Countdown to Halloween Day 28 - Zombie Windows DIY

The Zombie Apocalypse has finally happened. What do ya do first? Board up all your exposed windows of course. Then worry if your brains are tasty.

Sorry I've been an irregular Halloween blogger this year, but here's a full blown prop "how-to" post to make up for it. This is a cheap, easy and super fast project. Perfect if your haunt needs last minute details or you want some extra decoration inside for a party this Friday night.

How fast and easy? Well... I created these Zombie windows to cover our set's french door area in little over 4 hours today.

Step 1 - Get yourself lots of black foam core board. Cut boards to cover windows atleast a 1/4" - 1/2" wider. These will be the main support and create the blacked out areas. Once done, set aside to be used later. If it takes more than one board to cover your window it's okay, you can seam them together easily (explained later).

Step 2 - Making wood planks. These are cut strips of foam core. Why cheap foam core planks? To keep light and easily hung temporarily in windows of course (you could also use thicker foam or real wood, but this worked for me on this project). Cut irregular widths and lengths. Forget the ruler, going for that old distressed look. I also cut exaggerated cartoony notches at the end of planks to help sell it.

Step 3 - Painting. Trying to pass off foam core as wood planks requires a really decent faux finish. I used a wood grain paint tool, you can find these at most paint or craft stores. If you don't have one, get one. A handy tool in any prop making arsenal.

First I painted a board with a thinned coat of grey paint (1 part water/ 3 parts paint).

Quickly, while the paint was fresh and wet, I dragged the tool across to create grain. If you've never used one, practice a bit. Varying the angle of the curve while dragging creates unique knots and other natural wood grain textures. Tip - keep a rag handy. The wood grain tool can get gunked up with paint after several passes ruining the effect. So wipe it clean often.

Second tip - Once your planks are painted, they may curl a bit, this is because the drying shrinks the paper surface of the foamcore on that side. If happens, lightly wet the back with sponge or brush and the curl will flatten out some when that dries.

Step 4 - The fun part. Once planks dry, start arranging them on the window black out boards the way you like. Once set, just hot glue in place. If you have boards that need seaming, hot glue a plank across the seam to bridge them together.

Step 5 - Details. On the black areas between planks glue on store bought skeleton arms and hands as if breaking through. If needed, cut the base of them flat to glue more securely on board. I painted all mine green for a classic cartoon zombie look and so would "pop" against the darker boards. I also lightly dusted the bottom of each arm/hand with flat black spray paint so would blend in with the black void better and help suggest emerging from shadow.

I also added Zombie eyes. These were Ping Pong balls cut in half. I painted them yellow and used a Sharpie to create pupils and a neon green paint pen for color. Quick and easy.

And for extra detail, I used a silver paint pen to dot on nail heads where planks connected.

Step 6 - Hanging it up.  On the back of the board hot glue a length of picture hanging wire. On the window attach a suction cup hook. Hang Zombie board on hook. Done!

They're ya go. My project was constrained by time and budget, but I hope all reading this will take this basic build and get inspired to make your own and improve on.

Countdown to Halloween Day 8 - Trash Can Frankenstein Monster Prop

This is a project I've had in the back of my mind for a long time - creating a fairly simple to build giant robot out of junk. Ken Wingard and I teamed up this week and made it a 7 foot tall reality. The design was inspired by using a 5 gallon paint bucket as the head, and being flat topped, it naturally lead to him becoming the Frankenstein's monster. Scaling off of that, a 32 gallon trash can made for a great torso. Once all assembled, having a clunky feel, he had to have a fun cartoony look.

Here are the initial sketches roughing out how I thought could be built (happy to say almost exactly how it was actually made).

Ken has posted a detailed step by step (including process photos) on his blog.

Wait! Before you visit his page, here's a couple of extra project details of note.

First, here's how the hands were made by recycling milk jugs...

Second, for the finished prop, I drew face details and printed on label paper. They were then simply cut out and stuck on. Here they are if you want to swipe and use for your own bucket headed monster (click on to enlarge).

Okay that's it, you can go to Ken's page now. Wait! One more thing... this is a project that can be customized to almost any other vision. Classic retro 50's B-movie robot anyone?

Countdown to Halloween Day 6 - Make a Spooky Tree

Here's the large spooky tree I designed as a DIY for the show last week. I'm pretty happy with this one, especially being something that creating as is (barring material shopping and gathering) could be made in only a day if you need something extra for your lawn now. And of course something that can be improved on and added to for more realism and character if wanted by advanced prop folk.

The basic "how-to" and video can be found at the Hallmark Channel website HERE.

Countdown to Halloween Day 4 - The Afternoon He Came Home

My prop crew chose to display my old Michael Myers mannequin Friday afternoon in a place on set that will most freak out the Universal tram tours that pass by.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my prop crew?

Countdown to Halloween Day 2 - Family and Haunting

If you're lucky like me with a great family, they always somehow get suckered into your October obsession year after year.

I'm putting the spotlight on my brother Ted because today's his birthday.

From "Trick or Treating" as kids together to making sure "Trick or Treating" will be fun for kids, he's always been by my side every Halloween.

Countdown to Halloween '14 Day One - The Master Plan!

Halloween is here and the countdown has begun!

Okay, I thought I'd start by following up on something I posted about a week or so ago and a shameless plug for the the daily TV show I work on, Home and Family on the Hallmark Channel.

We're officially going full blown yard haunt crazy. Nicknamed "Haunt and Family" it will feature a few DIY segments every week throughout the month until the lawn looks pretty close to what I doodled up here.

