Introduction: Easy-to-Make Skeleton Costume

(this is posted by my brother)

This is my first time making a costume from scratch. It is a fairly easy project, takes probably less than 7 hours to make, and cost less than 10 bucks.

You will need: 
- cardboard that you can cut in 1 1/2" strips that can be wrapped around your head
- sheets of newspaper to cover the base of the mask
- white glue (Elmer's)
- a hot glue gun and a bag of glue sticks
- a black permanent marker
- white duct tape
- black duct tape
- a hooded sweatshirt
- plain black gloves

Step 1: Building a Mask

Basically, what you want at this beginning step is a covered half dome, and you could really use a number of materials to accomplish this. Here, I used cardboard and newspaper. Cut a 1 1/2" wide piece of cardboard that will fit a little loosely around your head (maybe big enough to stick a finger underneath). Take two more strips of cardboard, one running from the forehead to the back of your head, the other from one ear to the other and attach these to the original strip with your hot glue gun. You will have a circle with crisscrossing strips. When these are complete, begin filling in the empty space and this can be done several ways such as covering a base in fabric or tin foil, for example. I used a few more strips of cardboard to minimize the amount of empty space in the mask base, and covered this with newspaper by covering the mask in white craft glue, and laying down strips of newspaper on top. When I finished that step, I covered it once more in aluminum foil and taped it along the bottom with duct tape, though this isn't necessary.

Step 2: Forming a Skeleton

For this project, I didn't want to create a regular skull, but rather a distorted one. Should you choose to create a different type of skull, this step will at least help you to begin forming a face and bone structure.

Building the bottom part of the face: This mask is design to cover the face only to the end of the nose. It has a nose, jaw and lower teeth, though you could always add more to this. Begin by cutting three strips of cardboard - one that will extend from each side just before the ears and extending to the bottom of the ears, the other in the middle, to extend just below the nose (and be only slightly wider in width than your nose). Attach these to the bottom of the half-dome with a hot glue gun. Next, cut a long strip of cardboard long enough to run from the strip near one ear to the strip placed near the other. The strip should be at least 2" thick and cut to curve slightly like a U along the top. This is the start of the jaw, nose and holes for the eyes.

Creating the nose: To crease the nose, simply cut a piece of cardboard that is about 4 or 5 inches and bend it like an upside down U. Glue this to the strip where your nose is and insert a small square in the middle to complete the nose.

With this mask being made of cardboard, it will be easy to cut and make changes or additions where you see fit. For example, I trimmed the area along the lower part of the eye holes so it would have more of a circular shape.

Step 3: Shaping the Eyes

The eyes, as well as the rest of the bone structure you want to shape for this or any other mask is fairly easy - you simply take newspaper and roll it up into your desired thickness and attach it to the mask. Rather than paint this mask, I decided to cover it in white and black duct tape, which made it easier to go over the areas formed by the rolled paper. In the photos attached to this step, notice that the left eye on the mask is very large, and extends up close to the top of the skull. The bone structure is modeled with thick rolls of newspaper while the eye on the right, is much simpler and uses a thin roll of newspaper for its shape.

For this costume, I wanted to create giant, distorted eyes, and you could alter this in a number of way. Since the eyes cover part of the half-dome (top half) of the mask, I filled these in with black duct tape. If you wanted a more complete look, you could wear black cream make up in the area of your face that is exposed by the eye holds, or you could find a think fabric or other alternative for covering the eyes on the mask completely, but still keeping in mind not blocking your visibility.

Step 4: Adding a Row of Teeth

Rather than create a full face mask, I wanted to make the mask to extend only as far as the upper set of teeth. This way, for example, I wouldn't have to constantly remove the mask to talk or eat (I wore this to a costume party). The teeth can all be one piece, and you simple attach this to that lower part of the jaw. I cut a larger piece of cardboard than needed (and cut this down eventually below the teeth line), and drew a row of teeth. You can do two things when you have the teeth drawn: either cut the broader outline and fill in the space between the teeth with the black marker or black duct tape, or cut out only the teeth. Keep in mind that if the teeth are too thin, they become less durable and probably more likely to curl up or inward and get in your way.

Notice in this photo that I also began taping and giving shape to the rest of the mask before working on the teeth.

Step 5: Covering the Mask

Again, you can use any number o f materials to fill in and cover your mask. I didn't really have enough time to paint it (spray paint is not recommended, especially if you will be wearing your costume within a short time of spray painting, as it retains the smell and fumes of the paint). If you do paint your mask, consider using acrylic paints and building a smoother surface with modeling paste (sold in art stores). For this example, I used white and black duct tape to color my mask. In a way that is better than paint because you can continue to the shape the mask, giving your greater flexibility to the very end. Start by covering all visible areas in white (or whatever color duct tape you want your mask to be), and then apply the darker color. For hard-to-reach areas, consider using a permanent marker. This came in handy in the space between the nose.

Step 6: Creating an Upper Body Skeleton

This project had to be done fairly quickly, so to form a skeletal body, I grabbed an old hooded sweatshirt and picked up a pair of children's black knit gloves (at the cost of a dollar). I used the white duct tape to tape a skeletal outline to my shirt, and then onto the gloves. This is ideal for those who don't want to ruin clothes for their costume, since the tape is easily removable when you're done. If there had been more time, I would have liked to apply either glow-in-the-dark paint or tape to the costume.

This entire costume cost less than $10 to design and create.

For those interested in doing a Day of the Dead costume, you can of course apply a variety of designs to the mask, and maybe add a sombrero or mariachi hat, and poncho to fit that theme.

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