Friday, October 19, 2007

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19

This week I played mad scientist turning this beautiful young woman into...

...this horrifying spectre. No, I didn't kill her. I did it all using simple, cheap materials, and now I'm going to show you how you can make a ghost of your own.

For ingredients you'll need the following:

1-2 rolls of clear plastic wrap, such as Saran Wrap.

3-4 rolls of clear packing tape

1 actual size head form such as a ceramic head, or styrofoam wig stand head

1 woman

You could use a man, but, I think a floating figure in a dress with no legs looks better, and is easier to make. I actually made a "nearly headless Nick" for a Harry Potter book launch party last summer, and tapering out the legs so he looked like he was flying, and ethereal, took some doing, and I don't think it ever looked quite right.

Step 1: Wrap the woman who will be assisting you in plastic wrap. You want to cover the neck, shoulders, upper arms, entire torso, and wrap around the legs in a way that creates a skirt, or dress, by going around both legs, and not each leg individually. having your model stand with her legs apart, while perhaps not ladylike in certain circles, gives the skirt a nice flow later. The arms and head will be done seperately. The reason that you want to wrap the neck and upper arms now, is so that you have "pegs" to attach the actual arms and head later. Do not worry about any bunched up areas of plastic wrap. It's also okay to tape your wrap in places to secure it as you go.

The picture here was for a second ghost, that didn't quite work out until I did some later modifications. The idea was to have the arms against the body, and to wrap around everything eliminating the necessity of making the arms seperately. Unfortunately, we discovered that plastic wrap likes to take the shortest distance possible, going straight across gaps, rather than hugging every dip and contour on a flesh and cloth model. This problem might have been overcome by taping everything as I went along, but I was trying do this quickly, and to be honest, it didn't occur to me at the time. You learn as you go.

Next, cover all of the areas that are wrapped in plastic with clear packing tape. The packing tape can compress some loose areas of plastic wrap into a more form fitting shape, but will not work on large areas. Make sure to get total coverage and its best to cover everything with 3-4 layers of tape. This will make the final form a bit more rigid, allowing it to hold its shape better. Press all of the tape down firmly. When you are finished, carefully cut a seam up the back, and across to the shoulders if necessary, with scissors, being careful not to cut into your model, or her clothes. The cut apart form, should lift off pretty easily. Carefully realign the seam and tape closed with more clear packing tape.

When doing the arms, have your model hold the arms in the pose you'd like the finished ghost to have. Do only one arm at a time, as maintaining the same pose for an extended period of time, is tiring for the model. This is the hardest part, and takes longer than the whole body, because the hands and fingers are difficult to wrap and tape, including the webbing between fingers. I recommend pre-tearing/cutting the packing tape into small strips for the fingers and webbing, and hanging them nearby from a table edge, or something, to speed up the process. I also recommend taping the plastic over the fingers as you go, rather than try to wrap everything, and then tape it, as the plastic wrap will unravel.

Remove the arm in the same manner as the body, by carefully cutting a seam with scissors. I recommend covering your model's fingers in petroleum jelly as well. It helps a bit with making the plastic stick to the fingers when applying it, and makes it a lot easier to pull their hand free, so that you don't have to cut the whole hand apart getting your model's fingers out. Also have her remove any jewelry beforehand.

Tape the seams on the arms closed, and position over the upper arm stubs on the body. The arm is hollow, and with some crimping to the stubs, should fit right over them. tape the arms in place.

As for the head, rather than risk suffocation with my model by wrapping her own head up in plastic wrap, I chose to use this ceramic head, which is pretty close to actual size.

Do the same thing here as you did to the body and arms. Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap. You'll notice the plastic wrap clings much better to the ceramic than it does to an actual human.

Wrap the head with packing tape, pressing into the eyes, mouth, and other features so that they will transfer to the finished cast . Again, 3-4 layers of tape should be used for rigidity.

