So how do they make those quirky stick-on replacement mouths on the TV show Robot Chicken?

Recently Ron Cole made mention to me that his wife (who is into crafts) bought a special paper cutting machine.

Before we reveal the device, first you need to make your replacement mouth shapes in a graphics program.

One program you can use that is free is called Gimp. Click here to take a look at it for yourself.

Other programs you can use are Adobe Photoshop, or the free program Adobe Illustrator CS2 here. It is actually a great program for mouths. To learn how to use these programs I suggest you use YouTube and search for tutorials.

You can also draw the mouths on blank sticker paper. Then ink, paint or water color the mouths to your liking and puppet design.

 

If you used a graphics program, the next thing you need to do is print the mouths at the size you need (depending on the puppet size) on some sticker paper. Here is an example of some for sale at Staples here in the US. Simply print out the mouths and once they are done it's time to cut them out.

There are a few ways to do this. Scissors are one way, but you won't get the best results. Any tiny or intricate twists and turns will be hard to accurately do. An x-acto knife is your best bet if you plan to cut out the mouths by hand. You can get in close to your lines and rotate the blade in your fingers minute details.

The more modern way to do it is to automate your cutting with a Brother Scan and Cut machine. These machines allow you to place your print-outs on a tray where it is scanned and cut out automatically and accurately. When I first was the machine from a link that Ron sent to me, I was amazed. While cutting out hundreds of possible mouth shapes by hand is a noble thing to do, for studios it is a no-brainer. Here is the official ScanNCut site. Below is a short video on how it works.

 

There are a ton of possibilities for cut-out animators using photographs. You can even set the depth of the cut for a variety of foams, thin leathers, fabrics for patterning puppet clothes and more. Really any flat material you would cut by hand could be done using this technique. For materials you can't print onto, using a felt tip pen would be ideal to make outlines of objects you need. But this kind of machine is really best suited for mass produced mouths as used in a studio or for a big project where time is an issue.