How to sculpt: 12 steps (with pictures)

How to sculpt: 12 steps (with pictures)
How to sculpt: 12 steps (with pictures)

Whether it's to reveal the Michelangelo in you or to make your own miniatures for your next Dungeons and Dragons session, sculpture is truly a great hobby. It doesn't matter what your innate artistic streak is, because this is an art that is really about learning. Anyone Can Do It! Although many materials can be used, clay and plasticine are the most technically accessible. The following instructions therefore relate specifically to modeling, but the basic principles can be transposed to other materials. Warning: Always test a new technique on a test clay before making your final piece. Drying and cooking also needs to be tested beforehand to avoid accidents.


Part 1 of 4: building the base of the sculpture

Sculpt Step 1

Step 1. Make a sketch

Always make a sketch before starting a piece. The design does not have to be perfect, it is there to give you a common thread during your modeling. Draw your sculpture from several angles before better understanding the junctions between different points of view, the respective heights of the different elements, the scale, etc.

Sketching to scale can really help. If the size of your sculpture allows it, don't hesitate

Sculpt Step 2

Step 2. Build your frame

This is the structure supporting your sculpture, like a skeleton. This is an important step, it will prevent your structure from becoming too fragile.

  • The frame is usually made of more or less thick wire depending on the size of your sculpture. However, you can very well choose to use another material, if you do not have wire or if your sculpture is too small: you can use toothpicks or skewers. For large sculptures, you can also choose PVC tubes or plumbing pipes.
  • Identify the main parts of your sculpture from your sketch. Observe the lines that connect these parts to each other and how they structure them. Again, imagine a skeleton and shape your frame with these guidelines in mind.
Sculpt Step 3

Step 3. Fill your sculpture

It's a bit like placing the muscles after the skeleton. In general, light, inexpensive and easy to find materials are used for this step. Infill is important, not only because it will lower the costs of your sculpture, but also because it will make your sculpture lighter and therefore easier to transport and less fragile.

Usually used for filling: removal tape or masking tape, aluminum foil, old newspapers, or sometimes inexpensive plasticine or clay, but this is the less good solution

Part 2 of 4: forming the sculpture

Sculpt Step 4

Step 1. Start with the larger parts

Once you have set up the framework and the infill, you can start adding the clay or play dough. The instructions given in this tutorial relate more specifically to polymer clay. Start by roughly modeling the general shape. Above all, it is about laying a basis for work. If you are sculpting a person or an animal, it is best to start by positioning the large muscle groups of the creature in question.

Sculpt Step 5

Step 2. Add the smaller parts

Start giving your sculpture a more precise shape. At this point, you should still be adding small amounts of plasticine to define the overall shape of your sculpture, but on smaller areas. To take the example of the creature (human or animal), it is now a question of adding the small muscle groups as well as the general shape of the hair (but not the fur).

Sculpt Step 6

Step 3. Sculpt the details

Once the general shape is in place, you can start moving or removing small amounts of the plasticine. This is the sculpture part itself. Move and smooth larger amounts of paste to their final shape and then start sculpting or engraving the smaller details: cheekbones, knuckles, etc.

In the previous two steps, unless your sculpture is very small, you used your hands. For this step, however, you can start using tools. You can use sculpting tools or improvise them with what you have on hand. Refer to the next chapter for more information on the tools

Part 3 of 4: add texture

Sculpt Step 7

Step 1. Identify the textures needed

Observe your sculpture and think about the different materials your piece would be made of in real life: flesh, hair, fabric, stone, grass, fur, etc. Locate these different textures on your first sketch or on a new one.

Do some research. Take a look at photos of these different textures to give you an idea of ​​how they work - it's definitely more complicated than you might have imagined! Fur, for example, grows in tufts, each with a different length, organization and location

Sculpt Step 8

Step 2. Texture the different areas

Start adding texture to your sculpture, area by area. You can use sculpting tools or improvised tools for this. Carving tools are mostly easy to replace with everyday items. It's up to you to experiment to find what works best for you, knowing that all sculptors use their tools differently.

  • In general, broad-tipped sculptors' tools are used for larger parts and fine-tipped for sculpting details. Spoon-shaped tools are for rounded surfaces, and tools with a loop are for hollowing out parts. Any tool with a sharp edge can be used to cut the dough.
  • Tools can be improvised from foil balls, toothpicks, black peppercorns, cutters, toothbrushes, steel ball collar chain, hooks and needles. knitting, sewing needles of all sizes, cookie cutters, melon spoons, etc.
Sculpt Step 9

Step 3. Harden your sculpture

Once you are done carving your piece, you need to harden it (if you don't want to harden it, skip this step.) Depending on the paste you choose, it may air dry or need a pass. in the oven. Follow the instructions given on the packaging.

If possible, it is usually better to cook the piece at a lower temperature, but for a longer time, so as not to burn your sculpture

Part 4 of 4: doing the finishing touches

Sculpt Step 10

Step 1. Paint your sculpture

If you want your sculpture to be colored and your starting paste is not, you will need to paint your sculpture. Even if you have to choose your paint according to the material used for your sculpture, in general you should use paint with an acrylic base. Enamel model paint is recommended if you are using polymer clay.

  • Prepare your room for painting by washing it with soap and water or cleaning it quickly with an alcohol-soaked cloth.
  • If the brush strokes are too noticeable, you may need to use a primer or apply multiple coats.
Sculpt Step 11

Step 2. Add a glossy polish if you like

Varnishes and glazes can be used to make certain wet parts (the eyes or the inside of the mouth, for example) appear more realistic. Choose a varnish or glaze suitable for the material you are using. Modge Podge is a good basic option.

Sculpt Step 12

Step 3. Mix the materials

To achieve a more realistic effect, you can use different materials to achieve the effect you want. Why not try using real hair if you are sculpting a person, real fabric to make clothes or even natural earth, moss and pebbles to decorate the base of your sculpture?


  • If your dough has hardened, soften it by working it between your hands. The more you knead it, the more it will soften with the heat and oil of your hands.
  • After you have hardened your sculpture, you can give it an extra touch by painting it.
  • Different brands of plasticine have different hardnesses. Fimo clay is very hard while Sculpey Original clay is very flexible. As long as their cooking temperature is the same, it is possible to mix different brands to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Cover your sculpture with plastic film between two sculpting sessions.
  • Check out the creative hobbies on TV.
  • Practice with papier mache or Moonsand paste.
  • Ice cream sticks are good tools for smoothing out your sculpture. A good paring knife works well for slicing dough.

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