Adding smoke effect for your costume is easier to achieve than you might think, using a vaping e-cig loaded with vegetable glycol and pumped using a small aquarium pump. This effect combined with tucking some flickering LEDs into incospicuous places can give a realistic fire and smoke look to your next costume.
I made this Ghost Rider costume by 3D printing a skull I found on Thingiverse (free), modifying it in Tinkercad (also free), then printing it out and painting it. All the electronics and controls were kept incredibly simple, and are controlled by a cluster of buttons held in one hand and operated by momentary switches.
The e-cig I used might have been overkill for the application, but who can say no to more smoke? Follow along and I'll show you how I made this great effect.
Video of most of the process with some fun shots of the costume in action
Ready? Let's make!
Step 1: Supplies
The costume is really the skull helmet, which is jammed with LEDs and tubing, painted to look like road hardened and weathered nightmare fuel.
- Skull model source - Here's my completed mask model
- 225W e-cig (SMOK mag)
- 2x 18650 2500mAH battery
- Vegetable glycerine (for vape smoke)
- 12V mini brushless submersible water pump
- Flame effect LEDs
- 12V Li-Ion battery pack
- Bondo putty
- Sewing elastic
- E6000 adhesive ♥
Rest of costume
- Black face mask
- Jet black pantyhose
- Black dungaree work pants
- Leather jacket
- Plastic chains (or regular chains)
- Cowboy boots
The majority of this costume is in the skull mask, so it's not as critical to get the rest of the outfit. You could probably get away with wearing all black and it would still look good.
Step 2: Skull Source
The skull was from a free 3D model which was scaled it up a little larger than my head so I could wear it like a mask, carving out the insides so there's room for my head and all the electronics. This was surprisingly easy to do, as any imperfections in the print quality can easily be made up when finishing by smoothing and painting.
I found this skull model on Thingiverse, which is perfect for me as it has good resolution and is already split up into segments to make printing much easier. The parts were brought into Tinkercad to perform a few simple edits before sending to the printer.
Step 3: Tinkercad
Here's what my skull design looks like:
You are welcome to use my Ghost Rider mask design as part of your costume, or remix however you like.
The process was straightforward. Start a new design in TInkercad. The skull model was already broken into large pieces to make printing easier. The mandible, skull face, and skull cap STL files were imported one at a time. The skull I used ame in 3 parts. The mandible could be set aside for now, but the skull cap and the face were lined up on top of each other, like a real skull looks. This will make the hollowing out step much easier.
Before editing the files a few reference measurements of your head need to be taken. The critical dimensions are the widest part of your head (typically near the crown), the depth of your head around the forehead area, and an optional dimension if you have a large nose (like me) - you may need to make the nose opening a little larger.
Step 4: Hollow Out Skull
Select both the skull cap and face and duplicate (ctrl+D), then move the copy over to the side. Select the copy and make it a hole, which will turn it from a solid to a grey translucent shape.
The hole copy can be resized by grabbing the white handles outlining the shape and dragging the mouse. Ensure to hold the shift key to constrain the proportions. You're aiming to make the hole only slightly smaller than the original.
When the hole is the right shape select the solid skull cap and move it out of the way - if we were to try and cut both the face and cap at one the shapes would be joined, this way they stay as separate shapes.
Select the hole and the solid skull face, then use the align button from the top toolbar to keep the skulls lined up relative to each other.
Step 5: Start Carving
Align the hole with the solid skull mask. Before carving out the cavity make a duplicate of the hole skull, this will be used again to carve out the skull top. move the copy off to the side for now. Select the hole skull and the solid skull, then combine the shapes to carve the hole shape from the solid.
Here's what mine looked like after. It's not perfect, and there's plenty of geometry that needs to be removed inside, but it's a great start.
Simple shapes were dropped onto the workplane and resized to remove material from the inside of the skull. You don't have to do this all at once, you can drop in a few hole shapes and combine in stages to make sure too much material isn't removed.
in order to put the mask on the back of the skull was removed by placing a large box hole on the back of the skull. Contine combining shapes until the inside of the mask is completely hollowed out. For reference, this step took the most time at about 30 minutes to get a cavity inside the skull i was happy with.
