Friday, 5 October 2012

How I made my Zombie Costume!

In honor of Halloween, I'd like to share the process I went through in making myself a zombie costume.
This post is going to be picture-heavy, as I took a bunch of snaps while I was making this costume, but the pics should be helpful in showing the steps in my process.

I had something pretty specific in mind for my zombie costume: I wanted to have an exposed jaw, as if the outer skin had been ripped right off of it.

It was going to be a lot of work. But that didn't really matter; I was just really excited to be making a zombie costume from scratch. I mean—really—who doesn't like making a zombie costume, right?
OK, let's do this!

First, I prepared everything that I would need to make the mold of my face. The primary molding material I used for this is called alginate. It's a soft molding material that picks up a lot of detail. Dentists use it to make molds of your teeth. I would also need plaster bandages to make an outer support structure for the mold and some baby oil to lubricate my eyebrows, so that they don't stick to the mold (Vaseline would also work).
As it was my own face that was getting molded, I wouldn't actually be able to do this part of the mold making. So I called in a crackerjack, impromptu moldmaker: my wife, Adrienne. It was the first time my wife had ever worked with alginate, but she picked it up pretty quick. And as expected, she did great!
Alginate starts off as a powder. You mix it with water, and it makes a creamy paste, kinda like lumpy pancake batter or thick yogurt. While it's wet, you quickly cover the part you'd like to mold. But you do have to move quick because this material has a very short working-time. And when your working time is over, you'll know it; because all at once, it will harden up and become a solid.
After the alginate set up, Adrienne moved to the next step: making a mother-mold out of plaster bandages. The mother-mold acts as a cradle for the alginate, and it will help the alginate maintain its original shape after it's released from my face. Now around this time, it might be important to point out that we left breathing holes around my nostrils. That's so that I wouldn't suffocate. Luckily, they worked.
And then, after the plaster bandages fully harden....
I carefully and gently release the alginate from my face. Alginate tears very easily, so you want to be careful as you pull it away from you face. You don't want to accidentally rip your mold in half!
Once the alginate mold is off, it gets placed back into the mother-mold to help it keep its original shape. My plan is to create a solid plaster casting out of this mold by pouring plaster directly into it, so it's best if there are no holes for the plaster to leak from. The only holes in this mold are the breathing holes around my nostrils, so I simply plug them up with some clay.
Next, I mix my plaster. I used a plaster called Ultracal 30. It's actually more of a cement than a plaster, but if you wind up using plaster of Paris, that should work fine, too. As soon as my plaster mix is ready, I brush in a thin coat to wet the surface of the mold.
After brushing in the "splash-coat," I'm ready to pour in the rest of my plaster. I pour it up to the very top rim of the mold.
Then I let the plaster set (or harden up).
And once the plaster is set, I release it from the alginate. And...
VoilĂ ! I have a casting of my face.
You'll note that the area around the nostrils is distorted or incomplete. This is due to the clay in the breathing holes. But for this costume, that won't be a problem. The only part that's important to keep intact is the jaw area, and that came out just fine.
Next up was the sculpting—and I jumped right into this part. I used WED clay (a water and mineral oil based clay), and that helped things move along very quickly.
The sculpt was really fun to do. I used a few reference images (mostly pictures of skulls) to help me with the anatomical features.
In the end, though, I wanted this sculpt to look somewhat comical (it's just funner that way), so I tried to exaggerate the look of the whole thing by slightly increasing the scale of all the main features: jawbone, chin, and teeth.
And in terms of being practical, I tried to leave a little room around my mouth so that I'd be able to eat and drink.
And after the sculpture of my zombie jaw was finished, it was time to make another mold.
I added release to any exposed plaster around my sculpture, put up some clay walls, and mixed my plaster (Ultracal 30). And very soon after that, I had a mold of my sculpture.
And now that I had my final work mold finished, I was ready to brush in rubber latex and make the casting for my zombie jaw.
I wound up making two castings. I didn't document this part of the process, but all it involved was brushing in several layers of latex (drying each layer with a hair-dryer) until I was able to build a thickness that was strong enough to hold its shape. After you pull your rubber casting out of the mold, it's ready to paint. Below is a side-by-side picture of the two castings I made: the one on the left is raw and unpainted, but the one on the right has its paint job already in progress.
Painting rubber latex is not as easy as you'd think. It can actually be a bit tricky. The best thing (that I know) to do is to make your own paint. I did this by getting some clear rubber latex and adding my own tints to make the colors of paint that I needed. Once I had my colors, I started using my custom-made paints on the rubber latex mask. Rubber latex bonds to itself, so as you paint on each new layer, the new color bonds right along with it.
I've never considered myself much of a painter, but for this costume, I already had a general idea of what I wanted to see. So I just went for it, experimenting and having fun as I went along.
Here's one trick I learned: if you water down your latex paint, you can use it as a wash (kinda like watercolors), which was great for adding darker tones into cracks and crevices.
I wanted some "bone" to be visible, so I went back into it with some brighter off-white tones around the chin and along the lower jaw. And as a final detail, I added some chunky red pieces of rubber latex to act as fleshy bits of meat that were still stuck to my jaw.
Finally, it was finished! And as soon as it was ready, I had to do a quick trial run to see how it looked. I grabbed my makeup kit and a pair of contact lenses that I had bought especially for this costume. And in no time, I got the first glimpse of what my zombie costume would look like. I gotta say, the contact lenses totally sold it!
The trial run was a success! And now I couldn't wait to get the rest of the costume finished. Now, let me see, Oh yeah, blood! Lots, and lots, of blood!
And after blooding things up a bit and doing a full blown zombie makeup job (again, thanks to my artistic wife, Adrienne), there you have it—I am undead; I am rotting flesh and jawbone; I am a zombie!
Aw, yeah! I was totally happy with how my zombie costume turned out. It's one of the best costumes that I've ever made, and it's probably one of my all-time favorites, too. I liked it so much that I wound up wearing it twice that year (2009). Once to a Halloween costume contest (which I sadly did not win). The pictures (above and below) show the zombie makeup I wore to that costume party.
Below is a picture of me going home on BART after that costume party. (For some reason, nobody wanted to take the seat next to me.)
And finally, the other occasion I dressed up in my zombie costume was to celebrate my own 40th birthday. That's right; I had a zombie party to celebrate 40 years of being undead!
Above is a picture of my wife and me from our Zombie Party. If you'd like to see more on that, check this out: Zombie Party!

