Introduction: Creating a Demon Costume

About: Born in Canada, married and now living in the United States. I am trained as animator but dabble in a lot of other creative things. I pick up what freelance work I can for art and costuming and am attemptin…

I'm a costumer and like to challenge myself. Frequently, I try things that I'm not even sure will work. This costume was one of those times that it did work out rather beautifully.

This costume of mine was actually built in 2004. Being a fan of Hellboy (and of course, monsters), I got the idea into my head to try to build a Sammael suit. The techniques I used for him could easily be applied to any other sort of creepy squishy skinned critter or demon. It is very work intensive and there are cases where there were better ways to go about doing what I did but they were unavailable to me at the time. I offer alternative suggestions where I can.

The hours put into this costume from start to finish was over 200 hours spread over about four months. The cost was roughly $500.

Thank you for checking out my first Instructable, and I hope that it helps give you ideas for big, creepy monsters of your own!

Step 1: Concept

Generally, it's a lot easier to work on something complicated like this type of costume if you do some concept art first. It will solidify the idea in your head and help you sort out problems before you start doing the actual work.

In this case, I did a front and side view in mechanical pencil. This allowed me to figure out where the splits in the body would have to be to allow me to move and get a feel of how it would affect the costume as a whole.

It is not necessary to stick to the concepts fully when you start building. As you will see, some things evolved from the concept art as I worked on the actual costume.

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Depending on the monster you're building, your needs may vary. You can also improvise on what I used in order to create the various bits.

The key materials I used in this costume were:

Plastic canvas
Brass paper fasteners
Upholstery foam (I used 1" thick)
Plasti-Dip (liquid latex can be substituted)
Spandex fabric
Copper wire
Copper tubing
Acrylic paint
Spray sealer
Quilt batting

The tools I used:

Scissors (anything you can use to carve the foam will work)
Utility knife
Sewing needle
Hot glue gun

Some of the details were made with random things that I found that would suit the purpose. The eyes were made with a bit of fabric, Crayola Model Magic, two halves of a clear, hollow ball and some bits cut from a cheap beach ball. Be creative with whatever you have on hand!

Step 3: Starting the Head

For the head, the first step is to build a sort of helmet shape out of plastic canvas that will fit snugly to your head. This is the part that will make the demon head move smoothly with your own, so be sure you make it sturdy and make sure it fits! You don't want it to flop around! I use yarn to stitch the sheets of plastic canvas together.

As an alternative, you can start with an actual helmet of some sort. Just be warned that building off an actual helmet will mess with your proportions. By building with plastic canvas, you can keep the proportions more under control.

If you are going to want a movable jaw (see next step), make sure you have extra plastic canvas on the sides as shown in the photo.

Step 4: Adding the Muzzle and Jaw

After you have your snug-fitting helmet base, you can start building the base for the features of your critter.

Add the rough shapes for the muzzle using plastic canvas. Reinforce as necessary. Again, the key is to keep things strong and sturdy! Keep the proportions on the small side for now because you'll be adding foam over top later and you don't want it to make the mask look too big. This is also the time to consider where you want your sight to be in the mask. If you're wanting to see out the eyes, make sure you leave space in the structure to make hidden spots of mesh to see through. In the case of Sammael, my visibility was primarily through his nose.

After you get the structure for the muzzle done, it's time to add the jaw. You have two options. You can make the jaw stationary and build as you did for the muzzle (making sure you can still fit the mask over your head!), or make a hinged jaw that will move with your own jaw to some degree.

To build a moveable jaw, first build it out of plastic canvas in proportion to the rest of the base. Attach it with brass fasteners where the hinge in your own jaw sits and line it up with the mask's muzzle. Try the mask on and make sure that you can fit it comfortably over your head.

Glue a piece of foam where your jaw sits so act as a cushion and contact point. Then attach elastics forward of the hinge point (but where they'll be reasonably well hidden in the finished mask) on either side. They should by tight enough to keep the jaw closed, but loose enough that when you are wearing the mask and open your mouth the pressure from your jaw will force the mask's jaw open. To attach the elastics, I used more brass fasteners - the elastics just looped over the head of the fastener on the inside of the jaw.

Step 5: Foaming the Head

Next, you start covering the head with upholstery foam. This is the rough stage, but it builds the final dimensions and shapes for the mask. Start with one layer of foam over the whole mask, then add another layer where you need more shaping.

I used hot glue to do all this, but other types of glue may work as well. The key with the hot glue is to work small sections at a time and clamp them with a tool or your own hands for a minute or two so it sets everything properly. The hotter the glue is when it's clamped, the stronger it'll hold the foam and plastic canvas.

If you are doing a hinged jaw, be extra careful and make sure that the jaw piece is foamed separately from the rest of the head. You want it to be able to rotate and not snag on anything.

Step 6: Carving the Head

Now, start carving the base! This is where your pre-planning comes in. Because this costume isn't covered in fabric, all the detail is in how you carve the foam. Any tool you have that will cut foam and give you the detail you want will work. I did all the carving work on Sammael with a combination of a pair of small scissors and a utility knife.

After carving all the detail, be sure to carve out any openings you need for other details and/or to see through. For my Sammael costume, I hollowed out the eye sockets, tooth sockets and shaped the nose. Also, here you can see where the jaw's foam is separate from the main part of the head so it can rotate freely.

