Nyrfherdr's Sculpting Tips (New 7/20- Sculpting the body)




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    Nyrfherdr's Sculpting Tips (New 7/20- Sculpting the body)

    On the prompting of a few select members, I've been convinced to put some thought into helping people who want to join the ranks of Miniature sculpting.

    So here's a thread with my musings and the musings of anyone else who wishes to participate.

    Enjoy!
    Game ON!
    Nyrfherdr
    Last edited by nyrfherdr; Wednesday, 20th July, 2005 at 04:12 PM. Reason: Update Title

 

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    Part 1: Sculpting Medium

    FORWARD
    Before you read this article, I need to set the stage a little. First and foremost, sculpting miniatures is a relatively new hobby for me. I have been sculpting for two years as a hobby. I sculpt in between painting miniatures and playing roleplaying games. In other words, if you are seeking the advice of a master sculptor you won’t find that here. If that hasn’t scared you away, I have one more revelation… I probably can’t teach you to sculpt even if I was a master. Sculpting requires a lot of practice, a lot of patience and, in my opinion, that undefinable eye towards form. I can’t teach any of those things.

    For those of you who feel you have an eye to form (whatever that is), have patience and are willing to practice, I can offer some insight and some suggestions. I can describe things to look for and explain some of the challenges I have faced so that you can avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve encountered.

    Since I’m not planning to photograph myself working, this will mostly be advice on how to approach sculpting as a hobby and how to approach some of the unique challenges of sculpting miniatures for fantasy or sci-fi gaming.

    MATERIALS
    Sculpting at its most basic only requires two things; your hands and clay. For miniatures, however, you will likely be dissatisfied with this approach. You really need 3 things for sculpting miniatures at the scales commonly used for gaming; a medium, tools and an armature.

    1. Sculpting Medium
    There are many mediums to use for sculpting. Everyone has their favorite and they all are equally valid. All sculptors encourage you to try different mediums to find one you like. Some of the ones I’ve tried are Fimo, Sculpey (multiple varieties), Magic Sculp, Milliput, A+B Putty, and Kneadatite ‘green stuff’. All of these have something in common. You sculpt by building up a model. What that means is that you sculpt something, let it cure (based on the medium) and then sculpt more. The other properties are how it handles, how it adheres to itself and other materials, how long it takes to cure, and what it takes to cure. For example, Fimo and Sculpey require an oven to cure.

    The other mediums I have listed are 2 part epoxies. They cure by a chemical reaction when you mix the two parts of the putty. These are most commonly associated with sculpting miniatures. Some work like clay (and except for the cure time feel just like clay). Others work differently.

    I have tried all of these products and more. I am biased toward Kneadatite™ personally. The reason for me is that Kneadatite™ acts nothing like clay. It also takes the most minute details, including perfect fingerprints.

    ‘Green Stuff’ – the choice of many mini sculptors:
    • Kneadatite™ Blue/Yellow ‘green stuff’ is an industrial epoxy-putty created by Polymer Systems Inc. Its design purpose is bulk adhesive that can handle high pressure and temperature. It was originally used by mini sculptors because the ability to handle pressure and temperature is very useful in the mold making process.
    • Kneadatite™ is a 2 part epoxy. There is a yellow part and a blue part. You mix the two to make the green putty. It can be shaped and sculpted during the early stages of the cure process.
    • The properties of Kneadatite™ have made it one of the most common sculpting media for fantasy and sci-fi miniatures.
    • It is a useful product for miniature hobbyists too. I can be used in place of or along with glue to hold parts together. Because it is sculptable, it can be used to fill holes and gaps and then the area can be sculpted to blend with the surrounding parts. It is not a difficult leap to go from this kind of work to modifying or converting existing miniatures. The leap from conversions to sculpting, however, is a bit bigger.
    • Greenstuff cures firm, not hard. It can’t effectively be sanded or carved after it cures, so it makes a poor ‘dry sculpt’ medium. You need to sculpt it during the first 30-60 minutes, and then let the cure complete. These 30-60 minutes are the effective workable time for that batch of Kneadatite™. Make sure not to mix too much at once, or it will go to waste.
    • It is ‘stickiest’ early in the cure process, which is important as you build up a model. Use the adhesive properties to stick more green stuff onto an armature or an existing sculpt project. You can use the adhesive properties for some effects too. If the Kneadatite™ is sticking to your tool, you can pull it into shapes. This can also be frustrating if you don’t want to ‘pull’ right then. Practice and patience are needed here.
    • To keep from sticking to tools and fingers you can use a little oil. I use Vaseline, but others find it too thick and don’t like to use it. Some sculptors get by with a little water, although that doesn’t really change the adhesive quality in any way. (In fact, Kneadatite™ doesn’t really react to water at all. This is one of the reasons it is my favorite medium. For the main reason see below…)
    • If you use Vaseline or oil on your tools it will get on the Kneadatite™ and thus impact the adhesion to your project. If you are planning to use something like that on your tools, it is best to stick the Kneadatite™ to your project and then start working it with your tool.
    • To get the green stuff smooth like the professionals, you have to burnish it. Late in the cure, just before it is completely set, you can use a burnish tool and rub the model. This will smooth out bumps, finger prints, sculpt marks and if you aren’t careful… Detail. Practice and patience are needed here.
    • Kneadatite™ Blue/Yellow is perfect for organic structures: muscles, flesh, faces, skin, fur, hair, clothing, leather, etc. One of the reasons for this is that in the middle and end of the workable time it reacts to your sculpting much like skin/fur/clothing would. What I mean is that if you pull on one side, it will pull on the other. If you push in, it will stretch around that point. This plasticity is probably the single biggest reason that the medium is my personal favorite.
    • Kneadatite™ ‘green stuff’ can be used for mechanical sculpts, but because it doesn’t cure hard it probably isn’t the best for that. Many sculptors get fine results, others turn to different mediums. I’m becoming one to look for dry sculpt mediums (see my ‘brown stuff’ notes below).
    • Since it is a two part epoxy, you can use more or less of the two parts to create different properties. Instead of 1 to 1 ratio of yellow to blue, you can use different ratio mixes for different effects. Feel free to experiment. I currently stay pretty close to 50-50.
    • Kneadatite™ is available at some game stores. It is most often sold in a Games Workshop blister pack. While this is fine if you just want to experiment, I wouldn’t recommend this for a long term source. It is also available from hobby sources online. If you decide you want to take up sculpting and Kneadatite™ becomes your medium, I’d recommend you buy it as Kneadatite™ , not as Games Workshop ‘green stuff’ or another repackaged product. If your local game store doesn’t carry it or can’t special order it, the Internet has several vendors that carry it.
    • Kneadatite™ was originally sold in strips with the yellow/blue together in a band. This was not optimal because where the two colors touch the chemical cure reaction can occur. This will ruin a bit of the putty. When you work the putty you will find clumps of partially or completely cured putty in the middle. It is easy to just pull the cured bits out and throw them away, but it can be annoying.
    • Today Kneadatite™ Blue/Yellow comes in tubes. If you have the Kneadatite™ as a strip, store it in the freezer or fridge to slow the cure process. It probably isn’t necessary for the tube version.

