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This Halloween, use a 3D-printed prop to complete your last-minute costume

This Halloween, use a 3D-printed prop to complete your last-minute costume


A home-made prop can really make a costume shine

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Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

Halloween is just a couple of days away, and if you’re celebrating the evening, you’re probably throwing together some sort of costume for a party, or getting something squared away for your child.

Over the years I’ve been building costumes, I’ve found one thing that really makes or breaks a costume: attention to detail. Costuming is a hobby into which, in the pursuit of perfection, you can dump endless time and money, but for something like Halloween, not as much effort is required for something like a party or trick-or-treating. But even for those casual costumes, a detail piece can turn an outfit that you clearly threw together at the last minute into something memorable and cool — or even turn a non-costume ensemble into a costume.

But what if you can’t find or figure out how to make the item you need to complete the look? 3D printing is an ideal way to produce any number of costume details to make the whole thing stand out. If you don’t happen to own a printer, don’t fret — it’s entirely possible that you could find one nearby. Many local libraries or makerspaces have them.

Printing up something will still require a bit of additional effort: anything that comes off the printer bed won’t look like a finished prop. You’ll need sandpaper to smooth the surface, and paint to make it look like a finished thing. But you’ve got time, and we’ve rounded up a couple of ideas to help make your last-minute costume stand out.

Badges, pins, and jewelry

The easiest type of costume to throw together is one pulled together from things you already have, with some additional things included. A good place to start is with a badge or rank indicator. If you’re going with a costume from Star Trek, there’s the classic combadges that you can add to your shirt. There are ones from the original series, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek Discovery. If you want a really deep-cut costume, try out the Psi Corps badge from Babylon 5.

If the far-flung future isn’t your thing, maybe something from Game of Thrones will be more your style, and you can easily print up the pin for the Hand of the King.

Jewelry is also something that you can easily replicate pretty quickly with a printer. Options include The One Ring from The Lord of the Rings; necklaces for Game of ThronesMelisandre, Daenerys, or Margaery Tyrell; Hermione’s timeturner from Harry Potter; and Zelda’s bracelet from Breath of the Wild.

Handheld items

Image: Andrew Liptak

Maybe you have your costume squared away, but want something to carry around to complement it. One of the coolest things that I’ve had printed up was a Sheikah slate from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which my son carried around last year with his costume. There are other things as well: Link’s Hylian and Guardian + shields (although those might be a bit too large to print up on short notice).

Some other ideas include a Starfleet communicator from Star Trek, a Multipass from The Fifth Element (there’s also a version that you can slip your actual ID into). Want something a little more obscure? Here’s the Ziggy Handlink Communicator from Quantum Leap. A Pokémon trainer is also pretty easy to throw together: all you really need is a Pokedex and an assortment of standard balls, Great Balls, Ultra balls, and Master Balls. Got a hat, a leather jacket, a whip and a pouch? Ra’s headpiece, the Fertility Idol, and the Holy Grail will complete your Indiana Jones outfit.

Image: Andrew Liptak

Then of course, if you want to head out as a Jedi Knight, you need a lightsaber. Fortunately, there is a huge variety to choose from: Anakin Skywalker, Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious, Ezra Bridger, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Yoda.

Head Gear & Wearables

Maybe you need something to wear that will define your costume. A couple of ideas are the tiaras from Wonder Woman or Sailor Moon. Another easy one is the Arc reactor worn by Tony Stark in Iron Man. Bald or don’t mind shaving your head? Just slap on the cybernetic headgear worn by Lobot in the Empire Strikes Back. Steven Universe fan? Here are a bunch of gems you can attach with latex.

Going the next step for 2019

If you really have your heart set on something elaborate, you’re probably out of luck when it comes to 3D printing an entire costume. But Halloween 2019 is just over a year away: plenty of time to build something really elaborate.

I didn’t include any helmets or weapons in this list, but there’s a huge variety of both floating around online — just make sure you put on an orange tip and abide by local laws before going out with a prop weapon. Those are generally multi-piece jobs that require hours of prep work and painting.

If you like the look of the Shore Troopers from Rogue One, you’re in luck: a designer named Sean Fields went and produced the entire costume and put the plans up for free. He’s also done some other, full-scale projects, and he sells the plans on his Etsy store: a full-scale Battle Droid, Repair Droid, and even the helmet worn by The Mandalorians titular character.

If Star Wars isn’t really your thing, there are other big, ambitious projects to tackle. If you tackle Tony Stark’s arc reactor this year, maybe you can level up by printing up an entire set of Mark 6 armor. Or maybe another armored character interests you, like one of the Spartans from Halo 4?

They’re all intense projects, though, each requiring a lot of work to turn them from raw, printed parts into a finished project, but you’ve got plenty of time to get started.