Introduction: How to Apply Elf Ears

Picture of How to Apply Elf Ears

You can buy elf ears (or alien ears, or devil horns, or other scarier latex prosthetics) online or at at your friendly neighborhood costume shop, but professional makeup artists to apply them are harder to come by.

Never fear. Find a friend, show them this Instructable, and you'll be in good hands. My friends dubbed me Head Elf Ear Artist and I don't even know how to apply normal makeup. (They were busy with their own Instructables, and you can't do your own ears. You just can't.)

Step 1: Acquire Supplies and Allow Yourself Enough Time

Picture of Acquire Supplies and Allow Yourself Enough Time
You need a few things besides just the latex prosthetics you're going to apply. I was clueless and time crunched enough that I just bought the recommended adhesives and removers and makeup at the costume shop. You may prefer to be a little thriftier.

You'll need:

  • A pair of elf ears
  • A very small amount of spirit gum (Structural)
  • Spirit gum remover (Any oil you're willing to rub on your skin)
  • Liquid latex (To smooth the edge between prosthetic and skin)
  • Makeup (You'll need special makeup to put on the latex. Normal makeup will break down the latex, and not stick, and you'll panic thirty minutes before your event. Don't laugh, it happened to my friend.) (The makeup we got, Ben Nye, was very very stiff. A liquid would have been nice for basic coverage, at least.)

We didn't have the forethought to photograph all of the supplies since we were frantically applying four people's ears two hours before a wedding that was an hour drive away.

According to timestamps on the photos, I was able to complete one pair of ears in 45 minutes, including drying time, but I would allow two hours for your first attempt. Liquid latex can cover a multitude of sins, but it takes time to dry.

Step 2: Remove Stray Hairs, Fit the Ear On

Picture of Remove Stray Hairs, Fit the Ear On

You probably have some hair near your ears. You might want to minimize it. I trimmed the growing-out-shaved-bits around canida's ears. I didn't do anything about the ear fuzz on aneel's ears, which I regretted when it came time to apply the liquid latex.

Contrary to other online application tips, we found that fitting the ear tips on and applying the spirit gum in place was the easiest method. We used a comb to hold back the hair at the top of the ear and wrestled the tip on, making sure it was securely covering the front and back of the ear.

You may have to pull the ear on and off a few times to get it trimmed correctly for a given ear.

Step 3: Apply Spirit Gum

Picture of Apply Spirit Gum

We found it was easiest to apply the spirit gum while the ear tip was in place on the ear. We applied spirit gum to most of the lower front of the ear tip. A little goes a long way.

After applying the spirit gum, you have to wait for about a minute for the spirit gum to get tacky. If you try to press the spirit gum in place before it's ready, it won't hold at all. But no harm done. Just wait longer.
You can test the tackiness of the spirit gum with your finger tip. Just slide it under and see if it's sticky.

Once the spirit gum is tacky, press the ear tip to the ear and hold firmly for about fifteen seconds.

If your ear has been well trimmed, and you've got the right amount of spirit gum, your ear should look close to perfect already. Some ears are harder to fit than others. That's what liquid latex is for.

Step 4: Apply Liquid Latex

Picture of Apply Liquid Latex

Liquid latex is malleable stuff, and there are lots of different techniques used to apply it. I found two strokes were useful here. First, to cover the sharp edge, start brushing from the skin to the ear tip. This fills in the gap nicely.

If a second layer is necessary, it can be helpful to brush from the ear tip to the skin to cover the brush strokes. Only my first ears required a second layer. As I improved my technique (and worked on people without ear fuzz), I filled in the gap with one layer.

It's critical to allow the latex to dry between layers and before applying makeup. The latex will be shiny when dry, and turns a translucent pinkish color. Test it with your finger to make sure it's dry.

Step 5: Apply Makeup

Picture of Apply Makeup
Remember, you can't use regular makeup on latex prosthetics. I think the oil breaks down the latex.

If you're lucky, some combination of the four color wheel will match your skin tone. This is one of those things you might want to check before you are miles away from a costume shop and your event starts in half an hour. The two proto-elves in these photos were lucky, and it was easy to match their color. The two proto-elves not pictured in the makeup shots needed a little more pink and brown. Ears are generally pinker than the rest of your face, so a little blush might be appropriate.

