How are wax models made at Madam Tussauds?


From historical figures to modern celebrities, Madame Tussauds has mesmerized visitors with its stunningly lifelike wax figures for over two centuries. 

But have you ever wondered how these wax models are made at Madame Tussauds? 

Each wax figure at Madame Tussauds results from meticulous craftsmanship and a dedication to precision. 

The process consists of seven stages and usually takes about three to four months per figure, often involving a team of skilled sculptors, colorists, hairstylists, and even wardrobe specialists.

Let’s delve into the intricate, labor-intensive process that brings these waxen likenesses to life.

Stage 1: The Sitting

“The Sitting” is the first stage in creating a Madame Tussauds wax figure and is a crucial step in ensuring the accuracy of the final product.

During “The Sitting,” the subject or celebrity to be modeled meets with the Madame Tussauds team, which often includes sculptors, artists, and photographers. 

This meeting typically takes place in a quiet and controlled setting to ensure accurate measurements and observations can be made.

The aim of “The Sitting” is to gather as much detailed information about the subject’s physical appearance, coloration, and even personality as possible. 

More than 200 precise measurements of the subject’s body are taken, including their height, weight, and dimensions of specific body parts like the arms, legs, and torso.

The team also closely examines and records the details of the subject’s face and head, noting the shapes and relative positions of the features. 

They look at the subject’s hair color and texture, the color of their eyes, and any distinguishing features such as moles or scars.

Photographs are also taken from every angle to provide visual references for the sculptors. 

These photos help capture the nuances of the subject’s expressions, posture, and demeanor, which can be incorporated into the final wax figure to make it as lifelike and authentic as possible.

When the subject is a historical figure or someone unable to attend a sitting, the Madame Tussauds team relies on existing photographs, video footage, and other resources to gather the necessary information.

“The Sitting” is a highly detailed process that provides the foundation for creating a remarkably lifelike wax figure.

Stage 2: Sculpting

The ‘Sculpting’ stage begins after the completion of “The Sitting,” which provides the artists with all the necessary measurements, photographs, and information about the subject.

This stage has three steps – Clay Sculpture, Review and Refinement, and Creating the Mold.

Clay Sculpture

Initially, a skeleton, often made of steel, is constructed to support the weight of the clay and eventual wax figure. 

Based on the measurements and images obtained during “The Sitting,” the sculptors mold clay around this framework. 

They meticulously shape the clay to match the subject’s body proportions and facial features. 

This process can take several weeks to ensure every detail, from the contours of the face to the exact position of the eyes, is accurately captured.

Review and Refinement

Once the clay sculpture is complete, it undergoes a rigorous review process. 

The subject (if available) or the team might suggest adjustments to ensure the likeness is as close as possible. 

The sculptors then refine the sculpture based on this feedback.

Creating the Mold

After the clay model has been approved, the next step is to create a mold. 

This is done by covering the clay model with a plaster solution. 

Once the plaster has hardened and dried, it is carefully removed, creating a detailed negative imprint of the clay model.

Stage 3: Wax Pouring

The “Wax Pouring” stage follows the “Sculpting” stage, during which a plaster mold of the desired figure has been created. 

The “Wax Pouring” stage has four steps – Preparing the Wax, Pouring the Wax, Cooling the Wax, and Removing the Mold.

Preparing the Wax

The first step is to prepare the wax.

The wax used in the process is typically a blend of beeswax and Japanese wax, along with other elements chosen for their properties like malleability and melting point. 

The wax is heated until it turns into a liquid state.

Pouring the Wax

Once the wax is liquefied, it is carefully poured into the plaster mold that was created in the previous “Sculpting” stage.

This mold is an exact negative replica of the final figure.

The wax must be poured evenly to ensure that every detail captured in the mold is accurately replicated.

Cooling the Wax

After the wax is poured, it is left to cool and solidify. 

This process must be controlled carefully to avoid the formation of bubbles or cracks in the wax. 

The cooling process can take several hours or even days, depending on the size of the figure.

Removing the Mold

Once the wax has completely solidified, the plaster mold is delicately removed. 

Because the mold is a replica of the sculpture, the resulting wax figure has the same dimensions and details as the original clay model.

At the end of the “Wax Pouring” stage, the wax figure has taken its initial shape but is still far from complete. 

There are no colors, no facial features, and no hair yet. 

The figure then moves on to the next stages, which involve careful detailing, insertion of hair, coloring, and finally dressing to bring it to life.

Stage 4: Detailing

“Detailing” follows the “Wax Pouring” stage and involves refining the figure’s features and adding lifelike details. Here’s a closer look at the “Detailing” stage:

Eyes and Teeth

First, the eyes and teeth, which are usually made from acrylic, are inserted into the wax figure. 

Specialists make these parts to ensure they closely resemble those of the person the figure is modeled after. 

The color of the eyes is carefully matched, and teeth, whether a replica of a famous smile or an iconic gap, are meticulously created.

Adding Texture and Details

Artists add texture and details to the wax to make the skin look more lifelike. 

This could include creating wrinkles, freckles, veins, or even the illusion of pores. 

Artists might also sculpt the figure’s hair if it’s going to be represented in wax. Otherwise, real hair will be inserted at a later stage.

Skin Coloring

The artists then apply layers of oil paint to mimic the complex tones and variations in human skin. 

