Make a giant skull for your halloween display using cardboard and paper mache.
Time Scale: 5+ out of 5
Start with a really big piece of cardboard, as big as you can get. Print out this paper craft pattern from:
Draw out a grid of 3 x 3 inch squares on your cardboard. Use this as a guideline to draw an enlarged pattern from the printed pattern onto the cardboard. Cut out the pieces using a utility knife. Tape together using duct tape.
This is quite complicated and cumbersome, especially being on a large scale and working with the heavy cardboard. I cheated and only used the pattern for the basic shape and did scoring and folding in some places, instead of cutting and taping pieces together. This was also just the front half and sides of the skull. (no back) I also didn't do the eye sockets. I just cut eye holes in the cardboard. If you have the patience, (that I don't.. oh that again!) this would turn out much better actually doing the complete pattern and following the instructions. Oh, one more thing, if you do this in the house, it isn't going to fit out the door if you put the back of the skull on it.
So, that being said, my version is way more simplified. The sides of the giant skull are more squared and about 8 inches deep. The back is open and a frame was built using 1x2's and 2x4's attached to the back inside with construction adhesive. It could then be attached to the front of our garage.
After I had the basic structure all put together, I doubled up the cardboard on the sides of the giant skull for extra support. I glued the pieces to the inside, using construction adhesive. Use clamps to hold together, until it is dry.
Add spray foam to the skull, especially in areas that look like they need to be built up and shaped more, like the cheeks, forehead and around the eyes. The more you strayed from the pattern and the less folding and cutting you did, the more foam you will need. I used two cans of spray foam on mine. Let dry.
Cut pieces of styrofoam and glue on to the teeth to build them up more.
Tear up your strips of newspaper into about 4 inch wide pieces. Since this giant skull is such a large project, wider pieces of newspaper work better. If you can't get the glue wiped off pieces this wide after dipping them, use narrower strips. The wider strips can be a handful!
Do 3 to 4 layers of newspaper strips over the entire giant skull. Let this dry completely and then add 3 to 4 more layers. Dry and then AGAIN, do 3 to 4 more layers. This may seem like a lot but you want it to be sturdy. After it has dried, check for any weak spots that you may have missed and paper mache these.
After drying, paint with white craft paint. Let dry. All this drying gets annoying, doesn't it!!?? Add another coat of white.
Use a stipple technique to add black and then grey paint. After this has dried, dry brush on a small amount of white paint.
Measure the eye opening on the giant skull and cut out red tissue paper that is at least 3 inches bigger all the way around. Use a yogurt container and mix up 2 parts white glue to 1 part water.
Put tissue paper on plastic sheeting and brush on glue mixture. Be careful not to rip the tissue paper. Add 4 layers of tissue paper. (make two of these). After drying, do 4 more layers. When dry, add a blackwash over each piece. When dried, hot glue to the back inside of each eye socket.
Do the same thing for the nostril holes and the mouth opening.
If you would like to attach a fogger to the mouth, leave an opening for a hose. Attach this hose to a fogger.
To make the eyes glow, add a light in the back.
If this will be displayed outside, add at least 2 coats of urethane sealer. This will make it much more weather resistant.
I won't go into the details on the framing used for the back inside of the giant skull. As mentioned earlier, it was done using 1x2's and 2x4's. They were attached using construction adhesive and it was very sturdy, but heavy. It also turned out to be difficult to remove from the bracket that was made for the front of our garage. It had to be lifted off and when trying to remove it, resulted in a nasty spill off the ladder. So, the next year it ended up leaning up against a tree. Much safer to remove.
However you decide to display your giant skull, Please be careful you don't hurt yourself!
Return to top of page Giant Skull
Featured Craft of the Month
Make a carved walking stick and go for a hike!