Let’s Talk About Gelatin Molds

This post originally appeared on the GlitzParty Cosplay Facebook in 2017. It has been preserved for posterity to aid other cosplayers here!

We’re still unpacking and getting our workshops set up, so you’ll all have to wait a little on the next part of the armor patterning tutorial series. Instead, we have some quick experiments to catch you guys up on that we did over the weekend! Let #TutorialTuesday commence!

We’ve been interested in molding and casting for years but the cost-barrier was too high for us to gamble on. As with a lot of advanced cosplay techniques, we would have to have at least $100 to potentially waste testing out new materials and how they work. We tried some low-grade molding and casting over the years with varied success, but we finally had an extra chunk of change to spend on some Smooth-On products and took the plunge a few months back.

Though our results tend to be usable, we’ve still lost a fair amount of material to things that we were only going to make a few of. We also found that in trying to stay cheap and reusing the same clay, we were unable to make totally smooth/even blanks to cast from. Always perfectionists, we found that most of our casts needed some TLC once they popped out, which really put a damper on our cold-casting since they can’t be sanded down lest they lose their metallic layer. Iterative molding would be more expensive than it was worth and we didn’t want to constantly be firing our clay for permanent bucks. We had to find a better way.

Enter the gelatin mold.

Our weekend experiments were done following an interesting Instructable we stumbled upon a while back for gelatin molding and casting. It seemed like the perfect way to do iterative molding and keep with our reusable molding/casting theme.

As always, each step is attached to a photo, link to the original Instructable by marshon is here > http://www.instructables.com/…/Using-gelatin-for-moulds-an…/

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All we needed for this experiment was a quick trip to the grocery store and the pharmacy. We needed liquid honey, gelatin powder, glycerine and warm water. We used some of the new mixing/measuring cups we bought recently and some old tupperware we had in the cabinet and got started!

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The recipe for the gelatin mold couldn’t be any easier. It’s all done by ratios, though from our experiments, we can safely say that they are more of a guideline than anything. As long as you’re close, you shouldn’t have any problems!

  • 2 parts gelatin
  • 2 parts glycerine
  • 1 part warm water
  • 1 part honey

We measured everything out and got to mixing!

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The first step was to dilute the honey. We combined our honey cup and our warm water, mixing until it was even colored. Once we were satisfied, it went into our tupperware!

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Step two was to mix in the glycerine. Same as before, we made sure that everything was blended well and the color/consistency was even. From there, our tupperware took a trip to the microwave and we warmed it up for 20 seconds. We were super careful not to let the mixture boil! One more quick stir and we were ready for our gelatin!

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We had no major issues combining the gelatin, sprinkling it in while we stirred. Gelatin bits tended to stick to the sides as we stirred, so stopping to scrape might be necessary! Some people do have issues and the Instructable suggests gently heating a bit to help it dissolve. Again, DO NOT BOIL!

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Once we were satisfied that all of the gelatin was well mixed in, it was time to set our container in the freezer to ‘cure’ it. We didn’t leave it for the 4 hours the ‘ible recommended (because we’re impatient!) but we have to recommend at least 90 minutes before popping the puck out of the container.

To get it out, we squeezed the sides to loosen them up and reached in to pry it out. The puck itself doesn’t stick to the plastic, so it’s mostly just getting beneath it to pop it loose. We didn’t use it right away (despite being impatient to remove it) and it lived in the freezer overnight to fully cure.

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Ta-da! Two gelatin pucks ready for phase two of our experiment!

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The pucks are a good way to test the strength of this material without worrying about distending or tearing a good mold.

Good luck tearing a mold made from this mix, though! We spent a fair amount of time pulling and twisting this material with no ill effects. We don’t know how it would rate against our other mold-making products, but we’re pleased at the durability of this medium!

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One thing that is very promising with this experiment is how well it pulled the tiny text from the tupperware. It won’t be ideal for super fine details, but seeing legible text is definitely a step in the right direction. At least for our purposes, we won’t be doing much micro-detailing, so it’s fine for us!

