Introduction: How to Transform Your Pumpkin Into BB-8 From Star Wars
The only thing I love more than Halloween is Star Wars. This time of year, you can usually catch me wandering around in some Jedi robes, disappointing people by doing my best Yoda voice, and pretending I have "the force" every time I walk through a pair of automatic doors. For me, Star Wars has only ever made its way into Halloween in the form of elaborate costumes or accessories. This year, I wanted to do something special and bring the two together in a way I hadn't done before.
I decided that I would:
- Do something no one else has
- Create something that every Star Wars fan would appreciate
- Share it with others and teach them how to do it
One of my favorite new characters from the new Star Wars trilogy is BB-8. Ever since the release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", this roly-poly cueball of a droid instantly became a fan-favorite with its surprisingly expressive head, and its charismatic nature resembling a cross between R2-D2 and WALL-E. Most importantly, he is the most spherical and orange character from the saga, almost like.... A PUMPKIN!
In this instructable, I will share my process for carving your very own BB-8 out of a pumpkin, as well as all the tips and tricks to get the best results in the least amount of time.
The journey will be rough. I made lots of mistakes, learned a few lessons, and literally BLED for this, but I would gladly do it all over again as I had a blast. I hope you do too!
Step 1: Some Quick Things Before We Start...
Before you start this project, you should be aware of 4 things:
Number 1: This was my first time carving a pumpkin*
I made many mistakes, re-did a lot of my work, made most of it up along the way, and did things in a way that some would describe as being "sequentially incoherent". Follow the instructions, but remain open to better ways of doing things.
Number 2: This was my first time writing an instructable
I tried my best to take as many notes and pictures of the process along the way but sometimes forgot to take photos of a step until I was already on to the next. Therefore, some photos in this guide will have continuity errors. I'm super sorry about this, but I will point these out as you come across them to avoid confusion.
Number 3: This took me a LONG time
Longer than I ever expected it to take. However, most of that was due to researching and Photoshopping pictures of BB-8, constantly experimenting with different tools and painting techniques, taking photos and notes for this Instructable, and re-doing a lot of my work due to poor planning. This won't take you nearly as long as it did for me, but that doesn't mean you will be able to bust this out in an afternoon. Be prepared to spend several hours on this.
Number 4: That being said...
Don't take too long to finish. Try not to spread this project out over too many days, as pumpkins do rot. I bought my pumpkin on a Sunday. By Wednesday, the bottom of the large pumpkin was... ahem... leaking. By Thursday, it was rotten and home for a family of gnats. I didn't finish until Friday :(
Ok, that should do it!
*I mean, I may have carved a pumpkin or two when I was a kid, but I certainly didn't put any real effort into it. The point is that I'm a novice.
Step 2: Get Your Materials Ready
As best as I can, I will link each of the items with the exact brands/products I bought, for those who like things to be super specific.
- Pumpkins (the roundest you can find):
- Large x 1
- Small x 1
- White spray paint (Any brand. Choose either a matte or glossy finish, depending on your preference)
- White acrylic paint (I chose "titanium white")
- Brown acrylic paint (I chose "golden brown")
- Silver acrylic metallic paint (I chose "silver")
- Darker silver metallic acrylic paint (I chose "gunmetal")
- Grey acrylic paint (I chose "deep grey")
- Painting Supplies:
- Carving Supplies:
- Pumpkin Carving Kit (I'm SURE they make better tools than what I bought, so please shop around)
- Pumpkin Scoop (I used the awkward spoon thing in the photo, but wish I had something more legit)
- BB-8 Wheel Print-outs (provided later this guide)
- BB-8 Image Print-out (as a visual guide throughout the entire project, also provided later)
- Sharp knife
- Something pointy (I used a food thermometer, lol)
- Potato Skin Peeler
- Brillo pad
- Thick glove(s)
- Plastic Sheeting (Get something durable, that won't rip when you slide a heavy pumpkin across it)
- Duct Tape
- Garbage bags
- Paper towel rolls
- Glass of water
All in all, I spent about $40 at Michaels, and $10 on the pumpkins. Everything else I found laying around the house.