Step 7: Tentacles

My Sammael has a mane of tentacles. This may not apply to every demon costume, but this is how I did the ones for Sammael.

The tentacles consist of a copper wire core wrapped in quilt batting. This forms the core, which is shaped by lashing each tentable in yarn so it tapers. A spandex sheath was sewn for each tentacle and pulled over the core.

The tentacles are not attached at this point. They were painted along with the rest of the costume and hand sewn to the head as a final step.

Step 8: Arm Extensions (optional)

This is a step that I actually handed off to somebody else and is an optional feature to anybody making a costume like this so I will be unable to answer any detailed questions about how to solder together a rig like this.

Sammael's arms are longer than my own, so I wanted to extend the arms a bit. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, but in this case I opted for a sort of crutch that would later be contained by the foam.

The arm extensions are made of copper pipe. It's all standard pieces fitted together and soldered. The result was a pair of very sturdy crutches that could take the strain of my body weight if I leaned on them.

Step 9: Creating the Rough Body

Creating the body pieces is very much the same as foaming the head, but instead of using a built base you are using your own body as the base. If you have arm extensions build, you are building over those as well.

Work a piece at a time and build the base layer before adding any secondary layers for shaping or detail.

Take into consideration how you are going to get in and out of the costume. In my case, I decided I was going to make the chest a removable panel. However, to make it easier to carve I did the whole torso as a solid piece and left the separation of the chest panel til later on.

The arms and legs work the same way. Make tubes that fit over the part of the body that you're covering, then add layers of foam as needed to rough in the shape that you want.

TIP: Because of being made out of foam, this type of costume gets hellishly hot. If your critter has a hump, design your costume so there's a hollow space under the hump. This will allow you to wear a hydration pack on your back so you have a water supply to drink. The hose may be difficult to disguise, but believe me - it's worth having!

Step 10: Carving the Body

As with the mask, start carving out your detail from the foam base for the various sections of body. If there are small details like warts or horns, carve them separately and glue them on.

Once you are done that, you can make any removable panels you need, like the chest in my Sammael costume. To keep those sections together with the main body when you are wearing it, use strips of velcro.

Step 11: Coating the Foam and Painting

Before you can paint your costume, you have to give it a tougher, less absorbent surface.

The product I used to cover Sammael with a "skin" is Plasti-dip. Liquid latex would work in a similar way. Using a brush, coat the entire outside surface of the costume. It may take a few coats to get a decent surface. If using liquid latex, you can also mix it with acrylics so you get a base colour other than white to work with. Be sure you are working in a well ventilated area when coating your costume! Both Plasti-dip and latex are very smelly and are unhealthy to work with in confined areas.

Once you are happy with the skin, you can go ahead and start painting the entire costume with an airbrush. Start with a flat base coat of one colour, then start adding highlights and details to improve the look of it. Once you're happy with everything, give it a coat or two of matte spray sealer. If you have done tentacles, once you paint and seal them you can sew them to the costume.

Step 12: Eyes, Teeth and Other Details

At this point, you can figure out what other things you'd like to do with the mask and body. In Sammael, all those extra details to worry about were in the mask, so I'm focusing on that.

The eyes I did would be difficult to duplicate exactly because they were made from found objects. I used halves of a clear, hollow rubber ball as the base for the eyes and backed them with coloured rubber cut from another ball and a bit of fabric. Those were placed in the eye sockets of the mask, then I sculpted the detail around them with Crayola model magic. Once that dried, it was painted and sealed.

The teeth were sculpted out of Sculpey, baked, painted, sealed and glued into the sockets I had carved for them on the mask.

Step 13: Putting It All Together

You are now at the point where you have a mostly-finished costume, but what about those awful gaps between the sections of carved foam?

To fix this, airbrush a large section of spandex. What you need to do is cut strips of fabric and sew or glue them on one side of each joint. On the other end of the joint, attach using velcro so the fabric can be detached and make removal of the costume easier.

Step 14: Try It on and Have Fun!

You costume is now done! If there are any other tidbits you'd like to add to it, this is the time to do it! Try it on and if there are any adjustments you need to make, fix them.

Some tips:

Stay hydrated! This is VERY important! Your body is more or less surrounded by 1" or more of foam and you're going to get incredibly hot in it. If you haven't built it to allow a hydration pack to be worn under it, be sure you drink fluids in a more conventional fashion as frequently as you can. Hey, there's entertainment to be had in a monster downing a bottle of water.

Wear something underneath the foam. I wore a pair of bike shorts and a race top. Not only does this prevent friction on sensitive bits, but if you have to exit the costume in public for any reason you won't find yourself parading around in the nude.

Have at least one friend around who is willing to be your wrangler. More is even better. They will be able to watch your back and help you when you need it. This type of costume limits your visibility and your ability to do simple tasks like opening a door. Your wrangler(s) will prevent you from getting into situations that would lead to you getting hurt or your costume getting damaged. People can be complete idiots around somebody in a costume that puts them at a disadvantage and your wranglers will be enough to deter most of the stupidity.

I hope this tutorial has given you ideas! Go make monsters and have some fun!

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