Building a corpse prop on the cheap
So I’m back after a long hiatus. I figured I would make another tutorial on prop building. This time it’s an ultra lightweight corpse made almost entirely out of paper. What you see on the left is the finished product.
Skeletons and props can be very expensive. Finding a good quality one is nigh impossible for under $70.00. On top of that they can be very heavy and the shipping can be killer. I spent a total of 40.00 overall on this prop and I can lift it with one finger.
I started off with a paper skeleton (seen to the right). I shopped around and found it for $16.00 plus shipping which ended up at $23.00. Once I got it I had to do the hardest part. Build it! I admit building it was very time consuming at first. (although I could probably Build it much quicker now). It comes on 18 or so different sheets. Aside from the paper there are some split pins, a few guides, and two rubber bands. These parts in conjunction with the teeth I built consist of all the non paper and glue parts. Everything else is paper.
To the left you see the full built skeleton. It has a handy wire hook you build the head around and that made it ideal for hanging while I worked on it. I kept a running fan on the project the entire time to speed up drying.
First off I spayed the entire skeleton with a clear spray paint to somewhat stiffen it and give it the best shot of surviving the water and glue. I then started with the head as I was worried the hook would pull through when it got soggy.
I built out the crown of the head and allowed it to dry. For this I used regular newspaper and glue in water. Once the crown dried I started to round out the skull by adding layers of news paper. This took the longest time of the entire build. The skull actually did soften from the glue and it allowed me to squish some of the odd points that were making the skull look more alien. It was slow going, but once the head was hardened and shaped properly the rest was much easier.
I then switched to a brown paper for the paper mache. It was just a huge piece of paper that I had lying around for a large package I received. The thickness was very close to paper shopping bags but slightly thinner. I covered the head first then started on the rib cage. In order to get the paper to adhere to the skeleton I had to get it very wet and then drape it both inside and out so that it would adhere to itself in between the ribs. When it dries it tends to give itself that vacuum look of a corpse. If you notice to the right the jaw of the original skull is very denounced. I then had to use more paper to build up the jaw and nasal cavity.
Once the facial rebuilt hardened I added teeth. The teeth are simply Poly clay. I used another skull as a reference for the size and shape of the teeth. I simply shaped them over the skull teeth, carefully peeled them off, baked, and then applied. I used super glue’s “Future glue” and it bonded phenomenally well.
Tip: Keep track of the order. If they get messed up it can be very hard to figure out the placement.
Once I was finished a particular area structurally, I began applying the skin. I find that plain, cheap paper towels not only hold up very well to the glue but the give very nice wrinkles that I cannot duplicate with other papers.
Some areas did not hold up well to the glue particularly the chest cavity. The wet weight started flattening the chest. For this, I used some wire to keep it open while it dried then I simply took it out. I used this method for positioning the body parts.
While I waited for the various parts to dry and lock, I would move to something else. I first positioned the head, then the legs (which I left straight) and finally the arms. The toes and fingers were tricky as they got soft easily.
I basically just used the same methods over and over. For the left arm I used fishing line from the shoulder to the wrist to hold it in place. I ultimately left the fishing line as it will help when the Florida heat starts softening the mache in storage.
For colors I used two different spray paints. One a gold color and the other a black.It ended up a little shiny so I think I will probably hit it with a little sating to dull it down. Otherwise it took about 23 hours of work, One small bucket of glue water, and about 50×4 foot of brown paper. Check out some more pictures below. I will add links to the other props I built once they are built and once I have the final display. If you would like to look at my soul tree build go here.