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Introduction Into Lifecasting

November 23, 2019 @ 9:00 am - 3:00 pm


Introduction to Lifecasting

Lifecasting is such an incredible form of art. It can be used for multiple applications ranging from special fx in film and tv, to medical simulations for training, to even sculpture forms for art pieces and so much more.

Learn the fundamentals of lifecasting, mold making, and casting in general use for art.

  • Class length: 4-6 hours
  • Molding Materials: Alginate
  • Casting Materials: Ultracal 30 and TC-1630 Filled Resin
  • Model: Self hand/upper arm cast
  • Finished Outcome:
  • 1x Stone casting
  • 1x Resin casting
  • Students keep all supplies that are left over as well as all casted pieces!




  • Alginate is made from organic seaweed algae. It is processed a specific way into a powder form that is used as a fantastic and safe way to do temporary molds, and typically are hypoallergenic, though there are alginates that contain Silica (which is harmful to ingest and should only be used by industry professionals and safety equipment) but we won’t be using that today! The original form of alginate is completely skin and mouth safe. Believe it or not the main use of alginate is for dental procedures and making teeth molds! Silica alginate is a very special type of alginate that usually only professionals use for specific types of projects. There are usually 3 general purpose working time frames for typical generic alginate: Fast, Medium, Slow set. Some brands offer different or “special” alternative alginates for special use projects but I usually stick with the generic alginate for almost all of the lifecasting I have ever done.


  • Ultracal 30 is a widely used stone in the special fx industry due to its strength, longevity, and utilization for practical applications. It is simple to use, mix, and apply. Ultracal is very similar to plaster, as all you need is water to mix it with. Ultracal uses heat (exothermic) as it sets up, so it is important NOT to TOUCH the stone once it is poured into the mold. Ultracal also has a very fast cure time, so we will be able to pull the castings out pretty quickly.

TC-1630 RESIN:

  • 1630 is a very special, one of a kind, type of resin. It is a filled urethane system that can be used for a variety of things. 1630 is heavily used in special fx as a sculpting form base material. it looks and acts similar to stone, has a deep grey color, and is extremely strong (stronger than stone), so if you drop your casting, it will have less of a breaking point than using any stone material any day. 1630 also uses exotherm to set and cure, once again make sure not to touch the resin once it is mixed and poured into the mold.
*SDSs will be provided prior to the class


Lifecasting & Material Safety Information

When it comes to lifecasting, it is crucially important to understand all of the necessary precautions we need to take before doing anything. It is VERY important to understand all of the materials you are using, their SDS, and their work times in order to achieve a perfect and safe cast.

Any lifecasting that is done with a person’s face is better to have a second person helping you. For beginner basics, we will be covering lifecasting body parts other than the face today. We will be molding our hands and arms and creating complete replicas.

To create a quick and cost effective mold, we will be using alginate, which you probably have used before at the dentist to make a mold of your teeth, it is the exact same thing! Before working with alginate make sure you read the instructions for your specific brand, as there are different varieties available with different work times, usually a FAST, MEDIUM, and SLOW set is typical. With a FAST set alginate (7-10+min), you want to use it for doing small quick molds like fingers, toes, and other smaller areas as this will limit you to how much you can mix and use at one time. With a MEDIUM set alginate (4-7+min), you want to use it for doing small to medium moldings, such as arms, legs, and face and has a longer work time. With SLOW set alginate (1-3+min), you want to use it for doing larger moldings, such as torsos, heads, legs, etc.

Alginate is typically safe to use, most people do not have allergic reactions to it, however there are some who are affected by it.

More information:

In this class we will be covering lifecasting with general alginate. There are two forms of lifecasting that are done today, alginate and silicone. Silicone is used in special fx more often than alginate simply because of its strength, elasticity, and life of the molds. Alginate is an organic compound made from seaweed algae, and is used in place of silicone for its abilities to capture the highest details, be cost effective, and ease of use. However, when using alginate, you will only be able to pull up to two casts at most from one molding. Unfortunately, alginate tends to dry out very quickly, so you have to work with it within 30 minutes or less. There are ways to save an alginate mold and prevent it from drying out, letting it last up to 3-5 days, but we will discuss that once we get to that point in the class!

Lifecasting has been around for centuries, using earth based compounds thousands of years ago to create molds for a variety of materials and objects. Today, lifecasting can not only be used for creating human copies of body parts, it can also be used as a temporary mold for objects. Today we will be lifecasting actual body parts, our hands and fingers, which is by far one of the most fun to do!

Today I will be demoing a lifecast for all of you to see, take notes, and touch yourselves to better understand these materials and process before doing it yourself. Lifecasting is a process, it takes time, attention, and safety to complete, but has an amazing outcome that everyone will be happen with. With the amazing instruction you will be given today, you will be completely confident in yourself when you leave here to go home and do this yourself and start making art!


I will be demoing how to do a hand lifecast. We will be doing an alginate cast and start with a stone casting. We will then repeat the alginate lifecasting process on a different body part and then do a second casting in resin. During this process, I will be giving very detailed notes along the way, pointing out key things to remember, special techniques, and also safety protocol the entire time. Each process is different, and requires a good amount of time to walk through all of the information.


This will be the first part of the student practical of the day. In this part, students will be doing an alginate hand mold. The students will then mix up stone material, and cast their hand. After the stone has set, we will demold the hand and stand down any imperfections and fix any air bubbles and other imperfections. Students can then take home their pieces to paint.


This will be the second part of the student practical of the day. In this part, students will be doing an alginate hand mold. The students will then mix up 1630 resin material, and cast their hand. After the resin has set, we will demold the hand and stand down any imperfections and fix any air bubbles and other imperfections. We will then spray each cast down with primer to keep it nice and looking good! Students can then take home their pieces to paint.

Instructor: Stephen Herrera of Nightshade Studios LLC.


November 23, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm




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