Halloween 2011 - Barbara & Adam (Beetlejuice)

The best costumes I’ve made are also the ones I’ve took the most photos.

Here are the costumes I was aiming for in this years Halloween Quiz - from the great film Beatlejuice:

If you have the dvd you can take loads more screen shots from this bit in the film to help you see the heads from all angles. A must really.

So to start with I began constructing the general head shapes from cardboard. You just want to make sure you can get the heads to fit your own and work out how they will stay on your head.

Then came the tongue which is made from cardboard and a wire coat hanger.

The eyes are made from two rollerball deodorant balls. I stuck a pen through each of them and sprayed them white. The iris are printed outs on paper and stuck on with glue. Then added a bit of red paint and red biro for veins. They are covered in epoxy resin to give them a hard shiny coat.

Some adjustments to the head.

Plates for the mouth.

More adjustments with the eyes in.

Try on for size. If I could do this again I would have made it smaller. I didn’t realise how big the piece would get once I added the paper mache paste. Looks good though.

Added some stuffing. I ended up taking a lot out.

Padded the tongue out with tissue and covered in masking tape.

Made a start on the Adam head. Again just a cardboard band round the head which holds the features in place. Again its stuffed with paper.

Made a start on the hand that comes out of the head. 

Two cardboard circles for the eyes.

Covered in masking tape. I’d leave this out cos it didn’t stick too well so ended up ripping most of it off. Starting to take shape here.

I added a mouth here, but ripped it out at the end because I wasn’t happy with it and it would have got in the way of the wearer’s mouth.

Here I cut out the roof and floor of the mouth to leave a gum to attach teeth.

Two evenings work.

Made the teeth next. The are made out of modelling clay. Each is a small cube of clay shaped with an earbud and a butter knife. You can smooth them out with a brush and water. There’s 88 here - made 120 in the end.

Here I added more cardboard for the eyes and to get the shape of the skin stretched over the gums. 

Started adding the paper mache paste next. Find a recipe on the internet, but it’s basically 1 roll of toilet paper, about 150ml white glue, tablespoon of flour, 2 tablespoons of linseed oil and a splash of water. I ended up making it up as I went along. You need to be able to spread it without it cracking.

I used about 4 or 5 rolls of paper to cover the two masks inside and out. The paper in the background are rolls not yet covered in the glue.

Get it as thin as you can because it gets heavy.

I used an oven to speed up drying. Don’t leave it unattended like I did!

Add detail with the paste.

Ok, so I ripped off the rim of the gums I made earlier because I couldn’t make holes in it to fit the teeth. I just made the teeth long and glued them to the outside rim of the mouth.

I’ve also cut the floor and roof of the mouth out to curve them. Think I removed a lot of the stuffing here.

Also some paper strips glued all over at this point for extra strength.

Cover the whole lot in the paste and start painting.

Side view. I would have curved the sides more if I could do again.

The teeth are now dry and sprayed white. Diluted some black paint in water to add shadows, then cover in the same epoxy as the eyes.

The tongue was also covered in paper mache paste and painted. I’ve not sanded this piece as the cracked and a good texture.

The adam masked stripped of the mouth and covered in paste. First coat of paint.

Because the Barbara mask was so heavy I had to add this bit of card to get the weight to pull against the back of my head.

More painting. You can see here that the paper mache paste has gone right round the teeth in order to make gums and keep them in place. This needs doing on the inside as well.

Getting there.

Wish I had more time to smooth the skin out.

Different view.

Try on.

Eyes are stuck on tooth picks.

For the costume I got a vintage dress off ebay. Search for ‘floral’, ‘ditsy’, ‘50’s’ etc. You need some white tights with the highest denier you can find - 120 here, also some cream or white slips ons and a curly brown wig to glue on the top.

And here it is:

Side view. You can see here how big it ended up. Would go smaller if you can.

Here we are on the night. For added bonus get an old book and print off the cover for ‘Handbook for the Recently Deceased’.

Modern Operation

So inbetween Halloweens I thought i’d make something I could use at the pub quiz I do - a large scale Operation game but with modern ailments rather than the real ones.

So he’s the finished piece:

To start with you need to find the biggest picture of Cavity Sam you can find. I printed mine on 8 A3 pieces of paper by cutting it up in Photoshop. If you keep halving the image until you have one section you can accurately cut it up so it all joins together perfectly once printed out.

One thing you will need to do is to Photoshop out the labels already next to the pieces. It just means you can stick your own ones on later and they’ll be crisper as resizing will blur the image.

I stuck all these pieces to a big bit of card to form the front of the game.

The body of the game is made from cardboard fruit boxes, four in total, stuck together. I cut the bottoms out of the boxes as these were very thick and I wanted to make this as light as possible. I stuck a thinner piece of cardboard to the bottom to replace the back of the boxes. I also cut the height of the boxes down to the size I wanted.

You then need to make the pieces. I decided what pieces I wanted and made them up using Photoshop. Print them out so you can work out how big to start making the little boxes they sit in. 

The actual pieces are just several bits of cardboard cut into the shapes and stuck on top of each other. Cover them in paper strips and stick the image on top. I then covered them in PVA glue to protect them.

The boxes are just made from bits of cardboard. You might want to paint them now because it’ll be harder once the tops are glued on.

When I had cut out the cardboard that fit on top of each box I did a quick test with the tongs to see how easy/hard it was to get the pieces out without touching the sides. This is the point to make any adjustments cos the next bit will be covering the edges with tinfoil.

You then need to make them conductible - for this I used tin foil. I later found that the tin foil wasn’t enough to get a good circuit with the tongs, so I wrapped fuse wire around the top of each piece.

