Reproducing Masks in Silicone Molds – An Experiment

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Wolf MasksThe video at the top of this post shows the results of my recent experiment in reproducing masks in a silicone mold. The results were encouraging, but expensive. I had some silicone left over from another project, and used it to make a mold of a wolf that I sculpted using Sargent Art Plastilina, a very soft oil-based modeling clay.

You also get to see me totally destroy the original sculpt and a mask I tried to make using the original as a positive mold, but we won’t dwell on that…

And I also added a “bonus video” at the bottom of the post showing how to make a really simple table easel for making masks, using a few pieces of scrap lumber.

So, what did I learn from this experiment?

  • You can get a very detailed copy of your mask using one layer of plaster cloth in a soft, flexible silicone mold.
  • But if you decide you need to change the original sculpt to add additional details or fix a boo-boo, you will have to make another (expensive) silicone mold.
  • And – one layer of plaster cloth over a clay model with deep undercuts will not survive being removed from the form.

When it might make sense to use a silicone mold with plaster cloth to make multiple masks:

  • If you need a lot of identical masks,
  • If you need the finished masks to have lots of fine details,
  • If you don’t have time to add those fine details after pulling a dried mask off a positive clay form (like the ones I show you how to make in my mask book),
  • And if you think the expense of the silicone material could make sense because of time saved or because you have a market for a lot of copies of the same design.

If these things apply to a project you have planned, you may want to experiment a bit more with this method. If you do experiment, please let us know how your experiments turn out!

And a video I made a few days ago, showing how to make a wooden table easel for sculpting masks:

14 thoughts on “Reproducing Masks in Silicone Molds – An Experiment”

  1. Hi Jonni (and fabulous readers!)
    I wanted to share a video that I did using Silicone to reproduce masks. It’s a very easy, cheap and effective method using silicone caulk that you can get at any home supply store. What’s nice about this method is that it can be used to reproduce just about any object that you can wrap silicone around!

    • Great video, Kevin. I’ve heard about this method before, but now you’ve convinced me to try it. I’m in the process of sculpting a mask form that I’ll be using a lot in the future. I’ll try this mold-making process so I can have more than one form – that way I’ll be able to work on more than one mask at a time. I have a zillion ideas going around in my brain, and I’m anxious to get started.

      The one thing I’ll probably do differently is to make a hard shell over the silicone to help it keep its shape. I have lots of plaster cloth on hand, so I think I’ll use that. When I get a chance to experiment with this, I’ll let you know how it came out.

      I did try a different version, the one that uses silicone caulk with corn starch. It was recommended by Jennifer, of Organic Armor. She and her husband do amazing things with it, so I thought it was worth a try. The recipe is here. I wasn’t very excited about it after I tried it (it was a bit hard to spread, and if you add too much corn starch it gets hard really fast), but Jennifer did say that it took them quite a few tries before they made it work well for them. Your soapy water method is obviously much easier, though.

      I’ve also seen a YouTube video showing someone who mixes the silicone with lighter fluid (naptha). The very idea scares me, nasty stuff, but his goo did brush on nicely. And all of these ideas cost a whole lot less than the Rebound 25 from Smooth-On. But I’m so spoiled – their product works so well!

    • Hi Piper. If they each only want to make one mask, you should watch the “Commedia del Arte Mask – Pantalone” videos on this page. There’s no need to use an expensive silicone mold for one mask. I hope they have fun!

  2. Hi Jonni

    Oh my goodness what a wonderful lady you are sharing all this with folks on the internet. I’m a mature aged student at University and I’m studying Fine Art. I’m going to use Jonni Clay (you should patent that name!) to make a mask of me. I have a question….could I perhaps use Play-Doh (do you have that in the USA?) to make a mask of my face and then put Jonni Clay over the play-doh (which I think is like modelling clay) Would you spray the playdoh with vegetable oil first? I saw you do it in one video but not all (and I have watched about 20 so far) You are inspirational and I LOVE your accent hahaha Please keep doing what you do for as long as you can…you are fabulous!

