Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by Megatron37, on 2003-05-06 13:08:54

Paper Mache or Plaster?

when building things like hills for a puppet to walk on which do you prefer to use? paper mache or paper dipped in plaster? any other techniques? thanks.

Posted by Nick H, on 2003-05-06 19:07:40

I usually shape the hill out of chicken wire, then lay fibreglass matting dipped in plaster on that, maybe 2 or 3 layers, then just plain plaster modelled a little while wet, and stippled with a big brush for texture. For tree branches or smaller rocks I might build up the shape in clay, do the plaster and fibreglass thing over it (much like making a mould), then remove the clay. For a really nice textured rock I took a latex mould of some real sedimentary rock then cast my hollow reinforced plaster rocks in that. Polyester resin fibreglass would be even better, but plaster does well enough for much less money. I use water based paints to colour the finished hills or rocks. I don't think plaster would soak in and bond with paper very well, it would probably flake off when you drilled tiedown holes. (If someone actually does this and it works fine, speak up now!)

Posted by MSW, on 2003-05-07 01:48:57

wouldn't you want something stronger then paper mache, something that would only suffer a minimum of damage if a accident occurs while animateing a shot? I meen you wouldn't want the hill to be so weak that it slowly caves in as the puppet stands on it...could only be noticeable when you play back the shot and you see the puppet slowly sink into the hill as if it were quicksand...might only need the heat from the stage lights to do that too, even without the puppet weight.... or even possably worse, what if while animateing, you slip...bumping into the hill with enough force to destroy a section or all of it :P Sorry, I don't meen to offend, or come across in a negative way...but I can be a bit accident prone at times, and just know that if given half a chance,...I would likely slip and accidently crush such a hill made of paper's just my luck...but I just thought I would warn you :D I know plaster is quite cheap...but how expensive is fiberglass?...wouldn't that work just as well?

Posted by Megatron37, on 2003-05-07 12:07:33

hey nick, i checked out your website. really nice job on the termite mound. great textures. and the dungeon is awesome. especially for your first shot at a stop motion set. thanks for the tips. they'll really help out.

Posted by Nick H, on 2003-05-07 18:20:53

You can make sets from almost anything if they are seen but not touched, like in the background. I did some grassy hills with strips of cardboard curved over a bucket and other objects, then covered with some thick insulation material to smooth out the curves and sprayed in shades of green - it would flex if you tried animating on it. But I built the road up the middle where a car moved from stronger materials. I agree that papier mache might be a bit weak for animating puppets on, but it would be fine for backgrounds. I forgot I'd put those termite pics up. One big curved back wall was made by the chickenwire and reinforced plaster method - it wasn't walked on by puppets, but could have been. The walls with holes were carved polystyrene foam, with glue and vermiculite on the surface - not suitable for a ground surface to be walked on, but nice for walls. I used mostly flat floors so the ore carts could travel along the corridors, so they were just particle board on that set.

Posted by Strider, on 2003-05-08 03:02:18

Hey MSW.... You'd be surprized how strong paper mache can be, especially if you use full sheets of newspaper and layer quite a few of them on top of each other. But I want to get some of that fiberglass cloth... it sounds like a better alternative. Personally, rather than plaster, I use Durham's rock hard water putty, sold at hardware stores. It's a lot like plaster, but seems to have a much wider latitude for error in mixing, and also to be stronger and more flexible. You asked about using fiberglass. Of course that's an option, but it's so stinky and toxic, have you ever tried to breathe in a place where fiberglass has been used recently? UGHH! :+ Even when I just opened a can or fiberglass resin once, the basement stank for hours. Talk about a headache! But you could always just lay out some fiberglass cloth and then mix up a batch of urethane resin to pour over it. I would add in a filler (ordinary sand works, but it's better to use something made for the purpose). Doing this extends your working time from likt three minutes up to maybe ten or so, and thickens the mix so it doesn't just run off or go through little unseen holes. Of course, this is a rather expensive option. I think the paper mache or better yet fiberglass cloth mache would work fine. If you really feel you need extra reinforcement, you might want to cut a few ribs of plywood to place beneath it of something.

