How to Make Your Sculpting Form:
Your art professor might think it’s “cheating”
to use a form like this.
But if you don’t sculpt faces because you’re afraid they won’t come out right, this is a great way to get started.
When you’re sculpting a face, using a form under your modeling clay saves time and frustration, because the main features of your sculpture are in the right place almost automatically. (You can see how this works in the video below.)
And now, with the addition of the neck and shoulder pieces, it’s even easier to sculpt a portrait bust.
You could use a resin skull, of course — I’ve done that myself. As a matter of fact, it’s how I got the idea for making this pattern!
- But resin skulls are expensive;
- They have big holes that need to be filled, and hardware that gets in the way;
- And they have more information than most of us will ever need.
On the other hand, this simplified form only includes the shapes you need, and no more. If you add paper mache and waterproof your form with Flex Seal, you can use it again and again while you learn the craft of creating portraits and characters with clay.
To see how I created a man’s face using this form, watch the video below.
The New Version of the Face-Sculpting Form, and How to Make it Waterproof:
How to Tape the Pieces Together for the Skull
Note: The instructions for the new head and shoulder pieces will be included with the downloadable pattern.
Sculpting a Face With Clay, Using the Skull-Shaped Form:
As you can see in the video above, the form saves a lot of time over the traditional way of sculpting a human face.
It places the eyes and cheek bones in the right place, it defines the muzzle or dental arch, and it prevents the sculpture from ‘flattening out,’ which often happens when we use photos as models.
I’m also really happy with the way the form helps with the placement of the muscles beside the mouth.
But, of course, it doesn’t do all the sculpting for us.
- If you’re not yet comfortable sculpting faces, go ahead and play with the clay! Don’t worry about ‘getting it right’ when you’re first starting.
- Look at the faces of people around you, and try to capture as many of their features as you can.
- Sculpt as often as you can, and use photographic models — there are tons of them on the Internet. You can find photos of celebrities, or do a search for a face you might find interesting, like “toothless old man,” or “Welsh grandmother,” just for fun. (Hint — old faces are often easier to sculpt than young faces, because the features are more defined. That makes them great subjects for beginning sculptors.)
- If your skull-shaped form gets worn out from all your practice sculpts, just toss it out and make another one. Once you download the pattern to your device you can print it out as often as you want to make more forms.
Now, as I mentioned in the first video, I do enjoy sculpting faces that are totally silly, without worrying about getting the features in the right place. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it, and it’s quite often the top-selling book about sculpting on amazon.com. It’s called Fast Faces: Unleash Your Creativity With a Friendly Lump of Clay, and you can find it here.
But it’s also really exciting to see a realistic face come to life right in front of your eyes, like the one I created in just a few hours for the video above. Try it — you may be surprised by how much fun it is!
To make this skull-shaped sculpting form you will need:
- A printer
- Copy paper or full-sheet labels (recommended)
- Glue stick if using copy paper for pattern
Cardboard from standard-sized cereal boxes*
- Sharp scissors for cutting cardboard
- Paper mache, optional
- Flex Seal – also optional, but recommended.
* If purchasing cardboard in place of the cereal boxes, it will be sold as “light chipboard.” The thickness will be about 24pt or 1/41 of an inch. Medium or heavy chipboard is too stiff to bend well.
Finished size: When your printer is set to print at “Actual Size,” the skull form without the neck and shoulders will be about 9 inches (22.86 cm) high, 5.5 inches (13.97 cm) wide and 7 inches (17.78 cm) deep.
The complete sculpting form, including the neck and shoulder patterns, will be approximately 13” (33
cm) high when printed at “Actual Size.” To make a larger or smaller form for your sculpture, you can
print the pattern pieces larger or smaller. The pieces will print on standard letter-sized paper or
Do you have a question or need help with your pattern?
If you have a question about putting your pattern together or painting it, leave a comment below or on the Daily Sculptors page. I read all comments and answer them as soon as I can, usually within a few hours. Some of my readers might ideas for you, too — we have a very supportive community on this site.
Downloading your files: To see exactly how the downloading process should work, click here. If your pattern doesn’t download correctly and you can’t see the solution on that page, let me know right away so I can help. This is a one-person business, but I check my inbox regularly and will respond as fast as I can.
18 thoughts on “Sculpt Faces with this Easy DIY Sculpting Form”
Do you have a pattern that can use my Silhouette CAMEO cutter? Thanks
Hi Larry. The patterns I have are PDF files with lines drawn on them. I don’t have a device like that, so I don’t know how they work, or if my patterns could be used with one of them. Sorry for my ignorance. 🙂
I want to make oversized masks that are puppets for a children’s show. Do you think I can just enlarge by doubling or tripling the pattern?
Hi Anna. If you print each page of the pattern at the same percentage, all of the pieces should fit just fine. You might want to increase the weight of the cardboard you use, to make sure it’s strong enough to maintain the shape after the pieces are taped together. Have fun!
