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What is Foam Latex?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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Foam latex is used for a variety of purposes. It is commonly used to create face masks. It is also used to make prosthetics. A skilled creator can make authentic looking masks and prosthetics with latex foam.

Convincing facial prosthetics allow someone to dramatically change their appearance. Because of the foam rubber's ability to create realistic changes in someone’s appearance, it is widely used in the movie and music video industry. Although it takes a skilled craftsman to create realistic looking changes to someone’s appearance, foam latex is remarkably easy to work with and makes the job much easier.

Latex foam is not only used on humans. Some types of animation use the material to create the characters in their shows. In productions that use what look like clay for animations, latex foam is often the material of choice. It is easier to work with and weighs less than clay. Once construction of the puppets is complete, they can be painted to look like clay.

Puppets constructed from foam latex go through a multiple step process. First, a skeleton of the puppet is constructed, using wire. This wire is then covered with the latex foam, creating the body of the puppet. Once the puppet is completed, a detailed painting job creates a finished look.

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The process of building facial prosthetics with latex foam has multiple steps. There are foam latex kits available that you can use while learning the technique. Hot foam latex is placed into a mixer where it is whipped into lightweight foam. Once the prosthetics are shaped, they are baked. This is why this type of latex is often referred to as hot foam latex.

Once the foam rubber is shaped and baked, it forms a lightweight material for the actor to wear. It is also flexible, which means that the actor can move freely while wearing the prosthetic. While anyone seeing the prosthetics in person would not be fooled into believing that they are real, onscreen they look very believable.

You have probably seen foam latex in a variety of places without realizing it. It has been used in movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and The Grinch. Movies that use foam latex often take a great deal of time to shoot. While the foam latex is easy for an experienced makeup artist to use, once they are removed, they cannot be reused. Each day, the prosthetics must be rebuilt.

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starrynight
Post 5

@JaneAir - I like it better when the same actor plays a character as a young person and an old person. I feel like the effect just isn't the same when they use different actors.

I think it's cool this stuff is used for puppets too. I've always wondered how they get puppets on television to make such realistic expressions. I guess now I have my answer!

JaneAir
Post 4

I'm always amazed at the effects they can create on peoples faces in movies. My favorite is when they use the same actor to play a character at a few different ages. It's amazing how they can us foam latex to make the actor look old!

I'm a little disappointed the effect isn't as good in real life! But then again, if it was, I'm sure a lot of criminals would consider using this stuff to pull off crimes.

kylee07drg
Post 3

@lighth0se33 - I was searching online for Halloween costumes last week, and I came across some foam latex masks. They are all a lot creepier than the thick rubber kind you see in stores.

The cool thing about these masks is that your facial expressions can move them around. Because of this, it appears that your face really does look like a monster. It is just so natural.

I saw one mask that looks like a saggy, wrinkly face with a hawk’s beak that goes over the nose and mouth. It even covers the ears and the whole head. The scalp is covered with dots, and the ears are pointed. I saw a video of a man wearing it and talking, and he looked to be straight out of a horror movie.

lighth0se33
Post 2

Does anybody know if you can get foam latex masks for Halloween? All I have ever seen in my hometown are those paper masks that attach behind your ears with rubber bands, or those super-thick and hot rubbery masks.

I’m going to a costume party this year, and I hear the people are pretty competitive with their disguises. Everyone tries to outdo each other, and I don’t want to be stuck with a lame mask.

I’m open to all ideas. I’ll go as just about anything, as long as it looks realistic and outstanding.

orangey03
Post 1

That’s bad that foam latex masks cannot be used more than once! I wonder how long it takes to make them. It must not take too terribly long, because movie shoots usually go on for days with no gaps in between.

When I think of latex masks in movies, I think of the movie “White Chicks” in which two black men disguise themselves as rich white girls. While you can tell that something is a little off about them, you would never guess that they are men, nor that they are black. They really do appear to be pale ladies.

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