Sunday, September 18, 2011

Easy DIY Bubbling Cauldron Prop


This is a easy "bubbling" cauldron prop tutorial. I am planning on making this and pairing it with my Nightmare Before Christmas Sally prop. Buy a plastic cauldron (any size you want), and some packages of green glow fake spiderwebs. Pull and fluff the webs until they're wispy and airy. Fill the cauldron with the webs and stretch a few thin strands up into the air. It will look like rising smoke. Place near a black light and it will glow like green ooze. This will be perfect for Sally's worm wart soup. If your making a Sally, make sure to include her trick spoon she carries. Buy a wooden spoon (Michaels carries them) and drill five holes in it (from the movie) ;)

 To find information about Sally, click here

DIY Antique Spell Book Halloween Prop


    This is a tutorial on how to make an antique book prop out of any book. I chose to make mine Sally's potion book from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas. I saw an antique book prop similar to this one online, but could not find ANYTHING about how to make one. So, I did a little experimenting. This is how to make it:          

Supplies Needed:

-Out dated book
-White glue
-Large artist brush
-Instant Coffee
-Acrylic Paint
-Printer Paper
-Caulk & Floral Moss (optional)

Approx. Cost: $10 or less

Time Invested: 2+ Hours

(Description corresponds to picture tutorial above)

* Decide if you are going to make a cover for the book. If so, do this first. Click here for book cover tutorial.

 (This Book is a prop only. When finished, it will be hardened and stuck in the "open" position. You will not be able to flip through or close the book.)

1. Measure the dimensions of your pages, (example 7 “ x  9 “ )

2. Make a Photoshop document with those same dimensions (example 7" x 9"),  then add photos or text as desired. Print it out . Lay out on book and trim excess if necessary. Set aside for later.
Free Nightmare Before Christmas Font:

Inner page print outs:

3. Find the center of the book and mark it with a bookmark, using a white glue and water solution, start at the front cover and and brush on the glue solution and press the first page down, do this over and over again to each page until you reach the center. (Also, as you near the center it helps to start "bumping" the pages up, not smoothing them down so flat: see pictures)... you don't have to cover the entire page with glue, just do one swipe down the outermost edge with a 1" brush from top to bottom, as you near the center stop applying glue to the top and bottom corners (just the middle few inches) so the corners will be free to lift up. After you have reached the center, go back and take the "free" unglued corners and roll them in layers with your paint brush handle. Once they are rolled, apply a lot of glue so they will harden, flip book, and repeat from back cover to center.

4. Paint entire book black with acrylic, let it dry. Paint all page edges with a thin layer of metallic silver acrylic, let it dry.

5. Lay paper printout pages into the book, mark with pencil some jagged edges so it doesn't look so perfect, cut out jagged pencil edges. Apply glue solution to open book pages and carefully apply each printout page into place, remember to fit the corners up into the curled edges.


6. Coffee! I personally like to use Starbucks VIA instant caramel coffee that comes in the packet, but any will do. Put some warm  water in a small cup, add instant coffee powder, let it desolve to brown coffee water. Use your paint brush to paint it on the stark white pages. Do one all over coat to get a tan overall color. You can add a second layer of coffee, the more layers,  the darker it will be. I did 2 all over and a third random pass to make it more uneven and random. Don’t be afraid to mix some glue into the mix too. Then while the pages are still pretty wet, I like to do a random sprinkling of the dry instant coffee powder. Let it sit a few seconds and you will see it start to desolve and leave a dark rusty age spot effect. Wipe it off lightly with your brush once it has reached the desired rusty age spot look. Blow dry the pages a little not all the way, then dip your fingers in some regular water and flick water onto the pages randomly. These will dry a different shade than the rest, also looks like water damage and age spots. Let Dry (doesn't have to be 100% dry to move on to step #7).
7. Paint, I use very watered down black acrylic and watered down burnt umber acrylic. Paint, dab, smudge, blend around the outer edge of where the printer paper meets the real book for a “burned” edges look.

8. Paint any colors and details you have. If you need to add any color (in my case green on the soup), use very watered down acrylic paint, a water color consistency. Remember you can always start light and work your way to dark, but if you start too dark… your screwed. 

9. Add a ribbon bookmark. I found some old pink wire ribbon and painted it black. Then painted my own wiggly white stripes (acrylic). Or you can buy black ribbon and add the white stripes. The wire makes it bendy and pose-able. Hot glue it into the spine at the top of the book.

