Making a fake silicone head

In this tutorial you will learn about creating a fake head using silicone.

And as a bonus we'll talk about how to make teeth and a bit about the hair work too.

This head was built in less than 3 days! Looong days!
But these jobs are so much fun so who could say no??
  • In this tutorial I will show you how I make a fake silicone head. Above you can see the end result. The head was made for the opera Salome on the Malmö Opera in Sweden
  • Fredrik Zetterström. This is the singer who portrayed John the baptist who gets his head served on a plate.
  • First of all you need to take lots and lots of reference photos. For this project I think I took nearly 150 photos of Fredrik.
  • You need both full size pictures and extreme close ups for your sculpt and hair work.
  • You need both full size pictures and extreme close ups for your sculpt and hair work. 	 I also take a full set of measurements so I can make sure that my sculpt has the correct dimensions.
  • The finished head didn't need any teeth but I made some and will include them in this tutorial.
  • Here you can see me doing a full head cast of Fredrik using alginate on the front reinforced with plaster bandages and the back was made with plaster only
  • Here is the front half of the mould on the left and the back to the right.
  • Close up on the front.
  • As the back half was only made with plaster bandages you will have problems getting the clay press to come loose. To avoid this I make a very thin mix of alginate and brush it all over the surface.
  • This is plasteline that I melt in an oven at 150 °C. You can use a number of different clays but if you are making a silicone head make sure that your clay is sulphur free.
  • The melted clay is VERY hot so do take care not to hurt yourself when you are brushing or slushing the clay into your moulds.
  • When you have built up a layer of about 2.5 cm / 1" on both front and back it is time to put the mould halves back together.
  • To hold the halves together I wrap a few layers of plaster bandages around them.
  • Salome 104
  • Now I start filling the gap between clay halves. Start with brushing the top and then....  .....slush the hot clay into it. This is dangerous!!! Please wear all the protection you can find! I once had the visor covered in melted clay which could have ended up on my face. Could have been an interesting new look but I am opting for the ugly mug I already have.
  • Once you have a good coat in I fill the mould with cold water to help it cool. Now it just to start playing the waiting game and not open the mould to soon.
  • I have problems with waiting. Many times I have rushed things and opened the mould and destroyed stuff. So please wait until it is cold. At least 2 hours.
  • Here I am ripping the alginate and plaster bandages off carefully. No tools, just use your hands as tools might damage the clay head.
  • So here he is in the raw clay form, ready to be cleaned up for moulding.
  • Shaving, creating new textures and changing anything that didn't come out as you wanted it. If you want it to have open eyes this is the stage when you put them in and sculpt eyelids.
  • I think I spent about 5 hours fixing it up.
  • Here is the finished sculpt.
  • Lets talk about the unused teeth a while! Here are the casts of his teeth made with S3 filled with aluminium powder. I love this stuff. Buy it from www.Mouldlife.co.uk
  • Another picture of them.
  • We will now make a silicone mould of the teeth using a silicone putty.
  • Take two spoonfuls and put it flat on the table.
  • Add the catalyst.
  • Work it into the silicone properly.
  • Press the teeth slowly into the putty trying to avoid all air pockets or bubbles.
  • Work it up to the top of the teeth. Make sure it has a good thickness everywhere.
  • All the way to the top.
  • Wait for it to dry and go back and re-sculpt something you weren't happy with. Or watch television or go to the loo. The last one is what I most likely would do... But don't take them out until they are dry!
  • Are they dry yet?? Ok, then take the teeth out of the moulds.
  • Now you need to wear gloves! You should get Nitrile gloves as they will give you the best protection. You should also have extra ventilation as the chemicals can be harmful to your health. I am so into safety and you should be too!
  • The teeth will be made with cold acrylic resin and I start with putting some monomer in the mould.
  • Then I start putting acrylic powder of a correct shade into the liquid. Add more liquid as you need it. Fill it up to the top of the teeth.
