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DIY Life Cast Concrete Hands


Let me tell you; Life Casting is a magical thing! I have played around with it in the past but this time the purpose was to make the ‘master’ for a concrete mold; DIY Life Cast Concrete hands. There are many steps in this tutorial but in the end you will have the most unique and personalized concrete sculpture!

I had to wait til I could find a suitable subject; someone who would let me use their hands. I can’t do both parts myself. So when my daughter came for dinner, the payback was a bit of Life casting of her hands!


The Supplies for the Master Casting:


Life Casting the hands:

Practice the shape that you are hoping for, trying not have too many odd voids. Alginate is the material that is used in the dental industry to cast the mouth quickly and safely for making retainers etc. It is amazing for Life Casting since it picks up the finest details but is also ‘rubbery’ enough to allow removal of some pretty complex forms like hands. It is however considered a one-time casting media.

It is always a good idea to do a small test to avoid any expensive mistakes later on. If you are really curious how Alginate works; make a tiny test sculpt of a finger. The working time will depend on your brand and kind of alginate, but in general it is REALLY fast since it is made for those kids in the dental office. Some even have a colour change to let you know it’s ready to unmold. I’d suggest finding the closest dental supply place to order from or here.

I envisioned that the bottom didn’t matter too much since it was going to be a flat botttom in the end. I needed a bowl to contain the mix around the hands since it is pretty fluid when poured. Once set you can just gently wriggle the fingers and pul the hands out. It has a fair bit of ‘play’ since it is flexible. The bowl is vertical since the shape would collapse once the hands did not hold up the middle, this would keep it’s shape.

Pouring the Plaster:

The alginate is best used right away (not the next day) as it would dry out. Mix some simple plaster of paris and pour into the mold making sure to ‘slosh’ it around to get into all the finger cavities. The tin foil was my attempt to fill some extra since I had run out of plaster. (that’s what happens when you get over-excited)

The plaster will warm up and set. Once it is hard you can peel and break up the alginate.

This is so much fun to see the details. Don’t worry about small imperfections, as you do have a chance to fix it. You will be amazed at how this Life Casting picks up each wrinkle in the skin! Again, it can easily become an addiction. I have had craft fun with kids casting shallow imprints of their feet and hands in plaster and putting in a shadow box frame.

I was squealing with joy as I was breaking it out…

A few bubbles, but that is ok! All fingers were there!

Success! The plaster may still be damp and need to dry out. My impatience had me cleaning up some of the small bits right away, but be careful not to break off any fingers!

Plaster is soft enough to carve into to adjust any small details or fingernails. I also filled some of the bubbles with some mixed plaster. Yes, I know, I’m a perfectionist…

This is the stage where I decided how they will sit, flat bottom. So I cut and shaved off the bottom and finished off the wrist ends. The bottom will be the pour opening for the new mold.

This is the final plaster cast; pretty amazing isn’t it?! Now, you could stop here but then you would only have one…

Plaster is porous and I was afraid my favourite casting material would stick so I brushed on the wax/vaseline mix.


Supplies for making the Mold:

  • ‘Your amazing Plaster-Cast hands’
  • 100% silicone Caulking & caulking gun
  • vessel/bowl to mix in
  • cornstarch
  • sharp xacto/matt knife
  • release agent (vaseline, or wax/vaseline mix)

Use a sharp object to pierce inside the tube or the attached ‘doohicky’ on the caulking gun. Don’t forget this… as you will burst the tube if you try without poking it first! (Don’t ask me how I know)

This is a fairly large mold so it will need prob the whole tube, but still quite inexpensive.

Glove up and cover with cornstarch. Try to keep cornstarch between your fingers and the caulking; less sticking. Keep incorporating the cornstarch until you notice it not sticking and becoming a stiffer moldable material.

Mold it into a ball and then flatten enough to somewhat stretch over and around the shape. Push into the form and get even coverage. You will be able to feel the plaster poking through if it is too thin. This shape is unique as it has a hollow in the middle of the hands, keep it an even layer as well inside. The thicker the walls; the less flexibility the mold has to remove. Let it set for about 30 minutes or til not ‘squishable’ any more.

I figure the best way to open was a center cut up the middle and around the ‘bowl’ shape. Cut carefully until it touches the plaster. This silicone/cornstarch mix cuts nicely!

