Like I mentioned in my previous article on tools: I don't consider myself a trained professional, just an experienced amateur. Thus, I'm going to be talking about the putties I use, but, unfortunately, I won't be able to tell you anything about super sculpey or milliput, procreate or brown stuff. But that's alright because it's my goal to convince you that all you really need for 98% of your sculpting projects are two reasonably cheap, readily available putties. This article will be a general overview with a few tips about how to have more control over your putty, but it got a little long, so I will be saving hands-on techniques for my next installment. Still, I hope you find this one helpful in getting you better acquainted with sculpting mediums.
(Mr. Pink from the blog Modern Synthesist will be doing some articles here on Faeit 212. This is his second of his tutorial on sculpting.)
Kneadatite Blue/Yellow Epoxy Putty (Greenstuff)
GAH! MAKE SURE TO REMOVE GROSS BLACK FIBRES. I THINK I MUST HAVE DROPPED THIS ON THE CARPET AND NEVER NOTICED THE FIBRES WHILE SCULPTING. THAT'S A LITTLE EMBARRASSING.
When it comes to using Greenstuff, I'm assuming most people are aware of the operation of the stuff. Cut off equal parts yellow and blue. Mix together until even green. Apply to model. Rinse. Repeat.
The only thing you have to watch is, if you're unfortunate enough to get stuck with the kneadatite blue/yellow ribbon, you have to be sure to cut out and throw away the bit in the middle where the two-parts-that-shouldn't-touch-until-you-want-to-use-them are, annoyingly, packaged in contact with each other. Grrr.
Greenstuff has been king of sculpting for so long because, once you figure out how to use it, it can do most anything you ask it to. Its consistency is tacky and elastic, so it sticks well, and it stretches without tearing/breaking. It is light, and it is slightly bendable/rubbery when cured, so you don't have to worry about it being brittle. Though I like to use wire armatures as often as I can when constructing something solely out of Greenstuff, Hydra would tell you that armatures are not necessary, and that you can make things like tentacles and long spikes out of Greenstuff without fear of them breaking on you. I've happily polished Greenstuff to a smooth finish, and it is my go-to putty when I need to sculpt sharp edges or very fine details. It should be the only putty you ever need to use, but it has one glaring weakness:
It is expensive.
Sure, you can buy it on eBay for way cheaper than Games Workshop's price, but as soon as you start sculpting in earnest or try to make anything larger like monsters or terrain, you start using up Greenstuff very quickly, and the cost of the stuff begins to become apparent.
That is why this article features two putties rather than just one. Enter our second contender, which is a little less known than Greenstuff, but is definitely growing in popularity:
Aves Apoxie Sculpt (Cream)
However, Hydra and I have discovered over the years that this 2-3 hour terminator line is not, necessarily, absolute. With a tiny bit of effort on the sculptor's part, he or she can make epoxy putties set faster or slower, as required.
My high-school-level grounding in Science leads me to surmise that the chemical reaction that takes place when you mix two part putties is an exothermic one. However, I'm probably wrong about that as it would mean that, while the separate parts are reacting with one another, they should be giving off heat, which they don't in any way I've ever really noticed. The reality is, likely, that the reaction is a thermosensitive (C. Mr_Pink and his busted school of pseudoscience), which is to say that the chemical reaction taking place in the epoxy/apoxie compound is affected by heat or cold.
The most obvious consequence of this, which Hydra definitely turned me onto and which some of you may have encountered before, is that Greenstuff and Apoxie Sculpt like heat. The warmer they get, the faster they set. This is a fact that you can very much take advantage of if you're trying to do quick work, and you're getting impatient with how long it is taking the putty to set.
Remember those Halogen desk lamps that you weren't allowed to have in your university dorm rooms because they got so hot they could cause fires?
That is because these lamps are the easiest way to fake bake your Apoxie Putty, Greenstuff, or ApoxieGreen. Since the compounds are responsive to heat, you can artificially speed the curing process by heating up what you are sculpting. There is no better way to do this than to plunk your sculpting under one of these heat lamps.
That being said, don't take the above picture as a good example. You'll need to place your sculptables on something ceramic, metal, or wood, and you'll have to make sure they are not attached to plastic or resin models, like these hemavores. Halogen lamps at close range will cause the outer layers of putty to set quickly so you can get back to sculpting on more detail sooner. However, halogen lamps at close range will also obliterate anything like plastic or resin or tupperware, leaving you will a foul-smelling chaos spawn where you once had a beautiful model.
Also, though it should be obvious, don't leave your sculpting alone under a halogen lamp while you go out for a bike ride. Halogen lamps are safe when supervised, but they didn't ban these things from dorm rooms without good reason!
The less obvious consequence of the thermosensitivity of epoxy putties is that, just as an abundance of heat speeds the curing process of Apoxie Sculpt and Greenstuff, so, to, does an absence of heat slow the curing process. That's right! You can put your putty into cryostasis and save it for another day! (Just watch out for facehuggers... :( )
As is par for the course, I blame Hydra for this innovation because he was working with huge quantities of Apoxie Sculpt while he was attempting to build a biotitan at my apartment, and he kept popping the excess in my freezer. However, when he was visiting Canada recently, he looked at me like I had seven heads when I went through the following process in front of his eyes. When I asked him what he was so shocked about as this whole thing had been his idea, he explained that, though he would transfer the same hunk of Apoxie Sculpt or ApoxieGreen in and out of the freezer, he'd never conceived of portioning it out and only using a little at a time.
So, for your benefit, here is how I get a lot more millage out of my ApoxieGreen. Once I've mixed up a pile of putty, it is usually the case that I have more than I actually need at any one time.
Now, the freezer slows the curing process, but it does not stop it entirely. I've had success using frozen ApoxieGreen on the day after it was mixed, or even as long as three or four days later. I think it all depends on the temperature of your freezer, with colder temperatures doing more to prolong the life of the putty. I've used putty that has been in the deep freeze for a nearly a week, but I wouldn't have used it to sculpt with as it was already getting rubbery and would only allow itself to be rolled out into tentacles.
That being said, if you're planning on doing a solid day or two of sculpting, you can use the deep freeze method without worrying that you will lose too much in the way of workability. What's more, you will save a TON of putty and time as you don't need to be constantly remixing.
Alright. That has been one heck of a blather for a second article. I have all kinds of stuff I want to talk about in terms of strategies and practices for actually working with putty using the tools I previously mentioned, but I'll save that for next time as I don't want this article to be overly long/to overload anyone's senses. I hope what you've read here today has made you a little more comfortable with the idea of working with putty, and I hope to elucidate the practice even further when I continue the How to Sculpt series.