  • Put into hot water to speed up the hardening. After about 15 minutes you can pop out the teeth.
  • Using a Dremel tool I file down the plastic that has come into the gum area.
  • Put the teeth back into the mould.
  • Mix up some red acrylic and put it on top of the teeth.
  • Wait 10 minutes and then take them out.
  • Polishing them may need many different tools and polishing waxes. Test everything until you are happy. It took me years to find local product to do the job righ
  • So here they are. Finished teeth that would never be used.
  • But they looked quite good. I don't know where they are now. Sad really.
  • Two detail pictures of the sculpt before moulding.
  • Two detail pictures of the sculpt before moulding.
  • Before starting the moulding I build a water clay wall along the highest points of the head.
  • Before starting the moulding I build a water clay wall along the highest points of the head.
  • Press round indentions in the clay wall to make keys for the mould halves.
  • Spray the water clay wall with some acrylic spray to make it water resistant.
  • When that is dry give the whole things a good coat of dulling spray. This breaks down the surface tension and the plaster will not bead up on it later. Great stuff! Don't miss this step!
  • Lay the head down to make the moulding easier. Remember to put something soft under it not to damage your sculpt.
  • What can I say about this. Dental plaster, yeah, Moldano it's called. Not the best but affordable.  If you want the best I suggest Ultracal 30 from US Gypsum.
  • A lot of people will say that it is forbidden to use an electric whisk to mix plaster. To hell with that! I have been doing it for 20 years now and have never had any problems because of it. If you want to, do it! Just let the plaster soak into the water first and then whisk it down. If you don't let it soak you will get a bad plaster
  • Start brushing the plaster on the front using a soft brush. Why a soft brush? Because clay is soft and can be messed up with a hard brush. Logic. I love it!
  • Do 2 or 3 layers of plaster. You should now have about 1-2 cm of plaster on there.
  • Now it is time to reinforce the mould with burlap. Dip it in plaster and then put it on your mould.
  • Build up so you have at least 2.5 cm /1" thickness everywhere.
  • A beautiful mould is a good mould. So don't stop working on it until it looks great!
  • Turn the mould around and do the same procedure on the back half. Add some release agent on the plaster edges so the two parts won't stick together. After this it's getting scary. Take it apart and hopefully will be ok.
  • This can be incredibly hard work.
  • I think I spent more than 45 minutes to get it out of the mould. But the mould was more or less perfect!
  • You will always have leftover clay in the mould. Just wash it out with soapy hot water.
  • This takes a while too.
  • Look, finished clean moulds... Nice. Good feeling!
  • Now you can soap the moulds so the silicone will come out easily. Most no perfume soaps will do fine.
  • Brush it in with a brush and after a few minutes you can just sponge it over so you won't have any lakes of soap.
  • Put the moulds together and let them dry overnight. Time to sleep!
  • The stuff we will be using for the head is Platsil 10 from Polytek. To make it easier to handle I always put it into sports bottles as you see here. Platsil consists of three components. The A and the B is the silicone and should always be mixed 50/50. The Deadner is a softener and can be used up to 200%.
  • Let's start with the silicone head. Mix up a batch of Platsil 10 A+B I think I did a 50 g + 50 g  mix.  Using a non-latex sponge apply a very thin layer of the inside of your moulds. Let it dry fully. This will create a barrier which will allow you to use mixes with deadner in it afterwards. Mixes with deadner will always stay sticky and this layer prevents that.
  • Once the barrier is dry we can mix some coloured Platsil and start to create a skin.  To colour the silicone I normally use Kryolan greasepaint and flocking. Just mash it up and mix it into the B component before you start. For this project I mixed "Alabaster" and red flocking into about 1 kilo of B. this was enough for the whole project.
  • To make sure I build up an even layer of silicone I mix in a bit of Cabosil thickener. With this stuff in it I can build the silicone as I wish.
  • Look how nice and gooey it is.
  • So here you go, the first layer of skin coloured silicone is in the mould.
