Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cosmetology Head Tutorial

I walked past a beauty school in our town that had gone out of business and there happened to be some people there.  I went in and long story short, I bought five heads for Halloween.  Since that time, I've found several more at the local thrift store and I went to one of the other beauty schools and acquired a bunch more of the spent heads.

Over the last year, I have modified a few of them, and I have a blog post about them already.  One of the heads has some of the flesh cut out and the eyeball and part of the jaw is exposed.  One has an eyeball popped out.  Another has an exposed brain.  Garrett helped me make the eyeball one and I made the brain one for my son-in-law, Nick.  Rhys wanted to help me with the next one.  This time we took process shots so I could write a tutorial here.

All good projects begin with a good design.  We decided we wanted to have a portion of her face ripped off and the skull exposed.  We began by drawing the section of flesh we wanted to remove, then used a utility knife to cut away the rubber.  We cut away part of the scalp as well.  We always save the portions we take away in case we want to use them again.  That was the case with the scalp.

Cutting the flesh away

Peeling the rubber skin

Next we removed the exposed foam and hollowed out a portion of the head.  That was to make room for the skull.

Cutting away the foam

More demolition

Hollowing out the head

The head and the foam skull we just happened to have laying around

The Halloween skulls and the cosmetology heads are about 85-90% lifesize.  They match up pretty well.  The next step is to cut and place the skull until it fits just right.  This is one of the most involved part of the project.  There isn't a recipe or a pattern showing how it goes, you just have to cut and fit, cut and fit until it's just right.  When I do a project like this I like to cut a little bit bigger than I think I'll need because it's easier to trim than it is to add. 

Last year I acquired two cans of Liquid Nails adhesive from a paint store that had discontinued them.  It's a bit of a pain because you have to scoop it out of a can instead of shooting it through a caulk gun, but cheap is always good, and that's the adhesive I used for this project.

Cutting the skull

Fitting the skull to the head

Final placement

Rhys and I decided we liked her better with hair, so we added the scalp piece back with some Liquid Nails.  Then it was time to remove the base and hack up the neck so it would appear to be a severed head, but the act of severing wasn't necessarily clean.  I used a saw for the base and a utility knife to distress the cut.

Hair restoration

Removing the base

Hack job

The next step is to add a substrate to the cut and carved foam.  This is done for both protection and to provide a uniform surface that will readily accept paint.  I have used Jaxan 600 and Childers CP-10 Poly Vicryl as mastics for coating foam.  There are other products available for this purpose as well.  Many theatrical suppliers have products specifically for coating foam.  In my opinion, they all work about the same, so whatever is on hand or whichever is cheaper is the best option.

I coated the foam on the base and then the foam skull.  Then I applied folded paper towels as a mache to create the meat on the skull.  I used the ViCryl as the medium for attaching the towels.  The nice thing about ViCryl is that it's water based and it dries very rapidly.  Once it's dry it is odorless as opposed to some of the carpet latex adhesive mediums that some home haunters use.


Mastic on the foam, also covering the unfortunate "neck tatoo"

Mastic mache with model skull in background

The next step, once the mastic is dry, is to paint the head.  I started out with a base coat of acrylic paint.  The colors I used were Unbleached Titanium and Parchment.  While that was still wet, I used a fan brush with straight Burnt Sienna and dragged it across the "meat" areas.  Finally I painted Paynes Gray in the cracks in the eye socket and the nasal cavity.  Then I thinned the Paynes Gray and painted a wash in the eye socket, the nasal cavity and around the teeth and gums.

Base coat

Base coat and work-up finished

 Once the base coat and work-up are dry, the next step is to paint the skull with Design Master Color Tool.  When building stage props or Halloween props, I have three colors I use more than any others in the Design Master.  They are, Glossy Wood Tone, Cherry Wood Tone and October Brown.

Design Master

The process for painting the skull begins with Glossy Woodtone all over and October Brown in the eye sockets and nasal cavity.  Finally the Cherry Wood Tone is sprayed on the "meat" and in the eye sockets.  This step is repeated until the desired color and value are acheived.  I like to wear a vinyl glove on my right hand and contort it into different shapes to create a frisket.  I like to do it that way because it's quicker than masking tape and paper.

Design Master

When the design master is dry, the next step is to paint the blood on the neck and around the gaping wound.  I use acrylic paint for my blood.  I use a combination of the following colors, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red Deep Hue and Dioxazine Purple.  I stipple these colors alternating the brown and the purple and basically stippling the crimson all over.  Then I use the cad red as a bloody highlight.  Once the acrylic is dry I then coat the blood with a gloss medium so it looks fresh all the time.  Finally the last step is to paint blood spatters around the wounds.  I do this with the crimson and cad red in a toothbrush and run my thumb over it to flick it where it needs to be.

Blood on the neck

Flicking blood


As I look at the picture of the finished project, I realize that the inside of the nose is too shiny and maybe the inside of the eye socket.  I think a bit of clear flat medium would fix that.

So we have one more head for our Zombie Walk.  These heads are very versatile.  They can be modified in many different ways.  The biggest ingredient in doing this is your own imagination.  Go forth and modify!


Ashley said...

Dude. That is nastastic.

Cynthia said...

Have to agree with Ash on this one, but I posted it to my FB anyway. :)

buddiejet said...

Thats Awesome