Introduction: How to Build Your Dragon

Picture of How to Build Your Dragon

Whether you're a fan of Anne McCaffrey or George R. R. Martin, you need a little dragon on your shoulder. This one is fairly simply made using a wire armature, foil, tape and some other odds and ends. This was my first attempt at this sort of thing and I can tell you it's easier than it looks to get a great effect.

Step 1: You Will Need

Picture of You Will Need

Two gauges of galvanized steel wire, 16 and 20 (1.6mm and .88mm)

Aluminium foil

Masking tape

Nail-hole filler (Spackle in the US, Polyfilla in the UK)

Polymer modelling clay such as Fimo or Sculpey

Thin cotton cloth

White glue (PVA)

Paint and varnish

Step 2: Beginning the Armature

Picture of Beginning the Armature

Using the thicker gauge of wire, create the curve of the head, neck, body and tail. The head can be a simple loop at this stage. Bend two shorter pieces of thick wire into V-shapes to make the front and back sets of legs, leaving the feet as simple loops too (needlenose pliers are useful here). Using short lengths of the thinner wire, bind the legs to the body, using as much wire as needed to make them secure. This is probably the fiddliest bit of the whole enterprise.The best way to do it is wrap the thin wire tightly around one of the legs, then continue wrapping it around the spine. Do this a couple of times for each leg.

Once everything is secure, bend the body and legs into shape. If you want your dragon to sit on your shoulder, just space the legs apart until it does, with the tail wrapped comfortably around your neck. The thicker wire is fairly stiff and holds its shape well.

Beginning with the hindquarters start building up the body of the dragon, using crumpled aluminium foil and thin masking tape. You can crumple the foil directly onto the armature, or make "muscles" of the foil and secure them with tape. Add layers as needed and squish the foil and tape around until everything looks right. Leave the feet for now, and don't do too much to the shoulder area as you still need to attach the wings.

Step 3: Wings

Picture of Wings

It is much easier to make the wings separately from the body, and them attach them afterwards. Like the legs, the wings are one connected piece. Shape the two top "fingers" and arms out of one piece of wire. The next two fingers are another, separate piece of wire, bend in the middle. As you did with attaching the legs to the body, bind the lower fingers at the "wrist" joint with thinner wire.

Now you can start building up the flesh with foil and tape. I simply wrapped the fingers with tape (no foil) to keep them thin. Before you wrap the "biceps", bind on a couple of strands of thin wire, which will be used to attach the wings to the body.

Bind the wings to the body, and start building up the forequarters and shoulders with foil and tape. This will help make the wings secure. Follow your own sense of anatomy. (Who knows how a six-limbed animal works anyway...)

Step 4: Feet

Picture of Feet

Remember those little loops of wire you left for the feet? Now it is time to make the toes. Bind on two loops of thinner wire to each foot, securing tightly with tape. When you snip the loops, you will end up with four toes on each foot. Shape them into place, cut them into length, and form them into feet using more foil and tape. If you look closely you can see the tips of the wire poking out uncovered, like claws. This helps the dragon cling to the fabric of your clothing, like a tenacious kitten.

Step 5: Head, and Hole Filling

Picture of Head, and Hole Filling

It's finally time for the head!

Use some modeling clay to make twisty horns for your dragon (if you want your dragon to have horns) and bake them until set. Then, you know the drill - foil, tape, squish, taping the horns in place, until the head looks right. I think it's important to have eye ridges, a strong lower jaw, and a bit of a chin. Just roll up short cigars of foil and tape them in place. It helps to have a few images of dragons to look at to see what the general effect should be.

Taping is done! This next step is more or less optional, but recommended. Give your dragon a coat of lightweight nail-hole filler to smooth it out and remove the worst of the wrinkles and tape creases. You might want to do this over a couple of days for ease of handling, focusing on a different part of the dragon each day and letting it dry. You can also add some fine details with the filler if you are inclined. Note that once you have added the hole-filler you can no longer bend the dragon or it will crack, so make sure it is shaped how you want it first.

