Hello guys and gals! I'm not sure how you guys use the site, whether you plug straight in the forums here or whether you look at the site as a whole or what have you but some of you may already be aware that I'm taking on a small 2 minute project to cut my stop no teeth on before I jump into bigger productions.

The short I'm making is called 'The Haunts' and it's a 2 minute comedy about what fun there is too be had after death, in haunting the living.

While I have some more design work to do on the set and other small bits and pieces, the main bulk of the design work is now coming to a close and I'm ready to take on the building stages of puppet and set creation. As such I'm at the juncture where my skillset butts heads with my ambition and I'm sure in the coming weeks I'm gonna have a torrent of questions for all you guys.
So I thought I'd open up this one all encompassing thread to keep things tidy, rather than start a bunch of smaller threads about each individual question... Hope that's ok with you guys.

If you'd like to follow my progress, I'm running a blog over at: http://www.thehauntsblog.blogspot.co.uk

Unfortunately I've to run off back to work but ill be back tonight to seek some advice. Thanks in advance.

Sorry for lack of images in the actual post... I'm writing this from an iPhone and its being

EDIT:Added images to post :)

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Good evening ladies and gents... I was wondering whether there's anyone on the boards who has much experience with costuming for puppets. I have a few concerns that myself and my costume lady (she's a live action costume designer whose agreed to help me with costume manufacture) are trying to figure out and are seeking advice.

First off a little knowledge. My armatures will be wire and K+S, bulked out with foam...

my main concern is with breakages. I will be designing the armature with interchangeable limbs so that should an arm break, I can replace that limb alone.

However the design and geometry of my character designs are such that costumes will have to  be built, stitched onto the puppet, rather than made up and then put on. That being said, I cannot figure out the best way of tailoring the costumes so that I can keep the interchangeability of my armature pieces.

Also, would you guys glue or stitch the costume onto the puppets foam, or leave them free hanging...

I have a feeling that alot of trial and error will be involved and I'm ready and excited to try out new things. However, this costume lark is where I'm absolutely in the dark and was wondering whether any costume designers/ puppet builders/ generalists had any advice/resources to help get me started.

Thanks in advance


So far your skillset looks just fine!  A great style to this project.

I make clothes like real ones only small, then pull them onto the puppet.  I sometimes leave the hands and feet off, fit the costume, then glue the appendages in, so I can make legs and sleeves thinner, but it is still not a perfectly tight fit.  The problem there, as you know, is that the clothing can ripple and twitch when handled.

I don't make arms and legs removable with K & S - sounds good in theory but I've never had an arm wire break, and only a couple of breaks at ankle or hip, in over a hundred puppets.  Wire breaks less when it is epoxied into wood, bot into sharp metal tubes, anyway. I do often make the head removable, so if I had to I could replace the whole body.  Or if it's a full foam latex puppet, I just re-cast the whole puppet.  Often I've re-used the same wire armature for 2 or even 3 castings.

For a really tight fitting costume that doesn't flap about while animating, the best idea is probably to machine sew some seams, and hand sew others with the cloth on the puppet.  

With trousers, I would sew up the outside leg seam (if there is one), but leave the inside seam open.  I would sew up the seam in the centre of the seat, and underneath, but leave the front open like having a fly undone.  Then the trousers could be placed on the puppet, and the inside seams sewn up by hand.  They would be less visible.  The fly would be done up just like butting or zipping up your fly.  The fly can fold over and overlap.  The inside leg would have the excess fabric fold inwards, so you don't have a visible cut edge.

With a shirt or jacket, you could leave the seam on the sleeve open until it is fitted - it's on the underside where it is less visible.  I think I would try to sew the sleeve into the arm hole beforehand though. The body is simply left open, then buttoned/snap fitted/sewn up onto the puppet.

For an upper garment that does not open in the front, like a jumper (sweater), leave one side seam open until it is fitted.

I don't think I would actually glue it on, just have a snug fit over the foam.

If you want to replace limbs, you might just have to cut the stitches, and sew it up again after the replacement limb is fitted.  (O for a wardrobe department and puppet doctor crew like they have on feature films, making sure there is always a fresh puppet ready each morning for filming...     )  Er, sorry, a recurring fantasy of mine...  back to the real world of no-budget indie films:

A friend of mine once made some garments from latex (puppet costumes, not the kinky ones). They were sculpted, complete with wrinkles, a plaster mould made, and then they were slush cast so they were a thin skin.  Latex doesn't flap about when you animate like fabric can.     It worked very well for waistcoats.  He flocked the latex with a fine flocking.  I make shoes, top hats and bowlers from latex, but haven't so far tried it for other clothing items.   I started sculpting a frock coat in clay,  but wasn't convinced latex would be the way to go for that.   But a couple of times I painted latex onto the inside of a corduroy jacket that was a loose fit and jiggling about too much, and it did help it bounce back to the same position each time.

