What is an Armature in Sculpting? Definition, Tips, and Examples

This is a guide covering everything you need to know about armatures in sculpting.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Let’s dive in!


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 being 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. The base of affixed wire is usually made of wood.

Large sculptures that are needed for displays are fashioned of sheet metal, and they require bronze and armatures for stability and structure.

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.

The armature word meaning is a piece of soft steel or iron that interlinks the adjacent magnets or poles of magnets.

armature in sculpting

Uses of an Armature?

Armatures are used for such purposes. And here is some of it:

1. Support Fragile Objects

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.

Like, you want to make a cat pose in sitting style, and then the armature will provide a framework and skeleton of it.

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

2. Reducing the Bulk of an Object

Building the sculpture in the 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:

Sculpting On A Budget - The Armature

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

Cutting the wire into pieces for making an armature.

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 bend at 90 degrees angle.

7. Feet Wrapping

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

8. Tin Foil Adding

Now, wrap the whole armature in tin foil to make it more stable and makes 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 final and real look altogether.

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

How to Make Wire Armatures for Sculpting

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 armature. Making an armature of sculpture provides more stability and makes the shape of things more promising and more flexible.

It adds more strength and grip to the sculptures.

So, if you made a sculpture without armature, then it might not be as firm and good in strength to hold as 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 refined shape to the sculptures.

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

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