For a beginner sculptor, sculpting a face is not easy. However, a few little tips will help you achieve this. You will just have to learn a few techniques and know how to place the different facial features. Pick the subject you'd like to sculpt, grab your tools and get started!
Part 1 of 3: prepare to sculpt
Step 1. Choose your clay
To sculpt a face, you can choose from several options. Each clay is different, so you will need to choose the one that suits your needs.
- Ceramic clays are water-based and are easy to work with right out of the box. They need to stay moist throughout the process, as they can dry out and crack. To solidify the sculpture, these clays can also be fired.
- Plastiline is an oil-based paste that does not dry out and cannot be baked. It is very popular with special effects specialists, because it allows many small details to appear.
- Polymer clay requires a wire frame or skeleton to hold it in place. It is more fragile than other clays, but it is perfect for painting. It can be fired, but it will never be as strong as ceramic clay.
Step 2. Gather the materials
In addition to the clay, you will need a few things before you start sculpting. A clean and large enough work area will be essential, as well as some tools that will allow you to bring details to your sculpture. You can find sculpting supplies at most arts and crafts stores.
- You don't have to buy tools specially designed for sculpting. You might find similar utensils, which will achieve the same results. The main functions of your tools will be to cut, scrape and shape clay.
- To draw thin lines on the clay and add detail, you can use sewing needles.
Step 3. Study your topic
If you know the person whose face you are sculpting, take a picture of them from all angles. Take portraits from the front, of your subject looking directly at the lens. Also take side portraits, in order to get beautiful profiles.
- If you are sculpting the face of a famous person, search the internet for different photos and print them out. You will need to have portraits taken at different angles, in order to get an accurate idea of the proportions of the person's face.
- To better see the arrangement of facial features in relation to each other, you can draw a grid on some of the photos.
Step 4. Make a sketch of your sculpture
Think about how you want your sculpted face to look. Think about yourself, what he or she does for a living, and why you are sculpting him or her. By answering these questions, add emotions to your sculpture. Make a sketch of different expressions, in order to choose which one you will give to the sculpture.
The design doesn't have to be perfect. It will simply be used to prepare your sculpture
Part 2 of 3: start sculpting
Step 1. Form a ball of soil
Roll your clay into a ball and smooth the material. The smoother the clay at first, the easier it will be for you to make your face appear.
- Depending on the size of your sculpture, you may have difficulty forming the starting ball. If you are making a small sculpture, you should achieve this easily. However, if you are doing a large sculpture, you may want to sculpt the neck as well.
- As you shape the oval of the face, keep the subject's proportions in mind. To make certain facial features, you will add material. The oval will still be the basic shape of your subject's head.
Step 2. Make a clay silhouette
To make the basic face shape, you can otherwise create a silhouette, based on the subject's profile.
- Print a photo of your profile subject. The photo should be the size you want your sculpture to be.
- Form a ball of clay, approximately the size you want the nose of the sculpture to be. Lay it out flat on a clean surface. Make sure you have enough clay to make the entire profile.
- Take the previously cut photo and place it flat on the clay plate. Trace the outline of the profile on the clay and remove the excess material.
- You will thus obtain a block of clay showing the silhouette of the subject's face. Add earth to thicken the neck, so you can put your face upright, as you widen the profile to form a face.
Step 3. Add guides to mark the proportions
Using a needle or a tool with a rubber tip, draw a thin vertical line down the center of the face. This will be your line of symmetry. Draw a horizontal line intersecting the vertical line at its middle, to mark eye level.
- Halfway between eye level and lower face, draw a second horizontal line. This will be the level at which you will train the nose.
- Draw a last line halfway between that of the nose and the bottom of the face, to mark the level of the mouth.
Part 3 of 3: add facial features
Step 1. Shape the eyes
With a small spoon or a rounded tool, start showing the eye sockets just below the eye level line. Be careful not to dig too deep into the earth.
- Work carefully and take your time. Keep the tool flat against the clay and make small circular motions. Smooth the material as you go. The eye sockets should be deep enough that the eyes do not protrude beyond the sculpture.
- To form the brow bone, form two small clay cylinders and secure them just above the eye sockets. Make sure the clay is malleable, so it can be melted into the rest of the face. Using a small spatula, slowly insert the brow bone into the forehead, forming a small ridge. Work until there is no more crease between the browbone and the forehead.
- Shape the eyelids much the same way you sculpted the browbones. Take two small clay cylinders and place them just below the brow bone, in the eye sockets. Smooth the seams to blend the eyelids into the rest of the face. Repeat the same operation to shape the lower eyelids.
- Form small balls of earth, which you will place in the sockets, to make the eyes. Round the ball well and place each eye in its socket. Try to form two symmetrical eyes.
Step 2. Sculpt the nose
Take a piece of clay and make it into a pyramid. Then secure this piece between the eyes of your face. Melt the material into the face, paying special attention to the bridge of the nose. The ridge should blend perfectly between the brow bone.
- As you sculpt the nose, look at the profile of your artwork. Some noses are more protruding than others, and some go up slightly. Take the photo of your model again, to make sure you sculpt the nose correctly.
- The shape of the nose gives character to the face. Try out different types of noses to see the effects you can create.
Step 3. Hollow out the mouth
To sculpt the mouth, remove a little bit of material below the nose. Remove only a small amount of soil, in order to reveal the inside of the mouth. You will form the lips of the face by adding clay.
- Using the same technique used to sculpt the browbones and nose, add soil to shape the lips. Roll a small cylinder of clay between your hands and melt it on the face, to form the upper lip.
- Carving a mouth takes a lot of practice. Take your photo again and do not hesitate to start over if necessary.
- To form the lower lip, leave excess material on the upper lip and melt it down, in a horseshoe shape. Roll a second clay cylinder and secure it below the upper lip. Leave a little bit of space between the two lips, as if the mouth is slightly open. Work the clay until the mouth is perfectly integrated with the rest of the face.
Step 4. Fill in the face
Once you've added the eyes, nose, and mouth, you may need to fill in the rest of the face. Add clay to shape the chin, cheeks, hair or even to thicken the forehead, if needed.
- When adding material to the face, be sure to work it until all the knuckles disappear. To make the clay easier to work with, warm it up slightly. This will make the material easier to sculpt when you add it to the face.
- To make the ears, make two small, flat circles and attach them to the sides of the face. The earlobe should be placed above the jawbone. Connect the upper part of the ear to the face at eye level. Sculpt the details of the ears with a small spatula or needle.
Step 5. Repair any errors
Before you finish the sculpture, compare it to your reference photo. If a part of the face does not satisfy you, rework it. Be patient and see your mistakes as good opportunities to improve yourself.
Once you are satisfied with the entire face, go over its surface one last time to blend the material as well as possible. Smooth out any remaining demarcations, remove excess material and remove small marks
Step 6. Add the final touches
Depending on the clay you used, you can either bake your artwork or make a mold.
If you want, you can also paint your sculpture and add decorations to bring the work to life
- Making a sculpture takes time. Do not rush. Take your time to smooth and melt the material. However, don't spend too much time achieving a particular trait. If one part of the face is giving you a hard time, start working the rest of the face. If you still can't find it suited to the rest of the artwork, you'll need to rework the problem area.
- As you sculpt facial features, look at photos of the subject, so you don't get confused.