Posted by jim danforth, on 2003-05-10 11:04:53

Oops, My entire post just disappeared. This is attempt number two. I agree with Strider that paper mache can be very strong, particularly if made with an alaphatic resin like yellow carpenter's glue. When I started making sets, I used plaster. I grew tired of having chips get knocked off, revealing white plaster underneath. Of course the plaster can be made stronger with the addition of glue and it can be colored intrinsically, but I decided to change to paper mache instead. For maximaum strength the old strips-of-newspaper technique is probably best, but if texture is more important than strength, I like to use a pre-chopped product known as "Celluclay" (I hope I spelled that right.) Just add water and mix (but don't breath the dry powder as you add the water). Once dry, the material can be carved or sanded, and it takes paint well. The only drawback is that the material can take days to dry. If you plan ahead, that's not a problem. Some of the miniature trees and rocks for "Caveman" were made using Celluclay. On the Jim Danforth thread there is an image of my Wotan puppet. The tree he is standing in front of is textured with Celluclay applied to a couple of layers of newspaper-strip paper mach over a wood and hardware-cloth form. The bark of this tree was slightly stylized, but more natural textures are possible, as well as more stylized ones. I wouldn't recommend this product for making ultra-smooth sets, unless you want to spend a lot of time sanding and sealing the surface. For ultra-smooth sets I have used glass reinforced polyester resin (fibre-glass). Nasty, smelly stuff. When I made an oversize sink for a shot in "Body Bags," I sculpted the form and sent it to a subcontractor for the "glass" work. I think they used a fibre-glass chopper gun to spray the material against my sculpture. Usually, for areas the puppets walk on, I use plywood or pine boards textured with sawdust and glue. Pine boards allow for some conturing of the form, but I usually use the wood for only the area in which the puppet will walk. Jim

Posted by Antony, on 2003-05-10 23:08:35

If you want something harder than plaster but constructed with fibreglass and without the stink of polyester resin, you need to look at this is a new water based resin called Aqua-resin. It's great to use and is very versatile for both making laminated structures or castings from moulds. Another benefit is that it can be tinted with water based paints. Check out their website at Celluclay is great too, but if you lay it up too thick it can take a while to dry (or if you can, put it in a gentle oven). Find the celluclay product's manufacturers website here there are a few interesting other products made by this company like li-que-che' a pourable polymer papiermache. For your interest here is a tree prop made from Celluclay stuck over polystyrene foam. Antony

Posted by Anderson, on 2003-05-11 07:42:27

The post previous to this one mentioned using foam. I've used this to make many sets. Some for stop motion but mostly for photoshoots for a toy company and traveling shows for the same company. I use the styrofoam sheets used for insulation. Either the pink stuff or the white which is much coarser. I've used a small electric chain saw to carve it, rasps, serrated knives and sand paper also. Paint it with a water based paint, You can glue it together with a contact cement made for styrofoam. I even made a primative looking ( Easter Island style) statue once, covered it with a thin coating of vinyl concrete for a garden statue of ours. But mine is only around 3 feet high. Dan

Posted by jim danforth, on 2003-05-11 12:09:36

Antony, I know you posted the photo to demonstrate the tree-building technique, but what is the puppet and what's the project? Jim

Posted by Antony, on 2003-05-11 19:30:40

Jim I was quite happy with the celluclay tree, but it did take a while to dry. It resulted in a very light weight prop, but quite strong. Possibly some ready mixed grouting or gap filler type product would be quicker to work with in this instance however the celluclay can get a nice rough texture. The project is some test footage I'm getting together to get a TV series off the ground, something to show those with the cash what the show may look like. The puppet is something I put together using an old armature, a custom build suit of armour and a clay head. By the way some of the armour is made from celluclay like the shoulder, elbow and knee joints (But I wouldn't recommend this for long wearing pieces). As it was a test puppet I didn't need to make them in more permanent materials. Eventually I'll make a silicone or foam latex head but at the moment clay will do but it's a fiddle at this scale (14cm tall). Antony

