Homemade Costume Tutorial: Star Wars R2d2

YAY! First Star Wars tutorial! I decided to kick things off with this super adorable R2D2.

Before starting this tutorial, I just wanted to share how we came to the decision to make Halloween 2013 our family Star Wars Halloween. Earlier this year, Dallin watched The Piano Guys video “Cello Wars”.  It was his first taste into the Star Wars universe. He liked it so much I decided to get him the Star Wars version of his favorite app, Angry Birds. That was the first time he realized that so many characters were involved with this Star Wars thing.

One day, back in March,  he and his sister were playing with one of my empty tall clothes hampers. She was wearing it over her head and waddling around while Dallin was shuffling beside her. I looked at the dumped laundry pile on the floor and asked them what they were doing. “Oh, just playing Star Wars.” he answered. He explained they were C3PO and R2D2. I was immediately melted by their cuteness. I asked him then and there if that would be his choice for costumes for him and his sister this Halloween. He answered with a resounding “Yes!” and he never changed his mind in the 7 months until October. How the rest of the family got roped in is a story for another tutorial, but for now, let’s get tutorial-ing! 😀

I did want to mention that this costume was made for my daughter who just turned 2 years old. She is 3 feet tall and about 20 lbs. This tutorial should be able to work for at least up to 5 years old. In fact, I found an existing quick tutorial online for an R2D2 and it was for a 5-year-old and as far as I can tell, they used the same or similar trash can size as I did.

Materials needed:
Dome lid trash can
Silver spray paint
White Fusion Spray Paint
E6000 glue
Duct tape (any color will do for most applications but you need at least some white duct tape too)
Blue painters tape*
Blue and black craft paint and a brush*
Silver permanent Sharpie marker
Bike helmet
Assorted caps and plastic pieces
Sharp serrated knife
Exact-o knife
Metal brads
Nylon belt straps
White insulation board
Corrugated plastic (about a poster board sized piece)
Electrical tape
White turtleneck, pants and shoes
two small magnets (optional)
Fine grit sand paper
*blue and black wall vinyl would also work but more on that later.
Step 1.) Find a dome trash can!
Yes, I am making this a whole step. Hunting for this big piece to the puzzle was not an easy task. I visited and called several stores including Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, K-Mart, and several hardware stores with no luck. Some had smaller, mini, way-too-small versions of what I was looking for, but most had no domed-topped trash cans at all in their inventory.

I finally found what I was looking for at Home Depot. It wasn’t expensive but I still wanted a better deal. Making this a low budget costume was a very important. I wasn’t just making this costume. I was also making several different costumes for everyone in the family and it would add up fast if I didn’t pinch every penny.

Once I knew the measurements listed on the trash can’s specs (in the link), I posted an ISO (“in search of”) in my local Facebook Garage sale group. It was a long shot, but I struck gold. Someone had one in brand new condition for only $5 and I scooped it up! YAY! It was the wrong color, but I could work with that.

Step 2.) Cutting the trash can bottom.

I used my favorite measuring device, my trusty clear quilting ruler, to measure 4 inches from the bottom of the can*. (I love my quilting ruler! I highly recommend it to anyone even if you don’t quilt! You can use it for so many things. Measuring and marking curtain rod placements is a breeze with this thing.) I marked the trash can with a metallic marker (just so that it would should up better against the black).

I used a serrated knife to CAREFULLY and slowly cut on the marked line. I only cut on the down stroke of each slow stroke and removed the blade to reposition it (no cutting on the up stroke) and repeated.

After the bottom was successful cut off, I sanded the cut edge with fine sand paper to make it smooth.

As a side note, Dallin suggested we use the cut bottom as our Halloween candy bowl and so we did.

*Note: You might have to cut less off for a taller child. I wanted the can to be short enough for her to comfortably kneel inside the costume to hide her legs at each doorstep.

Step 3.) Prep the lid.

A plastic piece from an old broken toy propeller glued with E6000 and reinforced with duct tape.
The trash can comes with a swivel lid. This, of course, wouldn’t do. I had to secure it the best I could. First I took some plastic pieces (from a broken plastic toy propeller heading to the trash, but cardboard would also do well) and used some more E6000 to glue and brace the moving parts at four points under the lid. I then reinforced it with lots of duct tape. LOTS of duct tape.

