Introduction: Nightmare Before Christmas Door Decoration

About: Patron Saint of Moscow Mules who sometimes crafts things.

Hello Everyone! This Instructable will take you through the steps of creating this Nightmare Before Christmas door decoration. My apartment has an annual contest each year*, and the movie poster was my inspiration. I was so happy with the results, that I wanted to share the process. I got almost all supplies from the Dollar Tree or 99¢ Store, making this an incredibly affordable project, and construction took me roughly 8 hours over the course of a weekend. I suggest either reading through all the steps or watching the video in full for tips on what I learned along the way.

Apologies for the low-quality photos. I only recorded the project for the video, so the photos are screenshots.

*If you were wondering, I got 2nd place! And now that I know it's based on Facebook likes, I'm prepared for the years to come!


  • black vinyl fabric (or something similar - I found mine at Joann Fabrics)
  • duct tape
  • scissors
  • Exact-o knife
  • cardboard
  • pencil & eraser
  • tissue paper (any color will do for the hill, but white is suggested for the moon)
  • cotton balls
  • Mod Podge or white glue
  • Acrylic paint in yellow, white, black, blue, orange, and brown
  • containers for glue and paint
  • paint brushes in various sizes
  • hot glue gun & hot glue sticks
  • cling wrap
  • string or thread
  • Styrofoam craft pumpkins in various sizes
  • battery tea lights
  • black card stock
  • wooden skewers
  • ruler
  • craft foam block
  • 20 & 22 gage wire (grey is suggested but black and silver will work)
  • needle nose plyers

Step 1: Wrap Your Door in Fabric

Cover the front of your door fully in black fabric. I suggest using vinyl or something similar. The type I found at Joann's came attached to a white interfacing, which was perfect so I could hot glue onto it without it ruining our door. Definitely do a test swatch to be sure your fabric can accommodate hot glue. I bought 2 1/2 yards, which was more than enough, but measurements will vary depending on the size of your door.

Pull the fabric as tightly as possible to create a smooth surface, cutting away any excess. Be sure to take care if you need to move pieces of duct tape, as the tape can potentially lift paint.

Using an exact-o knife, cut openings for the lock, handle, and dead bolts (if needed - see below).

After taping up the fabric, I tested closing our door and found that ours wasn't going to close and open easily due to the thick seal around the perimeter. To remedy this, I cut away even more fabric from the handle and lock side and used thin strips of tape to secure it. Our door frame gave me about about half an inch of leeway to hide the tape on the front when the door was closed. If I did this a second time, I would do this same method on the top of the door as well to allow for easier opening and closing.

Step 2: Mapping & Taping the Cardboard

Flatten out a few cardboard boxes and cut them to create multiple pieces. Using small pieces of duct tape, secure them to the door and Frankenstein them together to form one large piece that will fit the hill. When happy with the placement of each piece, use longer strips of duct tape on the back for added security. Note: you can leave the duct tape on the front, as I suggest taping up the cardboard seams for a later step.

With the full piece back on the door (use a few pieces of duct tape to hold it up), gage where the door handle and lock need to go and cut holes in the cardboard using an exact-o knife. To make the cardboard as flush as possible with the door, continue to shave away cardboard around the handle and lock until the holes are large enough.

Step 3: Drawing the Hill Outline

To get a better idea of where the swirl of the hill should go, start with estimating where the moon will sit. Tie a piece of thread or string to a pencil, hold the thread with your finger or a piece of tape to the high-center of the door, then pull the thread taught and move the pencil around in a full circle. The outline will trace partially onto the cardboard and partially onto the black fabric, which is fine since it will be covered up later on.

Now begin sketching out the hill on the cardboard. I suggest pencil so you can erase any lines if needed. I eventually used two pencils at once for the swirl because I was getting my lines mixed up! Not documented, but I also estimated where my 4 pumpkin halves would go and outlined some circles for them.

When you're happy with your outline, go over it a few times to make it more visible.

Step 4: Gluing the Cotton Layer & Paper Maché

I wanted the hill to have some dimension, so to achieve this, place duct tape over any cardboard seams within the hill outline, then pull apart cotton balls and glue them to the cardboard with mod podge or white glue. This step takes some time, so I suggest putting on something to listen to, creating a cotton ball reserve, and diving in. Note: I made the cotton layer around the door handle very thin so I wouldn't accidentally tear the paper maché when opening the door. I also left the pumpkin spaces clear since they wouldn't be seen.

With the first area of the hill fluffed, paper maché over the cotton with tissue paper, giving extra care to add glue paste to the edges where it meets the cardboard. To make paper maché paste, mix a little water with mod podge or white glue. Be gentle with this step to avoid tearing the tissue paper (but if you do, no big deal. Just patch it up with a little piece of tissue paper).

I worked in sections, but you can choose to glue the cotton all at once and then paper maché.

Step 5: Paper Maché-ing & Painting the Moon

Cover your workspace with cling wrap (this is to protect it from glue) and lay out pieces of white tissue paper. Repeat the pencil and string method from before to create the outline of the moon onto the tissue paper. Then, cover the whole circle in a layer of paper maché paste, giving extra care to the tissue seams to make sure they are secure. Leave the paste to dry completely before painting.

Note: my original idea was to make the moon slightly domed so I could tape string lights underneath and have it be illuminated. To achieve that, I piled some t-shirts and place mats on the table and covered that in cling wrap. Let me tell ya, this did NOT work, nor was it even necessary for the final look. I would have needed many more layers of tissue paper for the dome to hold its shape, and by then, I don't think string lights would have been strong enough to show through the multiple layers of tissue and paint.

