Vending Machine Costume With Working Lights

Introduction: Vending Machine Costume With Working Lights

My 9 year old son wanted to be a blue post office box for Halloween. As I was doing research on DIY post office boxes, I came across a guy on Reddit, (I'd share his name, wasn't sure if it's allowed, but you can google and find him easily) who had shared his son's costume. Which was a cool vending machine, (his son was a post office box the year before. What is up with kids wanting to be post office boxes?). My son saw it, and instantly wanted to become that vending machine. I took inspiration from his design and added my own bits to it.

While I did enjoy making this costume, there are lots of things I would have done differently. One being the size of this thing. I winged everything and just assumed this size would be perfect. While my son could walk in it, it was still a bit front heavy, (even though I did whatever I could to lighten things up as I went along). I'd say the size I made is PERFECT for an adult. My husband put it on just for fun and was surprised how well it fit, (and how light it was to him) even though I had designed it for a 9 year old kid. So keep that in mind if you are making this for a kid. Smaller is better. Either way, my son LOVED the end result and made me swear to never ever get rid of it. I hope someone else can make one and enjoy it as much as he does. Also, be ready to not get a lot of trick or treating done. People LOVED the costume and kept stopping us in crowds to take pictures :)

Finished Dimensions:

40.5" Tall

26.25" Wide

20.25" Deep

Step 1: Supplies

I am listing all the tools and supplies I ended up using. You might be more creative, more advanced in making costumes, or more knowledgeable on anything and everything and won't need or use what I did, or have a better/clever way to do things.

  • Foam Boards, various sizes and colors. I used 1/2" thick for the front and back and 1/8" for everything else.
  • White Poster Board
  • Hot Glue, I used Gorilla Brand Full size.
  • Hot Glue Gun, I used High Temp
  • X-Acto knife, Box Cutter, or scalpel, (I ended up using the scalpel the most, because I found it sharper and stronger than the other two options)
  • Spray paint in various colors/textures
  • Plexiglas, I used a clear, (purchased a cheap picture frame from Ikea and used the plexiglas inside because it was THIN and light) and blue, (purchased on amazon. It's thick, high quality, heavy).
  • Plexiglas Cutter
  • Printer
  • Laminating machine
  • Colored Vellum Paper
  • Battery Operated Lights, (I used 2 different kinds)
  • Duck Tape
  • Cutting Mat
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Measuring Tape
  • Fabric
  • Bias Tape
  • Sewing Machine
  • 1/2" green foam
  • 2" thick 12" square Foam
  • Silver Wrapping Paper
  • Wire
  • Various Food Objects
  • 1" Webbing
  • Buckle Clips and Chest Clips
  • 3/8" Wooden Dowels
  • Painters Tape
  • Pen or Pencil
  • Die Cutter or cutting machine, (I used my Sizzix)
  • Drill
  • Magnet sheets

Step 2: Figuring Out the Size and Making the Front

NOTE: I made this costume for my 9 year old son and it was a bit too large, (while he did okay). You will want to go a size bit smaller than I did if it's for a small child. Otherwise, if you are making this for an adult or older kid. I think my measurements will work out pretty well.

I first measured my Plexiglas, (19.75" X 27.5") that I got from an IKEA frame. This is the one I purchased. I added 6" to the right side for all my buttons/slot/details and 2" to the left, equaling 26" wide. Then from top to bottom, 6" from the top to the Plexiglas section, and 8" from the Plexiglas section down to the bottom of the front, (where the PUSH will be) equaling to 40" in height. I used the 1/2" Black Foam Board for the entire front EXCEPT for the SNACKS section. I used 1/8" foam board for that. I sandwiched the Plexiglas between two 1/8" foam boards to help it be even to the 1/2" foam board I used for the rest of the front piece,(keep it level).

