Thursday, February 10, 2011

Back to Basics (Skull)

 Many of you have asked about details on the skull so here it is.
This skull will be about 1-1/4" high.
Start with a ball of clay about 1" in diameter.
** If you have hot hands you may want to let the clay rest between steps!
 Press the sides of the ball in slightly.
Cut the front off the ball.
 Cut a notch out of the lower back of the ball.
Use a flat tool to round off the front of the ball on both sides where you made the cut.
Form a depression across the face of the ball at the halfway point from top to bottom.
Form the eye sockets with a rounded tool. This is a burnishing tool for applying stencils. The sockets will be on the depression you just made. Press in to the skull and pull slightly down and toward the sides. The socket needs to fit a 6mm bead or your pre-made eye.
Use a sculpting tool, flat blade or burnishing tool to flatten the area under the eye socket. I use the burnishing tool so the bottom of the eye socket will have a rounded ridge.
Work your tool around the outside of the socket to depress the skull and leave a ridge around the socket.
This is the finished side with planes flattened and ridge raised.

Insert the eyes or beads into the skull. The eyes should have one eye width between them. Push out or in depending on which you need to achieve this.
Do not embed them deeply. If you leave them raised from the skull, you can have forward set eyes in the finished sculpture. If you want deep set eyes, it is better to add more clay when you sculpt the face.
 Measure from center to center on the eyes. Use that same measurement to mark the mouth location by measuring down the face from the center of the eye.
Cut the mouth into the clay.
** If you do not want an open mouth, simply score this line across the face.
The head should be stuck on a skewer or similar support at some time during the process so you can hold it without adding heat to the clay and so you can attach it to the armature of the torso later.
Come in halfway from the front of the skull to the notch we cut out earlier and and cut or score a line from the mouth up the jaw to a point about even with the bottom of the eyeball.
Continue the notch we cut earlier (or score along the same line) from the back of the jaw to the vertical line we just made. This will let the lower jaw separate from the skull. If you want a closed mouth do not bother with this step of separating but just score the lower jaw in place.
 Use a sculpting tool or your fingers to gently reshape any distortion which cutting or scoring may have made on  the jaws.
This is what a finished skull should look like for most of your adult sculptures. You can adjust the skull for Negroid and Mongoloid features if you want. I find it easier to make one type of generic skull then alter the features in the face sculpting stages unless the mouth is open and you need to see the teeth.
 Finished skull from the front.
Teeth can be applied to the front of this skull at any time either before curing, after curing, or even after the face is done if you only see a little bit of the teeth.
 If you want an open mouth the next step is to separate the jaw and shape the oral cavity in the palate and lower jaw. Teeth can be added now, after curing, or even after the face is done if you want.
TEETH: If you are setting teeth into an open mouth before sculpting the face you will need to remove the height of the teeth from the upper and lower jaws. This makes the face shorter as shown in this image.
the skull should be cured before adding teeth or sculpting the face.
Next: Teeth.
Have a great day!


  1. This is awesome, thanks so much for sharing. I will try your skull method, I usually just sculp the head. Like the use of the bead, Plain white beads are hard to find. I have been using cut off quilter pins, but my sculpts are smaller.

  2. thank you so much for this tutorial, I have been using sewing pins that I cover with sculpty and bake then I add my eyes but your method seems so much easier

    do you make up the teeth before hand?

  3. Hey Mark, after watching your video of sculpting the female head, I have been sculpting the skulls kind of along the line of what you have here, but this cleared up a few things that will make it simplier. And I am always for that. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. thanks for this i tryed to make one the other day after i saw your blog but i just could not get the shape but thanks to you i will have another go u make things so much simpler and i just get then when u show us thanks so much

  5. Thanks bunches for this, Mark! Can't wait to see teeth. I tried one and had a difficult time getting the teeth correctly shaped and placed, but I hadn't cured the skull yet either. You're helping all of us tremendously and we appreciate you and Kelly for being so generous!

  6. Hi Mark I love this blog I love your sculpts and where did you get the giant stylus ? I have been looking for one of those =)

  7. Thanks for the refresher. I'm now motivated to try this at dollhouse scale - will be interesting to say the least!

  8. Like so many following, there are no real words that can be said to respectfully thank you for the unselfish sharing of your spectacular talents, with those of us trying to develop our way into sculpting..please accept our gratitude, Mark. For those sculptors that I have seen who do not use an underlying form, be it a cured skull or foil, is there a certain size head that can be made with just the clay and no underneath structure? I am assuming that in order to cook and cure completely, there is a cut off for head size and then an inside structure is required. Can't wait to see what is going to happen next on the blog....

  9. Dear Anonymous,
    I have found that I get cracks if I go over 1.5" tall without some form of fill inside the head. You can use a ball of prebaked clay, Apoxie Sculpt, a nylon head armature, foil, leaving the inside hollow, or anything else which works for you. Different clays will behave differently so you really need to experiment.

  10. Anonymous,

    I found a set of three at a craft store. I can not remember which one but try net searching "Large Metal Ball Stylus" and you can see different places online also check out Kemper tools. Any of the craft or art stores carry them also. Wish i could remember where i purchased mine.


  11. Anonymous, i went and tried to google large ball stylus and finally found some on search engine (the don't track your searches or try to lead you to certain places like the ones that keep and sell your info to outside sources and are paid by others to lead you in a certain direction (google, bing or yahoo something about the government and then try this one and there are several others that actually lead you to the correct info. that you are searching for without another party's push.) I found some called Studio By Sculpey Style and Detail tools, there were several others that i did not check out but just web search large ball stylus tool.

    Hope this helps.


  12. I got my stylus about 30 years ago at a drafting supply store. We used them to apply pre-printed letters to lighting plot plans in the theater back before computers. I think there may still be something like this in the scrapbook section of your local craft store.

  13. I'm so glad I found this, thank you! I don't sculpt as well as you, but I always try and now I don't feel I'm incomplete.
    for sharing your talent, I thank you.

  14. i am new and am so glad and feel lucky i came accross this site! i am sure i will learn allot

  15. Have just discovered your blog - this is the BEST exposition on how to form a basic skull I've seen. Many thanks. I wish I lived in the US & could come to your classes.