Introduction: Minecraft Steve Costume

About: A mechanical engineer by training, but often seek out fun projects at home to satisfy my need to create stuff. I love halloween, cardboard projects, and attempting to teach my kids that making stuff is much mo…

For years we have been trying to convince our kids that Halloween is all about making your costumes, not buying them. Sadly, this has fallen on deaf ears year after year after year. Our vision of what would be awesome and their vision of what would be awesome has never aligned... until now! Thank you Minecraft!

Our kids, like millions of others around the world, are obsessed with all things Minecraft. While I'm not much into gaming myself, I can definitely appreciate the virtues of this game - namely the simplicity and  open-ended creativity that it offers. The simplicity in particular is what made this a logical choice for this year's costumes. The pixelized, blocky look of all of the characters make them perfect for construction out of cardboard - which happens to be free and plentiful. 

After careful consideration of all the possible characters and skins, my son settled on 'Minecraft Steve'. He wanted to make it as recognizable as possible to the most number of people.  Our primary goals for the costume were (1) to make it as close to the actual game character as possible and (2) allow for the mobility that will be required during Trick-or-Treating.  After 2 weeks, 10 sheets of cardboard, and many late nights, it's safe to say that the results exceeded our  expectations.

Materials you will need:

* cardboard sheets
* Photoshop - or similar photo editing software
* sheetrock screws
* liquid nails
* tape - masking and scotch
* 3M spray adhesive
* Velcro
* Gorilla Glue
* scrap foam (like the kind used to package computers or appliances)

Tools you will need:

* color printer
* straight edge
* utility knife and Exacto knife (with lots of replacement blades)
* screw gun/cordless drill

Step 1: Gather Your Source Images

I've found that one of the keys to making a great costume is to have it scaled correctly. I've seen lots of pictures of Minecraft costumes where the head is too small compared to the body, or the arms are too large compared to the body and head. These were most likely made with pre-existing cardboard boxes. To make ours truly to scale, we were going to need to make our own boxes. And to do that required a complete set of dimensions.

The problem with Minecraft Steve is that there really aren't any action figures to measure (at least not in my house). There are, however, hundreds of papercraft templates out there on the web. Step one is to search for a high resolution template. This will give you every dimension you will need for every component to the body. It will also serve to provide the 'skins' for your boxes... but more about that later.

Once you've gathered the dimensions, you will need to then determine your scale factor.  Since this costume is for my son, we took our key scaling dimension off of him. Our scaling dimension was measured from his shoulders to the ground. The thought is that the body portion of the costume is supported by his shoulders, and as a result the shoulders of Minecraft Steve need to match this height. 

The scale factor can then be applied to all of the dimensions from the papercraft template. You are now ready to start cutting cardboard.

Step 2: Make the Body

The rectangular box-shape of the body was constructed from three separate pieces. The front surface and side surfaces were made from a single piece of cardboard with two small flanges - one on each side - for easy attachment of the back surface. We attached the pieces together using liquid nails. Sheet metal screws were used to cinch the pieces together and hold them in place while the glue cured. This provides the added benefit of allowing the partially assembled box to be handled before the glue is dry.

Next the end cap was added. This too had flanges that were used for gluing to the body section. A square shaped hole was later cut into this end cap to allow my son's head to fit through.

Arm holes then need to be added on the side surfaces. Make these oversized to facilitate the process of putting the costume on and taking it off.

Tip: score the cardboard before bending to allow for much cleaner folds.

Step 3: Make the Head

The head, which is essentially a cube, was constructed three separate pieces. The first piece makes up the top of the head and three sides. The three sides fold down from the top surface, which starts to make up the shape of the cube. The edges are secured together with cardboard angles and liquid nails. Sheet metal screws are again used to hold everything together while the glue dries.

The fourth side surface is added and again attached with cardboard angles. If my cardboard sheet were large enough, I would have made this just fold down from the top surface.

Lastly, the bottom surface needs to be added. It has a square hole for a head to poke through. This is attached with cardboard angles.

Step 4: Make the Arms

The arms are essentially rectangular boxes that are capped on one end. Measure, cut and fold your cardboard to form the box section. The cap piece is made from a flat piece with two flanges. We experimented with some different ways to configure the end where your arm fits into and found the most comfortable design was to leave that end open and add a large "D" shaped cutout.  A round hole was then added at the "hand" end to allow for holding a pickaxe or sword.

Step 5: Add Your Skins

The first step is to make your skins. As previously mentioned, we used a high resolution papercraft template as the sorce image for our Minecraft Steve. It took some time to find one that had a high enough resolution to not lose its definition when blown up to 18x its size.

Once you settle on your image, open it in Photoshop. Next open up a blank Photoshop file and set the canvas size to exactly match the dimensions of your surface of interest on the costume. For instance, each side of our head measured 16.25 x 16.25 so we set the canvas size to that for all surfaces on the head.

Back in the papercraft image, select the surface you wish to enlarge and paste it in the new canvas. Perform a free-transform to stretch it to completely fill the canvas. The file can then be saved to a .pdf. I have attached my .pdfs to this step. Keep in mind, these were sized to fit a 10 year old. They are of a high resolution, so  you could stretch them to whatever scale you need.

The file can then be opened in Adobe and printed to a color printer. Be sure to print it with no scaling (100% size).  To do this, select: Page Scaling>Tile Large Pages. You will have to trim the resulting prints and tape them together. The easiest way to trim the prints is with a sharp Exacto knife and a straight edge.

Before attaching your skins, tape all exposed seams on the cardboard with masking tape. This smoothes the transitions and covers the cut edges. 

Use 3M spray adhesive to attach the skins to your cardboard. Again tape all of the exposed seams - but do so with scotch tape this time so that is not noticeable. As much as I love the 3M adhesive, it does tend to peel back at the edges over time. The tape prevents this.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

With the heavy construction done, its time for some final details...

Velcro the head: The head, which ends up being pretty large relative to the body, needs to be secured in place to prevent it from inadvertently flopping off. We used some strips of 2" Velcro and Gorilla glued them to the body and underside of the head.

Eye-hole: Next, cut a hole in the head so that the wearer can see out of it.  We cut along the pixel borders to keep it as clean as possible.

Hand grips: Since the costume arm is much larger than the wearer's arm, we needed to add a feature that could be grabbed with your hand to  keep the arm from falling off.   We cut a U shape piece of styrofoam and glued it near the circular hole with liquid nails.  This worked really well, and allows for maximum flexibility when defending yourself against creepers or mining for cobblestone.

Shoulder pads: Foam was also added under the top surface of the body to prevent the cardboard from digging into my son's shoulders. This significantly improved the comfort of the costume. 

Other additions and ideas: 

* Pickaxe: How can you dress up as Minecraft Steve and not have a pickaxe?  Click here for some quick and easy instructions-->

* Arch-nemesis: Does your Minecraft Steve need a motral enemy? Build a Creeper Costume -->

* Legs: We discussed adding legs to the costume, but ultimately decided that it would making climbing stairs nearly impossible. This would have put a serious damper on trick-or-treating.

Halloween Easy Costumes Contest

Second Prize in the
Halloween Easy Costumes Contest