And who made my wife's awesome zombie costume (hanging guts and all) you might ask?
You guessed it—She did!

Happy Halloween, friends!
~Tony Preciado

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Scarlett's Tree

As threatened, I have a baby related post, however, I do think that it qualifies as a workshop project as it involves painting a mural onto a wall and the problem solving that went along with making it all come together.
When we learned that we were going to have a little girl, we started planning out how we would paint her room.  We decide that we'd like to paint a mural (really it's more of a fun graphic) on the wall of her room.  I keep saying "we", but for the record, I'd like to point out that the color palette, the image we painted, and the overall layout of this project were all selected and arranged by my wife, Adrienne.  She did a great job, and I was happy to help her in making sure that we did justice to all her great planning.

OK then, let's get started.  We wanted to frame our mural within a boarder, and our design called for this boarder to be a large circle.  So, I first made a large circle drawing compass.  I did this by using a long 4ft. straightedge ruler along with some make-shift trammel points.  My stand-ins for the trammel points were a long nail at one end and a pencil at the other.  I taped my points down onto the ruler (very securely) and that was how I made my circle drawing jig, or compass.  After making this, I next found the center point of what was to be my circle, and then, using the ruler as a radius arm that pivoted from the center point of the circle, I struck my lines.

After striking all my lines, I carefully taped all the way from one end of the circle to the other with one long continuous length of tape.  I used a light-tack (blue) painters tape, and, as I laid down the tape, I arched it to follow the curve of the line I had stuck, or put plainly, I bent the tape to follow the line.  This worked great, and it gave us a nice clean line, and a perfect circle.
After all the taping-off was finished, the painting began.  The walls outside the mural boarder would be peach (on the top) and a nice shade of lavender (on the bottom).  The boarder itself would be white, and the area inside the boarder would be a lighter shade of lavender than the one used outside of the boarder.
As we finished painting each taped-off sections, we would peel off the tape.  Then (after the paint was dry) we would re-tape the opposite sections so that we could paint the opposite sides.  We did this until we had all of our wall sections painted.
After the initial wall painting was finished, I added some trim that acted as a decorative boarder between the top and bottom wall colors.  The trim went all the way around the room except for where it came up to the mural's painted boarder.  That's where it ended.  I secured the trim onto the wall with screws (into the studs).  I used spackling paste to clean up the holes and seams, and then used some white paint touch-up paint to finish the job.  In the end, the trim really added a nice touch to the overall look and feel of the room.
Below is a shot of our painted walls, painted boarder, and the trim we added, all pre-mural.  At this point, the only thing missing besides the mural itself, was...
... a drop shadow inside the circle's boarder, to add some depth.  So, we taped it off, and we painted it in.
Now, onto painting the mural.  Adrienne found the image of the stylized tree we used on the interwebs.  It was a vector based image that we both really liked.  We thought it looked very cute and the style was a lot of fun, so we bought the rights and grabbed our hi-rez download.

