How to Make Horns for Cosplay, Costumes and More

Cosplay season is all year round, with various conventions happening every month all across the US and abroad. 

Horns are a major staple since they are a part of many costumes like fantasy fairies, woodland creatures, video game characters and underworld denizens like demons and goblins. They can be large and spiraled pointing up or down or small and located at the peak of the head or “growing” from behind the ears. 

If you’re looking to make a basic pair of your own custom horns with cosplay tools, this article describes a few techniques and tools to use during the project. 

Check Out the Cosplay Tools Collection for Even More Options

Choose Your Character and Style

Whichever character you choose, there are additional aspects to consider to express the traits in a deeper and multi-layer way. For example:

Colors: Dark hues and palettes can mean a nocturnal creature roaming mossy forests or the underworld, whereas pastel colors suggest a happy and pop world. Combining the two color palettes on the Venn diagram lands you somewhere in the territory of Pastel Goth

Texture: This element also dictates the character’s origins and world; gritty, mossy, organic surfaces of fantasy or high gloss, high polish futuristic from a sci-fi universe. Metallic horns from fantasy armor or perhaps they’re fully covered in jewels and rhinestones! 

Pro Tip: Test out any textures on a scrap. If it’s the first time you’re trying it out, you may need to do a few trials before applying it to the final horn. 

Shape: shape and size are the last major element to consider when designing your horns. Is the character sinister or ethereal, a royal or a mage? Consider the location of the horns, their base width, their overall length and whether they will curl, twist and how much you’d like them to curl and twist. 

Materials

There are so many materials to use in cosplay, both store-bought and found around the house. Depending on the type and style of horns you’re making, some materials will work better than others. We compiled a list of cosplay materials to consider when planning your project. Read on!

EVA Foam: This is a great cosplay material. Most stores carry this material in various thicknesses and colors, usually black, gray and white. It can be cut, shaped and molded. When making horns consider the thinner foam, it’s easier to manipulate.

Aluminum Foil: You probably own this already as it’s a kitchen staple. Use this to make an armature - a foundation for the horns. The foil is lightweight and very malleable. By crinkling it and shaping it into the desired shape, you can quickly and effectively achieve the general look of your character’s horns. 

Wire: Use a thicker wire to create a support for your armature if the horns are large. Use a thinner wire for things like fastening, adding flowers and beads to the horns or even creating decorative details. 

Headband: You may need a wire headband base from the craft or millinery supply store. 

Mod Podge sealer

Adhesives: Depending on your choice of materials, you may need contact cement, quick-drying crafting glue, wood glue, fabric glue or hot glue. You can also create texture and dimension with glues or finishing liquids and sealers like Mod Podge

Tape: Use duct tape to build out shapes; use masking tape when painting details and lines or to temporarily hold a small detail in place while the glue sets. 

Markers and Paints: You will need markers that work on EVA foam surfaces and acrylic paints. Paint thickeners and various brushes to create texture in the paint or to blend and transition paint colors will work great. 

Findings: For decorating, almost anything goes here; flowers, twigs, ribbons, lace, beads, jewels, gears, metal, wire, polymer clay, faux fur and more!

craft tools

Tools

What would we do without tools?! They’re essential in our everyday lives and definitely in cosplay! Below is a list of tools that are great to have on hand when creating your horns and other cosplay accessories like belts and swords.

Craft Knife: An essential tool for cutting material to shape and cut out details. There are many craft knives to choose from including a traditional aluminum handle knife; if you prefer a softer comfortable handle, Excels’ K26 Fit-Grip Knife has an ergonomic rubberized handle. Pair this with a self-healing cutting mat to keep your crafting space clean from any scratches. 

Purchase a Self-Healing Cutting Mat for Your Crafting Space

Rotary Cutter: Cut large pieces of fabric, vinyl, felt and thin EVA foam smoothly. A rotary cutter is great for cutting out costume patterns and is available in three sizes. Alternatively, you can also use scissors. 

Snap Blade Knives: Epic costumes require big tools. To easily cut thicker EVA foam, vinyl or plastics, you’re going to need a sharp heavy duty blade. For intricate detail work, an index finger knife is a good option to try. This knife features a loop for the index finger which allows for maximum control. 

Sanding Sticks: some cosplay projects require smoothing and sanding, sanding sticks are narrow and feature a tapered tip, which allows for sanding of details like decorative appliques, scrollwork edges and more. Sanding belts are available in #80, #120, #240, #320, #400 and #600 grit. If you are sculpting and shaping your horns, you may need this sanding tool.

Burnishers: This craft tool is for embossing, etching, marking, scoring and more. Burnishers are fine detailing tools that are good to have on hand. Burnishing tips can be ball-point, spoon-shaped or ultra-fine. These tips have a smooth surface and glide over the material and depending on the pressure used, they can leave a light or a deep mark. Use these tools to emboss or add texture. 

Tweezers: Tweezers are an indispensable tool for detailing. Use to apply jewels, rhinestones or other similar small details. Placing small objects with tweezers is much easier and more precise than using just your fingers. 

The Build

Keep a sketch of the general shape of your horns and establish dimensions. Use this as a reference while creating the horns.

Step 1:

Build an armature using any of the below techniques:

  • Wireframe and cage
  • Roll and shape aluminum foil
  • Carve glues layers of EVA foam

Step 2:

Add the outside layer and cover the horns with fabric, EVA, clay, etc… Smooth, sand and manipulate for a finished look.

Step 3:

Seal and paint if needed. 

Step 4:

Add detail and decorations. Use decorative elements, findings and paints to decorate the horns to the full effect of the character. 

Step 5:

Assemble. Attach the horns to a wig, helmet or headband. Test out the final positioning before permanently gluing the horns into place. 

Then style, add makeup and have fun!

Now that you’re familiar with the techniques and tools, you can be on your way to many more projects! The important thing is to enjoy the process. 

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