My Top Ten Favorite Film Makeups

My top ten favorite film makeups

My Top Ten Favorite Film Makeups

This top ten was definitely coming to my blog as this is where it all started for me.  The whole reason I moved to Florida and went to makeup school was my dream of becoming a SPFX makeup artist.  All these films and the makeup artists that produced their work in them was complete inspiration for me to set goals for myself to lead me to today.

I may not be in the industry now, but the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve acquired were a direct result of the passion for the craft.  I’ve tried to recreate some of the makeups here and plan to do a few more to satisfy the “itch” or craving to make it happen and help answer the inquiry…”How in the world did they do that?”

There’s definitely a re-occurring theme with the makeups I chose as they tend to be more on the gory or horror side, so I’ll fair warn you if you can’t stomach these kinds of images.  Vampires are also shown as a few examples as I love the mystery behind their myth.  So without any further delay, here we go with my top ten movie makeups:

#10 Sloth From Goonies

Chunk and Sloth from the 1985 classic Goonies

“Hey you guys!” This movie just missed the cut as a top ten film of mine, but here it is making it in the makeup’s list as number 10.  Sloth has my heart as a character and has my appreciation for his grotesque yet cool deformity.  This masterpiece from 1985 is from the work of special effects wizard Craig Reardon.  Foam latex ruled the 80’s in SPFX makeup and this was no exception.  Several piece latex head appliance with blinking droopy eye and wiggling ears that were radio controlled (servo motors).

#9 Skinless Julia From Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Skinless Julia from Hellbound: Hellraiser II

They say the most complex and most beautiful form is the human body (inside and out) and I definitely agree.  I loved this makeup and look so much I tried to do my own version for my final project in the makeup school I attended in Florida.  The shock value is quickly masked by the incredible attention to detail and the believability of how it looks to see the flesh without skin.  There are plenty of references in anatomy books how it looks, but with lifeless, colorless cadaver photos.  To see it alive and vibrant is stunning to say the least.  There was a large makeup crew for this film, but the credit is under the guise of Bob Keen and Image Animation who is also responsible for just about any film by Clive Barker.

#8 Legend (1985)

Legend favorite makeups: Darkness, Meg and Princess Lili Black wedding dress

I may have been able to make this top ten list longer since I couldn’t quite settle on just one makeup from this film…so I lumped three into one.  I absolutely love this movie because the visuals are better than anything I can imagine, which still holds up to todays standards of computer enhancement.  No computer help here, just raw foam latex, paint and powder.  Rob Bottin and his crew are credited for all the incredible makeup effects.  I knew there was something about this film that proved to me it’s worthiness as an elite choice and that is that it is a Ridley Scott film as I’ve already credited him twice in my top ten favorite films (Blade Runner, and The Gladiator).

#7 Interview With The Vampire

Vampire makeup from Interview With The Vampire

Okay, so I did it again…a collage of makeups from the same movie.  It just makes sense when the makeup artist (Stan Winston) shows a noteworthy design performance throughout.  The subtle undead pale, veiny vampire look is wonderful here.  Costume design also played a role with the success of the look, but this will be addressed in another top ten on favorite costumes.

 #6 Se7en 1995 (Sloth)

Sloth from 1995’s Seven

Rob Bottin strikes again for me on this list of favorite makeups.  The intense studying and imagination to bring this makeup to life is incredible.  I saw this film on the big screen and when the cadaver comes to life all the sudden and takes a last gasp and struggle to stay alive seared that moment in my psyche to this day.  This could pass as a perfect zombie makeup as well.  Once again I choose what a human form could be like at any given stage of life.  Just the most perfect engineered machine in all the universe (in my opinion).  This makeup was created just as silicone appliances were  making it’s way into the effects scene, leaving foam latex to be used less in the higher budget tier of film making.  Silicone has an amazing translucent quality that allows for flesh painting to look more believable as skin tones aren’t opaque in real life.

#5 American Werewolf in London (Transformation Scene) 1981

American actor David Naughton on the set of An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Innovation can always play a roll in catapulting a film or idea to the forefront and the transformation scene from man to werewolf done by Rick Baker put him and the film in the spotlight as something like this has never been done before.  It still is considered an incredible effect and is studied by film makers and aspiring makeup f/x artists today.  Such a fun movie with humor, a love story and tragedy that sells the makeup or is it the makeup that sells the film.

#4 Dracula’s Brides From Francis Ford Coppola’s Film Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992

Brides of Dracula from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992

I made another attempt during makeup school to try and recreate an image that I loved inspired by this look.  Beauty and hypnotizing seduction comes across wonderfully in these makeups with another costume enhancing factor to bring these characters to life (or undead).  This film won an Oscar for best makeup in 1992 and receiving the award was Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke, and Matthew W. Mungle.

#3 Return of the Living Dead III, Julie Walker as a Zombie

The character Julie Walker as a zombie in Return of the Living Dead III

A tragic love story and cool concept as Julie is brought back to life by her boyfriend as she becomes a zombie and struggles to not eat him.  The way she attempts to curb her hunger is to constantly cut, stab, poke and maim herself to make the cravings go away through pain.  An incredible study with wound type makeup; and again this is a makeup I tried to recreate.  I actually found a girl who looked like her that agreed to be my subject…Thanks Jen!  Steve Johnson is the makeup guru for this film.