    TIP – The Fridge: If you get a phone call while you are sculpting, you can slow the cure process by putting the piece in the fridge or freezer. When you get off the phone, take it out, wait for it to warm slightly and go back to work.

    ‘Brown’ Stuff
    • Kneadatite™ Brown/Aluminum is another epoxy I’m currently playing with.
    • It is a two part epoxy, like the Blue/Yellow but it cures hard.
    • When it is cured, it can be sanded and carved. This allows for different sculpting techniques, often called ‘dry sculpting’.
    • This is most often used on mechanical items like weapons, armor, constructs, cyborgs, you get the idea.
    • It is a two part epoxy and the ratios can be altered for different effects, like the Blue/Yellow.
    • You can mix Brown/Aluminum with Blue/Yellow to vary hardness and other properties. I haven’t done much experimenting with that, but understand that it can make for very good results.
    • You can get Kneadatite™ Brown/Aluminum from most of the same sources as the Blue/Yellow. Since it is more specialized, it may require a special order, or to order from the Internet.

    TIP - 2 Part Epoxy: With the 2 part epoxy, you have limited time after you mix the two parts together. The key is to mix the minimum amount of material to sculpt the next part of your project.

    TIP - Kneadatite™ : Hold your project in a cork, pin vice, clamp or other device. If you touch it, your fingerprints will show, no matter how lightly.

  • #3

    Thank You!

    Yay! Thanks for writing these, Nyrf. I am looking forward to more.

    --------------------------

    Valanthe the Sleepless

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    I have some bad news. My next set of tips require photos of my tools. I do manage a private website where I host photos, unfortunately, my computer hard drive crashed.

    I'll get the 'meatier' articles loaded once I recover.
    In the meantime, I'll post something less meaty...
    Stay tuned.

    Nyrf.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nyrfherdr
    I have some bad news. My next set of tips require photos of my tools. I do manage a private website where I host photos, unfortunately, my computer hard drive crashed.

    Nyrf.
    Oh no!

    Well, thanks for posting these tips - I am reading closely.

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    Reference Material

    Reference Material:
    Every artist, no matter how casual the hobby, requires reference materials. The reference materials provide visual instruction, techniques, inspiration and more. Since sculpture is not a common hobby, there aren’t many books devoted to it. What you will find, though, is that many reference materials for one art form can transfer to others. You just need to be creative and leverage what you can find. Also, many books work for one person and not another. My list of reference books includes the books I find helpful. I have many others that I’ve purchased that don’t work for me.

    Here are a few reference books I commonly use:
    Dynamic Anatomy by Burne Hogarth
    Dynamic Figure Drawing by Burne Hogarth
    Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery by Burne Hogarth
    How to Draw the Human Head by Louise Gordon
    Sculpting Miniature Military Figures by Kim Jones (Schiffer Press)
    How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm
    Human Anatomy made Amazingly Easy by Christopher Hart
    Anatomy: A Complete Guide for Artists by Joseph Sheppard
    Cyclopedia Anatomicae by Gyorgy Feher
    I also have a couple of books of animal photos

    Obviously, anatomy is pretty important.

