Life casting SFX Makeup is a process where a 3D replica of a face (or body part) is achieved through casting and molding. Our most popular use is for a base to sculpt custom prosthetics onto an actor. By using the actor’s life cast, we are able to achieve realistic prosthetics to create ageing, likeness makeups, disguises or go the whole nine yards and create fantastical creatures or characters for film, television or advertising purposes. The possibilities are endless!

We invite you into our studio to take a behind the scenes look at our life casting process for the talented American actor, Jilon Ghai Vanover. Check out our time-lapse for the entertaining process and keep on reading if you’re interested in the technical know-how, including a materials list. We also invite you to comment on our blog and ask questions.



Whilst the process was entertaining and a lot of fun, face casting is also a very serious process. There are a lot of technical processes you should be aware of and a lot of tools & materials required to achieve a successful life cast.


It is important to make sure your model or actor is fully aware of the process you are about to perform on them. Give them a run through of all the steps and an estimate on how long they will be under the cast. Claustrophobia or anxiety can be triggered whilst casting, so make sure they are comfortable with what they are about to under-go. Assure them that if they freak out, you can get them out quickly; it’s always wise to have an assistant or two on hand. Perhaps chat about a “safety” gesture for if the Actor is in distress; ours was failing arms!!!

Life Casting SFX Makeup and Bald Cap Application Materials and Tools include:

  • Alginate
  • Alginate bonder
  • Plaster bandages (pre-cut before you begin)
  • Water
  • Vaseline
  • Cotton buds
  • Mascara wands
  • Buckets and Tubs
  • Measuring cups
  • Spatulas
  • Hair Gel
  • Bald cap
  • Pros aid
  • Tweezers
  • Bondo
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Sponges

Prep your Actor or Model

Life casting SFX Makeup is a messy process , so we taped a large black rubbish bag around the Actor’s chest to protect his skin. We draped a bag around his legs and feet to keep his trousers, socks and shoes clean and alginate free. We also prepped the floor prior to life casting, with a plastic sheet on the floor for easy clean-up. To be a bit more eco-friendly in the past, we tried newspaper but this ended up being more of a pain for clean-up than anything.

TIP: Alginate doesn’t get out of clothing or fibre, so make sure you cover all clothing and avoid using cloths or towels on the floor

  • So your actor doesn’t loose any eyelashes, we recommend using Vaseline on all hair. We put Vaseline on the eyebrows, eyelashes & hairline + chest hair. For the facial hair (we could not have clean-shaven due to continuity), we used mascara wands to really get the alginate into the beard and also to prevent the Actor from loosing any hair in the alginate.
  • Generally speaking, to get the truest replica, facial hair or stubble must also be shaven.



Bald cap application

To prevent much clean up on the Ultracal cast, application of the bald cap should be seamless. We used a stipple latex bald cap made by one of our assistants. We had paper thin edges to allow for seamless blending.

  • Start applying the bald cap in the center if the forehead applying pros-aid to both the skin and the bald cap.
  • Make sure the pros-aid is completely dry before sticking down.

TIP: Pros-aid is a contact-only adhesive, meaning it sticks to itself when dry. Use a hair-dryer to speed up this process.

  • The Actor’s ears should be under the bald cap.
  • Stick the bald cap all the way down around the head.
  • To clean up the edges, use tweezers to rip the bits of excess latex on the seams.
  • Stipple pros-aid over all the edges
  • Brush over baby powder to show seams & where bondo is potentially needed.
  • Smooth any problem areas for a seamless finish with Bondo

TIP: Bondo is a thick paste of Pro-aid and Cabosil.

  • For this project, we only needed to achieve a front copy of the Actor so it was a lot simpler in process
  • We used a sharpie to mark the “centre” point on the head and shoulders.



Alginate Mixing Ratio

The Accu-cast IBG Alginate we used has a work time of 5 minutes & a 3 part water to 1 part alginate ratio. We recommend measuring this out separately before hand. Alginate is a natural product made from seaweed, it’s the same material dentist use to achieve a cast of your teeth. Alginate will leave your Actor’s skin feeling soft, smooth and supple.

TIP: The Alignate shouldn’t be too watery, so you can also pour water in slowly to get the desired thickness. Alignate tends to slump down, so a thicker texture is preferable to it can be smoothed on the Actor’s face without too much clean up required. Warm water speeds up the set-time of Alginate but it will also set-up faster, so make sure you work quickly.

Alginate Application

  • Alginate application must be done quickly. The set-up time will sit roughly at 5 minutes however by using warmer water you can speed up the set-up time.
  • Always have at least 1 assistant when doing a life cast to help with getting the alginate on quickly but mostly to ensure the nostrils are left completely open for breathing purposes. We had two artists applying the product and one assistant strictly on breathing hole duty.

TIP: You can use straws in the nostrils if you don’t have an additional assistant. This can sometimes affect the outcome of the cast but it’s a way to guarantee that your Actor will have breathing holes at all times.