I don't know to apply regular makeup, so some of these tips might be no-brainers for those of you who do:

  • The brush can't hold a lot of makeup, so you will need to alternate a few swipes on the ear, a few swipes on the makeup wheel.
  • Grease paint is stiff, and it will take longer than you think to cover an entire ear.
  • Apply a base coat first, then work in a few darker contours.
  • Make sure you cover the back of the ear, too.
  • A little pink on the tip of the ear is cute.

Step 6: Make Merry!

Picture of Make Merry!

Go on, officiate a wedding, have your Christmas photos taken, rock the casbah, as you wish.

Step 7: Removing the Ears

I mentioned spirit gum remover in the list of supplies, but never mentioned using it. I generally used it to wipe off my fingers between ear applications. We all just yanked our ears off (slowly or not, depending on our philosophies, and the philosophies of the people standing next to us "helping").

I ended up just scrubbing with soap and water to wash off the combination of spirit gum, liquid latex and makeup. A little mineral oil would probably make it easier to remove the bits of spirit gum and latex.

Comments

KibaBoyRO (author)2011-02-01

k sry double comment , but wana know if there is a difference between elf and elven, i mean if i look the internet with elf it mostly gives me the santa like elfs and those from World of Warcraft, but if i write elves it gives me the mythical creatures like lord of the rings kind of creatures, so is that a diffrence between elves and elfs?

GaëlF2 (author)KibaBoyRO2015-10-29

Hello Kiba! The words "Elves" and "Elven", "Dwarves" and "Dwarven", were created by Tolkien, thus why when you type Elves in google you get the tall pretty elf, rather than the traditional elf. The proper plural form of a traditional elf is "elfs".

KibaBoyRO (author)2011-02-01

k so u made urselves elfsfor a wedding? O.O or some similar event? that must have been one of the most awsome times of ur life TT.TT i wana be and marry a elf girl too, i love elfs!

M4industries (author)2010-04-02

 Hey! Vulcans don't smile!

nuclearjersey (author)2010-02-26

About Step 3 & 7:  I don't know if this has been mentioned before, but it's actually much more comfortable to use Liquid Latex to apply the ears as well, once it dries you never feel it, and it holds better than Spirit Gum mostly because it has a tendency to crack and fall off whereas Latex stays malleable.  It's a bonus for removing too, because it peels off painlessly (as long as you can avoid getting in on your hair at all).

twocvbloke (author)2009-05-07

Elf ears? Seems highly illogical to me... ;) (that's a Vulcan reference for non-trekkies... :P )

Speedmite (author)twocvbloke2009-06-08

Again, who says illogical? Its completely illogical to say illogical. So why do say illogical? Doesn't sound weird when you use it?

MaXoR (author)Speedmite2009-10-30

illogical is only illogical to the ignorant

Speedmite (author)MaXoR2009-11-02

You are so illogical.

TyMan210 (author)Speedmite2009-10-15

 I fail to see the logic in that statement.

Speedmite (author)TyMan2102009-10-15

Exactly.

twocvbloke (author)Speedmite2009-06-08

Vulcans say illogical... ;)

MaXoR (author)twocvbloke2009-10-30

This coming from a VULCAN fan......your ears aren't so pretty either....lol

thepelton (author)twocvbloke2009-06-08

I recall that our high school put on "Midsummer Night's Dream" for the senior play. Jason E. was Oberon, and had pointed ears for the play. I would salute him with the vulcan salute, and say, "Live long and prosper!"

Little Mantis (author)2009-10-12

Use rubber-mask grease paint to add color to latex. If you don't have RMGP a layer of Castor Oil will let regular grease paint adhere to you prosthetic!

jforbess (author)2009-09-04

Sadly, I have no idea. It's been a couple of years since the wedding of elves.

kaitoucoon (author)jforbess2009-09-10

thank you! This makes me wanna have an elf wedding xD

kaitoucoon (author)2009-09-03

what brand is the color wheel? is that ben nye??

jforbess (author)kaitoucoon2009-09-07

Oh, after reading through the instructable, yes, I noted that it's Ben Nye.