    Don’t forget the inspirational side of reference material. Real life photos of people, places, animals; Art books, movie books, game books all provide inspiration for sculpting.

    I also search Yahoo Photos for pictures.

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    Armatures

    Once again, I'm still without photos. To keep my readers from lynching me, here are some more tips that wont' require a thousand words...
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ARMATURES
    You can’t sculpt a miniature without something to hold a form. All of the mediums from clay to epoxy will not give you good results without a firm frame to help keep their shape. This is an armature. For miniatures, the armature is often wire bent into the appropriate shape. You can also purchase lead armatures from several vendors that are already in proportion to a human in 28-30mm scale. I have done both.

    There are several sources of armatures from hobby suppliers. Since most of you are familiar with Reaper, here are to from them. Reaper online also sells green stuff.

    Beginner Armatures from Reaper Miniatures

    Standard Armatures from Reaper Miniatures

    For weapons, staffs and things you need a rod or other larger form. I use both plastic and brass rod for this. Be aware that if you are planning to have your sculpture immortalized in metal, plastic may not be a good idea. Plastic cannot hold up to production mold making. For hobby purposes use whatever material is available and comfortable for you to work with.

    TIP – Armature wire: If you don’t have wire handy, you can use a paper clip bent into shape to form an armature.

    The armature needs to be in proportion for the miniature you are working on. Some sculptors actually piece the miniature together as they go. Sculpting the chest and trunk first, then sculpting the head and adding it onto the chest, then sculpting arms and legs and adding them. Other sculptors create the armature in the pose they want and then sculpt everything onto that frame. As always, find a technique that works for you. For me, I have done both depending on the situation.

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    I agree almost completely. You can cast any miniature with rtv and gravity method - even those composed of plastic, wood, and other materials that will not withstand vulcanization. While gravity casting has very real limitations, it also yields some very fine results if you know what you are doing. You cannot achieve some of the things spincasting can do, but it is a cheaper alternative that may be attractive to the average home sculptor.

    One thing I have done is create a sculpt with some materials like plastic. Then cast the figure with RTV. Then finished working on the figure over the pewter "armature" and finished it by sending it off for vulcanization and spin casting. Not the most efficient thing in the world but it works.

    Carry on Nyrf - this thread is inspiring!

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    More Resources

    Two quick thoughts while I continue my efforts to recover my computer data.

    1. My wife just bought me an early Father's Day Gift. It's an AWESOME reference book for both 2D artists and for sculptors. It's especially nice for 2D, but you take what you can get.

    ANATOMY FOR FANTASY ARTISTS by Glenn Fabry

    It briefly covers human anatomy with excellent reference photos. It then suggests that you use a strong grounding in Anatomy to make your fantastical creations look realistic. His examples in the back include an Ogre, a dwarf, a goblin, several different females and a barbarian. Very inspirational and a good reference book.

    2. Yahoo Group: 1listSculpting
    I have been a lurking member of this group since I started sculpting 2 years ago. It is a friendly, helpful group of sculptors of minis. There is a great FAQ that covers what I'm describing in this thread and tons more. People post their sculpts, offer tips and there is a regular 'Visions in Putty' sculpting effort where a theme is posted and sculptors create something to match the theme. Don't be daunted by the fact that there are many professionals and top talent sculptors on the list. There are an equal number of hobby enthusiasts like you and me.

    Stay tuned. When I get my data back, I'll be able to show you the tools I used and start showing you some of the techniques that work (and some that don't) for me.

    Game ON!
    Nyrfherdr

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    Tools

    Tools are a very personal thing and everyone has a favorite type and shape of tool that they use for sculpting. Every sculptor has been asked what the ‘perfect’ tool is and there is no answer. The key is to try lots of different tools to find one you are comfortable with. Once you have a comfortable tool, the only answer to getting good results is to practice.


    Figure 3

    With that said, there are tools everyone uses. The common tools for working with the armatures, bits, parts and the sculpting medium are pliers, tweezers, knife, drill, ruler and cutters (Figure 3). In addition are the tools you would use to actually manipulate your sculpt (the sculpting tools themselves.) Here is a stack of sculpting tools that I use (Figure 4).


    Figure 4


    Figure 5

    Before you start scratching your head and wondering when you would use each of these tools, you should know that I don’t use most of them very often. I have three tools I use almost all of the time. I use an X-acto knife with a standard blade. I use a pin glued into an old paint brush and I use a sculpting ‘blade’ and burnisher. I also have a small frisket blade held tight in a pin vice I use when I work on faces. (Figure 5). I do have a few specialized tools that I like and use. They are all basically modified ‘tubes’ that can create buttons, screws, armor rivets, and things like that (Figure 6)


    Figure 6

    Now that you've seen all my tools, I can start showing you some sculpting.
    Stay Tuned

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