Soft Sculpting Puppet Build-up Fabrication

To my knowledge, I do not recall in Stop Motion history, if this specific "Soft Sculpting" doll figure build-up technique was ever used. I am just thinking, there seems to be much potential here in adapting or modifying this method for Stop Motion. I am kind of amazed that this has not been exploited more in our animation craft. Or maybe it has in Euro Stop Motion work and I am not aware of it. Creating puppets by stuffing socks as been historically around for endless years, and with the invention of Nylon Stockings .... a more sophisticated way later evolved to create flesh-like puppet-doll skins. With this method in fabricating the body, you are not using clay or doing any kind of molding and casting with foam latex or silicone rubber materials. Probably this method more applicable for human or stylized cartoon-caricature human or animals. I am not sure how you would do a puppet head with this soft sculpt method in which the facial features would need to be animated. Or perhaps, just make the head using typical methods of sculpting the master head, molding and casting in rubber over a jointed or wired (for facial animation) underskull. So you might use combination methods for a functional and animatable Stop Motion puppet:

1) Build up the Stop Motion puppet body using Soft Sculpt method

2) Construct replacement hard resin heads or replacement facial features (like Jesus the Miracle Maker ) ..... or use molded foam latex or silicone skin heads (covering underskull) with animateable wire facial elements or small joints-levers-paddles underneath skin (similar to Corpse Bride)

So if it works ..... I can see were Soft Sculpting methodology is applicable for one-offs where you need only a few or one of a kind puppets. If it were a big production ..... where multiple or duplicate puppets required, then I think the molding and casting technique of puppet fabrication might be more appropriate.


Soft Sculpture fabrication steps

"The secret to realistic sculpting," says Lisa Lichtenfels, "is an accurate skeleton." Her sculptures always begin with detailed drawings of the skeleton and musculature. To create the skeleton, she molds 3/8" aluminum wire; when the skeleton is completed its proportions reflect actual human anatomy and can be positioned in any natural position that the human body can obtain. After wrapping the armature in cotton thread she builds the muscles using batting which she sews into place. Using nylon for the skin, she stretches it over the figures in multiple layers which she will vary until she obtains the result she desires. "Nylon is like no other fabric. It can be stretched to nine times its original dimension, yet still return to its original state," states the artist.

The realistic flesh tones are created by light itself. The color is created by opalescence. Light passes through the layers of semi transparent fabric and bounces off the white batting and thereby creates the effect. Because of the nature of her material and the light play through the layers, the sculptures have a soft, life-like glow that no other sculpting material can match. One looks at them and is prepared to swear that they saw them breathing.




Topic at message board ..... Soft Sculpt Puppet Build-up: Fiberfill 'n Nylon Stocking

Mary Murphy's FREE online Tutorial at's Handbook




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