Home & Garden

7 DIY Halloween decorations for every crafting ability level

Handmade projects for a Halloween likely spent at home

DIY Halloween decorations Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

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Thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing practices, Halloween 2020 likely won't look the same as it has in the past, especially when it comes to trick-or-treating. You may be celebrating the holiday at home or even on Zoom.

But, different doesn't have to mean less fun, or that you have to skimp on the spookiness factor. In fact, getting into the spirit of the season may just be the mental vacation you need to help get you through the rest of the year.

DIY Halloween decorations are a safe way to have some campy, creepy fun while in quarantine. Not to mention that crafting is great for keeping kids occupied and managing stress.

The internet is awash with DIY crafting listicles and examples, but many of these are structured to show off a nice photo of the craft while providing very few instructions and tips on avoiding common pitfalls. Instead, I've found and tried seven different crafts, from easy to challenging, that will make you say, “Oh man I can’t wait to make that myself!”

For sure, this is no experts guide. I had varying degrees of success, and I can show you what to do—and not to do. Let's go!

1. Vampire mini pumpkins

vampire pumpkins
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

Mini pumpkins are definitely the way to go, but if they're not in season you can use kabocha squashes.

This adorable project is all over Pinterest, but the first place we saw it was on DIY & Crafts.

What You Need:

Time Needed

15 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Step by step

Step 1
Take your mini pumpkin (or kabocha squash) and carve a small rectangular hole where you want the mouth to be. You can gauge the size by holding the vampire fangs up to the pumpkin, but it’s better to err on the side of too small than too large, especially when it comes to the width. If you want the jaws to be more closed, keep the height of the cut small; if you want the fangs to be more aggressively bared, make the hole slightly taller.

Step 2
Once you have the hole cut, it's time to insert those chompers. They're easier to position if you hold them closed, then release them once they're in place. If they're too wobbly, you can push the teeth open so the plastic edges get slightly embedded in the pumpkin.

Step 3
To create its beady red eyes, insert two (or more) pushpins. Other eyes can also work (cough—*googly*—cough). It really just depends on kind of vampire pumpkin vibe you’re going for.

2. Cheap chains

chains
Credit: Instructables

Spray-painted PVC pipe segments can be a cheap alternative to real chains.

Just because something is fairly common and widely available doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution for your decorating needs. Real chains are kind of expensive, especially in the quantity you’d typically want for a haunted house display. Also, they are heavy and can damage their surroundings.

Fortunately, we found a cheap and easy solution on Instructables.

What You Need:

Time Needed

15-30 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Step by step

PVC is a great material to work with because it’s both lightweight and sturdy. For an easier version, you can use a pool noodle instead.

Step 1
Using a hacksaw, saw off each individual “chain link” from your larger tube of PVC pipe, which takes time and arm strength to get through. Start with a few, because you want to make sure the segments are thin enough to actually chain together. Keep the segments thinner than the inner radius.

Step 2
Then, cut through the perimeter of each and every PVC link to make a “C” shape. This can be difficult, because these pipe segments are going to be pretty small and difficult to keep steady. We recommend using a clamp to help keep your fingers well away from the path of your hacksaw—let’s make sure all the horrifying red stains are just corn syrup and food coloring, shall we?

Step 3
Now it's time to connect your links. Simply press the PVC segments together at the openings you cut. Once everything is chained together, it's time to glue the segments together to form closed loops again. This part is largely aesthetic, because the PVC will likely stay together even with the opening remaining. If you do decide to glue them back together, allow enough time for the glue to set before moving on.

Step 4
Once you're done, use metallic spray paint to paint the links. Allow the paint to dry overnight in a well-ventilated area.

3. Packing tape poltergeists and cellophane specters

ghost hand
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

The tape appendages are best set up in the dark, with a hidden light source helping them glow.

This craft basically boils down to wrapping yourself up in packing tape. It's weirdly meditative: This project is a good excuse to wind and unwind.

What You Need:

Time Needed

15 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Step by step

This craft is straightforward but it comes with a caveat: Make sure you aren’t allergic to anything in packing tape before encasing yourself in it.

Step 1
You want to wrap your nondominant hand, unless you like a challenge. While you want the first layer to be sticky side up, I found that it was far easier to start by sticking the first half-inch of the tape to my arm sticky side down. That small anchor point helps keep things steady; otherwise the tape will slide as you're wrapping it around your arm.

Step 2
While wrapping, make sure to keep your binding loose. It's surprisingly easy to accidentally make it too tight, while will make it harder to remove later.

Step 3
Once you’ve wrapped up your arm, you will need to carefully cut the packing tape cast off with the scissors. Gently run the scissors along your skin, making sure you only snip the tape.