Complete measurements that you cut from 1/2" Foam Board:

  • Top (SNACKS) 26" X 6"
  • Right Side Piece (Buttons/Slot) 26" X 6"
  • Left Side Piece 26" X 2"
  • Bottom (Push) 26" X 8"

I also printed out the word SNACKS using the font Bebas Neue from I made sure the letters were 3.5" tall. Then I cut out the letters and pasted them with 2-sided sticky tape to the top of my front top piece, 26" X 6". I also centered the words and made sure to leave the sides solid since it will be glued to Plexiglas. DON'T FORGET TO SAVE THE MIDDLE PART OF THE "A"

I bought my 12" square blue Plexiglas off Amazon, (this one). It's heavy duty and a pain in the arse to cut. I had never cut Plexiglas before and amazed how difficult it was. For me anyway, there was a learning curve to using the Plexiglas cutter. My BIGGEST main tip is to clamp down your ruler and Plexiglas as tight as you can to your cutting surface when using the cutter. I screwed up a bit before realizing I needed to clamp it down, but it wasn't bad enough to ruin my Plexiglas. Then use your cutter over and over and over and over and over (times 30). Eventually it will snap into two pieces at 6" X 12".

Before hot gluing the blue Plexiglas to the back of the SNACKS sign, I painted it with a textured black spray paint, (hammered texture). I also spray painted the rest of the front pieces with the same paint. Once dried, I traced around the Plexiglas on the BACK of the snack sign, then measured off 1/4" from that line to make sure my hot glue line would not seep out into the cut letters. I added scrap pieces of 1/8" foam board on the sides so that I could glue the second back part of the sign to the SNACKS section. Glue in together.

Next, you will want to measure out what openings you want and where you want to place all your buttons, lights, stickers, and gizmos on your side panel piece. 26" X 6". For me I measured out a candy slot, (for people to put candy in) on scrap paper and printed out any images, (bill acceptor, and no tipping stickers were printed out from images I found online). I made the OUT OF ORDER and MACHINE ACCEPTS CANDY ETC in Photoshop, (you can use any editing software). I used the Calculator font from for the OUT OF ORDER and the same font I used for SNACKS for the "THIS MACHINE ACCEPTS..." sticker. Once you printed out your stickers and templates, move them around on the side panel until you are happy with their placements, remembering to leave room for the silver trim on both sides. I measure out 1/2" from the edges to make sure my slots/buttons/etc were not going to intersect with each other. Then I marked the spots I was happy with and cut out the holes, (key pad, candy slot, bill acceptor, and OUT OF ORDER display all had holes cut out).

Measurements I used:

  • Candy Slot Hole 7" X 4"
  • Key Pad Hole 3.25" X 2.75"
  • Out of Order Hole 3.25" X 1"
  • Bill Acceptor Hole 2.75" X 2"

Just make sure your makeshift templates are centered before tracing the templates onto the side panel and cutting them out. Measure twice, cut once. Always good advice ha.

Next, you will want to cut out your hole for the PUSH section. I measured a hole of 17" X 4.5" on the 1/2" foam board. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO LINE UP THE HOLE TO THE WINDOW OF THE VENDING MACHINE. See attached picture. Otherwise, it will be off centered. You will also cut out the PUSH door from the 1/8" foam board. Measurements for that are: 18" X 6". Spray paint that with whatever paint you decided to use for the outside of the machine. Let dry and put aside for now. Now, you should have all your front pieces painted and holes cut in place. I then used painters tape and taped all the pieces together to form the front piece of the vending machine. I did this to keep it in place easier once I hot glued them together and to prevent seepage from the glue.

Once you have taped the joints on the FRONT side of the pieces you will tip one side over the edge of the table and then add hot glue and then tip the side back up to level it out and hold in place until the hot glue has cooled. Also, take a Popsicle stick or something you can scrap any hot glue that seeps through the crack on the side facing up. Makes it easier when you have to add other walls and not have a huge glob of glue there. Then you peel the painters tape off and your front piece has been put together!

