Introduction: Corpsing 101

Picture of Corpsing 101

Very cheap and easy Halloween prop skull

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

I got a skull from my area Dollar store. Very basic, plastic, and cheesy! One plastic bag and either paint or wood stain.
You just need a heat gun and a razor or scissors.

Step 2: Make People Curious or Furious

Picture of Make People Curious or Furious

Cut out the black from the eyes, nose and mouth. Use the heat gun to extend the jaw out by warming the back and sides and slowly/lightly pulling it outward and downward.
Wrap the plastic bag, randomly around the skull.
So you don't burn yourself, use the heat gun on low! Slowly go around it so the plastic starts to shrink down. Once its good and shrunk a little, set it down and slowly start shrinking the rest of the plastic. Let the plastic pull apart, it'll have a more natural rotting to it.

Step 3: Color of the Dead

Picture of Color of the Dead

From here, once its cooled down, add your choice of coloring. Some people use wood stain, but I used acrylic. I like the "juicy" look over the dry look.
Really, this is the rule of thumb for most corpsing techniques. From basic plastic hands and feet to full skeletons. Add personal touches from here. Some mold, a tongue, endless possibilities!
I spent 1 dollar (plus tax), and about 10 minutes. Easy Peasy!
Hope this prop idea helps anyone who is looking to step up their game in Halloween!


somethingsaurus (author)2014-10-16

You inspired me to do this

That is an awesome idea! I never would have thought of using it as a costume piece, I just do it with props. Does it have any movement? Did you make a mask then corpse over it or did you do the work then trim to fit? I think that would be a great idea for a corpsed skull mask or even an easy way to make a version of the mask from Texas Chainsaw massacre! Well done indeed!

Love the work! Since it's so far from Halloween I'm having issues finding cheap skulls to work with. I've looked everywhere & the ones I can find are either too pricey or not the right material. Anyone know where I can find cheap plastic skulls in bulk? I'm needing at least 15 or 20 of them.

Every Halloween I always hit all the "after the holiday" sales and buy a lot of masks, costumes, skull, etc.. I know these particular skulls are just the 6 inch, and I bought them at one of the dollar stores (Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree...). I suppose you could call one of them up and see if there was an off chance that they had a box sitting around in storage? At a dollar a piece, you cant do much better. Maybe they know the manufacturer? I haven't tried Amazon, but eBay wasn't a very good turnout there. Good luck!

I used a clay mask I had made years ago as the form and just pulled the bags tight across it. I used spay adhesive between layers so I could stretch some of the extra bag to give it that tendon/viscera look. It was not stuck to the form so I could take it off and put it on my face.

It does not move except for what movement my face gives it. I have another project that will involve movement. Plus the lack of movement gives it a more disturbing look, like if one was to wear an actual skin mask (one would assume at least.)

Thank you for the supportive words!

It almost looks like it's smiling, and that makes it that much more disturbing? I love it! Lol!

I also used tan plastic bags as they we're more flesh toned

Cool! Looks surprisingly real! XD

ossum made it! (author)2014-10-09

I used your technique to great (in my humble opinion) effect in my robot zombie, so thanks for sharing!

wikkedspindl (author)ossum2014-10-09

That is awesome! Combining robotics/animation, I would have been too worried about the paint! Looks great and good instructable as well! Hoping to make a variation of it myself now!

10isaac (author)2014-10-06

The mouth looks kind of screwed up

wikkedspindl (author)10isaac2014-10-07

This was done for demonstration purposes. As has been repeatedly said, there are many ways to make it more realistic. This was a cheap, easy, and quick way to corpse a skull. Terminology dictates that "101" means day one stuff. Aside from that, I am not sure what you mean by "screwed up". The lower portion of the jaw was left in, so if you look you can see the inside is still there. I didn't paint the skull first, so the plastic skull shows here and there, but once again, this was done just to show the process more than anything.

VentureScout (author)2014-10-02

So easy, well done

Very easy! Thank you!

Isaac10 (author)2014-10-04


wikkedspindl (author)Isaac102014-10-04

Lol! Thank you. It sits on a shelf in my workshop and I have had a few people look at me funny when they get a quick glance of it!

Isaac10 (author)2014-10-04


djsfantasi (author)2014-09-15


Tissue technique

I like making the soft tissue over a prepared skeleton, with tissue paper and glue.

Make sure the skeleton is ready. Eye sockets and mandible joints on a skull are cut free. Appendages with two bones are cut into separate bones.