Posted by Nick H, on 2003-05-11 21:34:29

There seem to be many more types of goop for doing paper mache than the old flour and water stuff I used in elementary school, or even the pva (white woodworking glue) I've occasionally used since. So it sounds like a viable material. I've never heard of celluclay, the tree in the pic looks very like the sort of pinebark textures I do with plaster. Sounds like good stuff. But usually I need to shoot on the new set later that day, so despite the "white chip" factor I use plaster because if you have to, you can paint it while it's set but still damp, and be ready to shoot a few hours later. Anderson - what is this "vinyl concrete" stuff? I want to do some large weatherproof garden sculptures, and styrene foam with some kind of coating was the most likely method. It sound like you've been there. Polyester resin eats styrofoam, so it's no use without a lot of protective coats of something else first, I was looking for something stonelike but not too thick so I don't lose too much of the sculpted shape.

Posted by Strider, on 2003-05-11 23:13:17

Nick, you might want to try that Aquaresin stuff Antony mentioned. He posted a link to their site... it sounds like great stuff. Jim, Antony posted a short clip from this project SOMEWHERE not long ago. I'll try to find it, if you want to download it. It doesn't take too long, and it's a really nice clip. (Hey Antony, do you remember where that was? I seem to recall it was under something about digital cameras.....) ******** Ok, here it is: It was under "Here's your camera Strider". I suddenly remembered 'hey, that was under one of my threads, wasn't it?'. Well, sort of, anyway. Then it all came back to me.

Posted by Antony, on 2003-05-12 10:04:27

Aqua-Resin, I forgot to mention, can be applied really well to styrofoam with no problems. I have a sample sitting here, sent by the manufacturer of the Aqua-Resin stuck on a blue builing type foam. Nick if you are interested I can send you a bit of this resin to play with. Also another cool thing with Aqua-Resin is that you can also pour it or lay it up in alginate moulds... now that's got to save time with making limited runs of objects inexpensively. This footage is really rough, and I will be re-doing it mainly because we had some real problems with electrical fluctuations and the resulting strobing lights (That's now fixed with a power conditioner) but here is some other footage. Thanks Strider for remembering the footage. Antony

Posted by Nick H, on 2003-05-12 19:18:19

Antony - Just watched that sequence (SeqB)- In a small window, over just a few seconds, it created an amazing sense of atmosphere and an epic feel - it's completely put stuff like resins and plasters right out of my mind! Nice slow, weighty animation, aided by the music and clanking sound effects. More! ...just trying to get my head back on topic... hey, you're in Australia, so I can probably buy that Aqua resin stuff here, right? Is it weatherproof? As well as laying up fibreglass matting with it, can it be thickened with fillers like sand for a weatherproof stone texture spatulad on top, maybe modelled for details a little? Ok, looked at earlier posts and checked out the AquaResin website, seems to be distributed in USA and Canada only, so you must have ordered it online somewhere?

Posted by Antony, on 2003-05-12 20:25:18

Nick Thanks for the comments on the sequence they're much appreciated. Now to try and get some funding. You will be able to buy Aqua-Resin here shortly as I am becoming the Australian distributor for it. The Aqua-resin can be thickened with a thixotropic agent which works very well. Not released yet (but I have a trial pack) is a paste version of the Aqua-Resin which goes nice and rough like stone. The paste version will be available shortly. Adding sand, metal powders or whatever is fine. As you can see by the sculptures and building facades featured on the Aquaresin web site the product will handle exterior situations well. The only problem is submerged or very wet conditions. you can also thicken the resin with chopped fibreglass which is also great for adding strength. By itself the resin is like polyester resin, fairly brittle so if strength is needed add matting or chopped fibreglass.