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· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Monster mud has been around for quite a while, and there's lots of information out there already.

My intentions for this tutorial are 2 fold:

1: condense that information to one source
2: provide a tutorial on my construction methods

This is going to take some time to put together (since it's going to be following a build) and there may be comments in between posts, so I'm making a directory here in the top post. (for now it's a what's coming up, I'll be adding links as I get the other posts done.)

General Chimera Technique Tutorial

Monster Mud Basics
Building with Burlap
Alternatives to Monster Mud?
What is a Chimera?
Designing with light in mind.

The Barghest step by step.

The Barghest: Concept and Frame
The Barghest: Head and Hind
[url="http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/125072-monster-mudding-unorthodox-chimera-tutorial-3.html#post1428329]The Barghest: Ribs and Carapace[/url]
[url="http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/125072-monster-mudding-unorthodox-chimera-tutorial-4.html#post1431274]The Barghest: Left Arm[/url]
[url="http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/125072-monster-mudding-unorthodox-chimera-tutorial-4.html#post1433426]The Barghest: Right Arm[/url]
[url="http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/125072-monster-mudding-unorthodox-chimera-tutorial-4.html#post1436264]The Barghest: Neck and Tail[/url]
[url="http://www.halloweenforum.com/tutorials-step-step/125072-monster-mudding-unorthodox-chimera-tutorial-4.html#post1438023]The Barghest: Final Touches[/url]

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Step by Step.
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: Concept

· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Monster Mud Basics.

What is Monster Mud?

Monster mud is nothing more than a mixture of drywall joint compound and paint.

Here are some tutorials on mixing it:

Most tutorials you will encounter tell you that you want 1 gallon of paint to a 5 gallon bucket of drywall compound.

Truth is, there is no magic formula, just mix some of each and start to play. If you want to be fighting to try to fit 6 gallons of stuff into a 5 gallon bucket, more power to you. My own recipe is:

1 5 gallon bucket.
1 BOX of drywall compound.
1 gallon latex paint.

If you are wondering how I come up with this recipe...

  • The BOX of drywall compound is about $4 cheaper than the Bucket. I don't need to continue to buy new buckets.
  • The BOX of drywall compound is about 4 gallons so everything actually FITS into the 5 gallon bucket. (dont ask me why Home Depot is listing it as six gallons, compare the weight to the 5 gallon bucket if you don't believe me)
  • I actually prefer the thinner mixture.

Here's a pic of a fresh batch using my recipe. Note how much room we have:

A good example of the more traditional recipe can be found in Widowmakerproduction's video in this post:


The real question is what do you want to DO with Monster mud?

The most common construction method with monster mud is dipping fabric into it.

You've probably heard of burlap being used, and we'll get more into that in a minute, but virtually any fabric is fair game.

Muslin dipped in monster mud:

Cheese cloth covered in monster mud breast plate, yarn dipped in monster mud to make 'medusa'.

Monster mud and burlap suit of armor.

And cloth is not all.

Terra puts monster mud into a wig in her Beloved tutorial.

Here's an ingenious facade made of monster mud.

Your limits are really down to your own imagination.

Is Monster Mud water proof?

Let me say this once to be clear.


It can be quite water RESISTANT, especially if you used a good quality exterior paint in the mix. But, it is NOT waterproof/weatherproof unless you go to some length to seal it up tight. Drylok, urethane, good exterior paint coat. Something other than just monster mud or water will eventually take it's toll.

What about this 'light weight' joint compound?

Yes, it will work to make monster mud, and it will be somewhat lighter than a piece made out of all purpose compound.

However, light weight compound is made to be EASILY SANDED, and will be a softer finish more prone to dings and bumps. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on your project.

· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Building with Burlap.

You've probably heard of or seen items built with burlap. Usually with monster mud. I encourage you to give it a try yourself. It's fun, quick, and relatively easy.

There's actually a bit to think about before you go run off to find burlap, however. What kind of finish do you want? How heavy do you want this to be? What kind of light do you want showing (for chimeras)? These will impact design decisions long before we go shopping.