Then you need to decide where each piece is going so you can glue them down.

Now the wire it all up. The pieces I used were a 9v battery, a buzzer, a switch, an LED torch and a set of metal tongs.

Wire each piece to the next one in a sequence. Then at one end I connected the wire to the battery, then to the switch, then that to the torch, then that to the tongs. If I didn’t do it in that order I found that the buzzer and light didn’t both go off when I completed the circuit.

As a failsafe you might also want to wire each piece to the next but one piece. This is so that if one connection fails the circuit won’t break. It’d be a nightmare fixing once it’s all stuck down.

Then fit them to the top piece.

Check it all works before sticking the top down.

Now all you need are the labels.

A finishing touch I didn’t have time to do would be to stick a red cardboard border around the edge. 

That’s it!

It’s still a bit rough. I’d forgot one of the labels so had to improvise. Was in a rush towards the end. One to go back and finish.

Halloween 2010 - Power loader + Alien (Aliens)

So here’s another set of costumes I made without taking many photos. Silly!

This duo is Ripley’s Power Loader from Aliens, and an Alien.

Here’s the finished piece:

It’s built around water pipes from B&Q. They are light but strong and also have those corner bits so you can cut the pipes to any size and join them together.

I started with the backpack, which is a box shape and which I attached straps so I can wear it on my back and support the weight. The arms are two long pipes. You can see from the picture that they are threading onto a pipe that is fixed to the backpack. There are various shaped connectors you can get from the hardware store that allow you to fit the pipes together in many different ways. The other end of the arms have small pipes attached so you can lift the arms up and down. I’ve also made some stoppers to fit on the ends of the cross pipe so that the arms don’t slip off.

Once the insides were made the rest is just cutting out big bits of card and fitting them together in box shapes around the pipes. It’s all hollow inside. It’s all cover in paper strips and painted.

The cage was made from foam insulation that wraps around copper water pipes. Just cut in various ways to fit together and glued.

On top there’s a real working beacon. Got off ebay it’s slotted into the head and connected to a 12v battery and switch. The battery doesn’t last long though.

The finishing touches are logos and badges printed out and stick on, as well as some stripy warning tape. Oh, and some fish tank piping for the hydraulics.

And that’s it!

The second piece was an alien head. It’s just made from bits of cardboard all stuck together. It was then also covered in paper strips and painted. The body for this was just a skeleton suit with the white bones painted black. Will try and find some finished pictures.

Halloween 2009 - Ash (Evil Dead 2)

I’m gutted I didn’t take more photos of this one as I thought the end result was really great and actually made and painted really well.

My second costume was Ash from Evil Dead 2:-

Bit more to this costume than the last one.

The clothes were fair easy to get. Cheap pair of chinos, cheap denim shirt ripped at the sleeve, a leather belt that was split down the middle to get a three strap effect, and a plastic shotgun.

The chainsaw is a Homelite XL. Google it for actual photos, as well as a lot of other peoples Halloween efforts.

Mine is just a few pieces of cardboard bent to give a rounded box shape. The details are then added on. The blade is three pieces stuck together, with the middle one being slightly bigger to give the impression of a chain.

The handles are all rolled up cardboard with a bit of string for the starter. The cut a hole in the end and add another long cardboard tube.

The whole lot is then covered in paper mache strips and painted. Bit of dry brushing to give it a used look.

Total cost was a bit more due to the clothes. Probably about £30. Cardboard is always free from the street. You just need to look around shops on a dry day. Don’t be shy.

There was a bit of hot glue used in this, so start up costs can be more than you would like but once you have a glue gun, craft knife and some cheap poster paints the next one will be cheaper. You have to get a hot glue gun - it’s essential!

World Cup 2009 - “It’s not coming home”

So for something to do between Halloweens the next model was a simple blow-football table to be used as a round in the Common Knowledge Quiz I co-host with my mate Chris Higson.

Just a bit of fun really. Made from a canvas board, some doweling for goal post, netting for the net, cardboard barriers and crowd & cup printouts for decoration courtesy of Chris.

Get two drinking straws and a ping pong ball and your away.

Not a good game for smokers.

Halloween 2008 - Jack Torrance (The Shining)

The first full paper mache costume I made was a simple design, but one which has a big impact due to it’s unconventional take on the Halloween costume.

Here is my Jack “Here’s Johnny” Torrance from the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining:-

The construction is pretty simple. The door is made from a cardboard box left over from some flat pack furniture. It was door shaped in dimension, which meant I didn’t have to make that part of it.

The box was stuffed with paper to give it strength. The embossing in the panels was done by simply cutting in some strategic places and pushing them back.

The light switch and door knob were also just bits of left over card cut into the right shapes. The door knob is just a ball of masking tape covered in strips of  paper mache.

The whole thing was covered in paper mache strips and painted - quite badly as I ran out of time. I then made some holes in the bottom corners to thread some string so I could hang it round my neck hands-free.

Took about a week to make and probably cost no more than £10 for paints and glue. Oh and a plastic hammer which cost about £4. Clothes were borrowed or owed, so no cost there.

Result: Winner of best costume


 [pey-per-muh-shey, -ma-; Fr. pa-pyey-mah-shey]

a substance made of pulped paper or paper pulp mixed with glue and other materials or of layers of paper glued and pressed together, molded when moist to form various articles, and becoming hard and strong when dry.
made of papier-mâché.
easily destroyed or discredited; false, pretentious, or illusory: a papier-mâché façade of friendship.


French: literally 'chewed paper'