I recently found that I was in need of a small dragon. Perhaps not something you hear said every day, but the truth. So, I tend to do this thing where I decide that I can make something that I honestly have no clue how to make, and then go for it anyway and hope for the best. This was one of those times. At risk of forgetting the whole process, I decided to write it down while it’s still in my mind, just in case I ever need to make any more dragons. You don’t know my life, maybe I need hundreds of dragons.
Anyway…I figured I would share this process, because that’s the just kind of quality content we need here at IDEAS. So maybe you need to make a prop, maybe you just really like dragons, or maybe you just want to know what on earth I’m talking about, but here we are. You too can create your own dragon friend, and you probably already have a bunch of the necessary supplies around your house.
Before you can start actually making anything, you’re going to need to find a visual. What do you want your dragon to look like? Find some pictures, do some sketches if that’s your thing. I was making a specific dragon from Game of Thrones, so luckily there were lots of pictures to be found. Take note of any specific details that you will need to be aware of for later. This step requires absolutely nothing except a phone/computer/book/magazine, wherever your pictures may be.
So this is really simple, you just need tin foil (or aluminum foil, whatever…), masking tape, and a hammer. The wider masking tape is better for this particular project and you will be using a lot of it. You get some foil and shape it into the basic form you need, and then hammer until you have a pretty solid form. Then just use masking tape to hold the bits and pieces together. You’ll need to form a head, a body, and a tail. Connect the head with a neck and give the body some little shoulders and legs. I may be explaining this poorly, it can be difficult to explain this type of thing, which is why I have included pictures. Because I’m 100% sure all of you were so concerned about it…
Take that weird tin foil form you just made and wrap it up in masking tape. Like a tin foil mummy. Just go wild with masking tape. It will create a smoother surface for the clay to bond with. You don’t want weird little bits of foil poking through. It will also keep the pieces securely together during the process.
Ignore the awkward Whole Foods bag behind the dragon, he likes to be healthy…
Wings and Feet
So, this was the hardest part, for me at least, not really the making of the wings, but everything that comes after the making of them. The base ingredients for Olivia Style Dragon Wings TM are wire and masking tape. I used wire from wire clothes hangers. You could use something softer like armature wire (an easily moldable wire found in craft stores with all the sculpting stuff), but I found the stiffness of the hangers to be unexpectedly perfect. Plus, most people have them already, yay for saving money. You’re going to use these wires to make the wings and the feet. This will take a bit of patience, but it’s not terribly difficult.
To make the frame of a wing you’ll need a long wire and three short wires. Be careful when cutting them, don’t be like me, use actual wire cutters instead of pretty hardcore scissors and a lot of determination. Tape them together securely. For a foot, you’ll connect four short wires to a bit of tin foil, and connect that structure to the end of a leg.
Get the widest masking tape you can. You are going to use masking tape to make the membrane of the wings. I’ll admit that potentially there is a better way to do this, but this is what I did. So basically, you’re going to completely wrap the wires with it and the cut it to be a wing shape.
Once your wing are wrapped you’ll need to bend them into whatever shape you want them to be. Do this before you paint them or it will chip the paint. I honestly have no idea if that’s true, it’s just how I did it…
Some dragons don’t have wings, often the aquatic kind. If that’s the look you’re going for, good for you, your life just got easier.
This part is pretty easy. Just cover the whole thing in a layer of clay. I recommend either La Doll Premier (my preferred choice) or Paperclay. Do not proceed until the clay has dried.
Cool, so your clay is dry now, all is well, but it probably looks a bit rough. Sand paper is your friend now. You are going to sand the whole thing with rough sand paper, and once more with a fine sandpaper, until you have a smooooth dragon.
This is the fun part. You get to make your dragon all unique and cool looking. Facial features, spikes, eyes, whatever you wish. Then you get to wait for it to dry and sand everything all over again… The sanding gets old, but it works.
Unless you want a super boring dragon, you’re going to need the get some paint. I used red and black. I also used india ink for the eyes to make them shiny, and then painted them with clear nail polish. Once your paint is dry you should spray your dragon with some kind of fixative or paint sealer
But what about the wings you ask? Ah, what about them indeed. Well, you’ll need to paint them of course. That’s easy enough. But how to attach them to the body? That’s the thing… I avoided working on my dragon for like two weeks after all my stuff was dry because I had no idea what to do about the wings. When in doubt I typically turn to hot glue, but that wasn’t gonna work this time. Finally, I settled on trying some small nails, and it worked! I honestly cannot believe it worked and I am to this day nervous that his wings will decide to fall off. Anyway, you get very small nails and put them in the shoulders and wherever you want the wings to touch the body. Part of the wing will lay across the dragon’s back. You’ll want to fold these back so they’re in line with the shoulders, and build some clay around them so it gives the wings a more natural transition into the body. Once everything is put together and painted spray the dragon with fixative again, and at last you are done.
So, if you actually made it through this whole article without getting very confused, congratulations, you win. If we have learned anything from this experience it’s that I was not meant to write craft tutorials. Anyway….I know all of you are going to go out and make dragons immediately, because why not?