"Kay-Ab-tium – it's elemental!"

Posted: May 22, 2012

The Best Duct Tape Dummy Tutorial

Be Sociable, Share!

Often times when making costumes, there is a need for a body cast or a body part cast.  This body cast can be used to make armor, as a dress form, to sculpt on, etc…

The process of making a body cast can often times be expensive, time consuming and it usually takes at least two people.  The cheap way that people have been doing this over the last several years is by making what is called a “Duct Tap Dummy”.

A duct tape dummy is for the most part inexpensive ($40-$80) and can really be done by anyone.  I do recommend using heavy duty duct tape though, too cheap and it won’t hold up and the whole project will be a waste of time.

If you search the web and YouTube, you will find many tutorials.  We have tried them all and found them to be hit and miss.  Then one day while researching the technique of using plaster bandages to make a body cast I saw something that I thought could be useful.  Plastic wrap.

Most duct tape dummy tutorials recommend getting a cheap zentai body suit or wearing tight fitting long johns or pajamas, this can result in extra bulk and ultimately a dummy that is less accurate.  My thought would be to use the plastic wrap instead and have the person being in underwear.  The less clothing the better in my opinion.

In this case, Abby Dark Star needed a dummy that could be used for her “Mistress Chief Project” and we needed to ship it off to the maker.  So we needed something cheap and light weight.  The person working on this project needed a bicep, a thigh and a torso. Duct tape would be perfect for this, but we needed to capture her curves, so this would certainly be a challenge.

We started with the chest and back.  Abby has comic book character proportions (except height lol) so this was one of the most important areas.

Abby was watching Doctor Who during the entire process.




In order to do this right, the first piece of tape went under the bust line and then an X was made across the chest. Basically the chest support was created so you get a more accurate frame.




As I continued to build the chest, Abby marked where the armor chest line should sit with a pen.  This would help the armor maker later.





Finally, the chest and back was complete, onto the other parts.





Next up, I finished the arm. The part I like about using the plastic wrap is that you can add more as you go to what you need. For me, it felt more precise.





With some additional time, I was able to finish her legs and back…





We were pleased with the results and detail, especially in typically hard to shape areas like the bust and buttocks.

Please note and make sure that the plastic wrap covers any skin that is exposed to the tape. So none of the sticky side is on her skin, thus making it hard and more painful to remove.


When it came time to cut Abby out, I grabbed my trusty medical bandage scissors and cut along the outside of the leg and sides… basically enough so she could wiggle out of it.

You can get scissors like this from Amazon.


Once you have the dummy completed and the model out of it, go through it and inspect it for weak spots.  I use a flashlight or hold it up to the light, you can see light through any thin spots.  Just add a little more tape in those spots.

You then tape it back up where you made the cut.  This process can take a little time but you want to make sure that the seam line is strong.

The finished dummy will look something like this.
People often ask what you would fill the dummy with and that answer will vary.  I have seen people fill it with stuffing by closing off the ends and filling an open one, others use news paper or plastic bags from the super market…. and some will use expandable foam.  What you fill your dummy with will depend on your need and budget.


This is how the dummy would be used and you can do it too!

Feel free to post any questions in the comments section.






Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

16 Responses to “The Best Duct Tape Dummy Tutorial”

  1. […] might have! It was created by KeAbtium, an amazing cosplay team out of California. You can follow this link to view the tutorial, and I hope it […]

  2. Kamikasegen says:

    i was thinking to bought a real dummy to make me a costume but this idea is better,thx.

  3. […] should avoid, and things I found very helpful along the way. Day 1: first dummy complete (using this method) Day 2: second dummy complete and patterns for male chest piece drawn up and cut. Day 3: I'm […]

  4. Doofus says:

    Except not accept

  5. Lorina84 says:

    Hi there!!! Do you have more detailed pictures of the different directions you laid the tape? This is a perfect double! Very smooth :) I also like how you extended the cast to include her thighs. If you could give more detail, that would be wonderful!

    • OfficialZenDragon says:

      Hi! We don’t have other photos… but, fortunately the direction of the tape is less important than the fact that it’s in smaller sections and also sometimes smaller strips. Many times people will just try to wrap the person with the tape which can lead to the final product not being as smooth

  6. Florisa Esquivel says:

    what did you use to fill this dummy and what method did you use? I made one for my sister and we used expandable foam and i think it might have had a reaction with the wrap because it cause an air space with gas the next morning

    • jayse says:

      that was my question too! – I want to use expandable foam too – but what did yours do? Did it work in the end? Are you saying just keep it outside for the fumes? Or are you saying it ruined it? :-( We want to do this today!

    • OfficialZenDragon says:

      We used paper and plastic bags.

      I know people who have used expandable foam, but my experience with it was less than positive. Example, it worked fine with the leg that we did, but the torso it was too sticky and impacted it’s expansion. Perhaps a mold release would be useful. More experimenting is needed on that front.

  7. Yahxoo says:

    What was worn underneath? was it a normal bra, the specific bra that was worn with the outfit on the day or what?

    • OfficialZenDragon says:

      In general you would want to wear a bra that gives you the size you want for whatever project or costume you are making. You can also go with your normal size and then add a bra over it later to alter the size

  8. Will Paint for Minis says:

    I did this with masking tape and found after a while it got very warm and uncomfortable underneath. was Abby just a champ, or did you work fast enough that the heat issue wasn’t an issue?

    • Zendragon says:

      We cut the plastic wrap in segments, so the person isn’t wrapped up in it completely first. This allows better airflow. Ultimately towards the end though it’s going to get warm and will be restrictive. No way around that though

  9. Zendragon says:

    Our site uses WordPress…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.