Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ancient Skull

I just finished painting an ancient skull. It is a 2 part urethane skull that I pulled from a mold of an ACC Bucky skull. Painting was done with a combination of acrylics and powdered wood stain pigments.

First, I sanded the skull to to get rid of any unsightly imperfections and also to expose a bit of the texture beneath the outer skin.
Then I coated the skull with a mixture of drywall compound and Sculpt or Coat. This sealed up the foam and gave a relatively smooth outer layer.
Once sealed, I painted the entire skull with an off white acrylic paint, then sealed with sanding sealer.
When that was completely dry, I mixed powdered wood stain pigments with acrylic medium and painted the skull, then wiped off any excess.
Next, I returned to the original off white, but added in some brighter white to establish some depth and return to the bone color.

After this dried, I returned to the wood stain pigments, but added several darker colors into the mix to begin the antiquing.
Finally, a spatter coat of several more darker colors of the wood stain. I also blacked out the eye sockets and nasal cavity, darkened the gumline, and reduced the overall sheen with sealer.
As you can see, I have been given an endorsement by the local houseflies.


  1. Looks great Dave. And I mean hey, if the flies like it, you know it's good.

  2. Wow, amazing painting. Very impressive indeed.

  3. Wow, thanks for the painting tips. That looks amazing.


  4. Beautiful work! The depth of the coloring really makes it look authentic. You're bringing macabre sculpture to a fine art form.

    Have you any formal art training or is this all just raw talent? Your work is not only imaginative but the execution is extraordinary.

  5. Thanks everyone. This project has really been a concentrated effort to avoid many painting mistakes I have made in the past. I have never really been happy with how my skulls have looked.
    Mr. Macabre, I have no formal art training. It is funny that you ask that because one of my early memories is a quote from a kid in art class while I was in kindergarten...she predicted that I would be an artist when I grew up. The last several years I have rediscovered my passion for making things, so if that makes me an artist she must have been right.

  6. I don't believe there's a bit of work you've shared here that hasn't pointed toward your affinity for the arts. Especially those arts that produce such delightfully macabre results.

    Of the skull casting projects I've seen, yours is certainly the most sophisticated. It beats the hell out of casting a misshapen skull from Party City in a rough plaster mold. The care and craftsmanship you exhibit are how it should be done every time.

  7. ummm what they said great work as usual

  8. Absolutely stunning!

    I was wondering what kind of mold you used to cast your skull? silicone?

    anyways thanks for sharing these great painting tips!

  9. David,
    I used Dragon Skin from Smooth-On for this particular mold project. I have used latex in the past, but found the dragonskin to be a far superior product all around.

  10. Incredible stuff. I have made a paper mache skull and am struggling to get the right color to it. This is exactly what I had envisioned. Could you possible provide a little more detail on the painting process. What exactly are powdered wood stain pigments and where do you find them? Are you mixing these with your original off white acryilic? Really excited about this. Keep up the amazing work. Thanks for all the tips.

  11. Powdered wood stain pigments are a product used in the furniture repair industry. I have adapted furniture touch-up and color application techniques to my prop building. For this skull, I mixed the powder into Liquitex Acrylic Airbrush Medium to make a liquid 'paint'. I purchase from Mohawk Finishing Products, but you can usually find a local distributor rather than buying their minimum order amount.

    A little bit of powder goes a very long way, so after the initial investment it is extremely economical.

    If you have any more questions, send me a comment with your email address. I will not post your address, but will be able to contact you with more details.