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i need more smellybug sculpting lessons!
thanks for fixing the missing pics problem few months ago!!! now back to learning!
Was just watching the movie "I am Number Four" and was reminded of this sculpture. Wasn't sure if this was one of the movie creatures, but can see it is, but does have some similarities in the legs and flying squirrel design.
that is a nice cozy work room .
Browsed through the majority of this thread and I must say that is the finest example of a sculptural walkthrough I have ever seen, I tip my hat to you sir. WELL DONE THIS IS AWESOMNESSSSSSSS!!
I know this is an old thread, but thank you for giving your insight and experience! I have been sculpting literally forever but thus am lacking refinement, still clinging to methods I developed around age 6. I look forward to upgrading my childish methods.... thank you so much!
This tutorial is fantastic!! Being new to sculpting with polymer clays, this information is invaluable!!
Found my way here from a link in Kid Robot's forum about using Scuply & ended up registering on this forum simply to say "Thank you for sharing this process with us & you have an amazing skill set."
I will forever be an amateur.
This tutorial is absolutely wonderful. Each steps is described in details without being boring, and here and there you can find some awesome tips that's work for life in anything that you wanna create.
I wanna sculpt!
I keep trying to learn how to draw since I was 3 years old... except that I just understand that I have to pratice and that's all.
BTW i'm a french native speaker so my english can be really bad... I apologize...
Oh man the images from the tutorial are missing!!! Anyway to get them back up? Anyone have them saved and can upload a pdf? Thanks!
I desperately need a pdf or something of this tutorial. I had created a pdf of it but it accidentally got deleted. Can anyone help me out?
Call me crazy but way back I downloaded the whole threat.
People in need send me PM with your mail and I'll try to send it to you.
Looks like they got deleted or just weren't copied across when the site moved servers a month or so back. They're probably still backed up somewhere, maybe a Mod/Admin could track them down. In the meantime i was able to recover almost all of them using the Wayback Machine and Google Images, unfortunately the ones from Google are only previews not the original size but better than nothing. When i get a chance I'll upload them here.
Did you post images of your tools? Not seeing them.
So it looks like the images were lost in the recent server move and a sculpting tutorial without images isn't very helpful so I'm uploading all the images I was able to find. As it's much easier to follow if the text and images are together I'm reposting the text as well, I'd still recommend going back to the start of the thread as Smellybug answered a lot of questions in between tutorial posts.
I wasn't able to find all the images so I've added MISSING IMAGE and the original file name so you know there is something missing, also some of the images are not the original size but better than nothing.
Update: Thanks to surpher's post below i was able to add the missing images.
Here are the sculpting tools I use when making a sculpt of this general size. I figure the model will be between 10 and 12 inches long.
I've accumulated these tools over the years and they are a mix of store-bought and homemade. Having the same set isn't necessary, it's just about finding out which tools work best for you on a given project. More on how to make your own later. Take a look:
BTW; Don't forget to pick up one of these calipers. Very essential. I use them all the time when I'm working.
This tool isn't exactly necessary, but it saves me a lot of time and sore hands. It's a pasta maker, I use it to mix Sculpey colors together. This can take a long time if you're doing a lot with just your hands.
BTW, here's a shot of part of my filthy studio....haha I really need a maid!
Next I took the Photoshop file, cut out the critter and blew the printout up to the size I want to sculpt it on a regular xerox machine. I don't have it here, but it's of course best to have all three orthographic views of what you're doing. But in this case, I'll be leaving a bit of it up to experimentation, and I have a pretty good idea in my mind what the rest of the guy should look like. This image will also be used for building the armature and a reference when I'm actually sculpting.
So now I know how big my base needs to be, and I have more of a sense as to how heavy the final sculpture will be. The base is made just big enough to keep the thing from toppling over, but not so big that I can't get close enough to do my work. I'm using a 3/8 inch threaded rod as the main support and have fastened it down with a nut on top, a wingnut on the bottom and a couple of washers. The main thing is you don't want a flimsy support because it's annoying. At a certain point down the road, I will also take the rod with the sculpture off of the wooden base in order to get at the bottom of it. More on that later.
I've taken the xerox and roughly drawn where I think the spine and main skeleton of the model should be. The clay will ultimately be supported by an internal wire skeleton. I didn't mark it exactly where it would be in nature, but deeper into the mass of the body, just to give me room. Nothing is more irritating than hitting a wire as you're sculpting away, so give your self a bit of space.
