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Captain Eyestrain
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Since I have been asked to post my technique for modelling and painting over here , I've cut my tutorial out from the British OSS forum and put it here .
This shows the whole procedure from modelling through painting that I use when making a new head for one of my own figures : I'm using Fimo rather than Sculpey , because I slightly prefer it , but either will do the job .There are now various other Polymer Clays around : it's really a matter of choice which one you use , depending perhaps on which is available where you live .
This head is obviously a One-off : but I use the same procedure when a head is intended for casting .
The head here is a real man , a Junior British Officer serving in the later stages of WW2 in NW.Europe , and I've attempted a portrait .

Last winter I read Peter White's moving account of his war , as a subaltern in The King's Own Scottish Borderers , fighting through Holland and Germany from September '44 until VEDay . As an account of the Sharp End , it takes some beating : " With the Jocks .." Sutton publishing .
Out in paperback .
I had been thinking of creating a Junior Officer for some time , and since there were several photographs of the author in the book ( he's the one on the right in the photo ), I decided to make him a real person , rather than one of my " types " .
What follows is a largely pictorial description of how I make a head .

I use Fimo , available in craft shops pretty well everywhere in Europe . Sculpey is an alternative , but I find it too soft for some jobs : it's a personal choice .
The mixture , Kneaded to an even colour before starting , is four parts Dark Flesh , to one part White , the white being necessary to prevent the head coming out too translucent when finished . This mix has been arrived at after several years experiment , so you'll have to take my word for it . This is formed to a suitable blob and rammed hard onto a tile , which acts as an support throughout the process :YOU DON'T NEED A WIRE ARMATURE !

This is then worked on with a small dental spatula : nearly all the work is done with this tool . The putty should stay in place on the tile securely :

At this stage I check dimensions with a pair of screw compasses : about 38-40mm between the point of the chin and the top of the head . It's very easy to make the head too big as you model more material on to it , and it's worth checking again as you work . I rough out all the basic forms , referring in this case to the photos in the book :

Everything is taking shape . I work in spasms of half an hour or so , take a break , and come back to it .

After several sessions , once I'm happy with the way things are going , I start to put in the fine detail , using the tools you see . The brushes are for smoothing , using the Sculpey diluent as a lubricant , The white brush is quite stiff , and used for polishing out tool marks , and the brown brush is softer , for more delcate work :

The fine finishing process takes quite a time , since it's very difficult to change things once the first firing has been done : I like to use the Fimo surface as the actual skin of the head ( not covered in paint , save for a wash ) , so it's vital to remove all blemishes before firing :you can put a patch in later , but it tends to fire as a slightly different colour , so it's best to avoid repairs if you can :

The chopped off bristle-brush is for the stubble : you can get some very delicate surface detail using brushes .
Before firing , I carve off the hair , since I'm going to replace it with coloured Fimo :

Then , when you can't bear to do any more , it goes in the Baby Belling , which is perfect for firing Polymer Clays : about fifteen minutes at 125C :

Remove from oven , allow to cool , prise off the tile . You can now carve away any unwanted parts , and add more Fimo to shape the back of the head :

Now fire again to harden the added bits . You can fire the head many times , so long as you don't overcook it at any stage : I frequently put them in the oven seven or eight times in the course of finalising details .
Once the flesh parts are done , I hollow out the neck and mount it on a stick with some Blutack , and add the hair , mixed to a chosen colour . The tissue paper is to stop my dirty fingers marking the neck whilst shaping the hair . The scribing and finishing of the hair involves all the tools and brushes :

There is a pic in the book showing Peter without a hat , which I used as a guide to his hairstyle , controlling and shortening it somewhat since he's eventually going to be wearing a hat :

Finally the modelling part is done : it looks a a bit weird at this stage , but that will be corrected by the painting:

Now on to the Painting stage :

First thing , before starting , is to thoroughly scrub with detergent to "wet" the head : if you don't do this ( and this also applies to resin heads ) the paint will puddle all over the place , and not stick properly .

I generally start by using a matching brown to detail the hair , grading it down the back and sides from the coloured Fimo , and put in the eyebrows .Then I add the irises in black , establishing the " gaze " of the subject :

I've also put in the faintest stubble , by slightly washing the beard area with a tone matching the hair colour . This is done with very dilute paint , remembering to feather the edge to avoid a sharp line .