Step 3: Gut the Larger Pumpkin
Scoop the Goop
Don't touch the smaller pumpkin yet. We're going to chop that in half later, which will make gutting it easier.
I took out the pumpkin's innards using my hand, at first. Then I realized that having pumpkin slime on my hands makes me hate everything, so I stopped. I quickly washed my hands, grab the awkwardest spoon I could find, and used that instead. It was terrible.
For these reasons, I highly recommend using an actual pumpkin scooper.
FYI - I don't know why, but I actually did this after Step 5. I traced before I scooped. In retrospect, I see that it would've been better to take out the insides before tracing so that the pumpkin would be lighter and easier to move. If you see continuity errors in these photos, that's why.
Step 4: Download, Print, and Cut Out the “Wheels”
It's funny how you could love something so much and yet never pay real attention to the finer details of that thing. That was the case with BB-8's wheel designs. I didn't really think anything of them at first, but now I kind of appreciate their detail. Initially, I didn't even plan on using the inner wheel designs for this project because I thought they would take too much time. And they did.
Luckily for you, the power of Photoshop allowed me to make some conveniently sized print-outs of these unique wheel designs to save you time, if you decide that you want to go for the finer details. In that case, pick your 5* favorite wheel designs and print them out at their "original size". However, if you're pressed for time, just ignore all that stuff inside the orange wheels and proceed to the next Step.
*This is entirely up to you, but I decided to only use 5 wheels instead of 6. BB-8 looks the same from all directions, so you'll only ever have to look at him from one angle to get the whole picture. So save yourself some time and forget the 6th wheel in the back.
Step 5: Position the Wheels
You're going to be taping these wheel templates onto the body (larger pumpkin), and positioning them so they are evenly distributed, symmetrical, and aligned to one another in such a way that the pumpkin looks like it can roll away at any moment.
The spacing of the 6 wheels is simple. Think of them as 3 "pairs" directly opposite of each other:
- Front and Back
- Left and Right
- Top and Bottom
The distance between any 2 wheels should be equal all around.
If you look at any photos of BB-8 on the web, you'll never see the bottom wheel pointing straight down, nor the left and right wheels perfectly parallel with the ground. This is intentional. The fact that you have a perfectly symmetrical body that is not symmetrical with the ground suggests that it must have moved at some point. Since it's a sphere, we assume that it rolls. That's key. You want your pumpkin to look like it can roll away at any moment. Keeping this in mind...
Decide what the "front" of your pumpkin is going to be. Then place your pumpkin down on a table and twist it until it is facing you. Take out your phone and lower it until it is level with the pumpkin, then snap a picture. Compare your picture with the picture of BB-8 that I provide you with throughout this guide. The GOAL is to shift your wheels around until both pictures match. If you have to take a new picture each time you move a single wheel, do it. Don't overlook how important this step is. This is going to impact the overall look of your finished product and will be the difference between earning a pat on the back to leaving people speechless.
When you've figured out the placement of each wheel, temporarily fix their positions with a single piece of tape because we will be moving them again next.
Now you need to "spin" your wheels. You're not "moving" them like you did in the "Symmetry" part. You are turning them like you turn your steering wheel. Every wheel has to be aligned with its 4 nearest neighbors, and you do this by looking at the "spokes" of each wheel. Please see the photo showing "Good" vs "Bad" alignment.
Taping the Wheels to the Body
Once you've finished all of that, finish taping the rest of each wheel to the pumpkin. You want to get as much of the paper flush with the surface of the pumpkin as possible. You may have to crease some corners, just be careful where you crease. Try to do it in a spot that won't drastically distort any of the designs, or that it won't make the wheel look less round after tracing. Look closely at my photos to see where I made my creases.
Step 6: Trace the Wheels Onto the Body
The Pounce Wheel
Do you see that little orange tool I'm using in the first photo? That's called a pounce wheel. Use the pounce wheel to trace as much of the wheel design as you want through the paper so that it shows up on the skin. The pounce wheel is good because it very delicately punctures the paper without tearing it apart. That being said, the wheel I used was annoyingly small. The muscle between my thumb and index finger fatigued so quickly that I had to take breaks every minute to shake it out. Never thought I'd get a work out carving a pumpkin.