The backbone wire (aluminum wire available at art stores or ceramics stores) here will be attached to the threaded rod and will support the bulk of the weight, therefore make sure it is strong enough for the job. Here I'm using 1/4 inch, which should be strong enough.
I then indicated where the wire will be for the arms and legs. The white dots are there to remind me where the pivot points would be. I'll use them to compare both sides of the model, keeping the arms and legs symmetrical. Keep in mind though that the drawing was done in perspective. If you make the arm wires and legs wires as long as the black line I drew, they'd be too short. A front and top view will help with that. I'll add those images soon.
This creature will be fabricated out of Super Sculpey and Sculpey III. I'll use the Sculpey III to tint the larger blocks of regular Super Sculpey.
**special tip When you buy your Sculpey, check for "freshness". Open the box and check that the material is soft and you can press your finger into it. Sculpey isn't cheap, so don't buy old dried up stuff that's been sitting on the store shelf for six months. And when you get it home, put in a zip lock bag or Tupperware if you're not going to use it immediately. Takes a long time to dry out, but it will.
Here I'm premixing my Sculpey to achieve an opaque grey color. In this case, I want the material to photograph for the tutorial, so eliminating the translucency of the original color will do that. In addition, it's helpful to tint the material a color that is fairly close to the base color of the final product. Not only does it help visualize as you are working, but it helps the painting process as well.
The ratio I used here was:
1 box Sculpey
1 block white Sculpey III
1/2 block black Sculpey III
Keeping the ratios simple like this allows me to make more any time I need it and the colors will match.
Just run it through the press over and over, flattening, folding and shredding and repeating until the color is solid. Same thing if you're doing it by hand. Takes a while, but it's worth it.
So here is the armature in it's basic form. I normally leave things like fingers, claws or spikes for later. Right now I want to concentrate on the main limbs and their relationships to the torso. This is where I use the calipers to compare to the drawing. At this point, the armature is not posed, but I'm still hoping to get a sense of the final product even at this early stage. Personally, I already see a resemblance.
Notice how I'm wrapping the separate wires for the arms to the main body wire and the bends I'm putting in the leg and arm wires. This will soon be locked in epoxy putty, the bends in the wire will keep the wires from coming loose and turning.
I'm tacking the wires in place with a little Devcon 5min epoxy...
Once the epoxy is dry I am then ready to secure the wire to the base rod. I use Propoxy plumbers putty for this. There are many kinds of plumbers putty, but I like this one because it's particularly strong.
Cut it and mix it by hand. I'd recommend you use rubber gloves
The idea is to pack the mixed material very tightly around the areas to want to bind and lock together. I like to wet it a tiny bit with Isopropyl alcohol. This thins it a little and lets you really mush it in there good. Let this harden completely and check that things are nice and secure. You'll be torquing on this structure soon, so it should be solid.
Bit o'trivia: A number of props from the film A Nightmare before Xmas were sculpted and carved from Propoxy. Very handy stuff.
OK, so I have my armature ready to go. I've roughly posed it how I want it (don't be afraid to repose later if need be) and I've wrapped it in 1/16 gauge aluminum wire. Why you ask? This is the secret for keeping the clay on the under structure. If I would not put the little wire on there, as I sculpted and manipulated the clay, it would work itself free and fall off the large smooth wires. The small wire gives the clay something to grab on to.
*NOTE: If this was an even larger figure, I would tightly pack aluminum foil in say the torso area to build up the bulk within a half inch or so of where I eventually want to be. Then I'd do the wrapping with the small wire. It's best to avoid baking very thick pieces of Sculpey because it tends to crack. (For me, thick is over 3 inches or so.) But I think I'll be OK on this one. So no foil this time.
Starting The Limbs
Lets start adding the limbs.
So I hope to start getting some clay on this thing this weekend. Now the real fun starts!
I should mention the reference I use and the inspirational things I come across from time to time. One book I'd recommend buying is "Modeling the Figure in Clay" by Bruno Luchesi. You can get it on Amazon along with his other book "Modeling the head in clay" which is also great. Check out what that guy can do with water clay. I use the Figure book for anatomy ref all the time, even though it's only sculpted clay...great stuff.
Alright lets start the good part...sculpting!