If you can get it out now, you will be able to get out the concrete later for these Life Cast Concrete Hands.

It took a fair bit of wriggling to get the center out. If need be, carve back the mold to allow more bendability. TADA! Mold is done!

Casting the Concrete:

I INVENTED a new way of readying the mold for casting. Yes, elastics work great if holding the outside together but I needed something better for the other areas. Professional molds have tabs and clamps which this doesn’t.

I tested long quilting pins and they do not leave any holes; ie they ‘heal’ themselves – great! Perfect for temporary attachment.

Supplies for Casting The Concrete:

“X” Pin the sides that hold the inside of the ‘bowl’. Only pin through the mold material, not through the voids.

All lined up and pinned

Turn over and secure the outside with elastics.

Now that is ready; mix the Rapidset Cementall. This sets really fast and is quite strong.

This mix uses less water and it incorporates quickly.

For extra assurance, add fibers. If you don’t have any, just be more gentle when unmolding. I have not had any fingers break either with or without. For the best flow have this mix on the runnier consistency.

Fill the mold (opening on the bottom) and tap/vibrate well. You have a lot of fingers and details in these DIY Life Cast Concrete Hands!

Level the mold and let for 1 hour or more (love this rapidset!)

All set and still warm.

Take out pins and elastics. Open the front of the mold and peel back around to expose the sides.

The centre is a bit trickier to pull out, keep working it carefully around til it lets go.

There are some undercuts here that make bending the mold required. It will depend on your exact form. (The nice thing; you have an original plaster cast that can be remolded if this does not work)

There may be a few seam lines from slight leakage.

Use a file or some strong emery cloth to smooth the seams or bits. Do this before it is has cured 24 hours.

I love how rustic these DIY Life Cast Concrete Hands turned out. You can see details of skin but it doesn’t look like plastic! The bird just ended up sitting in there by accident. If you are new to this mold making perhaps you’d like to start with just casting a bird and then practice pouring your mold.

This could be a planter or a bird feeder or change holder or key holder… But will be a ‘concrete’ reminder of that special person!

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. Beautiful hands with the bird, Barb! Love this project. Thanks so much for providing step-by-step instructions on how to do the life cast, make the silicone caulk mold, and cast more hands in Rapidset. Please thank your daughter, too, for being your model :-).

    What lovely gifts these would make.

    1. Thank you! It IS such a long post but I didn’t want to split it.

      You are right, it’s amazing how the casting captures the character of the person. I have a casting of my hand holding my paintbrush. I hope you give it a shot, even in a small way.

      1. I know some concrete hobbyists cast hands in rubber gloves, but the results are nothing like the lovely
        hands you’ve cast, Barb! I’m definitely going to try this soon.

    2. Dear Barb
      I just want to thank you for inspiring me to do concrete garden stuff. You are a very good teacher and explain things well. I’ve made a couple of your ideas but with my own twist to them. I’m still experimenting and was just wondering is quickcrete or rapid set better then regular and do you need sand with the rapid or wuickcrete. I’ve never used that kind just the regular. Also wondering if you have and hints or tips you could pass on to me. Thanks again

      1. Once I discovered that Rapidset Cementall was super hard in an hour things changed for! No, sand to add. It’s very different than the usual and needs much faster work times. It is more too and less textured. See here for some info. I have used the Fast-Set All crete for the Leaf orb and it is similar to the Rapidset Cementall. I started with small things and worked up to larger. Good luck!

        1. Thank you for this, Barb! If I do not want to make a mold for more than one, can I pour the concrete directly into the alginate?

          1. I do not think I have done that but I do not see why not… If it works with plaster then it should work with a fast-setting concrete like Rapidset Cementall.

  2. What a terrific project! I LOVE this – and I think I am going to have to try this on my husband’s hands. What a beautiful symbol of the person you love! 🙂

    1. I bet he will be asking; “what the heck are you doing?!” As around here, no one asks anymore since they know I have some crazy idea in my head. A man’s hands would be even more characteristic and large. He could probably make a bowl out of one hand! I’d love to see how it turns out.

      1. I’m going to cast my dad’s hands to make a bowl. His hands are huge anyway. I plan on gifting it to my son. They’re really close. Epoxy resin cast hands would be cool too!

  3. I just love seeing your creations and how you make them! I might have to try this! Was wondering how much fiber should you add to cement mix? A Teaspoonful or so? Thanks!

