Tag Archives: Prop

Happy Friday the 13th!

It’s a big day, everyone.  We have a Friday the 13th in October, and I’d hate for anyone to waste it.  It’s been 11 years since we’ve been able to celebrate one of these bad boys in the month of Halloween, and we won’t have another one until 2023.  Let’s make the most of it.

So what should you do?  Let me give you some options:

1. Carve a jack o’ lantern (or at least buy your pumpkin if you haven’t already).

2. Go to a haunted house.  Yes, the lines might be long tonight, but they’re only going to get longer the closer you get to THE BIG DAY, so why not go on Friday the 13th.

3. Watch a scary movie.  Happy Death Day is in theaters today, and it’s getting pretty good reviews,  I might go tonight to see this one myself.  Or if you don’t want to go out to watch a movie, just watch the original Friday the 13th in the comfort of your own home. You own it, right?  Of course, you do.

4. Have fun with some Halloween crafts.  Check out some tutorials on YouTube, or check out some of my past posts about corpsing a skeleton, making your own hanging reaper, making a giant spiderweb for your front yard, or playing around with some cheap Dollar Tree skulls.

5.  Take a walk around a dark cemetery.  Or a forest.  Or a dark road.  Just do something creepy.

There you have it.  No matter what you do, just make sure it’s fun.  Have a Happy Friday the 13th!!!

DIY Halloween: Skills You Need

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.

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1. Making a budget

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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

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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

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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…

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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.

5. Painting

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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.

6. Sewing

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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.

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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.

Project Scarecrow: A Song of Paper and Glue

It’s time for another DIY Wednesday!  Since I shared my love of PVC pipe last time, this week I thought I’d talk about another one of my favorite project materials: Papier Mache.

When my love of Halloween prop DIY began, I ate up everything I could online.  There are so many awesome Halloween blogs out there with so many great projects that I felt a little overwhelmed but so excited about the possibilities.  Although I looked at every Halloween blog I could find, my three favorites for inspiration were (and are) Stolloween, Pumpkinrot, and Spookyblue.

I fell in love with all the cool, creepy props the artists had made, especially the scarecrows.  I liked the scarecrows so much in fact that I decided I would try to make one, too.

One of the first steps when doing a papier mache project is to create a base.  This could be a number of things, whatever you can use to create the shape you want.  I wanted to make a large pumpkin head, so I used a large plastic grocery bag filled with newspaper.  To get the pumpkin ridges, I used masking tape to create the right shape, and for the stem, I used a rolled up piece of a magazine secured with masking tape.

Like so.
Like so.

After the base has been made, it’s time to make the glue.  There are so many recipes for this stuff online.  Choose whichever one works best for you.  For mine, I mixed flour and water at a ratio of 1 to 4, and then added some white Elmer’s glue and some liquid starch because I read that it would help the mixture adhere to the paper more easily and create a stronger hold.

Next, it’s time to get messy.

Take strips of shredded newspaper and dip them in the glue mixture. After they’re completely covered, start laying them over your base, making sure to create a thin layer over the entire thing and allowing it to dry a bit before adding a new layer.  It’s best to do multiple layers for a stronger prop.  I think I used about seven layers for my scarecrow head, but you could do more or less depending on what you’re going to be doing with the prop.

Next up is the detail work.  After my scarecrow head dried, I removed the newspaper and bag from a hole in the bottom.   You can use your own judgment to decide whether or not you need to do this step.  If you’re not going to cut into your prop, you can probably skip it.  Since my scarecrow wouldn’t be scary without a creepy face, I drew an outline on the form and then carefully cut out the mouth, nose, and eyes with a craft knife.

For the finishing touches, I used spray paint and dry brushing to give my scarecrow head some color and creepiness.  Pieces of dried cane from my husband’s grandmother were used to make the scarecrow body, fastened together in a T-shape with tape and twine.  Lastly, I draped some creepy cloth over the arms to flesh it out a bit.

Voila!  Scarecrow.

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Sure.  It might not be the fantastic creations of Spookyblue and Pumpkinrot, but although it might not measure up to those guys, I was pretty damn pleased with the final product.  Plus, it was my first attempt, and practice makes perfect.  I even got compliments from the trick-or-treaters that came to the house.  I call that a success.

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I’m already looking forward to making some new creepy things this year. There aren’t many days left until Halloween, so I better start planning now.  What about you?  Are you planning on any cool props this year?  I’d love to hear about your creations in the comments!

My First DIY Severed Head: A Love Story

I love severed heads.  Not real ones, of course.  I love the fake kind, and I experience quite the thrill when I finally get to check out the selection at Spirit Halloween and Halloween Express each year.  I usually buy one myself, and then my mother-in-law gets me one for Christmas.  It’s a tradition that I’m pretty fond of and one that makes my MIL one of the best in history.  Does your mother-in-law get you  severed heads for Christmas?  I didn’t think so.

Anyway, I love getting a “commercial” creepy head, but there’s a certain charm in the homemade stuff.  A few years ago, we moved from an apartment to our house, and with the added space came a new-found love of making props.  So even though I already had a pretty decent head collection at that time, I thought I’d try my hand at making one myself.

So this is how I made my very first DIY severed head.

I started with a foam head from Hobby Lobby that I bought using one of their 40% off coupons.  Aside from being a horror fan, I’m also a big proponent of getting the best deal, so I try to buy as many of my supplies on sale or clearance as possible.  Hobby Lobby has a few varieties of heads to choose from – female, male, and faceless – so you can choose whichever fits your project best.  Although the faceless ones are creepy on their own, I wanted mine to be pretty big, so I went with a male head.

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As you can see from the pic above, my first step was to draw out the features I wanted for my severed head.  I wanted it to be gross, and keeping both eyes weren’t an option.  I used a craft knife and some metal sculpting tools to pick and carve out one of the eyes, part of the scalp, and the base of the head to make it look actually severed.  We want realism wherever possible, people, and a clean-cut head just won’t – well – cut it.

I also carved out some of the area around the side of the mouth and jaw and used some fake zombie teeth that I bought (again, with a coupon) at Spirit Halloween.  The teeth were rubber and very easy to cut.  They were ridged on the back to make them easy to wear, so I sliced off the back to make them lay flat and fit my head.  I then used a hot glue gun to secure them in place.  You can see in the pic below that my guy was already looking pretty handsome at this stage.

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After the glue dried, it was time to make it PRETTY!!!  Pretty to me, at least.  I already had a lot of paint on hand so I mixed some random colors together to get a sickly, partially-decomposed skin color.  Like I said – pretty.  I also mixed some red, black, and brown to get a realistic bloody color.  I slapped my paint mixtures on until I got the look I wanted and – VOILA! – severed head!

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Isn’t he beautiful?

My zombie head has served me quite well these past few Halloweens.  Another benefit from these foam heads is that you can stick them on pvc pipe or dowel rods to make a full-body prop, a head-on-a-stake, or something else equally cool.  I turned my severed head into full-body prop the first year.  You can see by the shirt in the pic above that he was quite stylish.

If you want a great creepy project, I recommend you try making yourself a severed head of your own.  You could make one for a Halloween prop.

Or it could be especially therapeutic if you make one to look like an enemy.  No judgment.  We’ve all been there.

You do you, man.