Introduction: Venom Puppet Costume
Over the years, I have made a few different Venom costumes. When I was first getting into costume making and prop design, Venom was actually one of my first creations! Since he is one of Spider-Man's coolest villains turned anti-hero, he has always intrigued me. This year for Halloween, I didn't have any plans and didn't need a costume, but I asked my younger brother if he wanted help making a costume for school and trick or treating. He told me that he wanted to re-create the scene from the 2018 film where the symbiote appeared to be coming out of Eddie Brock's arm. I had seen similar costumes where people used a Venom Halloween mask and a garbage bag wrapped around one arm sticking through the back of a hoodie, but I wanted to make as much of the costume from scratch as I could. I was happy to take on the challenge to make the costume as unique and creative as I could!
Liquid White Glue
Acrylic Paint (Black, White, and Red)
Flex Seal (Spray-can style)
Hoodies/Sweaters (One black, the colour of the other doesn't matter too much)
1/2" PVC Pipe, approximately 6" in length
Fabric Elastic Strap
Ruler or Straight Edge
Bowls or Cups for holding Paper Mache Paste and Paint
Step 1: Framing the Base
To start off this build, I decided that I wanted the head to be approximately the size of an actual head. To get this shape, I took the poster board and cut several strips that were 1.25" wide. Then I took one strip and wrapped it around my forehead to get the circumference. Then I added more strips in a criss-cross pattern to fill it in and make a full cap. To attach all of the straps, I stapled them together. Before paper macheing, I ended up adding more strips to fill the open space so that the gaps in between were much smaller and there would be less indentation. The pictures do not show this until the next step.
I took another strip and wrapped it from temple to temple and under my chin to get an idea of how low the jaw would extend to. I also added the upper lip from temple to temple. For the upper lip, you will want to ensure that it protrudes at least at a slight angle. By doing this, you will leave room for the teeth to be inserted later.
Next, I used a larger piece of the poster board and wrapped it around the back of the head to fill the space that was left there. To get it to be the shape that you want, you just need to put it on and then adjust the shape and size as you go. I left a slight concave crescent shape at the bottom so that when my wrist was bending, it would not be rubbing on the back of my forearm. For the bottom jaw, I used one of the 1.25" strips and glued it to two half heart-shaped/semi-circle pieces of cardboard. As with the back of the head, it is some trial and error to get the right size and shape, so I suggest starting with larger pieces and then trimming as you go.
Step 2: Adding Stability
To get the jaw into the right position, I traced the outline of the shape that I wanted onto a piece of cereal box cardboard. I cut this shape out twice, once for the bottom of the jaw, and one for the floor of the mouth. I also cut out a piece to stick onto the roof of the mouth. On the floor of the mouth, make sure that the cardboard is not glued flush to the bottom lip. Ensure that there is a bit of room that allows for depth within the mouth. Before adding these pieces, it is a good idea to add some stability by hot-gluing popsicle sticks to the inside on the long parts of the jaw. Popsicle sticks can also be added to the inside of the "cheek plates" so that when the jaw moves, the cheek plates will not bend or give way to the pressure. On the bottom of the jaw, take some fishing line or string and hot glue it so that there is a small loop where the throat would be. This will be where the jaw mechanism is tied to later. Also, you will need to take a piece of 1/2" pvc pipe and insert it between the corners of the mouth. This bar will be your handhold. In the end, I had to move mine up further up towards the top of the head because I wanted the mouth to have more of a grin. To keep it in place, I used a lot of hot glue since there will be a lot of torsion at this point from opening and closing the mouth
To make the fulcrum for the jaw to pivot on, I took 2 pieces of wire about 2" long then I folded them in half. Once I poked a hole through where the jaw needed to pivot, I inserted each piece, one pointing upwards and one downwards. The most important part about the placement is that you just need to make sure that the wire is not sticking off of the cardboard and that you won't wind up poking yourself. I secured them on the inside and outside with a bead of hot glue, making sure not to get too close to the hole so that it would not get clogged with the hot glue and keep the jaw from moving.
