Wax museums: The hows of wax

A star such as Jim Carrey doesn’t come around every day, but wax sculptors say they can reproduce him in about six months, down to his brown eyes and signature toothy grin.

The celebrity replicas featured at the Hollywood Wax Museum and at Madame Tussauds are crafted using some similar techniques.

Research. Both wax museums collect photos, death masks or other renditions of the celebrity. Whenever possible, Madame Tussauds invites the celebrities for a sitting to have more than 250 measurements taken. The Hollywood Wax Museum rarely gets a celebrity to pose for a sitting, relying more heavily on close-up photos.

Clay sculpture. Professional sculptors make a clay bust of the celebrity based on the photos and, when possible, the measurements. This can take 10 to 12 weeks.

Molds. Molds are made from the clay sculptures.

Wax. Hot wax is poured into the molds and left to cool and harden.


Hair and skin color. The wax heads are removed from the molds so that hair, eyelashes, whiskers and eyebrows can be plugged in, one strand at a time — a process that can take as long as five weeks. Oil-based paint is applied for the skin color.

Eyes and teeth. At the sitting, Madame Tussauds’ artists compare the celebrity’s eyes with stock glass eyes and use watercolors to match variations in the iris and sclera colors. Teeth are made of porcelain or dental acrylic and colored to match.

Clothing. Madame Tussauds asks celebrities to donate the clothes that will be worn by the wax figures. The Hollywood Wax Museum hand-makes the costumes.

Cost: Madame Tussauds estimates each figure to cost up to $300,000 each. The Hollywood Wax Museum declined to discuss the cost to produce its figures.

Hugo Martín