You will now take the PUSH door you spray painted. I used the font Pickle Pushing from for the PUSH. Using the same height as SNACKS at 3.5" tall. I printed it and cut out the letters as I did with SNACKS. I put down some painters tape on my cutting mat and arranged the cut out letters on top. Making sure they all lined up nicely and evenly. Then I taped over the letters using painters tape, (pretty much the cut out letters are sandwiched in between layers of painters tape). I cut out the letters by tracing around them with an X-Acto knife/Scalpel and carefully pulled them off the cutting mat. Leaving behind my spray paint template. I then pulled the entire tape template off my cutting mat and attached it to my previously spray painted PUSH panel door. Making sure it was centered and then taped the entire thing onto a cardboard box, (don't cover up the letters). I used a silver metallic spray paint and sprayed several layers. Let dry, then pull all the tape off the panel.
You will then score a line 1/2" down from the top, all the way across to help it bend when it's pushed open. Hot glue it to the back side of the panel. Making sure to hold the door all the way up so you won't accidentally hot glue the scored line until it has set. Then cutting off a small amount of magnet sheets and hot glue it to the bottom of the PUSH door and bottom of the inside of the PUSH panel. This will help keep the PUSH door shut and from opening whenever it wants to. Hot glue the magnets to the foam board. I used self adhesive magnet sheets and the adhesive would not stick to my spray painted panels. Hot glue kept it in place nicely.

Step 3: Side Panels and Back Piece

I used the 1/8" Foam Board for the side panels and 1/2" foam board for the back piece. I had to glue two boards together on all sides to make it large enough for the 40" X 26" (Back) and 40" X 20" (Sides. I used ONE whole foam board that is already 30" in length and added another 10" from another board to make it a fully 40" length). I glued them the same way I had glued the front pieces together, (with painters tape etc). Then I spray painted all the pieces with the hammered black spray paint. Let dry and set aside the back piece.

I cut out arm holes on the side panels. This is optional. My son was worried about feeling claustrophobic and wanted them added. I held the panels up to him and measured 5" down from the top for will his head will be, (that's where the foam head rest will be) and then marked where his arms would go. 20" X 6" was the arm hole size and I measured it 3" away from the back piece and 7" down from the top. This size worked well for my 5' 9" husband as well. But you might still want to check those measurements for a more custom fit.

I also made fabric panels for the arm holes to help keep wind coming through and to keep the inside somewhat hidden from view. I sewed four panels of fabric together on my sewing machine using a 1/2" inseam. Turned it inside out, ironed it flat, and then top stitched it. I do NOT recommend this. I was too lazy to go back to the store at this point. I would normally have used a non fraying type of material, like felt or fleece. That way you just cut what you need and glue on. Easy peasy weasy. Your fabric/felt/fleece will need to be two inches longer length wise of the arm hole and 6" wide. That way you overlap two panels, (for each arm hole) to create an envelope type opening (see image). I hot glued them on.

I also made back pack straps for my son to wear. As I continued making this costume I realized it was a bit front heavy and my kid, bless his sweet soul, is a gamer and not into sports, and isn't as strong as some kids his age. Once again this is completely optional. My husband obviously did not need to wear the back pack straps, but it did help keep the costume at least centered on my child as he walked. We also included wooden dowel handles inside the side panels so he could also hold it up if he needed. These were added at the last minute and hastily done. I am only including them in my tutorial because it is what I did.

If you want to go this route, I ended up just tracing out my son's back pack straps on freezer paper, transferred it to fabric, cut, and then used bias tape to enclose the raw edges. I then used 1" webbing and attached it to the strap. I used 3 feet of webbing for each strap and centered the webbing on the strap so there was equal amount of webbing on the top and bottom of the strap. I also sewed in the chest straps at this point, (used maybe a foot of webbing for this). I waited to add the back pack strap adjusters until I was able to get it on the back of the costume, (which I did pretty close to the very end of finishing the costume, since I wanted to make sure I got the measurement right before cutting holes into the back piece). But whenever you decide to add the straps please note that I reinforced the foam board with some scrap foam board squares. I accidentally placed the bottom ones incorrect. They are supposed to be facing the opposite direction, (see image). I then pulled the webbing straps through the holes. Hot glued the top of the strap into it's hole. DO NOT HOT GLUE THE BOTTOM OF THE WEBBED STRAP. Otherwise, You will not be able to adjust how the strap tightness. Just the top of the strap that is at the shoulders. Once I got it all in and made sure nothing was tangled, I added the strap adjusters and hot glued the ends of the webbing closed by folding them over a few times, and clipping them while they hot glue set.

