I did bring down a sleleton from home last time I was up there. I wanted to bring more, but I was feeling pretty beat up and I didn't want to go to the trouble and pain of getting another one. Besides, one is really enough for now. I'll be going up next weekend and I can get more.
I started off with just one skull. I had a spare-- used to have a bunch, but I don't know where they went. The colors were mismatched (I don't know who ever thought that light grey was a good color for a skeleton) so I had to start off with some painting work and some cutting of the flashing from the molding.
I get my skeletons from the Anitomical Chart company BTW. They are sort of scratch-n-dent skels... bad molding, off colors, not quite right in some aspects, which make them perfect for halloween and movie props. What could be better than a misshapen zombie?
first trimming the flashing, then a coat of base white. I usually use regular craft acrylics, though enamels would probably adhere to the plastic better. I like the control I get with water-based acrylics, and they are easy to thin.
On top of the white base coat, a thin wash of olive green. This is more to define the teeth by sinking into the spaces between, but it tinges the teeth just a slightly "wrong" color.
A fine detail brush adds a few stripes of green to a couple of the teeth here and there. If I put on too much, I just rub it off. The idea is to have layers.
Then comes a wash of water-based stain. This time I picked "Colonial Pine", which I am very happy with.
This gets blotted off almost immediately, but it is used just to bring out the definition in the teeth and the facial bones.
Final step is to coat the teeth with 5-minute epoxy. A very thin coat applied with a brush. Trade secret: you can thin the epoxy a little with denatured alcohol and it paints much easier.
This time I tried something a little different, which is a wood finish made from epoxy which is designed to flow and is pre-thinned. However it takes forever to set up, and I won't be using it again.
I had to base-coat the facial bones because they were grey, while the skull base itself was bone.
Generally I mix my own colors. I this case, a little Raw Sienna added to the white base was just about perfect.
The stain wash was next, making sure that the stain got into all the little crevices and cracks that are molded in, and blotting it off. After that, a little bit of the olive green wash in some places, and it was perfect.
The combination effect looks amazingly convincing even up close. It looks like aged bone.
I did do an additional black wash inside the eye sockets and the nose. That's entirely theatrical, but I will be adding material inside those places and it serves well to have a black background for them.
The next thing I'm working on is remounting the arms and legs to the torso. The cheap skeletons have really crappy mountings that come apart easily. I'm redoing them with zip-ties and metal bushings so they have a little more strength but still remain flexible. It means some drilling, which is where I have left off for tonight. Since the joints will be covered, this should work fine for normal use.
I also found some latex-based carpet pad adhesive. At $9.00 a gallon, it is much much cheaper than a gallon of casting or mask latex, and if it works it will save a bunch of money.