  • Keep building it up until your have got a good thickness that will not show the foam that will be underneath
  • In this case I think I made it about 1 cm / 0.5" thick. I also put some elastic band into the silicone before it dried so the foam will have something to attach itself to.
  • I want the mouth to be empty so I can insert teeth or a tongue so here I have started to put water clay in the area that I want to be empty.
  • Just shape it so whatever you want to put in there will fit. Thinking backwards is never easy.
  • Now I think I got a good shape to it. You might need it to be deeper or something.
  • We will fill the mould with a hard poly-urethane foam and poly foam's are not good friends with water so I need to cover the clay with plastic.
  • Now it's all nicely covered. I used a very thin plastic bag and it just attached itself to the clay.
  • As a special precaution I sprayed a bit of acrylic spray over too. Probably not needed but better safe than sorry.
  • Clay is in there and silicone in both halves. Time to put them together.
  • Strap it together hard.
  • Eehhh, yes it has been strapped now. What should I do now???
  • You will notice that the edges of the neck will most likely fall down so put some gaffers tape to hold it in place.
  • Using spatulas, brushes and anything you can think of I put a silicone mix into the edge between the halves. You need to have the exact same colour of silicone as you had on the very first layer.
  • The first couple of layers of silicone I put in I keep fairly loose...
  • And the last couple of layers I make really thick using Cabosil or Plathix.
  • Fill it good! If you don't, it might break when you take it apart later.
  • Time to fill the mould with hard foam. My favourite foam is called R8 and I buy it from Mouldlife from where I get most of my supplies. No, I am not sponsored by them to advertise them but they are great and I recommend them as soon as I have a chance.
  • The R8 is a great foam. Very reliable and easy 50/50 mix.
  • Wear gloves!!! I can't stress this enough. And have a exhaust fan to remove any fumes. This is toxic shit!! At least wear a gas mask! And write down how many hours it has been used!  A filter only lasts so many hours. Check your supplier how many hours it can be used! You will live a bit longer if you do.
  • I have put the mould face down and I will fill the face above the clay. The R8 attaches very well to it self so don't worry about it coming apart later.
  • See how it rises. It grows something like 600% so don't mix too much. I think this first mix was 100 grams A and 100 grams B.
  • Mix up a new batch with 300 grams A and 300 grams B. A normal head fills nicely on 800 grams total.
  • It grows quick!
  • And dries quick too. I cut some pieces out after 15 minutes to show you how hard it gets quickly.
  • I slowly took the moulds apart after about an hour. I never rush this step. I really want to let it cure before I open the moulds. The back came off easily.
  • The front stuck a bit and it took me quite a while to get it out.
  • Getting frustrated here after 15 minutes of pulling it very, very slowly.
  • So you can understand why I look happy to get the head out in one good looking piece. (What I didn't show you here in the tutorial is the total failure head I did before this one)
  • Now just start digging out the water clay from the mouth. Be prepared that at this point it will start to feel a bit weird.
  • As I said weird... Digging clay out of a dead man's mouth.
  • Here I am using a curved pair of scissors to trim away the flash edge. It is better to cut a deep canyon instead of just trying to keep it flat. It may sound strange but it is easier to fill a gap than to try to cover something that sticks out.
  • Once again you mix up a batch of original colour silicone and make it fairly thick.
  • Look what a nice cut on the sides...
  • Now I use a dental spatula to fill in the cut. Some people put some cling film over it but I didn't need to do it on this piece as it was a very clean cut.
  • This is after the first coat.
  • The second coat is now on and the edge is now quite invisible.
  • Paint time! The head will now come alive for real. I mix very small batches of silicone (1 g A+1 g B) on a piece of plexiglas and then I put a tiny bit of Kryolan grease paint into it.
  • Then I just use brushes, sponges and my fingers to apply it to the head. Sometimes I want it more transparent and then I add a drop of heptane solvent. This also doubles your working time.
  • I use a number of different shades to paint my skin tones. I usually start with reds and work myself towards blues and shadows. I have no rule book so I just go with my gut feeling.
