Cardboard Transformer Costume




Introduction: Cardboard Transformer Costume

For halloween, I decided to make a Transformers costume (Optimus Prime) out of cardboard. As you can see, in my original blueprint diagram, the plan was to create a costume that was larger than a normal person and for me to be encased inside rather than "wearing" the costume like a piece of clothing.


Items you'll need are :

1. Lots of cardboard. My main source of cardboard was from diaper boxes.

2. Lots of hot glue

3. Scissors and exacto/utility knife

4. backpack straps with buckles. This will be used to secure the costume to my legs and arms. You can buy some from amazon at this link:

5. One elastic band (the kind normally found in clothing).

Step 1: The Feet

I was planning to stand inside the robot itself, perched on top of its feet, which is approximately 10cm in height. Therefore, the feet of the robot must be able to hold up my entire body weight plus the weight of the costume itself. The 2 feet were basically simple cardboard boxes. In order to make the feet strong enough, I hot glued several pieces of cardboard strips, vertically along the inside of the feet.

The robot's feet must be secured to mine. To accomplish this, I fastened 2 backpack straps through the bottom of the robot's foot. My foot would then slip into the 2 straps like slipping on sandals. Once the straps were tightened, I was able to freely walk around with the 2 robot feet under my own.

Step 2: Ankle Joints

Since I was going to be walking with this costume, it is best if the ankle (where the feet meet the leg of the robot) be able to move flexibly like a real joint. To create the ankle joint, I first create a cylinder by rolling up some cardboard. Then I cut a hole (with the same diameter as the cardboard cylinder) from the foot and the leg. Finally, I threaded the cylinder through the 2 holes and voila, a joint is created.

Step 3: Leg

The leg is comprised of 2 rectangular boxes: one box would wrap around my calf; the other box would wrap around my thigh. The calf portion was connected to the foot by the ankle joint (as mentioned in the previous section). Another similar joint was used to hold the thigh and calf section together while also allowing the 2 pieces to freely move. Lastly, backpack straps were wrapped around the leg and buckled to the back of my legs to ensure that the robot legs would move as I move. In the following video, you can see the joints in action.

The boxes the make up the upper and lower leg are not strong enough to maintain their shape on their own. To keep a ridged shape, I created what I like to call "cardboard beams" which will be covered in the next step.

Step 4: "Carboard Beams"

Many pieces of this costume are made up of large cardboard boxes. Since cardboard is not stiff enough to maintain such large square hollow shapes, I need to reinforce the boxes with, what I like to call, cardboard beams.

These beams are used throughout the entire costume.

To begin, I hot glue a strip of cardboard, vertically onto the part that I'm trying to reinforce. Next, I glue another strip of cardboard in a zigzag pattern. Finally, I glue another vertical strip parallel to the first strip. This resulting cardboard beam is surprisingly strong.

Step 5: Torso

The torso is, again, another rectangular box. The torso is attached to my body via 2 backpack straps hung over my shoulders. Each strap was then threaded through 2 holes in the torso.

Step 6: Upper Body

The upper body of the costume was a giant box with one giant opening on the bottom where my head and shoulders would reside. To secure this onto my body, I created 2 "cardboard beams" that are hot glued to the upper body and rest across my shoulders. I ensure that the top of my head would reach very close to the top of the upper body. I planned to have the robot's head directly attached to the top of my head like a hat. You can see in the picture that I created 2 openings on the side of the upper body to allow for my arms to move freely about.

Step 7: Shoulder Joints

The shoulders require the ability to rotate left, right, up and down. I thought the easiest way to implement this was by using a ball joint. The major difficulty was creating the ball itself out of cardboard. First, I rolled up some cardboard to create the shaft. A cardboard ball would then be attached to the shaft. I cut a flat circle of cardboard and cut out a square to allow this flat circle to rest at the top of the shaft. I then glued another flat cardboard circle at a slightly different angle at the top of the shaft. I repeated this process until the ball was completed. In the side profile picture, you can see how the finish ball joint fits snugly into the robot's upper body. Of course, be sure to make the hole in the upper body smaller than the diameter of the ball.

Step 8: Arms

The arms needed to move almost like real arms. Shoulders should rotate freely. The ball joint discussed in the last step took care of most of this. The bicep should rotate on the y-axis and the elbow joint should rotate on the x-axis. Using the same joints as created for the ankle, I placed 3 joints in total in the arm to accomplish these 3 ranges of movements (as depicted in the attached diagram).

Step 9: Head

To create the robot head, I started with a simple rectangular box. I then glued on smaller pieces of cardboard slowly forming the shape of the head as seen in the diagram. After the head was completed, I glue on an elastic band (from an old pair of underwear) at the base of the head. The idea was that I can strap the robot head onto my head by stretching the elastic band under my chin. I would be wearing the robot head like a hat such that I can control the movement of the robot head by simply turning my head.

Step 10: Hands

I wanted to make the robot arms longer than normal human proportions. The idea was to make the robot look like a gorilla. To achieve this look, this would mean that the hands of the robot would be out of reach of my hands. I refer you to my original blueprint at the beginning of this instructable. Therefore, I would not be able to wear the robot hands like gloves, however, I still wanted the ability to control the movement of the robot's fingers. I attached a string on each robot finger. The lengthy string is then tied to a wooden ring that would fit nicely around each of my fingers allowing me to pull on the individual strings. When I pulled on the strings, it would force the robot fingers to curl up, giving me the ability to puppeteer the hands. For this, I followed another tutorial on youtube at this link,

You can see the fingers in motion in my this following video. Also, pay attention to the head and shoulder movements.

Step 11: Finished Product

The only thing left to do is paint. I started with light coats of spray paint primer. After that, I sprayed on 1 coat of the final colors. Since this was such a large costume, it consumed around 12 cans of spray paint.
Here are the pictures and a video of the final costume.

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    1 year ago

    this is the best cardboard project i ever saw, i really hope you win!!!


    1 year ago

    You are so creative! Congratulations! I hope you win the contest!


    1 year ago

    Super impressive work, nicely done!