DIY Halloween Decorations

2015/09/29 01:06:41 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

Halloween is quickly becoming as popular as Christmas in regards to decorations and keeping things festive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to drain your wallets when it comes time to adorn your home to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve this year. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tricks and ideas on several ways you can decorate for Halloween without having to spend tons of cash doing so. Here are just some ideas to get you started:

Tree Ghosts: This first decoration idea was something I picked up years ago from a crafting magazine I used to subscribe to (yes, I am a bit of a crafting nerd). Using this method, you can create ghosts to adorn the trees around your home (or even throughout your home) in just a few minutes.

What you’ll need:

  • Foam Craft Balls (assorted sizes)
  • Fabric (some recommend cheese cloth, I prefer buying a cheap white sheet)
  • Black Marker
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Picture Hanging Screws
  • Twine or string for hanging 

Take your fabric of choosing and cut it into squares of various sizes, giving some length so the fabric will be billowy after it is attached to the sphere. Use the hot glue gun to cover the top two-thirds of the craft foam ball and attach your fabric piece over the warm adhesive. After the glue dries, draw two black eyes on the front of your ghost, then pierce the top of the ball with the picture screw and use a little hot glue to ensure it won’t go anywhere. Once everything dries, pull the string through the screw and hang these guys anywhere you need a spooky accent.

Reusable Pumpkins: While this isn’t necessarily an idea per say, it’s definitely worth mentioning that reusable pumpkins are a great way to create memorable and unique Halloween decorations that you can use year after year. These pumpkins can be purchased at any major craft retailer (Michaels regularly puts them on sale around the beginning of October) and can be adorned a multitude of ways.

You can choose to do a traditional carving design, you can adorn them with buttons or you can even paint them up using glow-in-the-dark paint, which makes them pop eerily for trick-or-treaters in the darkness of Halloween night. There’s really no right or wrong way to decorate a reusable pumpkin, so buy a few and have fun this haunting season.

Walkway Ghost Jugs: These popped up on several sites, including Better Homes & Garden as well as Martha Stewart, and I thought they were just too fun not to share. If you want to create an eerie path for all your visitors this October, why not create a set of these walkway ghost jugs? All you need are a bunch of gallon milk jugs, strands of white lights (or if you’re feeling really festive, try strands of all orange lights to give these guys an even more ominous glow), and a marker to create your ghosts’ visages.

What you’ll need:            

  • 6 to 8 Empty Gallon-Sized Milk Jugs
  • 100-Count String of Lights (White/Orange)
  • Knife
  • Black Marker

Space out your jugs equal distances along your walkway, and then cut holes into the back of the plastic containers so you can feed several lights into each jug to illuminate the whole group. Using the black marker, draw ghost-like eyes and mouths on each gallon container. And while the idea of creating a ghostly path is really fun, horror fans could always find a stencil of Jason Voorhees’ mask and give this project their own little terror-ific twist instead by featuring everyone’s favorite summer camp slasher’s iconic mask.

Homemade Tombstones: Who doesn’t love a good graveyard? Rather than spending a ton of money on the foam variety, you can make your very own tombstones out of cardboard, yard stakes (which can be found at any home improvement store) and just a little bit of ingenuity.

What you’ll need:                              

  • Large pieces of cardboard (medium Home Depot boxes work great)
  • Yard Stakes
  • Paint (Gray, White and Black)
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Household Sponge
  • Hot Glue Gun

Using flat pieces of cardboard, draw and cut out the desired tombstone shapes you want to feature in your lawn graveyard (rounded, crucifix and square being the most common) and be sure to use the yard stake to determine just how large the shapes should be in relation to the stake (to avoid floppiness, the stake should be about two-thirds the length of the tombstone design).

Paint your cardboard pieces using your gray paint (you can generally find craft paint at any major hobby-related retailer like Jo-Ann’s and Michaels) and after they dry, use pieces of your household sponge to age your tombstones by plotting them all over the surface with the white paint (ultimately giving it an "aged" look). Once the white layer dries, it’s time to use the black paint to create the cryptic messages that will adorn your tombstones.

Let your tombstones dry for a day and then attach the yard stakes to the back using the hot glue gun, leaving enough room at the pointy end to stick them into the ground once finished. Optionally, if you live in an area known for bad weather, you can protect your creations with a lacquer that comes in aerosol or traditional paint form (I recommend the latter, as the spray can version gets a little fume-y).

Another option, if you’re wanting to create even spookier decorations, is utilizing glow-in-the-dark paint for your messages, which will really stand out on your lawn once the sun goes down. Once you place your tombstones to transform your yard into a graveyard, you can add some cotton spiderwebs to them for a fun, finishing touch.

