Introduction: Hot Glue Special Effects

About: I'm an art teacher by day and an extreme art and DIY enthusiast by night! I love creating custom work for myself, friends, family, and anyone else interested in finding that perfect piece for their own unique…

We all know how to use hot glue to hold stuff together. It's in the name: hot GLUE. It's glue! But it's so much more than that! Take it from me, a high school art teacher, hot glue is one of the most versatile materials I've ever come across. I use it in my mixed media artwork, in clever household hacks, and to create holiday decorations, but my absolute favorite way to use hot glue is creating special effects for masks, props, and other sculptural projects. With this Instructable I will share with you some of my best hot glue effects! As you explore, keep in mind that these techniques can be used in more ways than I could ever imagine, so I hope that you are able to incorporate these methods into your very own unique creations!


Any size hot glue gun and clear glue sticks to go with it

Acrylic or latex paints


Aluminum foil

Masking tape


Liquid starch or Mod Podge (or some other paper mache liquid of your choosing)


Ping pong ball

Various materials specific to your own projects

Step 1: Technique #1: Chameleon Skin

  1. Create the basic form of your chameleon using any technique you prefer. I chose a large scale chameleon head made from cardboard, masking tape, and aluminum foil. The shape of the head is made from various sizes and shapes of cardboard (held together with hot glue), and strips of tape to create some of the curves. I baled up aluminum foil to make the round bulging eyes. When I was happy with the shape I covered it in paper mache.
  2. When the paper mache has dried use hot glue to make small dots all over your chameleon base. For the best results move slowly and with precision. You want your dots to all be about the same size and the placement of the dots to be well thought out.
  3. Once all of the hot glue has cooled, use acrylic or latex paint to add color and detail to your chameleon.

Step 2: Technique #2: Snakeskin

  1. Create a 3-dimensional form of a snake. I created mine by molding aluminum foil and then covering it with masking tape.
  2. Use the hot glue to "draw" a snakeskin pattern of your choosing. You can create detailed, realistic patterns or simple patterns.
  3. Use acrylic or latex paint to add color and detail to your snake.

*Tip: You can cover the foil with paper mache too. If you use small pieces and multiple layers your snake will have a smoother texture and be more durable.

Step 3: Technique #3: Octopus Tentacles - Suction Cups

  1. Create the form of your octopus and tentacles. My tentacles are made from aluminum foil attached to toilet paper rolls.
  2. Cover your tentacles with paper mache or masking tape.
  3. Use the hot glue to "draw" circles/suction cup patterns on the underside of each tentacle.
  4. Use acrylic or latex paint to add color and detail to your octopus and tentacles.

Step 4: Technique #4: Creepy Web Effect

This technique can be used to create a spiderweb effect. My examples illustrate how to make a realistic spiderweb, a mask based off of Marvel's Venom character, and a creepy mask with empty eye sockets filled with spiderwebs. No matter what you're using this effect for, it's always made the same way:

  1. Apply the hot glue to your surface. Work in small sections at a time.
  2. While the glue is still hot, use a toothpick to touch the hot glue and then pull away. You should see a very thin strand of hot glue stretching out in the direction you pulled. You can do this multiple times while the glue is still warm until you have achieved the desired "webbiness." You can also use the tip of the glue gun the same way as the toothpick.
  3. As you pull the strands of glue make sure you pull them in the direction you want them to stay in once the glue cools. If you are creating a realistic spider web you will want to wrap the strands around something.
  4. You can use acrylic or latex paint to add color.

Tip: It is important to work in small sections so that the glue doesn't cool off before you have a chance to pull the strands. Because the strands of glue are so thin, they will cool much faster.

