Propmaking for Noobs

This is how to make cheap props for costumes and stuff by recycling materials you already have.

This helmet was made from cardboard following an instructable by Honus.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

Cardboard ~ not the corrugated stuff unless you want it to look crappy I used the backs of some desktop calendars...the big ones 42 x 64

Glue ~ Any kind will work as long as you seal it before resining or painting. I use white glue and hot glue The white glue is for smaller details, and the hot glue is for big stuff or stuff u don't want to hold for a long time while the glue sets.

Clamps ~ Small clamps for holding glued pieces together Bulldog clips or clothespins will work too.

Sculpting medium ~ I used wallboard joint compound because thats what i had on hand. You can have better results if you use bondo or some other medium.

Pattern ~ Don't just throw something together. Make a plan! There is a paper modeling program called Pepakura that is very useful if you want to make a prop from a 3d file. Click here to get it

Sharp Knife ~ Xacto knife or something similar with brand new blades (blades will get worn out quickly cutting cardboard)

Sandpaper ~ For sanding...duh

Paint ~ O.o

Greeblies ~ Random junk to give it character

Step 2: Building

Assemble the prop using glue and clamps...i'm not going to get detailed here, because I have no idea what you are going to make, so just try not to cut yourself or burn yourself with the glue gun.

You can also fiberglass the inside for strength, but I will not go into that, because it was not necessary for what I did.

The result should begin to look something like this.

Step 3: Getting Rid of Gaps and Cracks

Here is where the sculpting medium comes into play.

Smear some stuff into the cracks and gaps to make it all smooth. You may also want to build up corners to make them rounded. It will look crappy and messy at this point, so don't get discouraged.

Get the sandpaper and sand down the bondo or whatever. It will still look messy, so you will need to prime it to see if there are any more gaps cracks, or divits.

Step 4: Painting

Once the prop is sanded to your liking, you will need to seal it to prevent moisture getting to your glue or warping your cardboard.

I use Triple thick acrylic sealer. I got it from the paint section and it comes in a spraycan. A little goes a long way, so spray light coats one at a time.

Now, you should be ready to paint.

So...paint it

Now you can add effects and greebles (greebles are misc. doodads that make it look more interesting)

After it is all painted you will need to seal it again. Depending on how rugged you want it, I would add 3-5 coats of sealer. (different brands give different results, so check the label).

Step 5: That's It!

This is my very first instructable, and I have decided that I hate the editor, so I apologize if it is hard to follow.

Let me know if this is useful.

Below are other props I have made in this manner.

I would like to thank Honus for his ingenuity and I also claim no ownership of the patterns used to make these props.

These cost me no money whatsoever, and all materials were stuff I had on hand.



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    17 Discussions


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Nothing is too complex to build!
    Some just take more time then others.  :P

    That one is a bit more complicated. It has lots of subtle and complex curves. It can be done, but there is a lot of work to be done during the smoothing process. I have started a stormtrooper helmet, and it is extremely tedious around the aerators.

    dung0beetlerc jedi

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That's awesome man, I can't wait to see it wen it's done. Did u make the dome, or have one made? I have one in the works, but it just looks like a trashcan with electronics stuffed inside atm. I haven't spent any cash on it yet (just using what I got). I am thinking of vac-forming the dome--I think it will be much cheaper than having someone cast or mold one out of metal.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome Master Chief helmet, I have the real legendary edition one. You should post an Instructable on making that.

    4 replies

    Did you want one on modding the Legendary helmet to be wearable, or did you want an instructable on the scratchbuilt one?


    Both would be awesome!

    Probably the wearable Legendary helmet first-- I look forward to doing that sometime soon with good directions.


    I don't have one, so i will have to do it in photoshop or something, but i have done it for other ppl, so i know what to do :P Build a vacuform table in the meantime, just google it there are lots of cheap designs and all u need is a vaccuum cleaner with a hose. There will be more details in the instructable coming soon :D