Kinds of burlap.

  • The Fabric Store burlap. This is typically found in your fabric store. It's very tight weave burlap that will give a nice, solid finish, no light showing through. About $3 or so per yard. I like to get one of the 40% off coupons and buy a whole bolt at a time. Makes great fake leather when coated with liquid latex, or great solid forms for a monster mud statue.

  • The Hardware store burlap. Often found in the gardening section, typically pretty cheap. Could be called erosion cloth, jute netting (which makes this confusing with the next one), or just simply burlap. This is a much looser weave burlap than the fabric store burlap, and will result in a MUCH lighter end product. However, it also will be letting light through unless you plug the holes somehow.

    (A repair I had to make when some neighbor kids thought Chimera 1 was a jungle gym, used the hardware store burlap, notice the holes in it.)

  • Jute Netting. VERY large strands of burlap loosely woven together. Known as erosion cloth as well sometimes. Typically sold in 250+ yard spools, but some haunt suppliers are selling off smaller chunks of late. This stuff is GREAT for making accents. Scrunch it together for great texture, or unravel it for long vines.

Frame it up.

So, you've decided on a design, it's time to build the frame to drape your burlap on.

You'll see a lot of poeple building wood or PVC frames.

For me, wood is heavy, and PVC is too weak. So, I build EMT conduit frames. The pipe bending tools are ATTROCIOUSLY EXPENSIVE in the hardware stores, so I just hit the flea market and garage sales until I found a couple. I presently have a 1/2" EMT bender and a 3/4" EMT/1/2" rigid pipe bender. Most often I can get away with the 1/2" emt, but Chimera 1 should have used the 3/4" (didn't have it at the time I built that one).

The thing to remember about building frames is that you're building the highest part of the shape, and allowing the burlap to hang beneath. Chicken wire is the most common means to flesh out your frame, but don't be afraid to think outside that box.

"Hardware cloth" frame beginning. Chosen for smaller holes so they don't make impression, and stronger than standard chiken wire.

Paper mache frame over wire to add stability and hide the chicken wire pattern. (bonus bamboo frames out the back)

Paper mache and grape vine frame.

Body form frame.

In fact, TEMPORARY frames can be made if you need a hollow structure as well. Monster mud is quite durable, and a plastic drop cloth rolled up can be enough support for some items.

(rare photo of Chimera 3, sold to pay for 1 and 2. Plastic rolled up as the only support for the sholders as they dried.)

Here some sisal twine was used to stabalize the head of Chimera 3 in place as it dried.

Tin foil also works great as a barrier between a form and monster mud.

· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Alternatives to monster mud?

Sometimes, however, monster mud is just going to be too heavy for your needs.

My 12 ft tall 2 section build of "a dragon" (close enough for here), the head needed to be lifted up 4 ft to attach to the bottom part. No way I was lifting a 10 ft long 3 ft wide section of monster mud and aligning it with guide holes. I needed an alternative.

I've since found many alternatives to monster mud while you are building with burlap.

Latex spread over burlap makes for some GREAT leather. (here stained with wood stains)

And is easy to use as adhesive to glue pieces together, or coat the underside so it's no longer itchy.

in progress burlap and latex mask.

Mod Podge (check your glue section of Michaels) remains flexible, and adheres to burlap great. Used to create an easy means of getting those darn armors I had to build for school projects on. It also takes away the itch factor.

But we're talking about big builds and I promised a 12' dragon, didn't I?

My solution on that one was a little pricey, but worth it. Floor epoxy. Water base one part kind for garage floors.

The results were rigid, waterproof, and added practically no weight to the burlap once dry.

Paper Mache.

I can not say enough about paper mache. FANTASTIC medium. It's advantage being it's definitely cheaper than Monster mud. The down side being it usually takes longer.

Seriously, check out Stolloween for more info on paper mache.


And, yes, you can go BIG as well. 8' set of totems of mine.


· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Well, we've talked quite a bit about generics now, it's on to the actual Chimera tutorial.

