Walkthrough - Making a fursuit head with a movable jaw

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Article by Karen Dawson (Fatkraken) posted Monday 3rd September 2007

by Karen Dawson

When I made this head for once I got a pretty good series of progress pictures, especially through the early stages. So what follows is a "How Fatkraken makes a fursuit, with movable jaw" type...thing. There are some missing stages; I don't go into the eyes, or much of the detailing, since that's specific to the suit being made. However for the basic construction, I've not seen other tutorials that are quite like this, so this is a process you can use, abuse and alter as you see fit.

I start off with a lifecast of my head. Solid plaster, weighs a TON but is one of the most useful things I own. Over the top of this lifecast I make a balaclava. Personally I'm too cheap to buy them, but I'm sure a store bought balaclava would work just as well. The holes cover the mouth but leave the nose and eyes exposed.

oops

Essentially, the basis of the heads I mare are balaclava based "helmets" made of half inch foam. A long foam strip around 5 inches high (with a slot cut out for the nose) goes around the head and joining at the back. Strips are then laid across the top in a cross. I glue the edges of the foam together where the pieces touch and also glue the foam to the balaclava, so everything ends up really solid and secure.

Now four triangular holes remain. These are filled in with more half inch foam. I cut it approximately to shape by eye, then trim it exactly buy laying it in place and shaving slivers off until it fits.

So by now, I'll have the top and sides of the head in place, but no jaw. Since this is going to be an articulated jaw, I begin by slitting the balaclava across the mouth and right up to the corners.

I then build the lower jaw using more foam. It consists of a roughly cresent shaped piece on the bottom, and a strip around the front and sides. I leave a small gap at the corner of the "mouth" so the lower jaw can move freely

To stop the jaw part flopping around all over the place, a thick piece of elastic is added, over the top of the foam work so far. It's glued with a bit of extension already in it, so the jaw is reasonably firm. I also sew it at the top as well.

At this stage I've also poked in a couple of small eye holes. I can then take the head off the lifecast and try it on to make sure everything fits and works.

So that's the base made, and now comes the fun/scary bit: building the face. My method is based on creating fairly large pieces carved from thick blocks of foam and little bits of filler to make the joins nicer. I start off with cardboard templates which are traced onto both side of the foam (lined up as well possible). The pieces are cut out with an electric carving knife, scissors and scalpels. For this particular head the "snout" and the sides of the face were a single piece, so a big slot was cut in the middle to make space for the base.

As you can see, the initial carving is messy and looks pretty scrappy. There's a lot of broad and fine shaping with the scissors before it's ready to fur.

I glue the pieces into place as I make them, with as much shaping as possible done before attachment. In this case, there was still a fair bit of adjustment after the snout was stuck on (including slicing a couple inches off the tip and the attendant reshaping). One thing with heads, nothing is sacred. If you've attached a piece and don't think it looks right, attack it with the scissors until you're happy. If you DO take off too much no harm, there's always more foam. Wonkiness and asymmetry should be attacked without mercy.

The lower jaw, again carved from a block rather than built from smaller pieces. There's a bit of a curve on the profile, this makes it look far more organic than a flat block.

There are several more small pieces of foam here, between the upper and lower jaws, behind the eye and on the bridge of the nose. They're shaped before attachment and shaped again afterwards to make the joins smooth and sleek. The tusk is just a scrap, I like to check how stuff is gonna look as I go along.

An ear, cut from a 1 inch piece, trimmed with scissors and scalpel into a smooth shape.

The finalised foam work. As you can see, the nose is much shorter than it originally was, and there are several "extra" small bits that bring the shape together.

Now the foam work is done, it's time for the fur.

On this head, the furring was done in large sections glued down from the centre outwards, forcing it into the shape as I go. The long pile of the fur hides any minor muckers, and gently pulling it and stretching as I go minimises these in any case.

Ears first......

Then the face

I trim and fold over the edges as I go. Right now, he looks like crap, but that's because I've yet to get to work with my trimmers.

Getting better, but still needs work. I trim with a cheap set of electric hair trimmers, gradually taking off fur until I get the shape I'm after. Even when it's done, it still needs to be brushed into shape to look good. It's the nature of this particular fur to sit where you brush it initially and to gradually go fuzzy, so maintainence is essential.

After everything is attached and trimmed as necessary, it's time for the shading. I work with cheap ass acrylic paints and even cheaper ass pound shop toothbrushes (12 for a pound, WIN). Watered down acrylic, painted roughly into place, then brushed well into the fur with the toothbrushes.

One colour. For some reason, it looks FAR bluer in the image than it really was, believe me, it's purple in life.

More colours; a blacker purple and a pale highlight colour, again brushed in to give softer edges and a smooth appearence.

And that is pretty much it. Head hair, detailing, teeth, the neck piece, I didn't record these in detail as they were pretty specific to this head so fairly pointless to make a tutorial about them. In any case, head hair is cones of fur, trimmed, some of which have foam inserts for shaping, the neck is fleece with a sewn on backing, lightly stuffed, eyes are plastic bowl sections, ear lining fleece...

So that's how he was done. The jaw mechanism is reasonably good, not the most sensitive but comfortable and durable. One cavaet, it will probably only work on a mask with a "deep" mouth, where the joint between upper and lower jaw is quite a long way back so that it matches the hinge created by the elastic and foam getup underneath. Otherwise moving the jaw will yank apart the foam.

Hope you found this useful.

some questions if you dont mind!

hey i made an account to ask you some questions (although i might use this site more often if i ever make my head!), i hope you still use this account cause i see the last comment was back in 2010..

so if you dont mind answering that would be a massive help for me!

my first question is basically how do i connect and make the neck piece?
second question is which part of the head do i see through, eyes or mouth or somewhere else, so i know how to position the head when i make the head!

third question is can i cut the foam uing a normal carving knife instead of an electric one or would i have to buy one? would it be a bigger help?

and the last question is how would i apply the fur?

if you can answer those questions for me that would be seriously a great massive help for me!

thanks!!

by djmonster434 on Monday, 4 April, 2011 - 19:32
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foam

where did you purchase your foam? it seems i'm unable to find anything affordable. :( thanks!

-Bee

by brittanyestes on Monday, 31 May, 2010 - 17:30
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Re: foam

If it's of any use, I use this supplier: http://www.efoam.co.uk ^^ upholstery foam is what you'll be needing for a job like that, I managed to get more than enough for my Wolf Link head for about a tenner, and they're UK based so postage is reasonable!

by Chibi on Saturday, 26 June, 2010 - 00:10
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thank you

wow really good tutorial its given me alot to think about, i wasnt sure how to really get started but these steps should make it alot easier for me to have a go thankyou

by timpey on Wednesday, 12 November, 2008 - 23:01
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Brilliant and Useful

I am planning on attempting a Jon Talbain costume and his face and body are very muscular so the intricate foamwork around the mouth is brilliant. Plus with asthma, I would like to have an open jaw.

Thanks for posting this! I saw that costume and it was amazing! I was the Jiraiya at Telford Expo in September. My girlfriend had the plushie snake you really liked LOL

Anyway, thank you for that tutorial!

by sjbonnar on Monday, 29 October, 2007 - 21:00