Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hobby Tips: Sculpting tools and thoughts

In this short article we will look at some tools and techniques I use for sculpting with greenstuff. I've always been fascinated with the mysterious greenstuff I read about in White Dwarf when I was a youngster. Now, much older, I have been able to work with greenstuff for the last two years.  I'm not an expert, but I do really enjoy sculpting. Sometimes it drives me crazy though. Maybe these tips can help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made.
You have to have some pictures in a boring and long winded blog about sculpting.
I use both milliput and GW greenstuff for my sculpting needs. I find I use each for different applications.

I once read an article that compared working with greenstuff to working with hard chewing gum. It is still probably the best analogy I have read for sculpting. Greenstuff is quite stretchy. It is fairly easy to sculpt. The elasticity can be used to create a thin area as you stretch the greenstuff. I don't work with pure greenstuff very often.

Initially when I started working with milliput I thought it was useless. It tends to flake and break apart a bit when you try to smooth it. I found it difficult to use. I still rarely use it on its own for sculpting. One advantage over greenstuff is that milliput can be sanded to get a smoother finish. I use milliput a lot for things like basing. It is cheaper and so is better for filler. It also dries with a harder finish which is good if you want to sand something like bricks.

A mix of greenstuff and milliput
This is my favourite. I like to mix greenstuff and milliput to get a blend of the properties of both. I find that the milliput makes the greenstuff softer and easier to smooth and blend into existing pieces. To mix them I mix up greenstuff and milliput separately and then add them together. I change the ratios of greenstuff:milliput but generally I like a ratio of 2 parts greenstuff to 1 part of milliput.
Here you can see the nurgle sergeant is greenstuff and the ogryn is mixed greenstuff-milliput.
The right tools make a huge difference when sculpting (or trying to, like I do!) Initially, I bought the metal GW sculpting tool and tried to use it for everything. I've since added many different tools to my kit. Life is better now. Lets go through them.
Tools I use for sculpting (L to R): Colour shapers, pin vice, dental pick, exacto knife, GW sculpting tool.
Colour shapers
Colour shapers are amazing. They are basically silicon shapes on paint brushes. The silicon is amazing because the greenstuff doesn't stick to it, making sculpting much easier. I have size 0 chisel and rounded point colour shapers. I would like to get more. I do about 70-80% of my sculpting with these. The chisel shaped shaper is used for smoothing areas, cleaning up straight edges and creating basic shapes. The rounded shaper is used for smoothing things like folds. Great tools. They make sculpting much easier and more enjoyable. I would highly recommend them. Unfortunately they are fairly expensive. About the cost of a decent paintbrush each. They don't seem to really wear out though.

Dental pick
This is made of some type of non-sticky plastic too. I stuck it on the end of a file and it is really useful for sculpting. I use it to create holes in things (damage) or to hollow out underneath holes for things like sores or rips in cloaks. It has also gotten a bit of use for defining small folds and things.

Exacto knife
Also useful in sculpting. I mostly use it to clean up flat edges or create some damage on the greenstuff. I mostly use it once the greenstuff has hardened a bit.

GW sculpting tool
I hated this tool for a while. Now I am using it a bit again. It is a nice solid edge, which is really useful for things like sculpting brick patterns. The flat end can be useful for smoothing if you use some saliva as a lubricant. I mostly use this tool to apply the greenstuff to an area and for rough/basic shaping and smoothing. The worst thing about it is the way that putty sticks to it and dries.

Often overlooked are the most imprecise tools ever-your stubby fingers! Finger can be great for a bit of sculpting. I use my hands to create basic shapes with the putty before I apply it to the model. The colour shapers make smoothing out the finger prints much more manageable. I make shapes like hoods and robes and things with my fingers and then apply them to the model with my fingers. I often then put some saliva (as a lubricant) on my fingers and smooth out the greenstuff with my finger. Quick and easy. Then I just need to use my tools to clean everything up and add detail.

If there is interest, I can do a second part where I show a step by step for some of the very basic sculpting techniques I use to create different items.

To any regular visitors, sorry I have been so long between posts. Between my new job, the holiday season, the flu, and some less happy parts of life, this last month has been quite busy and draining. I will try to get back on track here and get some regular posts up again. Welcome to Henry's tat, the newest follower and I have added Warhammer In Progress' blog to the blog roll at the right. Happy hobbying everyone.


  1. Yes please, a 2nd part would be most welcome. Would love to see those colour shapers in action.

  2. Nice little tutorial, maybe one day I will try again to sculpt something half decent. Did you redesign the blog?

  3. Deadestdai-I'll try to get some pictures of some sculpting soon.

    Sean-I am always fiddling with the layout. Most recently I just moved things around, added the pages at the top, and changed the logo font. I really need to get a little logo or badge for the blog though.

  4. Very good info. The silicon tools look like they would simplify a lot.
    Also, I have always been hesitant about using milliput, and have never heard of mixing the two, so great information all the way around.

  5. Did you have to mail-order the colour-shapers, or are they available localy in Vancouver?

  6. WiP-They definitely are great for sculpting. Makes things a lot easier.

    Mr. Esty-I bought them in Victoria. I would imagine that most "good" art stores have some in stock. I have seen them on eBay too. Let me know if you find some here in Van.

  7. Great tutorial, I've learned a few things right off the get go; milliput and green stuff combo - nice, and I have got to get me one of these silicone colour shapers. I have a serious problem with the stickiness of the green stuff which I constantly have to counteract with water. Hopefully the colour shapers come in a fine point shape for the 15mm work. Thank you.


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