  • The main artist(s) will start applying the alginate with their hands to the top of the head to allow for dripping and working their way down the face and any surface areas needing to be covered, massaging and pushing the product into all areas of the face to capture all of the faces details.
  • Our mixing ratio was more on the runnier side which while it allowed for a longer working time meant it dripped down the face. We had to scoop the alginate back up the face.
  • You will see when the product has started to gel it changes texture, at this stage step away and let it set regardless of holes or thin spots as the product will stop sticking to itself.
  • We managed to get a thick enough all over coverage however Alginate bonder can be used if more alginate is needed to fill holes or thin spots.
  • Apply bonder to the areas of aginate you wish to add more product to then mix up another mix of alginate and apply as necessary.
  • You can use cotton balls in your alginate before it fully sets up to bond the plaster bandage to the alginate.
  • Once the alginate has set up you can start applying the plaster bandage straight away.
  • Plaster bandages should be cut to size and folded over in 2’s or 3’s before you begin.
  • We were fortunate enough to have assistants on hand to do that whilst the alginate was setting.


Applying the Plaster Bandage for Life Casting SFX Makeup

  • To apply plaster bandages dip first in warm water and softly squeeze out excess water then apply directly to the alginate starting with framing the face.
  • Make sure you don’t squeeze out any plaster.
  • We use the Gypsona brand of plaster bandages as they are best for life casting and set-up quickly.
  • Place 2-3 layers of plaster bandage folding over the edges for strength and create boning through the center; under the chin, and nose areas by folding the bandage into strips.
  • Allow anywhere between 10-20 minutes drying time, the bandage will become hard and dry when set.
  • Once the plaster cools down, to remove get your Actor to bend forward so that you can hold the cast while they wriggle their face to release,
  • Place cast into a basket with towels or bubble wrap to make a steady bed for the cast to sit for molding.


Tools and Products for making the Life Cast

  • Ultracal 30
  • Water
  • Buckets (one empty for mixing, one with water for cleaning, and another filled with enough water for the whole process)
  • Vaseline
  • Cups
  • Kidney Tool
  • Burlap


Life Casting SFX Makeup – Preparation

  • Start by prepping the bowls with Vaseline to stop the Ultracal from sticking to the bowls once set up.
  • Close up the nose holes to stop the Ultracal from running through.
  • We used plaster bandage to do this but the holes could also be filled with clay however there is risk of the clay popping, either or both techniques can be effective.

Life Casting SFX Makeup – Splash Coat

  • Use a cup or two of water into a mixing bowl.
  • Scoop cup by cup of ultracal into the water and spread it out evenly over the water.
  • Let this sit for 30sec – 1min as it strengthens the Ultracal.
  • As you see the powder sit closer to the surface, start mixing. The consistency should still drip off the fingers but not too watery.
  • Brush a splash coat over the whole cast and into all of the faces details around 0.5cm thick.
  • This can be done a few times to get a nice layer and leave to set.
  • Let the Ultracal set-up to the point that it gets thick but still has a wet-look surface layer. Don’t let Ultracal set-up completely.

Life Casting SFX Makeup – Mud Coat

  • This coat is significantly thicker than the first.
  • Add Ultracal to your first batch to create a thicker consistency.
  • In our case the leftover Ultracal had thickened itself due to setting time.

TIP: Never add more water to Ultracal – this can result in cracks.

  • Again experience and having a feel for the Ultracal will help with consistency of the layers.
  • The mud coat should resemble a thick custard consistency.
  • Using your hands scoop and drop the mud coat onto the splash coat creating an even layer that is thicker than the first.

Life Casting SFX Makeup – Burlap Layer

  • Before you begin the molding process, make sure have have enough cut squares of burlap sized to suit your mold.
  • Clean out your previous bucket of ultracal and mix a new batch similar to your splash coat, dip your burlap one piece at a time into your splash coat and start laying down your burlap layers.
  • 2-3 layers is recommended for a strong mold folding your burlap in half around the edges for a clean finish and to provide strength in your framing.
  • Once 2-3 layers are down fold your last pieces of burlap into long strips and lay in a t formation as your ‘boning’ and in any place you feel you will need extra support.
  • In our case we laid extra under the chin as well and used the burlap to secure a pole through the middle so that our cast was held on a stick for the filming purpose of our life cast.

Life Casting SFX Makeup – Beauty Coat 

  • Ultracal is a tough stone and if left rough it can actually cut your skin therefore one last beauty coat is advised to smooth out your mold preventing cutting yourself on the jagged stone.
  • This coat is mixed to the same sort of consistency as your mud coat and is just enough to make a thin layer over your burlap.
  • As it sets up, it is good to keep running your kidney tool over it to make  nice smooth finish.

Life Casting SFX Makeup – Setting Time

  • Once your mold has heated up then cooled down completely you know it is completely set and can be released from your cast.

Life Casting SFX Makeup – Cleaning your Cast

  • Clean up your mold of any air bubbles/imperfections and sand down any sharp edges particularly around the edges of your mold.


We hope you enjoyed our blog on Life Casting Sfx Makeup. We would love to hear any thoughts, comments or questions you might have!

Photo of our final Life casting below (it’s black as we had to paint it black for another project we were using it on)