I'd like to say any similarities in this design to any my old haunt projects are coincidental, but I'll be honest, I'm too overworked right now and lazy to think up all fresh new project ideas.

Being able to design and supervise these projects, I hope inspires a passion for yard haunting and decorating to untapped Halloween creatives.

Hope you tune in. Here's a sneak peek of this week's featured projects...

Today, an 8 foot spooky tree DIY

Thursday, a creepy cemetery fence DIY

Creative Inspiration: Hunka Junk

So I'm sure you've heard Star Wars Episode VII is filming, but what you may not have is it's director JJ Abrams has been having a friendly social media war with Zack Snyder, the director of another highly anticipated big franchise film, Superman Vs Batman. Both their camps have been going back and forth posting images "mashing up" the two franchises.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, Abrams wins with this video.

As much fun and brief as the clip is, what really thrills and inspires me is the overall attention to detail and love that the set craftsman have obviously poured into recreating the Millenium Falcon. I've watched this a hundred times. Every bolt, rivet, pipe, gizmo, greeble, and chipped section of paint was obviously made with care. Especially when, odds are, most of it will never be seen up close.

Halloween Window Silhouettes 2014

Last year I drew up Halloween window silhouette templates for all to swipe and use in your decor. There were Witches, Maniacs, and Zombies. This year is no different, I'm working on a few new series to share. Look for Spiders, Aliens, and Mythical Monsters posted here soon.

In the meantime, here's the first spider to grab and use if you so desire. Happy Halloween!

Halloween 2014 - Universal Set Haunt

Pretty excited.

With a little pushing, nagging, and general creative ranting from their humble propmaster, Home and Family producers are now inspired to go all out decorating the set's front yard in true Halloween haunter fashion based on a rough design sketch of mine. The entire month of October will feature weekly DIY segments creating it!

Some projects will be Halloween yard 101 to inspire possible new haunter's. Some will be advanced. Some will be a few old personal haunt projects once posted here redone with a fresh spin and a better tutorial, that I hope bridge 101 and advanced. I guess that means, those would be medium skill then.

Here's the best part for me. We're on the Universal backlot, the trams drive by everyday, the big Universal Halloween Horror Night mazes are close by. So the Home and Family yard display will be connected in a third cousin twice removed kind of way, sort of. Don't crush my delusions of grandeur.

The whole plan will be revealed on the show airing Oct 1st, but here's a sneak peek of the current design sketch. Oh yes, that's a crashed UFO, the one personal Halloween project I never did finish will happen. Producer approved, so it has to now.

Christmas in July

A couple of months back the show I'm working on in cahoots with Hallmark (promoting their new line of ornaments for the year) decided to celebrate Christmas in July for a week.

Here's a video featuring my crew and I transforming our set for the occasion in only a couple of days including a blanket of REAL snow, on top of the fake blanket we put down.

Getting Into The Halloween Spirit

I'm doodling.

Halloween 2014 - First New Prop Part 4

Here's how the gravestone began.

First I used 2 sheets of large foamcore board (30" x 40"). Standard stuff, available at most office supply. If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know foamcore is my "go-to" prop making material. Not that it's the best, it's just what I've grown comfortable using. The same way a chef might have a favorite knife, or a writer has a favorite pencil.

I drew and cut out the shape of the gravestone and basically made a box. The gravestone sides are strips of foamcore scored so they can be bent into a curve. I hot glued it together and used painter's tape as I went along to keep things in place as the glue set up.

Second, I sketched on the eyes and mouth I wanted and cut those out with an X-Acto.

Third, I filled the inside with Great Stuff expanding foam and let dry. Here's a tip, spray bottle misting the foam with water helps speed up it's expansion and drying time.

Now, the combination of the expanding foam and misting created a happy accident that I anticipated and welcomed, The foamcore warped a bit giving the gravestone a more odd and organic shape.

Next, once the foam set up, I sculpted it to make look more natural as if was stone that had broken away.

Then I began to have real fun, cutting out the details and adding cracks with the X-Acto. I also pulled off a lot of the surface paper on the foamcore adding texture.

The Gravestone was then thinly coated with Fix-It-All patching plaster compound tinted with some black india ink making it more grey colored.

Once dry, I went back and added finer cracks (just running a nail through the patching plaster) and sanded edges. Then I started dry brushing with various shades of grey and black washes to bring out details.

Now, with all the added moisture because of the painting, once dry, the gravestone warped more especially at the glue seams and thinner areas I had carved details into. Sometimes it actually split and created gaps. I filled these with ordinary tile grout tinted with some of the paint I was using. The sand in the grout also added some great texture.

Look for Part 5 soon  when I'll be adding the melted candle eyes.

Halloween 2014 - First New Prop Part 3

It hit me that it's not my style to be so secretive and teasing with my prop builds. I was at first because it was a gravestone making contest, but since I'm out of the competition (missed deadline), who cares right?

Mine is based on this really old idea I sketched and posted about years ago ( old post here ).

 This is where the build is at right now.

How I created it this far will be in future posts. Right now I'm working on the tendril arm branches. Which I'm having fun creating, inspired by the work of Pumpkinrot and the late John Wolfe of Seasons of Shadows.

Nowhere near done yet, I'm only finding time to work on for an hour or so every 3 or 4 days. In the meantime, I'll retro-post the "making of" so far over the next week or so.

Halloween 2014 - First New Prop Part 2

I missed the tombstone contest deadline, so I'm out, but I'm still working on. Here's a sneak peek of it so far. Should have done by week's end.