First thing I want to do in this case is make a template to aid me in getting the ball rolling. I draw over the xerox and press down hard with pen, transferring the outline of the main body mass to the cardboard. You can also spray mount the xerox to the cardboard or foam core then cut it out. It's up to you.
Last edited by JoshS; November 19th, 2012 at 03:40 AM.
Cut the shape out with an exacto knife...watch them fingers.
If you're not pasting down the original image and cutting it out, it's a good idea to mark major landmarks like the eye or the arms, ribs.. whatever you will be needing later.
Now as you can see, there's no question if you're getting it right. Start adding clay. Be sure to really work it into the wires in the beginning so that you have a solid base.
Be sure to really work it into the wires in the beginning so that you have a solid base.
The blocking stage.
The beginning stage is called the blocking stage. Just like blocking any performance, we are not concerned about the fine detail yet, we are just getting the basic dimensions down. I normally start with the larger masses first. In this case the torso area. Everything hinges on getting this first part right, so I take my time and sorta creep up to the shape I think is correct, taking into account anatomy and the pose, always measuring with my calipers and comparing to the reference.
It helps to throw some temporary features on there to kinda help your eye "see" where you're going.
As you can see, the surface is a little different now. Sometimes all the little hunks of clay that I quickly lay down can look a little distracting. I want to be sure that I'm generally happy with the way the torso is looking, so I tool down the surface a little with some very crude and rough tools. I call this "equalizing the surface." I give it a quick once over in order improve the look of it a bit.
These are some tools I use very often, especially in these early stages. Notice that they all have grooves or serrations. The wooden one came that way. The one on the right is a rake tool I made from a small jewelers saw blade. The one on the left is store bought, I ground the notches in there with a Dremel tool.
They all have a different effect. Generally I work from course to fine. Kinda makes sense, don't it? You just gotta experiment.
Again, my approach to something like this is to try to build it like a reverse dissection. The wire is the bone and the clay is built up like sinew and muscle. Even though this is a fictional character, I want it to feel real and absolutely possible. I find that when I add clay like I'm placing muscle and fat, trying to show where one muscle passes under another, or where a muscle and bone connect, the trick seems to have a positive effect. Even if it's not technically accurate, even if a lot of it will eventually be covered with skin and texture, having that weird surgical frame of mind pays off. Form and function is key. (And it's gotta look like the reference)
Once I've roughed one side I can move to the other. Use the calipers to keep opposing limbs and features relatively on track.
Think about how muscle mass and flesh change shape, shift and stretch and tighten as you lay down the clay. Surround yourself with reference that can help you. Keep good reference in view. It's a little embarrassing, but you sometimes have to go and buy a body builder magazine to see extreme examples of muscles and bodies in different poses and conditions. Try books on dance or sports. There are a few decent artist reference books out there, but depending on your project, a good book on boxing might be the right choice. Regardless, having proper ref in front of you is incredibly necessary. On this project, I use a combination of human and animal reference.
As for the pose here. I am torn between doing something very challenging and dynamic on the one hand, and on the other hand being very faithful to the original image. I'm mostly leaning towards the latter here. For what this will be used for, keeping descriptive, yet fun to look at is what I'm after.
Ok, finally an update! "Woot!" as Manley would say.
Lets start with the webbing between the arms. Here I've cut out some fine wire mesh. You can use anything, aluminum or stainless steel is good. Cut it with tin snips and just push it into the Sculpey, about half an inch here. At least deep enough to stay put
Then I press the clay in there..keeping it thin for now.
here I'm laying in "stretchies" or tension folds. You guessed it...use real fabric for ref. Or your grandmas butterwings.
stretchies roughed in just using fingers.
Going over the surface with my notched loop tool. Notice I'm still using large tools. It ain't time for the little ones yet. Just trying to find the natural looking folds that give the area a sense of pulling and tension.
The other side is much more relaxed. It's tricky to decide how to show this. You just have to experiment. Look at different materials and see what seems right, think about what the creatures skin and flesh are made of. Is the skin tough or silky and thin? Here I feel that there should be a number of permanent folds that just buckle, since this character spends a lot of time in the stretched position, running and leaping about. I think the skin should be thick and tough. (BTW, this isn't done!)
So for the dorsal spikes, i need a thicker, more rigid mesh to support the clay. Again, I'm using the drawing to figure out how this is cut.
