Thursday, 13 February 2014

LI. Tutorial: How to Sculpt a Ruff

In the comments section of my last post I was asked by Logan how I sculpted the ruffled collars on my miniatures. I thought the best way to explain was through an illustrated tutorial. As always, if you wish to see bigger images just click on them.

17th century portrait of a contemporary lady wearing a ruff.




I. a miniature you wish to give a ruff to (I didn't have any, so I used a brass rod instead)
II. green stuff
III. superglue


I. a hobby knife
II. a pointy sculpting tool

As seen in Figure 1
Figure 1
Just a quick note: ruffs were popular from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century. They were worn by both women and men, as well as children. 


I. In order for the collar to stay in place and keep its form better while I'm sculpting, I first made this small ring of green stuff around the "neck" to serve as a sort of foundation. I let it cure completely.  (Figure 2)

Figure 2
 II. Now that the collar had something to grab on to, I dabbed a tiny amount of superglue on it and covered it with a little ball of freshly prepared green stuff. Using my tools I shaped it into a cylinder.  (Figure 3)
Then I waited for about ten minutes  for the green stuff to stop being so very soft.

Figure 3
 III. The next thing I did was grab a knife and roughly define the folds on the top and the bottom of the cylinder, all around. (Figure 4)

Figure 4
 Make sure the bottom ones and the top ones don't stand in the same vertical line. Each bottom one should be right between two top ones. (Figure 5)

Figure 5
 IV. Then on the sides, between each pair of grooves I made in stage III., i poked a round hole with my sculpting tool; see figures 6 and 7
Figure 6

Figure 7
 I deepened the vertical grooves to connect with the holes. (Figure 8)

Figure 8
 I did this all around the cylinder. This already looks a lot like the final product. (Figure 9)

Figure 9
 V. Since all this poking significantly deformed the initial cylinder form, I used the flat side of my knife to gently press it back into shape. (Figure 10)
Figure 10
VI. As it was expected, this damaged the look of the folds a little bit. So I picked up my pointy sculpting tool again and redefined all the folds. (Figure 11)

Figure 11
VII. The general shape got deformed again, though not nearly as much as the first time. So I repeated steps V. and VI. once more. Do this as many times it takes for you to be satisfied with the look. And this, figure 12, is it:

Figure 12
*   *   *

As you can see, it's not that difficult. It just takes a lot of  going back and forth towards the end. You can use this technique to make a ruff of any size and diameter (for very big diameters you'll need a bigger underlying support, though). You can also use it to make a tutu ( useful for circus-themed conversions, for example). I like to put ruffs on the Countess' spirits.

Thank you for your attention and I hope you find the tutorial useful. If any of you readers have a more sophisticated technique for sculpting this, I would much appreciate your advice. : )


  1. Hum, now you've shown how this can be done, I'm pretty sure I can find a donor to try this on... We always need grotesque aristocrats amongst our models, the kind of characters you love to loathe...
    Thanks a lot for the tip !

  2. Excellent stuff! Thanks for this tutorial Ana!

  3. I don't think we need a better tutorial! These are great I thought you had brought the pieces off other models!

  4. Quite nice, although it would be quite a bear to sculpt the ruff as shown in the portrait!

    With this tutorial, and one I read yesterday about making wigs with curls, I am set to make some very starchy looking figures.

    1. Any chance you can link us to the curled wig tutorial? I'm looking for one ATM


    2. I second that! It would be of tremendous help for one particular conversion I have in mind to pull off; so if you don't mind sharing the link, that would be fantastic. :)

  5. GREAT tutorial. Keep them coming!

    1. Thanks Varangian! I'm pretty sure I will. Is there anything in particular you would like to see a tutorial about?

    2. Wow. That's a good question....

      I'd like to see more tutorials on terrain building. I love the work that you do, and would be interested in seeing how to do more in the style you've developed. I'd like to see how you get some of your smaller details. Even things like hills, etc.. would be fascinating.

    3. Thanks for the input! I'll see what I can do. : )

  6. Ah! Thank you, Ana, for this great tutorial! I think, I will try it out at weekend.

  7. Right. I´m off to sculpt ruffs...
    Great tutorial Ana!

  8. Replies
    1. Indeed they are. :) If I'm not mistaken, your Inquisitor Cassar sports a ruff as well; a proper fashionable gentleman.

  9. Wigs

    This entire sculpting series is quite interesting, as the sculpter makes his own tools from sprue.

    1. Excellent find. Thank you very much for the link!

  10. Thank you for posting such a great tutorial. When the finished product looks so good it can be difficult to break it down into simple actions/processes from the outside. Must find a reason to try my hand at this.

  11. I just found this blog through the Officio Convertatorum. Great blog, awesome tutorial!

  12. Hi, just been posted a link by Jeff vader over on officio convertatorum. Your work is beautiful (and scary :) ) and I really like it. A very nice tutorial that I am going to try out for sure :)

  13. Good tutorial, Posted it to my circles so those who follow me can check out your talented work.

    1. Thank you very much, Darren. :) Thanks for the multitude of comments you made across the blog these past few days. I hope you'll excuse me if I don't reply to each of them; there are just so many. But they are all appreciated.

  14. Thank you for a great tutorial. I've used your technique and I was so happy with results, I wrote about it on my blog when tutorials were a month's theme in Polish mini blog community :) (link below:

    Cheers! Keep up the great work. Your posts are truly inspiring :)

    1. Thank you, Potsiat! I'm glad you had use of the tutorial and thanks for sharing it with your own readers. :)


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