Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Sculpting... Armatures: My way!

I promised a sculpting post a few days back but I've been running around like a headless chicken over Christmas and New Year and haven't had the chance. But anyway, got there in the end and am now able to show you my own technique for making a miniature armature. Not come across any other sculptors working like this but there may well be a few.

This is actually the first piece of sculpting I've done this year and is the start of a commission piece I'm doing for Elodie Mae. Not going to tell you what it is as that's not my place to do but I can tell you it's a female figure.

A little info ahead of time. I sculpt in Epoxy Putty for the most part and this method is probably not so ideal for working in polymer clays such as Fimo or Sculpy. This figure is being sculpted in ProCreate either pure or mixed with Magic Sculp. I also use greenstuff sometimes. Also milliput. Tends to be mood-dependant.

Anyway, the armature. I sculpt my minis on a cork as many sculptors do and I like to glue a sheet of plasticard to the top of the cork to give myself a nice clean surface to work over. I then take a length of 0.7mm garden wire (non-plastic-coated) and cut off a length of it. With some deft use of needle nose pliers I form the pelvis and legs. I drill a couple of holes in the top of the plasticard and press the wire carefully into the cork. This gives you the following...

The significant difference between my way and most others is fairly obvious here; there's no wire for the torso. And there will be none.

My next stage is to mix up some putty. For this first stage I want the putty to set harder than pure ProCreate normally would so I mix it 50/50 with Magic Sculp. I then take a single piece of this and wrap it around the pelvis and form it upwards to form a central torso. At this stage you'll need this piece to form the shape of the spine. This figure is leaning back slightly. We end up with this...

I then let this cure fully so that it will stay put when I add more putty. The inverted V shape of the pelvis armature inside the putty will mean a firm bond that wont move. Next up I add pure Procreate to form some vague areas of shape on the figure. This will all be covered over with subsequent layers but I try to be fairly neat anyway. One piece is added to the top of the torso and I try to make the top straight across to give a decent collar to work around. A blob is added for the core of the figures bottom and then pieces for the upper legs, lower legs and feet. We end up with this as the final 'bulked' armature.

This is allowed to fully cure and I'm then in a good position to start sculpting the figure. For me, the advantage of this system is that I can add wires for the neck and arms later in the process, and not having to worry about drilling in and finding a wire I can't drill through. In making a full armature you have to be sooo careful to get all the limbs absolutely in the right place or the figure will look wrong. This will come with experience but this technique seemed to get me through pretty well when I was less experienced and I've not really felt the need to change exclusively to another technique. I use full armatures sometimes but usually end up coming back to this technique. I use the same technique for 54mm figures, just with thicker wire.

So, there you have it, my way of making an armature. I hope it's been somewhat enlightening to you in some way, shape or form. Personally I have terrible trouble making full armatures by twisting wires together and so, when I do a full one, it tends to be soldered. And that's just a pain as I'm useless at soldering...

And anyone who wants to check out Elodie Mae Miniatures can do so at the following address...



  1. Brilliant tips on armatures. Your method is simple and effective, it seems loads easier than constructing a full armature. What dimensions do you find best for the length of the 'leg' wire for a 28mm human?

  2. Really enjoying your posts Steve - keep up the great work!!!

  3. Length-wise I tend to just grab more than I need and then trim the excess off before punching it into the cork. I usually leave about an inch extra on each leg to secure it to the cork.

    And thank you Ms Envy ;)

  4. Great blog steve, enjoying the posts muchly.

    9mm floor to knee - 7mm knee to hip was always the std measurements for me.... 9 and 9 for girlies with a 2mm shorter torso....if that makes sense Dave.

  5. I like the platicard on the cork. I'll try this next time I get the urge to prod putty again. Thank you for the tips.

  6. I should have used a clean piece to be more photogenic really. This cork/plasticard combo has been used before. Cheapskate aren't I?

  7. Great post Steve, thanks for sharing! It's great to see a good blog by a sculptor, particularly one who's work I really admire - there are so few that I've seen out there that share there secrets.