Friday, 27 May 2011

Elle Puppet Finished

 Sorry I haven't posted any updates in a while. Both me and Josh have been busy shooting scenes for our film and I haven't had much spare time. What we've shot so far is looking very nice.

Elle Puppet Finished

I've been working on this character for a long time now and I'm happy to show you the finished puppet.
Below are some turn around photos I took. I posed the puppet to match my original Marquette. I feel that has become for signature stance.

In the pictures above you can see the small tie down hole in the shoe. The puppet was only anchored on one foot, but she balanced and held her weight fine. This was the first time I had posed the character in any extreme way to help preserve the life of the wire armature.

Below are some different expressions I photographed. I wanted to experiment with the various facial combinations and display the puppets range of emotions. These pictures will be used on posters that appear in our film and used for promotion.( more on that later ).

In my previous post I explained the process of painting the final details onto the face and hair. Since then I have also added a few more decorative components such as earrings and a necklace as well as practical elements like eyebrows and eyelids.

Eyebrows and Eyelids
The eyebrows on this puppet are separate from the replacement brows. This will allow me to have small brow movements in between the more dramatic brow changes. The eyebrows pictured above are sculpted in Bake-n-Bend Sculpey. I chose this material because the eyebrows are very thin, and using a more solid material like regular Sculpey or Milliput would make them brittle and at risk of snapping. Another advantage of using bendy Sculpey was that I could pre-mix the clay to the right colour. In the past I've had trouble with paint scratching off eyebrows during animation. The eyebrows are stuck to the face using Tacky Wax. This is a translucent white wax and as the name suggests, its tacky. Its really good at holding the brows in place and unlike blue tack, it doesn't leave greasy marks. The wax allows the eyebrows to be pushed around the surface of the brow, sliding up and down without falling off.


I've made a selection of differently shaped eyelids to help create different expressions and blinks. Creating eyelids for Elle was a bit more complicated than usual as she constantly has a set of black lashes visible. The set of lashes seen in the picture above are made from Bake-n-Bend Sculpey in the same way as the eyebrows. When Elle needs to blink, the lashes are removed and replaced with eyelids. Each set of eyelids has a new set of lashes sculpted onto them. To make the eyelids I covered a spare set of eyeballs with a thin layer of Milliput. I applied Vaseline between the two to stop them from sticking together. Once the Milliput had set I removed it from the ball and was left with a thin shell that fitted over the eyeball and matched the shape. I cut and shaped these shells to fit the puppets face and into a range of different sizes (fully closed, 1/2 closed, 1/4 closed etc.). So that I didn't get them mixed up I labeled the back of each eyelid with an arrow to tell me which way up they go and with an L or an R to indicate the left or right eye. Once I was happy with the shapes I added lashes to the edge of the eyelids, making sure they were all the same size, shape and length. I painted each eyelid using acrylic paints and added chalk pastel to give a green eye shadow effect. The eyelids stick to the eye balls with a small amount of Tacky Wax.

The jewellery was very simple to make. The diamond earrings are small Swarovski crystals that my sister sourced for me. (my sister makes custom jewellery
The necklace and hair clip are made from Milliput that I carved and sanded into shape. I painted them with a metallic silver spray. The chain for the necklace is made from thin silver wire.

 Finally ,above is an 'Ultimate Image' That I created as part of my Uni course. It's intended to be used to help promote the University, as well as me and my work.

That's all for today. Next I will give an update on the Theatre Usher and will be showing how I made his uniform. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Puppet Progression - 'Elle' & 'Theatre Usher'

In this post I'll be giving an update on the 'Elle' and 'Theatre Usher' Puppets.
In my previous posts I described how I made eyes for 'Elle' and showed the puppets head with the skin tone coloured faces. I will now show how I painted extra details onto the faces and hair.

Above are the lower face masks for the puppet. As you can see they are a consistent flesh colour. The lips, mouth and teeth need to be hand painted with acrylic paints.

Firstly I painted the inside of the mouths a darker colour using a fine brush. Once that had fully dried I applied white to the teeth and finally red for the lips. It was really small work so I had to keep a steady hand. I used the smallest brush I have. Above is a picture of the masks with painted mouths.

The next stage was to add colour to the cheeks and make-up around the eyes. These needed to be very subtle so I used chalk pastels. Unfortunately I completely forgot to take any pictures of the process. Luckily Josh took some photos did when he was painting the Mail Man puppet. Follow the link HERE to read his post.
I used the exact same process of applying the chalk powder to the face and sealing it with dull coat spray.
Adding pinks and reds to the face helps to give the skin some variation and makes it look more natural.