Unfortunately, it looks like Facebook’s compression made it nigh impossible to see the text, but trust us, it’s there in person!

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Now it was time to really take the gelatin for a spin. As we mentioned before, there are a lot of pieces of our costumes that would be best suited for resin casting but would be fairly cost prohibitive to actually mold and cast. One-off casts that would be unsuitable for selling as pieces to other costumers just don’t make sense to spend the materials on.

For our Niles costume, the raised design on his eyepatch seemed a great candidate for a resin cast but would be pointless to actually mold with our Mold Star 20T. This made it the perfect test for our gelatin mold!

We found a big chunk of plasticine when we were packing our old place and set to sculpting out the cross. We’ve been using unfired Sculpy as our bucks for our other molding sessions and between the two, the plasticine was definitely the more difficult to work with. It was very soft and the slightest nudge one way or another skewed the whole thing. It also took fingerprints and nail indentations really readily and didn’t smooth well with our available clay tools. This also incentivized the use of the gelatin mold, just in case we decided to do an iterative prototype for use with our metal powder.

Once we had a tolerable sculpt, we set up our usual clay wall, gave it a spritz of Mold Release and turned to the freezer.

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As our tearing test showed, getting the puck into a more easily meltable state was harder than we’d previously thought. It stood up fairly well against a kitchen knife but we managed to chop it into decent bits.

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Once our puck was bite-sized, we tossed the pieces into a microwave safe cup and gave it 20 seconds on high. Since boiling is the enemy, we were careful to remove and stir it well before trying any more heat. We did have to heat it twice to get it to a pourable, smooth consistency.

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Pouring the gelatin wasn’t much different than pouring any other type of mold-making material. It seemed to coat fairly well, and settled nicely on top of and around our sculpt. We found that one puck wasn’t quite enough to coat it completely, so another few chunks from a different puck were added to get a coverage.

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We made the mistake of doing our sculpting and wall-building on a large surface. Hopefully you’re reading BEFORE making anything and you can make sure you have something that fits easily into the freezer! Our move has our freezer fairly empty, so even this giant slab can fit inside it, but in another few weeks it might’ve been a different story! Same as before, 4 hours in the freezer to ‘cure’ the mold.

(Incidentally, it’ll ‘cure’ at room temperature too, but I’m not certain how long that is in hours. I’ve just seen it as ‘overnight’ so assume 8+ hours!)

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Once our slab came out of the freezer, it was time to free our mold. Pulling the frozen plasticine off didn’t work well, but as soon as we had an exit, the mold came free immediately, ready to be used! It popped off so easily that the plasticine sculpt was still completely intact!

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For our test, we used our usual Smooth-cast 300. Since the mold is made of gelatin, large pieces may not end up working out well with resin, since it heats up as it cures. For us, it was fine, since the piece was really small. Our new cups came in handy, though we still ended up having twice as much as we needed prepared. We’re not great at estimating, haha!

One quick hit of the Mold Release and we were ready to go!

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For now… we waaaaaaait~

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Ta-da! Our cast was, as expected, in need of a little TLC, but after a few minutes with a few different sanding blocks, we had our final piece! We decided not to bother making another mold just to cold cast it, since we have so much else to finish for AnimeNEXT, but if we had, our previous mold could be cut up, melted down and re-used.

All in all, our experiments were a great success! All the materials we used totaled <$20 and made two decent sized pucks. We could probably get 2-3 molds out of two boxes of gelatin, 2/3 a bottle of glycerine and 1/8 a bottle of honey. This sort of reusable material is great for us, since we tend to be costuming on a budget these days, and it really helps us refine our skills in molding and casting without breaking the bank. Money well spent!

This material is also great for making prosthetics, so we’ll probably be trying out some of that in the future! We’ve done some fairly intense zombie/ghoul make-up in the past, but it was always a one-off job directly on the skin. Making reusable pieces would make revisiting some of these costumes way more appealing and making getting in/out of them a breeze! We’ll keep you all posted!

So that’s it! Let us know what you guys think of this, drop any questions in the comments and stay tuned for more updates and tutorials!



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