Specimen Jars: If you have any old mason jars lying around (or can pick some up at your local store), they make for great specimen jars that you can use to decorate around your home and transform any room into your very own mad scientist laboratory.

What you’ll need:                              

  • Mason Jars or Assorted Glass Jars
  • Assorted items for each jar (doll heads, fake eyeballs & fingers, plastic spiders & other bugs, etc.)
  • Water
  • Food Coloring

Clean each jar thoroughly and let them dry. Pick out which items you want to highlight in each jar (doll heads are wonderfully creepy as well as fake eyes, appendages or even small alien-shaped party favors) and drop a few into each container. Fill the jars with water and then use several drops of food coloring in each of them to help highlight their ghoulish contents.

You can find tons of other creepy uses for mason jars this Halloween right HERE.

Glowing Eyes Cardboard Rolls: If you’re like me and you end up with a ton of leftover paper towel rolls all the time, here’s a great way to use them and freak out the neighborhood at the same time—by creating glowing eyeballs for your outdoor bushes!

What you’ll need:

  • Cardboard Rolls (paper towel rolls work better than toilet paper rolls)
  • Assorted Color Glow Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Duct Tape
  • Paper/pen or pencil to trace

First, cut down your paper towel cardboard rolls until they are about two-thirds their original length long. Next, draw the desired eyes you want peeking out of the bushes on paper (for those of you not as creatively inclined, you can Google “Crazy Cartoon Eyes” to find a great selection of designs you can print and then use yourself) and cut them out.

Trace the eyes onto your cardboard rolls and carefully cut the eyes out of each roll after you’re done tracing. Then insert the glow sticks into each roll (for even more fun, you can mix up the colors a bit so that each pair of eyes has two colors glowing from them) and using the duct tape, seal each side of the roll. Place your eyes as you desire into each of your bushes and that’s it! You’ve now turned your ordinary bushes into creepy creatures who watch over the neighborhood. And since the glow sticks will undoubtedly fizzle out at some point, make sure to keep some extras on hand so that you can easily replace them throughout October.

Bloody Handprint Window Clings: Want to make an ominous statement this haunting season? Then you’ll definitely want to add some bloody handprints to your windows, one of my own personal favorite decorations to use each October. The store-made window clings can be pretty pricey to buy (especially since clings generally can’t be used multiple years), so rather than spend a ton of dough, why not try your hand at making your very own bloody window flourishes for a fraction of the cost?

What you’ll need:

  • Elmer's Glue-All
  • Red Food Coloring
  • Blue Food Coloring
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Waxed paper
  • A large cutting board or piece of foam core board
  • Tape/Spoon
  • Disposable gloves (medical latex or dishwashing gloves work fine, too)

First, you should wind the plastic wrap around the cutting board or piece of foam core board very carefully, making sure your surface is completely smooth. Then, secure the plastic wrap with tape on the backside of whatever board you are using to keep your affixing surface intact throughout the process. Depending on your thoughts about messiness, you can either choose to do the rest of this project using disposable gloves or not (your hand may turn a bit red for a day or so afterwards).

Next, pour about an ounce of glue into a small bowl or cup, add a single drop of blue food coloring and then add in several drops of red food coloring, stirring thoroughly between drops until the mixture reaches the shade you want your bloody handprints to be (the mixture will become darker and more translucent when it dries, so keep that in mind).

Then, coat your hand in the regular glue (non-dyed) and press it onto the plastic wrap, leaving a white handprint on it. Repeat this step as many times as you can on your affixing space and then fill in the shape of the hand in each print with more of the regular glue so that each print is about an eighth of an inch thick. Let this layer dry completely before moving on to the next step (one way to speed up the drying process is to let the glue bases sit in the sunlight for about 30 minutes).

Once the first handprints are dry, use the back of a spoon to coat your hand in a thick layer of the fake blood glue mixture, making sure it is about an eighth of an inch thick everywhere but the center of your palm. Then, flip your hand over and press it directly onto the dried, plain craft glue print and pick it back up. Keep painting your hand with the mixture and pressing it into the dried glue handprint bases until you have made all of your effects. You can use any of your extra "blood" mixture to help fill in the handprints if they’re not quite thick enough, and it can also be used to make pools of blood in case you want to add a little extra gore around your house.

Allow your handprints to dry completely until they become translucent, then carefully peel the plastic wrap off everything and store your handprints/blood spatters between sheets of wax paper, unless you want to affix them immediately. If you find that you didn't make the glue mixture thick enough to create a substantial cling film, you can always add more layers of the blood glue mixture to the prints and allow some extra time to dry, building up the thickness of the clings.