Step 4: Adding the Plexiglas, Inside Shelves, and Candy Slot

Glue around the edge of the back of the front piece. Take off the lining of your Plexiglas and hot glue it to the front. once it is all hot glued take the back lining off the other side of the Plexiglas.

You will cut out your inside shelves. I used 1/4" white foam board.


  • Bottom Shelf 19.75" X 7.5"
  • Side Walls for inside the Vending Machine (cut 2) 28" X 7.5"
  • Inside Shelves (cut 2) 19.75" X 6"
  • Top Piece 26" X 7.5"

Glue the bottom shelf right under the bottom of the Plexiglas and the top of the PUSH door, (see image).

Take one of the side walls and hold it up against the side of where the candy slot will be, (see image). Mark some lines on the side wall to show where you want to spray paint your silver paint, (this will be seen from the front of the machine, where you put candy in the slot). Then spray paint that section and let dry.

Cut out four thin strips 6" long and 1/4" thin out of the white foam board. This will help put your shelves in evenly and easily, and also provide some support to the shelves.

Take your side panels and evenly measure where you want your shelves seated with a ruler and pencil, mark the 6" line. I put my first shelf 9.5" from the bottom of the side piece, and the second shelf at 19" from the bottom of the side piece. That should give you 9" from the top shelf to the ceiling of the vending machine insert. Then glue the thin strips of foam board you had cut out. Lining up the thin strip to the back of the side piece, (leaving 1.5" open space in the front of each shelf. That way the shelf isn't right up against the Plexiglas front). Make sure you are placing all the foam strips on the correct side of your pencil markings. If you place one strip on the top of the pencil mark, you will need to do the same on the other side. Otherwise they will be uneven if you place the strip below the pencil line you made on the other side. Also make sure you do not mix the sides up. They will be opposite of each other. I made that boo boo and it was a hassle fix it. Just keep aware of what side you're dealing with.

Once you have all your side pieces and shelves cut out, you might want to go ahead and put them all together using painters tape, (like I did in some of the images) to make sure everything is going to fit nicely together. You can make any necessary adjustments etc before permanently gluing them into place.

You will make a white box for the SNACKS. Since you want light to bounce off, it should be white and no other color. I just cut some scrap foam boards, measure with my ruler how big I need it and glued it into place. Once I got all the side pieces of the SNACKS white box, I cut out the backing, (again measure with my ruler how big it needs to be) using regular poster board. You don't want to use foam board as the main backing piece will go over the entire inside and it will be too thick to properly glue it together.

Also measure how you want your candy slot to go. I decided to have mine empty to the PUSH bin at an angle. I figured it would make it easier for us parents to pull candy out if we needed to unload some weight in the middle of trick or treating. You will first want to measure the side walls of your candy slot and then spray paint them silver, as these sides will be seen from the front of the costume. I then measured, with my ruler, an angle line to make a slide for the candy to slide down on. Double check everything fits first before gluing them in. Once you have the walls completed for the candy slot, glue on the back of the candy slot, (also spray painted silver on the side showing) and add a scrap piece of foam board near the opening slot inside the PUSH section so candy can't travel back into the machine, (see image). You, of course, could just make a simple slot. No need to add any extra slide to help the candy move. This was just a personal preference.

Step 5: Add Lighting and Side Panel Details

I used this light and these lights from Amazon. Both are battery operated. I really like both of them for any light up projects btw. They work extremely well and easy to use and customize.

