Guillermo Del Toro Offers Behind-The-Scenes Into The Practical Effects of The Shape Of Water

I was scrolling through twitter, as you do, and saw a tweet from Guillermo Del Toro in my feed (likely shared by Phil Burgess). I stopped immediately, captivated because what I saw was a freaking sculpt of a movie monster. I clicked through and saw that Del Toro was sharing behind-the-scenes info on the practical effects of The Shape Of Water.

I knew I liked Del Toro, his movies have been pretty damn awesome but the absolute beauty I see hinted at in the preview to this movie, combined with his joy at sharing the process of practical monstery made me totally fall in love. I’m a huge fan now.

Actually, it inspired me to launch this whole blog about movie practical effects.

The fact that all of this would be lost in a twitter feed saddened me, so I captured it. First, I tried simply embedding his tweets so no one could come along later and request I remove the images, but twitter embeds in wordpress do some really dumb stuff that makes them super hard to follow, especially when embedding replies and threads. So, I pulled the images and embedded them along with Del Toro’s captions below.




Early “breakdown” maquette by Legacy FX (many years before production) to break down different materials for suit.

The scupltural detailing changes quite a lot after Mike Hill came on board and we broke it down “at scale” (no pun intended).


is a great artist and a great pal. May I take this moment to memorialize that in 2013 when he joined me on the quest for Shape of Water, both him and Vince did so at a 1/5 of their fee and w no assurance it would never come to be?


Early stuff: Conceiving the tanks, the creature etc took us from 2013-2014 and that design process was not financed by any studio. Legacy FX, Guy Davis and Vince Proce were great collaborators.


Concepts and doodles (2012-2014) Vince Proce, Guy Davis and me (oldest sketch).

3 Tweets on creature detailing: I have said this before, but… Painting is underpainting and overpainting. Transparencies of color, no solids, mottling, and stenciling and detailing and NOT following form but “crossing” over it…

In the same manner, the best is to layer the sculpting, so you start with the basic shape and volume (lines that flow, echo each other, give a sense of weight, etc) and remove what doesn’t work (we removed the shoulder fins, too busy)

Then you add detailing, pores, veins, bumps, scars- all very subtle and seldom NOT to be highlighted by paint. You are “painting” with volume (your light will show these details.

One of my diary doodles for

Two more doodle/notes for obviously the budget prevented me from having the scale of the first one but we used the “sun ray” pipes on the film.

Eye paint test (physical sculpt and paint). Pupil too wide. We changed it.

We first tested the intricate paint job in “cool colors” (too ‘garage kit’ contouring) but the light muddled them. Mike Hill changed to a “nicotine-base” palette. used light to “cool it” and stopped contouring the sculpt.

Update: There’s a book!

You really should do yourself a favor and click here to buy this book. (affiliate link, it does me a favor too!)