(STEP #10 & #11 Optional)

10. Add moss with hot glue. I bought mine at Michael's, but any floral or craft store should have it. I love the one I got. It was in the Halloween isle and it was $2.99 for a good sized bag. Plus I had a 40% off coupon! Place it where ever it looks natural. I also added some dried leaves I found outside for a cemetery look. 

11. Add worms if desired. I just piped them on using a caulk tube. Then I painted them with acrylic and added acrylic gloss for slime. I gave them cartoon like eyes for the Nightmare Before Christmas style.

Comment if you have any questions... Good Luck.

DIY Haunted Mansion Holiday Wreath Prop



Cost: $10 or less

This is the Nightmare Christmas wreath that hangs all over Disneyland's Haunted Mansion during the Nightmare Before Christmas holiday overlay around Halloween and Christmas time. I always wanted to have on of these wreaths, so i tried to make my own. I got the plain black wreath at Michael's for pretty cheap. I bought all the assorted Fall leaves, twigs and berries from Michael's floral department (50% off!) I hot glued all the floral items into the wreath. I then cut the Nightmare skull out of pink insulation foam and painted it. The skull is not quite right, I'll admit it...and the black and white stripe ribbon was hand painted from some old wired ribbon I already had.

Original Skull Hanging on Disneyland Haunted Mansion:

2011 DIY Prop Wreath:

2013 Wreath Update:
 This is a DIY skull I made form making a mold from my original Disneyland prop skull. 
It was then cast in plaster and painted.
This one is much more accurate, and I am very happy with it. 

2D Skull Template Printable:
Use this skull as your guide to cut skulls out of paper, cardboard, wood, or foam!

Halloween Count Down Clock Prop

Countdown Clock

This is a tutorial on how to make the Nightmare Before
Christmas Countdown Clock. This clock appears in Halloween Town in the movie, but more famously it hangs over the main entrance to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion Holiday (October - December). The Disneyland original is several feet tall, this tutorial is a scaled down version. Here's how i made it:

Supplies Needed: 
Cardboard or Foam-core Board
Pink Insulation Foam
18" Floral Craft wreath made of Twigs
Assorted Fake Leaves & Berries
(and the metal stems from the floral items)
or Wire
Acrylic Paints
Hot Glue
Exacto Knife

Approx. Cost: $5 or less

Time Invested: 2 Hours

(Detailed description corresponds with picture tutorial above)

1. a) Decide how big you want your clock, and what material you want to make it out of. This tutorial shows how to make a cheap clock out of recycled cardboard, but it could be constructed out of wood. 
   b) Step one shows the basic shapes that will need to be cut out. Face, Hands, Base x2, Sides, Bottom (sides and bottom can be one continuous piece or segments, however it works out). 
   c) Paint the clock face white with black details.
NOTE: The clock hands are actually not shown in figure 1, but they are one single piece, cut from cardboard, and attached with a "brad". They spin!
2. Buy a floral wreath made from sticks and twigs. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby. It was marked $4.99 (but, I had a 40% off coupon! <Get them on their website for free!) They come in various sizes ( mine is 18"diameter). Spray paint it flat black. Dry brush some brown acrylic paints to give it depth. Hot glue a few holly berries, and some dead leaves.

3. Use a square piece of insulation foam for structure. Piece the front and back cardboard base pieces around the foam (like a sandwich) . I placed the front and back first and then used hot glue to attach the 2" wide strips along the bottom and sides. The insulation foam is naturally 2" thick, this is why I chose to make my base 2" thick. Please make your base 2" or wider or else it will not stand on its own.You should now have the cardboard base constructed. Paint it with  metallic silver acrylic paint.

4. a) Using a knife or foam cutter, scoop off a slight curve on the top of the foam to support the shape of the floral wreath.
    b) Using wire (I happened to use some old wire floral stems I had left over) make an anchor to  hold the floral wreath. Stab the wire into the foam and wrap it around the wreath to securely attach the two.

5. Cut out white pieces of card stock or printer paper for the countdown numbers & "days till halloween". Write the numbers and words on the cards. Use pens and markers to add edges and details to the white paper.
NOTE: You can make your clock say "000" ,or you could make all the numbers on cardstock squares, then tap small nails or those twist-in hooks into the front of the countdown area, and hang your own numbers that you can change every day! . . . just an idea.

6. Bolts: I used some left over flat back crystals from another project. They were green....Spray paint them silver, instant bolts!