Now, the problem at this point was getting our image up onto the wall at the size we wanted, which happened to be very big.  At first, I thought we would have to make a very complex pattern, but then I remembered that my brother owns a video projector and thought that we should be able to just project the image up onto the wall.  Good idea, right?  Well, it was a good idea for a little while, but there was one problem.  Even with the projector pulled back to the other side of the room, the image being projected was way too small.  So, how did we finally pull it off you ask?  Well, we used the old "point the projector into a mirror and reflect it back onto the opposite wall" trick.  Below you'll see the projector on the floor.  We pointed it into the mirror (set against the opposite wall) and then the mirror reflected the image all the way back onto the wall where we wanted our full size image.
By using the mirror, we were able to double the distance of the projector from the wall, and thereby got the image to be twice as big, which very luckily turned out to be perfect.  This bit of problem solving turned out to be an unexpected moment of triumph.  We were thrilled and relieved!  This was a very nifty trick to have pulled off, and we were really happy that it worked because it saved us a lot of time.  After this, everything else was easy.  We used white Prismacolor pencils to trace the image onto the wall.
And then, having the image traced up onto the wall, the painting of our tree finally began.  This part was a lot of fun!

The last of the painting that needed to happen was to add these tiny little detail dots that represent the fruit of the tree.  They are essentially little circles that are set next to the branches of the tree.  They were perfectly round and they would have been a pain to paint by brush because there were so many of them, so we decided to apply them with a stencil instead.  Adrienne found a sponge stencil at our local hobby shop which was the right size, and it worked perfectly.
After that, it was just dip and press.  "Heck, a frickin' monkey could do this part", we thought!  As it turns out, I was that monkey.
And that's it.  We finished our mural!  We had a lot of fun painting it and we were really happy with how everything turned out.  We were also happy that we were able to finish it as early as we did because we really wanted to have plenty of time for the paint fumes to air out.  The main reason for this was because we were planning on having a home birth, and part of our plan was for our daughter, Scarlett Danger Anderson Preciado, to be born in this (her) room.  And, on Monday October 4th, that's exactly what happend.  :)
Tony Preciado

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Baby Sculpture

Sculpting baby chub was one of the funnest sculpting exercises that we did in Mike's sculpture class. There's something very appealing about the cherubim qualities of babies. These qualities make us all want to smile at babies and fawn all over them in general. That's some truly awesome power that these little guys possess, and capturing that elusive allure and appeal in sculpture was the entire point of our exercise.

Mike pointed out that if you don't hit these baby qualities just right, your baby sculpture will just look sort of creepy. To avoid the creepyness, here are some things that Mike told us to help our baby sculptures actually look like babies: lots of baby chub, creases where you'd normally see joints (wrists and ankles), dimples where you'd normally see knee caps and/or shoulders on adults, big head, small face, chubby fingers that taper to a point.

It was certainly a challenge keeping the baby looking and feeling like a baby, but it was a lot of fun too.  One last thing I'd like to point out is that we didn't use any reference when we started this exercise.  We just jumped into sculpting babies (with no armature either).  Hopefully, my scale on this sculpt is somewhere in the general ballpark, or even the ballpark parking lot.  The lesson here is to always remember that reference is your friend.

While we're on the subject of babies, I just can't pass up this opportunity to add a special announcement to this post. My wife and I are expecting our first baby. It's a girl, and she's actually due any day now, and we're both very excited. So, now that you all know, don't be too surprised if you see some baby-room related workshop posts in the near future. :)

~Tony Preciado

My daughter, Scarlett Danger Anderson Preciado, was born on Monday, October 4th! :)