Introduction: Create a (low Budget) Snail Costume

Picture of Create a (low Budget) Snail Costume

I wanted to be a snail for Halloween (I love invertebrates!) but all the designs I saw online looked, uh, less than stellar. So, my crafty bf and I came up with our own, low budget but fancy-looking snail shell design.

This instructable is good for getting ideas, but doesn't need to be followed letter by letter!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials!

Picture of Gather Your Materials!

We kind of amassed materials as we went along, and you can substitute a lot of these things, because the shell will be created through a paper mache sculpture. But here's the materials we used:

One pool noodle for floating (often called "fun noodles")
T-pins from a craft store
plenty of paper towel and toilet paper rolls (the cardboard ones once the paper is done)
foam glue, hot glue, gorilla glue
paper mache materials (newspaper, flour, and water)
poster board paper
one lid from a rotisserie chicken! (other tupperware type lids should work fine)
paint in your preferred snail-y colors (we used various craft paints)
an old belt
a sharp knife or good scissors

For the eye stalks:
two toilet paper rolls (empty)
four twist ties
two Styrofoam balls (a size that will fit on top of the tp rolls without falling in)
black paint and other snail-y color paints

Step 2: Shape Your Spiral Shell-- the Base

Picture of Shape Your Spiral Shell-- the Base

The shell will be a paper mache sculpture, so remember that this part doesn't have to look perfect. You will be covering the entire thing up!

1. First you want to create the base of the spiral by looping the pool noodle into a mini spiral and using a lot of t-pins to keep the pool noodle in the appropriate shape. It really helps to have a friend for this step, so you can pin while she or he holds the noodle together. Use foam glue or other strong glue to make the noodle extra secure.

Step 3: Your Shell--the Upper Layers

Picture of Your Shell--the Upper Layers

To continue the spiral while allowing it to get smaller and smaller, we cut out little rings from the tp rolls, and hot glued them to the shell in a spiral pattern.

Step 4: Paper Mache That Shell!

Picture of Paper Mache That Shell!

Time to paper mache! There are tons of resources online for a good paper mache recipe. I simply added water to some flour until I got a good texture, saturated the newspaper strips in the goop, used my fingers to wipe off the excess, and applied! I did the top of the shell first, placed it by the radiator for about a day, then did the bottom layer by turning the shell upside down.

Make sure you really allow the paper mache to dry, or your project will eventually rot (eww, rotting snail shells!).

Step 5: Finishing the Sculpture of the Shell

Picture of Finishing the Sculpture of the Shell

For the shell to look "realistic" and as though it is coming out at an approximate logarithmic spiral (how snails actually grow), we used poster board and the chicken lid to complete the look. I'll describe it below, but the photos are easier to understand.

First you hot glue on the chicken lid so that it's perpendicular to the spiral. Then you use poster board to create the other side of the shell. We stuffed our shell with plastic bags to keep it looking full.

This way, the shell will look like a snail shell, with an opening, and two sides. If you want a simpler design, you could just have the shell coming right off your back like a backpack, which would look okay, but is not as realistic.

Step 6: Paper Mache Part II

Picture of Paper Mache Part II

Now you paper mache over the chicken lid and the poster board.

Step 7: Paint That Shell!

Picture of Paint That Shell!

We only had a few colors at our disposal, so we started with a green base, then added some swirls, highlights, etc. Use real snails as your muse, or go wild with psychedelic swirls!

Step 8: Eye Stalks

Picture of Eye Stalks

This part was easy-- I went with a very low budget, low tech option since it was the night before Halloween. You all can do better if you want!

Take two toilet paper rolls and paint them. I did a green-brown. I used some gorilla glue and smeared it on to make them look slimy. Take your two Styrofoam balls and paint them black. You could paint cartoon eyes on them if you wanted--I went for a solid black to be more anatomically correct to a true snail.

Gorilla or hot glue the eyes to the stalks. On the base of each stalk, poke two holes, across from each other. Use twist ties to attach each stalk to your headband. Finished!

Step 9: Attach Your Shell to a Belt

Picture of Attach Your Shell to a Belt

Using your knife, cut slits in the shell on each side and slide a belt through. You don't need to ruin a belt for this if you're careful! Wear the shell as high or low as you'd like.

Step 10: Wear!

Picture of Wear!

For your snail body, design as you wish! I chose to just go with a brown dress and tights, to make my shell really stand out from the rest. Everyone knew what I was without question, which for me is a good thing (last year my cockroach costume had to be explained a lot).

The shell is light as a feather, but be careful when turning, or you might smash it into something!


mpino (author)2016-10-31

Glad you were able to use the ible n you look great

Emily the Snail made it! (author)2016-10-31

Thank you so much for this! I was looking for a snail costume tutorial, and yours was pretty much the only one I found. My costume turned out great (at least, I like it) using your instructions as a template. I really appreciate the guidance. I took pictures as I built it. I don't have an account but you can find them by Googling "wordpress casual costuming" - in case anyone is interested.

Grr... sent that comment too early, and now I can't seem to edit it. I basically meant to say Thank you, and let you (and other folks?) know that I tried to "show my work" here:

filmo (author)2015-08-25

Best. Costume. Ever.

owlandbat (author)2015-01-06

I'm (slowly) running a marathon in April and looking for a lightweight snail costume to wear for it. Do you think the shell would hold up with shoulder straps on it instead of a belt? I think the foam would make a good base to attach straps you think that would work? How fragile is it? Do you think it could stand up to some bouncing around? I love snails, this is a really adorable costume. :) Thanks for the instructable!

mpino (author)owlandbat2015-01-09

Hi! Those adjustments sound like they should work. If you wear the shell high enough it probably won't bounce apart. Ours was pretty sturdy; it only fell apart after months of being messed with by multitudes of children (we had it at a Nature Center). I would suspect that it wouldn't do well on a rainy day however. I would probably make better eye stalks for a marathon, mine were pretty shoddy. Happy (snail) trails!

owlandbat (author)mpino2015-01-09

Pulling it up higher is a good point - I'm going to try that out. Hopefully the weather will be nice! :) Thanks for the extra info!

wavelet_spaghetti (author)2014-10-27

really cute :)

fishmistress (author)2011-10-31


dawn_ee (author)2011-10-31

Love it! This is at the top of my list for next year!! (besides....who can pass up an opportunity to papier mache??)

nomasheroes (author)2011-10-31

No mames guera está cagadísimo tu disfráz...

I LIKE TURTLES (author)2011-09-24

do u think u could make a turtle costume? i wanna be a turtle for Halloween but all of the pics or how to's are ninja turtles im in need

GirlOfAllTrades (author)2011-09-17

Could i maybe use 2 noodles and shave one down to get thinner toward the end?

hummer_head (author)2010-11-01

i want to see you getting in your "house" :)

mpino (author)2010-11-01

Thanks! This was also my first Instructable!

ac1D (author)2010-11-01

This is cute, but you need to crawl on the ground to collect candy.. gonna take age!

aramanthe (author)2010-11-01

This is a really cute costume and isn't something you'd see every Halloween! I love it and you did a great job!

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