For my last DIY Wednesday post, I gave you a list of materials you needed to gather for your Halloween projects. Materials, however, are nothing without skills. What skills? I thought you’d never ask.
1. Making a budget
I know. It’s not fun to think about (unless you like math – like me), but budget plays a big part in your Halloween DIY process. Why make a prop if you can buy it cheaper? My main impetus for prop-making instead of prop-buying is saving money.
Also, I’m a little vain, so compliments about my work are a big factor, too.
When I’m about to start my seasonal prop-making process, I like to sit down and write a list of a) the props I want to make, b) the materials I need to make those props, c) the approximate cost, and d) where I can buy materials for the cheapest amount. You don’t want to just start buying a bunch of supplies that you may or may not need. That’s just wasteful.
2. Knowing what will come in handy
I’m not recommending for anyone to become a hoarder, but if it’s close to Halloween, keep an eye on your garbage. Many of the things we call trash can be very useful for a prop. Milk jugs can be cut up to become fingernails, newspaper can be used for papier mache, paper towel/toilet paper rolls can become prop arms, etc… The list goes on and on.
For example, we use plastic grocery bags for trash bags in our house. I felt like we were suddenly getting covered up in them, so I almost threw them out. I stopped myself, though, because plastic grocery bags are pretty great for filling out prop bodies. Now, I have a small bunch of them being stored for the Halloween season.
3. Having basic hardware knowledge
This might seem a little elementary, but props need tools. That’s just a fact. Know when to use a hammer, a power drill, nails vs. screws, etc… Watch some tutorials online. For real. YouTube is a valuable resource for just about anything, and that goes for prop-making, too.
4. Knowing how to use electronics, motors, etc…
This is more for advanced prop-makers, but who doesn’t love a moving prop. Or even an immobile prop that lights up. There’s just a certain oomph that electronics give to props, so don’t be scared. Dive in. The YouTube comment from the last section goes for this, too. There are also schematics online to help with wiring.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated. You can use oscillating fans for moving heads. You just have to know how to rig everything up and not blow out the motor (I learned my lesson on that one). Or you can just start small with lights and batteries from Radio Shack.
Don’t. Be. Scared.
Painting can make or break your prop. It’s the final step (usually), so you don’t want to screw up your prop at the very end. It’s just as easy to make a prop look terrible with paint as it is to make it look awesome. You don’t want to get to the end of making a severed head or gravestone out of styrofoam and screw up by using spray paint. Your prop will be eaten, and you will be sad.
That’s the first step: know what type of paint to use.
The second is knowing how to use paint. If you have a large prop, it’s best (in many cases) to give it a base coat of one dark color and then dry-brush on your accent color to give your prop depth and character. If you need to use spray paint, MOVE YOUR ARM CONSTANTLY. And use light coats. Some props might benefit from the gloppy, drippy look, but many will not. Just go one step at a time, and when you’re happy with the look, stop.
I wish I could say I saved the best for last. I wish I could say I’m an expert sewer. I wish I could say sewing is fun.
I wish for a lot of things.
But I suck at sewing. I hate it. The fact is, though, that sewing is pretty useful. And the great thing about making Halloween props is that the sewing doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect. You can do it by hand or use a sewing machine. Some props might benefit from a nicely-tailored outfit, but some might benefit just as well from burlap and a chunky twine stitch. Use whatever you need to make it look good. No one’s going to be inspecting them too closely, so don’t freak out too much about it.
I could go on and on, but these are the main skills I think any good prop-maker needs. You don’t have to start off as an expert. Learning is a process, and there’s always a bit of trial and error with this DIY stuff. Just keep your cool, and don’t get discouraged. You’ll do fine.
And if not, you can always buy something.