Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIY Dragon Horns & Wings

If you're looking for last-minute Halloween accessories, nothing beats a cute pair of horns and light-weight wings to jazz up an outfit. Make 'em in red for a devilish look, black for bats, or any color of the rainbow for dragons, dark fairies, and the like.

I needed my own horns and wings for a certain purple dragon [winkwinknudgenudge], and because he sports orange ones, I had to make my own. (Otherwise I'd have taken the lazy route and snagged some off Etsy.) If you also need a custom color, or are stuck with no time to order your own - OR you just want to save money by DIY'ing (together they cost less than $10 in materials), read on!

The horns will be made of clay, so grab some of your favorite brand in your color of choice. I used polymer clay I had left over from those infamous carrot jockey necklaces, and because I made really large horns I used two small squares of it. I think you could almost get by with half that amount, though, since most costume horns are quite small.

Start by kneading your clay to soften it:


Next form it into a roundish lump with a flat bottom like this:

Now start twisting and pulling the clay upward into a spiral:

Keep going, and if you make larger horns like mine you'll want to angle them back a bit, too, until you end up with something like this:

Smaller horns can just stick straight up, of course - it's up to you - but I think a little curve makes them look more natural. You also don't have to make the spiral twisty pattern; I just thought it looked cool. (Even if it does look like a crescent roll.)

I later went back and trimmed my horns down by about a third, so I wouldn't recommend making your own horns quite this big; they're a tad too heavy and unwieldy.

[UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out you can use a wad of tin foil inside the horn to cut down on the weight and the amount of clay. Great tip! Thanks, guys!]

I propped the horns up on each other to keep them from drooping in the oven:

Looks like two earthworms kissing. :)

Once the horns were baked I realized I'd made them too big, so I had John cut them down with a hack saw. I also asked him to cut at an angle so they'd point back further on my head. You shouldn't have that problem, though, so once your clay is baked all that's left to do is drill holes in the bases of your horns to feed an elastic strap through:

You can see the right horn chipped a little from drilling, so be careful and drill slowly.

[Edit: Or, if you don't have a drill, poke holes in your clay before baking. It will deform the horns a bit, but you should be able to reshape them again before popping them in the oven.]

This strap is a little wider than necessary, but it's what I had on hand. I've also seen people use shoe laces or non-stretchy cord for the band - just tie knots on either side of each horn to keep them in place. If you have it, though, elastic really is the most secure/comfortable.

Now here's a little trick for hiding the elastic band when you wear your new horns: grab a bit of fabric you can tie around your head like a headband (stretchy t-shirt fabric is ideal), cut two tiny holes, and then push your horns through:

To wear it, put the horns' elastic cord over your head first, slide it up like a regular headband, and then tie the fabric in a knot over the cord at the base of your neck.

When you're done, it should look something like this:

Cute, right?

And you can really see how large my horns are here, so again, scale down your own creations if you want a smaller, subtler look. For what it's worth, though, this size is perfectly comfortable to wear - so much so that I actually forgot I had them on the other day, and ended up wearing them most of the afternoon. :D

I think I'm going to leave you with that mental image and break this post into two parts, since the wings will require a lot more pictures. Check back tonight for part 2!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!


  1. Another way to get holes in the horns is the use a thick wire, like part of a coat hanger. Put is through the base before baking, smooth your edges and bake with the wire in there. No cracks or chips!

  2. Looks cute! Some tips?

    Polymer clay is expensive and often comes in those small "sampling" kits, so you can reduce the amount used even further by layering it over tinfoil.

    Also: I had a friend who liked to cosplay and would make horns out of 'model magic'. It's super light, easy to use and air dries. On top of that, you can paint it. Its the standard in her fandom.

  3. Shelley in So. IllinoisOctober 25, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    I love these and will keep them in mind for future projects. You could also try Model Magic-which is more a kids modeling compound. It air dries and can be painted or it comes in colors. It is very very light weight. Much more so than clay.

    Also, when you showed the horns I started chuckling that you might be doing a 'sexy dragon' costume. Whether or not, the People I Want to Punch in the Throat blog has a very nice post about the sexy costumes for women. Hilarious!

    Can't wait to see the final project!

  4. Ahhhh I need to make some horns for myself, too! It really is a pitty that Halloween is not celebrated in Germany or at least not as it is in the US. Even for Halloween Parties almost no one dresses up.

