Sculpting Hands with Greenstuff

This is a tutorial on how to sculpt a basic hand holding a pole (for a banner, or a weapon for example). This method is pretty easy, but may be a challenge for those who aren’t pretty used to working with Green Stuff. I recommend that folks of any experience level try this out, as it would be good experience in getting to know GS (or other epoxy putty). The scale of this example may make it kind of hard to accomplish. I suggest working where you have a very good source of light, and to try it out on a larger scale hand, for a monster model perhaps.

Tools, and Materials : For this example I sculpted the greenstuff onto a bit of copper tubing with a series of different sculpting tools. The vast majority of the work was done with the spoon end of my detail sculpting tool. The basic shaping of the GS was done with the wax carver. Some smoothing was done with a silicone tipped color-shaper (not pictured).

Sculpting Tools

Some of the tools used for this tutorial.

Getting Started : I started off by getting one of the IoB elf arms for scale comparison, and wound some wire around the brass rod to create an armature for the hand and wrist. Skipping this step will make sculpting a hand a nightmare!

Sculpting Hands Stage 1

Applying the GS : After doing a 1:1 mix of greenstuff, I applied it generally over the armature, and wrapped around the brass rod. At this point I checked the volume of GS as compared to the GW elf arm. I wanted to have a bit more than was on the comparison bit as I could cut it down some, and the process of sculpting would move the putty around in ways that would flatten out much of the volume of the putty. When putting indents, or other such detail into GS, it is a very good idea to build up more putty, and depth than you think you will need so when you add detail, the flattening out that will happen won’t look too weird.

Sculpting Hands Stage 2

Giving the Hand a Rough Shape : The first step of real sculpting is to give the hand more of an angled, ‘box’ shape. If you make a fist, and look at it (DO IT NOW!) you will notice that your fist isn’t a sphere, but something that resembles a cube more than anything. I used the flat area on the wax carver to flatten down the areas that are essentially between the knuckles. I left a decent amount of putty in the area where the thumb would eventually be. Check out Figure 6 to see the difference between these stages.

Sculpting Hands Stage 3

Thumb! : The thumb is a bit of a tricky part. When pulling a shape out of an area of putty like this, you want to start by cutting the basic shape of the detail into the putty, and then to press the surrounding areas down. I accomplished this by using the edge of the spoon tool to ‘draw’ the approximate shape of the thumb, and then the flat of the spoon to gently press the putty around it down. I pressed the putty down significantly where the hand meets the brass rod, and scraped it out later. The thumb should be pretty rough at this point. You just want to make sure it is more or less in the correct position, and proportion to the rest of the model. In addition to the thumb, now is when I defined the palm, and were the hand meets the inside of the wrist somewhat.

Sculpting Hands Stage 4

Refining the Thumb : Once you are happy with the thumb area, you can give it some polish. For this I tidied up the area where it meets the fingers, and the brass rod. Using the edge of the spoon tool, and the poker I pressed the putty near where the thumb’s second knuckle meets the fingers so that they weren’t blurred together so much. See Figure 10.

Sculpting Hands Stage 5

Pressing in the Fingers : The next step needed was to start to create the individual fingers. The first thing I did was to shift some, and get right under my light so I could really see what I was doing. This is a step that requires a very steady hand! Using a hobby knife blade, I sliced in the divisions between the fingers. I added 3 slices on each side of the hand. Don’t be afraid to mush these out, reset your putty, and start again if you mess this up. Just be sure to restore the amount of volume that the putty that will become the fingers has.

Once getting the finger slices done I took a 45 minute break to get some dinner. This was actually a very important step. This allowed the putty to cure some as it was very soft at this point. When I came back, it was more rigid, and perfect for doing more refined details.

Sculpting Hands Stage 6

Finger Refinement : After my break I came back to do some essential refinement on the shape of the fingers and thumb. Now that the putty was a bit more set up, I could work on tighter shaping, and detail without worrying too much about pushing things too out of shape.

An additional bit of refinement that was done at this point was to press into the tops of the hand to define the first knuckles some. If you look at Figure 13, our hand looks a bit like it’s having an allergic reaction, all swollen up. this is fixed by pressing the knuckle detail in.

Sculpting Hands Stage 7

The final thing in this process was to use the tip of the spoon tool to create a space in between each joint of the finger. This created a slight gap between each joint of each finger, extenuating the knuckles on the fingers. This detail is usually pretty extreme on most fantasy miniatures, and helps keep the fingers from having the dreaded ‘sausage look’.

At this point it is good to go over the sculpt carefully and to smooth out any bumps, nicks, or other weirdness.

Sculpting Hands Stage 8

There you go. That is the basics of creating a greenstuff hand. The end result pretty much the same size as the GW comparison. Once again, this hand was pretty basic. To make it more realistic, and dynamic looking, it would pay off to try to vary the depth of the fingers some (the middle finger should protrude more than the others for example), and maybe even try a more relaxed pose.

13 thoughts on “Sculpting Hands with Greenstuff”

  1. EXCELLENT piece! Really clear and really helpful – a keeper for me! Thanks. I must look at your site to find more about the tools you use – the ones that look homemade.

  2. More about the 2 homemade tools please, Spoon and Poker. I only use already made tools plus the silicone things, and would like to know more about a) why use these 2, b) how to make them, please.

    Thanks

    Mike.

    1. That tool was made with a bit of dowel-rod, and bits of paperclip. The dowel was drilled out, the bits glued in, and then some greenstuff added for support. One end was sharpened to make the poker. This end isn’t as sharp as a pin, or needle, but is pretty pokey. The other end was hammered to make a flat area. This was then polished with sand paper, and then a nail polisher. The flat ‘spoon’ side gets used to shape detail by patting the putty down, pushing it around, or cutting into with it’s edge. The poker is used to simply make holes, or sometimes ‘draw’ inside a cut area to create a wider divot. This tool is my favorite by far, and I highly recommend anyone make one. You really can’t beat the price! Like any other tool, it will take some practice to get used to.

  3. I’ve had this article in my favorites for a long time, and it has been a ton of help for me over these past few weeks. Gotta say, would have struggled with my character’s hammer-holding hand if not for this.
    -Ian Douglass

  4. Thanks very much, my fiancée and I are making our own cake for the wedding and for the cake topper I want to put a female commisar and a space marine holding hands, and shooting a bunch of plague zombies running at them. this tutorial has put me on the right track to get started.

  5. Great article! You are very skilled at sculpting, but also teaching.
    I am curious if you might do one on sculpting an open hand. For example, casting a spell, or pointing a finger.
    All the best,
    dRew

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