Pressure Mold, Brick Wall, 28mm, Dungeon, Sculpey

Under Pressure – Original Sculpey and Fimo Soft press molds for walls and bases tutorial

Last week I put quite a bit of work in my  Dungeon project and also had a look what else I can do with modelling clay apart from sculpting one-of pieces. I came across  some very good resources outlining the use of pressure molds for creating brick or cobblestone textures on bases or duplicating bits (you’ll find a list at the end of the post). Most guys use greenstuff for the molds, but given that greenstuff is quite expensive I was wondering if I could use either Original Sculpey or Fimo for such molds and then make casts using the two kinds of clay or even cheap air-dry clay.

The plan was to make molds for different styles of brick walls to fit out my dungeon and some cobblestone bases for my Bones miniatures. I also made some molds of Hirst Arts pieces and some other bits just to see what results I could get.

What do you need for this project?

  • Modelling Clay – I used Original Sculpey (20 NZ $ for 454g) and Fimo Soft (5.50 NZ $ for 57g) for the masters and the press molds. You can obviously use greenstuff (25 NZ $ for 100g) or any other clay, too. The air-dry clay in the front costs 3.50 NZ $ for 250g, however, after hardening it is much more brittle than polymer clays.
For this project I only used Fimo Soft and Original Sculpey. Sculpey Premol is slightly cheaper than Fimo, but is supposed to have the same characteristics. The cheap airdrying modelling clay in the front will soon be used to make some casts.
For this project I only used Fimo Soft and Original Sculpey. Sculpey Premol is slightly cheaper than Fimo, but is supposed to have the same characteristics. The cheap air drying modelling clay in the front will soon be used to make some casts.
  • Brick cutters (basically a cookie cutter for bricks) made out of old brushheads to get an even brick or cobblestone pattern.
Just remove the bristels and use tweezers to form the metal part to the desired shape.
Just remove the bristles and use tweezers to form the metal part to the desired shape.
  • Sculpting tools.
A selection of sculpting tools. The ball tip is quite good to smooth the clay and to make organic looking indentations. The needle tip I used for carving the brick pattern.
A selection of sculpting tools. The ball tip is quite good to smooth the clay and to make organic looking indentations. The needle tip is well suited for refining your pattern after you use the brick stamps.
  • Rockinator(TM) – a piece of crumbled up tin foil to create a rock like texture on your pieces.
Rockinator
A highly sophisticated tool and hard to get. Gladly a major miniature company sold it for 20 Dollars a piece!
  • Baby powder so that your master or press mold  doesn’t stick to the clay.
It does indeed smell like baby!
It does indeed smell like baby!
  • Patience – at least for the sculpting bit, after that it goes a hell of a lot faster.
Abwarten und Tee trinken....
Abwarten und Tee trinken….

Sculpting the master

The idea is quite simple: First you sculpt a master, turn it into a negative and then into a positive again. Given you have to create the master only once you can invest a bit more time in making it really nice. Adding details like cracks and differences in the shape or hight of stones really differentiates your sculpt from bought ones or simpler approaches were you just carve bricks into styrofoam.

For the master Original Sculpey is not very suitable, as it is to soft – even after refrigeration – and tends to drag. So I recommend using Fimo Soft to lay down a basis.

Roll out the Fimo on a piece of metal or glass until it is around 3mm thick and the surface is nice and smooth. Depending on what you are going for you can now use the brick cutter to lay out your basic pattern or if you want your bricks/stones to look weathered roll a crumbled up ball of tin foil gently over the clay, creating a random texture of indentations.

Unlike Original Sculpey Fimo Soft gives the stones a rather rounded shape, while Original Sculpey leads to flattish stones with “broken” edges. If you don’t like the rounded shape you can gently roll over the pattern to flatten it slightly.

While you have now a nice even pattern the gaps between the bricks or stones might not be as deep or wide as you would like. Go in with the sculpting tools and trace the gaps, making them deeper, removing some of the clay to give the impression of the mortar being brittle in places.

Finally add cracks, chips and blemishes. You can also remove some clay to depict missing stones or add some clay to make some of the stones protrude, all aimed on giving the piece more interest. If you add clay you might use Original Sculpy, as it is easier to spread it out.

Now put your master in the oven. 30 minutes on 130 degree Celsius will do the trick, but better check regularly on your piece, as the clay can burn quickly if overheated or baked for too long. 10min increments are a safer way. Some peopel also use corn starch to insulate the piece.

Master
The finished master

The press mold

After your master has cooled down it is time to make the press mold. I conducted a little experiment and made two press molds: one using Original Sculpey and the other using Fimo Soft. Surprisingly the original Sculpey provided a slightly better result, most likely due to it being softer and reproducing the detail more easily. More importantly it is cheaper than the Fimo, so definitely a reason to use it instead of Fimo Soft.

Again roll out your clay on a piece of metal or glass, but this time try to make it slightly thicker (around 6mm), so that you won’t push through the clay and have holes in your mold. Make sure the surface is level and smooth and then transfer the clay into the fridge. This step is necessary to avoid dragging and excessive stickiness.