First I threaded through the LED Strip lights. Making holes large enough to thread the lights through with a pick or knife. As a hassle as it sounds. Thread your lights without taking of the adhesive backing or gluing down. Arrange the way you want them and make sure they fit, THEN glue them down. I made sure to stick my strip lights down the front panel sides and not on the visible Plexiglas from the front. Thread all the way around. You will want to live the battery pack in the PUSH section, so it is easily accessible.

Also make all the small details, like the stickers, keypad, bill acceptor etc. I googled images of stickers I wanted to use and printed them off on a printer. I laminated all of them just for durability purposes, (good thing too because it rained on Halloween). I also printed out some letters and numbers for the keypad and laminated them as well. For the OUT OF ORDER detail I lined it with RED vellum paper to help make the red noticeable when lights back light it before laminating and laminated some green vellum paper to color the lights green for the bill acceptor.

Making the keypad. I used 1/2" foam and used my Sizzix die cutter to cut them out in perfect circles. Then I used a smaller circle to cut the hole out. This isn't a MUST. You could do this by hand or even make them square buttons. I then traced my circles, that I used to cut out my buttons, on some poster board, (sorry did not get a picture of this step) once I was happy with the placement I cut the holes out on the poster board, again using my die cutting machine. I spray painted it silver. ALSO NOTE. Make the keypad cover 1/2" longer on ALL sides. That way when you place it on the huge keypad hole on the side panel it will sit nicely on top. Trace your holes on your poster board keypad cover onto some scrap foam board. You will glue the foam buttons onto these spots. Poke holes in each hole in the foam so you may thread through a single light into each spot. Make sure you start with the END TAIL of the string of lights. You will want to use the rest of the lights to light up the bill acceptor area. Once you have gotten all the lights into the holes I covered the back with tape to keep them all in place. You could use glue or whatever you wish. Tape was just easier for me.

Glue the OUT OF ORDER, BILL ACCEPTOR, and KEYPAD to the back side of the front panel. You will want to make sure you centered them all before gluing them into place. Then take one of the string lights and from the PUSH section, (Where all batteries for the lights will go) tape the battery pack down so it won't be easy to pull the cord to high up where you can't access it. Hot glue the string of lights all along the way to the bill acceptor and keypad. Key Pad will have the end tail of the lights when you first made it. You will use the rest of the lights and bundle them up, lay them over the green bill acceptor paper and tape down. Also add three holes to the top of the candy slot and push three lights through to light up the outside portion of the candy slot. Continue to glue a good amount of glue dots to keep the lights in place. on the back side.

Flip the front panel over and glue in place the keypad cover.

Bill acceptor. I cut out a large rectangle for the back part of the acceptor that I spray painted with a clear gloss spray, cutting our a hole smaller than the hole that is on the side panel. I made the part that you are supposed to put money by slanting the top part down and keeping the bottom part straight. Glued it all together and added the sticker I printed out for it.

Making the vending machine coils.

I apologize since I do not know what gauge the wire we used is. It is pretty thick as you can tell in the pictures. My husband found a long round oblong object and wrapped the wire around it a few times. Using a wire cutter to shorten the wire when needed. I then glue them on to the shelves with just a few dots of hot glue. Let it cool completely. I pulled the wire out far enough and shortened them to make sure they could hold 3 items each. We also took all the food out of the bags and boxes, to make the box lighter. We resealed everything back and I hot glued them to the shelf once placed. That way they can't fall out of place either. I left the top shelf center coil empty so my son could see out of it, and placed the smaller food objects on the top as well to help with his visibility. Printed and laminated the item numbers and money prices. Glued them to tiny strips of foam board and then glued those down onto the shelf. I didn't do a very good job centering those up. So keep that in mind when doing it yourself.

Step 6: Putting It All Together

Making the reflecting foil backing for the vending machine. I used 2 foam boards to create one piece measuring 40" X 26". I put the face hole in the center of the actual vending machine area instead of the entire costume. So it is off centered compared to the entire machine. the hole is 8" square and reached down from 6" from the top and 7" from the left side and 11" from the right.

