How to make small human figures for a school project

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Many school projects ask pupils to create small human figures. Whether you're building a diorama or sculpting the figure to stand alone, the process of creating a mini figure remains the same. You can even speed up the process and complete the project by using polymer clay that hardens in a kitchen oven.

Create a drawing of how you want your final figure to look. You should draw the figure using multiple viewpoints, at least from the front and from the side. Note the colours you want to apply to your figure in the drawings as well, colouring the drawings themselves using coloured pencils to test colour combinations.

Choose a scale for your figure, a total height minus the stand that you'd like your figure to stand on. Create an armature, or model, of your sculpture at the desired scale. The armature is a wire stick figure that will serve as both a pose setting and a support skeleton for your figure. Use thick, tarnish-resistant solid copper wire to create the armature. Cut two pieces of the wire, with one twice the length of the other. Bend the long wire in half with a slight loop for the bend and place the second wire in the loop between the bent ends. Hold the loop and loose wire with a pair of pliers at the loop end about a third of the way up from the loop, and twist the two loop wire ends around the loose wire to form the torso for your figure. Cut the loop with a wire cutter to create legs. Bend the remaining wire into the shape of a human, leaving the legs slightly longer than necessary and snipping unneeded wire lengths.

Move the human figure into the preferred pose, and then place the leg ends into a piece of cork to hold it stable while you work on the figure.

Kneed modelling clay until it is soft and pliable. Place the modelling clay around the posed figure, generally approximating the body of your figure. Body parts should be slightly thicker than your final figure will require, to allow you room to remove material while sculpting the figure.

Sculpt the human figure, adding the details from your drawings by removing clay from the figure using modelling tools. You can sculpt the clay using any sharp object that will cut away the clay to your desired detail. Toothpicks and paperclip ends make for good modelling tools at little cost. It's best to work from the skin out, sculpting uncovered parts of the body and then sculpting clothing.

Bake the modelling clay according to the manufacturer's directions in order to harden the figure for painting. Allow the model to cool completely.

Paint the figure the colours you chose in the drawing stage using acrylic paints. Once painted, you can finish the figure by spraying it with a layer of clear-coat spray to protect the paint job from damage.

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