    1. Thanks! Measuring that stuff is hard. I’d say for these 2 hands, it was about 2 tablespoons loosely packed. I have had more breaking with standard quikcrete concrete than with this rapidset. When I have a tiny bit of leftover mix I make little things to see it’s capabilities. It continues to boggle my mind… Each has it’s applications, for particular jobs.

  4. Barb. Excellent tutorial. I have tried using the dental alginate, but it was setting as I was mixing it up with the water. Are all alginates the same? I had to abandon the task.

    1. Alginate is a finicky thing! I know there are different ones and the temperature of the water is also key. I have one that is supposed to change colour to let you know when set. At the dentist they don’t run that fast so it should work out. I do know you can’t take your time, need to be all ready… Good luck.

    1. The mix that I use for making my molds does not include any oil. I can’t comment if it’s better as I am quite happy with how it turns out. I imagine it may be a bit messier to get 3 things mixed well… Whenever wondering, just try a super tiny test and see how it works. I have noticed that my molds stay the same as when made even over a year later. Good luck…

  5. I was wondering if you know if it would be possible to use the alginate as the cast for the concrete or what kind of effect that would have on the final result if i did?

    1. I have seen people use the alginate as a direct mold for the concrete. I did not since I wanted to make more than one. As you open the alginate you need to break it away. Here is an example. Instructables is great as I have won some of their DIY contests. Just realize the type of shape when you pour the concrete, as you may get pockets of air. Plaster works great in alginate and it also heats up during the setting stage so concrete is not much different. Good luck concreting!

  6. I would have loved to see some pics of your follow up mold with the silicone and cornstarch. Do you have this posted elsewhere? Thanks

  7. I absolutely love those hands. That is a very special remembrance of your daughter. Will have to check with my dentist for the alginate. Maybe I could use that for casting my head planters? Where do you find the fibers? I have looked online and at HD and Lowe’s to no avail
    Thanks for all of your inspiration🤗

    1. I have used the Rapidset Cementall for quite a few projects now and am always amazed at it’s strength.I bet it would work without the fibres. Or, you could maybe just make some. If you cut up some yarn or like it may act the same. I got my bag (prob a lifetime supply) at a building supply. I believe I have posted an amazon link. I also ordered the alginate online. The only issue with the alginate as a mold maker for objects is that you may break it when you try to get it out. Getting hands out is a bit easier since they move…

    1. I melted some beeswax and mixed it with some vaseline. I wanted something to easily spread onto my boots to keep them water-repellant. Then it is less ‘goopy’ than vaseline and not wet like a ‘Pam’ spray. This silicone mix is fairly resistant to sticking to concrete.

    1. Yes, you can cast all kinds of things with alginate. (look up alginate life-casting) Just remember that you need to put it on for a while so making sure eyes, nose, and mouth need to be addressed; like breathing etc. You will also need a way to contain the mold shape. Maybe start with a hand print, as they might be a bit scared of stuff all over their face. Fun stuff!

  8. Wow Barb! I am learning so much from you and so excited to do this particular piece. Just made the doll head planter and it is so cute. Will be taking some to market this weekend. Can’t wait!
    Thanks for everything you post!

  9. Hi Barb, thanks for the tutorial! I’m wondering how you came up with the idea to mix silicone caulking and cornstarch? How strong and durable is it once dry?

    1. I had researched some mold making ideas. I did eliminate the addition of colour. I don’t think that it has been a common method for concrete but it has worked quite well for me. I am surprised how well it lasts and how strong it is. I have some that are well over a year old and even left in the shed over winter. Once cure it is quite a dense flexible material that cuts easily but resists ripping. Give it a small test run… 🙂

  10. Regarding using pins: I think the reason the pros use tabs and clamps is they don’t make shells anymore. They used to make the softer inner cast and then form a hard shell around that to hold the soft cast in position when casting. The pros have used all kinds of materials for the hard shells. I’ve seen fiberglass shells, but concrete or plaster would work. You could make a two piece shell around the silicone cast and dispense with the pins. Don’t forget alignment marks so everything goes together properly. It would be best to make the shell before you removed the living hands from the alginate, but the hand model might object to the additional curing time of the shell.

