Sculptable / paintable foam for volumetric costume?

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#1 DelvarWorld on 6 years ago

I have an idea for a larger costume I'd like to put together, but I'm not sure what materials would facilitate the process. I tried searching for "foam" on the forums but only found eva foam, which doesn't seem to be exactly what I want, but I've never worked with it before.


I'm thinking of one of those fellows on the right of the above picture. Ideally a 6-7ft costume, maybe 3-4ft in diameter.

I would like to have the mouth / eyes, and possibly some sublte carved ridges in the body, which i envision being a large cylinder, but I could probably handle painting those on and faking the ridges with shadows.

The last large costume I built involved a cardboard and hula-hoop skeleton with lots of duct tape. It ended up being very heavy and I don't plan to go that route again. I'm looking into foam or some similar material to build a lightweight but also largish costume.

So ideally: sculpt-able (mouth / face aspect), lightweight, paintable (super fine detail not required), can support a larger costume, and won't bankrupt me. Is this just some miracle material I'm dreaming up? What would you use?

#2 Penlowe on 6 years ago

Love that music :D

You need upholstery foam, like the kind of thing sofa cushions are made from. I'd work with 1" foam covered with a light cotton broadcloth or even a jersey of some sort. Look at doll making tutes, that is essentially the same kind of construction that large mascot type costumes use, just a much bigger scale.

Even with 1" foam, a 7' tall costume will weigh a lot, not to mention be extremely difficult to navigate doorways, hallways, crowded rooms, etc. I'd keep the top absolutely no more that 4' across, the body slimmer and no more than 6' tall.

#3 DelvarWorld on 6 years ago

ok cool, i'll check it out. i'm also considering building the whole thing out of cardboard tubes and painting it. I'm thinking if i get them wet they'll be sculptable?

#4 animenerd93 on 6 years ago

^no! They just end up falling apart!!

#5 Devkyu on 6 years ago

If you want something sturdy but lightweight for the foundation, check out insulation foam. It is very inexpensive, lightweight, and comes in large sheets of varying thickness and you can get it at major home improvement stores (it's usually pink or blue). You might still need to use upholstry foam in a few places just for ease of movement and comfort, though.

#6 MfWic on 6 years ago

Alright I am brand SPANKIN new here and just started reading/posting...

First off AWESOME idea for a costume :D

To build something of that size my first thought went to a wire/cardboard frame underneath and like the previous post said hard insulation boards and expandable foam. I have been using more and more of the expandable foam to build odd shaped things because its light weight and carvable. For more of the detail I suggest the insulation boards because for that specific costume you want it wood looking and those boards are in long big ol' pieces and could be made to look like wood fairly easy. For the mouth I would try the expandable foam.
I did a recent project with a set of horns and paper clay over it and when the paper clay dried it cracked but it was a perfect look for the horns and might work for the lips and teeth of your creature. :)

#7 DelvarWorld on 6 years ago

As it turns out, collapsable spiral wire laundry baskets turn out to make pretty much a perfect skeleton, no foam needed (at least not yet)

#8 DelvarWorld on 6 years ago

However, if anyone has any suggestions for the teeth / lips, that's what I'm stuck on now. Maybe dixie cups? I can't find any wooden dowels that I think are thick enough, and no craft store around here seems to sell foam cylinders :(

#9 animenerd93 on 6 years ago

I'd check ur hardware store for tubes even in cardboard would work

#10 DelvarWorld on 6 years ago

I managed the lips out of a ridged wire organizer, and the teeth out of cut wooden dowels

Now i'm stuck on the hat. Maybe the most defining part. I'm thinking a hula hoop, umbrella, or cardboard disc, with something like a bowl sticking up in the middle and fabric draped over it.

i'm pretty stumped though, hula hoop and umbrella aren't ideal and the whole costume also needs to hang from this thing. cardboard disc is the closest best solution I can think of but I can't find a piece of cardboard big enough.

any creative mushroom hat ideas?

#11 Penlowe on 6 years ago

Go to an appliance store and ask for a refrigerator box (or cruise a neighborhood where new houses are being built and go dumpster diving for one).

#12 DelvarWorld on 6 years ago

cross posted WIP to [url][/url]