This is a highly skilled task as the color needs to be built up slowly, layer by layer, to capture the depth and subtlety of different skin tones. 

Special attention is paid to areas where the skin might naturally be redder or darker.

The “Detailing” stage is crucial in making the wax figure look as lifelike as possible, and a significant amount of time is dedicated to this phase to get everything just right. 

Stage 5: Hair Insertion

The “Hair Insertion” stage is key to creating Madame Tussauds’ incredibly lifelike wax figures. 

This process occurs after the “Detailing” stage and involves adding realistic hair to the figure. 

The “Hair Insertion” stage has four steps.

Choosing the Hair

The first step is to select real human hair that closely matches the hair of the person being portrayed. 

This isn’t just about color— the hair’s type, texture, and thickness are all considered.

Insertion Process

The selected hair is then inserted into the wax figure, strand by strand, using a specialized needle. 

This is a painstakingly meticulous process, as the hair needs to be implanted in the same direction as natural hair growth to ensure the end result looks as realistic as possible.

Cutting and Styling

Once all the hair has been inserted, it’s cut and styled according to the look of the person the figure is modeled after.

The hairstyle is an important part of a person’s identity and can be crucial for making the wax figure instantly recognizable.

Facial Hair

It’s not just the hair on the head that needs attention. 

Eyebrows, mustaches, and beards are added during this stage, each hair individually inserted to ensure realism.

The “Hair Insertion” process is incredibly time-consuming. 

It can take up to six weeks to complete the hair for just one figure, depending on the hairstyle and the body or facial hair the figure has. 

After this, the figure moves on to the final stages, including “Finishing” and “Dressing,” before being exhibited.

Stage 6: Coloring and Makeup

The “Finishing” or “Coloring and Makeup” stage of the Madame Tussauds wax figure creation process is crucial for bringing a sense of realism and life to the figures. 

Here’s a breakdown of the “Finishing” stage – 

Fine-tuning the Skin

The first step involves refining the skin details added in the “Detailing” stage. 

This might involve retouching certain areas or adding final touches to the skin texture. 

At this stage, any last-minute alterations to the figure’s facial features are made.


Next, the artists apply several more layers of oil paint to the figure, adding various shades and tones to replicate the complexity of human skin.

They add subtle color changes, like the natural redness found around the eyes and cheeks or the slightly darker tone of certain parts of the face and body. 

This step is vital in adding depth and realism to the wax figure.


If the figure being created is of a person known for wearing makeup, the artists then apply it to the figure.

This is done just as it would be on a real person, but using oil paints. 

The artists closely follow photos of the person to get the makeup as accurate as possible, down to the color of their lipstick or the shape of their eyeliner.

Final Hair Styling

The figure’s hair, which was cut and initially styled during the “Hair Insertion” stage, is now given its final styling. 

This might involve using hair products to create a particular look or adding accessories like hairpins or headbands if the person the figure is modeled after is known for wearing them.

Nails and Teeth

Final details, like painting nails or refining teeth, are also completed during the “Finishing” stage. 

Like everything else, these details are made to match the person being depicted as closely as possible.

The “Finishing” stage is all about ensuring the wax figure captures not just the likeness of the person it’s modeled after but their essence as well. 

After this stage, the figure moves on to the last step: “Dressing”, which is clothed in outfits often donated by celebrities.

Stage 7: Wardrobe

The “Wardrobe” stage, sometimes called the “Dressing” stage, is the final part of Madame Tussauds’s wax figure creation process. 

This is where the figures are clothed, bringing them one step closer to their real-life counterparts. 

Here’s what happens during the “Wardrobe” stage – 

Choosing the Outfit

The first step in this process involves selecting the right outfit for the figure. 

The clothing is chosen to reflect the person’s style, profession, or a particular look they’re famous for. 

In some cases, celebrities donate clothing for their wax figures, ensuring authenticity.

Dressing the Figure

Once the clothing has been chosen, the figure is dressed. 

This might sound straightforward, but it can be a complex process. 

The figures, made of wax, can’t move, so the clothing must often be adjusted or modified to fit properly.


After the figure is dressed, accessories are added. 

This could include everything from jewelry and glasses to handbags and hats. 

Like the clothing, these items are carefully chosen to reflect the person being depicted accurately.


The final touch to the figure’s outfit is the shoes. 

Just like clothes and accessories, the shoes are selected to match the person’s style or an outfit they’ve been known to wear.

Final Adjustments

Once the figure is fully dressed, any final adjustments are made. 

This could include everything from smoothing down a jacket to ensuring a necklace sits correctly.

The “Wardrobe” stage is crucial in bringing the wax figures to life. 

It is the attention to detail in stages like this one that helps to create the incredibly lifelike figures Madame Tussauds is famous for. 

Once the “Wardrobe” stage is complete, the figure is ready to be displayed and admired by the public!

The creation of a wax figure at Madame Tussauds is a testament to the fine balance between art and science. 

This detailed, time-consuming process breathes life into wax, creating a spectacle that continues to captivate audiences around the world.

So the next time you visit Madame Tussauds and marvel at the uncanny likeness of your favorite celebrity in wax, remember the countless hours of work and skill that have gone into every single figure.

Recommended Reading
What is Madame Tussauds?
History of Madame Tussaud Wax Museum
How are wax models made at Madam Tussauds?
Madame Tussauds Chamber of Horrors
FAQs about Madame Tussauds

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