Introduction: Sonic Boom (Skylanders) Piñata - Display Only

For his 8th birthday, my son asked for a piñata. Since he's a big Skylanders fan, he chose a character - specifically, Sonic Boom, who is a black griffin-like creature. This is my guide to how I made a griffin piñata strictly for display.

What you'll need:
2 9" latex balloons (color doesn't matter)
2 rolls black crepe paper streamer
1 roll gold/bright yellow crepe paper streamer
10 grey cocktail napkins
aluminum tape
aluminum foil
cardboard pieces - cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, small boxes
bright green card stock for eyes
black rollerball pen
black sharpie
white glue
water (approx 1/2 cup)
yarn or string for hanging
LOTS and LOTS of adhesive tape (such as used for wrapping presents) - I went through 4 rolls

Time to make this:
A total of about 15 hours not including overnight drying time. This was spread over about 2 weeks.

Step 1: Determine Your Components

Step 1: determine whether you want to use exclusively cardboard or a combination of cardboard and balloons. I started with balloons and cardboard, since I intended for this to be a actual piñata. I used standard 9" latex balloons for the body and head, inflating to slightly less than full.

Photo from

Step 2: Form the Appendages

Step 2: locate and shape the cardboard you need for wings, feet, neck, ears, and beak. I used scissors to cut cereal and other boxes into the approximate shapes I would need, hand forming them into curves, etcetera.

Step 3: Attach Appendages to Body

Step 3: tape the cardboard to the balloons to form the body of the animal. I used toilet paper tubes for the legs, cutting easement slits that allowed me to fit them flush against the balloon body.

For the wings, I used cereal boxes with one thin side cut off. I taped the edges together so that I had a thicker leading edge for each wing that had a sloped face facing upward. This gave a more realistic appearance to the wings. For the ears, I used tall lopsided triangles, formed into curves and cut at the bottom with alternating tabs so I could tape it securely in place. For the beak, I drew a template onto cardboard, creating two sides to tape together and a piece of the beak that I could fold in to make it closed off but not flat. (That doesn't make sense until you look at the photos)

It was at this stage that realized there was no way I was going to let a bunch of 8-year olds whack this thing with a stick. The head came out so well that I made a deal with my son: I would finish this one for display in his room, and I'd make a Wrecking Ball piñata for the party.

See the Wrecking Ball piñata here:

Step 4: Prepare Glue and Paper

Step 4: prepare your mâché solution. You can use flour and water, but I knew I would want this to last. I used a mixture of 3 parts white glue to 1 part water, adding a bit more water (perhaps 1 Tablespoon more) until it was a thin but not watery consistency.

Step 5: strip up your paper. I used unprinted newspaper for packing china that I had left over from a move, which is why the layers are off white. This didn't strip up easily but did tear into small enough pieces that I was satisfied with the final result. Since you'll be covering this base completely with crepe paper, off white or printed newspaper won't matter.

Step 5: Affix Hanger and Mâché Away!

Step 6: affix your hanging device. I used some yarn I had handy (it was 10:00pm) and tied it around the front and back of the body, securing it near the front and back legs with tape. I brought the yarn lengths up and tied them across the back, taping and securing them. I finally tied the two sets of lines together into a single one centered over the back for hanging. It's important to put the hanging device on now so your mâché will adhere to it and the hanger will carry the weight of a loaded piñata.

Step 7: dampen pieces of paper with the mâché solution and apply. Most papier mâché instructions tell you to soak your pieces or dip them in the solution. I felt this would lead to a lot of wasted solution and a lot of mess, so I dabbed my fingers in the solution and rubbed it into the paper on one side. It soaked through, and I applied pieces one at a time to completely cover the balloon and all cardboard. I reinforced sensitive areas, such as around the joins of the legs, tail, and neck to the body and around the base areas of the wings where they tied into the body.

