Conjuring Annabelle Costume! HALLOWEEN UPDATE!
I always let my kids pick their Halloween costumes. While I never know HOW we will make it happen, I just know that we WILL make it happen. (Be sure to check out my son's costume this year as well: Trick 'r Treat Sam).
This year my daughter — who usually picks a complicated make-up — decided to go with a mask based costume. She came to me with the challenge of a full head, sculpted mask when she decided to be Annabelle from The Conjuring and the titular spinoffs.
Time to Scare the Neighbors!
Here's a look at Halloween night! Keep reading to see how we made Annabelle come to life!
Where Do We Start?
First, we hit the internet for reference pics. I noticed almost immediately how many different looks the doll has. I would say that the look not only changes from movie to movie, but the sculpt changes within the films. So, we tried to stick to the look of the doll in The Conjuring as the doll from Annabelle had much larger eyes and severe features.
Sculpting the Mask
I haven't sculpted or cast a full mask in 30 years — My Pint-sized Predator costume ( Predator Instructable) in a previous tutorial utilized an oversized 3/4 mask that didn't require a 2 piece mold and the Jason we built was constructed out of paper towels and latex and did not require a mold at all ( Jason Instructable) So, I just decided to get started and see what would happen.
I took a fiberglass head form (you could easily use a styrofoam head form) and started lumping on the oil based clay. Keep in mind the size of the final mask as you start roughing in the mask size. I chose a soft version of the clay in a fleshy/orange color so the sculpture would be more natural than a gray tone. I then cut a ping pong ball in half and used the halves for eye placement. I used the reference pics to get general shapes and rough out the initial design. At this point, you want some semblance of the overall character but it doesn't have to be perfect.
PEP TALK: I know that some of you will say that you can't sculpt. I can't say I'm a great sculptor, but I'm willing to try. Give it a shot, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish. Use a ruler to measure shapes on your reference pics, buy sculpting tools, and watch Youtube videos. Faces are made up of basic shapes (spheres, ovals, squares) that are combined to form the whole. Realize that you can't sculpt an entire head at once. Work on one element at a time — the bridge of the nose, an eyebrow, a cheekbone, etc... I ask my kids, "How do you eat an elephant...? One bite at a time!"
One Bite at a Time
Keep pushing the clay around until you get a solid foundation for the finer details. Also, shine a light on the sculpt from different angles to see how it looks in different conditions especially if your reference pics are lit dramatically. Unlike a drawing, this will look very different in different rooms once you are finished.
The ping-pong ball eyes were a little too goofy for me and distracting so, I removed them and replaced them with clay so I could get a better sense of what I was doing. Finally, I pulled the clay eyes out altogether as I had plans for the eyes anyway and did not want them to be a part of the final mold. More on that later...
The Scariest Thing About Annabelle
It was time to make the molds and I was TERRIFIED! It had been years since I made a two-piece mold an even then I had only done it once or twice. Would I damage the sculpt? Would the mold lock? Had all of this sculpting been in vain? Time to find out!
I did a search on YouTube and watched a couple of VERY helpful videos on mold making. The videos I watched from "Brick in the Yard Mold Supply" were among the best ( I have no affiliation with them or their channel — just a fan of their videos):
We decided to cast the front first as we could lay Annabelle on her back because there was no clay details in jeopardy of being squished. We took a few empty food containers and placed them around the sculpture to reduce the amount of WATER BASED clay needed to build the wall that separates the front and back halves of the mold. We were sure to make the angle of the wall as close to 90 degrees to the sculpt as possible. This prevented chipping and reduced the possibility of a rough seam in the final pull due to broked edges. This is also the moment we had to choose WHERE the mask seam would be located. Think this through before committing to your wall placement.
Then, we took a sculpting tool and dug a trench in the wall about an inch or so all the way around the sculpt. This served two purposes. First, it created a key for aligning the two halves and second, it kept the latex from escaping the mold during dwelling.
Next, it was time to mix the casting medium. I bought a 50lb bag of Hydrocal casting stone as it is MUCH stronger than Plaster of Paris. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Do not use plaster for casting anything important to you. TRUST ME ON THIS!!! Get the good stuff.
One of the most important tips I learned about mixing Hydrocal this time around was the way in which the stone is introduced to the water. In the past, I had always just thrown the plaster into the water and started stirring. This is apparently a no-no! You will want to fill a bucket with water and then slowly sift the hydrocal into the water a handful at a time without mixing it. This process can take 10 or 15 minutes! When the stone has hit it's saturation point, it will look like a dry lakebed on the surface. DO NOT SKIMP OR RUSH THIS PROCESS. The best part is that it will require very little additional mixing and will be a perfect consistency to start brushing on your sculpt. Now, I will admit that I made waaaaaay too much and ended up throwing out a lot of stone.:( Be prepared to waste a bunch of material the first batch if you are new this.
Using a chip brush, we filled the details in and around the mouth, nose, and eyes. We coated the other surfaces constantly working the plaster into the details and making certain there were no air bubbles. As expected, the oil-based clay repelled the water-based casting stone at first. We continued to work the curing plaster with the brush and finally overcame this reaction and the mold began to take shape as the sone started to set. At this point, we worked fast to make sure we got good coverage over all areas of the mold.
As seen in the videos, most mold makers use hemp for strength. I have never done that and will probably try that moving forward. I've always used plaster bandages. In the long run, it helps keep the mold from cracking but I'm sure hemp is better.
The Hardest Part About Making Annabelle
...waiting for the front half of the mold to cure! I'm so impatient.