Before I cut away the head from its mold, I added hair. It maybe just as easy, or easier, to do this after the head has been removed and closed back up. Let me know. For the hair I just used a length of plastic wrap folded in half.

I then layed the hair around the head, taping it down at the fold, so that I'd have two lengths of hair at a time.

I continued adding layers all the way around the head until I had this. You could easily do different hair styles by bunching the plastic wrap on top of the head and taping it down, but I'm hoping that when these ghosts are positioned outside on Halloween, the hair will blow around a bit.

I then peeled the head away from the creamic head mold, by cutting along the sides of the face and pulling up. Getting it over the chin is tricky, and it's not so easy to pull the tape/plastic head free, but it will come off. Don't worry about it turning inside out, it will retain its form when turned back outside out. Any damage is also easy to fix as you're working with tape.

Attach the head just like you did the arms, by positioning the new neck over the neck stump you made with your human model and tape in place.

Voila, you have a ghost. You can also remove the plastic wrap from inside it (easier when the seams are still cut) to make it more transparent, but I like the look that the interior plastic wrap gives it -- like ectoplasm.

The ghosts are very light weight, and can be hung with fishing line, which I recommend sewing into the ghost so it doesn't pull free.

The only difficulty I've found, is that much like "real" ghosts, they are extremely difficult to photograph.

Here's what this one looks like using a flash, you can see some of the facial detail here. Eerie.

What are you waiting for? The weekend's here. Go make a ghost.


Stephen said...

Wow, that's excellent, John. Very creative!

Todd Franklin said...

Great idea and it looks simple too! Thanks for sharing!

John AKA Reggaexx said...

Awesome idea and execution!!

Steven Altis said...

Amazingly cool!

Max the drunken severed head said...

One of the best Halloween posts of any blog anywhere! Thank you very much for this impressive "how to" post.

John Rozum said...

Thanks everyone. Yes, Todd, it is actually very simple. My lovely assistant was only available for 2 sessions which lasted just over an hour long. In each session were were able to complete an entire torso with skirt and one arm. The second session we even got a second torso done, when I realized I was going to have to make some alterations to the body with the arms held in front of it. This was done without having to rush either. Each head, including all the hair, took about another hour, and the assembly, including resealing the seams is maybe 20 minutes per ghost.

I would have loved to have made more, but didn't have the time. Maybe next year.

Big Al said...

Hey John, i just made one using a female mannequin. And now your adding hair gave me the idea to make instead a veil and turning it into a Bride Ghost. My question is since you made yours have you found anymore ideas on how to light them? I tried the spot from Spirit Halloween and it was a little too bright. So I'm thinking about mini LED lights. I'm also thinking about something light because I live in the desert and it is almost always windy at night. And I think it would be cool if it could maybe spin when the wind blows. Since I have only Palm trees in my front yard I need a stand So for the stand I cut a piece of 1/2" pvc 4' long. At one end glue a T joint! Now you can take two pieces of pvc and glue them into the right and left sides of the T joint. Basically creating stickman arms. They should be just long enough so that when the wind catches the ghost they catch the inside of the ghost and help it spin. Next on top of the T joint glue a 12" piece of the pvc! Next glue a rounded pvc cap on the top! Make sure it's rounded because that is what will be up inside the ghosts head and it is what will help it spin easier. This is when I recommend putting the ghost over the frame and taping it shut. The easiest way is to hammer either a 6', or however long you need for the height you want, piece of rebar or a garden stake into the ground and slide the pvc over that. My only issue is it being seen. Maybe if I stuff the inside with those cheap lightweight plastic paint drop cloths? Actually that would be a great way to hide any string lights I use.

John Rozum said...

Al - take a look at these: and These ghosts ended up being sacrificed during a move which was okay because they were getting to be a bit worse for wear. I don't live where it's really practical for me to invest in making new ones, but I'd also thought about stringing single color Christmas lights on the inside of them to see how that works.

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