Tutorial: Light Weight Horns

So I’ve finally begun working on my latest costume, Luna Zhiri my devoted cleric Tiefling from Neverwinter! One of the Teifling’s most prominent features are their horns. Since I’ve been waiting for the Wonderflex I ordered to arrive, I figured I should make the horns first considering I had all the materials on hand. In a previous post I covered the basics on how to make light weight horns, but I didn’t have all the pictures to show my progress. I hope to more thoroughly cover how to make some really kick-ass horns here!

So, materials.

You will need:

-Reference material

-Expanding foam (one can is fine for small horns, two for bigger ones)> http://www.homedepot.com/p/GREAT-STUFF-16-oz-Gaps-and-Cracks-Insulating-Foam-Sealant-162848/100003351#.UibETjasiSo

-A knife to cut the foam with (I prefer serrated but any sharp blade will do)

-A headband (1″ thickness)


-Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks to match

-A Clothes Hanger (if the horns curve)

-A pen

-Paint and brushes (I use acrylic)

-Paper Mache (Newspaper strips and glue+water)

-Paperclay (The stuff in the black package)> http://www.paperclay.com/product.htm

Alright, once the materials are gathered its time to go into the planning phase! Get out your reference material and study it. Think about the overall sillhouette of the horns, the shape in 3D space. Get pictures from multiple angles if possible.

Here’s my reference:

tiefling horns


Now, my work flow is probably a little different from most people’s. I don’t go for pure accuracy, especially with organic objects. I prefer to get the basic concept and wing it from there. Depending on how you like to work, the planning stage might go by quick, or it might take some refining. Anyway, it would have been really cool to get the horns growing from the forehead as pictured above, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. After many attempts and many trashed projects, I finally gave in to the standard set of horns that grow out the side of the skull.

Alright, put on your happy little headband and take a look in the mirror. Decide now where you want your horns to go. High up? Lower down? Mark the area with the pen for your own reference. When you have that all figured out, get the cardboard and begin to draw the shape of your horns. Some horns are easy, like the ones that bend at only one angle. Some, like the curving horns in my reference, are a little trickier.

This cardboard is going to be the base of the horns. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it’s gotta be close. Strive for symmetry! Unless of course that’s not in your design. When you have two nice horn shapes cut them out.



Using the glue gun, glue them into place as per the markings you made on the headband. Make sure to get the angle right! And use lots of glue. LOTS. These are the core of the horns and need to be anchored down tight!

Put the horns on at this point and make sure they are what you want, if not try again until they look better.

Since mine curl I cut a coathanger in half, stretched out the metal and glued it to the middle of the cardboard horn. I used this to bend them into shape ad keep the curve I wanted. Again, lots of glue to keep it down.


Go outside and put newspaper down all over the place. Foam is messy and sticky and gross and you don’t want it on your floor, fingers, or clothes. If you have a Styrofoam head it helps but I just laid my horns on the ground. Get out the expanding foam and begin to cover the cardboard, Don’t worry about it getting on the headband. Always use more than you think you will need. Its easy to cut down and its better to have too much than not enough. With my bigger horns I did the foam in two different sections. First I put them down flat and covered all areas i could with the foam. I let that dry, turned them over, then covered the other side. Although the foam is light and sticky, if you get too much gobbed on in one area that isn’t level with the ground, it might drip off.

By now you should have a great big mess of foam that may or may not look anything like horns. Let the foam dry 24 hours to be safe, then get out the knife cause its time to add to the mess!


Visualize the horns! Feeeeel the horns! Then start to carve out the excess foam. Take off little pieces at a time and be careful to keep to the form. Use the underlying cardboard as a guide. I started with the tip of the horn and worked down to the base, constantly rotating my project and checking it from all angles. This is by far the most time consuming part and the hardest to clean up. The foam bits love to stick to things by static. It makes it quite the pain to get them into the trash.


Hopefully by this time your horns now actually look like horns. The shape should be right and the diameter should be just about what you want, maybe a little thinner. We are going to be covering these with papermache and paperclay.


Making papermache is easy. Get some newspaper and cut it into long strips about 1″ wide and 6″ long. Then make a well mixed concoction of 1/2 water and 1/2 glue. I use woodglue because I have a giant tub of it but it turns my fingers yellow!

Make lots and lots of glue soaked strips and lay them over the horns. I used three layers of these to get a smooth surface to work on. As you probably have noticed, the foam is prone to leaving air bubbles. A layer of paper easily covers these though. Wait for the paper mache to dry. Alternatively, if you are lazy, you can also skip the papermache and cover it with some masking tape.


Next get out the paperclay. Paperclay is a specific brand of lightweight air drying clay.

I smear a nice layer over the whole project and smooth it out with wet fingers. I use a bit of clay for the raised bumps as well. Once dry, paperclay can be sanded. I don’t bother with it though. I like the slightly rough texture left behind. Sometimes while drying paperclay will contract and crack a bit. Just use some extra clay to fill in these cracks.



Well, do your horns look awesome yet? They should be pretty close. A good paint will perfect the look. I like to start out with a base color then paint in high-lights and low-lights with slightly darker versions of the original base color.

These two pictures are with flash and without.




The final and optional step is to hide the ugly headband, either under some locks of hair on a wig or by wrapping some ribbon around it.

Thanks for reading, more to come soon! And now I am off to enjoy a night of Face Off and Heroes of Cosplay, all while working on the next part of the costume. What might that be? It’s a surprise! Even I don’t know yet!





7 thoughts on “Tutorial: Light Weight Horns

    1. The foam is expanding foam called ‘Great Stuff’ (great name huh?) It can be bought at most hardware stores like Lowes or Home Depot.

  1. Thank you so much! These are the best looking horns I have seen, I really needed them for my d&d character cosplay.

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