The past few Halloweens have been dominated by Star Wars costumes. This year, my son and I decided to go with a character that was more lighthearted and fun.
If you've seen the movie Trolls, then you'll no doubt know who Cloud Guy is. For us, he was the best 2 minutes of the film. So much so, we decided to pay tribute to him by bringing his character out of the animated world, and into ours. How could one resist the opportunity to create a cloud wearing old school gym socks.
Step 1: Creating the Body
- 4" Etha Foam, or other foams that can be carved
- Spray Adhesive
- Olfa knives x 2 (Small, Large)
The body, and main component of this costume was carved using 4" "Etha" foam. The technique I used can be applied to any large foam carving project, head, body etc.
I started with a simple line drawing of cloud Guy's body and legs that I traced from a google image search. I then scaled the drawing to suit my son's proportions while trying to keep the finished size manageable. Most importantly creating the body large enough to cover the right amount of my son's torso and head.
I estimated the width of Cloud Guy based on reference images and settled on a thickness that wouldn't require too many layers of foam, but was deep enough for my 10 year old son to stand comfortably within.
The size I settled on was 49" W x 30" H x 16" D at the widest point.
With that said, I needed 4 sheets of 4" foam to achieve the final depth. The cost of that amount of material can add up, so in order to be economical, I used scraps to create the 2 inner layers of the body and cut the outline shape, "pre-hollowed"
Usually, I would cut out the appropriate amount of sheets needed, carve the object solid, then pull it apart and hollow before gluing back together. (More on that later) Instead, I used to solid pieces for the front and back, and cut an outline for the inner 2 layers.
Once all of the pieces were cut on the band saw, I glued the scrap pieces together permanently to create the shape.
The 4 layers were then glued temporarily by only applying spray adhesive to one side of the foam and sticking it to the sheet beneath it. This allows enough tack to carve, but can easily be pulled apart when complete.
I established the entry point to the body prior to gluing and left that open for my son to get into the costume.
Once the layers are together , you're ready to carve the form.
Step 2: Carving the Body
To carve this, or any other foam project, you start by removing material from the squared corners. Having the
silhouette established as a block gives you a head start on your form. Usually, if I were carving a head, I would cut out the profile of the character from left to right, instead of back to front. The block form gives you the basics shapes and full dimensions in 2 directions. I start with a large olfa knife and crave the "broad strokes" THis allows me to get the form down quicker while checking proportions, shapes etc. Once I feel the form has been fleshed out, I switch to a small plfa blade to tighten up the carve and work the details. With cloud guy, his shape is fairly simple and a lot of the work was done with a large knife. I applied the eyebrow with a separate piece of foam, but once I was finished, I realized the facial details had to move down a bit. The nice thing about foam is you can make a mistake and fix it easily by cutting and regluing, or adding pieces to the carve. After the body was complete, I smoothed the surface with a rasp. This is a simple process of dragging the rasp over the surface of the foam to remove knife marks, bumps etc. However, when you're covering a carve in fur or batting, the imperfections with not be visible due to the thickness of the fabric.
Once I was happy with the form, I pulled apart each layer of foam. Like I previously mentioned, the inside 2 of the 4 layers were pre-hollowed. Carving solid allows you to achieve as much removal of material needed to create your character, by hollowing the 2 layers ahead of time I had to patch some areas where i carved deeper than the thickness of the foam. Again, I only did this to save on material.
Trace approximately a 1" gutter following your the contours of your form and cut the inside pieces out on a bandsaw. Keep in mid, cut the small side of a layer so that you don't cut through the piece. Once that is done, glue together the seam using your spray adhesive. TO hollow the piece evenly, flip the layer over to the larger side and trace the same 1" gutter around the form. From there you will slice away the foam on an angle so that the layer has an even 1" thickness.
The solid end pieces, or in this case, the front and back need to be dished out in order to gain more space inside the body and reduce overall weight of the costume.
Again, I drew a 1" gutter line around the silhouette and slid my small olfa blade into the line on an angle as far as it can go. I use the small knife because the blade is flexible. I then come at it from the opposite side over where I cut and slice away the section of foam. I repeated the process until the layer had a fairly consistent thickness throughout.
Once I was finished, each layer was carefully glued back together (gluing on both sides of the foam)permanently.
Step 4: Covering the Body
I searched numerous fabric stores trying to find the perfect fabric for Cloud Guy. I knew batting was a good alternative that I kept in the back of my mind, but I was determined to find something that had that vapour looking wispy feel. With no luck I ended up using batting.
His body is pre-covered using white hermolam (Fleece is fine too) as a base layer. Using spray glue, you lightly spray small sections of the surface and drap ethe fabric over the form, pulling and stretching to conform to the shapes. Repeat the process while tucking the fabric into areas where there is detail. Once the body is covered, it is trimmed, arms and mouth are cut out leaving extra material to be folded and hotglued to the inside of the body.
The batting is applied in a similar fashion but is only glued around the edges.
