it’s meant to just expand and fill a space. Other kinds are meant specifically for hobby sculpting, like for models or miniatures. Another custom artist, Joe of War, uses Aves brand of Epoxy and gets good results. Games Workshop (who make my favorite Citadel Paint) have a kind of Epoxy called “Green Stuff” which holds amazing detail and dries rock hard, but it is expensive.

And finally, my secret weapon.

Makin’s Clay

I love Makin’s Clay, and I use it for all of my custom projects that require sculpted modification. It air dries, so you don’t need to cook it. Not only that, but it air dries as hard as plastic. I’ve dropped some of my sculpted pieces from like 8 feet off of the ground and they didn’t break. It comes in all kinds of colors, including Glow In The Dark, though I mainly just use plain white. or “natural”. Since it’s water-based, it makes creating smooth even sculpted extremely easy.

I get mine at Hobby Lobby, but it can also be found online.

Part 2: Some other things you’ll want

Super Glue

If I’m sculpting a shape onto the vinyl that I want to smoothly blend into the figure, I use super glue to stick the basic shape onto the figure. Even if you’re sculpting something like a hat that you want to stick to the figure, Super Glue is there for you. I personally use Gorilla brand Super Glue because it’s a thicker gel-like substance so it doesn’t run everywhere, and it doesn’t leave much white residue like some other Super Glues do. It also it’s super hard when it dries and is much more durable than lesser brands.

Sculpting Tools

I’m not sculpting anatomically correct ecorche here, so I don’t need a million tools. I have 3 (each with two ends, so effectively 6) small plastic tools that I picked up for $3 at Hobby Lobby. They just help shape your sculpt; some ends cut, some ends round or smooth, and some add texture.

 A Dremel

This is totally optional, but I love my dremel. I use it to sand down and smooth out my sculpts so that they’re cleaner and easier to paint, but I’ll go more into that later.

Part 3: The Sculpt

Today I’m going to make a heavily sculpted Kermit the Frog with a sculpted mouth, eyes, collar, and banjo. This will cover both the sculpting on and off of the figure. I’m going to start out by making his collar. First, I take a ball of the clay and flatten it onto the table.

I take my knife tool and cut out little sections so that it resembles the points of Kermit’s collar.

Then, I line it up with the head of the figure I’m using to make sure it’s a good size.

Next I take a couple drops of super glue to fix the collar onto the vinyl.

The clay I use usually takes about 24 hours to fully dry.

Now I’m going to start working on the mouth. This will cover how to sculpt directly onto the figure.

I use the knife tool again to cut out a couple sections that are generally shaped like the 2 halves of Kermit’s mouth. These will be my base.

I add a line of super glue on the back of each and attach them to the head. They don’t need to be fully dry to glue them down. Gorilla Glue hardens very fast, so I just hold the piece I’m gluing to the surface for about 30 seconds and that usually holds it.

It looks too much like a bird’s beak now, so take a couple small clumps to round out and widen the edges of the mouth

Now I begin to add more sculpting to blend the shape of the mouth into the head. I take a big clump of the clay and smooth it out. Makin’s Clay is water-based, so I just dip my fingers into water and then smooth the clay out and blend it into the figure with my fingers.

That’s the basics of how I sculpt onto a figure so that it is seamlessly integrated into the overall sculpt of the figure. Using these same methods, I’ll also add a couple of eyes and made a simple banjo for him to hold.

I also used my razor knife to cut his hands off and glue them back on so that they can accurately hold the banjo.

I then use the same ultra fine sandpaper that I used in my last tutorial and sand the figure down. This should smooth the sculpt out and eliminate any finger prints or uneven edges.

Then I take my trusty dremel tool and attach a buffing wheel onto the end. This really smooths down the sculpt and makes it perfect for painting on top of.

Once everything is dry and prepped, I just paint it like a normal figure.

And that is how I sculpt onto my figures.

Remember if you have any questions, ask them here in reply or find me on twitter (@rustthisworld) and ask on there.

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About the author

Nick LoCicero

Nick LoCicero has almost 20 years experience in the media industry. He has worked on numerous Disney related media projects, most know at WDWNT for WDW News Tonight. He has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1982. After moving to Orlando in the late 90's he became a passholder, developed a fascination with the history of the vacation kingdom and has spent way too much money on park merchandise.

6 Comments

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  • As an addendum, there’s a great two part Epoxy called Magic Sculpt that several artists like Miss Mindy and Aaralyn use that’s worth noting as well.

  • Another addendum. The clay I use will harden if you leave it out. To keep it soft, I wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziplock bag. That way it’s soft and easy to work with whenever I need it.

  • I actually spoke with Monty Maldovan about how I felt there needed to be a Rainbow Connection Kermit in Muppets 3… I got a “that’s a great idea”… But with an aura of “just waaaait”. So there might be one in M3!

  • Thanks for this post Im toying with ideas for customs of my own, Im an artist, and the 3 dimensional canvas is going to be an interesting challenge..

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