Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kotetsu's Wild Tiger Mask Revisited!

Hello again dear blog,

So a long while ago i was commissioned to make the Domino mask that Kotetsu wears in the anime series Tiger and Bunny.

while at the time i was really happy with how it turned out in the end, the process to making it was a huge pain in the butt, plus there were a bunch of things that irked me about the end result.

the first thing i took issue with was the time it took to create each mask. One average, it would take about 8 hours of working time to make one mask. thats completely outlandish, but the process i was using was that i would paint or "brush in" a layer of silicone. each layer would take about  an hour of working time, then an hour of drying time. Each mask would require three to 4 layers of silicone. then on top of that i would have to paint the silicone after. so each mask would take an inordinately long time to make.

With it being one of my most popluar requested items, thanks in large part to googles image search (how cool is that!) i decided to drop this rediculous method and look into how its actually supposed to be done. One of the proper methods real mask makers use is something called injection molding. Seeing as i could do a simplified version of this in my basement, and that it would cut down production time by at least half, this was the method i decided to take up.

The second issue i had with the mask was that it way asymmetrical and the eye holes were a little too tight to the face. so i set out to fix this by making a brand new sculpt! Using some simple tools ( a compass from a cheap geometry set, and some basic sculpting tools) and some oil based clay, i began sculpting a better version of the mask.

after some smoothing out and triple checking for asymmetries, i began to mold it. Using the same method as i did before, i brushed on rebound 25, then covered it in plasti-paste for the mold jacket (dyed red).

the next step was to provide a backing. earlier on in the year, i bought a head armature for the sole purpose to make masks. problem with it was that it was entirely made of foam. so i molded it and since have been able to make copies of it to help me with my mask making (homer, the head wearing the sculpt, is one such copy). using that basic face form, i made a hollowed out shell version to use as the mask backing.

as you can see in the photo, the backing has man holes in it. the larger holes are to bold the mold jacket to the backing, while the smaller holes allow air to escape as the silicone is pushed into the mold. i tried to place the air vents at various spots throughout the backing to allow a smooth flow.

Because this mask is multi colored, i have a couple options available to me when it comes to casting the silicone. i can either paint the silicone after the entire cast is done, or dye the silicone and have two different colors of silicone in the mask when i go to inject it. Because i think the mask looks cleaner and more solid when silicone dyed in comparison to the paint, i choose to dye the silicone before molding. this does mean that i have to paint in some area of the the mask. Because the white is covers such little area, i choose to paint this area in first before injecting the darker silicone into the mask. this does take some time, but only approximately 2 hours of work at most.

after the white silicone is painted in and dry, i then bolt the mold and mold jacket on to the backing

once the mold and mother mold are securely attached, i flip the whole thing over and position a large needle-less syringe into the back of the mold, located at the lowest point in the mold. this help ensure that the downward pressure of the silicone into the mask pushes the silicone out and up into the highest parts of the mask, as well as forcing any air pockets that might get trapped out the upper vents in the mask.

as the silicone fills up the empty space in the mold, silicone will begin to push out through the vents. as this happened, i could force the flow of silicone to continue through the mask by simply plugging the vent with clay or in my case, plasticine, once the vent was leaking a little bit of silicone. to do this step properly, there are a couple things you must remember. first is that once you inject the silicone into the mask, you must work quickly to stop too much silicone from leaking out the vents or you might waste too much and have gaps develop in the mold. The second and most important thing to remember is to know how much silicone you'll need when injecting, because you won't be able to pull the backing off until the silicone is dry. Other wise you risk ruining the cast.. my first attempt i under estimated by a fair bit, only to waste a bunch of silicone.

it took me a minute to realize this, but one of the easiest way figure out the volume of silicone you'll need is to take the base sculpt, mash it up, and measure it's volume. you'll have exactly the volumetric amount of silicone you'll need. from here i added a bit more to account any waste that might occur (which sure enough, there was some wasted material).  Low and behold, i had success!

From here i carefully pulled the silicone from the mold. It is suggested to use baby powder when removing the silicone from the mold to avoid sticking and ripping of either of the silicone or the mold. I didn't use this, but because i used more than enough release agent, this wasn't much of an issue.

Once the flashing was cleaned up, this guy turned out great.

this mask is a fair bit thicker and a fair bit heavier than it's predecessor, which makes it far more tear resistant, but also more difficult to make facial expression. Because of the face form being the backing for the mold, it fits really well on the face, and is super comfortable. the build for the mask took about 3 weeks of solid working time, but now with the mold created, the creation time to make more copies of the mask is about 3 hours from start to finish.
Here i am wearing and having a little fun in the mask (i swear i am actually having fun).

thanks for reading and if you had any further questions about the mask, feel free email at blarg.props@gmail.com or checkout my facebook page!