What is a Chimera?



1: a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail
2: an illusion or fabrication of the mind;
3: an individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution
4: a grotesque product of the imagination.

Chimera defy definition. That is their primary trait. I don't approach them as "I want to build X". It's more "I wonder what I can do with this?"

The original Chimera sprang from my disappointment in my own ability to create a decent scarecrow. Sure, I had this dream of making something vaguely reminiscent of Pumpkinrot...well, that just didn't work for me as mine more looked like someone shoved Peewee Herman on a post. Scary, sure, but not exactly fascinating or beautiful.

I was bound and determined to build an UNORTHODOX scarecrow, dang it! So I scoured the internet for inspiration in early 2011.

It came in the form of Magic the Gathering.

Their scarecrows incorportated bones, twigs, objects. Didn't even need to be humanoid in shape. They were not effigies, they were THINGS unto themselves. Were built for a purpose, and they did that purpose unrelenting.

Such a shift in my own personal interpretation of the scarecrow led to the creation of the first Chimera.

This spawned 2 more that flowed swiftly in between business travel and a job change.

4 other designs were left unrealized.

I was surprised at the reaction to #1, which was immediate.

Neighbors stopped giving me the wierd "oh what's he doing now" look, and started coming over and asking all about it.

It's been called a cat, a star wars character, an alien, a troll, a gremlin, and, of course, the Chimera.

Where people come up with some of those, I have no idea. I've learned the whole nebulous nature of the them is both beautiful and disturbing.

Even deformity has a symmetry to it.

These are the words of the boss. (my wife)

Truer words have never been spoken.

The early design for Chimera 2 was this one armed living lantern.

After a hard day working on it, those were the words she said to me. It needed another arm. "even if it is a small mangled thing".

And so it received.

Chimera, despite being a conglomeration of various objects and without form, also need to follow organic symmetry.

Chimera have a purpose and an element.

This line of thinking sprang again from Magic the Gathering. Specifically a story on their concept of a scarecrow, I strongly recommend reading and looking at the concept art.

Over time, as farmers moved or passed away, some of the scarecrows remained. Most of them continue to try to perform their intended actions, but removed of their context, their actions seem bizarre and inappropriate. A scarecrow designed for scything grain, for example, can seem menacing when it comes at you in the dark, its sickle-arm raised high and its empty eyes trying to decide whether you are ripe for mowing. Other scarecrows are more innocuous in purpose, but can still be strange and scary.
My Chimera were going to take this concept to it's ultimate extremity. They would be designed with ONE purpose in mind.

Chimera 1 was designed with the scythe in mind. With my decoration being mostly harvested corn and reed grass, it made sense to have SOMETHING doing the harvesting. To increase the menace, I wanted him staring right into the eyes of the average trick or treater as well. So, while he stands 6' tall, his head and eyes are at 4'.

I also wanted him to be something of an 'Earth' elemental, which lead to the humped back, bamboo spined original form. Some redesigns lead to more 'swampy' additions later, but I'll get into that in a minute.

Chimera 2 was a cobbled design from the get go. Chimera 1's original head getting utilized, Chimera 2 was to be thematically fitting, but as different from 1 as possible. It was to TOWER over trick or treaters at 8' tall, and was the first one I designed from the ground up with LIGHT in mind (more on that coming), for that was his purpose, to light the path and watch over travelers. Chimera 2 was also designed to be something of a swamp or marsh creature. Long, drooping, dangling form from the get go. Some early concepts had him holding one of my torches, discarded for safety reasons...

Chimera 3 was a commission piece for a semi-local professional haunt (It's quite a drive from my place). He was specifically designed with their mine theme in mind. Unfortunately, I never got a pic of him completed. This is the most complete pic I have.

Chimera 4, AKA the Barghest, is forthcoming...This will be my first attempt at creating a creature that embodies AIR or spirit.

