Introduction: Amazing Dragon Costume From Recycled Cardboard

About: Hello. How's your life? I like to make things. Sometimes I sew clothes I never wear. Sometimes I make wacky, flamboyant cardboard creations that ultimately are dismantled by a cat. If that's your thing, follow…

Greetings. Welcome to my first Instructable. Here, we will be making a super-cool dragon costume out of recycled cardboard. It is the ultimate Halloween attire, whether you're an enthusiastic parent who wants to be smug as you show off your delighted fantasy-loving kid to the rest of the trick-or treaters or a dedicated cosplayer looking to create a artistic, realistic and/or cadaverous and frightening piece that will impress and wow everyone and win all the competitions.

So why build a dragon costume? First of all, you will look amazing in it and everyone at the party or trick-or-treating session will look down at their cheaply-made, mediocre attires and hang their heads in shame. It is fairly easy to make and will cost you absolutely nothing or be very cheap, depending on what you've got lying around. You can also make it your own- add your own colour scheme, flashing lights, speakers, a built-in mini fridge in which to store your trick-or treating haul. I really wouldn't be surprised, with half the amazing things people do on here.

I hope that you enjoy reading this Instructable and maybe making it yourself. Let's get started.


You will need-

-If, like me, you cannot draw dragon wings without them looking like meaningless scribbles, you will need some kind of reference as to what they look like, even templates if you're really not confident or just lazy. I have included some links to good ones in step three. If not, you can draw them freehand.

-A LOT of cardboard. Seriously, you will need tonnes. Order something from Ikea or rummage around in skips to stock up on a load.

- Hot glue gun and lots of hot glue sticks

- A good amount of whatever colour paint you would like. Those big bottles of poster or acrylic paint you can get quite cheaply in craft shops or that your granny may have accumulated are perfect.

-A large paintbrush and a smaller one to add details.

- Again, if, like me, you cannot draw the head of a dragon without it looking like a deformed goat, you will want to have some some kind of dragon head template or reference. It will need to be about 40cm x 30cm, or big enough to obscure your face. (You will need two, one facing left and one facing right, both same size)

- Bamboo in whatever height your dragon wings are, or just a lot of it. You can cut it to size later. It's fairly cheap in lots of places, or you might even be lucky enough to have some growing in your garden.

-Sharpies in whatever colour your dragon is(Optional)

-An old headband

-A good supply of any kind of paper


Step 1: Making the Sides of the Dragon Head

We will start off our latest cardboard creation by making a super-cool helmet to bring the while thing together and intimidate everyone.

- First, take your template (if you're using one) and draw around it twice on your cardboard. I used the dragon head printed on the side of a box of Sharpies, you can use a template or draw it freehand, as long as there are two copies of the silhouette of a dragon head on your bit of cardboard. Cut both pieces out. If your cardboard pieces have lots of logos and things on them, you may want to cover each one in some paper so your dragon doesn't look like it's got Ikea tattooed all over its face.

-Next, decorate what will be the two sides of your dragon helmet. Make sure they are facing opposite ways so that all your decorations face out when you finish it.

-I used Sharpies to decorate mine ,but I would recommend using paint or even printing out patterns, as it will be less time-consuming, however if you've got lots of time using markers will allow you to add the artistic details I could not add. I just did a basic scale pattern and added an eye, a mouth and some horns. Use whichever colours you want, make your dragon really artistic and detailed, make it colourful, make it monochrome. Do whatever with the colour scheme.

Step 2: Constructing the Dragon Head

- Take your old headband and measure how long it is at its widest point. Add on two centimetres to that. Next, measure from the bottom of one of your dragon head pieces around to just above where your eyes would be if you were wearing it. Cut a piece of cardboard where the width is the first measurement and the height is the second measurement. We shall name this piece of cardboard Atticus for reference's sake. I fear I have explained this way too complicatedly, so have included a helpful diagram.

-Before you start gluing Atticus, you will want to decorate him so that you do not have to be manipulating the helmet as you colour. I just did some basic scales, the same as the rest of the head.

- Use your hot glue gun to glue Atticus with the shorter side facing down and just glue it along around the top to form the back of your dragon helmet. You can glue the inside of the helmet and stick it that way, or you can stick it on the outside, it really doesn't matter as long as you have a back to your helmet and you can put your head inside it.

