Making Your Own Prosthetics

Prosthetic appliances have been used for a century or more to change the shape or features of a person's face. These appliances may be made out of different materials, including liquid latex, gelatin, silicone, and foam latex.

Using prosthetics allows a makeup artist to create the same look repeatedly, as the appliances can be pulled out of a mold and copied. While other makeup techniques on this site ("out of kit" style such as such as liquid latex/cotton, gelatin, and silicone) applied directly to the face do not require the use of molds and prosthetics, graduating to prosthetics will help you create the consistent look with less time and less mess.

You can sculpt your own unique Phantom design and recreate it using prosthetics following the guidance below.

About 12 years ago, I decided to create a full set of Phantom of the Opera prosthetics for myself.  I had been using a homemade forehead prosthetic for several years, but failed to accurately sculpt the cheek/lip deformity.  I based my designs off the original London ALW stage musical deformity created by makeup artist Christopher Tucker.  I have seen numerous interpretations from various productions around the world, but throughout the years, I still consider Tucker's work (as featured in the George Perry book, The Complete Phantom of the Opera) to be the simplest and most effective design. 

I decided to make the disfiguring prosthetics using a process known as slush, or slip, latex casting.  This uses liquid latex poured into the mold, sloshed around, then the excess poured out.  It can also be painted in using layers.  Once the latex dries, the appliance is powdered, carefully removed, and is ready for makeup.  This process is relatively straightforward and much more suitable to my needs than foam latex, foam gelatin, or silicone.

Lacking a lifecast of my actual face, I resorted to using a styrofoam wig block, and sculpted the deformities off that.  The prosthetics are done in three pieces: the forehead, cheek/upper lip, and lower lip.  The main difficulty with using a base that is not your own lifecast is that there is no guarantee the prosthetics will fit you well once they are ready for application.  I sculpted carefully and  I made sure to use sponges to help texture the sculpt, so that the prosthetics had a more life-like skin texture, rather than being completely smooth.

After the sculpting was complete, I built a wall around the edge using clay and aluminum foil so that I could pour in the UltraCal 30 plaster.  I let the plaster sit at least an hour, removed it from the mold and cleaned out any clay, then left the mold to sit for several days in order to fully cure.  Once the curing process was done, I could then pour the first set of latex prosthetics. 

Final Thoughts and Advice

This is a great project for anyone interested in making the next step up from using cotton and latex to build a deformity on their face.  Prosthetic appliances greatly cut down on application time, and the sculpting process allows you to come up with your own design.  Molding that sculpt allows you to pull prosthetics that give you your desired look on a consistent basis.  Well worth the time!

My advice:
- Keep the layers of latex thin (thinner latex moves more naturally like skin; thick liquid latex dries to be less realistic)
- If you sculpt deep grooves, paint a layer of latex down, then place loose cotton (pieces of cotton balls) in the deepest grooves.  Cover with another layer of latex.  This cuts down on weight, and gives you lots of substances with a more realistic response
- Keep your edges thin!  Paper thin, irregular edges are great for seamless blends into the skin
- Use Pros-Aide or medical adhesive, not spirit gum.  Glue from the middle outward, working on the edges last all the way around the prosthetic.  Cover your edge by dabbing pros-aide over the edge, then powder