Life Casting

About Face and Body Casting

About Face and Body Casting

Alginate, plaster and plaster bandages are being used more and more in a variety of applications. For instance:

  • A face and head cast are the foundations for foam latex makeup
  • Plaster casts of hands are now sold regularly in art shows
  • Plaster bandage "sculpts" have been crafted by artists for more than 30 years

When combined as a process, these three basic materials can be used to make casts of exceptional quality. (What 3 basic materials?) Please review the following notes before using any of the materials featured on this page.

It is a common belief that plaster is used to make lifecasts of actors' faces for use in special effects. This is a dangerous misconception because the plaster becomes rigid and is difficult to handle and remove (especially from body hair). Another problem is the face may deform due to the weight of the plaster. We recommend artists use a prosthetic grade alginate. Alginate is a rubbery material derived from seaweed. Dental alginate can be used, but you will only have 50 seconds of working time. You must also use cold water which is uncomfortable. We recommend a "Warm-water, slow-setting alginate" which has been buffered to set in about 5 minutes. This gives you plenty of working time and because warm water can be used, it is much more comfortable to wear. Use plaster bandages as a "back-up" to the alginate, and use the plaster only for the positive cast. If you are doing a full body cast you can use a high-quality plaster bandage to pick up detail on the arms, legs, and body. Use silicone or alginate in detail areas such as the hands, feet and face.

The head cast pictured here was used for a melting vampire in the movie "Nightfall", produced by Spinning Reel Films.

Want more information? Check out our Article on Pregnancy Casting and other Life Casting

Glossary of Materials and Terminology used in Life Casting

ALGINATE, aka PROSTHETIC GRADE CREAM. A powder, that when mixed with water transforms into a rubbery material. Typically Alginate can only be used once. Dental Alginate is used by dentists to cast teeth. Slo-set (Prosthetic) Alginates are used to cast face, limbs and body parts. Dental alginates set in 50 to 60 seconds. Prosthetic alginates set in three to ten minutes. Sorry, prosthetic alginates are not flavored.

BALD CAP, BALD PATE, BALD WIG. A stretchy cap that is stretched over the head to protect the hair during casting. Made from Glatzan or latex rubber.

CAST. The final piece taken from mold. A POSITIVE. Usually made from Casting plaster, Hydrostone, foam latex, slip latex, UltraCAL 30 or other material. Cast can generally be used to describe the entire process, for example: To do a body cast the artist would prep the model, make a mold and take a cast from the mold.

CASTING PLASTER. Very much like Plaster of Paris except that it has a slower setting time. Forms a skin when used in a mold. Used for finished casts. No good for latex molds or for foam latex. Paints well. 2,400 psi.

HYDROSTONE. Gypsum Cement. Hard and strong. Used in high quality art and novelty casting. Can't be worked with a template or formed by hand. Forms exceptional details. Very resistant to water absorption. 10,000 psi.

MEDICAL ADHESIVE. A silicone based adhesive that works like super-glue. Used by professionals instead of spirit gum. Don't use it around the eyes. Don't try to use it without a good MEDICAL ADHESIVE REMOVER. NOTE: For environmental reasons the old Medical Adhesive that we all know and love is no longer available. The new stuff works well but has a different formula. If you order the Ben Nye stuff that we sell we will send you PROSTHETIC ADHESIVE which works just as well.

MODEL. The person or thing which you want to duplicate.

MOLD. A NEGATIVE of the model. In body and face casting the mold is usually made from Alginate or plaster bandages.

MOLDERS' PLASTER. AKA Pottery Plaster. Excellent for molds, especially for ceramics and slip latex (masks). Doesn't form a skin like plaster of Paris or casting plaster. Absorbs water very well after completely dry. 2,000 psi.

PLASTER BANDAGES. The same thing a doctor would use to put a cast on your arm. We use Gypsona Brand Bandages because they are very creamy and flexible. 2" and 6" are the most common sizes used.

RELEASE or RELEASE AGENT. Something that is smeared, painted or sprayed over something else to keep stuff from sticking to it. For example petroleum jelly is smeared over the eye brows to keep alginate from sticking to them. Releases are used for specific materials.

ULTRA CAL-30. Gypsum Cement (looks and works like plaster). Excellent for foam latex molds because of its strength and resistance to heat. Standard of the industry for special effects make-up artists. 6,000 psi.

Instructional Videos

Magic Molding and Casting

with Steve Biggs

Magic Molding and Casting

The first section of this video demonstrates face-casting with alginate and the making of a UltraCal30 master of a person's face. Other topics include: Plaster waste mold, Simple plaster mold, Latex mold, and a demonstration of vacuum forming. Demonstrates casting of slip latex (Halloween Mask type technique). Great starting point for people without any previous mold experience.

48 min. DVD

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Life Casting Supplies

Professional Face Casting Kit

Professional Face Casting Kit

This convenient kit contains everything needed to do one large face cast.

SPECIAL SHIPPING NOTE: Five gallon pails are subject to the UPS "Special Handling Fee" which is $10 as of 12-31-2009. We have adjusted the "shipping weight" in our database to reflect this fee. If this modification causes an overcharge we will refund or adjust your fees accordingly.

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Accu-Cast Products, Prosthetic Alginates

Accu-Cast is an advanced irreversible hydrocolloid molding material. Accu-Cast products have very low shrinkage rates, high tear strength, fine grain, and a warm water mix. There are three different formulas of Accu-Cast which are formulated for different set times.

Accu-Cast 390 (Buff)

Prosthetic Alginate, 3 min. set

Fast set. Sets in three minutes at 90° water temperature. Creamy, with great flowing characteristics when mixed. This material is ideal for smaller projects like fingers, hands, and small props. Strongly recommended for children's hand casts.

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Accu-Cast 590-IBG (Orange)

Prosthetic Alginate, 5 min. set time.

Face, Head & Torso Casting. The special IBG formula has an especially low shrinkage rate ideal for critical jobs.

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Accu-Cast 880 (Blue)

Prosthetic Alginate, 8 min. set time.

Slow set. Sets in eight minutes at 80° water temperature. This material is ideal for big jobs like heads, torsos, full bodies, and really large props. Excellent for regular casting in humid and warm regions.

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All the information you need to be successful with Accu-Cast Alginates check out:

Dental Alginate

Dental Alginate

Fast set Type 1 Alginate Impression Material. Employs high quality food grade raw materials.

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Gypsona Bandages

Plaster Bandages, Gypsona Brand

Very smooth and creamy, excellent for life casting and mold work.

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Box of 12

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