This year for Halloween, I created a costume I have never seen executed anywhere else before...a Tiki-inspired volcano god.
To take it that extra step from 'unique' to 'epic', I wanted to add some degree special effects to the costume which could be easily and inexpensively constructed and did not need to rely on electronics (the thought of someone spilling a drink on my laptop is scarier than any Halloween monsters). I decided to build:
- A cheap, reusable confetti cannon to fire through the top (that does not require any sort of flame ignition)
- A smoke effect to come from the top of the costume (that does not require a heavy, electric smoke machine)
Here is a short video of the confetti 'eruption' and smoke effects I was able to achieve:
I would love your feedback - please leave me a comment below!
Step 1: Materials
Here's a list of the main materials I used to put together the costume:
- Fairly rigid plastic fencing
- Plastic fencing with finer holes
- A thermal lunch box
- A phone book
- Tissue paper
- Plastic weather sheeting/shrink film
- Brown and white paint
- Rubber hosing
- 2 small funnels
- Compressed air canister
- Shiny thin red fabric
- Zip ties
- Packing/masking tape
- Dry ice
- Poster board
Step 2: The Frame
I began by rolling a length of the heavier fencing into a circle wide enough for me to stand inside (with enough room to move my legs to walk).
Zip-tying three of these rolls on top of each other created a tube roughly 6 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter.
The fencing I chose was not especially rigid, so I also added some thin wooden dowels for added support (pvc pipe would work as well). Though I would recommend using a sturdy fencing as the base to nicely hold its form.
Step 3: The Shape
I wrapped the entire fence-tube in plastic shrink wrap and used a hair dryer to tighten the weather sheeting to form fit to the cylinder. My reasoning for this was to have a flat smooth surface to apply paper mache to and not have the squares of the fence visible.
Once the plastic was applied, I taped some poster board along the bottom to shape it into more of a cone.
Step 4: The Face
Twisting together pages from a phone book, I made two long and tightly-rolled lengths of paper. These I taped to the front of the costume, shaping and defining the eyes.
When the eyes were the size, shape and position I wanted, I made sure they were attached firmly and then cut out the plastic and fencing that was inside them.
For the mouth, I taped on loops of rope in the desired shape. The rope I used was relatively thin and I had to loop it around a few times - I would recommend using thicker rope and only make one loop.
This would also be a good time to tie some of the extra rope to the fencing inside the costume to use as shoulder straps.
Step 5: Paper Mache
Now it's time to get your hands a little dirty and cover the entire costume in two or three layers of paper mache.
I found that a 1:1 ratio of water and flour with a few shakes of salt is a good starting point for your mixture. It should be fairly thick, but not chunky...try to achieve a creamy soup. You may need to add a bit more water or flour for a better consistency, but 1:1 will start you pretty close.
Pages from a phone book are the perfect size and weight for paper mache.
The best technique I have found is to not dip the pages into the mixture. This typically results in an uneven coat on your sheet and far more than you really need, making your drying time unnecessarily lengthy. Instead, take a small scoop of the mixture with your hand and rub it onto the sheets using just your hands. You'll be able to add a nice thin even coat on each page which will dry smoother and faster.
Step 6: Painting
Give the entire costume a healthy coat of brown paint. If the phone book is still visible after it dries, you may want to put on another coat, but it was not necessary for me.
I used masking tape in the mouth to create a grid pattern and panted over it with white paint. Peeling the tape off left large grimacing teeth.
Step 7: The Eyes
Cut out two squares of the smaller black fencing.
Lay one diagonally over top of the other to form a criss-cross pattern of mesh. Tape or glue these together and cut off the extended corners to make a mesh octagon. Make two of these octagons.
Fasten these pieces inside the costume covering the opening of each eye. I would recommend using velcro to attach them to easily take them off while you are wearing the costume.
If your mesh is fine enough, you will be able to easily see out, but people will have difficulty seeing into the costume.
Step 8: The Top
Put a layer of the plastic weather sheeting over the top of the costume and glue it down, covering the opening.
Next cover that with some of the shiny red fabric. Let it hang over the sides a little to give the effect of lava overflowing from the top of the volcano.
At this point, the main parts of the costume are complete - it's time to make it smoke and erupt!
Step 9: The Smoke
I used dry ice to create the smoke effect from the top of the costume.
I started by cutting a hole in the lid of a water bottle wide enough for the plastic tube to fit snugly inside.
The tube I ran to the top of the costume and attached it to the narrow end of a funnel to create a spout.
I cut a hole into the plastic sheet that covered the top of the costume and glued the wide end of the funnel to the opening. The red fabric I used was thin enough to allow the smoke to pass through, so I did not make any cuts into it.
I filled the bottle about half way with hot water, added dry ice and quickly screwed on the lid. This provided a decent thick smoke for around 15-20 minutes.
The pressure in the bottle will force the smoke up the tube and out the top of the costume.
Because the rest of the top opening of the costume was covered in plastic in step 8, the smoke does not fall back down inside, but rather settles on top and billows down the sides.
Step 10: Dry Ice
Dry ice should never be handled with your bare hands!! Always wear gloves when using dry ice!
I was lucky enough to find dry ice for sale in pellet form - if you are able, try to get pellets instead of a block of dry ice.
I wanted to be able to quickly add multiple pellets of dry ice to my water bottle to avoid handling them too much or wasting smoke.
Taking a small sheet of tissue paper, I placed a few pellets in a straight line that was roughly the length of the bottle. I rolled them up in the tissue and twisted the ends, making dry ice "cigars". When I wanted to create the smoke effect, I just dropped two or three of these dry ice packs into the bottle. The water quickly dissolved the paper and mixed with the dry ice almost instantly.
I put all of the dry ice rolls into a thermal lunch bag, which kept them cool, and wore it over my shoulder inside the costume.
Step 11: Confetti Eruption
Using a funnel, I poured some red sparkles and small pieces of red tissue paper confetti into another rubber tube, which also ran out the top of the costume (this one went through both the plastic and the red fabric).
Once the confetti is in the tube, a quick blast from a can of compressed air fires it out for a great eruption effect...and you can have another one ready to go in seconds!
If you are using paper confetti, be sure the pieces are light and small. If you use too much or large pieces, you might have a clog in the tube. A straightened coat hanger fixed the problem well when this happened to me.
Step 12: Show It Off!
Climb in through the bottom (it's easier with a second person supporting the top).
Toss on the shoulder straps.
Get your dry ice smoking.
Start the eruption.
And have some fun!