#2 The Bride from Bride of Re-Animator (1989)

1989 Bride of Re-Animator

This makeup has some of everything that I listed above to make it a favorite from lifelike anatomy, undead beauty makeup, costuming and prop enhancement and a story or idea that makes it a terrific concept.  Splicing body parts and organs together to make a complete whole person is not a new concept as in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, but a cool idea that makes for great cinematic entertainment.  The masters of KNB Effects were responsible for this epic makeup job.

#1 Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact 1996

Surprise!  Nothing like from above as a favorite, but just an all out absolutely gorgeous makeup.  Imagination runs wild as you’re invited as a spectator and fan of the Trek series to try and understand how the Borg Queen is the way she is and not like the other Borgs that assimilate their subjects.  When her upper quarter of her body with spine comes down and attaches to the torso, I was hooked.  I’ve been staring at this makeup for years and just marveling at the paint job and clamp placement and effects.  Michael and Monty Westmore known for the Star Trek Franchise and James MacKinnon and a host of others were the Makeup artists associated with this film.

My Makeup Tests From Favorite Film Makeups

Thanks for checking out another one of my “top ten” favorite lists.  I definitely showed my age as the films I’ve chosen my favorite makeups are probably considered classics now, HA!  Let me know what you think and comment below on some of your favorites.

Molding 101: Preserving Your Creation

Case molding as one example of the many different ways of preserving your masterpiece through molding

Molding 101: Preserving Your Creation

You may not realize this, but we deal with simple molding all the time in our daily lives, including the ice we put in our drinks which each piece of ice has been molded from the tray’s shape the water took as it was being frozen or to the cup cakes we eat that have been formed as the cake batter rose and fluffed in the oven inside it’s paper cup.

The mold process has been throughout history in human civilization with ancient weapons making when molten bronze was pored in a hollowed out sword shape out of stone; and even nature has produced some amazing natural molds with fossils embedded in rocks of extinct plants and animals.

Making a mold of your sculpture or object you need for your next project is the best way to preserve what you’ve captured and a way to be able to rapidly produce several pieces you need repeated multiple times over (i.e. scales, horns, spikes, or fake bullets).

I’ve used it as a way to be able to make armor out of a different/lighter material than what real metal armor would be or even to make what I need stronger and more durable than foam would be.  And if any piece of a finished armor build breaks or doesn’t last, I have a mold to make another one without re-sculpting it.

Poor Molding 

Poor mold for Borg Glove by Damaris Degen of Mystique’s world of Cosplay

Poor molding can be one of the fastest and easiest ways of making molds of your artwork or object you need mass produced. Typically the material used as the mold substrate is a liquid rubber such as silicone and/or a urethane based rubber.  The liquid rubber starts off runny and by adding and mixing a said amount of catalyst or hardener is what makes it eventually become hardened flexible rubber.

The decision to make a poor mold is based on how simple and or symmetrical the shape of what it is your trying to mold is.  For instance, if it has a flat surface to it and isn’t too tall or complex, glue it to a board, build some dam walls around it, spray mold release on the piece and then poor the mold.

A poor mold can be a little more complicated as a two part mold, meaning there is two halves to it as the piece to be molded is shaped and detailed all around as you’ll see in the galleries below. There you’ll find some tools and knives that I’ve made molds of for movie props made to be safer for stunt use.

The advantage with a rubber type mold is the flexibility to facilitate releasing a finished piece out and the incredible amount of detail it accurately captures after hardening.  There is always the pesky air bubbles, however, that manages to find its way to hinder the process which I’ll be addressing a little later down the article.

Tools and Materials Typically Needed for Poor Molding

Brush Molding

Brush molding is for those projects that are just too big, round or uneven

Silicone brush mold for Skull Knight arm armor

shaped to be considered for a poor mold; whereas it would take way too much liquid rubber to complete a mold that was pored.  Brush mold becomes smarter and more cost effective because of the control you have on where exactly the rubber goes and how thick.

There is one extra important step when building a brush mold where after the final layer of rubber is applied and hardened, and that is to make a hard (typically fiberglass) layer to the outside or on top of the last keyed rubber layer at the end to help hold/cradle the rubber to shape when the mold is empty.  This is called a mother mold.

Tools and Materials Typically Needed for Brush Molding 

Along with the tools used for poor molding, brush molding will add:

  • several disposable boar bristle chip brushes various sizes depending on scope of job – single use as each brush will harden as well
  • thickening agent for liquid rubber to help keep rubber in desired place and thickness to hinder drooping and “runny”
  • pre-made rubber keys to be added to last layer to help lock mother mold in place

It usually takes a minimum of three layers of brushed on mold material to acquire desired thickness.  The first layer is brushed on as a skim coat without any thickening agent added so the thin material can get into any fine detail easily.  The second, third, and any other layer has the added thickening agent mixed into the rubber to help hold the substrate in place without running off the piece.

Above, in the list, I mentioned keys to be apart of the last step in the liquid rubber phase of the mold.  Keys are a button, or knob shaped mini protrusion from the mold to help locate exactly how the mother mold will fit every time the rubber is placed back into it’s cradle of the mother mold to define the shape as an empty mold.

keys are also a term used for a channel, button, or knob that will be part of the break wall if the mold is separated into two halves or more to help relocate exactly how the mold will fit back together again.  The better the key system the less seam work to do on the casting.

Case Molding

Case molding is a more complicated way to make a mold, but done right will save on rubber material and give you better quality pulls with less finish work to the final casting.  If done properly, it may preserve the mold longer and you can get more pieces out of it.  It’s more complicated because of the many extra steps that are needed to complete the mold.