Step 6: Finish the Wings

Picture of Finish the Wings

Cut out the rough shape of the wing membrane using paper and scissors, then trace around this pattern onto some thin cotton cloth. You can use an old bedsheet, or a cloth sample from a craft store, or anything, really.

Soak the cloth in white glue, then drape it onto the wing fingers, holding in place with clothes pins until dry. Trim off any excess with scissors, and shape the ends as desired. I think dragons should have a tear or two in their wings.

Step 7: Spines

Picture of Spines

Dragons tend to have all kinds of spines. I don't know what evolutionary purpose they serve, but they do. Form the spines out of more modeling clay and bake them. Make a few of them of different sizes and shapes.

To attach the spines, bore holes through the hole-filler and tape with a pointy screw. Dip the spine in glue and push into place.

Step 8: Paint and Finish

Picture of Paint and Finish

I won't go into too much detail about the painting, since I'm not very good at it, and there are plenty of tutorials on model painting out there. I gave the dragon a couple of coats of gesso to smooth out the hole filler, then painted with two shades of bronze spray paint. For the belly and spines I used ivory white acrylic. I used some black acrylic on a dry brush to add some shading.

I gave the dragon a few coats of a satin spray varnish, and finally attached the eyes with glue. The eyes are two rhinestones.



Barbarad90 (author)2016-07-18

I am still busy with the dragon. Instead of using the tape as the outside, I use more clay. The thing I am worrying about are the wings. I like to make it out of cloth, but I also want to be able to put the entire dragon in the oven to bake the clay. Maybe I will make the wings out of thin sheets of clay as well, but I am not sure.

I love the tutorial and it is very clear on all the matters concerned. I will post the final version as well.

JoS3 (author)Barbarad902017-10-23

The oven temp for polymer clay is not hot enough to burn the cloth but u could do the wing after u cook the clay

spookylean (author)Barbarad902016-07-26

That is amazing. Can't wait to see how you resolve the wings.

Barbarad90 (author)spookylean2016-07-30

This is the final product. Thank you again for the nice instructions.

spookylean (author)Barbarad902016-07-31

That is beautiful. What did you do for the wings in the end?

Tynan666 made it! (author)2017-06-24

Instead of the thicker gage wire, i used thin wire hangers (3 of them), but otherwise followed the instructions and it came out amazingly. I had planed to go to Comic-Con and wanted to have it done by then, but i found this post the day before. I had gathered most of my supplys and had the basic frame done by 2:30 (Pic 1). I had to walk to the store in order to get masking tape and glue which took about half an hour. After that i busted out work with a maximum of an hour break total until 11:30 pm. I woke up at 6:30 an and by 7 i was back to work on it and had another hour or so break before completion. With waiting for the wings to dry so i could paint them tooi longer than I would have liked, but i finished my dragon at about noon, 2 hours before my event. In total the project took me about 12 hours, give or take about 30 minutes. It was completely worth it, i absolutely love my dragon and because i had to buy tape and glue (i already had tin foil, the hangers, and some thin crafting wire) It cost me like 7 dollars to make.

He suggests using spackle, but I found that it just chips off extremely easily once it is dry. Honestly, think that the tapes gives it a nice rough look that a dragon should have.

JoS3 (author)Tynan6662017-10-14

how long did u cut the wires

spookylean (author)Tynan6662017-06-27

Amazing work! I think I spent about two weeks on mine.

XaviOrin (author)2016-02-28

My God this is unique and awesome! Great ible!

JoS3 (author)XaviOrin2017-10-14

did i miss it how long did u cut the wires

JoS3 (author)2017-10-14

how long did u cut the wires?

Lizzy4 (author)2017-10-01

I'm making this right now to go along with my halloween costume. Would you recommend finding a way to pin it to my shirt?

spookylean (author)Lizzy42017-10-02

I found if you bend the wire legs and tail in the right way when making the armature, it acts like a clothespin and stays on by itself. Good luck!

Lizzy4 (author)spookylean2017-10-03

i just finished the claws properly and it stays on much better now. Thank you so much for making the instructions!

spookylean (author)Lizzy42017-10-03

Thanks! You are welcome!