Step 3: Paper Mache and Filling
The method of paper macheing that I most frequently utilize is by using toilet paper, water, and white glue. While for certain projects it may not be ideal, I think that it works very well for creating a symbiote-like texture. To start, get a bowl and put in the glue you think you will need. Next, add enough water that the combination becomes soupy but still opaque. If it is too thick, then it will be hard to easily brush the combination onto the toilet paper. If it is too thin and watery, it may not stay together as well, but I have not had an issue with adding too much water. First, brush the liquid onto the frame, then lay a strip of toilet paper on top of it. With your paintbrush, dab the glue water onto the rest of the toilet paper strip. Only do small sections at a time and leave plenty of time to dry, otherwise, the structure may get too wet and may start to collapse. I did 3 full coats of the paper mache to ensure that it was nice and strong.
Once you have finished paper macheing, there will likely be some indents in the paper mache where it has sagged inward. To fix this, I took some quick-dry drywall filler and added layers until it was built up to the appropriate level. Then sand the drywall filler with fine-grit sandpaper and add more if needed. Since I liked the texture that the paper mache left me with, I decided to do one final layer over top of the drywall filler.
Step 4: Painting
To get a shiny, sticky, symbiote look, I thought it would be a unique idea to try coating the head in Flex Seal. I painted the head with black acrylic paint then sprayed it with 2 coats of the flex seal. I was actually very pleased with how it turned out! It gave a nice texture to the head and made it have that 'otherworldly' look to it. If you don't want to or you can't use Flex Seal, You can also just use paint, but I would recommend using an acrylic paint that has a high gloss or shine when it dries. To paint the eyes, I started by painting the rough shape. Then, I dipped only the tip of the paintbrush into the black paint and laid it into the eye at an angle, as can be seen in the picture. I also did the same thing with the white paint.
Step 5: Mouth, Teeth, and Tongue
For the inside of the mouth, I needed a material that was flexible that would move with the jaw movement. I thought that a garbage bag would work quite nicely for my purposes. The only downfall of using a garbage bag would be that paint would not stick to it very nicely. I decided to try spraying a few coats of the Flex Seal onto the garbage bag to see how that would go. I'm starting to see why Phil Swift is so crazy about this stuff, because it is honestly great! After it dried, I cut out the shape that I needed for the mouth, then hot glued it into place. When gluing the garbage bag to the inside of the mouth, I suggest attaching some material from the corner of the mouth to about 1" away to allow for more of the mouth texture to be seen from the sides and to look a bit like ligaments and the insides of the cheeks. To keep the fold, put some hot glue on the inside and then pinch it to get a nice seam. For the painting, I first put on a coat of red paint, then dry brushed on a coat of a lighter pink, then another coat of a darker pink. To make pink, I used a combination of red and white so that I could get my desired shade.
To make the teeth, I started by sculpting them out of tin foil. After I had a frame, I coated the tin foil in clay and added some scratches to give them texture. To keep each tooth together and stop them from chipping, you can paint the teeth with white glue or Modge Podge. To add some colour, I painted each tooth black, then washed it off before it had time to dry by dunking it in a cup of water and rubbing it a little bit. This allowed the paint to get into the crevices, and it stayed there as long as I didn't hand dry them too harshly. After this, all that was left with the teeth was hot gluing them into the mouth. I suggest going slowly through this process and make sure you just do one tooth at a time, because you will want to constantly check to make sure the mouth will still close how you want it to. One tip to make this easier is to make sure that you leave the smaller teeth for the bottom jaw, and longer ones for the top. I also wanted to add something that looked like drool and saliva. For this, I turned to my favourite and most used tool, hot glue. The technique that I used was starting at the end of where a drool strand would be, starting on the tooth and then briefly hanging it off to let it dangle. Then I traced back upwards to complete the strand.