This type of molding has you working backwards a little where you actually finish the mother mold or outer shell first before any silicone is pored.  Since this is just an introduction, I’ll just do a quick list of steps that are involved in making a case mold.  I fully intend on doing a complete tutorial on how to make a successful case mold in the near future…but for now here’s a rundown:

  •  Most important is make sure the original sculpture is fastened to the surface (pre-determined board) and NEVER MOVES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PROCESS.
  • Protect the sculpture with plastic wrap/foil to help keep any clay residue from getting on the sculpture.  If the sculpture is made of clay, be careful not to press hard against it as you work on the mold so you don’t damage any detail.  I usually spray a couple layers of high gloss clear over the sculpture to help give it a “candy coating” mini shell for added protection and smoother surface that will show up in the casting.
  • Wrap the protected sculpture with at least a 3/8 inch thick layer of modeling clay including any keys that will be represented and any poor funnels at the top.  Also, if the mold will be a two part mother mold, have a dividing wall with it’s own type of keys represented along the split point of the piece.  (see pics below)
  • Cover the board and clay with wax or a good mold release.
  • Lay up the first half (or all if only one full shell needed) of the mother mold over top of the clay as a medium to thick layer of fiberglass or desired hard strong substrate and allow to harden completely. Create a flange on the board as well.
  • Lay up the second half after removing the clay or whatever you used to represent the dividing wall and waxing the first side that has hardened already creating a flange on the board as you did with the first half.
  • After the shell is done and you’ve waited a good while for the mother mold to cure completely, drill some registration holes and screw the hard flange of the mother mold to the board the whole mold is built on.  This step is VERY important so you know exactly how to put this shell back over the sculpture without any of the 3/8 inch thick clay added earlier.
  • Remove the mother mold and then remove the 3/8 inch thick clay that was added earlier.  This clay was there to represent the shape and space the liquid rubber was going to take up during the poring process.
  • Before placing the shell back over the sculpture, drill tiny (1/16″) holes in several strategic spots on the mother mold as vents, so you can see the liquid rubber fill and push air out through the shell.  Relocate and place the shell back over the sculpture, that hasn’t moved, and secure the mother mold down tight on the board and screw or bolt the wall flange together if it’s a two part mold.
  • Mix the liquid rubber substrate according to the specs of the product.  It is highly recommended that the liquid rubber is put through the process of removing air out that was forced in during the mixing process before poring into the mold.  This is done with a vacuum pump and chamber.  This is optional but desired for a stronger, cleaner and better mold.
  • Poor the mold material slowly and push clay over the 1/16″ holes as they begin to have the liquid substrate begin to seep out.  In fact you can use clay to cover up any areas that may not have been well secured to prevent loss of mold material.
  • After the mold is filled to at least half way up the funnel spout, wait a full 24 hours or however long the product specs suggests for curing time before demolding everything.
  • Take it all apart and you may have to cut a sizable slit along any inconspicuous areas (the back) of the rubber to help remove it from the original sculpture.  Don’t worry about the cutting as the rubber will relocate exactly where it needs to be with only a minor line showing as it sits back in the mother mold.  Easy clean-up or finishing on the casting.
  • Now that you have a mold you shouldn’t have to worry about saving the sculpture unless it was a hard sculpt that could withstand the demolding process.  Cast your pieces however you’d like (i.e. fiberglass, roto-cast resin, etc…)

Hard Molds

Skull Knight shield hard mold, gel-coat and fiberglass

Hard molds, if cared for properly, can last a long time and withstand several more parts pulled out of the stiffer and stronger mold then it’s counter part as a flexible rubber mold.  The rubber will break down over time, whereas the hard mold could last as long or longer then the maker attends it to.

My personal choice of material and kind of hard mold is the fiberglass mold.  My experience has led me to believe the fiberglass mold is the most versatile and more widely used type of hard mold to be had.  It’s strength, when thick enough, is uncanny and has countless uses and sizes for differing mold applications.

One famous type of fiberglass hard mold is with the manufacturing of medium and large boat hull fabrication.  The hard mold will always keep its shape with minimal shrinkage and will last multiple parts pulled without losing any integrity if a consistent release agent is used each time.

One very important factor to be taken into account when deciding on a hard mold is that the sculpture or piece to be molded CANNOT have any undercuts or difficult shapes that fold over to create a “lock” making it impossible to demold a rigid piece from the hard mold, as the two (mold and plug) lock together.

Tools and Materials Needed for a Fiberglass Hard Mold

See pictures below for examples of fiberglass hard molds I’ve made in the past.

Plaster Molds

Brush molding plaster of a clay sculpture

Plaster molds combine both the brush molding technique with the characteristic of a hard mold.  It can also be pored as well, but most of my experience has been to brush mold to control air bubbles on the detailed surface for quality assurance.

Plaster molds are excellent for casting non-rigid materials in, like latex for mask making.  The detail the plaster mold captures is remarkable and therefore transfers onto the casting for an amazing end product.

Tools and Materials Typically Used for Plaster Molds
  • Gypsum cement – i.e. UltraCal 30 or Hydrocal (white cement)
  • water
  • large mixing containers
  • rubber gloves
  • burlap or long fiberglass strands – mixed in last layer for reinforcing and strengthening cement
  • disposable boar bristle chip brushes
  • large oven for baking finished mold to expel excess moisture
  • safety glasses

Vacuum Forming

Vacuum forming example

Vacuum forming is probably the least type of method used for mass production at home since it requires a system and/or machine that just isn’t economical or reasonable for personal use.  However, if I had the room and funds, it would be a top ten purchase for me as I would invent uses just to have one–cause it is a fun thing to do.

