Life Casting Hair

Life Casting Hair


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In special effects (SFX) work, hair is typically not cast. Instead, a bald cap is fitted to the head to create a face casting or full head mask without the risk of casting material tangling in the hair. However, for life casting, the usual aim is a realistic cast, making it desirable and often more aesthetically pleasing to cast the hair or at least indicate hair.

Applying MoldEZ

Key Takeaways:

  • Hair casting is rarely used in SFX but common in life casting for realism.
  • Two main techniques: hard hair casting and soft hair casting.
  • Hard hair casting uses Gafquat to make hair rigid.
  • Soft hair casting uses flexible materials to retain hair’s natural look and feel.
  • Proper preparation and application are crucial for both techniques.

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    There are two basic techniques for hair casting: hard hair casting and soft hair casting.

    Hard Hair Casting

    Hard hair casting involves forming the hair into the desired style and treating it to become rigid enough for molding, just like any body part. This "helmet head" approach naturally creates the exact shape and style of the model's hair. The hair is treated with a liquid known as Gafquat, which is the brand name for Polyquaternium-11, a water-soluble copolymer. Gafquat is the primary active ingredient in many hair products like mousses, gels, and hair sprays. In SFX makeup, it is used to hold down hair under bald caps or wigs tight to the scalp. It is a viscous, almost glue-like material that makeup professionals use to mold hair into a shape where it will not move. It dries hard and washes out with shampoo.

    Gafquat cannot be used successfully straight from the bottle; it needs to be thinned with water and alcohol. The basic formula is one-part isopropyl alcohol (99% pure) to four parts Gafquat. Once the two ingredients are combined and well mixed, stir in five parts water and mix thoroughly. If correctly mixed, the Gafquat mixture will have the consistency of maple syrup. The mixture needs an airtight container for storage.

    To prepare the hair for casting, dampen it with a water sprayer (do not soak) and then comb through. Adding a bit of hair conditioner to the spray bottle will help the hair comb easier and protect it. Using a two-inch chip brush, apply the Gafquat in layers starting at the rear of the head. Comb the coating through, transferring the Gafquat remaining on the comb to the front of the hair. Repeat this process as many times as needed to form the desired hairstyle. The objective is to coat all the hair.

    Once you are satisfied that the hair is completely coated and in the desired style, dry the Gafquat in the hair to achieve a "helmet head." Apply a blow dryer to the hair starting in the front and working your way to the back, smoothing the hair down with your free hand. 

    Once the hair is dried to the desired shape, give it a very light spray of "Pam" cooking spray. The result will be a very easy and trouble-free head of hair ready for casting. The material easily shampoos out in the first wash.

    Soft Hair Casting

    Soft hair casting aims to capture the natural flow and texture of hair without making it rigid. This technique is typically used when a more lifelike representation of hair is required. To achieve this, a special casting gel or flexible casting material caleed MoldEZ is applied to the hair. This material is designed to set softly, maintaining the hair's natural look and feel.

    The process begins similarly to hard hair casting, where the hair is dampened and conditioned for easier handling. However, instead of Gafquat, MoldEZ is used. This material is applied in thin layers, ensuring the hair maintains its natural movement and texture. The key here is to avoid over-saturating the hair, as too much material can cause the hair to clump together unnaturally.

    Once the hair is fully coated and in the desired shape, it is allowed to air dry or is gently dried with a blow dryer on a cool setting. This process ensures the hair retains its softness and flexibility, resulting in a cast that looks and feels natural. The flexible casting material can be easily washed out with mild shampoo, leaving the hair in its original condition.

    Both hard and soft hair casting techniques have their uses in life casting and special effects, depending on the desired outcome. By understanding and applying these methods, artists can achieve realistic and aesthetically pleasing results in their work.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Why isn't hair typically cast in SFX work? Hair is not usually cast in SFX to avoid tangling and complications with casting materials.
    2. What is the purpose of a bald cap in SFX? A bald cap is used to create a smooth surface for face casting or full head masks without hair interference.
    3. What is Gafquat and its role in hair casting? Gafquat is a water-soluble copolymer used to make hair rigid for hard hair casting.
    4. How is Gafquat prepared for hair casting? Mix one-part isopropyl alcohol with four parts Gafquat, then add five parts water to achieve a maple syrup-like consistency.
    5. What are the steps to apply Gafquat to hair? Dampen the hair, apply Gafquat in layers with a chip brush, comb through, and dry with a blow dryer.
    6. What is the purpose of using Pam cooking spray in hard hair casting? Pam cooking spray helps create a smooth, cast-ready surface on the dried Gafquat-coated hair.
    7. What materials are used for soft hair casting? Special casting gels or flexible casting materials are designed to set softly.
    8. How is soft hair casting different from hard hair casting? Soft hair casting retains the hair's natural look and feel, while hard hair casting makes the hair rigid.
    9. What precautions should be taken during soft hair casting? Avoid over-saturating the hair to prevent unnatural clumping and ensure even application.
    10. How is the casting material removed from the hair after casting? Both Gafquat and flexible casting materials can be washed out with mild shampoo, returning the hair to its original condition.

    By understanding and applying these methods, artists can achieve realistic and aesthetically pleasing results in their life casting and special effects work.

    Last Words

    In conclusion, mastering the art of mold making and casting opens up endless possibilities for creating detailed, high-quality replicas and custom parts. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a passionate hobbyist, the right materials and techniques are crucial for achieving the best results. At EnvironMolds, we take pride in offering an exceptional line of ArtMolds mold-making and casting materials designed to meet the diverse needs of our customers. From silicone and resin to metal casting supplies, our products are engineered to provide precision, durability, and ease of use. Explore our extensive range and discover how you can elevate your projects with the finest materials available. Thank you for joining us on this journey through the fascinating world of mold making and casting. Happy crafting!

    Ed McCormick


    Edmund McCormick is the founder of Cape Crystal Brands and EnvironMolds LLC. He is the author of several non-fiction “How-to” books, past publisher of the ArtMolds Journal Magazine, editor of Beginner's Guide to Hydrocolloids, and author of six eBook recipe books available for download on this site. He resides in Far Hill, NJ and lives and breathes his art and food blogs as both writer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.


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