Step 8: allow the first layer to dry completely. I used a hair dryer on low warm setting to speed this along, but waiting overnight is fine. It's important to let each layer dry completely to avoid mold, I have read.

Step 9: apply successive layers of mâché. I only applied one more layer, since my piñata would only be displayed and wouldn't have to hold candy. For a "real" piñata, I would suggest 2 more layers, concentrating on the lower part of the candy cavity and area around the hanging strap to ensure strength for a fair amount of whacking. Allow each layer to dry thoroughly

Step 10: (optional) paint the piñata the color your crepe paper will be, to disguise any open spaces in the crepe.

Step 6: Add Crepe Paper

Step 11: unspool the crepe paper in such a way that you are wrapping it around the spread fingers of one hand. You're making a wider, flatter version of the crepe roll, so you can cut slits for the fluttery paper effect. Think of the way you wrap yarn around your fingers. Wrap about 1/3 of the crepe roll, then hold it flat and cut slits about 2/3 of the way into the paper. Set aside, still rolled flat, and repeat with the remaining 2/3 of the crepe roll. I used 1 complete roll of crepe for the Sonic Boom piñata, plus a few pieces of uncut crepe ( to cover the ends of the feet).

Step 12: begin taping the slit crepe paper to the critter. Because each layer will lay on top of and cover the tape for the layer below it, I recommend starting at the bottom of the legs and working your way up. For the tail, start at the end of the tail and work towards the body. I fashioned the end of the tail from a crumpled and formed piece of uncut crepe paper to resemble the fatter end of the lion's tail.

Step 13: when you have covered the appendages, begin covering the wings. For these wings, I used a combination of black cut crepe paper and grey cocktail napkins I scored on clearance from Michael's craft store. I cut the napkins at a slight curve to resemble the pin feathers of an eagle. I also taped an uncut napkin along the trailing edge of each wing because the "feathers" wouldn't cover that adequately. I covered the trailing half of the wings with grey, then began laying on the black. I finished the leading wing edges with uncut black crepe over the edge, and used rolls of tape on the underside to adhere the crepe without tape showing.

Step 14: finish covering the remainder of the body and head. I used the crepe in different directions to simulate the flow of feathers on the critter, making a slight V on the chest. I applied crepe in vertical pieces on the front of the head. For the back of the head, I cut out the helmet shape from grey napkins and used the rolled-up hidden tape trick to affix it onto the head, without putting black crepe underneath. I used hidden tape to cover the ears with uncut black crepe, since they appeared sleeker than the body on my model.

For the beak, I used bright yellow uncut crepe paper and affixed it with mâché solution. The glue mixture dries partially white on the black crepe paper, but doesn't show at all on the yellow. This also allowed it to have a flatter appearance, more like a real beak.

I cut the silver part of the helmet from aluminum foil and affixed it with mâché solution, because I wanted it to fit more closely than the taped pieces. Be sure to allow this to dry completely before continuing, since the foil will slip out of place easily. I drew the Air element symbol with a black rollerball pen.

Step 7: Affix Eyes and Cuffs

Step 15: create the silver cuffs and claws. My husband supplied me with aluminum tape, which is stiffer than foil. I used this tape to make the base of the critter's cuffs on all four legs, and to cover the claws is fashioned from cardboard. When the tape was in place, I rolled up some lengths of foil and wrapped those around the tops and bottoms of the cuffs, securing them with a bit of glue. I drew the Air element symbol on the tape with a black sharpie.

Step 16: cut eyes from bright green card stock and affix to head. I cut roundish circles and colored in the crescent pupil shape with a black sharpie. There's an angry brow effect to the critter that I couldn't quite capture. I affixed the eyes with the hidden tape technique.

Step 17: ensure all parts of the critter are covered and fill in with additional crepe where needed. Since mine is hanging, I was careful to make sure that none of the off white newspaper showed from underneath. This is a good step to put off until you've stepped away from the project for a day or overnight, or to let someone else take a look to see what you missed.

Hang and enjoy!