Vacuum forming is, as it says, forming a sheet of a thin plastic type of material over an object of desired shape by use of heat and suction.  The simpler the shape with no undercuts or “locks” the better.  So, I would say that this type of molding is opposite of what one is used to, as the part to be kept from the mold is made on the outside of the plug.  More like taking a skin from the shape that is desired.

The first thing that comes to my mind as a popular use for vacuum forming is with clone trooper armor and storm trooper armor.  And my own experience with vacuum forming is when I had to make lenses for the Viper helmets I was making during my time with commission work.

Quickie, “Down and Dirty”, Simple and Cheap

I confess that I’ve used this method more times than I’ve should, but it’s just as effective with results and gets the job done with little cost at all.  You can call this the disposable mold method, where the mold is just a one time use only.

The disposable mold type I’ve used the most is the “press” method.  The press method is when you push a shape into clay and make an impression of the object you use to create the desired negative…(i.e. bolt head, half round, etc).  You can press the shape as many times as you want side by side and produce a gang mold of several of the same shape if you need many castings of the same thing.

A good tip to know also, as a cheap simple method, is the use of clear silicone caulking as a substitute molding substrate.  All you need to do to speed up the hardening is a shallow bucket of soapy water and inject the desired amount of caulk in it and mix it up in the water and apply quickly to the plug or piece to be molded–mold is done, add mother mold if needed.  I’ve even used this method as a casting material for a fake, soft rubbery brain that I made using a pre-made jello mold.

I know there are other mold types I haven’t discussed here, but these are the most popular and the ones that I’ve used the most–so I hope you can take advantage of these methods and stay posted as I will do more detailed and elaborate instructions for each type in the Tutorials section here on my website.  Thanks for hanging out…so until next time, happy crafting!


My Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

My Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

Welcome to my second installment of “My Top Ten Favorites…” where I discuss my top ten favorite movie props.  This was tough for me to compile as I love props and there were so many I left out to get to only ten.  I had to come up with some guidelines to keep the list short like “no helmets” since I’ll probably do a list of favorite movie costumes and helmets are a main part of costuming.  Also, as much as I love lightsabers from Star Wars, the actual prop is the handle and visual effects are what make the lightsaber work on screen, so no props that need extra help on film.  I pretty much went with what I think looks really cool to me and works well for the purpose in the particular movie.

#10 Mick “Crocodile” Dundee’s Knife

Mick Crocodile Dundee Knife; Crocodile Dundee 1986

“That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” One of my favorite movie quotes where Dundee was talking about his famous knife that he always carries with him. He was being approached by a gang threatening him with a tiny switch blade knife when he spoke this line.

“The Dundee knife was created by an Australian gunsmith named John Bowring. He was approached by the studio that produced Crocodile Dundee film and asked to make an original knife for the Dundee character. Bowring agreed and produced the famous Dundee knife.”  (Survival Knife Mary)

#9 Doc Brown’s DeLorean Time Machine

DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990

Yes, a whole car made my favorite prop list.  It probably helped that the DeLorean itself is one of my favorite cars anyway.  But by adding all the “bells and whistles” as a time machine catapults this car as a prop icon I think everyone will love.  The inside of the car with the “flux capacitor” and digital time display is an important memorable detail as well.

#8 LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box

LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box from Hellraiser films 1987-1996

The Hellraiser puzzle box is simple, but can also take on a complex shape when activated opening a gateway for Pinhead and the Cenobites to enter our world.  I love the design and overall look to the cube and still aspire to having one of these in my prop collection one day.

#7 Wolverine’s Claws

Wolverine’s Claws from X-Men and Wolverine spin off movies 2000-2017

A spoiler about Wolverine, perhaps, if I do a list of favorite comic book characters is that he would be #1.  Seeing his claws designed well as a workable esthetic prop on film is exciting for me.  It’s a simple design that I’ve seen used in cosplay a lot but looks real and very cool as the Wolverine’s signature weapon.

#6 Hannibal Lecter’s Prison Mask

Hannibal Lecter’s prison transfer mask from Silence of the Lambs 1991

Another simple design of a prop, but makes a huge statement on film because of the character (and acting performance) that wields the power of it’s use.  Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter can’t bite anything but his own tongue wearing this.  What sells this mask the most is seeing the whole shot of him wearing the classic straight jacket for an insane person strapped to a dolly, as well, as he’s being transferred.

#5 Ghostbusters Proton Pack

Ghostbuster Proton Backpack from the Ghostbusters films 1984-1989

“Who you gonna call…?”  Such a cool concept piece especially as a whole with the gun and trap that is the perfect design for what it’s supposed to do on film.  And there’s four of them, too!  I loved the Ghostbusters and my favorite parts of the films is when the Ghostbusters show up trying to look tough and important in their jumpsuits and technical gear.  I’d feel important too if I were wearing it all.

#4 Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol

Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol opening scene from Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

We get an introduction to exactly how the character of Indiana Jones is going to be like through the entire franchise of Archeology films starring Harrison Ford with this opening scene–and the lengths he’ll go for a priceless artifact, particularly this first one, is incredibly exciting.  I’ll never forget watching this film on the big screen as an eleven year old kid imagining being an archaeologist myself one day.  Of course that didn’t happen, but my love for art, particularly 3D art, is portrayed with my love for prop making.

