Costume Crafting: Belt of Skulls

You never know when you are going to need a belt of skulls. Maybe you play a Necromancer in a live action role play adventure series, maybe you want to cosplay Mystique, maybe you want to be a witchdoctor for Halloween, or a Pirate at any time of any day, maybe you want to have a workable Kali outfit for weekend wear, or maybe you want a really neat conversation piece for everyday wear. I’m not here to judge, but I am here to show you how it’s done.

First, I read some reviews and grabbed a bag of skulls from Amazon for all of $13.00 and got free Amazon Prime shipping. I read reviews and found that *my* skulls were the right size, some of the reviews even said they had used these for the EXACT purpose I did. Reviews also stated that they were blackish brownish and not the whitish specified. For my purposes, this is fine as I was going to paint them anyway. I also knew these skulls had a hole in the chin from the reviews, if it’s a deal breaker for you, I will outline how to fix it if you’re willing to put some time into it.

Anywho, to make a belt the skulls need to be flat on one side or they will a) add LOTS of bulk to your midsection and make you look silly, b) look silly because they will stare downwards as the backs are rounded, c) it will be harder to tell what exactly they are. The good news is, for the investment in a hobby saw like the one shown and 45 minutes of your time, you can easily saw through the whole lot of them. If you’re just making a belt, you actually won’t need all of them. For cosplayers and costumers who are on a tight schedule, just worry about 5-8 of them. There WILL be a total mess of plastic shavings, so have a work surface that you can clean up easily when you’re done.

To choose the correct line to cut for it to sit on your waist, you just need to follow the base of the jawline up through the skull. If you’re having a hard figuring it out, use a ruler and a permanent marker to mark the angle by setting the ruler off the back of the protruding jaw as a guide.

At this point, think about your application. Do you need to fill in the hole at the bottom of the chin and sand down the obvious seam on the jawline? If so, use sandpaper to file down the seam and the area around the injection point in the chin. Fill in the hole in the chin with clay or wood putty and let that dry before you move on.

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Once you’ve cut them in half, the next step is fixing the color. Most likely you will want these bad boys to be gold, it’s THE choice for Pirates, Mystique, M. Bison, and evil bad guys everywhere. Other popular options include silver and, of course almond/off white for the more au naturale look. Choose your favorite spray paint, I used Rustoleum Universal Metallic spraypaint in brass (it looked less ridiculous and more traditionally “gold” as you see in movies, etc.).

Pro-Tip: I prefer Rustoleum Universal because a) it goes on smoother than most other paints b) I have not had any bad experiences with Rustoleum paints c) it has the best metallic finish of any spraypaint I’ve used for mirror, silver, brass, copper, and oil rubbed bronze d) the can is ergonomic and easy to use. It *is* a bit pricey, but I find myself using leftover paint from craft projects on household items and the durable finish really holds up well. You can use cheaper paint, but I love this one.

Lay them out evenly on your drop cloth (yes, I have re-used this dollar store plastic table cloth yet AGAIN) and hit them with the first coat. Be sure and move around as you spray them so you get coverage from all angles, they will look silly with brown chins or tops of heads.

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After one coat, you should have a kinda golden metallic, but the brown will still show through. This look would probably be great for a more rustic application, like an airship pirate. However, I was going to be in a low-light setting and needed some definition and pop on the metallic. I opted for a second coat.

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After two coats, they look totally metallic. Wait for them to dry and then get ready to detail them.

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As you can see in this and the previous pic, though they are shiny, many of the details are lost in a flat color. You will need to either highlight or lowlight your color to really make it pop. Just grab some acrylic paint in the color you want to highlight or lowlight with and add 25-50% water to thin it. Since I used gold, I’m antiquing it with a nice black that I added just a touch of brown to for a bit of richness. If you picked a metallic color, black is the way to go for antiquing lowlights. If you picked something else, use a darker version of that color for lowlights, or a lighter version to accent the higher parts (teeth, brows, cheekbones, nasal cavity). If you picked an  off white for a more natural look, I suggest using a nice deep brown over a black for lowlighting, it will look more natural.

My lowlight technique is simple, paint the watered down acrylic paint over the whole object, then use a paper towel to rub away the excess. The lighter you press as you rub, the less paint you will take off and the darker/more aged the piece will look.

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On these skulls, most of them got 2 quick coats and I made sure I left a super thin coat of the black on the overall piece to give it definition. Note that each one looks a little different.

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After you get your paint to dry, you may choose to hit the whole set with a quick coat of spray on polyurethane. This will make sure that the paint won’t scratch off as easily. For a one-time use costume, you don’t have to poly, but if you will be wearing the item more than once or will have an application where you might bump it on surfaces, just poly it. If you want it metallic, a gloss finish is more realistic. If you want it “natural” or “dull” then just use a satin finish.

Once your poly dries you’re ready to attach your skulls to your belt. Your method of attachment will vary based on how long-lasting you want the project to be. I used loops made of duct tape which doubled over on itself and taped inside the chin and top of the skull. To make mine extra sturdy, I used a cross-placed piece of duct tape at each end to anchor the strap to keep the belt movement from ripping the duct tape out. You could also glue in sturdier straps if you chose to make the whole thing more durable.

You then just slide these bad boys on your belt and position them as desired. I used five skulls for my costume with one in the center over the belt’s buckle, one most of the way to my hip, and two in the back. You can add more skulls as desired. If you wear all twelve skulls it will be about 36″ of skulls, which really bulked out my waist and looked silly as it slung across my hips sideways. Slip them on and off until you’re happy with your result for your costume.

 

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