I originally used duct tape to also seal the gaps left on the top of the lid but it was too wrinkly and messy looking. I hummed and hawed for a while and finally removed the duct tape and replaced it with smooth electrical tape. I was so much happier with the look of that. The lid will most likely never be completely smooth but I think electrical tape gave it the smoothest finish.

Step 4.) Make a trap door (optional).
I wanted my daughter to be able to stick her hand out of the costume to collect her candy. I thought it was also a cute idea that referenced the movie too. It was the same process as cutting the bottom just with a smaller serrated knife. I cut the whole square out and then duct-taped it back in place on one side to make the hinge (taping only from the back).To make it stay shut when needed, I used E6000 glue to adhere a flat plastic piece (this can be a token or milk tab top, etc) to the inside of the side opposite to the hinge side. Then I used more E6000 to glue two small magnets, one to the exposed glued token piece and one to the backside of the door, making sure the opposite poles are facing each other. I set this aside for a good day to let it dry.

This step is totally optional. Though my daughter did use it, she preferred to reach over the top than used the door.

Step 5.) Paint the main pieces.

I used white Fusion spray paint for the can. It is a paint made for plastic. I used regular silver spray paint for the lid but only because I couldn’t find silver Fusion spray paint. The silver said “matte” on the can but it was still very very shiny. I was really impressed by the finish. I did about 3 coats for each paint, letting it dry about an hour between coats.

Step 6.) Make your lid wearable.

I found a used kid bike helmet at the local thrift store for $2. It fit my daughter’s head perfectly and the price was right but the difference in radius between the helmet and the lid left a huge space. I thought long and hard as to how to fix this problem and finally realized I had a large polystyrene ball leftover from a previous project. The ball was large enough that it came in two halves. It just so happened that one of those halves was a perfect fit! It was a stroke of luck but if that hadn’t worked out, I probably would have found some other sturdy simple spacer like newspaper or folded fabric. But this worked out great. I put it all together with LOTS of duct tape.

Step 7.) Detail the lid with blue.

For this, I used basic metallic blue craft paint. I sketched out a simple R2D2-esque pattern on top. I say “R2D2-esque” because it is not an exact movie copy.

I always found making stuff just a little bit imperfect adds character and give it that homemade charm. It also makes the whole process more fun and less stressful. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and remember people won’t be holding an official R2D2 style guide and comparing and contrasting.

So after my sketch was laid out, I used blue painter’s tape to mask the shapes. This worked out OK but if I had to do it over again, I would use blue outdoor wall vinyl. The reason for this was I ended up having to retouch the shapes after I removed the tape with a silver Sharpie marker, which ended up matching the silver base paint really well.

Step 8.) Add the buttons to the lid.

his was the part I dreaded the most. I found myself procrastinating to do it. When I really had no more time to procrastinate and no other choice, I finally sat down and did it. I used a pencil to sketch out a basic R2D2-esque design.

Step 9.) Detail the body. I used an old foam mat for the raised blue portion that housed the black circle “eye” on the lid. I painted that piece with the same blue paint I used for the blue details on the lid. I painted the lid black in the area exposed by the blue foam piece (see pic). The only thing I would do differently in this step was to attach the buttons before the blue lid detail paint. The glue couldn’t get a great seal with the coat of blue paint. It would stay but could come off with some force. I had to re-glue the silver nobby part once after a couple of uses of the completed costume. The rest of the unused silver-painted caps would be used on the legs and body.I collected random caps, lids and plastic pieces for a few weeks from broken toys and milk/juice bottles, etc. I painted them all with a couple coats of silver spray paint. I left a blue milk cap and red plastic token unpainted for the blue and red “light”.

Then I used the same blue paint as before to fill in the blue parts. I then used the silver sharpie again to draw in the silver details.

I was the least happy with this part of the costume but not completely disappointed. I would use blue wall vinyl if I had to do it over again, but this turned out ok.

Step 10.) Make the legs.
For this, I started with cutting out 4 identical legs out of corrugated plastic (again leftover from another project).  I used an exact-o knife to cut the legs out. The legs were about 2 ft tall and 6 inches wide.

Then I got a piece of foam insulation (this was actually a piece I got for free from my local garage sale Facebook page.). I used the corrugated plastic leg as a guided and traced two outlines the exact same size as the precut legs.  I cut out the 2 leg shapes out of the insulation using a small serrated knife.

