Introduction: DIY Toruk Makto (Leonopteryx) From Avatar

About: I am a 14 year old aussie that loves to make and share stuff! I make props, models, and artwork about pop culture and the things i love.

This is a step by step on how I made my Leonopteryx, please take this Instructable as more of a base to expand upon, as things will be a lot more fun if you use your imagination to guide the way. As this is my first Instructable, the wording or layout may not be to a higher standard, but please know that I am trying my best :)

Onto the build!

Step 1: Ideas and Materials

The first step is to gather your ideas and materials. in this instructable I will be making a flying dragon/ alien of sorts from the movie avatar (leonopteryx), so I will have a lot of inspiration to play with.

For the materials I tried to get everything sourced locally, so you should be able to buy the ingredients from your area.


metal wire strong enough for armature

polymer clay for teeth/ claws

air dry or homemade paper mache clay

lots and lots of white pva glue (elmers)

tin/ aluminium foil

masking tape


optional air-brush for "fancy" painting



lots of white fabric for clothe mache

sculpting tools (homemade or bought, just something carve clay with:)

hot glue

sylastic or some other strong glue (kinda optional, just what I used)

and that's pretty much it, it may seem like a lot but I had most of this stuff at home, and everything else I could buy from the local crafts shop. (please take note that I am only 13 at the time of making this, so my building standards may not be as high as people who have more experience:)

onto the actual build!

Step 2: The Skeleton and Muscles

for the beginning of the bird we need to make a skeleton/ armature, I made mine out of a stable cable wire.

to make the armature simply bend wire over itself until you have a skeleton that resembles what you are making. The next step I took a bit of inspiration from marco makes where he adds pieces of tape to a basic shape to define the muscles and features. instead of just tape I used foil, tape, and hot glue to stick the pieces together. after making the muscles and such pop, I covered the whole build in a layer of tape to make it easier to "cloth mache" onto later.

Step 3: All About Cloth Mache

Cloth mache is a technique devised by Dan Reeder where you get a white cloth (usually an old bed sheet or pillow sheet), dip it in Elmers glue and drape it over your model. Its kind of like paper mache except with glue and cloth (hence the name).

So I covered the sculptures' body, legs, and arms with the cloth mache, and started making some more defined features with some homemade clay (btw you don't have to use homemade clay, normal airdrying modelling clay will do but it often cracks, plus I didn't have any on hand). After adding some details in with clay I waited for everything to dry before covering it with a layer of Elmers glue to seal any cracks.

if you saw in the pictures I made the armature have a couple "bones" in the wings, this is to help cover the wings with cloth mache by roughly measuring a sheet and draping it over the armature. (Dan Reeder specialises in making cloth mache dragons and he has a lot of experience in making wings, so if you ever want more detail about working with cloth mache his blog is a good place to start). After I added the 2 sets of wings (yes it has 2 sets of wings, as well as weird claw shaped feathery things on his fingers) I cut out the sickle shaped finger claws and started working on the polymer clay side of things.

Step 4: Polymer Clay and Touch Ups

For the claws, small details, and head I used polymer clay. Polymer clay is an oven baked clay that can be bought from just about every arts and craft shop, there are also thousands of tutorials on youtube and such showing how to sculpt and work with the stuff. I used about two or three small packets of Sculpey, and cooked it at 100 degrees Celsius, or 212 Fahrenheit (or at least that's the temperature it should have been cooked at, I heated it at around 170 c for this build and thus burnt most of the clay. So if you are cooking polymer clay make sure you cook it at alow temp!).

For the claws I just rolled a thin sausage of clay into a sickle shape and cooked it on a tray lined with foil. For the head I started with 2 basic shapes I had made out of scrunched foil (the top and bottom jaw) then covered them with a layer of clay. I then slowly added details and features to the build and finally carved in textures to the crest, and head. after touching it up I put it in the oven (and may have burnt it slightly;).

Finally I glued the claws into parts I had sculpted in with my homemade clay (the claw and feet areas) then added some final touches to the sculpt. I didn't glue the head to the neck/ body because I was going to paint them separately (it would be easier). after the sculpt was basically done I covered it in a small layer of Elmers glue.

Onto painting we go!

Step 5: All About Painting!

I used an airbrush for painting (big flex I know) and while it did a really great job of blending colours and overall painting, you could also do a great job with a brush and a bit of effort. I used a brush for the head with acrylic paint, and an airbrush with a mix of watered down acrylic and some proper airbrush paint (normal acrylic will work well, don't worry too much about proper airbrush paint).

For the head I started with a white base coat and then added some basic red, gum, and blue crest colours. I then painted the base colour of the eye and added a black pupil with a little "reflective" speck of white in the corner. Finally I added some finishing touches and painted a very basic black wash (Dan Reeder shows how effective black washing is in making shadows and details pop with pretty much all of his models). The basics of black washing is to water down a really dark colour (black), paint a basic wash over your model, and then wipe it away with a cloth or towel. The technique is often used with miniatures and little sets, but can be used here if not too much black paint is applied.

For the rest of the model I started by painting a base coat of yellow with a brush, and adding the more extreme colours after. Once I got the basic colours down, I booted up my airbrush and mini compressor (Make sure you use a mini compressor with an airbrush or else you will break it, trust me I know from experience:) I then started blending in darker colours with the lighter ones, while making sure not to go overboard other wise the paint may start to drip away. For the airbrush paints themselves I diluted some acrylic paint with water as well as using proper airbrush paint for a good mixture. You don't need too much water as it will make the model start flaking away with moisture, but too little water and the paint wont come out the airbrush, you really just want a good consistency.

Please remember that you can get a brush and lightly paint your colours to blend them in, I just had an airbrush handy.

Onto the finishing touches!

Step 6: Finishing Touches!

With everything painted I glued the head to the neck of the Leonopteryx with sylastic (you don't have to use silicone but I had it handy) then wrapped the exposed area with some cloth mache and painted it with a brush.

After all the painting was done the last thing to do were the sort of "tiger" or "tattoo" stripes running down the entire model. All I had to do was carefully trace out the lines with a grey lead using reference photos, and then go over them with either a lick of paint or a permanent marker. With that done I gave it a coating of modge podge and let it dry.

With everything complete I had an all homemade model of a Leonopteryx from Avatar!

It has a wingspan of 60 cm (23.6 inches) and a length of around 55 cm (21.6 inches). It took about a month (on and off) of making and trial and error to finalise (I estimate you could get it done in a week or so if you were really dedicated to it).

Some things that I would do differently would be to cook the clay at a lower temp, add some more details to wings (they are see through on the tips in the movie) and maybe add some dry brushed highlights to some areas. But other than that I was happy with my build, and I hope if you manage to make one you will get creative with it and have some fun!

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