Then the skin tone : nothing too extreme with this subject : he's going to be in Europe in winter . This pic shows the colours I use , and they are diluted and dispersed with " acrylic matt medium " from W&N : this acts like a blender : if you can't find it , an acrylic gel drying retarder works in the same way :

You have to chase this around for a bit with a large brush , to get it even and avoid blotches ; it's better to do several thin applications rather than one thick one . Once dry , he now looks like this :

Now the tricky bit : the eyes . There's no getting away from the fact that you need a steady hand , and a good OO brush for this job .
The irises are already defined in black : the shape here is very important : notice the actual shape made by the circular iris , overlapped at the top by the upper lid , and just touching the lower :

Next , select a suitable eye colour for your subject , and fill in the iris completely , save for a fine line all round the edge . If you're feeling clever , you can add a little white to the colour and pick out the paler ring aroung the pupil and the radiating veins :

Lastly the pupil : I use Vallejo gloss black No.861 for this : position the pupil so that it just touches the upper eyelid ( if you want a relaxed expression ) , and by repeated applications build it into a little dome :

The more the pupil is covered by the eyelid , the sleepier the expression will be ; conversley , if there's space between the pupil and the eyelid , the subject will look alarmed ( or angry , depending on what the rest of the face is doing ).

Here's the finished head :

There are one or two subtle additions : a little carmine around the eyes , on the inner edges of the lids , and flushed on the ears . I've also run a fine line of carmine darkened with black into the join between the lips . The edges of the hair have been fine detailed with a tiny brush , to blend the edges where hair meets flesh . The last thing is to flood the eye with gloss acrylic varnish .

Finally , here he is, finished , on the assembled figure : there will be another version later of him in his combat dress , but that , as they say , will be another story :

The figure is DML , with a slightly modified DML battledress : notice the lining and hooks on the collar . The cloth badges are made for me by various friends ( thank you Peter and Rob ) , and the Tam o'shanter is made from Polyester Suede, which is a really useful fabric for 1/6 , since it has a woolen-style nap on one face , ideal for making serge uniform items .The hands are also modelled in Fimo , and attached to DML wrist pins with superglue .
The webbing belt is scratchbuilt using Richie Elbourne's scale etched brass sets ( [email protected] ), and the holster is DML , slightly modified.


32 Posts
Beautiful and delicate work here...I have a few questions. Do you seal the paint job after your finished? how well do those liquitex paints hold up? and are there any paints that you'd recommend? Like for example, are there any that are more durable than others?

Freakin custom figure god!
1,275 Posts
Great tutorial Tony. If I may I have a question. Do you use beads for the eyes, and if so what size? I've been fooling around with a few sculpts myself, and find the eyes the most difficult to execute convincingly. Thanks!

Mik the Brit
759 Posts
John, I hope Tony doesn't mind, I copied his answer from a thread on the OSS forum:

" I leave the eye-sockets empty for the first firing , then do the back of the head and hair , then fill the empty sockets with white fimo to complete the eyes : it takes some careful shaping to get the curvature just right .

The expression in the eyes is completely defined by their shape : pull faces in a mirror and you will understand . That shape is actually easier to model with an empty socket , since you can get your tools inside as well as out .

I have tried inserting beads for eyes in the past , but it's actually simpler this way : you don't have to stick with whatever the shape of the bead is , which gives you more flexibility."

242 Posts
Dear Tony,
First I would like to thank you for being so open and generous with your technique. Second, could you please clarify one of your instructions? I am not sure hwat you mean by this sentence:

"First thing , before starting , is to thoroughly scrub with detergent to the water-based acrylic to "wet" the head"

Do you mean that you first wash the head before you apply the detergent? Or do you add detergent to the acrylic? Or do you wash and then do a 'wash' of acrylic like a primer?

Thank you.

Captain Eyestrain
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Johnny . it's a typo that somehow got left in ! Sorry , I'll edit it .
What I meant was to scrub the Fimo head with detergent , and rinse , before starting painting . If you are using a water-based paint , it's got to "wet" the surface to go on properly , and detergent is the easiest solution .
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