-Now, take the same measurement as the width of Atticus and measure the height of the snout part of your dragon helmet. The new piece of cardboard (We'll name him Ishamel) should be the same width as Atticus and as high as the snout part of your dragon. Again, you will want to decorate Ishamel first so you don't have to struggle with the whole helmet. I added some nostrils with fire coming out of them.

-Take your old headband and add some padding to it simply by adding scraps of cardboard to the inside of each "Prong". It should look like a pair of headphones. Then, glue it to the inside of the top of your helmet, roughly in the middle. The headband will add extra support and make sure the helmet doesn't flop around everywhere when you walk.

-What should your dragon helmet look like if you've done it right? Well, you should have Atticus covering most of the back and Ishamel sealing up the snout and making everything look neat. Ishamel should be around the area where your chin is when you are wearing it and not obscuring your mouth or eyes, and your vision should not be obscured in any way (That's the aim, anyway).

Step 3: Making the Wings- Part 1- Cutting Them Out and Fiddling Around With Templates.

A dragon without wings is merely a lizard. Let's make an awesome dragon backpack to make you look intimidating.

- If you think you will need to use one, grab a template for a dragon wing. Here are the links to some good ones I found. You don't have to use a template, but they are useful. The very simple one. Add veins as you like. This one is easier to paint and more easy to work with in general. I used this one for a reference. - This one is actually to make a puppet with but you can enlarge it. With some veins , membranes and detailing, I think it would make for an intimidating and ominous aesthetic.

- Print out the template. I would recommend about one meter wide by half a meter tall, but your wings can be as big or as small as you would like. Draw around the template twice on your large pieces of cardboard and cut both out.

-If you are not using a template, draw your dragon wing onto the cardboard as big as you would like. Cut it out and draw around it onto another piece of cardboard. You may want to mark out any veins or basic details so you can use these as a reference when you are painting it. Cut this piece out as well- it does not matter which way the wings are facing for now.

-Wether you are using a template or not, you now have two dragon wings. Lay them out so they are facing in opposite directions, like the wings would be if they were on a dragon's back. In pencil, mark out the front and the back of your wings so that you do not end up with two identically facing pieces, which will completely ruin the whole thing. Now to add the bamboo.

Step 4: Making the Wings- Part 2- Using Bamboo to Make Sure the Whole Thing Doesn't Implode

Why bamboo, you ask? Well, it's lightweight. We are aiming for this to be lightweight and wearable. It's also easy to cut and is available almost everywhere. The function of the bamboo is to hold the whole thing together and make sure the whole thing does not crumple and flop, which would be very disappointing. Just make sure to use something else if, perchance, you have a pet panda.

- Measure the height of your dragon wing at its highest point and cut the bamboo so it is long as that measurement. If your wing was 43 centimeters high, your bamboo would be 43 cm long. You get what I mean. Cut two sticks to accommodate the other wing.

-Glue the bamboo to the back of the wing so that it supports the whole structure. To do this, just glue along where you want it to be and stick the cane down firmly. To add extra stability, cut some small pieces of cardboard from scraps and stick them over the bamboo at regular intervals, as pictured.

- Repeat with the other wing.

Step 5: Making the Wings- Part 3- Making Them Wearable

At the moment, you just have two dragon wings. You cannot really wear them in any way. We are now going to make them wearable. It is in a backpack format to make it easy to put on and take off.

- Measure the area of your back. This is your shoulder width times the height of your torso. Cut out a piece of cardboard that it this size. It does not have to be exact, just a basic rectangle that will cover your back. We will call this piece of cardboard Clive.

- Take your dragon wings and put them together, facing opposite directions, front side up. They should be touching at the middle. The, get Clive and place him over the two wings, making sure that the middle is lined up with where the two wings meet. If you lay down on Clive, the wings would be protruding from your sides.

- If you are happy with the positioning of everything, glue Clive down in this position, gluing his two sides to the cardboard underneath.

We are now going to add the straps so your wing piece supported helpfully by Clive can be placed on your back and held there to be funambulised about to your peers.

- Measure the height of your torso. Add five centimiters. Now cut two pieces of cardboard from your scraps that are this length. The width does not matter, but don't make them stick-thin or too wide.

