Latex-Foam Castings

Miss Fortune is an iconic character from League of Legends, one of her most recognizable elements is her hat.  The hat has a very interesting decorative feature to it – the “squiggle” on the middle-front of it.  I really wanted to do the hat justice, so I experimented with a new technique for this piece: foam-latex casting!

The following materials are mentioned in this write-up:

Illustrator template

I began by taking my hat pattern and putting together a rough pattern for the “squiggle”.  In this Illustrator drawing, the design is a lot different from the final product because I ended up modifying it as I sculpted. This Illustrator design was then printed, and taped behind a piece of clear acrylic.

Squiggle sculpt

Using this outline behind the acrylic, I was able to get the overall shape of the “squiggle” with the Plasteline clay. I was using Chavant NSP clay for this, but any oil based clay that won’t air dry would work! Every time I wanted to see how the sculpt was looking, I would simply lay the acrylic over my leather piece to get an idea of what it will look in its final stages!

Plaster mold

Once I was satisfied with my sculpt, I was able to make a mold out of it. Because I was planning to make a soft casting out of latex/foam, I knew I could use a hard material for the mold. I have a 25 pound bag of Ultra-Cal 30 laying around, so I used that. It’s a great material for molds because it’s well priced and captures detail very well. It’s also extremely durable.

For this step I created a simple box mold and poured my Ultra-Cal 30 on top of my sculpt. The only downside of using Plasteline clay is that you only have one chance with your mold! Upon demolding, your original sculpt will be destroyed. So make sure you mix your Ultra-Cal 30 (or whichever material you use) very well! Re-read the instructions more than one time!

After the original sculpt was removed, I cleaned the mold and began doing some test casts.

Comparison

In this photo you can see some of my different experimented castings. I wish I had a better shot, but I didn’t document this process all too well!

  • Final casting is on the center of the hat. (latex+foam+fabric)
  • To the right of the final casting was my first satisfactory test that I wanted to improve on. (latex+foam+fabric)
  • Lower left corner were all failed full-latex castings.

My original goal was to do full-latex castings, but because the latex I was using was intended for mold making the only way to get a full casting was to brush in layer after layer (to avoid air bubbles). This process took too long, and even when I spent an entire day doing layer after layer, I still managed to have some air bubbles.

That’s when I decided to experiment with foam. My first foam casting (not pictured here) was a complete mess. My mold release didn’t work for some reason and the foam got stuck to my mold, so afterwards I had to spend a few good hours cleaning out the mold.

The final castings were done by brushing a few latex layers into that mold, allowing that to fully air dry, then filling the mold with FlexFoam-iT! 6 and quickly covering the mold with black fabric, and a book, then clamping the book to the mold really, really tight.

What did that do? Basically it allowed the foam to expand and fully cure without expanding past the shape’s edges. In my first successful casting the foam escaped the shape a little bit and created a slight elevation in the casting between the latex and fabric (which I did not like). When I clamped it down really tight, it forced the foam to stay within the shape, allowing the fabric to essentially stay bonded to the top layer of latex.

After I successfully casted my final “squiggle”, I airbrushed it gold and was able to glue it to my hat with barge cement! I had to tape the piece down to ensure the barge properly fused the “squiggle” to the leather hat.

CompleteThanks to Robby Cavanaugh for this beautiful photo!

What would I have done differently?

If I had the chance to do something like this again, I would have glued/barged the “squiggle” onto the leather before I applied leather-balm. The leather balm made it difficult for the it to adhere to the leather properly. It stays, but every so often it will start to pop off. Thankfully the center is fully adhered, so I have no risk of losing the piece altogether. I just have to carry barge and tape in my emergency kit!

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below!

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1 Comment. Leave new

Hi,

I’m curious about the Armstrong brush on latex mold maker. I used to use a brush on latex (I think maybe by liquitex – but I haven’t been able to find it)) that went on it thin layers and it had to almost completely dry between layers. I had to use baby powder when I peeled it off so it wouldn’t stick to itself and get ruined. I brushed it onto every material imaginable and always only needed baby powder to get it off, then rinse off the baby powder and it lost it’s sticky. The color was a very pale and nearly translucent yellow. I made tons of them because of their skin like quality. I never cast into them; I did skins of every day objects.
If you know Eva Hesse’s work, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I’ve tried other brands and they’re usually too thick, too opaque when they dry.
Well, just asking, before I spend more money trying something that won’t be right.

Thanks a million.
Liz

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