Halloween Lamp Shade Silhouettes: Probably one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways you can add some Halloween accents throughout your home is to add Halloween silhouettes to all your lampshades. Whenever you turn your lamp on, these figures will give off eerie shadows that will certainly set the mood during the month of October.

What you’ll need:

  • Black Construction Paper
  • Scissors
  • Two-Sided Tape
  • Halloween shapes (via cookie cutters, images on Google or your own drawings)

The first step here is figuring out what shapes you want to adorn your lampshades with. Using Halloween cookie cutters works really well for tracing, but you can also Google fun images like bats or ghosts that will also be easily traceable. For those of you artists out there, you can always just draw them yourself, just make sure the sizes are appropriate to the shades you will be decorating.

After you finish tracing/drawing your creatures, cut them out and affix them on the inside of your lampshades, using the double-sided tape. Now you’ve turned your light fixtures into another ghoulishly fun decoration for this Halloween season.

Monster-fied Front Door: I had a neighbor years ago who would always "monster up" their front door each Halloween, and I loved that idea so much that it’s something I’ve done myself a few times as well. Their first design that caught my eye was their mummified front door, which was just a ton of fun. Over the years they also created a glow-in-the-dark alien face, Frankenstein and a vampire, so there are definitely a few ways you can give your front door a proper Halloween twist this upcoming October.

What you’ll need:

  • Crepe paper / streamers (white for mummy/vampire, green for Frankenstein/alien, brown for a werewolf, etc.)
  • Heavy duty construction paper or poster board (various colors)
  • Scissors
  • Heavy Duty Tape (clear packing tape works best)

First, wrap your front door in the streamer color of your choosing (usually one roll should do the trick). For those of you looking to create a mummified entrance, adding a roll of gauze over your white crepe paper will add another layer of authenticity to the look of your creature. Secure your streamers by taping down the ends on the inside of your door.

The next step is to create all the features that will transform your door into a giant face by using the heavy duty construction paper or poster board. First, create the eyes for your face by cutting out two circles about six inches in diameter (most likely, you’ll want to use white for this part, unless you’re making a creepy alien face—in that instance, you should create two eight-inch oblong eyes) and then cut out two pupils between two and three inches in diameter (most likely you’ll want to make sure these are black, although red pupils are a nice twist for the vampire face). Attach these to your front door using looped pieces of the heavy duty clear tape (regular tape sometimes does not hold up well to the elements).

To create your creature’s hair (if you’re going with a face that requires hair), cut out shapes from your construction paper or poster board that are most fitting: Frankenstein has short hair, so black strips of material about four inches long and two to three inches wide would be best; a traditional vampire has a widow’s peak, so you could cut out two rounded shapes that meet at a point; and for a werewolf, you can create a "shaggy" look by adding the same types of strips as Frankenstein that are cut down to a point at one end. You can attach these to the front door along the top using your heavy duty clear tape.

Then, it’s time to add the mouth element of your creation—depending on how you want your face to look (smiling, frowning, zig-zag mouth, buck-toothed, fanged, etc.), cut out your design from the construction paper or poster board and affix the mouth to your door, once again using the tape. You can also add in a few details to really tie your face design together, such as a few drops of blood coming off your vampire’s or werewolf’s fangs, some stitches and bolts to Frankenstein, a coating of glow-in-the-dark paint to your alien’s eyes, etc. That’s really the great thing about this project in particular—there’s really no wrong or right way to create a monster-fied front door, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Bloody Table Runner: Yet another easy way to add some blood-soaked fun to your home without having to spend a ton of money or time is by creating your own gore-tastic table runners that set a sinister mood, especially if you’re hosting a Halloween party and you’re hoping for a few frightened guests. This is a one-step project, which means anyone can create these—even if you don’t consider yourself a crafty person at all.

What you’ll need:

  • Long pieces of gauze, around 36” long (can usually be found at craft stores or major retailers like Target or Walmart)
  • Red Fabric Paint (squeeze bottle variety)
  • Red Food Coloring
  • Garbage Bags

Place your garbage bags down first as a means to keep things tidy throughout your project. Next, lay out your gauze pieces (either pre-cut or a long roll of gauze trimmed down to 36”) and then spatter them with red food coloring. Let the gauze sit for five minutes or so, allowing the food coloring to fully set, then take the red fabric paint and create thin wisps of red paint (and even some small pools of red paint).

Let the gauze dry for 24–48 hours for the best effects. Once your bloody table runner is ready, you can place them throughout your home to add some creepiness here and there.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.