Lifecasting:  The Art of 3-Dimensional Photography 
by Mark Greenawalt

Originally published in Playtime Magazine, (January 2005)

She works out hard at the gym to maintain her tight abs and lean arms. Maybe she even has done a little plastic surgery to achieve the perfect body. Lord knows it won’t last forever, but wouldn’t it be awesome to have a 3-D image of the way she looks right now? Lifecasting is the art that makes it possible

At first glance, a lifecasted torso may merely look like an incredibly accurate sculpture. Closer inspection, however, reveals details like finger prints, moles, wrinkles, and yes, even razor stubble. It isn’t hammered out of a huge chunk of marble with a’s way to perfect for that. A lifecast is made from a mold of a living person and effectively produces a plaster (or other material) clone of the original model, identical down to microscopic details.

The process of creating a lifecast is fairly simple in concept, yet it takes a true artisan to make it look easy. Once a model assumes the intended pose, a gooey substance with the consistency of yogurt is generously coated over her skin. The stuff used is typically alginate which is available on-line from suppliers such as It takes about 7 minutes for the alginate to dry, but it is still very “rubbery” and needs to have a hard shell to maintain its form. The shell is created by applying medical grade bandages which are soaked in plaster over the alginate. Once these dry in 15-20 minutes, the mold is complete and ready to be pried off of the patiently waiting model.

Once the mold is complete, the lifecast can be made from a number of materials such as plaster, clear resin, wax, silicone, and various cold cast metals. The resulting “sculpture” can then be painted and decorated to be hung on a wall, mounted on a pedestal, or whatever other imaginative ways you can come up with to display it.

Lifecasting is not a new art form. It’s origins trace back to ancient Egypt where pharaohs like King Tut were practicing a crude form of the art with clays. Modern materials have made the process much simpler and precise. Hollywood has embraced the process for the development of monster faces and countless special effects. The adult industry has ventured into the process in the production of silicone replicas of their film stars. Now someone who has mastered the steps involved can be commissioned to make a mold of you or your significant other for much less than the price of most original oil paintings by hardly renowned artists.

Phoenix based lifecaster, Byur Gullwing says, “Lifecasting, to me, is a service to people, to enable them to own a representation of a loved one that is so much more than a photograph.” Gullwing, who can be contacted through, has created everything from face molds of children missing their two front teeth to pregnant belly lifecasts for expecting mothers. His portfolio also includes molded hands on a balance beam and intricately hand-painted torsos of nude models. “These are permanent pieces of art,” Gullwing explains, “that are also the most personal mementos one can own.”
  Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Mark Greenawalt