Hello friends! I recently made some troll horns using moldable plastic for the first time, and I thought I’d make a tutorial sharing how to do that with all of you! So, without any further ado, let’s talk about how to do that!
Be sure to also check out my tutorial on how to attach troll horns to your head with a hidden-headband method!
First off, here’s what you’re going to need!
- moldable plastic - I found that it took a little over 9 oz to make my Maryam horns, so make sure you buy enough for the horns you’re making!
- a large pot or metal pan
- thermometer (optional, but helpful)
- bendable wire (for shaping— you only need this for funkier horns like Makaras’ or Amporas’)
- matte mod podge
Begin by heating your water to about 150 F (65 C). It doesn’t matter too much if you go over, but don’t let it come to a full boil or it will be harder to work with. Pour a bunch of the plastic pellets into the water. Don’t worry about adding too many because any extra can be re-heated and molded again later for another project.
When the plastic is ready, it will turn clear. This should only take a few minutes, but if you leave it longer there’s really no consequence so feel free to watch some cat videos on YouTube while you wait. Remove it from the water with tongs or a slotted spoon, and hold it over a pot for a minute to let the hot water drain out. Please be extra careful with this step because water will have gotten caught between the pellets and you could burn yourself if it doesn’t drain!
Once you put the plastic on your work surface, you can begin shaping it like clay. I recommend having a towel handy to mop up any water. The plastic won’t stick to wood or plastic cutting boards, but tends to be a little ornery about metal surfaces that aren’t entirely clean and will pick up any debris it comes in contact with so be careful!
Don’t worry about getting the perfect shape the first time, just start working the general look of the horn. If you made the shape out of wire beforehand, wrap the plastic around that as you work.
I know a lot of tutorials recommend using a core of foil or wire mesh to help the horns remain lighter, but because these horns will be going in and out of water during the process, this is a bad idea! You will basically end up filling your horns with water, and it’s really hard to recover from that. If you do want to use a core, make sure to completely cover it with plastic and seal every crack and hole before you put your horn back into the water to soften it!
As you can see, the first shape I made is just roughing out how I’ll want my final horn to look. The plastic will harden as it cools, and when it gets too hard to easily mold you’ll want to toss it back in the hot water for awhile to make it malleable again. You can use a variety of tools to help you out. For example, I used scissors to help me get a sharp point on the bend of my Maryam horn.
Once you’ve got a shape you like, you’ll want to cool your horns down. Don’t worry too much about whether or not you’re absolutely happy with your horns— you’ll be able to re-heat and re-shape again later if you find a problem. I recommend tossing them in the fridge to help them solidify, but before you do you’ll want to run them under cold water or dip them in ice water to form a hard shell on the outside. This helps prevent bending or getting imprints from the wire of a shelf, etc.
Once the plastic is cool, it will turn white again, but it will take awhile for it to cool all the way through the center. Go watch a movie, have a snack, and be sure to tell your roommate why you have random plastic things in the fridge.
When they’re cool, check them over again. if there are any issues or imperfections, toss them back in the hot water again to soften them for molding. At this point, they will take a lot longer to heat and get soft all the way though since they’re completely solid, but if you’ve got your basic shape down you can take advantage of the solid core and just smooth the outer layer or add details.
Next, paint your horns with a layer of mod podge, then paint them however you like, and finally seal with another layer of mod podge. The underlayer is very important to prevent chipping and peeling!
When you’re finished, you should have a polished-looking pair of horns that will be surprisingly sturdy! I had my Zahhak horn in my purse banging around all day and there was zero damage. Plus, there’s no danger of cracking while they solidify.
The big con of making horns of this material is that they are heavy! I would primarily recommend this for smaller horns (Vantas, Captor, Leijon) or horns that are fairly centered over the base. This won’t work very well for Nitram or Ampora horns.
The same techniques can be used for any sorts of small props you’d like to make!
I hope this is helpful to people, and if you have any further questions about how to do this, please drop me a line and I’d be more than happy to answer them!
Q: Is the material you used for your plastic horn tutorial sandable when hardened?
A: They can be sanded, yes, but it’s hard to achieve a smooth surface that way since the finer grains of sandpaper don’t do well against the plastic. If you want to go for texture, though, it’s a good way to create that, though I recommend softening them just a small amount before trying to sand them since it can be difficult once they’re fully hardened. In addition, I found it difficult to make the texture even over the entirety of the horn. If you want something smooth, just smooth them with your hands during the shaping process.