Sensational New Image for National Braille Press Release

Previously in the Bat Image blog post I showed you the nuts and bolts of how I make a tactile picture. In this post I will show you how I think about modifying an image to maximize effectiveness.

I hope you enjoy!

Ann Cunningham

Modifying an Image

A little while ago National Braille Press asked me to create a tactile image for a new children’s book release. I am always happy to work with Diane Croft, publisher, at the Press. She sent this image from the book by Cynthia Ryland titled Dog Heaven.

Ryland paints a warm and affectionate picture of the ideal place where dogs who die go to “run and run in expansive fields” and munch on doggie biscuits. The purpose of the book is to offer some comfort to grieving dog lovers.

an angelic man flies through the air, holding a little white dog in his arms. A crescent moon and stars are in the dark blue and purple sky. A crooked cane is also floating in the air.

I decided that the most important part of this image is the interaction between the winged figure and the dog, so I wanted this to be as large as possible.

three different sized copies of images of the man and dog are arranged on the page. To the right the largest has been cut and folded to fit it to our given space.
Knowing that the finished page size is 8.8″ x 12.5″, I started fitting different sizes of the image on the page. I thought the wings were important but the idea could be conveyed if I were to keep them top to bottom in the same relationship to the figure. So I diminished the width of the wings in order to fit a much larger figure on the page without compromising the spirit of the image.
With the image this size, it was now possible for me to make a sculpture in which the arms could clearly be felt to be cradling the dog. The enthusiasm of the dog could be felt in his alert posture. The man’s smiling lips can also be easily felt.

the green wax sculpture is thin and a bit transparent. the image of the man and dog  is very simple without much detail but it still conveys the feeling of tenderness.

Now, when the man and dog are positioned on the page along with the moon, the stars, and a cane, they are all easy to find.

The final sculpted image is show beside the origional picture book image.

To purchase Dog Heaven click here.

To see how tactile images are made in the  Bat post click here.

If you would like to see how to make raised line drawings of the rest of the images in Dog Heaven accessible using the Sensational BlackBoard click here.  (start at 3:30)

And finally, if you would like to receive notifications of future blog posts, leave your email address here to sign-up for twice monthly email notices.


How to Make a Tactile Picture – Clay Model to Mold

People often wonder how tactile pictures are made. There are lots of different ways to make a mold for thermoform reproduction but the technique I use most frequently is to sculpt clay and then cast it in a heat resistant, flexible plastic.

Photo One:

This is a photo of the finished clay model of a bat. It is very low relief. It shows the belly of the bat. I chose this view of the bat because it makes the relationship between his mouth, eyes and ears visible. It also clearly illustrates his legs and wing structures. My favorite tools are shown. The micro spatula, which is a small stainless steel tool shaped like a round-cornered rectangle with a handle on it is to the left. The small clay loop is a wire loop attached to a handle, also on the left. On the right side of the picture is a small wooden clay tool with a diagonal cut on one end and a rounded form on the other.

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Photo Two:

After the clay sculpture is finished I pour plaster over it to create a negative plaster mold. Once it is dry I can lift it up and pull the clay sculpture out of the plaster. This leaves a perfect negative impression of the sculpture behind. I can then turn the plaster so that the cavity is on the top side of the plaster, mix a two part plastic casting material together and slowly pour the plastic mixture into the mold before it starts to harden. I use Smooth-cast 60D made by Smooth-On


Photo Three:

Once the mold is filled I level it off with the straight edge of a ruler. This is the messy part! Then it must sit for about 20 minutes while the plastic hardens. This plastic is thin and transparent enough to somewhat make out the body and the out stretched wings of the bat.

cast bat

Photo Four:

After the plastic has set I can pull the plastic mold out of the plaster and trim all the excess plastic from the edges of the casting. This bat is now all ready be to shipped to National Braille Press to be used as the mold for the thermoform tactile graphic inserts in the book titled, Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies

bat clay and plastic