Make a Floating Dragon

Introduction: Make a Floating Dragon

About: Not-so-mild-mannered Quality Systems Analyst by day. Halloween Evil Overlord by night.

Here's a one-day task that will give you a lot of visual bang for your dollar.


Downloaded image of your dragon

Silver or light-colored backdrop (fabric or plastic sheeting)

Three clear shower curtains (dollar store)

Two 10' PVC pipes (light weight)
Two 2"x2"x8' lumber (or any scrap lumber will do)

Thick cardboard

Course sandpaper, if needed

Black paint

Yardstick (ruler) and colored pens/sharpies

Spray adhesive or double-sided tape (clear)

String or pipe cleaners

6-8 nails or holiday light hangers

Lighting at least three bright, colored LED bulbs and clamping light holders. (Fancy 'flame effect' bulbs and /or starry project light is optional)

Extra backdrop material, scrap wood, and a few screws for a blind to raise and hide the lights, if desired.

Step 1: Find an Image

Find a stylish dragon silhouette on the internet. Please be honest and pay for the image you download from the internet, if fees apply. This handsome fellow is from Depositphotos Inc.

Step 2: Copy the Image Using a Grid

If you have a projector and can project the image onto the big sheet of cardboard to copy it, great! But if you don't, consider the following:

1. Take the image you downloaded and impose 1/2 inch grid lines on top of it. (E.g., using Visio or simply a rule and pen.)

TIP: Using different color lines helps you keep track of where you are in the drawing process.

2. On a large piece of cardboard, draw a 5 inch grid on its surface. Again, if you can use the same color lines as your print out, that will help.

3. Freehand the drawing onto the cardboard, paying particular attention to where the lines of the dragon cross the various grid lines of the cardboard. You'll be amaze at how close you can come to the original drawing.

Step 3: Cut and Paint

1. Once you have drawn the dragon on the cardboard, cut it out.

2. Depending on the thickness of the cardboard, a box cutter might work. For thick cardboard, such as the bicycle shipping box I had, a jigsaw worked well.

3. The jigsaw left some rather jagged edges, but a quick rub with a course sandpaper finished the edges nicely.

4. Paint all the pieces: front, back, and sides.

Step 4: Glue Dragon Onto Clear Sheeting

I tried to find clear plastic sheeting at the hardware store. But despite the labels claiming they were 'clear' all I could find was opaque. So, I bought three clear shower curtains from the Dollar Store and saved myself at least $10.

1. On a large flat surface (such as a floor), lay out the clear shower curtains. Depending upon how big your design is, you might need to tape or glue the sheets together. I ended up taping all three end to end. The top sheet was long enough to reach the top of the garage, the dragon was on the middle sheet, and then the bottom sheet was long enough to reach the ground with plenty extra to wrap around a 2"x2"x8' piece of lumber to keep it in place.

Note: you'll need to cut off the top and bottom of the shower curtains, because that's usually folded over to make it thinker for hanging. All three together made it 6'x17'.

2. Arrange the pieces carefully on the sheet, using the grid drawing as a reference.

3. Use post-it notes or removable tape to identify the key positioning points of your dragon on the plastic sheet. Then you can remove one piece at a time, spray it with glue or apply double-sided tape, and place it carefully back in the right position.

4. Repeat that process until you have adhered all the pieces to the plastic sheeting.

Step 5: Hang the Backdrop and Dragon

I used several yards of very thin, silver fabric that I've used for various backdrops over the last 10 years. It's well worn, wrinkled, ripped, and some of the seams are staples. Any light weight and light colored fabric would do. The opaque plastic sheeting that I rejected would have been fine.

1. Attach the top of the backdrop to a 10 foot, light weight PVC pipe. I sewed the top of the fabric into a sleeve so I could slide the PVC pipe through like a curtain rod.

2. Attach the plastic to another thin PVC pipe (6-8 feet). I made a sleeve out of that with tape, but you could just as easily tape the plastic directly on the PVC pipe.

2. At the top of the shower curtain, poke a few small holes through the backdrop and plastic, up at the base of the PVC piping.

3. Use pipe cleaners or string to tie the backdrop and the plastic together.

4. Raise and secure it to the garage by discreet nails or hooks up near the soffit above the garage door.

5. The bottom of the backdrop and the plastic are not tied together. However, it is helpful to anchor them separately to a PVC pipe or piece of lumber.

Step 6: Setup the Lighting

1. Depending where your dragon is, you may need to build a 'blind' to raise your lighting closer to the base of the dragon.

Tip: cover the blind with the same fabric as the backdrop obscures it nicely.

2. Place your lighting between the backdrop and the plastic layers. Angle the lights up and a bit towards the shiny backdrop.

Step 7: Light It Up!

The blue dragon consists of two blue 'flame effect bulbs' in clamp holders and a round Starry Projector Light.

The gold dragon consists of three amber LED Flame Effect Bulbs' in clamp holder.

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