In my opinion, designing your custom chocolate mold is the hardest and most important part of mold making. This is the reason why custom chocolate molds are more expensive. If you want a custom chocolate mold made, generally you will pay an upfront set-up charge which partly covers the design process. When searching for someone to make your chocolate mold, you always want them to send you proofs of your design. This way you can be sure to get as close to what you wanted.
Most people underestimate the complexities of their designs. Think about the holiday chocolate novelties you see in the store. Those chocolate bunnies and Santa's are truly works of art and are very complex to engineer. It takes a skilled artisan and mold maker for those to be produced.
Other considerations before you begin would be how much money are you willing to spend, how much time do you have before the chocolates are needed, and is this going to be a short-run or long-run production. If you are just going to be making a small number of chocolates, it is not cost efficient to spend a ton of money making a complex design. Also, we generally recommend starting the design process at least a couple of months ahead of the actual day the chocolates are needed. Another important point is to make sure your design is original to you or that you have the right to use it. We will not make chocolate molds if it is obvious the artwork is being copied. For example, steer clear of company or sports team logos. You can get into real problems if you violate someone else's rights.
If you do not have a CAD program, you will want to start with a hand drawing, computer graphics (clip art or a logo), a photograph, or a replica of the object. When making chocolate molds, simple is better. If your desire is for a logo or lettering, you want to use simple and well spaced fonts. Most serifs do not turn out well unless it is large. Likewise, with logos and photographs there needs to be enough spacing and just a few dimensional layers. You can make the chocolate as complex as you want, but simple designs look the best.
So say you have a company logo that you want to put on a square piece of chocolate. Your best bet is to have a vector graphic file of the logo. Vector graphics are used by programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. They allow you to resize the logo without losing it's proportions. Again, make sure the logo and lettering is clear, with adequate spacing. In order to mold properly, your letters will need to have what is called a draft angle. Meaning, the sides are slightly sloped. So, they have to be far enough apart to allow for that.
If you have a photograph, you can use a paint program such as Adobe Photoshop to resize the photograph. Photographs are called raster images. Both Adobe and Corel products allow you to trace a raster image and turn it into a vector image.
The point is, no matter your method, you really are trying to end up with a black and white line art drawing.
This line art will be used to create relief. You need to determine which areas of the art are to be raised in the foreground and what will be lower in the background. Some people prefer for the image to be raised; while others prefer for the image to be sunken in, or embossed as they call it. Generally, raised images are easier to mold.
For objects, you will either have an model or need to create one. If you have a model but it is the wrong size, a product called a 3d scanner can be used to import the model into a CAD program to be maniupulated. This is not a printer type scanner. It is a probe or laser scanner which takes very accurate measurements of points on an object.
If you need to make a prototype, you can do so either by hand or by using a CAD program. Your design will work best if it is very clean and has no undercuts. An undercut is an empty area behind something. Also, you will need to build in a draft angle so the chocolate demolds properly. The best bet is to make your design is simple without a lot of detail work involved.
For each element of the design, whether it be letters or objects, you need to determine how high or sunken in it will be. This is critical and your design will probably need to be tested many times to get the right levels so the image comes out clear on the chocolate. For one design, a height of a few millimeters may suffice. For another you may need to go higher. It really is a process of trial and error. For example, think if you want a teddy bear chocolate mold. The body of the bear will be raised; whereas, the eyes may be sunk it. Or think about a logo. The letters may all be raised to the same height with an object at a different height. It just all depends on what you want.
Clearly, the best way to design your mold is using a CAD program. These programs allow you to build a solid 3d model of your design. There are many CAD programs such as Google Sketch Up, Autodesk, Solidworks, Rhino, Aspire, Mastercam, and Artcam to name but a few. This 3d model can be imported into a CAM program and the whole process of rapid prototyping and molding can be simulated on the computer. This reduces the time and cost of making a custom chocolate mold because errors or trouble spots can be caught before any cutting begins.
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