    • Hi Jackie. We do have Play-Doh here, but I haven’t bought any since my daughter was a kid – and that was a really long time ago (don’t tell her I said that!). πŸ˜‰

      Are you intending to put the Play-Doh right on your face, or will you be using it as a sculpting medium, much like you would if you used an oil-based clay? If it will go against the skin, will it harden? And is it non-toxic? I assume it is, since kids play with it. I guess you can tell that I have no idea if it will work or not, so you will need to experiment with it.

      “Jonni clay” will stick to almost anything, so I do suggest that you use some form of release. Vegetable oil works. Petroleum jelly also works, and so does paste wax.

      By the way, if you think you’ll be actually wearing your mask, rather than using it as a fine-art piece, you might want to consider using the shop towel mache method instead of the paper mache clay, because mask will be lighter and the inside of the mask will be smoother and flexible. You can add details to the outside of the mask with the air-dry clay recipe, which is a version of Jonni clay that uses less paper, and is smoother (but not as strong) so I recommend using it over something, rather than using it on it’s own.) This is how I made the masks in my book, (except for the air dry clay part – I developed that recipe after the book was published).

      To see some videos of this process, check out the Pantalone mask videos on this page. And to see a newer version of the paste that doesn’t harden as quickly, but is easier to use and just as strong, watch the green witch mask video.

      And we really do want to know if your Play-Doh idea worked if you experiment with it!

      • Hi Jonni

        Thank you for the fast reply. Yes I’m putting right on my face haha. I won’t eat it πŸ™‚ but it does say it’s non toxic and I thought “what can go wrong” haha. So if a woman writes to you and she’s wearing a half removed lump of playdoh on her face and the other side is red raw that will be me πŸ™‚

        I’m not going to wear it so weight of it isn’t important, having a smooth surface for painting is. I found Jointing Compound (it is called that in Eastern states of Australia) I was tossed up whether to use Jonni Clay or the Air dry so I will try the air dry. I also need to make chicken size eggs but I think they will just be newspaper and masking tape as you use. My hubby said he could put plaster of paris on my face and take a mold that way but hmmm don’t know if I like that idea. Play doh seemed the safer option and don’t need exact “me” just and impression of me if that makes sense πŸ™‚

        Anyway, I will let you know how I got, I am playing this weekend and I always take lots of photos so will let you all know.

        Kind Regards

  3. Thanks for posting your silicone mould video Jonni. Despite the expense, it’s always nice to learn about different options and techniques. And thanks for the how-to on the sculpting easel. Your resourceful ingenuity never ceases to amaze me!

  4. I have also been experimenting using silicone moulds. I have made 3 so far of horse heads with lots of detail and under cuts. I also ended up destroying the originals as silicone sticks like glue to varnish and painting it on moved the vaseline I had covered them with around. I used a layer of material taken from an old pair of tights in with the silicone which stopped it tearing when I was prising it off. I covered the silicon with plaster of paris bandage to make a solid mother mould to the silicone.
    2 of the moulds I made with the very expensive RTV silicone but I used ordinary household pure silicon sealant for the other. It is much cheaper although I am told it won’t last as long as the proper stuff. Don’t use it straight from the tube though as it is too sticky and you can’t apply a thick layer as it needs moisture to cure. You squirt it out of the tube into a bowl of soapy water and kneed it into a ball then it is possible to apply it fairly thickly. It is much faster to work with and I made the mould in two coats. My RTV silicone moulds cost 25 euros to make and the household silicone was 8!

    • I’ve been hearing about the soapy water and silicone sealant method, but I haven’t tried it yet. Another reader, Jennifer from OrganicArmor.com, told us about a recipe that uses the silicone with corn starch. Jennifer and her husband make incredible wearable art using the “homemade Oogoo” for molds – but when I tried it I didn’t get a very good result. I think I may need to try the soapy water method, too, and spend more time with both recipes, since both you and Jennifer are getting such wonderful results. Cheaper is definitely better!


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