Introduction: Dragon Costume

About: I am a foam fabricator and own a costume and prop design company called Partybot Designs. I take on commissions of any scale from cosplay costumes to festival stages. Follow me on all social media under "Party…
The 9 month Halloween costume construction project this year is an "international" dragon. I got fact-checked that Chinese dragons don't have wings or three toes. I hope you enjoy the photo shoot with fireworks at a Chinese garden. Nicest groundskeeper EVER. Thanks to Jean-Marcus Strole for the great photography.

If you like the costume, please vote in the upper right corner. Thanks!

Step 1: Design

I wanted a costume that could combine a great articulated wing design from a fellow Instructables user, shoot steam and possibly utilize stilts. Dragon seemed to fit the requirements. Here were some starting designs you can leverage during your build.

Step 2: Materials

I want to give credit up front to fellow creators who helped with starting ideas. In the spirit of Instructables, I tried to fine tune and improve/optimize designs instead of straight copy/paste use.

Dragon head design:
Articulating wings:
Duct tape dragon scales:

Materials: Tons of foam, glue and cardboard.
  • EVA Y-20 Foam (aka Cross-linked Polyethylene Foam or X-linked Polyethylene Foam)
  • Foam Factory has great prices, variety and you can get it in red or white to make painting easier:
  • Cardboard
  • Adhesives: Contact Cement, 3M Super 77 Spray, Elmers Spray Adhesive, Duct Tape and LOTS of hot glue.
  • Paint: Lots of Krylon cans and transparent spray paint for the eyes from a hobby store
  • Acrylic plastic (TAP Plastics)
  • Wire mesh for sculpting horns or nose
  • Flashy fabric
  • PET tubing
  • Metal strapping from structural bracing section of Home Depot for metal subframe
  • Metal frame backpack off Craigslist
  • Fireworks for epic photoshoots
  • Canned air duster for steam effect
  • Expanding foam for sculpting
  • Elmers glue for papermache work
  • Lightweight spackle for sculpting

Step 3: Head

See photo captions for detailed tips.

To give strength I wanted to keep the foam in as big of sections as possible. I used grey/black EVA foam and I highly recommend buying the white instead (same price) or spending $10 more and getting red. It will make painting much easier. Use contact cement for joining all foam whenever possible. Follow the directions and let it cure/dry for 10-15 minutes before joining. Metal strapping should be glued along the back of all pieces to allow for adjustment and shaping (see later photos).

The nose is better described in a later step.

Step 4: Nose

This took patience.

Sculpt the nose shape from metal mesh wire. Hot glue to tack into shape. Wear gloves to avoid a million tiny puncture wounds.Cut 500 tear drop shaped pieces of 1/4" foam. Hot glue each one to the mesh starting on the back and working up and to the front of the nose. Keep in mind it will need to transition onto the rest of the head so longer ones around the edges help.

Once complete I sprayed white and then added oranges, red, yellow and gold to give some depth by spraying at different angles (down, front, scale edges, etc).

You can see the pattern I used to get the nostril shape.

Step 5: Eyes

I built the eyes from clear acrylic plastic which was then sprayed with transparent paint. Each side has a primary green surface (photo 2) and then two tear drop pieces that were attached with contact cement to give a 3-D fanned effect. The pupil was too subtle so I added red plastic bowls with a spiral pattern from the dollar store.

Step 6: Head Scales

The head looked boring and I needed to transition to the horns. I went with the same technique as the nose with larger scales. You'll also see I added the orange shapes to the "cheeks" to give more layers and detail.

Step 7: Teeth

I initially wanted 3-D teeth so I tried out spraying tooth shapes with expanding foam and then sculpting with an electric carving knife. I wasn't happy with the rough texture so I just went with white foam.

Step 8: Horns

I sculpted the wings from wire mesh that was spiraled in a cone shape and then tacked in place using hot glue. The branched secondary horn was spiraled into a cone and then a slit cut to allow it to fit over the original. More hot glue. Then I did paper mache using a 4:1 mixture of elmers glue (bulk jug) and water. The paper edges were too obvious so I added lightweight wall spackle to allow for sanding. Since you're imitating bone, having some rough sand lines adds to the effect. I later sprayed expanding foam inside to help with overall strength and allow for easier mounting.

Step 9: Chest

I took yoga foam and cut it according to the pattern in the photos. Then I upholstered each "scale" with fabric from a vintage ball gown. The scales were then glued as to overlap. In the finished product pictures you can see foam pipe tubing was upholstered and then wrapped around the edge.

NOTE: DO NOT TRY TO PAINT PIPE INSULATION. It has a coating and it will all crack off and make a huge mess.

Step 10: Tail

Pretty simple design. Light weight foam was cut to shape (see photo), sprayed with adhesive and upholstered with the red sequin fabric. 1/2" PET tubing was added to give a "spine" and spray insulation was used to attach the "spine". White spikes were cut out and hot glued on. A wavy ribbon was also added down the top.

Step 11: Dragon Scales (hands/feet)

The scales were based on the dragon scale wine bottle cover on Instructables. I only cut 7/8 of the way through the tape so it stayed attached along a 1/4" strip down the length of the duct tape. The hand is made from EVA foam. The fingers are small pipe insultion. Everything is wrapped in the scales.

Painted with Krylon. Velcro is attached at the wrist. I still need to add claws to the end of the fingers.

I took EVA foam to make a basic shape. I then slit pipe insulation tubing in half and expanded to make each toe. The end was trimmed sharp and wrapped in duct tape. A mesh material was added over the entire thing for a scale effect. Then elastic on the back to stay on your foot.

Step 12: Steam

You can reference my other instructable on how to add steam to your costume.
Halloween Costume Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Costume Contest