Bring the copy of the hole skull that was duplicated earlier and align it with the skull cap. Combine the shapes to remove the inside of the skull cap.
Step 6: Cleanup + Mask Tabs
When cleaning out th einside of the skull there were a few areas that were removed erroneously. Instead of trying to get a perfect hole shape on the inside I decided to just repair the unwanted openings with new shapes to cover them up.
In the Tinkercad library dropdown there's a featured library which has an asteroid shape that I thought would work well, since it looked right when it was squished flat and had a bumpy texture. I resized the asteroid shape and placed it over the openings around the temples and combined the shapes to make them one.
The skull does not have to be perfect. After printing there's plenty of time to make more modifications.
The mask needs tabs for the straps to loop through. I used thick elastic straps which were about 1" wide. I made some simple shapes to accommodate that width and placed these tabs on the back section of the mask that was removed.
Once I was happy with the shape the model can be exported as an STL for printing.
I was having some bed adhesion problems with my printer, so I added a thin raft to the underside of the skull, which is what you can see in the above picture and in the Tinkercad file.
Step 7: Printing
Knowing that I was going to cover the entire mask with putty to smooth out the shape of the skull, I used low resolution setting for this print. Each section took ~10 hours to print.
i was having weird bed adhesion issues, which is why there's a beefy raft under the print. The layers also started to de-laminate partway through, which were then super glued back together during the print and held together with a clamp.I think my issue was old filament that i wanted to use up on a print that would be painted.
This picture shows the back of the skull that was not used. My original idea was to have a clam shell design to completely enclose the head. This was not necessary since all the magic happens on the front of the mask and it doesn't really matter if someone sees a black stocking on the back of my head. The mandible section came out really detailed. Nice!
This is the skull after printing. Plenty of de-lam happening, and some gnarly voids I missed filling in when I was in Tinkercad, but an easy fix when the putty goes over.
Step 8: Smoothing
Before adding putty the pieces were smoothed with 80 grit sandpaper. This rough sanding removed any printing artifacts and smoothed out any large rough areas.
The rough grit also prepares the surface for the putty, giving a textured base the putty will easily stick to.
Step 9: Putty
Wearing gloves, putty was spread over the entire exterior of the prints. Special care was taken around the teeth to retain the detail between the individual teeth, but to remove the print resolution layers.
This putty dried in about 10 minutes, which allowed me to work on several pieces at once and then go back and patch up some areas I had missed.
Step 10: Mate Skull Sections
After a rough coat of putty was applied and dried the skull cap and mask sections could be mated together. There is special PLA glue, but I didn't have any on hand so I used E6000 to bond the two sections and left overnight to completely cure.
More putty was applied to smooth the transition between the shapes. A light sanding was given to the entire surface to clear off any rough patches. I wanted this skull to have loads of texture, so the aim wasn't to make a perfectly smooth surface.
Step 11: Painting
Grey primer was applied to the skull in 2 coats, waiting about 20 minutes between applications. After priming has turned the surface a uniform color any large imperfections will be easier to spot.
I used an off-white ivory spray paint for the base color. The paint was a satin finish, which was a good aount of shine for the skull.
2 coats of paint were applied to the skull. The surface was inspected for more flaws and lightly sanded before applying 2 more coats of paint.
Step 12: Lowlights
An off-white skull is good, but to really make it pop I used a diluted acrylic pain rubbed onto the surface to give a weathered appearance.
Black paint was thinned with water to make a runny paint. A rag was dabbed into the paint mix and rubed over the entire surface of the skull, ensuring to get into all the divots and scratches. A clean rag was used to wipe the black paint off quickly after application to remove the majority of the paint, leaving behind black paint in the low parts of the skull.
The same process was done on the mandible, except a thin paint brush was used to get in between the teeth.
The effect enhances the appearance of the skull, giving it a much more textured appearance.
Step 13: Straps
A wide sewing elastic was sewn onto the back of the mask. The elastic was fed through the tab openings and sewn back onto itself.