#3 Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle

Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle from Aliens 1986

I love this movie and I love this gun!  Everything about this rifle is so cool…from the shape, the sound it makes on film, the badass marines who use it, it’s killing force against the aliens, and the digital countdown of ammunition.  I especially love the scene when Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) cocks it with one arm and launches grenades into alien eggs when approaching the Queen alien’s lair.  A close companion to the rifle is the scanner used alongside the rifle to detect movement when locating how close the aliens are.  “Game over, man!”

#2 Ash’s Chainsaw Hand

Ash’s Chainsaw Hand from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness 1987-1992

“Groovy!”  How ironic that the very chainsaw used to cut off his hand becomes the extension to where his hand used to be.  I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler because the events of this movie and the way Bruce Campbell plays the role of Ash is something NOT to be missed!  The chainsaw is an iconic symbol for the Evil Dead series and rightfully so.  The scene in the shed where Ash constructs his defense with the chainsaw and sawed off shotgun is a filming and editing masterpiece.

#1 T-800 Endo Skull

T-800 Endo Skull from The Terminator 1984

This is definitely a must have in my collection!  So brilliant of a design and concept, and so awesome and cool to look at!  I can totally see and imagine flesh overtop of the chrome to get to the face of Arnold Schwarzenagger as the cybernetic assassin.  I list reasons why this is one of my favorite movies in my blog post on My Top Ten Favorite Movies, but I left out this one reason that the film houses my favorite prop.  “I’ll be back.”

And I’ll be back with more top ten favorites soon on makeup and costuming in film.  Let me know what you think so far with my favorites and comment here what some of your favorite movie props are.

Thanks again for hanging out and keep a look out for more content here with cosplay, prop and costume making.

My Top Ten Favorite Movies

Top ten favorite movies:

My Top Ten Favorite Movies

So I thought it would be cool to do a series of my top ten favorites like my top ten favorite movie props, or my top ten favorite comic book characters, etc…  I’ll start with my top ten favorite movies, which most of these are directly responsible in influencing my passion for makeup, cosplay and prop making.  I know many of you will agree that these films are quite good if you’ve seen them, but I’ll also be revealing my age since several of these films impacted me as a young lad finding my place in the world.  The countdown will start at #10 and work it’s way down to my #1 favorite movie of all time.  One criteria that I went by, when choosing these films, is that I could watch these movies over and over again and never get tired of seeing them repeatedly, which I’ve already done time and time again.

#10 The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal 1982; directed by Jim Henson

I could no longer watch the muppets the same after seeing what I believe to be Jim Henson’s greatest masterpiece.  Not only was the puppetry and special effects incredible, but the story line was well written and went along smoothly with the film’s intent.  The gelflings in the movie were almost human or lifelike enough for me, as a kid watching, creeped me out so much that it hypnotized me and I couldn’t look away.  Today when I watch it again and again, the skeksis are clearly the best part of the movie for me.  The sculpting and work that went behind them must have been intense for such an amazing design.  I am still in awe every time I watch it.

#9 Evil Dead 2

Evil Dead 2 1987; directed by Sam Raimi

There are several reasons this movie easily made the cut into my top ten and I’ll get to them in a second, but perhaps what stands out the most as the best part of this movie is simple…Bruce Campbell!  This was my introduction to the genius of Bruce’s acting and humor and even though he was in the first one, Sam must have held him back then, no holds bar on this performance of Ash for Evil Dead 2.  What a terrific treat.  Sam Raimi’s vision on technical film style and camera angles gets my next kudos for this film.  Several new and innovative shots were introduced here and we still see them today thanks to Sam Raimi.  In a time when I was obsessed with horror films I remember after watching this one that I had to get into the industry somehow and I left for Florida soon after to become a makeup artist.

#8 True Romance

True Romance 1993; directed by Tony Scott

Acting is king in this film and the cast is unmatched…just look at them all!  But perhaps the greatest performance, in my opinion, was Gary Oldman’s as Alabama’s pimp.  In fact I remember making the decision that Gary Oldman would be (and still is) my favorite actor after watching True Romance.  This film has everything from humor, elite acting performances, action, and best of all an amazing script.  Here is where I found out about the one and only screenwriter Quentin Tarantino.  Most of you know him from his work on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill.  The man is brilliant and interesting dialogue is his specialty.

#7 Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back 1980; directed by Irvin Kershner

There are several Star Wars films that could have easily made the cut since I am a big Star Wars fan, but this is clearly my favorite and can represent the Star Wars saga for me.  I picked The Empire Strikes Back mainly because of my childhood attachment to it.  One of the first biggest Star Wars toys I had, other than the figures, was the T-47 snowspeeder from Hoth.  I had countless hours playing the Hoth battle scene out with my friend who happen to have the large AT-AT introduced in the film as well.  I also started collecting trading cards and I remember trying to find all the cards and stickers in the set.  I’ve watched this movie the most out of all of them and I can say that even today I get excited and find new gems within the movie to admire.  The reveal of Darth Vader’s and Luke Skywalker’s true identities propelled the plot exponentially.

