Create Realistic Faces with this Easy Skull-Shaped Sculpting Form

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Your art professor might think it’s “cheating” to use a form like this.

But if you’re afraid to sculpt faces because you aren’t sure they’ll come out right, this is a great way to get started.

When you’re sculpting a face, using a skull 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.)

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 skull only includes the shapes you need, and no more. And you can make your own face sculpting form using the cardboard from two cereal boxes.

To see how I created a man’s face using this form, watch the video below.

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!

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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 2 standard-sized cereal boxes*
  • Sharp scissors for cutting cardboard
  • Tape
  • Plaster cloth, optional.

* 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 will be about 9 inches (22.86 cm) high, 5.5 inches (13.97 cm) wide and 7 inches (17.78 cm) deep. To make a larger or smaller form for your sculpture, you can print the pattern larger or smaller.

Adding Plaster Cloth to Your Form (Optional):

The plaster cloth is optional.

You’ll want to consider using the plaster cloth if you use wet clay for multiple projects. The plaster cloth will also help if your modeling clay is stiff, because the thin cardboard will move in and out as you push against stiff clay.

Download the Pattern

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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.

8 thoughts on “Sculpt Faces with this Easy DIY Sculpting Form”

  1. 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’!

    Reply
  2. 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)

    Reply
    • 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. 🙂

      Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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?

        Reply
  3. 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?

    Reply
    • 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…. 🙂

      Reply

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