Alginate, plaster and plaster bandages are being used more and more in a variety of applications: A face and head cast is the foundation for foam latex makeup, plaster casts of hands are now sold regularly in art shows, and plaster bandage "sculpts" have been crafted by artists for more than 30 years. When combined as a process, these three basic materials can be used to make casts of exceptional quality. The head cast pictured here was used for a melting vampire in the movie "Nightfall" produced by Spinning Reel Films. Please review the following notes before using any of the materials featured on this page.
It is a common and dangerous misconception that plaster is used to make life-casts of actors' faces for use in special effects. Because plaster becomes rigid, it is difficult to handle and remove, especially from body hair. Because of its weight, it will deform the face. We recommend artists use a prosthetic grade alginate. Alginate is a rubbery material derived from seaweed. Dental alginate can be used but you will only have 50 seconds of working time and you must use cold water which is uncomfortable. We recommend a "Warm-water slow-setting alginate" which has been buffered to set in about 5 minutes. This gives you plenty of working time and because warm water can be used, it is much more comfortable to wear. Use plaster bandages as a "back-up" to the alginate and use the plaster only for the positive cast. If you are doing a full body cast you can use a high quality plaster bandage to pick up detail on the arms, legs and body. Use silicone or alginate in detail areas like the hands, feet and face.
Want more information? Check out our Article on Pregnancy Casting and other Life Casting