#6 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001; directed by Peter Jackson

Where do I begin with this one?  So many reasons why I love it, I can’t just name a few, but I will try for this entry.  Peter Jackson‘s commitment to keep the film as accurate as possible to J.R.R. Tolkien‘s masterful work from The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books helped him recreate the story with visual perfection.  Since the FOTR (fellowship of the ring) was the first one to see in Peter Jackson’s trilogy it would have the most impact in introducing the enormous undertaking of the project.  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King were just as beautiful as the first.  In fact these three movies were filmed at the same time over a period of three years!  I love watching the making of these films on the DVD’s extras menu almost as much as the films.  Props and SPFX makeup get me giddy here thanks to WETA Workshop.  New Zealand’s beautiful diverse landscape was the perfect choice to film the many different lands in Middle Earth, so set design propels the film even further.  If you’re a fantasy nerd like me and love stories and tales of medieval times J.R.R. Tolkien’s books are brilliant.  But even if you haven’t read the books these films are the ultimate eye candy and will give you the greatest emotional roller coaster ride a movie can offer.

#5 The Terminator

The Terminator 1984; directed by James Cameron

The script to this film is absolutely brilliant, which is why it was able to be so successful and launch several more well made films in the franchise.  When I tell folks why I love this movie I tell them about the story of the first time I saw it.  To keep it short, the highlight of the story is that I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about because I never seen a trailer for it.  This is why, even today, I try to avoid too much pre-hype of a film and also try to avoid long trailers that give the film away.  Watching this film for the first time and seeing two (what appears to be) hostiles from the future, at the beginning, pursuing an unsuspecting damsel is captivating.  I’m sure most of you have seen this, but if not, I’ll stop there so I don’t spoil it, since not knowing about it wooed me.  I’ll be doing a list soon of my top ten favorite movie props and if you read this, you’ll get a hint of one of my favorite props which is the T-800 endoskull.

#4 The Matrix

The Matrix 1999; directed by Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski

Kung Fu, computers, leather and shades…doesn’t get any better than that…OH, except when you add a mind blowing story to go along with them.  The Matrix has an intense, brain-buster script similar to The Terminator, but, in my opinion, slightly better which is why it falls just one more closer to my favorite film of all time.  Visual effects reins supreme as well for technological reasons.  New techniques in cinematography were invented with multiple cameras and angles and editing that forever immortalized scenes in our heads…if you’ve scene it, you know what I’m talking about.  Pure magic!

#3 Manhunter

Manhunter 1986; directed by Michael Mann

Michael Mann is a master at creating the perfect mood and emotion using the soundtrack and composition of any scene.  I loved this movie precisely because of it.  I was a huge fan of Miami Vice TV show growing up and I was thrilled to see Michael Mann was involved with this film.  Here is where we get our first glimpse of Dr. Hannibal Lecter portrayed by Brian Cox.  Even though we remember Anthony Hopkins immediately for this role, Brian, who is just as much a high caliber actor as Anthony, played Hannibal first.  This movie is based off the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  I don’t really know how convincing I can be and do the film justice, but it’s one you just have to trust me on and seeing is believing.  A true Masterpiece!

#2 Gladiator

Gladiator 2000; directed by Ridley Scott

Best “come back kid” revenge story ever!  This movie is sensational!  It has everything from being visually stunning, a captivating story, superior set and even beautiful costuming.  The main character Maximus portrayed by Russell Crowe goes through an amazing journey at every stage of power to near death to being hated and then being loved, which keeps you emotionally attached throughout the entire film.  Each action sequence is set up to be more anticipated and exponentially more exciting than the previous one.  An absolute must see again and again!

…drum roll…

…and the #1 favorite movie of mine is…

#1 Blade Runner

Blade Runner 1982; directed by Ridley Scott

So my top two favorite movies are directed by Ridley Scott.  Coincidence?…I think not.  The man is a genius.  So, if I were to have a list of favorite directors, he’d be number one also.  When I came up with the list and I was thinking of movies to consider in the top ten, Blade Runner and it’s position as number #1 was the only one I knew of right away. The movie is king of all of them and I have talked to a lot of people that agree with me that Blade Runner is their favorite movie also. (At least folks my age).  Even though I’m a visual guy, my favorite part of this movie is the soundtrack by Vangelis.  The soundtrack is a fluid merger of every stunning scene that solidifies the film emotionally.  I still get chills and hold back awesomeness tears every time I watch it.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick is the novel that the film is based off of.  This film has an elite cast including Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah.  The story takes place in the future (well…the future from 1982) and what is so alluring about it is that it seems like a future I believe could really happen to some extent.

I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers if you haven’t seen any of these and I want to believe I hyped these movies up enough that you want to make an effort to view them for yourself or even see again if they’re already part of your library.

This was a fun list to make and there were several movies I considered to be in the top ten, but didn’t make the cut.  A quick list of these, and not in any particular order are:

  • Aliens 1986; directed by James Cameron
  • Goonies 1985; directed by Richard Donner
  • Labyrinth 1986; directed by Jim Henson
  • Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens 2015; directed by J.J. Abrams
  • Blade Runner 2049 2017; directed by Denis Villeneuve

…just to name a few…

Thanks for takin’ a gander at my opinion in films and please leave a comment on what may be some of your own favorites and/or if you agree with any of these films as a possible contender as your own favorites.




Sculpting 101: Choosing What To Use For Your Masterpiece

Berserker, Guts’ Armor clay sculpture

Sculpting 101: Choosing What To Use For Your Masterpiece

This post is an introduction to different media you can choose from to make your project.  I highlight mostly what I’ve used in the past and I’ll tell you now that there are many more different ways to “make an omelet” so I can’t say I’ve given you all the materials you can choose from.  I believe these ways are still the most popular so you will probably already have an understanding about what I’m talking about in each section.  The order of appearance down the list doesn’t reflect importance of use either.  You may also have an idea already what you want to use.

