From angels to demons and everything in between, so many costumes call for wings. The question is, are you prepared to make them? Sure it might be easier and in some cases cheaper to buy them, but if you’re really trying to nail it, do not let the task of wing making intimidate you. This is important for those who have a very specific or intricate looking set of wings. Sometimes it really only takes a few materials apart from feathers to put together a beautiful pair.
Here, we are going to explore the options of making the feathered, feather-look and bird/angel shaped variety. It can take as little as an hour to 10 hours per wing based on size and method. Don’t let the long hours deter you from trying it. I find it pays off completely and to be honest, store bought feathered wings just don’t look good at all.
There is one thing you can do with store bought wings that could turn out to your liking. You can modify them by cutting and bending to the desired shape and size you want. I have done this before on a pinch and was surprised it actually worked. You’ll have to have some hot glue on standby because you can cut open the boards that were sealed together. When that happens, it’s no problem, you just need to glue the two pieces closed again, that is all. Make sure all the new edges are covered by feathers. You’ll more than likely have a few cut off or fall off, so glue those back in place and use the extras to fill in any gaps.
Here is an alternative way to making feathered wings without using feathers. Can you tell by looking at the picture below what this wing is made out of? You guessed it, felt! Doesn’t it look fantastic? I am surprised more people don’t opt for this alternative.
- Felt, stiffened or regular
- Mod Podge – only if regular felt is purchased
- Paint brush – only if stiffening the felt yourself
- Hot glue
- Thick gauge aluminum wire
For this, you’ll have to use stiffened felt, which you may be able to find at craft stores, or stiffen it yourself using Mod Podge. If you are stiffening the felt yourself, mix however much Mod Podge you pour into a cup or bowl, with the same amount of water. With a paint brush large enough to cover a good amount of area at once, paint on the mixture and let it dry (several hours to over night). You may need to paint on another coat, so save some of the mix just in case. Whether you stiffen the felt before or after you cut out the feathers is up to you, but it is less time consuming and a lot easier to do it before you make any cuts. Felt is so cheap and you can get it from craft stores as well as Walmart. They even sell it by the yard at fabric stores, which may be better for larger wings or longer feathers.
If you need a color that is not available, buy white felt (not stiffened) and the color you need in a water based acrylic paint. Do not stiffen the felt as the coloring process stiffens it. Mix 1 part paint, 1 part water and 1 part Mod Podge. Dip the fabric in the mixture, gently wring it out and lay flat to dry on wax paper, tin foil or any other water resistant material. Once this has been done you cannot dye it again.
This method is great because you do not need a support structure between the front and back. The felt is stiff enough to support itself. The only thing to consider is if you want to shape your wings or not. If you want to shape them, as in once they are together, you want the bottom curved out , the arch curved in, etc., then you’ll want to add wire. No heavy duty wire necessary here. A thick gauge aluminum wire will do the trick. Even if you don’t want to shape them, this is good for extra support, but not necessary. You can get aluminum wire at craft stores, usually where the jewelry charms are. Twist two pieces together that are long enough to reach from one end of the wing to the other without being exposed. Glue it on the front side of your wing with hot glue and cover it with felt feathers (the picture above shows the back side). Hot glue is what you’ll use to glue the feathers on as well.
For the connecting base, cut out 2 rectangular pieces of stiffened felt (you can cut it to match the wings as seen above) and glue both wing fronts to it. You can add some padding in between the pieces with foam or fiber fill if you like. You can even add a piece of foam to the front of the base if you’d prefer. You’ll want to add straps to each side of the base to keep the wings on (like a back pack). For this, you can use an elastic band, ribbon, soft wire, anything you find that does the trick. It is quite difficult to sew anything to stiffened felt, so you’ll have to glue your straps to the base. I would glue them on before attaching both base pieces together, however, you can glue them on to the front as well. Be sure to measure out enough of the strap to fit around your shoulder and under arm comfortably. Too loose a fit will have the wings constantly bounce off your back. Too tight a fit will leave you aching and possibly cut off blood circulation.
The wings in the photo are about 5 feet and took The Harley 10 hours to make a single one. If you’re wings are smaller, it will take less time, but even so, a lot of patience is needed to go this route. Cutting the felt to look like feathers is the most time consuming part. You don’t have to cut them to resemble actual feathers though, you can make clean edged cuts which will save some time.
Here’s another set of wings sans feathers that just look heavenly. As above, these are light weight despite their size. Another plus in my book for those long standing hours. The picture below provides step by step instructions with pictures and a list of materials you’ll need. Thanks to Elena Leetah for sharing this despite not having any intentions on making a cosplay tutorial ever! What can I say, when you’re this good, everyone wants to know your secrets!
If this is more the wing type you were aiming for, try this out! Click image to enlarge tutorial.