7. a) Attach the "bolts" with hot glue
    b) Use watered down brown, gold or copper paint dripped on the bolts to make them look rusty.

8. Attach the clock face to the back of the wreath with a few dots of hot glue around the edges

Finished clock! 

If you choose to,  you can also make the drop down rope "XMAS" sign. I would use jute twine for the rope, and cheap Dollar Tree foam-core board for the sign. I use my prop for Halloweentime decor, so I did not make that Christmas sign (yet...)

I hope these instructions are clear. 
Please leave any questions in the comments. I will do my best to help. 
Good Luck....

Life-Size DIY Zero Dog Prop


This is how I made Zero, Jack Skellington's ghost dog

Cost: Aprox. $5 or less

 I paper mache'd the entire head: Using a ball of newspaper for the round head, and rolls of news paper for the "snout", i taped and shaped the entire thing with masking tape. I then paper mache'd over the whole thing.

For the ears, I bent a long piece of wire into the shape of his squiggly ear, then wrapped it in masking tape, then paper mache'd over the entire ear, and inserted the wires into the paper mache' head. (Repeat for second ear).

 Use black and white acrylic paint to paint Zero's head.

To make the collar, I just painted an old masking tape spool (the cardboard inside after all the tape is gone). The name tag is made from a circle cut from card stock, painted gold with acrylic paint.

 For the "body" of the ghost dog, cut a diamond shape out of white material or an old sheet. I hot glued some wire down the "spine" of the sheet body so it would be pose able and remain stiff (not just hang straight down under Zero's head). 

Hot Glue the head to the collar, and the collar to the sheet body. Bend the wire as needed to make it look like Zero is flying through the air! I found a tiny pumpkin at Michaels and drew a jack-O-lantern face on it, and hot glued it to Zero's snout to make his pumpkin nose. I finished it off by wrapping some clear string/fishing wire around his neck and suspending him from a hook in the ceiling.

How to Paper Mache



-lots of news paper
-liquid white glue
-a bowl
-scissors (optional)

You can paper mache' over different surfaces. If you want a round or oval shape, you can paper mache' over a balloon or cheap grocery store ball toy. Or, if you want a specific shape, what I do is crumble news paper into the shape i want, or stuff a paper bag with news paper and use masking tape to help form the shape. Then paper mache' over all of it to get a smooth, hardened outer layer.

To paper mache', take your news paper and tear it into 1" strips ( can be bigger/smaller depending on what your making). You can cut the strips with scissors, but if you tear it, the edges will be feathered and blend together more smoothly. you wont end up with harsh paper edge lines... Then take a old bowl and fill it up half with white glue and half with warm water. Mix the two together thoroughly. Now dip each strip of news paper into your glue solution. (This could get messy! ) Then pull the strip out of the glue solution wiping all the excess dripping with your fingers. Now place the gluey strip on whatever you are paper mache'ing. Repeat this process over and over again, layering the strips all the way until you covered the surface. You can also start to build up certain areas by layering more strips or masking tape. Once the glue has dried, the news paper should be hard and solid. Pop the balloon or ball inside. It can now be painted, and decorated.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life-Size DIY Mayor of Halloween Town Prop


The second Character I made was the Mayor. Here is a tutorial of how I made him.
**Update: I have done some updates to the Mayor to make him more accurate, I will post the updated pictures here soon**

Cost: Aprox. $25

Supplies Needed:
Hot glue
Acrylic paints
Foam pipe insulation/99cent pool noodles
Needle and thread

I measured and cut the PVC pipe accordingly (exact measurements to come...)

The head is made from a large white poster board purchased at the local grocery store. I rolled it into a cone shape (small on one end, and wide on the other). I drew on the mayors face with pencil, and then painted it with acrylic paints. I want to make a new rotating head carved out of foam .

I measured and cut a cardboard ring for the brim of the mayors hat, I slid it down around his forehead, then I measured and cut a cardboard circle and placed it at the very top of the PVC pipe (top of his hat), then connected the two cardboard pieces with a tube of black material and hot glue to form his tall hat.


The spider tie and mayor badge are made out of cardboard and painted with acrylic paints.

The bull horn is made out of black poster board rolled into a cone and painted with silver acrylic paint.

The Mayor's hands: His hands are made using the same technique as Sally (just a larger version)

 He currently only has one, of his two faces, I plan to add his sad, creepy face to the other side !