Brush a layer if white glue on the skeleton, and manipulate the tissue into position. Don't worry if it rips; another layer will fix it and possible look like ripped muscle. Besides, this is going to take two or three coats anyway.

Painting Tips

Once the glue has dried, paint with a gray base coat. Lighter grays for younger corpses.

Then the first detail coat is usually a brown or reddish brown. Dry brush it on only. You can alternate the gray and brown, until you get the effect you want.

Then the final detail coat is applied. Start with a wash of a little black paint and a lot of water. This brings out the detail. A little white paint dry brushed on the edges highlights them. A dark black pair in the shadows accentuates them.

If it's a really old corpse, I like to dry brush in one or two small locations, a little moss green paint. For an active youngster, some red paint judiciously applied can imply some ghoulish activities.

lime3D (author)djsfantasi2014-10-01

djsfantasi, why are you using the comment section of this instructable instead of writing your own? From the sounds of it, the plastic bag method illustrated here sounds a lot easier than you method.

djsfantasi (author)lime3D2014-10-02

Because I didn't have the resources nor the time. I won't comment on the differences between methods. They are what they are.

eruger (author)djsfantasi2014-09-22

Wups! Once again I basically said something another person had already written in more detail. Sorry djsfantasi

wikkedspindl (author)eruger2014-09-22

All good! I like all the comments I can get, it helps me to try more methods and allows other people to see what other ways there are as well! Instuctables was made so we can help each other more effectively! Thank you!

wikkedspindl (author)djsfantasi2014-09-15

That is definitely another way to do it. Thank you for mentioning it! That's why I called this "101", its a good basic intro to the many methods.

BeastandEpicProductions (author)2014-09-27

Poor Bob. I told him not to use the outlet to clean his keys.

parents said he was grounded...Lol

eruger (author)2014-09-22

I have intended to try a similar technique with layers built up of torn tissue paper (wrapping not bath tissue). You tear all the edges to hide them as you work, and thin your paint with a transparent medium (matte gel medium for acrylics) and can produce a surprisingly convincing flesh with practice, but although it's cheap, it's not fast. I have heard of it being done with tissue an wax as well, and I understand that some of the surviving carnival gaffs from the 19th century were produced this way.

eruger (author)2014-09-21

Great trick! This technique is also very effective for mummified skin! I have usually used saran wrap and orange shellack with no paint at all, but this method is much faster (shellac can take days to dry). A little very light powdering with talc helps the mummy effect as well, and a little bit of black and white speckling makes it feel moldy (tiny spots).

wikkedspindl (author)eruger2014-09-22

I was wondering, after I uploaded the pics, if different colored bags would make different effects as well, but that was my last skull til I get time to restock. Lol! Maybe someone will let us know!

eruger (author)wikkedspindl2014-09-22

That would depend entirely on how opaque the paint you use is. If the material shows through, the its color will blend with the paint color. Another nifty trick is to lightly spray-paint over and over, almost like an airbrush. This lets you control what shows through the paint, and keeps the paint from getting that glossy surface which makes so many props look as fake as they are. I don't know how well even the 'for plastics' spray paint will stick to these bags though, much less the saran wrap that I used with shellac. I was surprised at how well the shellac bonded to it.

Eh Lie Us! (author)2014-09-19

Good god! that's freaking clever. maybe I shouldn't have read this while eating breakfast. still genius.

wikkedspindl (author)Eh Lie Us!2014-09-22

Please eat with caution and continue enjoying instructables! Lol! Thank you!

valkgurl (author)2014-09-18

I spent a LOT of time--still do!--in cems growing up and where I grew up in NJ there was a sacred Native American ceremonial ground; alongside or on top of which was a very early cemetery. One day the people maintaining access to the local rail way used a bull dozer to widen the dirt road. The next day us kids went "Down the woods" as we did most every day--and there were bones sticking out of the side of the dozer cut! Now either these were the early builders of the house I lived in or Native remains. Since our house was a "Stop" on the Underground Railway these could have been slave bones also. The local town workers were all set to just shovel some dirt over them--ignoring everybody's customs!---until my mother and others had a bit if a frenzy and they reburied them properly.

