Cacti 1 Cacti 2

Cacti - A Work in Progress

This is a project I discussed with several people.
I try to find out how you can make cacti with prickles that look natural.
Scroll down for a description of my first try.

Materials I Used

Fimo in 3 colors: dark green (59), leaf green (58), and translucent.

A friend told me to use toothbrush bristles for prickles. I thought they might be too big, so I used the fine fibres of a baby brush.

February 2007
Building the Structure


I first made a base. This will later be covered by "dirt".

I usually sculpt fimo on aluminium foil, so I don't have to move the pieces for baking. You could also use a tile or glass.

The stem, or first leaf (How do you call this???) is mounted on that base. It has to have long, slim "neck" so that the layer of "dirt" doesn't swallow too much of the plant.


Sample of the amount of clay I used per leaf. I rolled it into a cone shape

Now flatten the cone.
You get an oval shape. Make one end slightly narrower. This will sit on the stem-leaf.

With a popsickle stick I first blended the Fimo of the two parts.

After the leaves were added,
I made notches that define the outline of each leaf.

I did not like the solidness of the color, that's why I took some more brown Fimo and added some blotches (like those I had seen on my father's cacti, whether they were sunburnt or sprenkled with something they don't like...)

I definitely have to improve this. I'll make pictures of my father's plants and sculpt according to them...


I have been told to stick the toothbrush bristles directly into the clay and put the whole thing into the oven, but I was afraid that the bristles wouldn't survive this.
The fine fibres of my baby brush surely wouldn`t.
So I took a needle and made holes to take them after baking.

Bake, bake, bake ...

Adding the prickles was done the next morning, as you can see...

I used Tacky glue because it dries clear - but very glossy, which I hadn't thought of. Have to find something else, if I ever retry the glue method.
After baking, the cacti (I made some more and played around with color mixtures) still looked very solid. A bit like plastic. You wouldn't think this is something living.

Fimo almost gives the right semi-glossy finish, but the colors are much too heavy. You wouldn't believe that there is about one third "Translucent" in the mixture. I guess it has to be more, will try 50% next time.

I tried both putting several into one hole and putting only one or two into one hole.
The secret to achieve lifelikeness is:
Look at real plants and see what's there.

Adding the Prickles.

Of course, they had to be cut to the right (?) length after drying.

The secret...
eh .. Yep.

I like the delicateness of the fibres I used, although it would be much better, if the ends were pointed... Who can provide ten dozens of cat whiskers (without hurting any cat, even if it was a Rodney)?
The problem, however, is that those holes catch the eye more than the prickles, because the needle I used was too large. .
I will try to touch this up with paint. When I looked at the cacti in my "House-Plant Care for Beginners" (which I should have started with, of course...) I saw that each prickle has a little brownish base that it grows out of. These are little, elevated dots. Maybe I don't have to have holes at all...

Another problem is the direction the prickles point into.
When I made the holes for the multi-leafed one, I held plant and needle at almost the same ankle all the time. Now most of my prickles on that one point upwards.

There's a lot to be improved. Stay tuned...

March 2007
Experimenting With Paint

(Scroll up for the first steps:
building the structure and making prickles.)

big cactus after painting

I On that one I tried to cover the holes I had made for the spines with wood filler. I found this hard to handle! It dries very quickly and gets crumbly. I think I need something more smooth, more liquid. Next time, I'll either water it down or try acrylic colors with some gel medium.
II Then I used acrylic paint and tried to color the spines according to photographs in a book. I thought that the fibres I used where too transparent (See next picture). I like it better now, although the color emphasizes the fault that they are not pointed.
III I also colored the plant itself; gave a dark wash where there should be shade and a wash with a lighter green on the elevated parts. That made the shape more distinct.

big cactus after painting

In my book I saw that the shades of green vary on this sort of cacti. The younger parts have a lighter green. I tried to copy that.
Next steps will be to paint some "imperfections", cover the holes and paint the spines, again.

To be continued...