Introduction | Overview | Materials and Tools | The Construction | Project Videos
This was my second costume project, the first one was a Charizard. New things came about in this project that were not present in my first one: making a body suit and wing finger extensions that would be lightweight. This particular instructable will be showing an overview of the process, but my future submissions will break down the steps more easily for you.
The basics of the process is to start with a design, drawing it out on paper (or the computer in my case) is ideal and usually better than keeping it in your head. For the head, the most important things you will need to include into the design is a way to have vision in the mask and a way to breathe. Comfortability, heat regulation, and weight are going to be the three main factors that effect creature costume design. When designing, you will need to determine what would be the most appropriate and practical application for a character's design to be transformed into a wearable costume in regards to size and proportion. Structural integrity and costs may also come into play and most of these aspects you will come to understand naturally once you've gotten the hang of working with the materials and tools.
Materials and Tools
Primarily, this costume is made of hot glue, upholstery foam, and fleece. There are a number of other fabrics I can recommend for using in costumes like this, the most popular/common being faux furs and minkys. Knit fabrics are also nice if you can make use of their stretchy qualities. Fleece is very warm however, but has some stretch and I think is an easy fabric to work with. It's usually $5-$15 dollars a yard. I used approximately 6 yards for this project.
-You will need a sewing machine and thread (or at least a hand-stitching needle).
-Duct tape and cling wrap
-A yard or 2 of knitted elastic
-Hot glue and glue sticks- lots of them. I recommend an industrial glue gun (with large multi-temp sticks) because it ensures you always have glue at the ready. But small craft mini guns work fine. Buy a pack of a hundred mini sticks in that case.
-An electric kitchen knife is extremely handy for working with foam but not necessary. I do not recommend cutting foam with a hot wire as the fumes can be dangerous. Your best friend in this case is a pair of nice scissors. I prefer the spring-loaded Friskers to keep my hands from getting sore, but not everyone can get used to these. Multi-purpose scissors are great. Don't use nice fabric scissors, you'll ruin them. An exacto knife is handy as well.
-Upholstery foam, the kind you find in couch cushions and and fabric or hobby stores. I prefer high density (often comes in a green color) and 1/2", 1" or 2" thicknesses. Any thicker and you may have a hard time cutting it. I suggest going with 1" and getting about a yard of it. It typically comes in about 24" wide.
-Sharpie marker and/or fabric marking pen
-Specifically for this project I bought a plastic bowel for the eyes, aida cloth for the eyes, a sweat-whicking balaclava, a styrofoam mannequin head, and old shoes.
Bodysuit: I used a store-bought pattern. It was a McCalls pattern (used to be 8953, but has since changed) to make a basic animal jumpsuit for adults. I followed the instructions and used the pattern to help me get started. However in later photos you'll see that I ended up modifying the size of the suit because it was too large and baggy. To do this, I took a pair of jeans and a basic T-shirt that I liked the fit of and laid them on top of the suit. I then cut off whatever was extra to size them down to match my clothing. I sewed a zipper onto the front. On the back there is a large spike, which was carved out of foam. A hole was cut into the back and the spike covering sewn into the bodysuit allowing the foam padding to be removable.
Hands: The hands are basic gloves. I traced my hands on a piece of paper, drew an outline around them significantly larger (about an inch around my hand) and cut it out. I traced the paper template onto my fabric, cut out two halves and sewed them together. Turn them inside out and test-fit. I had to make the hands 4 separate times until I got a good fit- adjusting the pattern each time.
Wings: The wings were rather tricky. To get the pattern I made my brother lay on the floor and I drew out a wing. I cut it out and sewed the bottom edges together. I ended up machine sewing the whole thing actually, which was difficult because it had to be inside-out and shoved through the hole at the top of the wrist. The top edge of the wing houses a pvc pipe and it is connected to my hand with a piece of elastic that wraps around my palm. The pipe is mostly supported on the back/underside of my wrist. The pipe is also removable for easy storage and transport.
Feet: The feet are built off of an old tennis shoe. I traced the front of my shoe onto the upholstery foam and drew an outline of my dinosaur toes. You will need to duplicate this on the opposite foot every step of the way. I cut the toes out with an exacto knife and hotglued them to the front of the shoe. Using scissors, I carved out each of the toes.
To get a pattern for the fabric covering, I used masking tape but I highly highly recommend duct tape: place out a layer of cling wrap over your form. Take small strips of duct tape and carefully cover the surface, being careful not to compress the foam too much. It helps to also stuff the inside of the shoe. What you are doing here is duplicating the surface area of your form by placing down a "skin" of duct tape that will be replaced by fabric later. You can then cut off the tape and make your pattern. The goal is to cut it in as few pieces as possible, but for each piece to be able to lay flat. Transfer your tape pattern onto the fabric. I sewed mine into removable shoe covers that can be washed if needed.
Tail: The tail is simply 2 long triangle shaped pieces of fabric sewn together on the edges and turned inside out. Stuff with polyfil and sew an elastic belt loop.
Head: I built the head off of a balaclava. This mask has a moving jaw, so when I open and close my mouth, so does the character's mouth. To get this effect I sewed pieces of elastic to the balaclava as shown. To point of this is to ensure the balaclava is tight on my face to better read my jaw movements: the elastic stretches when my mouth opens and helps pull the character's bottom jaw back up when I close my mouth. The elastic should be snug but not too tight- I get the best results by making it under the most tension on the back of my head, neutral tension under my chin, and a medium tension across the top of my head.
From here it is all about additive and subtractive foam sculpting with scissors. You will glue the foam directly onto the balaclava. It helps to have a head base supporting your work, I used a styrofoam head/wig stand, but this head is smaller than my own so I suggest bulking it up a bit. Otherwise ensure that it's comfortable and fits well without being too tight by constantly trying it on as you're working. I always start with the eyes so I know where my vision will be and how large the eyes are going to be in comparison to the rest of the head to help balance proportions. I make an eye template out of paper for this. I build up around the eyes first.
I attach the top of the muzzle next: this is done by drawing out on the foam what I want the profile view of the muzzle to look like. I duplicate this 3 times, cut out the pieces, and glue them together. I attach them to the foam under the eyes and begin to carve out their shape. I do this for the bottom jaw as well. For a moving jaw it's recommended to keep the top and bottom jaws separate pieces to allow more freedom of movement. Don't forget details like the eyebrows, horns, and cheeks.
Covering the head in tape and then fabric is the same method as explained with the feet. Unlike my first mask, this head is almost entirely sewn together. You can clearly see the difference in quality here. I highly recommend sewing when working with a short or no-pile fabric. The inside of the mouth was done with fleece glued in and Crayola model magic for the teeth.
Eyes: The eyes are made out of a cheap plastic bowl for the shiny white parts- heat up the bowl by running it under hot water and you can more easily cut it with scissors. Or use a Dremel tool. For the part you'll be seeing through this is a cross-stitch fabric with tiny holes in it called aida cloth. I also recommend trying buckram as it is stiffer. I used Prismacolor markers to color the eyes though paint will work (long as you don't clog up the holes) but I recommend staying away from washable marker. With heat from the mask, moisture may build up and cause your colors to run. The eyes are simply glued in place.
That is the basic process with a brief explanation of the photos provided. If you are interested in seeing an expanded image gallery of this project, I keep an archive of my work on my flickr gallery which can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/caninehybrid/sets/72157613017759737/
Thank you for taking the time to check out this instructable! This project was originally completed in 2008 by Michelle "Riley' Carbaugh of CanineHybrid Creations. Don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!