Step 5: Technique #5: Sea Monster Fins

  1. Use aluminum foil to shape the "spines" of the fin.
  2. Cover the foil with masking tape.
  3. Attach one end of each "spine" to a piece of aluminum foil. The spines should form a triangle-like shape.
  4. Cover any remaining foil with masking tape.
  5. Paint the "spines" and let dry.
  6. Place a piece of transparency under the "spines" and use a sharpie to trace a template so you know where to cute the transparency.
  7. Apply hot glue to the underside of the "spine" form and lay on top of a transparency sheet with glue side down.
  8. Trim away the excess transparency.
  9. Use hot glue to "draw" a pattern onto the transparency (you can use any kind of pattern you like).

*Tip: I like to make myself a template by drawing out the fin pattern on copy paper first. I place the paper under the fin and trace the pattern using the hot glue gun.

Step 6: Technique #6: Tree Roots

  1. Use the hot glue to "draw" your roots on the desired surface (my example shows a root texture that is used to create texture in a mask).
  2. Use acrylic or latex paint to cover the hot glue.

Tip: Sprinkle sand/dirt over the glue before it cools to create even more texture.

Step 7: Technique #7: Blood and Gore

Hot glue can be used to create a variety of gory details and effects such as:

  1. Gaping wound:
    1. Paint the designated area with various reds and browns (or any colors that will make your wound look as gory as possible).
    2. Apply gobs of hot glue in and around the wound. Let the glue drip to get a more natural effect.
    3. Use the same paint from step one to paint over the cooled piles of glue.

  2. Protruding eyeball:
    1. Mold aluminum foil to create the optic nerve. The foil should gradually get thinner on one end.
    2. Cover the foil in hot glue, allowing the glue to drip in some places. You may need to apply the glue in layers, letting each layer cool before adding the next.
    3. While your last layer of glue is still warm use a toothpick or your fingers to make the texture of the glue rough.
    4. Paint the optic nerve using reds, browns, and other bloody colors. Allow to dry.
    5. Attach the smaller end of the "optic nerve" to a ping pong ball using hot glue. Use the hot glue to create a dripping effect where they eyeball and nerve meet. This will add some extra core and hold the two pieces together more securely.
    6. Paint any area you have added glue to as well as the details of the eye on the ping pong ball.


  • For a more realistic effect, I like to print out an image of an iris and use Mod Podge to stick it to the ping pong ball.
  • Use the "web" method from Technique #4 to stretch out the hot glue. When the glue as cooled, paint with various red acrylic/latex paints. This can add to the gore level.
  • Using the "tree root" method from Technique #6, you can to create bulging, bloody veins by "drawing" a vein pattern on your surface.

WARNING: Do not apply hot glue directly to skin. These techniques are meant to be used for props and/or decorative purposes.

Step 8: Technique #8: Wet and Slimy Drooling Effect

This technique can be used on any 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional object with a mouth. It is very simple!

  1. Apply hot glue in and around the mouth, teeth, and tongue. Allow the glue to drip in some areas. Use Technique #4 to create thinner strands of saliva.

Step 9: Technique #9: Morning Dew

This technique can be used on a variety of objects such as silk flowers, fake fruits and veggies, and even actual items from nature (leaves, sticks, etc.).

  1. Carefully apply dots of hot glue to your item. You do not want there to be any stray strands of hot glue coming off of the dots. Make sure your dots are different sizes.

Step 10: Technique #10: Horns

  1. Create a 3-dimensional horn. There are so many ways to do this, but I used aluminum foil attached to part of a toilet paper roll.
  2. Cover with paper mache.
  3. Use hot glue to make rings that wrap all the way around your horns.
  4. Paint using acrylic/latex paint.

*Tip: You can use hot glue the same way as Technique #1 to create the bumpy texture found at the base of many deer antlers.

Step 11: More Ways to Use Hot Glue!

There are so many create ways that hot glue can be used. All of these techniques can be re-imagined to work for your own projects.

I wanted to include some other ways I have used hot glue in the past so you can see just how versatile it can be:

  • wrinkles in a pig's nose
  • moon craters
  • glitter tears
  • whiskers
  • waterfall

Hot Glue Speed Challenge

Second Prize in the
Hot Glue Speed Challenge