Repeat for all your wheels and remove the paper when you're done.
Step 7: Prep the Surface
Before you paint
Use a brillo pad to shave down whatever imperfections may exist on your pumpkin's surface. Aim for the low-hanging fruit on this. Don't go crazy. When you're done, wipe it down with some Windex and a paper towel.
Admittedly, this part is kind of ridiculous, but you're supposed to sand other things down before you paint them, so why not a pumpkin? It only took a minute.
Step 8: Paint Job
The Fun Part
Spray paint at least 2 coats on both of your pumpkins. Shake thoroughly, spray in a well-ventilated place, and use the plastic sheeting to protect any surfaces that you care about.
Step 9: Carving (Phase 1 of 2)
Mind Your Tools
The way I did it, and the way the instructions on the carving set said to do it, was to carve the outlines of the designs with a narrow cutting tool (triangle) and everything in between with a wide cutting tool (square). I tried to make that as clear as possible in the photos.
Place the pumpkin on your lap and get comfortable. This part takes the longest, and having it on your lap is more efficient than using a table. See how happy I look in the photo?
I suggest carving gently and accurately at first, then going for depth later. Slowly carve along all the dotted lines you made during the tracing step. Then switch tools and work on everything in between. Do this for all the wheels and give them a once over before moving on to the next step.
Step 10: Carving (Phase 2 of 2)
You may want to put on some thick gloves when using the skin peeler. About 5 minutes into this step, I noticed that the pumpkin started bleeding. I thought, "that's a weird thing for pumpkins to do", before realizing the blood came out of my fingertips. Fun fact: a few thin cuts are enough to temporarily make the Touch ID on your phone stop working for several days.
Now you can start going to town with the potato skin peeler, but be careful not to ruin any of your designs. Hold the peeler as shown in the photos, and wear a glove to protect your finger from cuts!
My pumpkin required me to cut about 1 inch deep before poking holes through the surface. I can't imagine this being much different from yours, but be careful not to cut straight through the pumpkin! Holes look awesome at night but terrible during the day.
Ahem... Why does your pumpkin look so different than mine already?
Relax. The mistake was on my part.
When I made my pumpkin, "Carving (Phase 2 of 2)" didn't exist yet. By the end of my project, I had made all these beautiful touch ups and designs and gasped at how well everything turned out. I said to myself, "Yay! I'm finally finished. All I have to do now is stick a candle inside it to make it glow, and then I'll finally be able to post these photos up on Instagram and be king for a day! :D"
Oh except not at all.
I hadn't cut nearly deep enough. I stuck a light inside and not a single photon of light made it out. I had to redo a lot of steps.
The photos in this step are only meant to show you:
- How to use the potato skin peeler
- How deep to go
Ignore everything else.
Step 11: Touch Up the Edges You’ve Just Destroyed
Use the "titanium white" acrylic paint and paint 2 coats using a thick brush.
Step 12: Reinvent the Wheel
I used "silver" acrylic paint for the latches/doors within each wheel. I then outlined them with the "gunmetal" acrylic paint to make them pop, but that's up to you.
You'll notice the designs I provided in the wheel print-outs are more detailed than what I drew on my BB-8. This is also up to you. Be as detailed or lax as you want to be.
Step 13: Connect the Wheels
Every wheel on BB-8 has four lines that visibly "connect" to its four nearest neighbors. These lines are circled above in the photograph of BB-8.
You'll notice that every wheel has four orange "spokes" that protrude inward toward the center of the wheel. The connector lines should be placed exactly halfway between each spoke, and connect perfectly with the same halfway-spoke-point of the wheel next to it. If you followed the "Alignment" instructions in Step 5, you'll see why that was important now.
Use the pounce wheel to lightly indent where the line should go, and the ruler to make that line straight. Use a knife to gently press in the indents you made with the pounce wheel. Not too deep, just enough to be able to see the line from a few feet away.
Step 14: Nuts
See photos for illustration. Use a pointy object to draw circles on the tips of every spoke in every wheel. I used a food thermometer rather than a knife because the knife would produce too thin of a line. You want to be able to see it from a few feet away.
