Since Gores Truly is femme-driven – we’re big advocates for chicks and horror and want to give our XX-chromosome readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest we adore. The following article by Lizzy Boredom has been Murder-Her approved.
I wanted to make something truly awesome for my first Halloween in our new house last year. After several hours scouring Pinterest (cause that’s what you do) I came across a number of “corpsed skeletons”. How had I never seen this before?!? Of course, I had to try it for myself. I found a couple of videos on YouTube that were ever so helpful, but really the best thing I could do was just jump into the deep end of the pool.
Here’s what you’ll need to go from . . .
THIS to THIS!
- plastic skeleton
- heat gun
- plastic sheeting
- cotton batting or spiderweb (optional)
- wood stain
- spray paint in varying colors
- paint brush(es)
- cotton paint cloths
- Drill/Screw gun
- screws (at least 1”)
1. Finding your skeleton
It’s always easiest to find plastic skeletons closer to Halloween obviously. If you are looking out of season however, there are a number of websites that cater to the macabre year round. Spirit Halloween has a great selection and one can generally get what’s needed year round. I used a 5′ articulated model to give me a bit more play in pose-ability as I worked.
2. Set up your space
This can be a messy process, taking up quite a bit of space. Try to set up an area with a large surface like a work bench or long table; at least long enough to lay the skeleton out flat. It’s important to have good ventilation for any adhesives and paints that will be used. I did everything on my screen porch and in the back yard.
3. Paint the head
This may not make a whole lot of sense as your first step, but you’ll thank me later.
Make sure to get the eye sockets and interior of the mouth; painting the rest of the skull is purely an aesthetic choice, but these areas will be much harder to get to once the skull is covered.
4. Cutting and wrapping your sheeting
The plastic sheeting acts as shrink wrap for your skeleton.
Working in sections, start at the chest. Cut a piece of sheeting that will wrap the chest twice, from under the arms to the top of the pelvis. Using the heat gun (not too close), adhere the sheeting to itself (it will not adhere to the skeleton unless an adhesive is used first).
* Melting a hole in the sheeting just below the sternum will begin to create the dip in the abdominal cavity. Continued heating will stretch the sheeting into the desired shape.
** Holes can be achieved in two ways: Holding the heat gun in one position, letting the heat and air push on the section until it splits naturally OR cutting a slit in the plastic, following behind with the heat gun to clean up the edges.
Optional: If leaving a gap in the abdomen (so the spine and interior of the chest can be seen), fill in the chest cavity with black or brown spray paint before sealing it up with sheeting.
Continue adding layers, including smaller pieces to wrap over the shoulders and up the neck. Don’t worry about wrinkles in the sheeting, once it shrinks it looks like sinew!
5. Setting the joints
I wanted my skeleton to sit up unassisted, so I screwed his hip joints into place.
Doing this early on can help to keep the skeleton from flopping around too much as you work. Floral wire can also be used when threaded through holes drilled in the joints and gives a little bit more play as the skeleton is wrapped. However, once the sheeting has been heat-set, mobility will be highly limited (unless you are building the skeleton to be pose-able, but that’s another blog). The joints can also be set using only the heat shrink – which leads us to wrapping the arms . . .
6. Wrapping the arms
Here’s where the cotton spiderwebs, cotton batting or more plastic sheeting come into play, as well as the twine. Time to make the muscles. Gettin’ swole!
Starting with a piece of cobweb about the size of a small fist, create a bicep muscle. The cotton can be adhered to the bone directly and wrapped in sheeting, or applied directly under the plastic. After the first layer of sheeting, twine can be wound around the arm for added texture and to simulate veins and sinew.
Continue wrapping up to and around the shoulder as you work on the bicep and upper arm, keeping in mind joint placement as you go. Once the lower half of the arm is wrapped in it’s first layer cut the plastic up the center on the top and bottom of the bones.
Reheat the plastic, wrapping back around the bone. I also wrapped and heated plastic around each bone individually, which can then be cut again to appear torn.
. . . and move down to the hands.
Cut in between the fingers. You might have to mold the plastic a bit here, so be careful.
As with everything, the hands and arms are done in multiple layers.
7. Assume the position! (Or wrapping the pelvis and legs)
Since my guy is going to sit up, it was easier for me to begin wrapping the pelvic area with him face down, don’t judge me.
It’s important to wrap the contours as you go, the heated plastic will almost always mold to the form of the skeleton and cool in position. Any unintentional holes in the “skin” can be covered by adding another layer. The more layers, the more stable the form.
I decided to use the wrap method to keep my skeleton sitting up. Use the same method on the lower legs as was used on the lower arms.
To create stability in the knees and ankles they were wrapped with the plastic sheeting fairly heavily before applying the heat gun. As with the fingers, cut between the toes to create separation, heating between layers.
8. Time for a little head
9. Painting your skeleton
The easiest way to paint the skeleton’s first layer is with wood stain; either brushing it on or using a rag to wipe it on. Using a brush will create deeper pools in the creases created by the sheeting, but ragging on the stain will give a little more uniform finish.
Various finish will create different patinas. Darker stain will create a more desiccated look, whereas a lighter, redder stain will create more of a burnt flesh appearance.
When using spray paints, remember to use sweeping motions, not concentrating on any one area too long. Reds, purples, greens and yellows will look like bruising to the flesh. This skeleton was painted primarily with spray paint.
Additionally, you might have noticed the caulking in several of the previous photos. I used red paint and caulking to create a bloody appearance, mixing the two in a cup and smearing it on various areas while wearing latex gloves. Because I live in Florida it took several days to set up completely.