My lion's beginning to look a little hairy. I havn't posted in a little while as I have been finishing my sculpture and casting the head in a flexible polyurethane foam. The foam can be painted, flocked then punched. It probably sounds like I am talking jibberish so allow me explain....
The Painting process:
I had a moment of madness and decided to splash out on a fancy airbrush- but a cheap 20-pound airbrush off the net would be sufficient. Before you can begin painting the flexible foam it is advisable that you prime the foam with a primer so the paint adheres to the flexible surface. ‘Covent Garden Primer’ is an excellent medium to do so- but a watered down coat of latex could be used as an alternative to aid paint adhesion. (If you have a foam object that needs a dark base colour I would advise adding a drop of polyester pigment to one half of the foam mix at the casting stage).
Whilst the primer is drying ensure you have a selection of colour reference material prepared. Work out the dark and light areas of the form. Commonly creature makers paint with the contours of their object to accentuate areas of relief and offer a more expressive result. In the case of my lion the skin colour below the fur was mainly black. The photo below looks quite dramatically wrong, but you have to stick with it at this stage. I also painted in white and brown where the fur is thick and the purity of the fur colour would be let down by the harsh base colour. For example the white of the mussel would not look as pure and dense with a black skin colour below- despite the skin being dark around the area on a real lion. The paint can be mixed with the primer to aid the adhesion- but ensure you clean your airbrush thoroughly after use.
Flocking has been a favourite process of mine for many years now- I have used it in the past to create grass effects for my models- see below. It has recently become popular with taxidermists and the special effects industry to create a realistic fur effect.
Flocking is the process of electrostatically charging small strands of fibre with a high voltage electric field then depositing them into the adhesive coated surface. A flocking applicator gives the "flock” negative charge whilst the glue-covered surface is earthed. Flock material is attracted to the earth and flies vertically into the glue. When the glue dries you are left with a textured surface similar to grass or fur.
Flock applicators can be very expensive so I made my own flock applicator for less than £10 using a Tupperware box, and some components off eBay. I used this online tutorial as a guideline: http://csxdixieline.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/howto-static-grass-applicator.html
I used Copydex as my adhesive. Some special effects makers suggest using 'pros-aid' instead. I was able to flock fibres up to 8mm long with my Tupperware flock applicator… anything longer than 8mm is more difficult to apply effectively, and I would advise the use of a more powerful commercial flock applicator.
Above: Flocked grass as seen on my railway diorama. Below: My flock aplicator and sample.
It can be difficult to apply a specific colour and length of flock to a specific area of the head especially when the whole head is earthed and covered in glue. Generally you would shake on the flock from the lightest areas of colour to the darkest so that the light areas are less polluted by the dark fibres (as light areas are more densely covered with light flock making it less likely for the dark flock to reach the adhesive in the lighter areas and adhere). Blending shades of flock can be done before application by simply mixing various colours in a pot or multiple layers of thinly applied flock will enable a good blend of shades.
Fur direction can be added by blowing the hair with a hairdryer or a stiff brush whilst the glue is tacky. This also helps to remove excess hair between shades of flock. Be cautious when later handling the prop as the flock it is easily damaged.
As mentioned above blending colours can be tricky, as the fibres are very difficult to control and I decided some blending in and dulling down was needed. The photo below depicts the fur before it is blended, where the colour isn’t nearly as convincing as the final outcome. I worked into the face with an airbrush set to a very fine controlled spray- too much flow will result in droplets of paint forming on the fur surface. The colours were dulled down then the contours of the face were accentuated. The white details around areas like the eyes and nostrils were also enhanced by addition white paint.
Above: Before painting
Below: After painting
Hair punching is the process of embedding hair into the surface of a prop using needle called a punching tool. Various needle sizes allow for different weights and densities of hair. Hair is held in one hand in front of the surface to be punched then the needle picks up the hair as it is passes through the hand full of hair and into the surface. The angle at which you penetrate the surface of the prop dictates the hair direction. Hair should be punched in layers and then trimmed to length using scissors- hair cutting scissors give a very harsh edge when layering hair -thinning shears give a feathered edge which helps to blend layers together.
The following video demonstrates the concept far better than me and I found it really helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LpzIOP6qRI
It can be difficult obtain hair punching tools so I made my own by modifying a conventional sewing needle and a home-made handle- here is a video of how to do so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F5Q6rUp0IE
Below: My home-made punching needle alog with a pair of thinning shears and medical scissors.
In Conclusion... applying hair requires some careful thought and patient application- but its good to remember if anything goes pear-shaped it can be easily pulled out and re-done. I urge anyone interested to have a go!