    1. Oh, I understand! I like the consistency of this silicone mix since it is stable enough when working with smaller amounts of concrete but also flexible enough. This method is geared to the hobbier rather than the professional mold caster. Pins are an odd thing but they work great for me and I can see the alignment of the opening quite well. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Hi Barb! It’s me again telling you “thank you again!” for such clear instructions and sharing your crafting experience. So kind and unselfish!

    Questions for my project: I want to make something for a neighbor who’s helped me tremendously. He’s a handyman so I was thinking of making decorative casts of something like a screwdriver and screws, or nut and bolt, etc. Originally thinking of doing it with no-bake porcelain but I’m concerned about breakage. I thought the pure white and fineness of porcelain would be pretty but…

    Do you think this type of concrete will pick up details like the ridges on screws? Do you think that concrete will be stronger and have little likelihood of the detail parts breaking off? Is a screwdriver handle too thin and long for this?

    Is it possible to put gold leaf on raw concrete such as making the handle of a hammer gold?

    What thoughts do YOU have for a handmade gift for the neighbor? (his help was with my hurricane shutters – both up and down and they’re HEAVY with the wrong connections. He did lots of help!)

    Thank you again for any advice, thoughts, help you can share!

    1. You must be really thankful to consider such a project! I think casting tools in concrete would be quite troublesome as the pieces will definitely break. I do have an idea though (no shortage there) If you made a ‘master sculpture’ of tools half submerged into plaster you could use that to make a silicone mold for a flat plaque type art. Then when you pour concrete into it (Use RapidSet cementall) it would be an interesting way to see tools formed and then you could add gold leaf as you see fit. You could also maybe cast some words with dimensional letters. It would look a little like this If you break the edges it would look even more ‘artifact’ like! Can you see it now?!

  12. Love the project. Thank you very much for sharing with great details. Have you considered doing a video of this project as I am a visual learner.

    Truly appreciative of your great work.


  13. Hello,
    Thank you for the post and detail.
    I’m hoping to create a mold from something made of styrofoam, will your mold mix of corn starch and silicone work?
    I’m hoping to create some grave stones

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Interesting… It will depend on a few things. Does the styrofoam have a good surface that does not let the molding compound get into the cells (too much texture) and is it strong enough to push the compound into. When I made the bunnies I used polymer clay and it worked fine, but it’s smoother than styrofoam. To remedy you could coat the styrofoam with a good coat or more of a paint AND make sure you use some mold release (vaseline or wax combination, old chapstick) before the using the compound. When I am nervous about a technique I do a small test swatch… Good luck

      1. It didn’t work 😂
        But I learnt a lot
        I am having difficulty making my mixture both smooth and strong though 🤦🏼‍♀️
        Any suggestions?

  14. Oh wow I came across your site and have been trying to make a set of these hands out of cement. They always broke. I am sure going to try this. Great info. Thank you so much.

      1. Hello,
        My child’s teacher would like to do the two glove hand method in the class. Do you have and tricks for that one? Also if I’m using Quikrete sand/top how many pounds per pair of gloves?

        1. I did try it once and it was not as you see on the sites since the glove between the fingers tends to get stuck. Even once pulled out, the fingers were weak and broke off. ‘IF’ you insist on making them, then I would use a strong mix like the Rapidset Cementall but beware that it’s working time is really short – minutes! You could get some of the alginate and make some hand prints that get filled with plaster or concrete, rather than a mold like mine. I love the details alginate gets. When in doubt, make a small test. An easy project would be to make some draped concrete planters Good luck

  15. Hi great info! I was wondering if you could use the dental grade alganate alone as a cocerte mold? Like a one time use mold, would it hold up pouring rapid set directly into the alginate? Thanks for the information

    1. I have not tried it but I think it would work since the plaster did! I would use a fast set though so the alginate does not dry during the cure.

    2. I am wondering if pouring concrete directly into the alginate worked. Would you please let me know? Thank you

  16. Okay I’m sorry but the silicone mold absolutely did not work for me. I’ve tried twice and it doesn’t hold up…..just flops around and had so much leakage when I poured the concrete it ruined the whole thing. very frustrating. Need to finish up a project and can’t figure out how to make a dang mold of the plaster hand.

    1. Wow, I can’t understand what went wrong. Can you tell me the exact caulking you used? (should be 100% silicone, NOT latex) And you used cornstarch? I get a flexible but also pretty stable mold. I also notice they last really well. Very odd…

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