I just discovered my favorite Halloween DIY project today: corpsing a skeleton. I’d been hesitant to try it before because I’d only seen tutorials that used sticky adhesive or latex, and I’m cheap enough to not want to “mess up” one of my skeletons. But after finding a tutorial online that only involved plastic sheeting, a heat gun, and some stain and realizing that I can pick up a new skeleton any time I need, I decided to try it out.
It’s way simpler than I thought it would be, and I love the results. If you have a skull or skeleton or even just a bone lying around, you should seriously think about giving corpsing a try.
First off, let’s talk supplies.
To corpse a skeleton or skeleton part, you need the following:
- Plastic drop cloth
- Heat gun
- Spray adhesive (optional)
- Varnish (assorted colors)
- Box cutter/scissors
- Rubber gloves
Speaking of heat guns, just look at this beauty I picked up this weekend, care of a well-timed gift card to Lowe’s from my husband. He’s a good man.
I’m going to go through this step-by-step as if you’re doing a full skeleton, but you can use the technique for whatever part your corpsing.
If you opt to use spray adhesive (and I highly recommend that you do), lightly spray the torso of your skeleton. Cut a section of drop cloth to the length of the torso, and start wrapping. You can wrap the full plastic around the torso at one time, or you can wrap in sections.
After you’ve wrapped the torso of your skeleton, it’s time to break out the heat gun. Focus the heat gun on the plastic, making sure not to stay in one area too long (you don’t want to melt your skeleton). You should also focus the heat on different sections of your plastic to melt holes strategically around your skeleton. Corpses don’t rot neatly (I should know), and you don’t want your nasty guy looking too Martha Stewart perfect. Play around with it. If you don’t like what you see, add more plastic, and melt it again.
Repeat on each section of the skeleton. I recommend going in the following order:
- Pelvis (overlapping the legs)
- Shoulders (overlapping the torso and arms)
This is what your skeleton should look like after torso and arms wrapped and shrunk.
For the hands and feet, you need to use your box cutter or scissors to cut the plastic around the fingers and toes. Then, shrink the cut plastic around the smaller bones.
When adding plastic to your skull, it’s much harder to wrap like the other areas, so this is where the spray adhesive really comes in handy. Take smaller squares of the plastic and spray lightly with the adhesive. Smash the sprayed plastic on the skull without keeping it straight. It looks best when it isn’t perfectly flat. Add heat, and when it looks right to you, you’re finished.
Next is my favorite part of any project: making it pretty!
Using a foam brush, dab whatever color of stain you’re using to the plastic on your skeleton. You can use any combo of colors you want. I went with a red and dark brown combo because I wanted my corpse to have that human-jerky look.
After dabbing color on a section, use a paper towel to smear and spread the stain around to hide any brush marks and blend your colors. When you’re finished and the stain is dry, dry-brush the full skeleton to highlight the sinewy effect of the melted plastic. I used a moss green here, and I really liked the result.
These are some other color combos you can use:
- Bloody corpse: red stain with a little black stain added; bright red dry-brushing
- Toxic corpse: green, gray, and black stains; lime green dry-brushing
- Buried corpse: light tan and brown stains; black dry-brushing
- Burnt corpse: dark brown and black stains with red highlights; orange dry-brushing
- Moldy corpse: green, brown, and tan stains; light green/blue dry-brushing
Play around with it. There are so many different kinds of paints and stains out there that you can get any look you want.
And here’s a close-up of my guy. The pic really doesn’t do him justice. He’s much better in person, and I’ve already gotten quite a few compliments.
I really hope my newfound corpsing enthusiasm takes some of the trepidation out of corpsing your own props. I also had a little fun corpsing a Dollar Tree skull, but I’m saving that for another post. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or just send me a pic of your project!