The edges of the cut insulation looked too messy so I decided to cover the edges with white duct tape to clean it up.
Next I cut out 2 sets of some smaller pieces out of more corrugated plastic to put as extra details on the exposed part of the leg (only the outer part will be visible when constructed). I used E6000 to glue those down to the pre-cut corrugated plastic legs. I then used brads to skewer through both layers (the corrugated plastic leg and the corrugated plastic details) and fanned the back prongs slightly.

I then made two leg sandwiches made of a leg of insulation between 2 corrugated plastic legs, skewering the exposed brads in the back of the corrugated plastic into the insulation. I made sure to put a few dabs of E6000 down before sandwiching to make the hold extra strong. I used E6000 to also glue the plain corrugated leg to the back of the sandwich. This side wont have brads but the next step will take care of reinforcing the hold.

You can, of course, add more details as you would like. Again, my version is not a movie replica but I still think it looks pretty convincing and super cute! Lastly, I gave the whole thing a couple coats of white spray paint. Once that was dry I painted a detail on the leg with the same blue paint used before. I needed a couple of coats of the blue for solid coverage. The last touch was adding some reserved silver buttons for extra detail.

Step 11.) Attaching the legs.
This step, I must admit, was a big pain. I tried to make it as easy and straight forward as possible, yet it still caused plenty of frustration and took longer than expected. I used zipties which should have been pretty simple but when going through several layers of plastic and foam, proved challenging. Basically, I used a small serrated knife to poke two parallel slits through all layers (including the trash can base) on each side of the trash can where the “shoulder joint” would be.

Then I feed a ziptie through each slit making sure to start from the outside (leaving the “head” part of the ziptie facing out). I used a third ziptie to safeguard the zipties slipping through the slits, which I cut down once placed.

Then duct tape the tails left inside the trash can down against the inside of the trash can. It’s not elegant, but no one will see the inside besides your costume-wearer.

Lastly, I put a loop of duct tape on the bottom of each leg, between the leg and trash can, to prevent the legs from swinging and keep them in place.

(Picture to the left: Top pic is of the zipties beginning to be fed through the trash can. Bottom pic is of the zipties pulled all the way through and then duct taped down.)

Step 12.) Making the trash can wearable. 
Unlike the last step, I thought this would be a pain to do but it ended up being quite quick and easy. I used the same principle of making two small slits on the front and back of the trash can, keeping in mind the shoulder width of your child (and making the slits slightly smaller than that width). Then I cut two pieces of nylon strap. The straps’ length will depend on the height and proportions of your child. I wanted the trash can to be shoulder height when my daughter was standing.

Once I figured out that length, I used a seam zipper to poke a small hole at the end of the strap about an inch from the end and repeated on the other end of the strap. Then I took one end of the strap and placed it over a slit on the inside of the trash can, aligning the hole in the strap with the slit in the trash can.

From the outside, I used a brad (which I painted white and let dry beforehand) to skewer through the trash can and strap. I folded down the brad ends and ducted taped them down to the inside of the trash can. I did this to each end of the straps, making sure to crisscross the straps in the back (see pic). The result will be 4 white brad heads on the outside of the trash can, 2 in front and two identical in back.

Step 13.) Proper under clothing and putting on the suit. 

I kept the under clothes simple with a white turtleneck, sweatpants and shoes. It was a chilly night on Halloween, so I added another layer underneath. Worked out great! Once she was dressed warmly and in all white, I slipped the body over her head, making sure the crisscross part was toward her back. Then I strapped on her helmet and we were ready to go!

This costume was not super hard to make but did have lots of steps. As for the time it took to make, I worked on this and several more Star Wars costumes over the course of about 3 weeks, off and on. If I only made and worked on this costume, it probably would have taken about a 3-day weekend. I haven’t factored the total cost for someone without any existing materials or tools. For me, using materials and tools I already had plus doing my best buying used for what I didn’t have, my total for the entire thing was  $12.

Here are some bonus pictures of the finished product:

CLICK HERE to see the C3PO tutorial! As you can see, the silver nobby part on the helmet broke off. This was after a couple of uses and packaging it up for this photoshoot. With a little more E6000 it was an easy fix.
To see more photos of the completed R2D2 costume as well as the rest of the Star Wars costume family, CLICK HERE.

So what costume would you like to see tutorials next? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page! I would love to hear your thoughts.

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