Step 15: More Nuts
For every "connector" line you made, you're going to carve 2 small circles about the diameter of a dime - one on each side. See the photos to see what I'm talking about. For these nuts, (carefully) use the sharp knife.
Step 16: Sand... It Gets Everywhere
Anakin doesn't like sand, but BB-8 might
Do you want a droid that’s fresh off the production line, or one with a personality, belongs to the best pilot in the Resistance, and literally contains the map to Luke Skywalker? If you’re up to it, I highly recommend this step. In it, I will teach you how to make BB-8 look like he just came from some sort of desert adventure.
- White plastic knife thing
- Brown Paint
Outer Wheel Edges
See photos for illustration. Get some brown paint on your palette and spread it out super thin. Next, take your sponge and very lightly dab one of its edges on the brown paint a few times. Then dab the sponge on the outer edge of one of your wheels. Choose an edge that’s out of view so you can practice before moving on to the more visible wheels. Repeat this around all the outer edges of your wheels.
See photos for illustration. Pour out some more brown paint and this time dip the edge of your white plastic knife in the paint. Then press the edge into the “connector” lines you made back in Step 13. You’re essentially turning this connector from a black line to a brown line. No brush I had was thin or reliable enough to do this neatly, so I improvised with the knife and was happy with the results. I hope you are too.
You won’t see any of this sand-work on my pumpkin in the next set of photos. I apologize again for the lack of continuity in my photos, but I hope you can get there by looking at the end result!
Step 17: The Head
Cut the Head in Half, Keep the Bottom Half
Take the smaller pumpkin and cut it in half (horizontally, not vertically). You're only going to use the bottom half.
This should be a breeze since you're only working with half a pumpkin.
Place it on its Stand
Take your soup bowl, and flip it upside down on your workstation. Take the bottom half of the smaller pumpkin, flip it upside down, and place it on top of the soup bowl. Congrats, you now have a cute little pumpkin stand for working off of!
This soup bowl is perfect because you can spin the head around while painting without ruining the bottom edges :D
Unfortunately, I was in a rush and decided to free-hand/carve the entire head because I am an over-confident baboon who failed to appreciate how hard it is to paint, let alone how much harder it is to paint on a pumpkin. So while I can't help you too much with this, just remember to trust in your training, young padawan:
- Use the pounce wheel to "pencil in" the sections you will be carving
- Carve on the dotted lines with the triangle attachment, and in-between with the square
- Then carve with the potato skin peeler
With the head, you should carve straight through this time, rather than stopping at one-inch depth. The orange parts of the head are so small and narrow that any light from the inside won't shine through it unless you completely open them up.
Paint one chopstick white, and the other silver. Let dry. Paint the tip of the silver chopstick with the "deep grey" color. Let dry.
Unless your chopsticks are pointy on one end, don't just shove them into the top of BB-8's head. You might make the head cave in, and that's not the look we're going for. I used a pointy object with a diameter slightly less than that of the chopstick, to make some "guide" holes. That way, I could easily slide the chopsticks in without fear of bashing the head in. You're performing surgery here, not killing zombies.
Hopefully, you purchased the plastic ornament I told you to get because this is where you will be using it. From this point on, I'll be referring to this piece as the "lens".
Split the lens in half and place it face up on a paper towel. Next, apply one or two coats of watered-down "deep grey" paint onto both halves, creating a kind of tinted-glass effect. Don't make it completely opaque. You want some light to shine through.
Once it's dry, shove it into the eye socket you made on BB-8's head. Don't worry if yours doesn't fit right away. Either make the eye-socket wider or reduce the size of the lens.
Repeat this for the second, smaller lens.
Step 18: Celebrate - You're Done!
Congratulations! You're now the proud owner of a brand new BB-8 Droid unit! Take pictures, post them on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and tell everyone to smash that "like" button! Afterwards, you can place BB-8 on the floor and watch as your dog lays next to it and is 100% unimpressed by your art (like my Husky did).
Thanks for viewing my Instructable, and I wish you the best of luck!
"The Force will be with you, always."
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