· Registered
854 Posts
I'm absorbing this like a starving man at a buffet. This is good Stuff! This tutorial has given rise to a couple of ideas to try: a version of lockjaw using grapevines and burlap as a sort of beginning attempt, and a huge undertaking of Mavel's Man-Thing. I may be buggin' ya for ideas on that one...

· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Designing with light in mind.

My older brother learned this about me when he once suggested I should stick LEDs into the eyes of my skulls on stakes...

WHY on earth would I want to ruin it?

One of my pet peeves is being able to SEE the light source.

Rule #1 of my designs has always been, HIDE THE LIGHT BULB.

Here's a drawing of the totems showing what would become my standard light design. (yes this was drawn on a napkin. At my sons' scout banquet no less)

Notice I had 2 possible lighting methods, either one bulb at the base shining up, or a bulb hidden behind each face to shine on the back wall. The latter was used on this project, but I've used various forms since then.

Test of the one light in the bottom design, didn't light the top well enough...

Eventual 3 bulb design.

This is especially important in Chimera design. Their whole design is meant to be mysterious. The light source included.

Test early, Test Often.

And don't be afraid to scrap it. SO much of my work is through trial and error.

Let's walk through Chimera 1.

January 2011. First attempt at a head, almost immediately scrapped.

Second head design lasted up until my first lighting test. I had nowhere to hide a CFL bulb in it, considering I had planned on using a G40 bulb that was no surprise, but green G40 + green CFL were too far apart, and the head was getting lost. Unwilling to dim the body, head 2 was scrapped (later found orange G40 and CFL were close thus this head was built into Chimera 2.)

Final head redesign. The light socket sits right between the eyes, the bulb goes forward into the nose from there.

Note the thick ledges at the back of the eye sockets to reflect that light.

The first unveiling. This was a full on test, the torches drug out and lit just to see what this would look like under torchlight. I noted the little holes allowing light to shine through even here. A particular angle the chest lighbulb could be seen from, all noted into my book for fixing.

At each point of failure, I took a break, analysed the situation, and come up with a solution.

Often times, I have to work on something ELSE when something goes wrong. There's a reason I've started Chimera 4 now, as I've been having a little trouble with my fence for 2013. Take a break, come at it with fresh eyes later.

speaking of breaks...gotta go, be back later.

· Registered
3,639 Posts
I found a show I had taped about 5 years ago and in it they discussed monstermud. They created a scene of rotting food/vomit by adding chunky foods like cornflakes and oatmeal to the mud. Colored it with a powdered pigment and added shellac which kept it wet looking forever. I think they said the same formula would keep a bloody scene fresh and wet looking forever as well but they didn't say how much shellac to add. Has anyone tried this?

· Super Moderator
6,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Shellac is not waterproof, and my stuff is all outside, so I've never tried it. Adding powdered pigment to monster mud makes a lot of sense as your paint will be dilluted to white. Powdered pigment would let you get the full color effect you want.

If you were going to be keeping these items out of the weather, it would, essentially, last forever. As for how much shellac, the great thing about shellac is it's quick to dry, so just add coats until it looks right.

· Powered by Unicorn Blood
634 Posts
I found a show I had taped about 5 years ago and in it they discussed monstermud. They created a scene of rotting food/vomit by adding chunky foods like cornflakes and oatmeal to the mud. Colored it with a powdered pigment and added shellac which kept it wet looking forever. I think they said the same formula would keep a bloody scene fresh and wet looking forever as well but they didn't say how much shellac to add. Has anyone tried this?
I haven't used shellac to make things look wet ....but have used Spar Varnish to waterproof paper mache props. It works great and dries looking wet...here is a link to some info


· Registered
115 Posts
Bravo UnOrthodOx ! ( thunderous applause in the background )

What a great tutorial ! ! Lots and lots of ideas for me for 2013.
I specially like the lighted pumpkins on the stakes, thinking I could line
the driveway with those pretty painlessly.

I keep trying to come up with ways to build a body for the dragon mask I have
had for years

Red Costume Art Flesh Fictional character

and I think your instructions here are just the motivation to get me started.

Keep up the great work ! Pax
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