  • I tend to end up ending with some more reds. I don't know why..
  • The blood is also silicone mixed with grease paint.
  • Starting too look real, right??
  • One of the more annoying things about making a fake head is that when people look at it they will always point to the painted veins and ask:  "How did you do those???".  Why do they do that?? It took me about 15 secs to paint them on. The rest took days. Please admire that work instead....... But they won't. People love veins.
  • Lets get some hair on him. As you see on the computer screen behind the head I have a close up of his eyebrows there. So now I am using skin illustrator to draw an outline of them on the head.
  • I make sure I find the correct directions and width.
  • For the eyebrows I used a traditional punch needle made from a sewing needle.
  • Don't cut them until you are completely finished.
  • Comb the hairs and check so everything looks good.
  • Here I am using a hot curling iron to press the hairs into shape before I start cutting them.
  • Scary, scary. This cut can't be undone.
  • Eyebrows, done!
  • Another angle of it.
  • Punching eyelashes needs a lot of curling irons to look good. Now I have apperently stopped using reference material on the computer and qtch stand up with Russel Brand instead. What a glamorous life we makeup artists have!
  • Me and Fredrik are having some cosy time before the final wig is going on.
  • This is the wig that Fredrik will be wearing on stage and I am using a eyebrow pencil to mark his real hairline on the dummy head.
  • Now I have put the dummy wig on and I am cutting the front lace off to prepare it for the hair punching. This is of course not the wig from the last picture!
  • Fold it back and sponge on some silicone mixture under the lace.
  • Pin it down into the silicone with needles.
  • Let it dry for a while. Have a beer and watch some  makeup videos on YouTube. It is most likely late a night now and you will need some relax time.
  • Late nights will not stop us! As I remember it this hairline was started around 10 pm.
  • For beards and hairlines I am using my own punch needles that you can buy in my shop. You can hold the hair straight out and just punch away. We did this hairline in less than an hour.
  • The head, eyebrows, eyelashes and head hair is all done. Here I am testing if it will be ok to hold it in it's hair and it works great.
  • I decided that we didn't need teeth in this head as they would not show. But I wanted some life in the mouth so I cast my own tongue for it. It was horrible. I almost puked twice.
  • But I made a copy of it in dental acrylic and put some steel wire in it sticking out at the back which I could stick into the hard foam. It worked like a charm.
  • John the Baptist was obviously a very hairy guy. I guess it's in the Bible somewhere. So he needed to have a long beard too. Actually it could be mentioned in the Quran too as he is a prophet in there too.
  • We were on a very short deadline to make this head (it was all made in four days) so I didn't have time to punch the whole beard. So this is an old lace beard I have trimmed down and glued on with silicone.
  • Here I am again using my punch needles to fill up the beard line.
  • Now a bunch of pictures of the finished head.
  • Now a bunch of pictures of the finished head.
  • Now a bunch of pictures of the finished head.
  • Now a bunch of pictures of the finished head.
  • Oh my Lord. What am I doing?? Well the neck needed to look bloody so I covered him up with plastic and mixed up more silicone to make the cut gory.
  • I know.... don't tell me. There would not be any veins sticking out of a decapitated head but they wanted it so what can I do??
  • A hairdryer is a great tool when working with silicone. A drying time of 25 minutes may be decreased to 5 with some added heat.
  • More finished heads. And Yes, my neighbours came walking by wondering what the hell was going on.
  • Salome 483
  • Salome 528
  • My little son, Jack is so used to all of these strange things already and doesn't care at all. Hope he will be alright...............
  • Salome på Malmö OperaSome press photos from the performance. Here is Fredrik before he dies. Foto Malin Arnesson
  • And then after he dies. Foto Malin Arnesson
  • And then this woman comes and cuddles and dances with him. Too weird for me! Foto Malin Arnesson
  • I hope you have enjoyed my step by step on making fake heads. If you have please send me a picture of your own work and share your experiences with me!