Modeling Clay

Oil based modeling clay is my preference for projects with great detail and jobs that will require molding for producing a rugged final piece.  Clay is easy to work with and you can quickly change shapes and texture with a push of your thumb.  A stiffer clay is designed for holding refined detail, where a softer clay for ease of making big shapes.  I usually go with the medium clay that has some properties of both.

If you are making a large sculpt, such as a helmet or a slender project with protrusions, an armature or structure is needed to wrap the clay around for stability.  Stability is not really needed for the large i.e. helmet sculpt, but taking up a lot of space on the inside of the mass will save on using a lot of clay.

Taking up space inside mass of large sculpt to save on clay and keep sculpt lighter in weight.

Wire armature for structure and stability.

I mentioned oil based here in the beginning because you can walk away from the sculpture for days at a time without worrying about the clay drying out or cracking like in water based clay.  My clay of choice that I use most often is Chavant NSP (non- sulfur-plasteline) medium. 

Tools needed:
  • Hands and fingers–80% of what you use on clay will be what you do with your bare hands.
  • Clay sculpting tool kit
  • Rolling pin
  • Rubber mallet
  • Various stiff sponges and rubber coarse stamps for pressing in texture detail
  • 90% isopropyl alcohol and stiff small brush for smoothing out finished sculpture


Super Sculpey

Various LOTR 1/8 scale trolls, last one on the right WIP Super Sculpey armor.

I’ve always known Super Sculpey to be a form of clay for statues and smaller scaled projects.  It’s advantage is after you’re done with your sculpture you bake it and it becomes hard which can be considered a finished project after painting.  It comes in several colors and if you get the beige and are sculpting a human form its color remains an almost near perfect shade of flesh after baking properly.  It also has different densities for detail sculptures.  Once baked hard you can also sand drill and tool it for further workability.

An armature applies here as well for a stable work piece.  Keep in mind you’ll be baking it so what you use has to handle the heat.  I’ve twisted aluminum foil together, with some wire, real tight as a type of armature and it works well to conduct the heat on the inside for real thick areas of Super Sculpey.

Tools needed:
  • Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
  • Clay softener for Super Sculpey and small, stiff brush to smooth final details.

Aves Apoxie Sculpt


Aves Apoxie Sculpt is almost like duct tape with it’s many uses.  It is a two part equal mix that becomes harder to rock hard after 24 hours.  I haven’t done an entire sculpture in it yet, but I know some artists who prefer it to be the soul material for their piece.  I love it for it’s strength and workability after it hardens.  Ways that it can be used for varies from sculpting, bonding pieces together, filling in voids or holes, and even stopping leaks as it was originally designed as a plumber’s paste for water pipes.  It, like Super Sculpey above, can be sanded, carved, filed, and drilled after it becomes hard.

As you work with the material after mixing (follow directions how to mix on the containers) you’ll notice it will start to get warm from the chemical reaction, and it will feel  more and more stiff at different stages of the reaction. You’ll find you’re own preference of workability as time goes by.  It will hold detail a lot better as it gets closer and closer to becoming hard.  Simple water is used to smooth the surface.  I always have a cup of water with me while working with the stuff and continually wet my hands to prevent the material from sticking to my skin.  The Aves company recommends wearing gloves, but I personally can’t work with it wearing them.

Tools needed:
  • Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
  • Water is used for smoothing substrate
  • Sand paper and files for after it becomes hard

EPS Foam


EPS (expandable poly styrene) or Styrofoam is another favorite of mine–except for the huge mess it leaves after carving.  If you have an extra large project to make, EPS foam is perfect because of how light and versatile it is to work with.  It can also be quite challenging as well.  You will be summoned to hone in a different set of sculpting skills than clay as with foam you’re taking material away or removing to get your shape.  Clay mostly requires you to add on and shape multiple building-up layers.  Imagine you’re Michelangelo chiseling away marble or stone from a huge slab to get a shape you see on the inside.

With foam you can cut, chop, saw, slice, chainsaw, file, sand, and even control melt/burn to achieve your desired output.  If you burn or cut foam with a hotwire or hot iron WEAR A MASK OR VENTILATOR!  The fumes are hazardous to breath in.  The advantage of being able to burn your cuts is that there is no foam bead mess.  It just melts to itself cleanly.

You’ll notice some of the pics for EPS foam above shows some examples with aluminum foil wrapping and sealing the finished foam form.  This is to protect the foam from the fiberglass resin that I coated it with to make a hard shell for molding purposes.  Foam has a few chemical enemies that immediately melt and pit the surface of the foam upon contact.

Tools needed:
  • Hand saw and/or keyhole saw
  • Utility knife, old kitchen knife, exacto blade
  • Depending on size or scope of project an electric chainsaw
  • Rasps, horse brush
  • Sandpaper coarse (40 grit) for shaping, fine (180 grit) for smooth finishing
  • Hotwire for burn cuts
  • Hot iron for large burn cuts or “hogging” out large sections

Urethane Foam


Urethane foam has a remarkable property that allows you to capture incredible sharp detail into your sculpture.  The cells are much closer together than in EPS foam and the beads and/or structure of the foam is finer.  This makes for easier cutting and tooling the surface.

What I love most about this type of foam is that I can polyester resin coat my finished sculpture right on top of the foam without having a protective layer as you would for Styrofoam.  Having a tough “candy coating” shell helps protect the foam sculpture for the next step in the process.  For my cylon head, I then bondoed some of the line detail back in and then sprayed it with a high building polyester sandable primer to finish him off before molding.  Here he is getting ready for the molding process after a high gloss paint job:

Smooth “candy coated” shell over urethane sculpture before molding.

