Cry Me a River...of Hair Gel and Epoxy

So I've come to the a point in the story where the Hollow Boy needs to shed a few tears. Water naturally doesn't lend itself to being easily handled or animated convincingly in the stop-motion process. So I had to figure out what type of material or combination of materials would look realistic enough to create the illusion of liquid, be easily animatable and stay consistent throughout the frame by frame animation.

I did a fair amount of research both online, stopmotionanimation.com is an excellent resource, as well as going frame by frame through various stop-motion films to see which techniques they used. I noticed that many of the films tended to use tear shapes that were made from a clear, hardened material. The effect that I specifically had in mind for the Hollow Boy's tears was a combination of utilizing these same solid tear shapes while still maintaining the "wet" look for natural tear tracks and puddles. These were the two materials I ended up using for the creation of that effect:

For the actual tears I used the stuff the on the left. It's a 5 minute epoxy which can be found at most general hardware stores that when mixed and dried will hold it's shape and look very much like liquid. For the tear tracks and puddle effect I use a watered down hair gel. I found this sample pack in my medicine cabinet but any non-colored gel will do, the less viscus it is the better since it will be easier to animate.   

You'll also need some thin wire to prop the tear shapes up once they've dried, (24 gauge), and a piece of wax paper to shape the tear and splash shapes on so that they can be easily removed.

Here's a bunch of different splash shapes I experimented with. Try to keep in mind that these shapes have to work in a sequence so allow that to inform you on what kind of shapes you'll need to make.

Once the shapes are completely dry carefully peel them off and glue a small piece of wire to the back with a hot glue gun.

Here's one of the sequence of shapes I used. It's good to make multiple splash sequences if you plan on having more than one splash, it gives the effect more of a natural and less symmetrical look than if you just kept cycling the same animation. It's also helpful to run a test on the different shapes you've made to see which ones look the most convincing.

For the first part of animation above I basically animated a drop of hair gel on the Hollow Boy's hand with a very thin straw. I just blew the drop further down his hand frame by frame until it reached the bottom where I then used a hardened epoxy tear to drip and fall off of his hand. In the second cut I continued the animation of the falling epoxy tear until it hit the ground where the splash becomes a combination of the replacement epoxy splash shapes and hair gel for the growing puddle. Things that were achieved in post were the small circular drops following the splash and the removal of the wire that supported the falling drops.



  1. It's funny. As you know, I'm very famous for putting heaps of gel in my hair when I go jogging (I'll be the first to admit it, I'm a fashion diva). Well, I stumbled upon this post right when I came back (still sweating mind you) and ironically, wept tears of hair gel after watching how beautiful the clip was.

    In all seriousness, spot on sir! The tear running down his arm was crazy good so your hard work pays off yet again. Keep up the inspiration and tutorials Fonz!

  2. Ha, ha thanks Tony! I too use to put globs of hair gel into my hair when I'd run. Then I'd sweat it all out and it would form a crystallized gel mask on my face. Kinda like a hockey mask but 100 times weaker. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Yeah, that looks fantastic. Very professional. Hollowboy's tears made me want create some tears of my own.

    But what I really wanted to point out is that if the Hollowboy can cry now he's not so hollow after all. The ability to cry is a privilege of the living, sir. Gosh, didn't they teach you anything at the Art Academy.

  4. OoOo! very perceptive college boy. I'll have to conserve my retort out of fear that I may reveal too much. However I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. Thanks!

  5. dude. these info-izations are awesome.
    and epoxy is so goddamn wonderful.

    i love the concept of making splashes. i had never really thought about that before, and then twice in one week i happen to land on blogs of artists i really respect, both of whom are blogging about hardening liquids into really beautiful fluid forms!

    check this out:

    (...and then read the rest of his blog)

    i like that you did mega research and then synthesized the best bits of several techniques into probably the best stop motion tears i ever seen.


  6. Oh man! that guy's blog is amazing! He's one of those artist that I aspire to be. Sort of a jack of all trades who understands the symbiotic relationship that science and art have with each other and how one can always inform or push the other into new creative ways of thinking. Thanks Brian!

  7. no problem.

    yeah. james gurney makes a moffucker wanna study.