I hope that this question is not too far off-topic for this stack, but I was hoping to make a custom shaped pillow for back-sleeping that is molded to the shape of my head. I aiming for something that resembles the middle section of this commercially available pillow: enter image description here

What I'm going for is a hollow for the back of the head and a bridge for the neck. I don't need the side platforms.

I've toyed around with different ideas for taking a mold of my head:

  1. I first thought of making a 3D scan of my head and then 3D printing that scan, but that seems like overdoing things in bad a Mission Impossible kind of way.
  2. Then I thought perhaps an easier low-tech idea would be to use plaster of Paris to make the mold: I would fill a large container with plaster of Paris, cover the top with gauze, and then I'd lean in and stay motionless for however long it takes it to set. The last part seems the most problematic, however, since I imagine that the set time for a large amount of plaster of Paris is much longer than if you have it out in thin strips that can easily aerate. I'd have to lie there motionless for hours or risk making a bad cast.

So I'm pretty much stuck at this step: casting a mold of my head. I imagine (hope) that this is the most difficult part. After that I plan to create the negative of that cast in foam, which I expect would pose fewer problems.

Any suggestions on what would be the best way to go about this, with or without plaster of Paris?

  • 3
    I honestly think that you don't even need to mold the pillow to your head. Pillows are squishy and they are supposed to cushion the head. So in the hollow you need enouch material to cushion the weight of your head, but not the precise shape of your head. You need to move around at least a bit at night, or you'll be very uncomfortable. And from personal experience I'd like to warn you about making the neck ridge too high or not squishy enough. Over time it will permanently push your neck forward, resulting in a sloped back (hunchback style) and neck problems.
    – Elmy
    Mar 13, 2022 at 20:13
  • 2
    I agree with Elmy's comment. You're approaching this as one might to make a head cradle for rocket liftoff. Sleep is very different. It's not just a matter of cradling your head with the right support in the right places. You also need to be concerned with issues such as your head temperature when it is partially enclosed in insulation. Even if you could make a perfect head cradle, you absolutely would not get it right without many trial iterations in actual use for exact shape, density, material, etc. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Mar 14, 2022 at 1:50
  • 1
    It is normal to move a lot during sleep (and head temperature is one of the things that trigger it). The first time your body needs to move during sleep, it would wake you up and you would remove the pillow so that you could change position. As an alternative, you could use something like a contoured memory foam pillow.
    – fixer1234
    Mar 14, 2022 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


You can create a basic shape (like the middle section in the picture in your post) out of styrofoam or another material, use that to fill up said container, and only use plaster of Paris to get the particulars of the shape of your head. That way the plaster will dry quicker.

Please make sure your position while lying on your back is right, however — you don't want to find out after a few nights that your neck is at a wrong angle and have to redo the project.

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