Studio Stuff: Creature Skulls

 Creature Skulls. In starting a new creature, what kind of creature skull I start with depends on the prop design specs. Is it permanent, or is is single use?  Indoor, or outdoor? The answers dictate the build.  Sometimes the  skull or “face base” is just a wad of paper or plastic, and I build out from there with various mediums, clay, foam, etc. For realistic props, I like best just to sculpt the skull either in epoxy putty or clay.  If any kind of lights or mechanisms are to be installed, a hollow “skull” is needed.


Upper part of Aracni-ape skull.

The Quick and Dirty Prop.

For quick, “B” roll creature prop skulls, a wad of paper, a milk jug, anything goes. I liken cheap, one season props to B roll film footage–necessary, but not quality-critical.  The B roll props are meant to be viewed from 30 feet or more, usually in dim light, and not intended to pass as a real creature in close-up inspection.


Example of a “B” prop meant to be seen at 30′ or more in dim light.

The B prop will be posed above and behind a bush or headstone, the silhouette doing most of the work to convince the viewer they are looking at a “real” skull or monster. The shadows are our friends.

The Aracni-ape below is not a B roll prop.

The lower teeth were sculpted with the jaw. The upper teeth are epoxy putty installed separately.

Aracni-ape dental study. By Dark Oak Creations.

The jaw bone below is sculpted in Monster Clay over a wire and sheet  plastic armature. This is not a true attempt to sculpt an accurate skull, but a rough form on which to build out and refine with another medium. Since Aracni-apes are an alien species, I indulged myself with the dental structure. I wanted many sharp teeth for the creature but within the realm of the familiar.


Acracni-ape lower jaw

This lower jaw I sculpted separately to facilitate sculpting and treating the inside of the upper mouth.  I added the teeth (epoxy putty) to the upper jaw later after I had assembled  the head, installed the tongue, and painted the inside of the mouth.

The photo above shows the lower jaw molded in RTV.  I used InstaMorph to form the mother mold.


A versatile material no prop shop should be without.

Not getting paid for the plug, but I’ve used InstaMorph for many things, from small mother molds to fabricating a lost camera-to-tripod adapter. One of the best benefits of this stuff is that it is reusable. Just melt it in hot water and reshape it to form.