I had originally wanted to glue on the foil wrapping paper to the foam board, but after doing so, it was a wrinkled mess. I ended up just wrapping over it and taping into place on the back.

You will want to put your shelves in now. making sure the machine is somewhat upright, put down a thin strip of hot glue on the thin foam strips you glued on the side walls. Then place the shelf on top and hold in place until it's somewhat set. Repeat with the other shelf. I reinforced the joint by gluing a bit more after it had been set in between the joint area.

Add the white poster board backing to the SNACKS. I measured it out with my ruler but I believe the measurements were 26" X 6". Double check your own measurements to be sure.

Then lay down a TON of hot glue to the backing of the SNACKS poster board and along the sides of the shelves and side walls of the inner vending machine and place the foil foam board, (foil facing down) on to it. I ended up laying some heavy books on top of everything to help keep the foam board flat to make a strong connection to the walls/shelves. Make sure it's centered and do this quickly since it will be difficult to fix later on. I made sure the corners on the SNACKS portion lined up properly. I reinforced all the seams with MORE glue after it had cooled the second time.

Adding the side armhole panels. Make sure they are facing the correct direction. Lay the vending machine on it's side (not back, not front. it's side). Apply hot glue all over the areas that will be in contact with the side armhole panel. Place the panel on the side of the vending machine and use heavy books to keep it down until the glue has fully set. Repeat the same thing on the other panel side in the same way. You will also want to reinforce the seams, (as pictured) after all the first application of hot glue has set. It might seem like over kill, but my child tripped and face planted while wearing this costume. I was sure there had been some damage to it but other than a few scuff marks on the trim, everything stayed in place.

If you want to add handles inside the costume this is when you will want to measure them in. I measured 8 inches from the bottom of the vending machine and dug out some holes on both sides. I also measured 8" from the bottom on my back piece and dug out holes before gluing the back piece onto the side arm hole pieces. You will want to measure the wooden dowels out one last time after applying the back piece onto the rest of the machine. Then trim them to fit, hot glue the ends and hot glue all around the inside of the dowel to make it sturdy.

To add the back piece I laid it down (right side down). Laid some heavy books on it to keep it flat, (it wanted to bow) and then placed the rest of the costume on top, (see image) I glued the seams several times on both sides from the inside of the costume. Wait until cool and voila you almost have a full costume ha.

I used two 2" - 12" X 11", (came as a 12" square but I had to cut some off) foam and some foam board 1/8" and 1/2" in the same size 12" X 11". I glued the first foam to the bottom of the thinnest foam board. Flip it over and squeezed it into place. Gluing the seams and waiting for it to dry (see image) before adding my second foam and then the 1/2" foam board. Which I also glued into place before adding the very last part, the top of the machine. Which somehow I never got a picture of it. Sorry. You will also want to spray paint the top of the machine cover. It also measured slightly larger than the 20" X 26". Maybe 20.25" X 26.5". You will want to double check those measurements, because I didn't and had to redo it.

Add your straps now if you wish to add them.

Then flip the machine over on it's top and add the bottom piece to the PUSH section. AND THERE YOU GO. COMPLETE. Somewhat. All that is missing is the trim!

Step 7: Final Touches

Adding the Trim. I made 2 sizes of trim. I used white foam board that I painted with silver spray paint, and then cut into strips of 1/4" and 1/2". Using the thicker trim for the main parts of the vending machine and thinner ones for the details, key pad, out of order, etc and in between some thicker trim to add more detail.

I also had to drill holes into the costume. It started fogging up after a few blocks, so we had to hastily drill some holes on Halloween, and they don't look as neat as I would have wanted. It worked perfectly in correcting the fogging issue.

That's it! I hope it was easy enough to follow.

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    4 years ago

    Fantastic! This is the first vending machine costume I've seen and I'd say it's set the bar really high :D