Got to Keep Them Separated!
Next, we flipped the mold over and removed the water-based clay wall. We took some paste wax and liberally coated the lip and edges of the mold. We made sure any place where new plaster would be touching old plaster would have a film of wax coating it. This ensured our two halves would not stick together. The process for mixing the Hydrocal and making the back half of the mold was the same as the front so I won't walk through the steps again. We made sure to keep the new plaster from running down the sides of the front of the mold by constantly rubbing/cleaning the area where the two halves met. Once the stone set, we waited...
One tip about Hydrocal... and all plasters/stones, really. As they set, the chemical reaction makes them HOT. You will even see steam coming off of your mold as it cures. Be sure the mold is cold before attempting to open it. Additionally, oil based clays melt with heat. If you de-mold too soon, your clay surface could be VERY soft. This makes the mold difficult to clean. You are better off waiting an hour too long rather than opening it 10 minutes too soon. You will thank me later.:)
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do!
It was time to open the mold! We CAREFULLY pried the halves apart with a long screwdriver. Obviously, we were careful not to gouge or crack the mold. Because we took care to coat all touching surfaces, the mold opened right up revealing a perfect negative of our sculpt. I let my daughter do the honors...
We cleaned out residual clay and fit the halves back together. Time for latex!
It was time to pour in the latex. We strapped the two halves together with a ratchet strap and placed the mold inside a 5-gallon bucket to act as a stand. We did our best to make the mouth of the mold as level as possible as this allowed our latex to dwell inside the mold. I had black mask latex on hand so we went with that. In some cases, colored latex helps with painting, but in this case, it really didn't matter. I digress... In order to pour a full head mask like this, you need to have enough latex to fill the mold as close to the top as possible. The longer you let the latex dwell, the thicker the mask. We decided to let the latex sit for 3 hours. First, however, we brushed in a thin layer to reduce the risk of bubbles in the deeper details of the face and ears. Once covered, we filled the mold, tapping the sides as we went. Again, our goal was to reduce the possibility of bubbles in the latex. Again, we waited.
After 3 hours, I poured the excess latex back into the bucket. I let the mold sit overnight to dry. Since there were areas that looked thinner in the neck/bib area due to the latex not making it to the very top of the mold during the dwelling, I reinforced the neck with latex dipped paper towels. Once that was dry, it was time to pull the mask from the mold!
The First Pull!
After work, I decided to check out our raw mask! It came out great! We washed it in the sink and let her dry. Time to trim and paint!
It's All About That Base
Before painting, I trimmed and dremmeled the seamline where the two halves of the mold met. Any air pockets or holes were patched/filled with a dab of latex. I then proceeded to cut the eye holes.
Next, I went to Lowes and bought some house paint in a fleshy base tone. I mixed the paint with clear latex and sponged it on. There are PLENTY of opinions about the type of paints that should be used on latex masks so I won't get too far into that here. Just know that regular acrylic or latex paints will peel without something to bind them to the latex.
Time to Bring Annabelle to Life With Some Color
I went back to the reference pic for my color selections. After painting the lips dark red, the cheeks pink, and going over the painted doll details in black, I sponged a thin brown/black wash over the entire mask to give it a patina. Pretty good but not quite right... Again, I found so many different looks for this doll. Adding to the dilemma was the dramatic lighting in the movie. Just how dark was that area under her lip supposed to be? It really depended on which reference pic I looked at. I had to sleep on this one... In the end, I toned down some of the black details.
The Eyes Have It!
What was I going to do about the eyes? I bought some clear plastic bath bomb molds from Amazon in a few different sizes. Once I found the size I liked, I printed an iris that I created in photoshop and modge podged them to the INSIDE of the plastic half spheres. I then painted the rest of the INSIDE of the plastic domes yellowish white. This gave me the white cornea with a detailed eye center. I then painted over the white on the inside with black to help visibility. Then, I drilled out the pupils so my daughter would be able to see. Honestly, I wasn't 100% thrilled with the way the irises looked as my printer just didn't capture the detail I wanted but I decided to give them a shot anyway. I took my rotary tool and shaped the back side of the eyes so they didn't protrude too far into the mask itself (that could prove to be uncomfortable and dangerous) and carved the cracks into Annabelle's left eye as in the movie and glued the eyes in place. Still not happy, I decided to repaint the eyes and applied a 2 -part clear epoxy over them.
A Few Last Details!
Time for hair! I turned to Amazon for a long strawberry blonde wig. It arrived in two days.:) I cut the bangs accordingly. Next, I needed an Annabelle dress. My daughter and I found a few things we could modify at Goodwill but ultimately, they were too small. So, I did a search and a Cosplay dressmaker advertised a dress for $65.00! I decided to roll the dice and was VERY happy with what showed up in the mail but it was a little too clean. We were going for a weathered doll, not a new one. So, we took it outside and weathered it with a watered down brownish/black paint mixture in a spray bottle. The trick here is to imagine what parts of the doll would get the most wear and layer the color there. The results were perfect! We finished up with a pair of gloves that we painted. Her real hands just wouldn't do.
Putting It All Together!
We rushed to get Annabelle completed for this year's Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA the middle of September. The kids and I always look at it as a dry run for Halloween. We can see what pulls, pinches, or pokes and make adjustments before we do it again on October 31st.
We had a blast bringing Annabelle to life! Can't wait to see her scare the yell out of the neighborhood kids! Let me know if you have any comments or questions in the section below! Thanks for reading!
Here are a few pics and a video of the big night in our garage haunt! We built the "display case" out of insulation foam.:)