Psylocke and Wolverine

Monday, February 3, 2014

This is a cross-post with Muddy Colors — An Illustration Collective

photo by Tory Williams

I made a custom cake topper for our wedding last year featuring some familiar characters. While I already posted a picture previously, I recorded a time lapse video of (nearly) the entire sculpting process and thought I'd share it as well. The material I used is Super Sculpey, a polymer clay that stays pliable until cooked in a home oven. The directions say to bake it at 275 °F for 15 minutes (for every 1/4″ of material). That works fairly well for me, though sometimes I'll bake it at a 250 °F for slightly longer. Toward the end of the video, I show a turnaround of the finished Psylocke figure — Super Sculpey has a sheen to it that's lost after baking.

The sculpting itself is pretty straightforward, but the armature can be tricky. I used a thin, galvanized steel wire no more than 1/16″ thick. It has to be strong because the figures are so small, just 1/12 scale (or 6″ tall). It's also a good idea to use wrapping wire around the limbs, which gives the clay something to mechanically grip. I didn't have any around the apartment, so I used aluminum foil that I rolled into long, rough wires. That actually worked even better and I'll probably use the technique again.

photo by Tory Williams

It took 40 hours to sculpt and about 6 to paint (done almost continuously). Had it been something intended for reproduction, it would've taken even longer. That's one of many reasons digital sculpture is taking over. Traditional techniques are still valuable, especially for learning anatomy, but you can't beat the speed and ease of revisions that are inherent to digital.

For painting, I used Holbein's Acryla Gouache on the matte sections, Martha Stewart gloss acrylics for black and silver, and Testors Acryl for the blue and brown — basically, whatever worked. To be honest, the paint job isn't that great, but it looks just fine from far away, which is all I needed.

Even taking shortcuts, I barely finished in time. I had to bake Wolverine before I finished his arm so I could make a flight (to my wedding). I carried them on the plane with me in a small box (and the TSA didn't even stop me — guess they don't mind adamantium).

I had originally intended to sculpt Psylocke's psionic blade, but I ran out of time. I still have the materials, though, which include a translucent polymer and alcohol dye. (I found a site called The Blue Bottle Tree that details how to make work with the materials.)

Photoshop, 15 × 11″ @300 ppi.

At first, I was going to make the figures 9″ tall so I could use a toy katana, but that proved too large (but I still have the sword, which hangs on my miniature gun rack). For more on sculpting, please check out my previous posts:

(I'm taking a blog break while I'm on vacation... where I will hopefully get some writing done. Have a great week!)

photo by Tory Williams


  1. That is an awesome cake topper. I hope my girlfriend won't mind something like that when we have our wedding. Have a good, well-earned break.

    1. Thanks! I'm sure she'll be cool with it as long as you make it yourself.

  2. Hi Paolo,

    Let's just say that i'm a big fan of your work and i love your sculptures, it's too bad that you're drawing between two of them !

    I'm a bit of a sculptor myself and i use different techniques to make the sculpey stick to the armature.

    For a long time, i have been using duro ("kneadite" or "greenstuff") which is a sticky modelling paste. It sticks very well to the armature and i put a first layer of sculpey on the duro. But the fact that the euros dries in two-three hours so you have to be quick and if it falls from the armature you have to remove it from the armature and do it an other time …

    But since a few month, i discover a sticky modelling clay which can be mixed with sculpey or fimo, this modelling clay is called URO and is cooked like sculpey.
    I put a first layer of URO on the armature and after i put my sculpey, it's really easy and it sticks very well.

    I f you have trouble finding this, i can send some, i made quite a stock before leaving Europe.

    Best regards,


    1. Thanks for the info, Phillipe! I think I've used the Duro before, but not the URO. I might give it a shot, but I probably won't be sculpting again for quite some time. (Too many other projects I need to finish!)

    2. Thanks for the info, Phillipe! I think I've used the Duro before, but not the URO. I might give it a shot, but I probably won't be sculpting again for quite some time. (Too many other projects I need to finish!)


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