Once the paint is dry (which shouldn't take too long), start with yellow paint working outside in, adding more white paint to create a gradient until you get to the white center. I went over the outer-yellow section again to make the yellow more vibrant. Leave to dry.

Step 6: Painting the Hill

Be sure the paper maché on the hill is completely dry before beginning this step. Mixing black and white acrylic paint, begin with a medium gray and paint the sections that are "illuminated" by the light of the moon (use the movie poster for reference). Then, with a darker gray, paint the rest of the hill. I suggest not using straight black paint here so that it stands out against the black fabric. Leave the hill to dry completely.

Step 7: Cutting & Painting Jack-o-Lanterns

With an exact-o knife, cut the styrofoam craft pumpkins in half (I found these at the Dollar Store and followed the seam line). Then, use a pencil to trace jack-o-lantern faces on the front and cut away the pieces with an exact-o knife. Repeat on all four halves.

I moved on to painting next, but I suggest now tracing and cutting holes on the bottom for the tea lights. Trace the tea light outline on the bottom, then cut slightly within the outline so that the tea light fits nice and snug.

I didn't care for the artificial orange color, so using a mixture of orange, yellow, and brown acrylic paint, paint the pumpkins including any white areas now exposed for the faces. Leave to dry.

Step 8: Adding Paint Details to the Hill

To replicate the streaked effect the clay hill has from the movie poster, use a skinny paint brush to paint dark and light streaks onto the hill. For the dark, mix black and blue paint. For the light, use white and a little bit of blue and any leftover gray if you wish. No need to make these streaks perfect, just be sure to paint in the same direction the hill curves in.

Step 9: Cutting the Hill & Moon

When the paint streaks have dried (which shouldn't take long), it's time to free the hill from its excess cardboard! Use very strong scissors to cut away as much of the cardboard as you can. For the smaller areas around the swirl, carefully use an exact-o knife.

When the moon has completely dried, cut away the excess tissue paper.

Step 10: Door Assembly

Start with the moon and use a piece of scotch tape to temporarily secure the top to the door. Use a hot glue gun to glue the perimeter of the moon to the door. I suggest being more liberal with the glue than I was, as the moon started to peel away after a few days and I had to do some emergency repair!

For the hill, use many, many loops of duct tape on the back to support the majority of the weight. Place a good number of loops as close to the edges as possible so that the cardboard sticks flush to the door. For the finishing and the smaller areas of the swirl, use hot glue to secure it down.

For the pumpkins, apply a generous amount of hot glue to the back and hold them against the hill until the glue has cooled and dried.

Step 11: Drawing the Jack & Sally Silhouette

I find it easier to draw something with the aid of a grid, so to make one, I Google Image'd "Jack and Sally silhouette" and found this photo from

Using my iPad, I saved the photo to my camera roll, clicked Edit, then clicked the crop/rotation button. Holding a finger on the photo to bring up grid lines, I then had to use some dexterity to simultaneously take a screenshot. Then I re-cropped the screenshot down to just the Jack & Sally image with the grid lines.

Using a ruler, mark a similar-sized grid onto a piece of black card stock. My silhouette measured about 14in tall and 6in wide, but you may want to adjust these measurements based on the overall size of your door. Then draw the silhouette onto the card stock with pencil.

Step 12: Cutting & Staking the Silhouette

Cut the silhouette using an exact-o knife, taking care that your work surface is protected (I used an old shopping bag underneath). Erase any grid lines left over. I held the silhouette up to the door and found that Sally's back leg wasn't quite long enough to reach the hill, so I added an extension.

Then, using two wooden skewers with the pointy side facing the bottom, hot glue them to the back of the silhouette. Try to glue them at an angle so they are completely covered by the card stock.

Punch the skewers through the tissue at the top of the hill and adjust as needed.

Step 13: Creating the Stone Wall & Fencing

Using craft foam blocks, start by cutting them in half length wise, and then cutting them in half again (I did the second cut later after holding it up to the door and deciding it stuck out too far). Outline the shape of the walls and the stone placement and begin cutting and shaving away the foam with an exact-o knife. In hindsight, I should have made the walls more arched to match the movie poster.

Once happy with the shape, paint the foam in a light grey base, and use a skinny paint brush to paint black into the crevices of the stones. Then, using a sponge brush, sponge on a layer of white and light blue to give the stones some dimension and texture.

For the wire fence, use 3 1/2 to 4in pieces of 20 gage wire for the posts, pushing them about 1/2in into the foam. Using 22 gage wire, run two pieces length-wise across the vertical pieces of wire. Both of these wire sizes are pliable enough to break if you bend the wire back and forth a few times, so if you don't have wire cutters like me, not to fear! I did need the assist of some needle nose pliers to help shape the wire, but note that perfection is not the goal here! A crooked fence is more of a match to a Tim Burton movie anyway!

Using smaller craft pumpkins cut in half (with painted jack-o-lantern faces if desired), cut a few slits in the bottom with an exact-o knife and push them onto the tops of the vertical fence posts.

Lastly, I didn't like that the wire was a shiny silver, so I painted the wire with a few dabs of grey paint. This is optional and may very depending on what wire you use.

Step 14: Gluing the Fences & Finishing Touches

Use generous amounts of hot glue to secure the fences to the door. Be sure the glue has cooled completely before letting them go.

Once on the door, I decided that mine blended in too much with the hill, so I added some more white paint to help them stand out.

Take a moment to go over the door for any necessary paint touch ups or extra gluing, then turn on the tea lights and enjoy!