Lifecasting is the process of creating a three-dimensional copy of a living human body, through the use of molding and casting techniques. In rare cases lifecasting is also practiced on living animals. The most common life casts are of torsos, pregnant bellies, hands, face, and jointly and it is possible for an experienced lifecasting practitioner to copy any part of the body. Lifecasting is usually limited to a section of the body at a time, but full-body life casts are achievable too. Compared with other three-dimensional representations of humans, the standout feature of life casts is their high level of realism and detail. Lifecasts can replicate details as small as fingerprints and pores.
There are a variety of lifecasting techniques which differ to some degree; the following steps illustrate a general and simplified outline of the process:
- Model preparation. An oily 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 hair. If the Lifecast is to include the face or head, a rubber swimming cap may be worn to prevent the mold from adhering to the head hair.
- Model poses. The model takes the desired stationary poses, and must remain in this pose until the mold is removed from the body. Supports to help the model are carefully designed.
- Mold application. Mold material is applied to the surface of the model’s body. The mold material is usually applied as a thick liquid that takes the shape of the body. Body parts may also be dunked into containers of mold media (except plaster).
- 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.
- Demold. Once the reinforced mold has attained the necessary strength it is carefully removed from the model’s body.
- Mold reassembly and modification. If the mold was created in multiple parts the parts are now sometimes joined back together. The mold itself may be repaired, altered, or added to. Walls may be constructed to help contain the casting material, or further mold reinforcements added.
- Casting. A casting material is painted or poured into the mold, usually in liquid form, though deformable solids can be used as well. Artists commonly incorporate hanging hardware at this stage as well.
- Demoed cast. Once the casting material has acquired the shape of the mold and cured fully, the cast is carefully removed from the mold. Molds may survive, but often do not, resulting in a one-of-a-kind, “worn-out” works. Silicone molds will last for many castings.