Last week in my little Upstate NY town however the bone found was possibly from a Mass Grave from the soldiers killed at the Battle Of Saratoga---this is about 20 miles from here but there was a Fort here and I gather they thought that the dead would be disrespected if left closer to Saratoga. So they were ferried across the Hudson and up a huge long hill and overland to our town. It was a sort of "Urban Legend" that they were here but our Town Historian managed to get some one with ground penetrating radar to look at the areas and there they were. So we are not sure--since the Cemetery pre-dates the Revolution--if this is from a soldier or not. Very interesting if a bit creepy--we are one of the only towns to have Barrow Tombs (yes like in LOTR---) still in good condition and the Cemetery is a tourist attraction with famous grave stone carvers amongst the more common stone work.

I do genealogical research so this is a bit of a fascination for me!

wikkedspindl (author)valkgurl2014-09-19

I live in a boring state, we try to find anything we can to keep amused. Lol! I think the only that came close to that is a flood a few years ago washed away a lot of ground from a cemetery. You could probly imagine the horrors of discovering caskets with bodies further down the river...

valkgurl (author)wikkedspindl2014-09-19

Well NY is not boring altho we do live quite a ways away from Bright Lights Big City!

The whole coffins down river happened in PA a few years ago--it was pretty shocking.

The Revolutionary War Cemetery here has not been used for active burials in perhaps 75 years---but I am kinda surprised that we have not had an issue with flooding as our stream was diverted aroud the Cem quite some time back---and floods right beyond it regularly. Hurricane Irene submerged much of the area including that location.

Because of so much Rev War history and battles around here "bodies" are forever turning up==a few years ago another bunch turned up sticking out of the ground on Rogers Island which is in the Hudson and was used as a military hospital and boat basin---there had been rumors about this for 200 years also but finally there they were! There are professional diggings going on there now and many interesting things have turned up.

gravityisweak (author)2014-09-19

Wow, using the plastic bag is a brilliant idea, it gives a super organic look when it stretches and threads like that. The only thing I would do differently is make it look a little more wet, which I find adds to the realism. But this is incredibly realistic.

Like I said, it is basic. A brush of petroleum jelly, or modge lodge would slick it up a bit. Add a tongue, an eye, a lot of options to up the "gross factor".

chicopluma (author)2014-09-19

what an easy an effective make over, looks excellent

wikkedspindl (author)chicopluma2014-09-19

And its one of those things where the basic stuff is readily available versus having to search for it all over the place!

truliwicked (author)2014-09-16

I so have to mark this as a favorite!! Perfect thing to sit on some bookshelves..or the coffee table..anywhere just about. Definitely going to try this. Thanks.

wikkedspindl (author)truliwicked2014-09-18

I almost wanted to make a few and randomly place them around a wooded area...but knowing my luck someone would probly have me locked up! Lol

thepro1998 (author)2014-09-18

Looks amazing! I really need to get myself a heat gun. :|

wikkedspindl (author)thepro19982014-09-18

Once you get one, you will never understand how you got by without one!

Blaise_Gauba (author)2014-09-17

Excellent idea....very smart! I have worked as a prop maker and special effects make up artist in the Hollywood entertainment industry for over thirty years...and we too have come up with some really cheap ways to create gory and horrific dead bodies and quickly because in this industry...they always want it yesterday. Your ideas and methods are perfect! Great job! And thanks for sharing.

I love reading and watching the bios of of special effects teams having to come up with last minute ideas. Probly the most famous being the "Halloween mask" made from a bad latex Captain Kirk mask painted white. Lol!

Every year friends ask me to help them come up with last minute props and ideas for their haunts or just to creep other people out. Always been fun! Love the challenges! Lol!

phoe (author)2014-09-17

Nice, if you were able to keep the inside of the skull "clean" you could eat ice-cream out of it when you answered the door, telling them it's brains...

wikkedspindl (author)phoe2014-09-17

I fi you look into the mouth, you can see I left the inside intact. I was actually thinking of making another one that you could actually drink out of....but yeah, I think cleaning or keeping it clean would be a bit challenging.

strumbot (author)2014-09-14

Which colors do you recommend using with the acrylic?

wikkedspindl (author)strumbot2014-09-14

I used Brilliant red, Burnt Umber, and Titanium white. I just sponge brushed it on, gives it "direction" with each swipe. I dabbed some red on the skull, then dabbed the brown on it, then mixed 3 parts brown, one part red and one part white. Honestly, that was what I just had sitting around... I don't like making trips for 13 shades of black and such like that! Lol!

would ya make a trip for 50 shades of grey?

I almost made that remark, but figured I creeped out enough people with the skull. Lol! Awesome!

About This Instructable




Bio: "To be forgotten is worse than death itself" DSKB
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