Life Casting
by Special Effect Supply

Read about the process, Check out the Instructions for the Face Casting Kit

Check out our Article on Pregnancy Casting and other Life Casting

Image of head About Face and Body Casting:

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

Glossary of Materials and Terminology used in Life Casting:

ALGINATE, also known as PROSTHETIC GRADE CREAM. A powder, that when mixed with water transforms into a rubbery material. Typically Alginate can only be used once. Dental Alginate is used by dentists to cast teeth. Slo-set (Prosthetic) Alginates are used to cast face, limbs and body parts. Dental alginates set in 50 to 60 seconds. Prosthetic alginates set in three to ten minutes. Sorry, prosthetic alginates are not flavored.

BALD CAP, BALD PATE, BALD WIG. A stretchy cap that is stretched over the head to protect the hair during casting. Made from Glatzan or latex rubber.

CAST. The final piece taken from mold. A POSITIVE. Usually made from Casting plaster, Hydrostone, foam latex, slip latex, UltraCAL 30 or other material. Cast can generally be used to describe the entire process, for example: To do a body cast the artist would prep the model, make a mold and take a cast from the mold.

CASTING PLASTER. Very much like Plaster of Paris except that it has a slower setting time. Forms a skin when used in a mold. Used for finished casts. No good for latex molds or for foam latex. Paints well. 2,400 psi.

HYDROSTONE. Gypsum Cement. Hard and strong. Used in high quality art and novelty casting. Can't be worked with a template or formed by hand. Forms exceptional details. Very resistant to water absorption. 10,000 psi.

MEDICAL ADHESIVE. A silicone based adhesive that works like super-glue. Used by professionals instead of spirit gum. Don't use it around the eyes. Don't try to use it without a good MEDICAL ADHESIVE REMOVER. NOTE: For environmental reasons the old Medical Adhesive that we all know and love is no longer available. The new stuff works well but has a different formula. If you order the Ben Nye stuff that we sell we will send you PROSTHETIC ADHESIVE which works just as well.

MODEL. The person or thing which you want to duplicate.

MOLD. A NEGATIVE of the model. In body and face casting the mold is usually made from Alginate or plaster bandages.

MOLDERS' PLASTER. AKA Pottery Plaster. Excellent for molds, especially for ceramics and slip latex (masks). Doesn't form a skin like plaster of Paris or casting plaster. Absorbs water very well after completely dry. 2,000 psi.

PLASTER BANDAGES. The same thing a doctor would use to put a cast on your arm. We use Gypsona Brand Bandages because they are very creamy and flexible. 2" and 6" are the most common sizes used.

RELEASE or RELEASE AGENT. Something that is smeared, painted or sprayed over something else to keep stuff from sticking to it. For example petroleum jelly is smeared over the eye brows to keep alginate from sticking to them. Releases are used for specific materials.

ULTRA CAL-30. Gypsum Cement (looks and works like plaster). Excellent for foam latex molds because of its strength and resistance to heat. Standard of the industry for special effects make-up artists. 6,000 psi.

Instructional Videos:

Magic Molds and Casting

Magic Molding and Casting

with Steve Biggs

First section of this video demonstrates face-casting with alginate and the making of a UltraCal30 master of a person's face. Other topics include: Plaster waste mold, Simple plaster mold, Latex mold, and a demonstration of vacuum forming. Demonstrates casting of slip latex (Halloween Mask type technique). Great starting point for people without any previous mold experience. Please Note: The original description of this video included silicone technique, after shooting we discovered enough material for two videos. Tape 2 in the SES series.

48 min. DVD

CAT # Description Price Add
DVD31 Magic Molding and Casting $19.95 Add


Face and Body Casting Materials Price List:

Information about molding and casting can be found in our Molding and Casting Section.

Life Casting Supplies:

Magic Molds and Casting

Professional Face Casting Kit
Everything needed to do one large face cast. Very convenient.

SPECIAL SHIPPING NOTE: Five gallon pails are subject to the UPS "Special Handling Fee" which is $10 as of 12-31-2009. We have adjusted the "shipping weight" in our database to reflect this fee. If this modification causes an overcharge we will refund or adjust your fees accordingly.