You are a generous genius! Thanks for being willing to share your patterns and expertise with all of us! I just put together the pattern for the baby elephant (head) and I have not started the Paper Mache step yet. What are some options for preparing to hang it? Is there anything I need to put in place before starting the Paper Mache layer? I couldn’t see any instructions for this on the pattern pages. Sorry if I missed it. Thanks!
Hi Lisa. I just put a hole in the flat back piece and hang mine on a nail. It isn’t fancy, but it works. 🙂
I bought your skull pattern and I love it. I find it very helpful. I wonder if you would ever consider making one for the shoulders and neck for people who want to sculpt busts? I would be first in line 🙂
Hi Oisin – I’m glad you’re enjoying the skull pattern. We’d love to see something you’ve made with it. If you’d like to show off your work, you can do that on the Daily Sculptors page.
I have thought about doing the neck and shoulders, but I don’t know when I’ll have time for it. In fact, I just started a bust of Pan, using the skull pattern as a base, printed at 60%. I’m using it as practice, because I’m trying to learn how to use polymer clay. If it turns out halfway decent I’ll make a video. 🙂
I am eager to start a project, been idle for a few weeks now trying to get organized after a death in the family. I don’t understand how this form is going to hold up to moist clay And pressure. I haven’t used Real clay except for papier-mâché clay. Do you have a tutorial for those who use your pattern Jonni?As a beginner I wonder what method I should use. I see people talking about foil and strips and clay, thank you for your time and sharing your creations it must be a lot of work making a pattern!
Hi Linda. I don’t have a tutorial showing how to use the form – although I hope to make one soon. The light cardboard held up surprisingly well, but I had to put my hand inside when I put on a thin layer of clay to start with. That helped keep it in the right shape when I pushed on the clay. Covering it with foil would help to keep the cardboard from getting wet – I should have thought of that!
You can also cover the form with plaster cloth if you need a hard surface. The third video on this page shows how I did that – it turned out quite nice, it only takes a few minutes. Even with the plaster cloth it’s still way less expensive than a resin skull. I will be making my plaster-cloth form smoother with a thin layer of pre-mixed drywall joint compound, and then seal it with varnish so the plaster doesn’t dry out the clay.
I loved how the mans face appeared bit by bit. You are so clever making the skull form. I’m on a paper mache group on f/b and there are a lot of people that join who want to do paper mache but dont know where to start, so I always point them to your web page. (I’m a learner as well) Thanks for the fun way you make your projects, very informative, and also how own up to your ‘mistakes’!
Thanks, Penelope! 🙂
Wow! This is incredible! You have done such a service to those of us who did not go to art school! I’m sure you could also fill in the muscles with tin foil and then use paper mache as well. I wonder if it could be made to be reusable for different mediums? The plaster cloth wouldn’t really hold up for multiple uses, or will it?
Your man has some character to him , while he does not look like anybody that I know, he definitely has that look of a father who meets his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time! A bit stern, a bit wary.
Thanks for sharing(and developing the pattern)
I Eileen. Yes, the foil method should work well with this pattern. In fact, most people have foil and hot glue in their house, but most people don’t have modeling clay – so foil would be a good way to get started. (I ordered 50 pounds of clay when I started seeing the news coming out of China – it was part of my emergency stash in case we got stuck at home and Amazon.com stopped deliveries.)
The pattern without the plaster cloth probably won’t hold up for multiple uses, if you use wet clay. Mine got a little wrinkled overnight. Maybe I could dry it out and use it again, but it was easier to just tape another form together. I’ve used plaster cloth forms before, and they hold up really well. They do need to be sealed, though, if you’re using wet clay.
And I like your little story about the fellow in the video. I don’t know why I gave him that expression, but it seemed to fit him. 🙂
HA! I’ve got news for you. . .she’s done a great service to everyone INCLUDING those of us who DID go to Art school! I’m an Artist and recently I’m putting together some ventriloquist puppets to develop my own act. If all goes well, I’ll also be making puppets for others as a business venture. Therefore, I owe Jonni a huge debt of gratitude! My SCULPTURES >AND< my Puppets thank you! "Milton Burro" ( Democrat! LOL! ) , "Ken Worth" the Old School Trucker, "Havarti" the Cheesy Wisconsin Rat & more!
Justin, your paintings are absolutely wonderful! I can’t wait to see your puppets, too. I tried to find some on your website, but Milton Burro and his friends must still live in your imagination. Be sure to come back and show them to us on the Daily Sculptors page. I know they’ll be fantastic.
Starting a new career as a ventriloquist and puppet-maker is rather exciting. But you will keep painting, too?
This is awesome! Hope to order the pattern soon as I can see so many possibilities for its use.
If one doesn’t have plastercloth, do you think a few layers of strip mache over the masking tape would suffice?
That might work – I haven’t tried it, though. If your modeling clay is soft enough, you shouldn’t need either one. In fact, it just occurred to me that we could keep the form from moving inward just by stuffing the skull with a plastic bag filled with other plastic bags. If we use wet clay we still need to seal the cardboard, (and especially if it has paper mache on it). And the plastic tape didn’t seal the form as well as I had hoped it would. I’m still learning with this one…. 🙂