Step 4
Once the translucent cast of your arm is fully removed, you'll want to cover up that slit you made with the scissors. A few extra strips of packing tape should do the trick. This should result in a cohesive, ghastly appendage.

Step 5
From here it’s just a matter of decoration. Pair it with a hidden light source, which gives the translucent structure an otherworldly glow. You could also make a few different hands and put them behind a cloth to create ghastly grasping silhouettes.

4. Freaky feel boxes

feel boxes
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

Feel boxes are a great decoration to make and experience with the younger set.

This one is a take on the classic blind box you reach into, only to feel entrails or eyeballs or any other macabre material you can conjure forth using the power of imagination and some wet pasta.

What You Need:

Time Needed

15-30 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Step by step

Step 1
Have a plan before you start cutting up the cardboard. I decided my feel boxes would have an open-bottom design, meaning my bowl of peeled grapes would sit directly on the table, detached from the box itself. This design allows reaching hands to reflexively recoil in sheer horror without the risk of catching on the feel box and flinging faux-viscera all over. You'll also need to give some thought to which sides of the box you want to cut into: the flaps of the top and bottom, or the sides. I tried both and found cutting the flaps was a little easier and perhaps better for kids, but it's harder to create a uniformly-circular hole—whether or not that matters is up to you. Keeping the top and bottom taped up and cutting into the sides with a box cutter will let you make a nicer circular opening and gives the box a bit more structure.

Step 2
Once you've figured your top and bottom, it's time to start cutting. The bottom can be removed completely. For the top, I traced out a hole that was approximately 150% larger than my fist, then cut it out. Don't worry about leaving stray lines, because you'll be covering it up with construction paper.

Regardless of which method you choose, the trick is to make sure the top still has enough cardboard around the opening to maintain the box's structure. If you cut out the entire top and bottom, that feel box is going to collapse pretty easily.

Step 3
Start decorating! This part of the project is pretty open-ended, and you can design as you like, though a great go-to material for this is colored construction paper. I made a mummified box with cheese cloth strips, a Frankenstein’s monster box, and a Jack-o’-lantern box. A zombie box is another great idea, especially if it contains “brains.”

5. Yarn spider web

spider web
Credit: Gettty Images / sony_moon

These yarn spider webs are relaxing and relatively easy to create.

DIY spider webs can either be a quick craft or a much longer labor of love, depending on your mood. While homemade versions won’t look as realistic as traditional decorative spider webbing, they do a good job of creating their own kind of mood, a creepiness that’s a bit more quaint, rustic and deliberate.

What You Need:

Time Needed

15-30 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Step by step

Step 1
You can approach this spiderweb project by two different techniques: One way is to learn about tying proper knots, which this article from Made Everyday does a good job explaining; the other way is to buy a bunch of clear thumbtacks and just wing it. I went with the latter.

Step 2
Have a general ideal of how large you want to make your web. Start by sticking a tack where you’d like the center of the web to be. Then stick a second tack where you want the web to end.

Step 3
Connect these two tacks with a piece of yarn, tying knots around the tacks at either end. Repeat this process until you have 8 to 12 spokes.

Step 4
From there, start inside and work your way out by knotting a piece of yarn around one of the center tacks. Spiral the yarn outwards, knotting the yarn around each spoke it crossed. Continue in that fashion until you’ve made a web.

6. Eyes that follow you wherever you go

eye bowls
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

This craft creates eyes that follow you as you move around the room.

Ever since the unbreakable gaze of the "Mona Lisa," images that seem to follow you with their eyes have been a pretty consistent horror trope. The general principle behind this craft will help you create as many watching eyes as you want. It's really a clever means of leveraging a concave surface to create the illusion of movement. These eyes make a creepy accent piece in a door or window.

What You Need:

Time Needed

30 minutes, over two days

Difficulty

Medium

Step by step

Step 1
Lightly spray white paint on the exterior of your plastic bowls. You want the thinnest possible covering, because you’ll be installing this decoration somewhere between the viewer and a light source and you need the light source to be able to shine through. Allow the spray paint to dry overnight.

Step 2
With a boxcutter or scissors, cut out black construction paper circles that fit into the bottom of each bowl. These are your eyes’ pupils.

Step 3
Glue the eye pupil in place.

Step 4
Draw in some optional veins on the inside of the bowl's white surface with a red marker. Use a dry erase marker if you’re unsure if you want veiny eyes or not.

Step 5
Mount your eyes to the foam core board. Placing a bowl facedown on the board, trace around its perimeter, and then then use your boxcutter to cut out the round hole. Then, carefully position the bowl over it and hot glue it into place. You don’t want any gaps between the bowl and the foam core board, so err on the side of a smaller hole where necessary.