Above is a full body shot of the puppet with the painted facial masks. I added some variations in colour to the hair to make it look less yellow and more blond. Regular paints aren't flexible and wouldn't stick to the silicone hair. To solve this problem I pigmented silicone and used that to paint onto the hair. I used a  darker brown colour for the recessed areas and dry brushed a light yellow over everywhere else. This helped to bring out the detail in the sculpt. I added an accelerant to the catalyst to help the silicone cure faster. (roughly 30mins) so I had to work fast.

Above are some pictures of 'Elle' with a selection of different expressions. At this stage she doesn't have any eyebrows, eye lashes or jewellery. They will be added next.

Theatre Usher

Now it's time to jump to a different character. I think the last post about the Usher was HERE where I had made his wire armature. The next stage was to start bulking out his figure, and there was a lot of bulk to add to this chunky character. If you haven't seen it yet, you can view his design HERE.

Above you can see I've added blocks of balsa wood around the aluminium armature. These were made it two halves and sandwiched around the armature with epoxy resin glue. The balsa wood keeps the weight down and is easy to shape and sand. The puppets head will be half Sculpey and half plasticine. The back half of the head will be solid to give us something to push against while animating. The front half will be plasticine, allowing us to sculpt changes in expression. We decided to use this system because the Ushers expression doesn't change very much during the film. The plasticine can still be removed and replaced to create extreme changes in expression.

Above is the puppet with soft sponge added to the arms and legs. Also the torso is covered with a thin white sponge that was cut to fit tightly around his body. The foam is cut and shaped with scissors and glued onto the armature with contact adhesive. The next stage for the Usher is to make his red suit and black shoes.

I think that's enough for this post
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Paddle Ball Kid

In this post I'll be showing the construction of another side character called Paddle Ball Kid.
Much like the 'Little Old Lady' character that I made earlier ( Link HERE), Paddle Ball kid plays a small role in the film. Below is a storyboard panel that shows the design of the character. He is seen in the crowded theater lobby, batting his paddle ball with a hypnotized expression on his face.

As the characters is only seen briefly I didn't need to put too much detail into the construction.
The character isn't required to move very much, so most of the puppet will be static.

Above is the internal armature made from steel wire and Milliput. I have two K&S points in the chest to allow the arms and head to be removed. I attached a steel M3 nut to the foot to allow the character to be tied down to the base.

Next I started to sculpt the character onto the armature using Super Sculpey Firm. The eyes are cast in urethane resin (the same size as the Mail Man's). Above you can see the finished head and the rough form of the body. I printed some of my drawn designs to help guide the sculpting process. Unlike all the other puppets so far, I didn't have a marquette to work from.

Rather than trying to sculpt everything at once, I like to sculpt in layers. For example, I sculpted and baked the head bald, and then added the hair onto the solid surface. This helps to prevent me from squashing one area while focusing on another. In the picture above you can see the aluminium wire arm holding the bat. This is the only part of the puppet that will be animated.

To allow the arm to flex with the aluminium wire I sculpted it in Bake-n-Bend Sculpey. Above is the finished sculpture including, arms, belt, bat and bow tie.

The picture above shows how the character breaks apart into separate components. The head and right arm slot into place with K&S tubing. The other parts will be glued on after painting.

The sculpture was primed white to prepare the surface for painting

I hand painted the puppet with acrylic paints and added shading with chalk pastels. Above are all the painted components ready to be assembled.

Finally, here is the finished character ready to be filmed.

In my next post I'll show the updates to the 'Elle' puppet and the start of the bulky Theatre Usher.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


To animate the characters eyes a pin will be inserted into a hole in the pupil to help roll the eye in its socket. This gives good control for subtle eye adjustments. In this post I'll be showing the process of finishing the eyes.

The first stage was to drill a small hole into the polyurethane eye balls I made earlier. I used the smallest drill bit I have, which is about the same diameter as a pin. I secured the ball into some Plasticine to hold it steady and drilled half way through.

Next I made some concave circles to act as irises. I used a small spherical grinding piece and my rotary tool.

In the picture above you can see the concave irises a little clearer.

Finally I painted in the blue eye colours using a very fine brush. I started with a dark blue and then painted a lighter blue centre, leaving a ring of dark around the edge. Next I added some different shades of blue branching out from the centre and black for the pupil. After the paint had dried I added some gloss to catch the light.

These next pictures were taken before I did the eyes but I thought I'd post them just to show the puppet with the painted head. This I still a work in progress.

Above are the Mail Man Puppets next to Elle to show their scale in comparison to each other.
In my next post I'll show how I've painted Elle's faces and hair and added some finishing details.

Thanks for looking.