Last edited by JoshS; November 19th, 2012 at 02:35 AM.
here's side view after planting the rest of the spike meshes and throwing clay over them. Starting to look like the original picture, huh?
Hand armature almost done. Still need to wrap in thin wire for grip.
blocking it in without tools, just rolling balls of clay and pressing it in there. Trying to keep in mind the anatomy at all times, functionality sells the shapes y'know. Gee whiz, now that I look at it, the arms looking a little feeble and thin! I'll fix that tomorrow.
The nose needs good support. Measure with calipers. Notice that here and on the fingers I added Propoxy tips. This is an optional way to make sharp tips of.. things. When the model is baked, you can sand the tip very sharp and they'll be durable this way. Worth a try.
Roughing in some wrinkles with the large-ish loop tool.
Use reference. This is just the rough the beginning, but I won't finish without looking at the real thing.
Starting the detail process now. This is a multi stage process. I like to jump around, so you'll notice that there are many parts not yet ready for fine detail. Again, I work big to small through all stages of work, going over the sculpt in waves.
Here I've sorta cheated, combining the first stage and second. I should have taken a picture earlier in the day...
STAGE 1: Muscle details. Very important to get the "canvas" ready for the finer details. This involves tightening the muscle shapes. Making sure muscles read like they are interacting with each other realistically. The overs and unders. Reference is a must. Even with a fictional creature like this, people can spot that something just ain't right if you don't understand how the real thing works in the natural world.
STAGE2/3: See the larger wrinkles and folds? This is stage 2 work. Every stage of work depends on the previous stage being right. So before I add the finer lines and textures, the ones they lay upon need to be worked out.
Notice also that the surface detail is very tooled looking and rough. Eventually once I get the entire character detailed to this point, I will go over the surface with Turpenoid and a soft, relatively small brush. But that will be in future updates.
Here I'm showing that only half the model is textured. Normally I'd do both sides, but since I'm trying to replicate or get the feeling of the original drawing, i want to work out that side first. I will then mirror it over to the other side, which is a challenge by itself. More on that later.
A word on patience. I can't teach it, but you gotta have it. This is something that masters like Foster understand very well. You have to be able to sit and work methodically and focused for long periods of time. This is one thing that gets overlooked with a number of people just getting started. You really want to see the finished product, I know. But there are few shortcuts to learning the craft and going through the necessary steps to complete something that will knock peoples socks off. All of the kickass people on this site have put their time in and done their homework, even extra credit. That's the only way you can get to the point of making cool things look effortless. Normally if I was working on this full time, I could crank it out in a couple of days. But speed only comes with experience. Take your time and pay the dues, it will pay off later.
Ok....the juicy part starts. DETAIL! Or I guess it continues. Looking two pics back, you can see the raw detail pass in closeup. Below I'm going over that surface with a soft brush and some Turpernoid. I keep brushing it until it looks how I want it to. Starting with too many lines and pits and knocking it back until it feels right.
Now the right side before brushing...
A comparison to show how much I'm smacking down the rough lines at this stage. Yikes...those neck wrinkles look like crap!
Lets break down the next phase of detailing, shall we? Yes. Let's start with the arm. Here I am lightly dragging a homemade tool across the arm adding additional fine detail. Every texture has a number of levels of detail that make it what it is. It's up to you to decypher the trick and see how far you need to go to create the illusion you're after. Here i just want thick and leathery with some age to it.
Notice that I have a lot of lines there, but there is a sort of order to it, even though I'm trying to make it look natural and random. It needs some logic behind it to sell it. My reference is pictures of rhinos and elephants, even leather clothing has cool and interesting patterns to it, after all, it is skin.
I've brushed it very gently with the same brush and Turpernoid, now I'm using a simple piece of sponge to take away the super smooth, shiny look the brushing has. In some cases, like inside a mouth, you might want to leave it smooth. Doing this also helps the surface hold the paint, give it more age and cut down on reflection, making it a matte surface. Many sponges and foams will work, this one is very soft so I don't screw up the detail I just made.
So here is the result on the arm. Standing back a bit it looks OK. Looks like I need to give the elbow a different texture, it's starting to look a little monotonous. These pictures are helpful for me to see what works and what doesn't. Normally I use a mirror to get a different view of what I'm doing, but the pics work similarly.