Once Cloud Guy was covered, I used a pet brush to agitate the batting, pulling and combing over the surface to create the wispy look.
Step 5: Creating the Facial Expression
Cloud guy had a few different expression in the movie, but my favourite was the dopey look he had. Once I found the image I wanted, I traced his eyes and mouth and teeth. I then scaled the line drawing to match the dimensions of the costume.
I initially carved "dummie" eyes for placement using the etha foam. The final eyes were carved using plastazote foam which is a smoother denser foam. I made templates then cut out the foam on the bandsaw. The eyes were carved then sanded using a dremel. When the dremelling was complete, I passed the heat gun over the surface to burn any fuzzies and close the cells of the foam. The eyes were sealed using flexbond (white glue also works)
3 thin coats were applied with a paint brush, with drying between each coat. After the 3rd coat is applied, I dip my fingers in water and smooth out the flexbond. The eyes were then masked and painted. A little acrylic wash was added to create some more depth as well as some yellow chalk pastel to achieve some yellowing on the eyeballs.
The teeth were created using the same materials and technique. They were spray painted a simple white to fiish them off.
Step 6: Vision Screen and Mouth Screen
A vision port was needed near the top of the body in order for my son to see. Its not an ideal place for it, but its location is dictated by Cloud Guys overall facial proportions. His mouth is much too low to look through.
I used hardware cloth (metal screen) as the base layer for both the vision port and the mouth screen. A layer of white aerated fabric was hot glued over the metal screen for the vision port. Once installed, I added a thin veil of batting over the vision port to help make it less conspicuous.
The mouth didn't need a screen but adding one provides further ventilation.
A layer of black protectaire was hot glued the metal screen and the teeth were hot glued to that.
The screens were installed using hot glue. I created a ledge in the foam the helps the screens fit better and makes it easier and cleaner to apply glue.
Step 7: The Socks
The old school gym socks are actually carved shoes.
I traced my son's foot so that I could establish the cavity needed for the inside. I then created a paper template of the sock based on reference photos. I had to shorten the overall length of the sock for safety reasons. Walking around in a shoe that was 2-3 times longer than his foot is too much of a tripping hazard, especially on a dark Halloween night.
The template was traced onto 6" ester foam and cut out on the bandsaw. The opening eas also cut out, and then glued at the seam. I then flipped the sock / shoe over and traced on his foot pattern, using a left and right fitting. The appropriate amount fo foam was dished out using my small olfa knife. Next I carved the sock using images for reference. The slouch and longer upper of the left foot were added using 0.5" ester cut and glued into a tube. The slouchy side was carved and formed with the foam. Once I was happy with the carve, a cardboard type sole was added using spray adhesive.
To cover the sock shoes, I purchased a cheap pair of plain white tube socks and pulled them over the shoe. Initially, the elastic in the sock pinched the upper part of the shoe so I had to hand stretch the sock to weaken the elasticity. This worked well and I was able to get the sock stretched over the shoe while retaining the form.
Next I hot glued the sock to the inside of the shoe around the opening.
The pinstripes and toe cap were added by masking off the socks and spray painting on the details.
Finally a soft, flexible rubber sole was cut and spray glued to the underside of the foot.
Step 8: Arms / Hands
I debated the arms and hands a few times during the making of this costume. I wanted the final look to be authentic but doing so would cause a problem for my son while trick or treating. He needed his real hands to hold a bag while receiving the sweet, sweet candy.
I decided to make removable prop arms for his school parade and for photos and bought a morph suit for which allowed him to use his real hands and maintain some continuity with the costume.
I freehanded the templates in Adobe Illustrator and scaled them accordingly. I glued 2 x1.25" Etha foam together and carved each hand using photos for reference.
The arms are essentially tubes so again, I used 2 x1.25" Etha foam cut into long rectangles. I sandwiched a length of 16 gauge galvanized wire between the foam the stuck out on one end so that the hands could be attached after they were covered in fabric. I used the wire so that the structure would be strong but also with the intent on making the arms poseable. My hope was to be able to bend the arms and mimmick some of the actions from the character's actions in the movie. I was able to pose them, but they weren't quite sturdy enough to stand on their own, so for some photos I used masking tape to hold them in place for the shot.
Once the arms were carved, they were covered in spandex by a co-worker. 2 Velcro tabs were added to the ends of the arms and to the inside of the bottom on either side of the arm holes.
I created a foam plug and glued it to the end of each arm. I covered the plug with batting to conceal it when attached. The arms plugged into the body and were secured using the Velcro tabs. When it came time for trick or treating, the arms were removed and my son slid his own arms out of the same socket holes.
Step 9: Shoulder Struts
Foam struts were created to support the costume on my son's shoulders. The struts were spray glued and hot glued to the inside of the body. The costume rested on his shoulders.
Step 10: The Dance
This costume was fun to build. My son really hammed it up while wearing it and threw around some high fives. The costume made everyone laugh and smile, and overall brought a lot of joy to Halloween for those who saw it.
Third Prize in the
Halloween Contest 2017