Introduction: How to Make Costume Wings
These wings are shaped as fallen angel wings, but you can use the methods in the 'ible to make any shape or size wing you need for your character or creature. I think they would be great for comic book and cartoon character wings.
They are primarily made of foam, as opposed to feathers. This is so they can be painted and have a smooth appearance. The smoothness of them were essential for me since these wings were part of a cemetery angel costume, so they needed to look like stone.
Step 1: Research
There are many kinds of wings out there, depending on what character or creature you want to be, the wings may differ in shape and size. It helps to pull some reference pictures to get an accurate interpretation of the wings you are making.
My wings were modeled after cemetery angel wings, which I found loads of great images of online.
Step 2: Pattern for Wire Frame
Wire Wing Frame
These wings are built on a wire frame. To make it easier to shape the wire in two of the same shapes, draw the outline of the shape of the wing on a large piece of paper.
The idea is to have the wings come from a rectangular base will lay on my back. Measuring on a dress form I decided to make the base 9" x 6".
- Choose a center back line, draw out 3" and another 3" running parallel 9" down. Check out the image for reference. Then draw your wing shape.
- Use a pair of pliers to shape and bend the wire following your drawn line. Taping the wire to the paper along the way helps to keep the whole wire shape in place as you work.
- The frame is one piece wire, keep going around until you get to where the two ends meets. Cross the ends over each other slightly and hot glue around and in between the wire.
Wire Frame Base
- Cut two 10" pieces of wire, this allows you 1/2" at either end to overlap the wing frame.
- Run the wire pieces perpendicular to the 6" centers of the wing frame at the corners and hot glue. The hot glue held up surprisingly well. I believe it's because the aluminum wire is so light weight. Make sure to cover the whole connection with glue, getting it in the cracks of the intersection.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Step 3: Add Foam and Straps
- Cut a piece of 6mm foam to approximately 7" x 10". Just make sure there is enough edge around the wing base to glue the wire to.
- Heat up the glue gun and slather it on! Put glue in between the wire and foam and over.
- Cut another sheet of thin foam at 10" x 13" and some slots around the perimeter so it can bend around and connect to the other piece of foam. Set aside.
- Cut straps long enough to go around your arms, one from over the shoulder and on from under the arm. Whatever is comfortable for you. I found some seat belt material to use for mine.
- Glue them to the foam base.
- Grab the thin foam piece and glue that down, wrapping the cut panels around the thicker piece sandwiching the wire and straps. You may need to weight the base as it dries.
Step 4: Add Foam Core
You now have a wire frame of your wings.
- Take the frame and put one wing on top of the foam core sheet, making sure you leave enough for the other wing.
- Trace the shape of the wire frame on the outside of the wire. You will be gluing the wire frame to the foam core piece, so check that you you have enough space on the trace to glue around the edge.
- Cut out the foam core shape and hot glue the wire to the inside edge.
- If you need some shape to your wings score one side of the foam core using an x-acto blade to produce a curve. To score, take the blade and cut far enough in puncture one side, partially through the foam middle, but not through to the other side. From my research, I wanted my wings to curve in at the top and slightly at the bottom. You can see I scored the top every 1 inch and the bottom a few times 2 inches apart.
Step 5: Cutting Feathers
You can use a few different shapes of feathers to copy, cut and cover the majority of the wings. There are several layers of feathers. Start at the bottom and layer on top of that in rows until you get to the top. The longest are on the bottom and they get shorter towards the top.
To get the pattern of the feathers take some tracing paper, put it on your foam core frame and draw in some feathers that you like. I drew four feathers on the bottom and used these four shapes to cover the wings with two more layers. Add a little bit of width to each feather ~1/2" so they layer on top of one another. Play with size of your core feather patterns before cutting out a whole bunch of them.
I used the 6mm foam for the bottom feathers since they poke over the foam core and the 3mm for the rest of the feathers that are being glued to foam core.
Medium and Small Feathers
Cut a variety of medium length feathers - about 3" - 4" long and some small cuts about 1.5" - 2" in length, these will line the very top of the wings.
Try out the placements of your feathers and cut any feathers that may be missing. Check out your reference pictures if you get stuck or the attached photos to see how I layered them.
You need enough for both sides!
Don't forget about the back of the wings! You will need enough feathers to cover the front and back of each wing. I cut a bunch so I would have some choices as I built them up.
Step 6: Gather Materials
・ 5 - 10 sheets of 6mm 9" x 12" craft foam
・10 - 20 sheets of 2mm 12" x 18" craft foam
・1 - 2 48" x 36" foam core sheets at 1/4" width
・Strap material - nylon webbing works well
・Sew-on Velco to cover width of strap material
・Hot glue gun
・Lots of glue sticks!!!
・Super 77 spray glue
・Marker or pencil
・x-acto blade with extra blades
Step 7: Gluing Feathers
Find somewhere that is well ventilated and where you can lay out your wings and feathers. Put down any drop cloth to keep your wings clean.
You will be gluing from the bottom to the top of each wing, working on both the fronts, then turning over the wings to cover the back.
- Take a set of the bottom the feathers and longer feathers for one wing, turn them over and spray with Super 77.
- Carefully place the bottom feather working from the inside to the outer edge of the wing, layering each feather over the previous one.
Don't worry if the feather ends or edges are poking out of your wing shape, you will cut this away in the next step.
Turn over and do other side!
Step 8: Trimming Up and Finishing
Trimming and Shaping
You may want to trim away any extra foam that hang over the original wing shape away. Now that I look at the pictures, the overhangs look pretty neat and could add a feathery look to the wings.
If you want a clean and smooth edge, take some scissors and start trimming!
Once you have trimmed up the outer edge measure the thickness of your wings. These turned out to be about 5/8" thick. Cut some strips at this width of the 2mm foam and glue them around the edges to hide the multiple layers.
The wire frame is flexible and you can bend the wings out to an angle that you want, just do it carefully. :)
Fit the wings to your body, marking where the ends of the straps overlap. Take the wings off and sew velcro where you marked to make the closures. Add some extra length to your velcro closures for some fitting adjustment.
You Have Wings!
Wear them as is for white angel wings or paint them to match your creature! Share any paint jobs and costumes in the comments!