Introduction: Small Halloween Village

About: Hi there! Music teacher, writer, and creative artsy guy here. I love making things from scratch, and Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of all time.

These are instructions on how to build a Halloween Village for your home. The materials you'll require will vary based on how big you want your village to be. My village will be filling an area roughly 74" by 24". To create your halloween village, the following materials are recommended:

  1. Standard Project Poster Board (2 for my project)
  2. One sheet of plywood cut to size based on the area your village will occupy.
  3. Utility knife to cut cardboard.
  4. Assorted boxes, styrofoam and bits of cardboard.
  5. Flour, water, bowl, and sheets of paper for papier-mâché (that is the correct French spelling!) :-)
  6. White acrylic gesso (you can either buy this already made from your local crafts store, or create your own).
  7. Assorted paint brushes and acrylic paints (all colors).
  8. 1-2 bottles of scene-a-rama blue realistic water (This is optional. You can certainly create a pond or lake out of some homemade materials).
  9. Spray glue.
  10. Powdered grass and dirt.
  11. Hot glue gun and glue sticks.
  12. Items for your village. I've been collecting some Department 56 and Lemax pieces for a while now, so I suggest buying a few pieces and building your village up year by year. Other things you can buy include: small tombstones, small halloween figurines, small autumn trees, powdered grass and dirt, and small crafts sticks (or popsicle sticks).

Step 1: Assemble the Base of Your Village.

Based on the area you're working with, using the project display board, create the base for your village. This cardboard will later be affixed to a sheet of plywood.

Step 2: Begin Assembling the Land.

For this step, use whatever you can find to create the terrain and hills that your village will sit upon. They will be hidden, so grab anything and everything! I used boxes, bits of cardboard, styrofoam, and even bits of pink paper crumpled up in little balls. Arrange these items however you'd like on your project's base. Use sheets of cardboard to create hills and add dimension to your terrain. You can even use chicken wire to create the land, but I didn't have any on hand so I used what I had. Once you have the boxes assembled where you want them, hot glue them down so they don't move.

At this point, you can begin figuring out where certain things will go. I had a bridge I really wanted to use, so I figured out where my lake/pond would go and made sure my bridge would fit over it. I also created a little "town square" in the center because I have a little witch figurine statue that will be the central focal point of the village.

Step 3: Papier-mâché Time!!!

This is the best part, because the village terrain comes to life before your eyes. To make my papier-mâché, I just mixed some flour with water until it was a runny soupy mixture. I dipped my strips of paper (any paper will do) into the flour/water mixture, squeezed out any excess liquid, and draped it onto the project. Be sure to smooth out any edges you see and try to make it look as natural and realistic as possible. It's okay if you still can see the outline of the boxes underneath. We will later turn these areas into yards and place fences around the perimeter. Notice too that I traced out the perimeter of my lake/pond; when I create my lake, this will prevent the liquid from running off into the project.

You'll need about two days for your papier-mâché to dry, after which you'll need to do a second layer. Let this layer dry (again, two days). Also, the cardboard you built the project on will begin to pop up and bend. Don't worry about this - we will affix this to our plywood later on.

Step 4: Gesso!!!

This stuff is great! You can find an easy recipe online (I believe all it is is joint compound mixture, glue, and acrylic paint) or buy it already made in your local crafts store. I chose the easy way out. Gesso is basically used to seal your papier-mâché and to create a nice paintable surface. It's a beautiful overall finish to the papier-mâché (I don't recommend you paint right onto the papier-mâché). Again, give the gesso time to dry overnight, and apply a second coat the next day.

Step 5: Begin Painting

The painting process can be as simple or complex as you'd like. After finishing your gesso, I like to do a complete coat in dark brown to cover the entire landscape. This will create a nice "dirt" color for the grass to sit upon. In the pond, I painted the inner portion black to create the image of depth. When we add rocks and water later, this will look really cool!

Once your base coat of brown has dried, take a dry brush and some black paint and go over the entire project this way. Do the same with some green paint as well. By doing so, if any portions are left exposed, they look more natural.

As for the center portion, I decided to do a stone patio. I have a witch statue that will serve as the center of town, so I wanted this to be the center courtyard for the village. This area will later be fenced in (which I'll show you how to do later on).

Step 6: Create Some Faux Stone Pathways.

Using cardboard, create some pathways and patios for your little village so you can feature some of your special little ceramic figurines. I figured out the basic shape I wanted, cut it out, and painted it silver. After hot gluing it down in place, I used black paint and went back to create the look of faux stones. The result is very realistic.

Step 7: Create Realistic Staircases.

