Skull LED Candle Holder
PVC pipe (or paper towel roll or can)
hot glue gun & glue sticks
books (real or fake)
Drill or Knife
Hammer and 2 nails
If you haven't already, read my tutorial on PVC Candle Pillars. This how-to focuses on using that technique to create a larger prop.
Part 1: Painting the Skull
Most of the skulls you find at the dollar store look like they are from the the dollar store. But if the shape of the skull is good, then you can easily spruce it up with some paint.
When I first bought the foam skull, it was yellow (see the side-by-side image below). I took some watered down black paint (a wash) and added more shadows around the jaw, the eyes...basically anywhere there was a contour.
I cut out a couple of teeth and painted the rest brown. When that dried, I added greys and just hints of whites to the teeth, leaving the brown along the edges completely visible. I wanted to enhance that look of grunge between the teeth.
I created an almost greyish white paint mix, thinned it with water, and painted the skull with messy strokes. Don't be afraid to play with it. Dab at it too. Add layers of paints that are just slightly different shades.
I didn't like the stark brown on the eye-sockets (I understand it's supposed to look like big holes, but they aren't very deep so it looks...well...like a foam skull), so with a very thinned wash of greyish white, I made the sockets less prominent by filling them in a bit. Almost like a veil of the wash over the dark circle. You can see it in the image above: see how I didn't completely make the dark socket colour disappear? I just softened it around the edges.
Part 2: Attaching the Skull & Adding the Candle
I was lucky enough to know someone with a round attachment for their drill to create a hole in the skull to hold my PVC pipe in place. If you don't have that, you could trace the shape of the candle onto the skull surface and carve into the skull. You only need it to be about 2 inches deep, and then you hot glue it in place.
I'm attached the skull to a fake book by hammering a nail in the spot where I want the back of the skull to be (above right image), and another where the jaw touches the cover. The nail end need to be deep enough that it won't come out, but you want most of the nail sticking out the top of the cover. I hit the nail with a dab of hot glue, and then added a dab to the skull where the jaw bone will touch the book cover. Then I pressed the skull down onto the nail.
I've seen people use real books in the past, or fake books, and then used their industrial tools to drill a hole through them and then thread them with dowels or freakishly long screws. I've also seen people hot-glue the books/fake books together.
I don't want my books joined forever, so I am only attaching the skull to the top book.
Part 3: Adding the Wax
Using the same techniques in my other tutorial, create the wax details on your candle making sure to make drip down the back of the skull, and add a few drips to the book itself.
I painted my candle and wax drippings with a caramel colour. Plastic and glue aren't the most friendliest of surfaces when it comes to adhering paint. For the base coat especially, you want to make one smooth stroke as opposed to multiple strokes over the same area because you end up wiping off the paint. Let it dry completely, and then add another layer. Repeat until it looks the way you'd like it to.
You can also start with a slightly darker base colour (heavier on the brown) to add depth to your candles (leaving hints of that darker paint exposed in the crevices of the wax).
Personally, I've found that off-white and tan coloured paint looks more realistic than stark white.
I made a second one (pictured right) that isn't attached to anything right now so I can add it anywhere I like (for example, on a silver tray or in a bowl of dried flowers).
I made the wax drippings thicker on this one. Personally, I like both thin and thick strips of wax. If you get too thick and wide, it starts to look a little cartoonish.
Remember when I was talking about painting the eye sockets earlier? I made the wash on this skull a bit thicker. I find this little change makes a huge difference.
Voila! Go make something creepy.