Step 6
This illusion works best when you install the eyes in a door or window with a light source behind it, then cover up any remaining gaps where the light might shine through.

Step 7
Time to test it out. Stand in front of the eyes and look into them as you move around. Since the pupils are at the bottom of a concave surface, you’ll be able to see them from various angles, creating the illusion of movement. It’s a neat trick and definitely one you'll see at my house this Halloween.

7. Giant ominous figure

figure
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

A giant, ominous figure is very intimidating, both when standing in front of it and while attempting to construct it.

Creating a giant ominous figure for Halloween is the craft I was most excited to tackle. It was also by far the most difficult and frustrating one to get looking good enough.

My creature is about 8 ft. tall and its looming largesse feels imposing in person, in a way that these photos can’t capture.

I will say, this particular PVC-and-chicken-wire figure isn't robust enough to hold up to much poking and prodding, so the project is not great for kids who may want to pull on it or play with it. And, while PVC pipe is relatively lightweight, you still won't want your little ones getting bonked on the head with it.

What You Need:

Time Needed

2-3 hours over two days

Difficulty

Difficult

Step by step

Here is the general plan of attack: You construct a vaguely humanoid-looking shape out of PVC pipe, give a bit of form to it with chicken wire, and drape the whole thing with cloth. Simple, right?

Not really. I did many things wrong, and I ended up heavily leaning on trial and error.

ominous figure disaster
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

Just look at these three images in order six or seven times and you will have roughly recreated my experience struggling to get this thing to stand upright without collapsing.

Step 1
Do not—as I did—underestimate how heavy PVC can be when the pieces are long enough. Do not—as I did—overestimate how well the pipes will stick in their joints. PVC isn’t built to be load-bearing.

My first dozen or so attempts all collapsed under their own weight, or fell apart as soon as I tried to drape them with cloth or add the head. Planning ahead helps: I’d recommend trying to piece together the PVC pipe and joints first, without gluing anything. Figure out how you’d like everything to be positioned and try to gauge how sturdy the pose of your choosing feels. If it keeps falling apart under its own weight, try a different pose or consider shortening the limbs. We’re going to glue everything together eventually, but glue isn’t going to work miracles and you don’t want your spooky sculpture suddenly falling to pieces on the big night.

You'll also want to make sure your figure is capable of standing on its own. I found the three-inch PVC was heavy enough to hold everything up, but the joint connecting these "feet" to the rest of the structure was only barely capable of holding everything up. If you find your figure tipping forward, it's probably a good idea to scale down your structure.

If you plan to install this outside, it may be a better bet to make the body a few feet longer than you need, then drive the whole thing into the ground like a scarecrow.

In a similar vein, be mindful of how heavy your draping cloth is. You might have a relatively solid-feeling figure built, only to have it collapse under the weight of its own cloak.

Step 2
Once you do have a structure that seems sturdy enough, it's time to glue the joints together. Chances are your structure won't be able to dry as a single piece, so it's a good idea to glue the pieces together in sections that can sit flat and dry properly. Once they're dry, you can start combining them. You don't want to glue everything together, and then leave. If you do this, you may come back later to find it has collapsed. Also, it's safer to err on the side of using way too much glue. You'll need all the help you can get.

Step 3
As your project dries, it's a good idea to start shaping your chicken wire. If you haven’t worked with chicken wire before—welcome! I spent a lot of time in my youth on my grandparent’s New England farm where twine and chicken wire was an aesthetic. Chicken wire is one of my go-to decorating materials for whenever I want to make something look creepy. Dozens of horror movie basements can't be wrong!

chicken wire closeup
Credit: Reviewed / Mark Brezinski

When making the head, make sure to make channels on either side of the chicken wire structure to fit over the PVC "shoulders" and hold the head in place.

Chicken wire is relatively inexpensive and fairly pliable, though you need to be careful of any cut edges because those are razor sharp. Try to fold any sharp bits into the latticework to keep them from inadvertently scratching anyone. It’s very easy to snag yourself while you’re working with chicken wire, so I’d recommend wearing work gloves and clothes that you wouldn't mind getting a bit torn up.

When it comes to shaping the head, basically anything with volume is going to look great atop the giant body. You could go with a cylinder, cone, sphere, or something more complex. You can also use the chicken wire to add a bit of volume (and some structural support) to the body.

Step 4
All that's left is the final assembly! Make sure to put everything together at the site you want this decoration to live, because this decoration won't travel very well. Affix the chicken wire to the PVC and drape the cloth over the whole thing.

Congrats! It's a terrifying presence!

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