Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Making foam board antlers

Published by Manning on October 28th, 2015

How to make deer antlers using foam board

My fiancée needed antlers for her Halloween costume — swamp goddess; it’s a long story — and I made up this method that worked great!

How to make deer antlers -- cutting out the shapes

First I drew an antler shape on drawing paper and got the lady’s approval. I kept the shape a little bit on the thick side; I thought this would be important in order to keep the antlers from being too fragile, but it turned out to be unnecessary. If I were doing this again I’d draw the antlers a little thinner.

Anyhow, I traced my shape onto foam board four times and cut out the four shapes with an X-acto knife. Each antler will be two pieces of foam board thick.

I stacked up the two layers of foam board for each antler and wrapped masking tape around the base to hold them together.

How to make deer antlers -- creating the curves with masking tape

Then I started curving and taping the individual “branches” of the antlers. Getting the nice organic-looking curves of the antlers is key, and achieving this look is easy if you understand a basic principle of working with foam board. Foam board is easy to curve by gradually bending it (sort of breaking/folding it as you run a piece through your hands), but it doesn’t want to stay curved; any curve you make will mostly undo itself when you let go. However, if you put two pieces of foam board together, tape them together at one end, curve them together, and then tape the other end, they’ll magically stay perfectly curved in the exact position you want!

You can easily do a quick test of this. Take two thin strips of foam board, about one inch by six inches each, put them together and wrap masking tape around one end. Then curve the pieces with your hands, hold them in that position, and wrap the other end with tape. Boom, they’ll stay curved exactly like you want them to be. Try this test and you’ll see what I mean! It’s easy.

So that’s the principle you’ll be using to get the nice curved shape of the antlers. For each branch-like segment, tape the base end together, bend and curve the branch how you want it, and then tape the end together.

How to make deer antlers -- adding foam pieces

When the antlers were nice and curved and sturdy, I made them thicker at the base using some foam tubing and masking tape.

How to make deer antlers -- adding papier mache

Then I applied one layer of paper maché all over the antlers. You can read more about my usual paper maché method here. Looks pretty cool already!

How to make deer antlers -- painting

My fiancée wanted the antlers darker, so she mixed some brown acrylic paint with water and painted the entire surface with a paintbrush. I recommended she use watered-down paint so that if she wanted them to be even darker she could add a second coat, but she was happy with the color she got after just one watered-down coat.

I’m not sure yet how we’ll be attaching these to her head! To complicate matters she’ll be wearing a wig. I’ll post pics once her whole costume’s all together.

Update: Here’s my fiancée wearing the antlers at our Halloween party!

The Devil Man and swamp goddess

I made a simple wire harness for the antlers out of a wire hanger and my fiancee wore it over a wig, and then she wrapped the harness with a scarf. She added Mardi Gras beads to the antlers, and there’s a little foam-and-feathers blackbird from the dollar store perched on top of her head, although you can’t quite make it out in this pic. Fun!

4 Responses to “Making foam board antlers”

  1. n.h.nabass Says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I made my very first pair of antlers for a cosplay for a con this year and they turned out fantastic!!

  2. manning Says:

    @n.h.nabass Cool! I’m glad they worked out and I’d love to see a pic!!

  3. Jill Says:

    Thank you! I’m going to try to use this idea to make antlers for a costume in our play!

  4. manning Says:

    Cool! The wire hanger harness we made ended up not being very comfortable or sturdy; you might want to try attaching the antlers to a headband instead; maybe with a headband made out of a strip of foam board, and lots and lots of paper mache to attach the antlers to it. It might need a counterweight in the back, like a couple dozen pennies taped on. Good luck!

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