After 10 minutes take the clay out and dust it slightly with some baby powder. Distribute the powder evenly all over the clay and do the same with the master. Don’t overdo it or you will lose detail.

Now firmly press the master into the prepared clay. Make sure that all parts of the master sink in properly. Remove the master, but try to do it in a vertical movement, so that your mold will not deform when taking the master out.

Transfer the mold into the oven and bake again for 30min on 130 degree celsius. Due to the thickness of the clay you might need to add some more minutes, but check regularly if the clay is getting brown, because that is a sign of burning it.

pressure molds
On the left side is the Original Sculpey pressure mold and on the right side the Fimo Soft mold. The Original Sculpey provides a slightly crisper result.

The cast

The last step is now very easy: After the press mold cooled down roll out another piece of clay. I recommend Fimo Soft for this, cooled down Original Sculpey or a cheap air-dry modelling clay with enough firmness, given you don’t want it to drag.

A word of caution: The air-dry clay might be more brittle after hardening than the other clays after baking. This might be ok for a base texture, but for the walls it might be better to use a superior material, which you can cut, file and sand. Both Fimo Soft and Original Sculpey can be treated this way. The air-dry clay tends to break and is overall not as flexible.

Now dust everything again with baby powder and press your mold into the clay. Remove it in a vertical movement and look if all the details reproduced nicely. If you are not quite satisfied with some parts you can now use the sculpting tools to add or remove parts, change the pattern slightly for variation and so forth. Either bake the finished piece or let it sit for 24h if it is air-dry  clay.

Molds and casts
Left side Original Sculpey mold and cast, right side Fimo Soft mold and cast.
Casts
Close up time! Left side Original Sculpey, right side Fimo Soft.

Painting

Using the method outlined in a former post I painted the walls dark grey, drybrushed with lighter tones and finally washed them with a dark brown mixture of pigment and matt varnish. I also attempted to reproduce the texture of mortar using light grey and dark grey pigments. Just apply some pigment on the piece, rub it into the gaps and remove the excess with a kitchen towel, so that it sticks only to the gaps between the bricks. With some pigment fixer or Isopropyl alcohol you can avoid making a mess when you handle your wall segments. Were the stones are missing you can add some soil using once again pigments or sand.

Walls finished
Painted both wall segments look very similar and the difference between original Sculpey and Fimo Soft is negligible.
Pigment walls
On the left piece only sand was added to depict the places were bricks are missing. On the right side dark pigment was used to add a mortar texture and to depict the soil.

Comparison with other techniques

To find the perfect technique for my dungeon project I did experiment with some other methods, too, but found the press mold one to be the most versatile, as one can control every aspect of the final piece.

I tried the brick cutters on styrofoam which provided a nice result, but the styrofoam tends to crack sometimes, which gives a slightly odd appearance. Further the piece is not as three-dimensional as the sculpted ones and less sturdy (if you hit it with a miniature while gaming you might indent it).

I also sculpted another wall segment free hand using Original Sculpey. While this provided flatter stones the dragging problem remains, but led to a “rough” edges finish, which might be something to keep in mind depending on the atmosphere one would like to go for.

Three walls comparison
Top: Styrofoam. Left: Press molded cast. Right: Free hand Original Sculpey.
Styrofoam close up.
Styrofoam close up. Pigment has been added to depict mortar.
OS wall
Original Sculpey piece close up. Again pigment has been added to depict the mortar.

Some other pieces I made

While I was at it I tried my hand on some other stuff: Lion heads for fountains, shields for my 15mm Iberian troops, some more wall segments with flatter bricks, large stone slab walls, a three-part piece to make protruding wall elements and  cobblestone bases. I’ll paint them up and will post pictures in some future post.

Collection of casts
Top left: large stone slab wall. Top middle: cobblestone base. Top right: 15mm shield for Iberians. Lion head. Bottom left: brick wall with flat bricks. Bottom right: Three-part wall protrusion.

List of helpful and inspiring links

CoolMiniOrNot – Making a greenstuff press mold

Rust and the City Blog – Brick basing with press molds

You Tube Tutorial by Corvus Miniatures – Making greenstuff press molds

Webpage dedicated to all things polymer clay – the layout is a bit dated, but the information is top notch!

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15 thoughts on “Under Pressure – Original Sculpey and Fimo Soft press molds for walls and bases tutorial”

      1. I’m thinking this might work for creating stone and brick building walls for a 20mm Normandy project I’m working on. And slate roofs, for that matter. I’m assuming the clay can be cut, once dry, though maybe cutting will require the use of a dremel tool.

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      2. I am sure it will work for such a project. Fimo Soft and Sculpey retain some flexibility after baking and can be cut easily with an X-acto knife. You can even shave away very small stripes of material. With airdry clay this is more of an issue, as the stuff I got is super brittle. Might be good for bases if you don’t touch the clay after it hardened, but I’ll stick to polymer clays. I know there are some good doll maker airdry clays, but I have to source them here first, so that might be an option to save some money.

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  1. Fantastically useful tutorial. I did something similar for my wicker hurdle panels, but used a two-pack silicone rubber for the mould. This looks equally effective and much less expensive. I might have a go!

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