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The Ornaments were originally made for an online prop building contest and are created from inexpensive plastic bulbs and craft foam. This project became a popular Halloween DIY project due to simplicity, cost and creative potential. These bulbs could easily be created from papier mache if desired.
One of our Holiday traditions is decorating trees. The last several years we have decorated two different trees. One tree is decorated with traditional Christmas ornaments and the second (smaller) tree is decked out with Halloween themed ornaments. The kids enjoy the Halloween tree and I have a lot of fun creating the ornaments.
Here is a tutorial for making some “Skull Themed” tree bulbs. The ornaments are rather simple to make and very inexpensive. The artwork used to make the bulbs is included in this tutorial.
The Skull Ornaments started with some cheap plastic (shatterproof) bulbs purchased from the dollar store. For reference, the bulbs used to make these ornaments are approximately 10 inches in diameter.
The next step involved sketching some designs that could be used to create the ornaments.
The sketches were used to create a series of templates. Note: the templates are available to print at the bottom of the page. The artwork is intended for personal use only.
The templates were traced onto craft foam purchased from Walmart. The foam was cut with scissors and x-acto knives. Craft foam is available at many other stores such as Michaels and Jo Ann Fabrics.
After the foam pieces are cutout, they are shrunk using heat. A heat gun was used to shrink the foam for these skulls. An easier way is to place the foam cutouts one at a time in a hot non-stick skillet. Once the piece is dropped onto the surface of the hot skillet use a spatula to continually flip the foam cutout. The foam is shrunk for a couple of reasons:
Heating and shrinking essentially “cleans” up the edges of the cutouts, especially the eyes, nose and teeth.
Heating and shrinking make the piece curve slightly (when heated the foam tends to curl into a ball) allowing it to fit better to the spherical bulb.
Heating and shrinking allows you to work with a larger original template making it easier when cutting out the details.
Note: Heating the foam tends to reduce the size about 20%. It’s not necessary to heat and shrink the foam, but the templates provided will need to be reduced.
When tracing the skull templates, most of the skull designs have a curved line above the eye. This line is cut AFTER the foam has been heated and shrunk. The slit serves as a means to give the foam some dimension when glued to the bulb.
The foam pieces were attached to the plastic bulbs with hot glue. Note that the section of the skull labeled “A” is tucked behind the section of the skull labled “B”. Refer the photos for guidance.
The bulbs were then painted with a heavy/thick coat of black latex paint. The paint acts as a “skin” helping to make the entire ornament smooth and fill in gaps between the foam and the plastic bulb.
After the black latex paint dried, the ornaments were “dry brushed” with white primer to make the skull designs visible.
The final step was to apply a coat of orange shellac to the entire bulb, giving the ornaments a nice shine and a warm tone.
There are unlimited ways that the ornaments could be painted so be creative and have fun.
Here are the templates.
NOTE: The black dots on each page should be the size of a US quarter. Use the black dot to insure that the templates are the proper scale.
Have fun. If you have any questions feel free to ask!
Ho, Ho, Horrors!