    Some Ideas which might help:

    1. Just poke the holes into the horns before baking with a pencil. It might deform the horn a little bit, but you are able to reshape it easliy and there is no risk of breaking while drilling a hole later =) It might be necessary to lie them down during the baking so that the holes does not close because of the weight.

    2. You could also use a simple metal or platic hairband for your horns. Just make the hole at the bottom of the horns large enough to push the hair band through and secure it with a bit of glue.
    There is a wide colour range of these hair bands and if you don't find the perfect one, just wrap a satin band etc. around it and secure it with a bit of glue at the inside of the hair band.

  5. You can also put holes in the clay before you bake them. I've done this with smaller Faun type horns.

  6. I can't wait to see your wings tutorial! My little one is going as a dragon/dinosaur. He can't decide which, so I want to make wings just in case. Maybe with your horns and wings I can go as Momma dragon!

  7. Nifty! Do you think this would work for rams horns?

  8. FIGMENT!!!!
    OMG cannot wait to see the rest.

  9. i squeed. just a little. OMFGFIGMENT <3

  10. There are a lot of materials you can use... indeed, rather than merely horns which look like crescent rolls I might try using crescent rolls. With some sealant coating.

  11. Oh. My. God. YOU ARE GOING AS FIGMENT?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????!!!!!!!!!???????????? *fan girl super flail* You are so lucky I'm not in your state because I would bear hug you so hard right now. I can't wait to see pictures!!

  12. This makes me so happy - Figment is my FAVORITE!! I not only have a stuffed Figment I've had since childhood, but I have two Figment figures on my desk.

    And this horn tutorial would be perfect for a Maleficent costume as well....

  13. I have some that I made years ago from black and red glitter clay that I marbled together!! I think I will dig them out to wear this year since I don't want to worry about a costume while wrangling a one year old. Lol

  14. OMG - LOVE it! Now I want to make all kinds of horns and stuff!!! (Need to finish Rogue and Wolverine first!)

  15. Looks good! You can make them a lot lighter by making a base out of tin foil and wire (all scrunched up to the shape you want! The wire is for larger structures that need more support.) and applying the polymer clay to it. It weighs less and you you less clay :)

  16. Could there be some other way to attach an elastic or tie without using a drill? I am drill-less and this looks like something I can actually do :D

  17. "EEE-mah-gin-a-shun! ee-mah-gin-a-a-a-a-shun! A dream. can be. a dream come true...."

    Can't wait to see the finished costumes! You guys are going to look adorable!!!!

  18. OMG. YOU are going to be Figment? Squee! So cute! I thought he might carry a plush one, or a puppet or something. But this is even better!

  19. Very cool! I can't wait to see the wings!

  20. Ingenious! ♥
    I love the idea of the shirt to wrap around your head... I bet that's a LOT more comfortable, and more stable!

    You're hinting at your costume... aren't you? For some reason I'm getting a big Spyro vibe... but it could be another purple dragon with orange horns that I'm not terribly familiar with. hee hee.

    I can't wait to see the wings tutorial! I made wings YEARS ago for cosplaying as Devil Zukin from DDR... I want to see if I made them somewhat properly. XD

  21. Can I shamefully admit that I bought some small purple horns at the Ren Faire last year that I payed waaaayyy too much for that were really similar to this? But, they had sparkly, so that makes up for the cost right?

  22. Cool. Now I need to make some horns.

  23. If you want ~bigger~ horns, molding them around a tinfoil core will help keep them lightweight!

  24. You are going as Figment!? I didn't think it was possible for me to become more excited than I was about John's costume but this just became beyond amazing.

  25. Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow
    Horns of a steer but a lovable fellow
    From head to tail he's royal purple pigment ...

  26. IMAAAAGINATION... :D hahaha

  27. I was totally assuming Spyro.
    I like figment better.

  28. To prevent your horns from warping when you punch a hole through them BEFORE baking, put them in the freezer until they are hard and BAM problem solved.

  29. Jen, I want to cuddle you so hard.

    Can NOT wait to see photos of you and John together in your costumes.

    You guys are going to have a blast at MNSSHP. Hope Sandy won't(literally) rain on your parade. Fingers crossed.


  30. That particular purple dragon is my favorite fella at Disney. There is much squeeing on this side of the internet!

  31. I have horns with hair clips attached so I can clip them in the hair and they look as natural as having horns can be.

