You know how sometimes you describe a creative project, and your friend gives you a quizzical look and says, “Uhhhh…I guess I’ll have to see it to understand it”? That’s exactly what happened when Hallmark Artist Matt K. invited fellow creatives to a workshop on creating cardboard Halloween costume ideas. Nobody showed. But he convinced Artist Ken S. to join him. They debuted their cardboard costumes as our annual Halloween costume contest…and he hasn’t had trouble filling up a workshop since. Here, he tells us about his inspiration and process, and shares some tips for coming up with your own cardboard Halloween costume ideas.
Initially, I was thinking of creative ways to explore paper. Paper’s a big deal for Hallmark. But we make things so small…I was really excited to go large. I didn’t know where we’d go, or what it would be.
I noticed all of this excess cardboard on pallets around Hallmark, and thought it’d be cool to try some large masks. It’s pretty amazing what you can do when you’re only using a utility knife and hot glue and cardboard. Cardboard is a utilitarian material—but you can take a box and turn it into something beautiful or sculptural or crazy or fun.
SUPPLIES FOR CARDBOARD COSTUMES AND MASKS
- Sketching paper and pencil or pen
- Cardboard—regular corrugate, chipboard, paperboard. It all folds and wraps a little differently.
- Utility knife with really sharp blades. You’ll go through a bunch.
- Hot glue gun and sticks
- Masking tape, to hold pieces together
- Newsprint or large paper, for making patterns
- Paint for adding detail. We used spray paint.
- A big, open space
Hints for your Cardboard Halloween costume ideas
Spend some time up front thinking about your rough concept. I like to make a quick sketch of how it might come together—others built small models.
For me, it’s an evolution: I generally know where I’m going, then dive in and solve problems on the go. “OK, his face will look like this now.” If you’re OK with the unknown, you’ll come up with things you didn’t expect or think of. You’re bringing something to life out of this throwaway stuff—give yourself room to let it move the direction it wants to go.
To begin, get away from complex forms and shapes. Distill your design to its simplest element. Get the base or the foundation built first.
Tape it together first and see if you like it. How are shapes and sizes interacting? How do the face, eyes, and nose work in proportion to the head?
You’re making design decisions at every step. What are you building? What is it becoming?
Cardboard is so forgiving. And recyclable: If you don’t like it, just tear it off and start with something else. It’s not like you’re paying $100 for paper to paint a watercolor on.
Pro tips for working with cardboard sculptures
- Cardboard has a grain, just like wood. It’ll roll one way, but not the other. If you want it to wrap, make sure the corrugate runs vertically.
- Experiment with scoring the cardboard to get the curve you want.
- Create tabs and layers to make the structure stronger. Reinforce layers where you need strength, like shoulder pieces.
- Try tearing the paper off to expose the corrugate for a different texture.
- Exploring in miniature is a good way to learn things—make mini-models out of paperboard.
Finding inspiration for cardboard Halloween costume ideas
I do research all the time: observing what’s going on around me, being exposed to lots of different things. My inspiration for our original cardboard costumes came from images of children dressed up with these woodland masks. There was great storytelling going on.
You can make anything with cardboard. Just dive in and try it.
Pro tips for fitting your cardboard costume
- Make simple patterns and try them on before you create the finished piece.
- There are different ways to make your cardboard costume comfortable. You can create joints so you can move your arms and legs, or you can make separate pieces.
- Test and fit as you go: Make sure your body has room to move. Check your sight lines.
Get in and get dirty. Experience it, then do some more. Experience is what teaches you—the second time trying cardboard costumes, I knew where to go. That was really exciting.
Photography by Pat Bush.