The only thing you won’t find above is how they made the base to harness the wings. If you intend on making a pair of wings, take cues from the previous wing tutorial. You can use anything sturdy enough to harness the weight of the wings. Since these are light weight, a couple pieces of cardboard will do. Cut out two rectangular pieces. Make straps for both (long) ends of the cardboard pieces with elastic band, ribbon, soft wire, anything comfortable that will secure the wings to you. You want to measure out enough strap to fit around your shoulders and arm pits comfortably, but snug. Give yourself an extra inch (gluing the base over the secured part of the straps will eat up some room). Paint the cardboard or cover it with fabric that matches your wing color, cover it in feathers, just make sure it doesn’t look like cardboard. It would be a good idea to pad the side of the base that will be touching your back with foam for comfort. Glue the straps onto one piece of cardboard and glue the other piece over top of the parts of the straps you just glued (hiding the attachment).
The tricky part is if you are going with one wing as seen in the picture. This is when you really need something sturdy to stabilize the wing to one side of your body. The base for two wings may end up having a single wing flap around too much. You can send an inquiry on how the harness was made for the Kamael cosplay wing to Erik Desler.
Here’s one that is by far the cheapest and easiest to make. All you need to do is cut out layers of craft foam and glue them together. These are ideal wings for children and cute cosplay characters.
- Craft foam
- Craft glue
- Medium sized paint brush
- Ribbon, elastic band, light weight wire, anything you have on hand to make straps
- Hot glue
Grab a few sheets of craft foam from a craft store or Walmart. There are multiple colors available, so grab whatever color you like or use multiple colors. You’ll want to get some larger sheets if available for the biggest part of your wings. Cut out the desired “feather” sizes and shapes you’d like in the overall shape of the wing. You are doing the largest wing first, and you are only doing one wing at a time. The wings in the picture may look like one big piece, but they are two separate pieces. You may want to draw out the general shape of your cuts on the craft foam or have a poster board with the pattern you want ready to cut around. If you draw directly on the foam, you’ll have to make sure you leave the marks out of the cut, so draw it a little bigger than you want. If you have just a couple of marks on the foam, trim them off, or try rubbing alcohol to remove them. If you have the whole outline on the wings, you’ll have to paint over them because you will see them when the wings are finished. When you are done with that one, use that as a stencil to cut out your next one.
Cut a second layer that is smaller than the ones you just cut. Again, use a stencil or draw it out if you’d like. Use that piece as a stencil to cut out the other side. Place those wings over top of your larger set to determine if you need to make any changes. If you are happy with them, cut out a piece of foam that will hide all the connecting edges of both sets of wings. It can be as large or small as you like. This is the larger piece on the back that you see between the wings in the picture. Now cut out one last piece that is smaller than the one you just cut to fit inside the back piece.
You can choose to paint your pieces with acrylic paints if you’d like, otherwise you are ready to glue them together. You can paint your wings before or after you glue them together. I like to paint them before just in case I need to make a last minute change that may expose an unpainted piece. Allow the paint to dry at least an hour before moving on.
To glue your pieces together, you want to paint the glue on to cover up the entire wing. Don’t over saturate it, you don’t want to have a huge mess to clean up and you don’t want excess glue to dry outside of the covered area. Begin with the larger wings and the smaller wings. Paint the glue on the smaller set (one at a time) and place each smaller wing on top of each corresponding larger wing. Allow to dry at least an hour before moving on. While your wings are drying, glue the large and small base piece together and allow to dry.
Line up your wings edge to edge, wingspan facing out. This time, the base is the only piece you won’t want to glue all over. You just want to glue whatever part is touching the wings. To do this, lay your base over the wings and use a finger nail, or something to make an indented outline all the way around the parts that are covering the wings. Remove the base and paint on the glue inside your indented outline. Make sure the wing edges are touching and place the base on top. Allow to dry at least an hour.
If you haven’t already measured out the amount of strap you’ll need to wrap around each shoulder, do that now. You want it to be snug, but not too tight. These wings are by far the lightest so you don’t need heavy duty support. Now you want to hot glue your straps to the inside of the wings where it will fit around your shoulders nicely. You may choose to cut out a piece of craft foam or two smaller pieces to cover where the straps are glued on, but your back will cover up this part anyway. Glue on the foam piece or pieces the same way you glued the wings together. Allow everything to dry and you’re all done!
For wings more like these, a video tutorial is provided below to guide you. The video will provide a list of materials needed for this project. I will note that Hobby Lobby is not the only place you can find feathers. Any craft store will have them. Also, you don’t need all the different types of feathers mentioned in the video. You just need a few of the long feathers for each side and a mixed bag or two of the smaller feathers. They will have a mix of both hackle and fluffy feathers in them. Also, you don’t have to use ribbon for the harness, you can use anything you have on hand. These wings are light weight.
This is also a good video to watch if you want to get an idea of how to make a harness for light weight wings.
This completes the tutorial on wings. There are so many different kinds of wings you can make and equal amounts of ways to make them. This is just scratching the surface on some of the lighter, non-articulated angel-like wings. One last tip to mention is don’t be afraid to cut feathers how you want them to look and color them how you want as well. Just because you can’t find the general shape of feathers you are looking for or the color, doesn’t mean you can’t make them yourself. If you have any questions about wing making, please drop a comment or reach out to me on Twitter.
Often times referred to as Optimus Prime, Tabatha LeStrange is a machine. A ghost machine.
Catch her if you can on Twitter @BD_Danger
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