Sculpting Glossary

What is an Armature in Sculpting? (And How to Make One)

May 10, 2023 by

You’re an aspiring sculptor, ready to bring your latest creation to life. You’ve got your clay, your tools, and your vision – but wait, what’s this about an “armature”?

In this article, we’ll explain what an armature is in sculpting and show you how to make one, so you can bring your artistic vision to life with ease.

We’ll be covering the following topics:

Table of Contents

What is an Armature in Sculpting?

In sculpting, an armature is a structure around which the sculpture is being built. When the materials like clay, wax, and newspaper are used, this framework provides stability and structure.

An armature is parallel to most parts of the skeleton and holds the body erect while sculpting the human figure.

An armature is made up of dark and heavy aluminum wire that can be twisted and bent into any shape without any tough work and is stiff.

Large sculptures that are needed for displays are fashioned of sheet metal.

A largely designed armature holds up the Statue of Liberty. This armature can be seen by visitors from below to the base of the sculpture.

armature in sculpting
armature example

What are the Uses of an Armature?

1. Support Fragile Objects

An armature provides support to fragile objects.

Let’s assume you want to make some animal figure or some human figure.

In this, you surely need support for the shape to hold its position. So, in this process, the armature will help you make its long arms and legs and hold their positions.

By using an armature, one can easily make shapes of different animals and humans considering any position.

2. Reducing the Bulk of an Object

Building a sculpture using an armature is also used to reduce the bulk of an object.

You can use less material to fill the object from the inside, but still, it is more stable and weighs much less. This is done by filling clay inside the sculpture.

To further explore how the armature is used, we also recommend this video by Eirik Arnesen:

How to Make an Armature?

The steps of making an armature for a sculpture are as follows:

1. Acquiring of Materials

The essential things are:

  • Clippers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Flexible thin wire
  • Hangar wire

2. Cutting of Wire

Cut the wire into pieces that work for your model.

3. Shoulder and Spine Wrapping

4. Wrapping the Core Together

This is a tough step, and you maybe need some gloves for it.

5. Shoulders Adding

Short pieces are put at the top of the neck and folded firmly around each other.

6. Feet Adding

The last two similar pieces are taken and bent at 90 degrees angle.

7. Feet Wrapping

In this step, the feet are wrapped toward the bottom of the legs.

8. Tin Foil Adding

Now, wrap the whole armature in tin foil to make it more stable and make it bulkier.

9. Armature Covering

10. Posing the Armature

11. Begin Adding Your Clay

Now, in the end, you will add clay to your sculpture to give it a final look.

To further explore how to make an armature, we also recommend this video by Proko 3D:

How do You Attach the Clay to the Armature?

The usage of clay is a very important part of sculpture making. It is not expensive, and it is easy to use.

Adding clay to the sculpture is the final step of the armature sculpture.

For using clay on an armature, the first thing you need is to make an armature sculpture. You have to make a skeleton, and after giving it the final touch, you can add clay to it by hand to make it thicker and bulk.

Can You Sculpt Without an Armature?

Yes, making sculptures without an armature is very much possible.

But, you need to understand the importance of an armature. Making an armature before sculpting provides more stability and makes the shape of things more solid, yet flexible.

It adds more strength and grip to the sculptures.

So, if you made a sculpture without an armature, then it might not be as firm in hold in comparison to a sculpture made with the use of an armature.

Final Remarks

The armature is an important part of sculpting, and no one denies this fact. It gives more stability, more strength, and a refined shape to the sculptures.

It requires more effort, but making this effort may produce better results in the end.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need an armature for sculpting?

While it is possible to sculpt without an armature, using one can help provide structure and support for your sculpture, especially if you are working with heavier materials or creating a larger piece. An armature can also help ensure that your sculpture is structurally sound and doesn’t collapse or deform over time.

Can you fire a sculpture with armature?

It depends on the material used for the armature and the firing temperature of the clay or other material being used to sculpt the piece. Some armatures may not be able to withstand the high temperatures required for firing, while others may be specifically designed for firing alongside the sculpture.