  32. i have a pair of clay horns that i purchased at a ren faire, and to attach them i use a thin black leather cord. this way the cord blends in with my hair, and unless you are standing really close to me and staring at the side of my head, you can't see the tie at all. makes it look like the horns are actually growing out of my scalp!

  33. It might be easier and cheaper to use Model Magic; you can use a straw to make holes while it's soft, and you won't have to worry about sagging because it air dries.

  34. Another way to do horns for those without a drill is to use strong magnets, especially if you'll be wearing your horns under a wig or hat. Superglue one magnet onto the bottom of each horn, and put one underneath the wig cap where you want each one to be. Then, once the wig (or hat) is on, you can stick the horns right on top, and they won't move! :) One of my friends is a serious cosplayer, and she uses this method for all of her horns.

  35. me and my little Wiener dog, Figment, can't wait for the wings portion...I just realized that not only do I need a Figment costume...he does too!

  36. These came out looking fantastic! I eagerly anticipate your wings post.

    While I don't have any experience with Model Magic, I agree with some of the other posters that it could be easier and cheaper to work with--though I should point out that most polymer clay is paintable, although you may have to seal it afterwards. Sculpy is often cheaper in bulk, so if you're doing a lot of projects that use it, buy a big block of a neutral color (white or flesh-tone) and some bottles of acrylic paint and sealant.

    Also, using tinfoil inside the clay can be a HUGE moneysaver--though working holes into it might be trickier, and it would be harder to get that cool-looking swirled effect.

  37. Handy tip for softening clay, if you buy one of the tougher ones.

    Put the clay (either still in its wrapper or in a plastic bag/nitrile glove)inside your bra. If you don't wear a bra, you could improvise or ask some kind bra-wearing pal to donate their body heat for a while.

  38. Wait are you going to be John's Figment?

  39. Beautiful! I made some fairly large horns for a cosplay about half a year back, and this twisting is exactly how I shaped the tips of them (though the rest I did hand-sculpted ridges, because I'm addicted to details. Heh.) Since people seem to be sharing tips, I'll add a couple: for one, larger horns can be made lighter by molding them around tinfoil cores. Personally I vastly prefer Sculpey to Model Magic, but Sculpey does make an "ultralight" version which works like a charm and bakes up very light, as well as being quite easy and fun to paint.

    Also, since the larger the horns are the more likely they are to shift around, attaching them can get tricky, but the way I figured out (on the morning of the con, since the fancy foam glue I'd tried before shattered like candy!) worked incredibly well for wearing with a wig-- take a fairly wide, sturdy headband, drill two little holes in it on each side with a dremel where your horns are going to come out, futz with the angling and positioning until you're satisfied, then-- this is the fun part-- put the wig on, mark where on it you want the horns to come out, sandwich the wig between the horns (outside) and the headband (inside) and run a couple screws through your drilled holes. Works like a charm! Much better than magnets, since they won't rotate, and if you want to remove the horns you can just take a screwdriver to it. My foot-long goat horns didn't shift for three days of con!

    Also, though I'm sure you've heard it a thousand times by now, I'd just like to give an abridged version of the usual "long time reading first time commenting" speech: you are an inspiration, your blog is one of my very favourite things on the internet, thank you so very, very much for what you do. <3

  40. ...and everyone else already mentioned the tinfoil before me. Sorry! Really need to pay more attention to what I'm saying....

  41. Figment! So awesome! I was heartbroken when my childhood Figment frame broke, but Figment himself was still standing, so now he's a jewelry stand on my desk.

  42. OMG, so cute! You are so creative, I never would have though to poke them through fabric like that! Now I want to make a malificent costume....

  43. I have similar horns I wear. In order to keep them secure on my head as well as hidden, I use a cord that matches my hair color. I part my hair where the cord would lay (so some hair forward over my face, the rest back). Put the horns on, then lay the rest of the hair back over the cord and around the horns. At this point, you can style your hair (kinda) as normal with a hairclip or ponytail, maybe a few bobbypins. This leaves you with secure horns that looks like they grew right out of your head.

  44. My son made horns for his latest costume from iClay.
    He wanted grayish, so mixed black into white, leaving
    streaks. Without having seen your wonderful tutorial,
    he twisted to get the "textured" look he wanted.
    ADVANTAGE: iClay air dries, does not need baking.
    DRAWBACK: the relatively big horns took a couple of
    days to air dry.
    BIG ADVANTAGE: iClay is very very light, so big horns
    are not heavy.


Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>