CAT # Description Price Add
K-55 Pro Face Cast Kit *S* (cost of UPS special handling will be adjusted by our staff if needed) $59.50 Add
K-55-W Contains Hydrocal white *S* (cost of UPS special handling will be adjusted by our staff if needed) $59.50 Add

Skin-Safe Silicone Kits
Skin safe silicone putty for direct use on the skin.

CAT # Description Price Add
SSS-1 Skin-safe, 1 lb. Kit *S* Currently Unavailable N/A
SSS-5 Skin-safe, 5 lb. Kit *S* Currently Unavailable N/A

Price List   Download a Life-Casting Price List Right Now!

Alginate Colors


Accu-Cast Products, Prosthetic Alginates

Accu-Cast is an advanced irreversible hydrocolloid molding material. Accu-Cast products have very low shrinkage rates, high tear strength, fine grain, and a warm water mix. There are three different formulas of Accu-Cast which are formulated for different set times.

Accu-Cast 390 (Buff), Prosthetic Alginate, 3 min. set

Fast set. Sets in three minutes at 90° water temperature. Creamy, with great flowing characteristics when mixed. This material is ideal for smaller projects like fingers, hands, and small props. Strongly recommended for children's hand casts.

CAT # Description Price Add
ALG-390-1 Accu-Cast 390, 16 oz. $13.00 Add
ALG-390-5 Accu-Cast 390, 5 lb. $55.00 Add
ALG-390-10 Accu-Cast 390, 10 lb $98.00 Add
ALG-390-20 Accu-Cast 390, 20 lb $187.00 Add

Accu-Cast 590-IBG (Orange), Prosthetic Alginate, 5 min. set time.

Face, Head & Torso Casting. The special IBG formula has an especially low shrinkage rate ideal for critical jobs.

CAT # Description Price Add
ALG-590-1 Accu-Cast 590, 16 oz. $13.00 Add
ALG-590-5 Accu-Cast 590, 5 lb. $55.00 Add
ALG-590-10 Accu-Cast 590, 10 lb $98.00 Add
ALG-590-20 Accu-Cast 590, 20 lb $187.00 Add

Accu-Cast 880 (Blue), Prosthetic Alginate, 8 min. set time.

Slow set. Sets in eight minutes at 80° water temperature. This material is ideal for big jobs like heads, torsos, full bodies, and really large props. Excellent for regular casting in humid and warm regions.

CAT # Description Price Add
ALG-880-1 Accu-Cast 880, 16 oz. $13.00 Add
ALG-880-5 Accu-Cast 880, 5 lb. $55.00 Add
ALG-880-10 Accu-Cast 880, 10 lb $98.00 Add
ALG-880-20 Accu-Cast 880, 20 lb $187.00 Add

All the information you need to be successful with Accu-Cast Alginates check out:

Alginate Colors

Dental Alginate

Fast set Type 1 Alginate Impression Material. Employs high quality food grade raw materials.

CAT # Description Price Add
DAL-1 Alginate Impression Material, 1lb $13.00 Add
Plaster Bandages, Gypsona Brand

Tricks of the Trade: Dipping Plaster Bandages

Very smooth and creamy, excellent for life casting and mold work.

CAT # Description Price Add
GYP2 Plaster Bandage, 2" x 3 yd $2.50 Add
GYP4 Plaster Bandage, 4" x 5 yd $4.50 Add
GYP6 Plaster Bandage, 6" x 5 yd $5.60 Add
GYP8 Plaster Bandage, 8" x 5 yd $7.50 Add
Box of 12
GYP2x12 Plaster Bandage, 2" x 3 yd, per doz. $22.95 Heavy Add
GYP4x12 Plaster Bandage, 4" x 5 yd, per doz. $42.00 Heavy Add
GYP6x12 Plaster Bandage, 6" x 5 yd, per doz. $55.00 Heavy Add
GYP8x12 Plaster Bandage, 8" x 5 yd, per doz. $72.00 Add

Price List   Download a Life-Casting Price List Right Now!