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Little Ghoulies - Halloween Prop

This project is less of a how-to and more a demonstration of how you can - with some creativity - turn a little darling doll into a little gruesome ghoul for about $5.

Take a trip to a secondhand store and you can usually find a doll for about $1.50. What a bargoon, and allllll the hard work of building a body frame is done for you.

I stopped by the dollar store and picked up a packet of rubber eyeballs, playdough and plastic teeth. How much have I spent so far? $4.50. And that's all I needed to shell out to make this prop.

I then chopped off most of the doll's hair, leaving some in chunks, knowing I wanted bits of it to come through the skin later. There's no need to actually cut the hair but it's handy to have extra hair on hand, saved in a ziplock bag, for future projects.

I wanted my ghoulie to have 3 toes instead of 5 so I put 3 screws into each foot. This was fairly disturbing to actually do, and I apologized to the doll a couple of times. Some of the screws went in easily, while others were reluctant. For any of you trying to do this, here's some tips for working on a rubbery doll:

1) Use a hammer and nail to start the hole. It will help to keep the screw in place.

2) If the feet of the doll are hollow inside, squeeze the top and bottom of the foot together below the toe. This helps create a solid surface to press the screw against when you put try to screw it in.

I built the face up using modelling clay and plunked the eyes and teeth in for two reasons: to see what it will look like (get an idea of the placement for the eyes and mouth), and to give the front of the head a basic shape.

As you can see from the picture, I formed basic eyelids (top and bottom) with the clay over top of the actual eyeballs I would be using (they will be removed after I have done the paper mache step and it dries, allowing me to retrieve them and my clay when I pull off the new paper mask). Having the eyeballs in place now will leave a raised, hollow section in the paper mache mask that I can cut out as an eye socket.

Having the teeth in place before I paper mache will also create a raised area the exact size and shape for the mouth I need to be used as a guideline when I am inserting the teeth for the final time. Since I am covering all of this with tinfoil BEFORE I paper mache, I will be able to retrieve them easily.

Later, I would regret not building up nostrils at this stage, but it is easily fixed while you are adding paper mache later on.

I covered the doll's head with tinfoil (except for the back because I wanted my modelling clay back after the mask had dried and I would be able to slip the mask off easier this way) and started layering on the paper mache (overlapping the edges, no more than 2 layers). For my paper mache, I just use torn strips of newspaper dipped in a mixture of water and glue (1 to 2 mixture). I squeegee off the excess glue by gently running the dipped strip between my thumb and index finger.

I removed the mask and the clay. If you don't want your clay back, feel free to leave it there.

I decided to build up the tummy using tinfoil over balled up plastic bags taped to the doll.

I covered the doll's face with paper mache. I knew there would be a hole behind the teeth in the open mouth of the mask, and I wanted to be able to paint the spot (where her original doll face was) black.

I took the rubber eyeballs, glossed over the red veins with a light coat of white paint and finished it off with clear nail polish to make it shiny.

I cut out half of the eye shapes (leaving enough so that if I put the eyeballs in from behind, the paper mache still covers the edges of the eyeball but the pupils and some of the white are still visible through the hole) and a strip where the open mouth will be.

Experimentation: figuring out the best way to attach the teeth and make a mouth. At first, I was going to create the mouth by cutting two parallel slits along the top and bottom (one for the top teeth, one for the bottom teeth). This way I could slip the teeth into the new slits I had created. I would push the remaining middle section (between the slits) inward toward the doll face beneath (creating space between the teeth and the doll face beneath) and paint it black. I lost confidence in this idea though after fiddling around with it, and just snipped out the middle strip entirely.

I slipped the teeth into thehole for the mouth to test the size of the opening, and did the same with the eyes.

Once I was satisfied, I put the eyes in the mask from behind and used the cheap play dough to pack them in place. Removing the teeth from the ghoulie, I painted the teeth (purples at the gums, stained pinkish-white for the teeth themselves, and browny-reds where the teeth met the gums) and set them aside to dry.

I covered the rest of the doll with paper mache, doing the front first and then the back, switching as each side dried.

I dipped the gums of the teeth in paste, slipped them in place, and used a toothpick to hold the mouth open as it dried.

I applied single strips of paper dipped in the glue mixture (folded over and over on itself to give it bulk), and layered these bulky pieces on top of each other to build up around the eyes and lips of the monster. The strips around the mouth partially cover the gums of the teeth. This will help to keep the teeth in place.

I also made nostrils for it by placing 2 small clumps of paper mache almost side by side above the mouth, then placed a strip of mache to cover the top and sides of each clump. The clump allows for the strip to be raised away from the face, and since I didn't press the bottom closed against the rest of the skin, there would be holes for nostrils.

Finally, I pulled tufts of hair through small holes I cut in the paper mache.

And here is my little friend after some painting. The key, as always, is layering of different shades. I start with the darkest shade first in any crevices or divots. Let that dry, then add a lighter shade lightly over top, and another even lighter shade is used to dry brush the highest peaks/levels. I gave him freckles/liver spots (collections of dark mole-like ovals that then get another smaller blotch of a lighter colour over top) to add depth and texture.

Helping define contours in the face and body with dark shades is vital. It gives it a more realistic and interesting look.

I dipped my thumb and index fingers in brown paint and rubbed the ghoulie's hair until the strands were coated. Be sure to separate the hair as you go along or it will dry in one big clump.

Then I made it a friend :)