Babyshoes (author)2007-10-13

Now wishing I didn't have a latex allergy!

porcupinemamma (author)Babyshoes2009-06-08

There used to be wax lips, i wonder if you could find wax ears (nooo lol not ear wax)

porcupinemamma (author)2009-06-08

the wedding must have been a lot of fun! what was the theme? You look marvelous in your ears darling!!! :0) I would love to just casually wear them to work and say nothing and watch reactions lol

jessyratfink (author)2007-10-12

Elf ears make everyone more attractive! It's true! :D One of these days I'll break down and attach some just for fun. I wish I would have committed to that for this Halloween, but alas, I am going as something much weirder.

laernmoer (author)jessyratfink2007-10-14

Oddly enough, many Japanese people think that elf ears are REALLY weird . I showed a picture of santa's elves (part of the Xmas lore that is omitted here in Japan) and they freaked out. I've since stopped telling my students about elves.

masterochicken (author)laernmoer2007-12-20

It's because of their nose fetish

Iridium7 (author)masterochicken2009-05-07

achoo!

masterochicken (author)Iridium72009-05-07

Ooohhhhh YES!!!!!

2shane2 (author)laernmoer2008-05-04

Tell them that "Lord of the Rings" is a christian documentary.

hammer9876 (author)2shane22008-08-30

ROFL!

This will make for an awesome porno I'm making. Buy it when it comes out.

KentsOkay (author)masterochicken2007-10-30

*fewf* I'm not the only one with a thing for elves...

masterochicken (author)KentsOkay2007-11-04

we should start a club

KentsOkay (author)masterochicken2007-11-06

LOL, Nerdy Pervs For More Elves

masterochicken (author)KentsOkay2007-12-19

More general but sill...
here it is

masterochicken (author)KentsOkay2007-11-06

sounds perfect

nicky0206 (author)2008-10-21

i think you should be a elf for Christmas not Halloween.

a.nony.mouse (author)nicky02062008-10-23

screw that, be an elf year round!

nicky0206 (author)a.nony.mouse2008-11-10

thanks for that comment.

a.nony.mouse (author)2008-10-23

AHH! i love this! i have tried and failed multiple times to apply elf ears, and now i know why! (well, the fact that a got a cheapie $5 pair of ears might also have been the problem)
as soon as i get a new pair of ears, i'm so gonna try this!

Sunny124613 (author)2008-08-10

coolio

wolfkitty (author)2008-05-30

Well actually.. you *can too* put them on yourself.
In a field.
Using toothpaste instead of spirit gum.
And wear them alll day long at the Fairie Festival.
Says the voice of BTDTgot the sunburn to prove it. ;D

Mr. Squiggles (author)2008-03-07

You could, like, make any Buffy the vampire slayer monster with these instructions.

KentsOkay (author)2007-10-30

Coolio! How well would the ears take to being subjected to physical trauma?, could I fight with them on?

jforbess (author)KentsOkay2007-10-30

The preformed latex ears are sturdy, and spirit gum is surprisingly stiff, once it dries. I suspect Mike Tyson or the WWE wrestlers could do some damage, but boffers, cardboard tubes, and the like should be fine. If you're extra worried, I think you can apply more spirit gum, and be prepared for more pain when removing them.

phildavi (author)2007-10-28

cool and not very frightening!Even makes her look good1

noahh (author)2007-10-21

Awesome! I am not only going to use this for halloween but take it on step further and use nose putty to make a long, pointy, nose.

ItsTheHobbs (author)2007-10-12

great instructable, pics are real good and worded well where do you get the ears though?

its a lion (author)ItsTheHobbs2007-10-13

you can get them at alot of halloween places. i saw some in the spirit store today, and im pretty sure places like party city would sell them. otherwise, i can guarantee you can find them on the internet.

jforbess (author)ItsTheHobbs2007-10-12

Thanks. The two orange links in the intro point to an online dealer for most people and Costumes On Haight for those of you in SF. I just found the online dealer googling for 'elf ears'. I think there are a bunch. The online dealer even has pointier anime ears, which I was kind of coveting. The local shop didn't have them though.

About This Instructable

135,553views

121favorites

License:

More by jforbess:Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy How to Apply Elf Ears
Add instructable to: