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How to make Loki's headpiece without breaking the bank

I published this tutorial to this blog in 2017 and I pitched it to CBC Life in 2021 after LOKI was released on Disney+. It was accepted and I had the chance to revise it, mainly adjusting the language for clarity. You can find the improved tutorial at its new home here!

Over the summer, I made my first cosplay. I worked with a friend who showed me how to draft a pattern. Through trial and error, I made something wearable and I'm pretty pleased with how everything came together.

Me in costume as Loki at FanExpo Canada in 2017. Photo via OOC Photography

I am especially happy with how the headpiece turned out. It's the cheapest part of the costume by miles — it's made mostly from recycled materials, which means it's super eco-friendly too! If you're working on a limited budget, this is the tutorial for you.

If my instructions are unclear or you get stuck somewhere, feel free to shoot me a message and I'd love to help you with your project!

Sound good? Let's get started!

You will need:

  • Reference images

  • for the headpiece

  • Pencil

  • Eraser

  • Ruler (flexible is better, but don't worry if you don't have a flexi one)

  • Scissors

  • Paintbrush

  • Pair of compasses

  • Masking tape

  • Needle and thread (any colour)

  • White glue

  • Water

  • Mod podge (8 oz/237 ml pot)

  • Gold paint

  • Scrap paper, approx. 30 sheets (I used letter-size)

  • Newspaper

  • Thin cardboard (a cereal box is perfect)

  • Craft foam (I used two sheets of 12"x18"/30.4 cm x 45.7 cm foam. You may need a larger size or more sheets depending on how big your headpiece will be).

  • Elastic (I got 1 metre, which was more than enough. I also chose black so it would blend with my hair)

  • Mirror

  • A large cup or other object with a curved side

  • Disposable gloves (optional)

If you have literally none of the above, I'd estimate the cost at about $40-$50 CAD if you buy the basics from your local dollar store. I personally spent about half of that (the only things I had to buy were the elastic, the paint, the mod podge, and the foam). If you have stationery and can find some old newspaper, you're in a pretty good position already.

Stage 1: Make the templates for the body of the headpiece, horns, and decoration

Fold your scrap paper in half widthways and sketch half of the shape you want for your headpiece body.

Cut out your shape and unfold it. Because you folded it in half and then drew half, your headpiece body should be symmetrical.

Take your mirror and hold your shape up to your face as you would wear your headpiece. Don't worry about curvature, there's further instruction on that later.

Each artist draws Loki's headpiece differently so there's room for artistic license and flexibility. I chose a more angular look.

If you don't like it or it's not sitting right, take a fresh piece of paper and draw another shape. I found it helpful to trace the shape that wasn't working and change it, as opposed to drawing an entirely new shape every time.

Repeat as many times as needed. I think I had about 20 or so failed shapes before I made one I liked.

After you're satisfied with your headpiece body template, you've got to sketch the horns and the decoration. At this point, you'll have to decide how wide you want the diameter of the horn base to be.

Trace the failed shape faintly and then you can keep the aspects of it that worked, and change the things that didn't.

Remember that your headpiece will have a raised rim all the way around that's approximately 0.5 cm in width, so make sure that you plan to have enough space between the rim and your horn bases.

I chose for my horn bases to have a 3 cm diameter. Use your compasses to mark where the bases will be.

Pick a placement for the horns and do your best to get them symmetrical. In this photo, I didn't do a great job but for my actual project, I put mine in each 'peak' of the headpiece.

When sketching your horns, make sure that the part representing the base is the same length as the diameter of the circle you just marked on your headpiece body template.

Take the time to come up with a shape that works for you. Trial and error, I've learned, is the key to cosplay success.

You might want to sketch on a folded piece of paper again so that you can cut the templates for both horns at once. Or you can just sketch it twice. Either way, do the same as you did for the body template. Sketch, see how it looks, tweak it.

Cut out your horn templates. If you like, you can tape them to your paper body template and hold the whole thing up to your face to get a slightly better idea of how big the finished product will be and how it'll sit.

Ta-da! You have a pair of horns.

Now, onto the decoration template. Follow the same process that you used to sketch the headpiece body and horn templates: fold a sheet of paper, keep sketching shapes until you're happy. You can use leftover paper from your body template to minimize waste. This piece is a little harder to visualize but again, the look of the decoration changes depending on the artist, so you can sketch to your heart's content.

Cut out your decoration template.

Trace all your templates onto cardboard and cut them out. You'll need to have cardboard templates for the horns and decoration anyway and if you have the headpiece body template in cardboard, you'll have an easier time tracing it onto the foam. It also means you have another chance to tweak the designs if you want to and you have a solid copy of your templates for future reference.

Ignore the notes on my templates; that was to keep track of which revision I was using for what. Yeah, I totally cut my templates out of cardboard and then decided to change them again. Better that than end up with an accessory you don't like!

When you're tracing your templates onto cardboard, cut out a circle on each side of the headpiece body template, to represent where your horns will actually be. Use the circles you sketched on your paper template as a guide. I cut out the circles on the paper template and drew around the inside of those for my cardboard template.

Stage 2: Make the headpiece body

At its thickest, the headpiece body is made of three layers of foam. Cut out your template three times. I was able to fit two cutouts on one sheet of foam, but you may need more space if your headpiece (and head) is bigger than mine.

When tracing your headpiece body, be sure not to accidentally move the cardboard. You can roll up a piece of masking tape with the sticky side facing outwards and stick it between your template and the foam to stop it from moving around.

Believe it or not, that white thing is foam. The angle makes it look thinner than it is.

Once you have your three identical shapes, choose one to be the rim and one to be the middle layer. Set the other one aside for now.

Take your rim piece and mark a series of dots 0.5 cm (or another width if you please) away from the edge. You can do this freehand if you're confident in your spatial awareness. I used a ruler, which is the slower way but I wanted to be sure the width was consistent all the way around.

Join the dots together to form your rim. It should look like you've drawn a smaller headpiece body on the inside.

Cut out the rim. You'll need to stab your scissors through the middle of your rim piece to get to it properly. You want the stuff between the line you just drew and the edge of the rim piece, not the inside.

On your middle piece, mark where you want your horns to go based on the placement you determined earlier.

When you're done, you should have a middle piece and a rim piece that look like this:

Cut out the circles and glue the rim piece to the middle piece. This shouldn't be too difficult since they're both made from the same template. You should be able to get the rim to sit naturally at the edge of the other foam piece.

Cover the whole thing with a coat of white glue. Try to spread it evenly so it doesn't clump. Leave it to dry.

Stage 3: Make the horns and decoration

Remember those cardboard templates you made for the horns and decoration back in Stage 1? You'll need them, for they are part of the finished headpiece.

If you want to keep a copy of the cardboard templates for the horns and decoration, trace around them and make new ones, and use the ones that turn out better for the actual headpiece.

Use your flexible ruler to measure down the centre of your horn template. This number is the length of a long, thin rectangle you'll be cutting out.

Cut out strip out of cardboard that is 1.5 cm (or, half of what you decided your horn diameter was going to be) in width and whatever measurement you for for the curved length of your horn in length.

If you don't have a flexible ruler, you can do a bit of reverse engineering. Make sure you get half your diameter correctly and use that number for the strip width. Make your strip super long and you can trim it later.

Since you want your horns to taper, cut a curve at the top of the strip.

Cut one more long, thin strip with the same dimensions as your first one. When you cut the curve, make sure you cut it in the opposite direction.


When you're done, you should have this pair of strips and your template.

Can you see where this is going?

Now this is where the magic happens. It's a little finicky, but it's totally magical. Take one of your strips and bend it to follow the curve of your horn. Make sure the strip stays at a 90-degree angle to the horn shape. Use the masking tape to hold it in place.

You can also bend and tape the strip as you go along. Either way, you should have something that looks like this:

Keeping with the angular look I wanted, I created this structure.

Do the same for the other side of your first horn, and again for the second horn. It's the same procedure: cut thin strips that curve at the end and bend and tape. When you're done, you should end up with two of these:

The decoration works in much the same way. Draw a line on your cardboard decoration template to mark the centre; you'll find it easier to judge how long to make each strip. How thick it is in the centre is up to you. You'll also need to make a tiny triangle in place of a strip for the bottom of the decoration.

Long story short, I did mine by eye and ended up with this:

Now you have all the base pieces to start your papier-mâché.

The internet will tell you that papier-mâché paste should be three parts glue and one part water. I chose to live on the edge and poured both in indiscriminately and ended up with a mixture that was too runny so it took longer to dry than it should have done. Lesson learned: the Internet is right on this one. Go with a 3:1 ratio of glue to water.

I used newspaper strips that were about an inch wide for the horns and half an inch wide for the decoration. But don't get bogged down in measurements for the paper; they're not that important.

Dip the strips in your paste and make sure they're fully coated. If you don't like the feeling of glue all over your hands, you can use disposable gloves. I didn't, simply because I thought the gloves would make things more difficult, but it's a matter of how much you can tolerate the texture.

Wrap your strips around the bases and try to make them as smooth as possible. Keep your paper strips taut but don't pull them too hard or they will tear.

Do this until you're satisfied with your coverage. You don't want to have too many layers as you might have trouble fitting the horns to the headpiece body later.

Leave them to dry.

Once they're dry, roll up some of those newspaper strips and stuff them in the end of the horn shell. This is so that the glue you're going to apply to the bottom will stick.

When you're done with that, cut out a small square of cardboard (the same cardboard you used for the interior horn structure). Glue the base of the horn to this piece of cardboard. Use masking tape (but not too much) to further secure it if you like.

Leave them to dry some more.

What my actual finished papier-mâché pieces looked like.

Stage 4: Put it all together

To recap: at this stage, you have a headpiece body with a raised rim, one foam cutout, two horns, and the decoration. Here's where everything comes together.

The remaining piece foam cutout is the bottom of the headpiece, the part that will make contact with your head when you wear it. You will be sewing the elastic to this piece of foam.

To start, sew your elastic to one side of the foam piece. Do not cut your elastic yet. Make sure that the raw edge of the elastic is far enough away from the edge of the foam piece that it won't tear if stretched. I would also recommend that you sew it facing upwards so that the elastic will be sandwiched between the two pieces of foam when they're eventually put together.

There will be two pieces of elastic in total, so plan for one near the bottom and one just below the peak of the headpiece base.

The easiest way to figure out how much elastic to use is to hold the piece of foam up to your face, just like you did with the paper templates before, and pull the elastic around the back of your head. I recommend pulling the elastic loosely, so you're not stretching it or using its elasticity. Hold the place where it would join the other side of the headpiece between your finger and thumb.

Measure roughly an inch or so from the place where you're holding the elastic, and cut it there. This is to accommodate the fact that the elastic will stretch while you wear it, which will keep it in place. Sew it to the other side of your bottom foam piece.

Repeat for the second piece of elastic near the top of the headpiece body.

Now you're going to prepare to glue the whole thing together.

Use your paintbrush to coat the upper side of the bottom foam piece where you can see that the elastic has been sewn. Slip your horns tip first through the holes in the middle piece (that is now attached to the rim). The cardboard base you affixed earlier should stop the horns from sliding all the way through. With the horns in the holes, align your two pieces of foam perfectly on top of each other. The cardboard horn base should be sandwiched between the foam layers, as should the elastic ends.

This is an exercise in layering. From the top down: Rim piece, middle piece, horn and cardboard base, bottom piece.

After you've added one horn, you should end up with something like this:

The elastic should be visible, but it's not in this photo because I didn't have any more.

Add the other horn. Place the decoration piece in the centre and glue it to the top of the headpiece.

Press them all together, and then use the paintbrush to cover the whole thing in mod podge. You will need to do several coats. Wait until each coat has dried before applying the next.

When you leave the headpiece to dry, bend it slightly. This is to get it to dry in a curved shape. I used a half-empty bag of flour that I rolled up as a curve on which to rest the headpiece. The weight of the horns should help you form the curve.

My headpiece when it was drying. I curved it over a rolled-up bag of flour and used a tube of cling-film to support the horns.

Once it's dry and sealed, check that it's all in one piece. Pull the horns gently. They should stay in place and the whole thing should be solid. If you need to apply more mod podge, now's the time to do that. Once it's dry, you can trim it if needed.

If everything's good, you can paint it! Several thin coats of paint is better than one thick coat. Make sure the paint is evenly spread. Be careful not to miss any spots.

Here it is again! Now we've come full-circle.

Leave it to dry, and then you're done!

I hope you found this tutorial helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I'll get back to you ASAP. Or you can contact me here and I'd be happy to elaborate. Please post photos of your finished pieces in the comments — I would love to see them!

Thanks for having me, True BeLIEvers!

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