Same process with the legs...
Last edited by JoshS; November 19th, 2012 at 02:52 AM.
Here I'm going back over the wrinkles to emphasize some a little more. If you don't take time to punch things up here and there your texture can look bland and mechanical.
Now I've done the same to the right side of the body.
*Note: You have to let the Sculpey dry out a little between brushing and detail passes. After you apply the turpentine, the surface is very soft and liquidy. Wait an hour or mist some rubbing alcohol over it and that will help evaporate the turp. Careful. No open flames nearby, right?
Check out the seemingly natural look of the skin. Learning how to achieve a feeling of randomness in your tool strokes is the key.
Also notice how some of these textures are more compressed and squeezed looking on this right side where the creature is pulling it's arm back. That's also something to learn through observation, how various materials react to pose or movement. Getting this down helps add another layer of believability to your creation. (although my dorsal spikes are hella weak! Dang...gotta fix that too!)
Cool! Well. Things are moving along. Next time I'll show more work on the bottom, the hands and the head, as well as some fixes to what you see here... Hope you like the latest.
OK, sculpting done. I pull the plug. I could work on this forever, but it's been forever already. Here are a couple last shots...
Then its into the oven. Luckily I have access to a large pizza oven. It'd probably fit at home too, but this one is very cool.
So I baked it at 200 for about an hour and a half. Then I let it cool in the oven with the door cracked open a bit.
The result is good. Only a couple minor cracks to repair. I did this by first putting some water thin superglue in there to keep the cracked area from flexing. Then I pushed some Sculpey into the cracks brushed it over with turp, did a little detail to blend and then hit the area with a heat gun. This cooks the fixed area without having to rebake in the oven.
I then primed the sculpt grey. So...
LETS GET PAINT'N!!
OK you bastards, here we go: PAINTING
For this project, I'm using FW Acrylic Artists Ink. I will put up a picture so you can see (later) but it is widely available and airbrush ready. It comes in small glass jars with eyedropper tops. I mix it in smallish amounts in little cups or film cans.
For the first picture below, I'm laying on a darkish reddish gray color for a base. My plan is to start kinda dark and build up to a lighter tone.
(sorry, my pictures came out a bit contrasty and I had to do a bit of color correction. Please bear with me.)
Here's our friend covered in the darkish grayish reddish color. Notice I covered the eyeballs in a bit of clay to protect them.
I mix a bit of black into the paint and start a bit of shadowing, enhancing the sunken valleys and lowered details.
After going over the entire creature with the darker color, I'm going to pure black and darkening what will be the darkest areas. I've also warmed up the webbing area with a mist of yellow ochre. These paints mix well with alcohol. I thinned out the yellow ochre with alcohol before spraying so it didn't come out too opaque.
Once I'm satisfied with where is is as far as base colors go, my next step is to start to bring up the flesh tones. Our guy is mostly a gray color, but I don't want to simply airbrush gray onto him. I want his skin to be made up of many colors, just like real life. Below I'm using a "squiggly line" technique I learned from my friend Jordu Schell. making multiple passes using this technique with different colors creates a nice sense of depth and realism, even if it starts out like you see below...
To do these fine lines, I take the end cap off of my airbrush. This allows me to get an even finer little line for this squiggly pass:
Now I'm doing it again, but with a sky blue this time. Trust me...it's weird now, but it works in the end.
Last edited by JoshS; November 19th, 2012 at 03:16 AM.
JoshS, seriously! You rule for doing this! Thank you!
Now I'm adding pinks to the stretchy/softer areas of the webbing...this give the illusion of thinner skin with blood vessels effecting the color.
...And darker blues, and some yellows...
Up close it looks funny.
But as you step back it starts to make sense.
Getting some greens in there and some browns to unify things.
And here's where it stands now...getting there, but I feel like I need to lighten it up a bit. I will go back over it with some greenish light gray tomorrow.
Finishing touches...sorry bad pic. I lightened him a bit with some thinned out green grays, added the red markings.
Closeup of final paint. I could keep going, but I think it's time to stop.
And the 'beauty' shot....yes I photoshopped the reds brighter. didn't have any fluorescent paint on hand...
Damn this is amazing! Lovely work =)
Hey Smellybug! CAn you repost the images? Currently they are not there.
This is absolutely gorgeous work. Thank you so much for sharing!