So! This is my first Instructable, and an entry in the 2018 Halloween contest, so please be kind and vote if you like what you see!
This project is a case study in what happens when you have a 4-year-old who is into dinosaurs. Like really, reeeeeeally into dinosaurs. So much so that he decides he absolutely, positively, unquestionably MUST be a Ceratosaurus for Halloween.
Never heard of it? Neither had I. Apparently, it was featured for a whopping 15 seconds in Jurassic park 3.
Not surprisingly, there aren't store bought Ceratosaurus costumes available at Wal-Mart. Which is great. I love a good project, especially when I can bring a smile to my kid's face. The following steps take us from modern day to the late Jurassic on a journey where - over the course of several sleepless nights - I, like the Jurassic Park scientists, became so preoccupied with whether I could, I didn't stop to think if I should.
Step 1: Inspiration and Research
This little guy is the action figure that inspired this grand adventure (Complete with entirely non-annoying roaring action!) I've always enjoyed art and the creative process in it's various forms, but had never really dabbled in costume creation or fabrication.
Knowing I was completely clueless as to where to start, I did what any self-respecting, would be artist would do. I turned to the interwebs for bunches of targeted google searching. Also sketching. Lots of sketching.
In my searching, I stumbled across what seemed to be equal parts impressive and attainable on this awesome Flickr stream. Solid inspiration and some great process photos that helped me a lot in my own project. Alrighty then, moving on!
Step 2: Building the Frame
- Plain old Corrugated cardboard
- Masking Tape
- Scissors, x-acto knife or craft knife (or all three)
To start, I measured my son's head and cut a band to fit that would form the basis for the rest of the build. All of the additional strips connect to this headband or the subsequently attached layers. For the upper and lower jaw, I measured how long I wanted the snout, doubled that measurement and cut to shape. For the top of the head, I cut a long strip, anchored the front (by the nose) and made the rough shape that I wanted for the profile view. I then trimmed the excess off the back to be flush with the back of the skull shape.
I used a craft knife for most of the cuts, and wrapped all of the joints in masking tape. Glue would probably work as well, or better, but I am impatient and hadn't allowed myself enough time prior to Halloween, so the pressure was on to move quickly.
I was also really excited to get the horn attached, so I went ahead and slapped that on there.
NOTE: The jaw pieces end up being pretty much their final shape from this point to the end of the project, save some padding, so make sure you like the look and shape you have at this stage.
Step 3: Shaping the Skull
- Single-ply Cardboard
- More tape
- Aleene's Tacky Glue
In this step, I cut strips of single-ply cardboard, like that from a cereal box, with scissors to create a ribcage or lattice frame for the shape of the skull. This type of cardboard can be flexed to create really nice curves and create the organic shapes needed to create a natural look. I anchored each strip with a dot of Aleene's tacky glue and secured it with more masking tape to make the hold more immediate. Truly, the Tacky glue grabs quickly, creates a strong bond and would probably have been fine on it's own. I did use corrugated on the brow crests for a bit more strength and rigidity.
Step 4: Adding the Muscle Tissue
- Paper shopping bags
- Elmer's Glue-All
- Upholstery Foam
- Electric Carving Knife (not pictured)
- Egg Carton
First, I cut strips from a paper shopping bag. I dipped the cut strips in a solution of Elmer's and water, kind of like a paper mache project. I laid the strips over the skeletal frame created in the previous step to created the fleshed out shape of the head and face of the dinosaur. Over top of the paper mache layer I rolled up corrugated cardboard to create spines on the center of the skull.
Next, I used the fancy schmantzy 80's era carving knife to create the accentuated brows and musculature around the jaws. These pieces were glued on with Aleene's.
In order to really get a feel for how the finished product would look, I took the opportunity to dry fit the eyes in their sockets. They're made from uber cheap pre-made styrofoam eyes I picked up at the craft store and modified to look reptilian, then glued inside an egg carton.
Step 5: Indecision and Just in Case...
- Plastic Spray Paint
At this point, I liked the shape, look and feel of the head, but was unsure of where to go next. We had this really awesome metallic orange fabric that my fantastic seamstress of a mother (Thanks Mom!) was using to create the body suit, complete with tail and musculature, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get the fabric on successfully without extraneous seams and bunching. I knew I'd be fabricating some simple claws from the fabric, but thought it might be more efficient to attempt to match the color with an elaborate paint job.
I decided I'd go ahead and lay down a base coat of a rich orange in a plastic safe paint from Rust-oleum and then see how I felt in the morning. I figured if nothing else, the paint would camouflage any bad edges or cracks I couldn't get into.
NOTE: When painting any type of foam, always do a test piece first. Some paints - especially aerosol- can melt some foams. Nobody wants melting foam.
Step 6: Skin Application
- Aleene's Tacky Spray
- Fabric of choice
In the end, despite being far more comfortable with paint than fabric, I decided the look would ultimately be more uniform if the head and body were covered in the same material. I cut a rectangle of fabric large enough to drape the entire piece. I anchored the fabric by cutting a hole for the horn. Then, I worked backward from the snout fixing a section at a time with Aleene's Tacky Spray. At various points I had to cut, fold, overlap and trim away excess material to allow the fabric to conform to the shape. I left a length of additional fabric, essentially a mullet, at the back of the head so that it could be tucked into the neck of the suit.
Note: On this step, I wish I'd patterned the fabric better, so I'd know in advance where the overlaps would be and I could minimize folding.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
- Corrugated Cardboard
- White Enamel Spray paint
- Black Spray paint
At this stage there was very little left to do, but apply the last few bits. I cut a set of fearsome chompers out of corrugated cardboard and added a top coat of white enamel to the teeth and the horn to make sure it popped.
To match the toy, and to add some depth and texture, we decided to spray black stripes on both the back of the head and down the back and legs of the body suit.
Step 8: Happy Kid and Action Shots
Overall I'm really happy with how this turned out. I think the costume achieved the larger than life appeal I was shooting for and I had a very happy 4-year-old as a result. He's already talking about what we can make next year!
I've shared a few full costume shots here for the total effect, along with his matching Ceratosaurus Jack-O-Lantern (roar!)
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope you've enjoyed it and that you learned something, or at least became more confident that you too can blindly leap into the abyss and say "Yes small child, I'll gladly take on the daunting task of making your [insert really important project here], and in the process risk invoking your longstanding wrath and disappointment."
Thanks again! Get out there and make something!