Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sculpting Tip #2-Clay Shapers

I thought I would continue profiling the various sculpting tools I use and picked one of the most useful - clay shapers. The clay shaper is an awesome tool used for smoothing and creating folds in clothing and many other jobs. Clay Shapers rank in my top three tools that I use and they are a must for anyone that is serious about sculpting.

You can find them easily on the web by doing a Google search for "clay shapers", be sure to order the size 0. The type I use are made by Royal Sovereign. The shaper comes in three different colored tips, white (soft), grey(firm) and black (extra firm). I use the black tipped ones the most although I do have a grey set.

Here is a link to the Royal Soviern website:

There are five different shaped tips in a set. A flat tipped shaper that is great for smoothing out broad surfaces, a pointed tip which is used for creating grooves and folds, a circular "cupped" tip that I use for rounding off things, a wedge that is great for cutting lines, and finally a curved tip which I honestly haven't found a use for but I'm sure there is.

I decided to include a little tutorial video of the clay shaper in action. In this video I'm using the flat clay shaper to smooth out a figure I'm working on and a cupped tip to round off the "naughty bits". These tools are quite easy to use, to smooth with them you just run the tool across the surface of the putty in broad even strokes. Please note: the little munchkin in the background is my 3 year old son, he decided to add the commentary to the video. Also please excuse my stubby fingers, I'm still working on my cinematography degree.


Anonymous said...

A few questions:

1. What is that blob of stuff on your fingernail? I assume that has something to do with the process.

2. In the video, the figure you are working on:
a. is that made of brown stuff, or something else?
b. what level of hardness is the figure at when you are doing the smoothing? is it still pretty pliable at this stage?

3. I have heard of sculpters using "ovens" (table top cans, like an easy bake oven) to speed up the drying process of figures when they are completed with the part they are working on, and want to make it hard to continue work on something else without messing it up. This also allows them to not waste any extra clay they have mixed, which would normally also be dry by then. Can you provide some insite into this technique? How can I procure/build one of these table top "ovens"?

James Van Schaik said...

The stuff on my fingernail is putty, I just keep what I've mixed there for easy access. The putty I use is procreate which will be the next putty I profile. The putty is still fairly wet at that stage but I often go back over a detail several times to smooth it out and shape it. We do use "ovens" and Once I cover procreate I am going to go over drying and everything else that deals with keeping putty fresh etc. I will show you my cooker and tell you how to make one, it is pretty easy and inexpensive so stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

this is awsome uncle ---zakVS

Adrian T said...

I just started sculpting and came across your blog which has been inspirational and a fount of information. My first mini was made with a thick needle and craft knif and I had a hard time with the smoothing.

thought I'd try these shapers, our local store only had the medium (grey ones) so I ordered the black and went back today and bought the tapered chisel just to play with.

I really like how the putty doesn't stick so you don't need lubrication, and smoothing is MUCH easier. I do thing the grey is a little soft for blending edges in after the first 40 mins or so.

Thanks for the great blog, look forward to reading more in the future :)

Matt said...

Could you please explain the armature? I really don't know anything about miniatures...