One thing for your costumier - look for thin fabrics that aren't too see-through.  Using an actual suit material in 1:6 scale gives you a thick collar that scales up like it was made from carpet underfelt.  Victorian costumes are especially difficult I'm finding, they have details and layers and fiddly bits. Where one seam crosses another, you get 4 thickness of fabric, and where 3 seams cross you get 6 layers.  You won't find fabric 1/6th the thickness, but half the thickness and with a finer weave really does help, unless out-of-scale textures are part of your design aesthetic. Fabrics behave much better in 1/3 scale (24" tall) and even 1/3rd (18"), maybe that's why they're more popular for ball-jointed dolls than 12". 

Wow stopmonick! Thank you for such a extensive and thoughtful reply. It's really appreciated. You've cemented some of my thoughts while clarifying a lot of my confusion.

Thanks for the kind words on the style of the work, I'm glad you are enjoying it.

It's really good to hear about your experience on using wire armatures, they're clearly a lot more durable in certain areas than I was aware. Maybe I'll scrap the idea of removable limbs for a puppet in a film of such a short duration. I think I've been over thinking things a little.
On epoxying wire into wood, say I was to use something like balsa, which is what is most easily available to me, would you think that the epoxy will simply be soaked into the wood and leave no purchase on the wire? Will I have to watch out for anything like that while gluing?

Thanks also for your thoughts on sewing and whether of not to glue down the costumes. You've cemented my thinking here as I already thought that it wouldn't be necessary. However the advice on sewing seams and which to leave open is much appreciated and incredibly helpful.

Previous to this I had read about the production of costumes on paranorman and had seen how they'd used latex to thicken and strengthen the structures of fabrics as you have suggested here, it's gonna take some more testing on my part to see what's needed here. I think the latex for hats is a great idea and I can't wait to give this a try for 'Sebastian's top hat.

The textures and thicknesses of fabric choices was the one thing I was already aware of but it's good to hear confirmation from such a seasoned pro. Ill definitely be passing all this advice and info to my costume woman (or bevans as she's actually called)

You've pretty much cleared up all my initial costuming issues in one fell swoop, I'll post some photos of our progress when we really get going on these costumes, but first I have to figure out what size and scale ill be working at.

There's so many grey areas for me :)

Just wanted to let you guys know that I've updated my production blog this week with some work on two - part plaster moulds! My first ever. It went pretty well I think.

The Haunts Blog



I like the blog. You really have a lot of cool stuff going on with this one "small" film.

Thank you Jack. Yeah, it's not so small as I had once thought :)

Evening guys and gals! So it's a bank holiday in the UK today, I've just finished my big house move (that slowed production for a month or so) and I've jumped straight into puppet fabrication with excitement and glee.

I've been waiting so long to get started on this stuff, I'm having a ball.

I've updated the blog with a post all about it should you like to read it all in detail:
The Haunts Production Blog

But here's a couple o' pics for you guys here.

The final image there, I've done a quick push cast with some sculpey I had lying around, to test if the principal behind my plans would work. The final puppet will be cast in plasticine...

On that note, I was wondering whether anyone had any advice on which clay I should think about using. I really like the idea of being able to properly cast with Van Aken clay, but I'd have to import it but being british I'd like to support the industry here :) (or something like that, maybe I just fear change) and use newplast... Has anyone got any advice on casting with newplast in a two part mould, with a balsa head piece inside? In finding it a little tricky right now.

As always guys and gals, thanks for your time. And thanks for your continued interest.


Hello guys and gals! It's been far too long!, sorry for the lack of updates...

Unfortunately for the time being, I've had to place 'The Haunts' on the back burner as I finally took the decision to leave my full time job and go freelance in illustration, character design and storyboarding for a living at the turn of the year.

So while the haunts is still very much alive, there will be very little movement for the next few months.

I'll still be hanging around the forums though and would still love to talk to you guys here at every opportunity so I'd love if you could follow me on Facebook at: The art of Josh J. O'Brien

And take a look at my art at Joshjobrien.com

Also, I'd love to work with everybody on here so if you need any character design or storyboarding for your project or you know of anyone who does, I'd love to talk it through with you.

See you soon, 


Great illustration ^.

It's tough to communicate emotion when a character's back is to us, but that guy's slumped shoulders and slight bend of the knees says a lot. The bear's not to shabby, either!

Thanks so much Grecodan!

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