Introduction to the Visual Arts

Plaster Casting

Betty Rodriguez comparing a plaster casting of her hand next to her outstretched hand
Betty Rodriguez


Once every few years somebody gets this activity very wrong and puts their hand in wet plaster while it sets. This IS NOT the Activity! This IS VERY DANGEROUS! PLEASE NEVER PUT YOUR HAND IN WET PLASTER AND WAIT FOR IT TO SET!!! The activity is to make a MOLD of your hand in SAND and then POUR plaster in your SAND MOLD.

To Repeat…

Letting plaster set around your hand is DANGEROUS and is NOT THE ACTIVITY!

And by “Plaster” I mean a pool of it. If you have a film of plaster on your hands from working with it, don’t worry about that.

Plaster Casting Activity

We’re going to make a Plaster Casting of our Hand or Foot this week. Lots of art and commercial objects are made this way. They use finer sand than we get at the beach and they have hinged molds so the part can be removed more cleanly, but the process is quite similar.

Liz Juarez’ Demo:

Michelle Perez’ Demo:

Optional Meetup @ Seal Beach Pier?

  • You can go to any beach on earth, any day you like.
  • Or use the “no beach” option below.
  • If you’re in the SoCal area, we can optionally meetup at the Seal Beach Pier.

Meetup is Cool Because

  • You can work together and help each other (everyone should make their own casting)
  • You can meet Glenn and a bunch of your classmates
  • Play frisbee, football, etc while your casting sets (dries)
  • Eat burritos, ice cream, etc, from the food places across the street

Meetup Where?

  • Seal Beach Pier – Just South of the Pier & Just South of Life Guard Tower 2
  • Parking is right there in a lot off 10th St. Last time I checked (it could be more now) Parking cost:
  • $4 for 2 hours or
  • $10/all day.
  • 2 hours should be enough time for your project.


No Beach Option

Part of why I created the Plaster Casting Activity, and also the Graffiti Writing at the Venice Beach Art Walls Activity, is that most of you love going to the beach. And we go to a school called The Beach. Yet most classes never actually go to The Beach!? So it seemed like these 2 activities could be great excuses to go to The Beach as part of your work at The Beach.

It turns out I was right, maybe 90% of college students love going to the beach. However, human beings are diverse. And 10% of you probably loathe having to go to the beach.

And even if you love the beach, you might not be able to get there. This activity is probably easiest at the beach since the sand & water you need are just there for you. But you can do it at home, on your balcony, in your backyard, or wherever you like.

In addition to the normal plan, you just need 3 extra things:

  • a bucket (a 5-gallon bucket is ideal)
  • sand (“play sand” or “plaster sand” etc) ($4 at your hardware store will be more than you’ll ever need)
  • water


  • Metal Shovel (large or small)
  • Carton of Plaster – 4 pounds is great for 1 person (“Plaster” not “Plaster Sand” – don’t bring sand to the beach! 😛
  • Bucket
  • Stir Stick (a big, free 5-gallon stir stick from the hardware store is great)
  • Paint Brush (optional, to dust off your finished piece)

You might also like to bring:

  • Football
  • Frisbee
  • Swimsuit
  • Snacks
  • etc – Whatever you like while you wait 1/2 hour for the plaster to “set”.


TWO Parts Plaster & ONE Part Water!

  1. Pick a spot near the water – too far ashore: dry sand, too close: waves!
  2. Dig a hole you can insert your hand or foot into
  3. Insert hand or foot
  4. Use bucket to get wet sand and have teammates/friends pour sand around body part and pack it in
  5. Remove body part carefully, trying not to damage your mold
  6. Make one mold (or more) for each team member
  7. Have all molds ready before mixing plaster – it sets fast! – it will set in your bucket!
  8. TWO parts plaster & ONE part water in bucket – stir fast & hard – your ratio doesn’t have to be perfect – but if it’s too far off, you’ll get a watery liquid that never sets, or a thick goo that can’t be poured
  9. Pour plaster into your molds carefully, not quickly, or it’ll damage your mold
  10. Wait about 1/2 hour
  11. Carefully dig out your casting – try not to break thin parts
  12. Marvel at your creation! 🙂
  13. You can brush sand off if you like, but DO NOT RINSE it, it will fall apart!
  14. For your write-up: show your piece & talk about your experience (photos or video)
  15. Fill in all the holes on the beach – so nobody walks by later and falls in one!
  16. Pick up trash/clean up mess / leave beach a nice place
  17. Walk to Ruby’s, Cold Stone, etc, and eat food! 🙂


Aerial view of Seal Beach Pier with directions to parking and Life Guard Tower 2 where Art110 meets for Plaster Casting Activity

Your Canvas Blog Post

Photos / Video

Like all activities, you should document your work with photos or a video. Show both your process and your final result.

Discuss your experience

  • How did it go?
  • Have you done something like this before?
  • Can you think of ways to apply or adapt it to other activities in your life?
  • What would you try next time?


  1. For much of human history, making molds & casting has been the way to make things. This process is incredibly useful. Today, we also have the option of 3D printing things.
  2. Following our “recipe” is somewhat mechanical, like so many career tasks often are. Can you find ways to inject your creativity into this process? Can you come up with something that fits the project but is also uniquely you?
  3. If you took Chemistry lab, you know that some students got perfect results while others had less perfect projects. The ability to be detail-oriented and follow process is valuable. Not just in Art & Chemistry, but in Business, with Spreadsheets, and many other things. This is a chance to focus your concentration and skill.
  4. While there are a bunch of steps, this is an easy project. You might try it as an unusual team-building activity with workmates. Or, on a date!
3 CSULB students holding up plaster casts made of their hand or foot

Comments? Questions? What great art did you see, make, or experience today?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.