Handprint kit for kids
May 11, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I need some ideas on capturing my kids' handprints, as a gift to my wife. A little help?

I'm looking for the best ideas and/or pre-packaged kits out there for making kids' handprints. The basic ones (example) would probably be fine, but if there was something you did/saw that was really unique, cool, special, etc., let me know! I'm looking for a permanent casting type of solution, not a print on a piece of paper.
posted by brandman to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
When we were building our house we put our handprints in the cement in the foundation.
If you've planning some cement steps or a patio or something, you could do that.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:19 AM on May 11, 2009

Plaster cast. Just mix up a small tray of plaster, let it set a minute, then press the kid's hand in there. You can use a toothpick to write the name. My mom's still got the one I made over 40 years ago.

Cheap. Easy. Priceless.
posted by Aquaman at 8:21 AM on May 11, 2009

Get some finger paint, play & get messy, then do a handprint on the Mother's Day card. For the DIY version of the kit, just use a paper or styrofoam plate & plaster. Before it dries, make 2 holes for hanging it.
posted by theora55 at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2009

Use Crayola Air Dry Clay. I've used it plenty of times and it works great. Make a pancake, press the hands, let them sign it with a Sharpie, write the date on the back and hot glue a ribbon for hanging. Awesome gift and it will last.
posted by pearlybob at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Handprints are awesome, but a 3D cast of your child'd hand(s) is even better. A friend of mine runs this interesting business (Hands in Time) in Manhattan. The process is time-consuming and can be a bit tedious, but the end-result is amazing!
posted by mrbarrett.com at 8:32 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I followed the directions here for a garden stone. The craft store where I bought the cement had powder to dye it , and we added colored stones. Here's the finished product.
posted by saffry at 8:58 AM on May 11, 2009

I've done a lot of life casting and plaster work. Plaster is butt-cheap, messy as all hell and a little twitchy to work with (air bubbles, timing, heat, water/plaster ratios etc). But you can get something quite nice with nothing more than a pie tin, plaster, and water.

Basically, you mix plaster and water to a consistency of runny pancake batter, pour it in the pie pan, wait until it starts to set up, press the child's hand into it and take it out. Scribing the name and date is a nice touch, but you can also paint that on later. Set the pan aside to set and wash up.

You can have more fun with the process by adding some RIT dye to the plaster for color.

When the cast is still soft you can take it out and carefully put in a screw eye for hanging.

You can use other receptacles for holding the plaster (cookie tins, leftover containers, etc).

You can press in other things like small toys or marbles.

You can paint the impression or the area around it.

You can sand it to get a better/different finish.

To do 3D life casting of hands is no mean feat. It took me about 9 or 10 to get the process right. I use alginate or moulage as the mold material with plaster gauze reinforcement. These lets the mold be fairly thin, but still be able to hold up. Then I cast it with plaster for the final product. For this, I usually pour in a slightly thinner mix to coat the mold and a slightly thicker mix to fill it. The resulting cast will include fingerprint and pore details. I did a wedding present for friend of mine where I cast them holding hands.

Since I've done that work, other products have become available, but I don't have experience with them. Moulage works well, but there is a certain amount of finesse to get it right.
posted by plinth at 9:04 AM on May 11, 2009

Seconding garden stone. They have kits at many craft stores.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:09 AM on May 11, 2009

The 3D casts that mrbarrett links to are awesomely creepy.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2009

My wife made me a great gift of my daughter's footprints on a cloth diaper, all framed up. When the baby is asleep you ink up the foot real good and then press.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:25 AM on May 11, 2009

We gave the grandparents ceramic tiles with our daughter's handprint on them. The local paint your own pot studio helped with them.
posted by vespabelle at 11:01 AM on May 11, 2009

For my first, my wife bought a plaint button-down shirt and foot printed the pocket with fabric paint and subtitled it "Alice's First Work of Art".
posted by plinth at 11:52 AM on May 11, 2009

second the prints on a shirt...i have my 5 y.o. son's handprint on a plain gray sweatshirt that i wear to the gym and i always get asked about it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was small, my art-student brother brought his children and me to the art school to do a plaster cast of our handprints, which we later painted and wrote our names in. My mother still has all of them.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2009

I did our kids footprints in the shed entranceway. I was pouring some cement and lifted them onto it. Footprints on the garden stones would be nice. Yours and theirs side by side perhaps? Make sure you wash the feet or skin afterwards though. Cement is kind of corrosive if not washed off immediately.
posted by Taurid at 4:52 PM on May 11, 2009

Near the bottom of this page is an example of a cement cast of a human foot made in potter's clay. Potter's clay is cheap, but if you want to capture REALLY fine detail, use Silly Putty. You can get cheap generic versions at Walmart. Silly Putty is able to capture detail as fine as sweat pores, though in my own experiments, I've been unable to capture that level of detail in the resulting cast.

I believe the claim that cementitious casts can exhibit detail as fine as human sweat pores is an extraordinary one, as I argue here.

Previous advice in this thread suggests placing one's bare hand in plaster of Paris, but this is a big no-no. If you don't believe me on this issue then please read the material found here, the last pdf found on the page entitled "USG No. 1 Casting Plaster". That's USG's brand of good old fashioned plaster of Paris. US Gypsum is the arguably the world's leading authority on cementitious casting compounds.

Use of higher quality casting compounds like Hydrocal B-11 or Ultracal 30 will not require the kind or reinforcement mentioned in an earlier answer in this thread.

Dermals, yeah, sweat pores, probably not...
posted by Tube at 5:18 PM on May 11, 2009

I don't have an idea for a casting but it will be a rememberace of a hand none the less. I can't remember how it exactly was done, but when I was elementary school they used clay to make a small hand from a tracing I suppose. So what it I remember my mother keeping forever was a small 1/2 inch thick, flat (of course), red, hand that had curled fingers. The curling I think was from the drying. A small flower was kept in the fingers as if holding it. There was a small hole in the base of the palm for haning purposes. Sorry I don't have the details on the type of clay or how it was made, but I'm sure you could go to an art store with this idea and they would be more than happy to supply you with the clay and directions for the stove cooking time.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:31 PM on May 11, 2009

My wife just made a bunch of hand printed tote bags for mothers day presents for the grandparents and various family members.
Just got got some fabric paints, dumped some on a few paper plates and then had the kids do there thing on some plain cloth tote bags she got at walmart. Then she prettied them up, and wrote their names and ages under each hand print in fabric marker.
posted by JonnyRotten at 10:12 PM on May 11, 2009

Tube, the danger is in *encasing* a body part in plaster, not just pressing a handprint into it. It's perfectly safe for your skin to touch it for a couple of seconds.

Unless there are a whole bunch of tragic kindergarten accidents being covered up by "the man".

Don't breathe the dust, though.
posted by Aquaman at 11:43 AM on May 20, 2009

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