Tools needed:
  • Much of the same tools are needed as with EPS Foam
  • Dust mask required because of the tiny foam dust is hazardous to breath in


Eva Foam and Floor Mat Foam

Floor mat foam material for Tavion Cosplay by Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay

If you’re a serious cosplayer, you should know all about EVA foam.  It’s the most popular choice for comfort because it’s so light and soft to wear–not to mention it’s incredible properties with flexibility to take any shape over body parts and holding details cut into it.  I’ve seen some wonderful armor builds that would fool almost anybody to believe it’s real armor.

One tip I learned that I found important is know your cut.  Another words cut out templates out of card stock or cardboard first and test fit on a form or yourself somehow and then transfer the correct shape onto the foam before cutting.  You’ll save time, money and head aches.

Hot glue is my choice of glue for connecting the foam to itself, plastic, and strapping.  However, a real cool affect I’ve used for armor builds is hammering large snaps to connect layers of armor together where the exposed snap looks like armor rivets.

Floor mat foam is a similar form of EVA foam and can be treated the same way for your builds.  The picture provided here for Eva and floor mat foam is from my friend Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay on her build for her Star Wars Tavion Cosplay.  I suggest following her because she’s fantastic, and keeps no secrets how she does her magic.

Tools needed:
  • All sharp cutting hand tools–scissors, utility knife, breakaway blade knives
  • Cutting board or hard smooth surface, straight edge guides
  • Dremmel tool for carving in details
  • Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks
  • Heat gun for shaping foam around contours (i.e. body parts…be careful, extremely HOT or do on a mannequin)
  • Rulers, tape measures, tailor tape measure
  • Plasti-Dip spray coating for giving the foam a hard candy coat finish when complete.
  • Body forms or mannequin

PVC Pipe, Shapes and Board (Sintra)

I have the greatest success with PVC shapes and boards for jobs that need a quick turnaround or projects that show me faster results and progress.  There are so many pre-fabricated shapes available in PVC such as all the different diameter pipes, plastic planters and bowls (which I used on my Life Size Nutcracker), and various thickness of PVC boards or sintra that is easy to cut.

I must confess that after starting to work at Vital Signs of Orlando, Inc I now have the advantage of a CNC router table for exact cut shapes out of sintra board, such as the clock arms and gears above pic.

Computer controlled cutting table

Tools needed:  

  • Hand saw, hack saw
  • PVC Cement for gluing pipes and/or layers of board together



I’m assuming that the first material ever used for 3D art was probably wood.  I’m also assuming most people, if you’re my age, had wood shop in middle/high school and got to make a bird house.  Everyone, I’m sure, has had some kind of experience with wood in their lifetime.  I like working with wood because there are so many tools made or invented just to deal with certain aspects of it by either cutting, filing, carving, drilling, gluing, screwing, and even staining and painting.

Wood is incredibly easy to manage with experience and has so many uses.  It is also readily accessible from many local sources such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware stores.

Looking at the gallery of photos above can give you an idea of how I have used wood before including using branches of a tree on my log reindeer.

I’ve learned a fascinating new technique since working at a sign shop which is sandblasting.  Here, the face of a cedar board gets sandblasted to get a desired woodgrain and custom signage.  Anything on the board that is to remain the surface of the original board gets a rubberized, tough, masking material that causes the sand to bounce off and not penetrate the surface of the board.  Anything not masked off gets pushed back and the beautiful woodgrain is exposed.  See sign pics above.

Compressor, sand, tanks, air hose, gloves, hood, and sand

Tools needed:

  • Manual hand or power saws (circular saw, jig-saw, chop saw, reciprocating saw, etc..)
  • Drills and drill bits, hole saws for use with drills and paddle bits
  • Files, chisels and sandpaper
  • Bar clamps and large vice-clamps
  • Wood glue
  • Planer
  • Wood lathe for spinning wooden dowel rods and filing specific shapes (i.e. baseball bat)
  • See above picture for sandblasting


Metal can be cumbersome because of it’s weight and difficulty in cutting, shaping and bringing together by welding if you don’t have the experience or the right tools.  But, nothing beats the real thing and I’m betting most replication in cosplaying armor and weapons or faux finishing is trying to copy metal’s appearance.

Some metals however can be easier to work with like aluminum and copper because they are lighter and softer.  Aluminum is my choice of metal that I have most experience with, which happens to be the choice of metal I use most often in my job as a sign fabricator.

The choice of metal for the fandom culture probably isn’t wise as a cosplay piece for safety reasons.  I can’t imagine wielding a real sword, at a Con, being Guts from Berserk manga as monstrous as his prop is.  But a real metal sword hanging on a wall with all your other collectibles and props is paramount.

Tools needed:
  • Metal cutting saw blades on power saws
  • Cutting torches (oxy-acetylene, plasma)
  • Wheel grinders
  • Welder-stick, mig, tig
  • Safety gear for heat and light (gloves, dark cutting shades and welding helmet)


Again, I haven’t shared everyway or everything you can use to build your projects from and if there is anything you believe important I left out with even talking about the materials highlighted here, please feel free to comment below and I will incorporate your ideas here.  Thanks for hanging out here for a while and good luck on your next project!  I’d love to see what some of you all are making and using to create your Masterpiece!