Lifecasting is the process of creating a three-dimensional copy of a live subject, through the use of molding and casting techniques. In rare cases lifecasting is also practiced on living non-human animals.

Lifecasting is usually limited to a section of the body at a time, but full-body lifecasts are achievable too. Lifecasts can replicate details as small as fingerprints and individual pores.

Lifecasting processEdit

There are a variety of lifecasting techniques which can differ to some degree, the following steps illustrate a general and simplified outline of the process:

  1. Model preparation. A slick substance such as petroleum jelly is applied to the skin and/or hair of the model to help prevent the mold adhering to their skin and body hair. If the lifecast is to include the face or head a rubber swimming cap is worn to prevent the mold adhering to the head hair.
  2. Model pose. The model takes the desired stationary pose, and must remain in this pose until the mold is removed from their body.
  3. Mold application. Mold material is applied to the surface of the model's body. The mold material is usually applied as a soft material or liquid that conforms to the shape of the model's body.
  4. Mold curing and reinforcement. The applied mold material cures to a more rigid and solid form. Sometimes more materials are added at this point to further strengthen and support the mold.
  5. Demold. Once the mold has gained the desired strength it is carefully removed from the model's body.
  6. Mold assembly and modification. If the mold was created in multiple parts the parts are now sometimes joined back together again. The mold itself will sometimes be altered or added to. Walls may be affixed to help contain the casting material, or further mold-reinforcements attached.
  7. Casting. A casting material is introduced into the mold, most commonly in liquid form, though deformable solids can be used also.
  8. Demold cast. Once the casting material has acquired the shape of the mold and cured fully, the cast is carefully removed from the mold.

Molding and casting materialsEdit

A variety of materials can be used for both the molding and casting stages of the lifecasting process. For molding, alginate, silicone and plaster bandages are considered most effective among the effects industry. Other products such as waxes and clays may concievably be used.

Lifecasting risks and challengesEdit

Compared to the molding of inanimate objects, lifecasting poses some specific challenges and risks. Since the mold is made directly on the skin of the model, for safety and health reasons the molding materials must be non-toxic. The mold must not heat up too much or else discomfort and even severe burns could occur. The molding process must also be completed within a relatively short time frame, usually a half hour or less, since people have limited endurance in holding a stationary pose. Methods to allow the model to continue breathing must also be used when a mold covers the mouth and nostrils. (Generally the nostrils are kept clear, but not with straws.) To prevent injury or trapping the model in the mold, the shape and position of the mold must be well planned prior to application.

Even experienced lifecasters can occasionally have trouble with snagging small body hairs, and the mold being somewhat uncomfortable. In some cases models can have allergic reactions to molding materials, can faint from holding a stationary pose for too long, or can experience anxiety from being enclosed in the mold.

Lifecasting and artEdit

Lifecasting is considered a sculptural art by some, whilst others think it is more a technical skill and the work of artisans. Critics of lifecasting as an art suggest that it lacks the talent or creativity that more conventional sculptural disciplines require. This criticism resembles those found in artistic circles during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century relating to photography. In fact lifecasting has been likened to a three dimensional type of photography. As with photographs, lifecasts are sometimes manipulated, altered and incorporated with other media. Probably the most popular alteration is to add paint and various finishes to the surface of the lifecast.

Applications of lifecastingEdit

Lifecasting is regularly practiced in the special effects industry, where it is used in the creation of prosthetics, props and animatronics.