Friday, March 26, 2010

Sculpting 105: Fine Line Shaping

The fine Colonel Corbane has compiled and posted an excellent set of links on Sculpting and kindly included some of my posts. This drove some traffic to my Farseer on a Jetbike post where JRV stepped up with a question. (Stop reading this right now and go check out his kit bash Leviathan. It's okay, I'll wait...) He wanted to know "How you are getting those fine detail lines? Is that a press mold or something?"

The answer is no, that's not a press mold. Those lines are all hand sculpted. However, the process is really quite easy once you get the hang of it. Spinning out a thread of putty and trying to adhere it to your fig is going to be a study in frustration. You'll smoosh the detail, break the thread and generally want to give up in frustration or throw things at the wall. (Trust me, I speak from first-hand experience...) The trick is to do majority of your shaping through the REMOVAL of putty.

Step 1: Roll out a thin tube of putty and stick it to the fig. Just go for the general shape you want and make sure there's excess putty. The big thing is to have the putty where you want with a good contact surface to the model. Having the correct general thickness is nice too, but the specifics can be fixed later.In cross-section, it should look a bit like this:Step 2: Use the blade of your sculpting tool to cut away the excess putty. Be careful to cut all the way through, pull away slowly and work in sections. You don't want to pull up your contact surface.Step 3: Now that you have the correct amount of putty where you want it and a good contact surface, you can sharpen the edges and top of your line with the sculpting tool.It takes a little care and practice, but the technique itself is not that difficult. Cheers and hope this helps!

***Inset image from a biomedical site that had the look I wanted...***


  1. This is exactly the tip I needed. Do you let the thread cure somewhat before trying to carve it in place? Have you had any problems with the thread losing adhesion to the base gs?

  2. Do you let the thread cure somewhat before trying to carve it in place?
    Yes, but only about 5 minutes or so. You want it cured enough to cut sharp and without smearing, but also still be workable.

    Have you had any problems with the thread losing adhesion to the base gs
    During the sculpting process... oh yeah. An errant stroke or not enough lubricant can pull up the thread and you have to go through the work of reattaching it. In the same, too much of a non-viscous lubricant like water can seep into the contact area and float the thread.
    But once the putty has cured with a good contact surface, it is solid. I can take a pair of tweezers and pick up the entire model by the detail stripe.

    Glad I could help!

  3. I have even more respect now, that is insane detail. Props =) I guess I will have to start practicing.

    And thanks for the nod to the Leviathan, I think I still need to extend out the top parapet to get its silhouette closer to the original.

  4. @JRV: The Leviathan's a great bit of work. It was no onus to link to it.

    As to the line details, this method isn't too difficult once you practice a bit and allows placing the lines exactly on an existing piece. While heading to bed last night I remembered this article from Scibor showing how he does some of his fine lines using a press mold. That method has it's own set of tricks and complications, but gives good results too.

    Really it is a matter of replication. One-off items are easier (for me) to sculpt freehand, but anything I want to multiple of or repeat patterns will be press molded. Make sense?