-Curl both pieces of cardboard so they fit the contours of your torso and easy to slip your arms into. The best way to curl any piece of paper or card (I learnt it from an origami book) is to place the thing you want to curl on the edge of a table, put your hand down firmly on it and pull straight down on the edge of it. Do this as many times as is necessary to curl the cardboard nicely.

-Now to glue these straps to the "backpack". As pictured, glue down one of the straps on to the far right of Clive, making sure you do not just stick it down flat, maintaining a curve, again, just like a backpack. You may want to encase each glued-down end in a cocoon of hot glue so that the straps are definitely not going to fall off. I added some padding to the straps by gluing some scraps of cardboard to the inside. Viola! You have the basic, unpainted structure of your dragon wings.

Step 6: Making the Wings- Part 4- PAINT IT!

Your wings, at the moment, look dull, bland and un-dragony. We hope to now rectify that by painting them!

-If your cardboard has lots of logos and things on it, you will want to cover your wings in paper unless you want your dragon to look like it's sponsored by Ikea.

-Mark out any veins, decorations, ect, with pencil.

I would recommend you do your painting outside in the garden so you can make a big mess without worrying about ruining your living space. You can even let it dry out there if it's not going to rain and you weigh it down with a plant pot or something.

- Grab your large paintbrush. I used a 75mm one. Paint the whole of one of your sides with your main colour- green in this case.

-When that's dry, add the details with your small paintbrush. Add veins, wing structures, patterns, shading, scales, whatever you like. Get creative.

- Wait for that to dry and repeat with the other side.

Note- This is just a guideline describing how I did mine. It is completely up to you how you paint your dragon. You can go all artist on it and add shading, optical illusions, realism, the works, or just paint it a nice solid colour. They are equally effective.

Well done! You have successfully made an awesome pair of dragon wings to impress your friends with. Test to see whether they fit you and you can move easily whilst wearing them. Make adjustments to the straps or to Clive if necessary.

Step 7: Making the Tail

Your dragon is missing a tail. A menacing projectile protruding from the rear is essential to any mythical reptile. Let's make one.

-Cut out a bit of cardboard. It does not need to have any specific measurements, just as long as it is not longer than your legs (in fact, it needs to be shorter) and is long and fairly thin. For maximum effect, make it taper to a point at the end.

-Cut out some medium-sized triangles and paint them whatever colour you want on both sides.

-Use your hot glue gun to stick the triangles at regular intervals along your tail to make spines. Don't worry about the glue showing as you can paint over it.

-Paint the rest of your tail whatever your main colour is. It's really that simple. If you want, add another triangle to the end. Add whatever you want to make your tail look menacing and cool.

-Glue the tail to the bottom of the wing-backpack-thing and you are done! You could even use paper fasteners or bolts to attach it to make the tail swing when you walk. If you want the tail to be separate from the rest of the costume, attach it to a belt.

Step 8: You're Done!

Congratulations! You have made an amazing dragon costume with which you can win any costume contest and do Halloween like a boss. My friend who I made mine for absolutely loved it, and I also got my Upcycling badge from Guides for my efforts. Here are some ideas for how you can upgrade your attire and make it even cooler.

-I was originally going to make glowing and blinking eyes for the helmet with two micro:bits, but my plan was foiled by the fact that I drew the eyes first and they were bigger than the micro:bits and we could not find the right battery pack. Also, with only 25 pixels to work with, you are somewhat limited. If you are thinking of making glowing eyes to freak everyone out with, it would be better to use a Unicorn HAT or something as such.

-The costume is most effective if you wear the same colour as what you painted it underneath. You could make details on your chosen underlayer with a Sharpie or embroidery or whatever medium you want to use. Scour charity shops and car boot fairs to find a nice piece and go all out on it.

-If you're really advanced, you could make some custom gauntlets with menacing claws to add to the whole dragon effect. It would also be cool to make matching shoes, but these may crumple as you walk or become mushy on the soggy pavement.

Like I keep saying, feel free to make this dragon costume your own and make it unique. I know that there will be people who will make this an incredible and realistic awe-inspiring embodiment of master cosplay skills. But also feel free to just make it basic and simple. They are equally effective and will still wow people, just on different levels.

I hope you enjoyed my first ever Instructable- the first of many flowery rants in the form of instructions for how to do things. Hope you have a glorious Halloween! Next year we're doing Medusa and Perseus for our costumes. Watch this space!

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