Life-Size DIY Jack Skellington Prop



Cost: Approx. $25+


For Mr. Skellington, I started by finding all his measurements. Then I bought .5" PVC Pipes and .5" Connectors at Home Depot. Then for his head, I bought two half spheres of that green floral foam at Michael's (they didn't sell it in a full round ball). The head diameter is 8". The green floral foam is much softer and easier to carve than the regular white Styrofoam balls they sell. I got all my supplies home, referred to my scale guide I had made, and cut all the lengths of Jacks limbs, etc. (Remember that each PVC connector adds about .5" to 1" in length, account for that if you want your character to Be accurate). I used evenly distributed white glue to glue the two floral foam domes together to make a full sphere. While Jacks head was drying, I assembled his PVC pipe body. When his foam head was done drying i twisted it back and forth down onto the "neck"until it went in a few inches and was secure. I then pulled the head off, filled the hole with hot glue and placed the head back on. Now it will be permanently attached. You now have the frame work of Jack intact!

tawni dilly suggests: you could drill holes thru pvc and put in a slightly longer screw with a bolt on end. that way he can change positions. Tighten when he is in position you want and untighten to change etc.

Also: I chose to make my Jack with 45* bent knee joints because I like how I
it looked. My Jack remains in a sitting position. However, if you would like your Jack to stand, I would recommend making his legs straight. This will make It easier to secure his legs to a wood base or into re bar in the front lawn. If you are going to give him straight legs, please remember to subtract a few inches off of his leg length. If you straighted his bent legs, he suddenly becomes taller and in my opinion out of proportion.
His total height should be about 7.5 feet tall approximately.


Looking at a detailed picture of jacks face online (you can choose your favorite expression), I lightly (and carefully) traced on his eyes, nose holes, and mouth with a pencil.

Once I knew that the size and placement was correct, I used the pencil to carve deeper and deeper into his mouth and nose holes.

 For the eyes, I actually used a tea spoon to carve out the round shape...worked perfectly!

 Now paint the face and head using black and white acrylic paints. Head is done


I Purchased a few yards of the cheapest black fabric I could find at the fabric store. Clothes-making isn't my specialty. Basically, what I did was, Look at a picture of Jack's clothes for the accurate look, then laid down the PVC "stick figure" on the black fabric, used a white colored pencil for marking and traced around the figure. For the jacket, I cut out the front panel, and the back panel and hand stitched them together. For the pants (and long sleeves), I again measured the material against Jacks leg length, then cut the material. I used a sewing machine to sew the two pant legs into "tube" shapes, and left them somewhat open toward the top. I hand sewed the open top parts together to close off the top of the pants. I feel like I really didn't know what i was doing, so its probably really confusing to understand how I sewed the pants. Maybe ask someone you know that sews, it's really basic. I was too cheap to buy the pin striped material at the store, so I ended up using the white colored pencil to make stripes up and down his suit. It Actually Turned out a lot more accurate this way, because if you look at Jack's suit, it doesn't have perfectly uniform stripes. They are more squiggly and imperfect. Finish by adding a button to his suit and stuffing his chest with recycled plastic bags.


Bow Tie: Jack's signature Bat bow tie was made using the same method as the suit jacket. I just looked at a picture of the tie online, then traced it onto the material twice. I sewed the two pieces together around the edges with a sewing machine ( like making a pillow). Then I lightly stuffed the bat with batting and inserted a few wires to maintain its stiffness)

Shoes: I made tiny black shoes for Jack out of wood (with the help of my Grandfather). Then used black acrylic paint, and shellac spray for shine. We drilled .5" round holes into the tops of the shoes so the PVC pipe legs would fit into them.
(You could also carve the shoes out of pink/blue insulation foam and achieve the same result)

Hands: The hands are from Party City, they were just prop skeleton hands. I inserted wire and hot glue into them to make them pose able.

...Look who I found decorating the tree...
this picture I

Making props to Scale

This will be the first step for all of the life size props I will be posting on this blog:

First off, I start all my life-sized figure projects by printing out an accurate photograph of the character. I measure it all out with a ruler

(example: head - 1", neck- .5 ", arm- 2", etc...)

Then multiply those measurements by how much larger I want the life-size figure to be. That way all their measurements stay to scale....

I did 1"=8" Scale. Just multiply your paper measurements by 8, so if the head was 1" on your paper, it will be 8" in the life size model, and so on...

Once you find all your measurements you can add up the total inches or feet to find out how many supplies you will need. Remember if your using PVC, the connectors can add up to a half inch or so in length per connector. Consider this while building your life size prop.

 Good Luck :)
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