I sculpted the tongue the same way that I sculpted the teeth. First with tin foil, then with the clay. You will want to make sure that once you have the tinfoil shaped, test it to see how it fits in the mouth. I wanted my tongue to stay inside of the mouth, but it could also look good to have the tongue hanging out. At the thick end of the tongue, I stuck a popsicle stick in the tin foil so that it would protrude through the back mouth where your hand will hide and you can puppeteer the tongue to some extent. When I painted the tongue, I started by painting it a fairly dark pink. I dry brushed a lighter pink on the top and red on the sides and bottom. To get the tastebuds, I took the paintbrush, dipped it in my paint, then used a finger to flick it on in tiny bits. I did that with red and white paint.
Step 6: Sweaters
When choosing the sweaters that you are going to use, I suggest ones that have zippers. This will make it easier to put on and take off. The black sweater will be used as Venom's neck, and then the other sweater will be your real arm and the fake arm.
To prepare the sweaters, the first thing that you have to do is cut away the excess material on the black sweater. The only thing that is really important on it is the sleeve, however, it is useful to have the shoulder piece on the other side so that it will not be constantly falling off. I cut off the right sleeve, the hood, and the bottom from about the chest down. This would also keep the costume from getting too hot. On the second sweater, a hole needs to be cut on the back directly at the shoulder. I cut it from the very top seam to the very bottom of the armpit. Then, I cut a little further on the top, and I folded it back down and sewed it to get a rounded look on the fake shoulder.
I wanted the sleeve to have the same texture as the head, so I decided to spray the sleeve that would be the symbiote with Flex Seal. I placed the sleeve on a piece of pvc pipe so that when it was sprayed, it wouldn't dry flay and it would stay rounded.
To stuff the fake arm, take the cuff of the sleeve and safety pin it or sew it to the inside of the pocket. Next, fill the sleeve with stuffing. Polyester stuffing will work, but I didn't have any so I settled for newspaper. If you do use newspaper, crinkle it up a few times and uncrinkle it to make it a bit softer and easier to mold into the position that you want. Finally, sew the sleeve together from the front so that there is no gap between the two sweaters.
Step 7: Jaw Mechanism
The mechanism to keep the jaw opened was made by using a cloth piece of elastic and a plastic buckle so that it can be wrapped around the arm at the elbow and detached easily. Once that is complete, take an elastic band, cut it in half, then tie one end to the clip. I used a piece of wire and formed it into a hook so that it can easily be attached and taken off of the fishing line on the jaw. Tie the other end of the elastic band to the wire hook. On the black hoodie sleeve, you will have to cut a small hole so that you can wear the strap under the hoodie and the elastic band can be stuck through and attached to the head. Now when you move your wrist up and down, the will open when your wrist is extended and close when it is flexed.
Step 8: Reflection on Things I Would Have Liked to Have Changed and Done Differently
One part of the mask that I was not completely pleased with was the black wash of the teeth. Although I think that most of them look alright and add to the gross aesthetic, Some of them didn't turn out the best and ended up being too dark. To fix this, I would have gone back and watched some tutorials on how to black wash and take some tips from other more experienced propmakers.
After some use, the tongue ended up getting cracked and chipped quite a bit from being moved around and caught between the teeth. Had I added more layers of the Modge Podge, this likely would have been prevented.
Also, with a little bit more time, I would have liked to make a mechanism to puppeteer the tongue. I just ended up running out of time, but I think with a little bit of fishing line and a small ring of the leftover pvc pipe, I could have rigged something up.
I also had a small speaker that I had been planning on inserting into the head, connected by a long auxiliary cord to a phone that would play pre-recorded venom lines. Due to time, or lack thereof, this also got neglected.
All in all though, I am very proud of how this build turned out and how it looks!
Step 9: Putting the Ensemble Together
Once you have all of the pieces put together, throw on your best pair of sweat pants, mess up your hair, throw on some symbiote makeup, and plan to take over the world! A good way to make the symbiote makeup look even more real is with some hot glue, a plastic face mask, and some spirit gum, but that is an Instructables for another time! In the meantime, keep on making, expressing your creativity, and having fun!
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