Your villagers are going to have some trouble traversing up those steep hills. Help them out by creating some staircases. Using cardboard, cut a piece roughly the size of the staircase you want to create. Carefully, remove the top portion of the cardboard revealing the inner fluted corrugated medium underneath (the curvy thingies) that will be your staircase.

Paint your stairs, allow them to drive, and them hot glue them to your structure in various locations. What's great about this is that the stairs are very posable and can fit into the different curves of the terrain.

Step 8: Create Your Pond.

Using glue, adhere some or your rocks around parts of the pond. You don't have to use store bought rocks, but I had a lot left over from a previous project so I decided to use them. Try to make the rocks look natural and scattered - don't be perfect! :-)

Next, I found this stuff called "scene-a-rama" at Michaels, which is basically a pond/lake in a bottle. I've never used it before, so I gave it a shot. I really like it, but there are other alternatives to making ponds/lakes if you're interested. I would suggest doing whatever you think is most affordable/creative. The scene-a-rama was about $3.00 and for my size lake, I used about 1 and 1/2 bottles of this stuff. Just follow the instructions, and allow time to dry. (It needs about 2 full days).

Step 9: The Town Square

This monument is the centerpiece of your town, and it must look magnificent! I found a witch on a pedestal that I knew would make the perfect centerpiece.

Using some wooden craft sticks (popsicle sticks work too), create a rickety fence around your town square. Don't make it look perfect - this is a halloween village! Paint it white and let it dry before gluing down with hot glue.

Now for the tedious part. If you want to be crazy like me, take a hand full of tiny stones from your back yard, sit down with your hot glue gun, and individually glue down every single stone around the monument of your town square. Now of course, this is not necessary. But as you can see from the final product, it really adds a huge touch of realism.

Step 10: Add Powdered Dirt and Grass.

Using some spray glue (adhesive), spray your landscape and sprinkle a generous amount of powdered dirt around the terrain. Once that has dried, do another layer or spray and then add the powdered grass. I used a salt shaker and put the powdered grass in there - this helped to make sure I covered as much of the terrain as possible. Now because we painted our terrain brown before doing this, you actually won't need a lot of powdered dirt or grass. In fact, leaving some spots patchy will add to the affect and make it look more natural.

Step 11: Add Trees and Shrubbery and Watch the Village Come to Life....

Using an assortment of trees, moss, and other things I found at Michaels, place these things around your terrain (again, trying to make everything look as natural as possible), and watch how your land transforms realistically before your eyes.

Step 12: The Cemetery....

I was so excited to get this part up! Using larger stones I found outside, I made some stone pillars on both sides of my cemetery. Then, using the the halloween fence I bought, I enclosed my cemetery. I added various tombstones, coffins, and statues into the cemetery, along with a terrifying little grim reaper statue. :-)

Step 13: Place Your Village in a Safe (and Visible!) Location and Add the Final Touches!

After you've added your shrubbery, have a grand ol' time and begin adding tombstones, little bales of hay, tiny pumpkins, little figurines, and of course, your light-up houses! This is possibly the best part of the whole project. Be sure to use that terrain (that you spent a lot of time making!) and place figurines everywhere. Remember, you don't have to go out and buy all this stuff. If you're on a budget, buy something small for yourself each year. Your village will grow over the years. I've finally collected enough and this is an amazing way to display it during the autumn season.

*Side note: If you look in the background of the village, you'll see that I also have a starry night backdrop that lights up. We saved this from a christmas village we built last year and decided to reuse it. The materials for this are: cardboard, white lights, and blue plastic table cloth. Adhere the table cloth to the cardboard, allow time to dry, then poke holes large enough for your lights to fit through.

Step 14: The Finished Product...

Remember, always be blasé when people compliment you on your village. Say it was nothing, but be sure to tell them how many hours and how much love it took. Display it in a place where all the world will see it, and when someone asks where you bought the platform, say "Oh, this old thing? I threw this together." :-)

Total amount spent on the platform was (I'm including things such as paint that I already owned so you can have an idea on how much a project like this can cost):

  • Cardboard = $12
  • Two bottles scene-a-rama lake = $6
  • Assorted trees and shrubbery = $20
  • Powdered grass and dirt = $7
  • Gesso = $6
  • Paint = $10

About $61. This price will vary depending on how large your village will be, but remember, if you store it away safely, it will last you through the years. Also, this does not include the figurines and houses you will need. I think all together, my three houses are worth $180, and all my little figurines about $50-$70. But remember, I've been collecting.

Here is a link to a video:

Have a wonderful autumn season and a happy halloween! Please post pictures of your version should you choose to make one.

Halloween Decor Contest 2016

Participated in the
Halloween Decor Contest 2016