DearAnn62 made it! (author)2017-05-01

I found your tutorial very helpful!
Needed a dragon for a fantasy event and whipped this up in a few days. Because of limited time I used shreds of a faux- leather handbag to cover the body, tail and legs (yeah! for the gluegun) and gave it a shine with some mica colouring mousses. The head, horns, spikes and claws are made of lightweight airdrying clay.

Idon't really like how the wings turned out so I'll probably do those again (or make a few more dragons ;)), but overall I am very pleased with my Betsy!
She's on a leather armcuff which was strapped to my forearm with velcro. This was a very comfortable snd secure way to take her along all day amongst 15.000 visitors.

Thanks again, couldn't have done it without your instructions!
Anja from the Netherlands

spookylean (author)DearAnn622017-05-02

Looks great. I like the skin.

DearAnn62 (author)spookylean2017-05-03

Thanks! The other way round huh? From handbag to dragon leather ;)

rainingfiction (author)2017-03-22

Awesome job!!

SerenityA1 made it! (author)2017-01-21

This is turning out to be very tedious. I didn't have the clay or the smaller gauge wire so I had to improvise. The feet are proving rather difficult for me.

spookylean (author)SerenityA12017-01-21

It looks great! Yes, it's a bit tedious, but keep it up.

SerenityA1 (author)2017-01-19

I cannot wait to make this for my kiddos. Thank you for sharing.

Ethan1023 (author)2017-01-14

" Whether you're a fan of Anne McCaffrey or George R. R. Martin, you need a little dragon on your shoulder...", or Cressida Cowel, or J. R. R. Tolkien...

Ethan1023 (author)2017-01-12

Ever heard of Ancalagon the Black?

spookylean (author)Ethan10232017-01-13

No? Google tells me he's a little bit bigger than mine...

Ethan1023 (author)spookylean2017-01-14

The Hobbit: Smaug- If Smaug was a house cat, Ancalagon would be a mountain lion. Size comparison for ya.

Gemeyes1 made it! (author)2016-10-29

Thanks for the awesome tutorial! I made a few adjustments for the type of dragon i wanted and mine is more free standing instead of a shoulder attachment because of the size.

I used folded duct tape for the spine spikes and modpodge and hot glue for the wings. Turned out great and couldn't have done it without your guidance.

Nice one.

beethovenisawesome (author)2016-12-10

What if you drop your dragon? Will it shatter? I am just worried about my dragon's safety.

Amazing dragon babbu! I'll have to make one in emerald this weekend

GabrielS220 (author)2016-11-01

wow! i like spookyleans dragon and the rest dragons im going to do it

ENelson27 (author)2016-08-11


Wcubed made it! (author)2016-08-05

Awesome instructable! Here's my result.
It still needs some detailing on the belly, and of course eyes.

Whovian123 (author)2016-07-23

its awesome!!!!!!!!!

Cliffsidegirl (author)2016-07-14

How long did it take you to make it?

spookylean (author)Cliffsidegirl2016-07-15

About two weeks? Mostly you're just waiting for stuff to dry. Thanks for looking.

banhca96 made it! (author)2016-05-06

Thanks for your instruction, here is my fire dragon ^.^

spookylean (author)banhca962016-05-12


Cliffsidegirl (author)2016-04-17

This is awesome! Great design

thevoid (author)2016-04-05

ooh this could be fun

xiuristadragon made it! (author)2016-03-30

Makin mine for a big school project. It's not quite done, but you're instructable was super easy to follow. Thanks!

Looks brilliant.


Looks brilliant.

spacepirate04 made it! (author)2016-03-27

Made one working on a second and a figure to sit on them lol

spookylean (author)spacepirate042016-03-30

That's great. How did you do the eyes?

spacepirate04 (author)spookylean2016-03-30

thank you they are made of clay and painted :)

spookylean (author)spacepirate042016-03-31

Great work!

KiraC3 (author)2016-03-20

It's not going very well but I'm about half done I think....

spookylean (author)KiraC32016-03-21

Looks good to me!

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