Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

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Plaster Casting with Playdough

The kids and I did some plaster casting a couple of days ago using playdough for our molds. It was completely a spur of the moment and kind of a way to rescue another plaster of Paris disappointment. I was surprised at how well the playdough worked as a plaster mold. It held minute detail so well! We were all impressed and plan to try it again soon.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

I bought this big tub of plaster with another project in mind. We were going to make plaster sculptures in plastic bags, as we did before with the toddler art group, but this time we would add food coloring, glitter, and colorful beads and they would be so. much. fun.

But no.

Sadly, they were a bit of a disappointment. The plaster coated everything. You couldn’t see the beads at all. The glitter was almost completely invisible as well (unlike when we add glitter to playdough). The food coloring worked. And the plaster was fun to squish and squeeze, but we all had such high expectations for the beads and glitter smoosh-ins that their complete disappearance was a let-down.

But, we still had the plaster out and so I thought we’d try another plaster project.

By the way, the tub of plaster of Paris is about $10, but I always buy mine with a 50% off coupon at AC Moore (Michael’s has similar coupons).

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

We pulled out the playdough and pressed animal and sea figurines into the dough to make the molds. It was the reverse experience of the playdough prints we made with sculpey. And a bit like the sandcasting we have done at the beach.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

Maia made several smaller prints or casts using an octopus, a butterfly, and both sides of a starfish.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

Daphne made one big mold with a pig. She then proceeded to press everything else on the table into the playdough pig mold as well, including the starfish, octopus, an eel, and a bracelet.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

We mixed up the plaster of Paris in a freezer bag (two parts plaster to one part water). I cut a small hole in the corner and squeezed the plaster out into the playdough molds.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

We waited until the plaster hardened, then Maia pulled out her plaster cast sea creatures and Daphne pulled out her crazy pig sculpture (with help). We were so impressed with how it worked!

There was some playdough gunk on the plaster casts. We used our recent no-cook playdough batch but I’m wondering if it would work better with the cooked playdough. I don’t think it would stick the way this playdough did, but at the same time, I wonder if the extra oil in the cooked playdough would cause problems.

I think we’re going to have to try!

By the way, I thought the playdough would be ruined after this project, but other than a little bit of plaster powder clinging to it, it was fine.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

The playdough gunk was easy to brush off with a nail brush! I also used a toothpick for a couple harder to reach areas.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

Look at the detail on this starfish! Pretty neat, huh? This makes me want to try this with nature items and I’m wondering what would work well…

Acorns? Pinecones? Leaves? Flowers? Poppy seed pods?

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

Daphne’s pig + more sculpture turned out pretty amazing as well.

Plaster Casting with Playdough Molds

I thought it would be a mess, but it’s practically worthy of a contemporary art museum! You can see the details from all the separate items she pressed into the playdough, including the octopus legs, the starfish, the shells from the bracelet, and more.

This has been such a fun experiment and we can’t wait to try more. I think we’ll experiment with some nature items in addition to the animal figurines (the girls want to make more butterfly casts from their plastic butterfly). And I think it might be fun to paint these as well. The BioColor paint would be amazing on these (as it was on the stamped salt dough ornaments) but am also curious to see how liquid watercolors would work.

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  1. says

    WOW WEE WOW WOW! How cool is this craft idea?!!! I love it. I wonder if I could use cement instead of plaster of paris? Maybe you could try stamping some initials into the play dough for cool wall art or initial bookends! If you do, insert a small metal hook in the plaster of paris before it dries! NICE JOB on yet another cool craft project! LOVE IT!

  2. says

    This is brilliant! I tried making plaster casts of our handprints in sand but it was a complete disaster. I think the sand was too wet, so the plaster didn’t set properly, and I also made the plaster too runny. Looking at your pictures has made me want to give it another try!

  3. Regina says

    We have done this in the past. This Kids love it!! We have holiday themes and given away as gifts. We do art everyday and if can find a way to share it when we are done it Rocks!!!!

  4. says

    Cool! You do this with playdough? We just did a second batch with our playdough and the playdough doesn’t seem usable anymore. If you use playdough, what kind do you use?

  5. says

    Thanks, Valerie!! I’m sure you could use cement, but I think it might be better for larger projects and might not hold the level of detail that the finer-grained plaster does.

  6. Debbie Garrett says

    Seeing you use the baggies for mixing reminds me of an activity my students did last year with the art teacher. She mixed the plaster in a pitcher, then quickly poured as much as possible into a balloon for each child and tied a knot. Kids got to squish, shape and mold the balloon until the plaster hardened. It was fun for them to feel the changes, especially the heat. (put it down if it becomes too hot) After hardened, snip and peel the balloon off. Paint the sculpture that results.

  7. Danielle says

    This is such a fun idea, I can’t wait to try it!
    What do you do with all your plaster creations? My kids love to keep things & get upset when they get broken. Can you cover them with varnish or something to make them stronger? Tia!