Step 14: Brow LED Bar
I had 2 large LED flicker arrays that were going to be around my nose, but wanted more above my eyes. I decided to make a simple LED holder that would be installed along the brow line. Making this LED holder made soldering and mounting the LEDs much easier.
Using rough approximations for the overall shape I made this model in 5 minutes, making each LED opening 6mm to allow for any printing variances.
Step 15: Electronics
I was running all the electronics off a 12V battery pack. The flicker LED arrays were already rated for 12V, but the individual LEDs needed some figuring out before they could be attached to the power source.
I used LED Calc to figure out how many LEDs I could string together and what resistor I needed. I had 4 LEDs across the brow, and two on each side near the ears. These were red and yellow LEDs that had a slow flicker to them.
To spread out the light the LEDs were diffused with sandpaper to give them a hazy appearance.
Something I didn't know when designing my skull model was how and where the LED flame arrays would be mounted. I carved out a channel inside the mask near the nose to allow the LED array to sit into the mask.
With both channels carved the LED arrays were glued into the helmet and then wired together. A common connector was used to collect the wires for the LEDs and allow a jack connection.
Step 16: Padding
The helmet by itself is not comfortable to wear. The main issue for me was the elastic strap pushed the front of the mask into your face, poking your face in weird ways and making breathing difficult.
I used an old neoprene mousepad to make padding by chopping it up and mounting it inside the helment above the brow.
Step 17: Controller Design
The smoke effect is created by using a 225W e-cig loaded with vegetable glycerine. In order to create a draw for the e-cig to operate a pump was used. Since both the e-cig and the pump operation needed to happen in succession the controls were mounted together. I measured the dimensions of the e-cig and made a very quick model in Tinkercad.
My final design was slim, with an opening on the bottom to pass more sewing elastic and a small receptacle for a momentary switch which will operate the pump.
Step 18: Costume Setup
The e-cig was placed inside the holder and connectors were placed on a standoff to make removing the controller simple when putting on the costume.
THE VAPOR CLOUD IS FROM VEGETABLE GLYCERINE, which is the main component in most e-juice vaporizers. Vegetable glycerine is food safe and contains 0% tobacco or flavorings. Do not use tobacco e-juice as it will stink and you'll smoke yourself out. Even with vegetable glycerine this device can only be used in short bursts. Be smart about how you use this effect.
The flame LED arrays were controlled by a small 3-button setup. Power came from the 12V battery into the LED buttons, mounted onto the end of the controller, then back out and into the helmet. The top jack connector is for the pump switch.
This is the back side of the controller. The e-cig screen is viewable, and the buttons and charging port are accessible. The top of the e-cig is attached to a removable mouthpiece which goes into vinyl tubing and into a small 12V pump.
Here's what the setup looks like when placed inside the jacket. The vape "smoke" is drawn from the e-cig and into the pump, which then pushes the smoke through a barbed splitter and up into the helmet and into another tube which is attached to the collar of the jacket.
This is the tube that is connected to a 3D printed clip that rests on the front jacket flap, allowing smoke to come from below and from inside the helmet.
Step 19: Face Covering
To obscure your face while the mask is on I used a black face mask and black pantyhose. One leg of the pantyhose was cut off and stretched over my face first, obscuring my eyes but still allowing me to see. The face mask was then put over which covered the rest of my face.
After, the mandible piece can be placed on the covered face, resting on your jaw. This allows some range of motion while you speak, but not much. The mask was then placed on and then hooked up to power and the pump.
Now the Ghost Rider costume is set to scare the neighborhood!
The two different LED arrays, combined with a judicial use of vapor from the e-cig created an amazing effect. With the controller in one hand, the e-cig is ignited and the pump activated, drawing the smoke from the e-cig through the costume and up out the skull mask and jacket. The e-cig trigger is released and the fan left on to clear out the smoke effect.
The effect is striking in person, and from a distance looks incredibly believable! I found the combination of pantyhose face covering along with a thick cloud of smoke almost impossible to see out of, so I could only perform the smoke trick when standing still.
If this inspired a project or costume build of your own I'd love to see it! Share a picture in the comments below of your smoky creation and I'll gift a Pro Membership.