My family is a bunch of nerds. After my two young girls saw the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, they knew who they wanted to be for Halloween and had planned it for the whole family. My youngest proclaimed she wanted to be Groot, one of the most unique characters from the movie. But not just any Groot, she wanted to be Baby Groot from the final scenes. Now my work was cut out for me. I am an ordinary dad that likes to build things and have fun with my kids. But I am in no way a professional. So I began doing a bunch of research (screen shots of the character in the movie are very few and hard to come by). I searched lots of other costume builds and pioneered some of my own territory. Above is my final product. The build is broken down into three main parts: the mask, the body and the pot. The entire costume is fairly inexpensive to build (less than $50) and all the items were easy to come by from local hardware, big box and craft stores.
Step 1: Making the Mask
This mask was surprisingly simple to create. When I found the concept and that it involved "carving" with a Dremel tool - I was a bit hesitant. Don't shy away from this project. You CAN DO IT!
The following are the supplies and tools used for the mask:
1 sheet of EVA foam 10mm x 24" sq (4 pack of anti-fatigue floor mats from Harbor Freight Tools for $10)
old sun glass lenses
fake plant and moss material (used for all parts of the costume)
a heat gun
a Dremel tool with a sanding wheel and a soft cone shaped grinding tip
craft glue - Aleene's Original Tacky Glue
acrylic paint - Liquitex raw sienna and Craft Smart brown
If you are more artistic than I am, you can get away with skipping the first procedure. I found a picture the I like of a Groot costume head and used an overhead projector and transparency film to project the image onto the wall. I move the image closer while having my daughter stand with her eyes closed in front of the image until the image was the size I thought was appropriate for her. I then took a sheet of EVA foam and traced the image with a Sharpie pen on the smooth side. The original image was oblique, so I then flipped the image on the projector to copy the side that was more correct and used the for both the right and left sides. I began by cutting out the eye holes with scissors. I started on a scrap piece of foam with the Dremel. It removes material much faster than I expected, so I quickly learned that you have to hold the tool at a very shallow angle with very light pressure to get the desired effect. It also creates a lot of foam dust so I recommend wearing a mask and cleaning your mask off before painting. Then I started carving the facial features. Once I had the rough shape I wanted, I switched to the cone tip shaping tool because it didn't remove material as fast and allowed me to create deeper valleys in the foam with the pointy tip. The deep marks along with dark paint inside of them really accentuate the look of a wood creature. I started with making a few calculated deep grain lines in the other parts of the head, but then just started making random marks to complete the grainy look. I cut the top "branches" of the mask with scissors and then rounded off all the edges with the Dremel. I made a small opening in the mouth area and rounded out the eye holes a little more.
The last thing necessary to complete the shape was to heat foam with the heat gun (mostly on the textured side of the mat to prevent orange peeling or bubbling on the smooth (outside) of the mask. Heat it up enough to become soft and then fold and shape to a curve. I was fortunate that my daughter was just about the right size to use the entire EVA sheep to wrap around her head and I used the interlocking teeth on the edges of the mat to help hold it in a cylindrical shape after heating it up. I relied exclusively on friction to hold the mask on her face, so I had to shape it correctly for it to stay in place. I used craft glue on the puzzle edges to permanently lock them in place once I had heated and shaped it sufficiently.
After I had the mask formed and shaped it was time for the details to make Groot come to life. I started with painting. I used acrylic paint and slapped it on with a medium sized brush to help give it a grainy texture. One thick coat was sufficient. After it dried, I used a dark brown paint and small brush to paint in the valleys I had created to make them pop.
The final steps for the mask were to glue on the details. I took an old pair of my daughter's sunglasses and popped out the lenses. I traced the hole patterns onto the lenses with a grease pencil and used a bench grinder (but the Dremel would also work) to shape the lenses. They were glued in place using the same craft glue. I used small pieces of fake plant and a bag of fake moss I purchased at Michael's and glued them where I thought they looked good on the mask. When everything dried, I was very happy with the Groot mask!
Step 2: Making the Pot
This step of the build is also pretty simple. The following is the list of supplies needed for this step:
Party tub - $6 at Walmart
4 x 4.5" carriage head bolts with 4 matching washers and nuts - hardware store
Small spool of small gauge wire - Michael's in the decorative flower section
Metal wire ring - wire wreath frame (smallest size that will fit around the wearer) - Michael's
small suspenders - $5 at Michael's
EVA foam mat (one of the set of 4 from the mask) - Harbor Freight
fake moss - Michael's
Plastic primer and white paint
small speaker to play music (for Baby Groot to dance to!)
Start off by cutting out the bottom of the party tub with a jig saw. Mine had a ridge line that I used as a mark to cut my circular bottom out. Make sure to leave a small (about 1" lip) to be able to drill some hidden holes for the wire and provide strength. I also removed the rope handles from the top and cut 4 small pieces of EVA foam to fill the holes and glued them in place with craft glue.
Drill 4 holes around the perimeter, equidistant apart and just below the level that you want the "dirt and moss" in the pot to be. Place your 4 bolts in the holes and attach the washers and nuts to the inside. Drill 4 additional small holes in the bottom lip directly below where you placed your upper 4 holes. These lower holes only need to be large enough to run the wire through. Paint the pot (Groot's pot in the movies was off-white.) I had a black pot, so I used plastic primer first that gave it a nice rough texture as well. You only need to pain the inside down to the bolts - the rest will not be visible.
Next, take your wire ring and spool of wire. Use the wire to wrap tightly around the bolts and wire ring, holding them together. Start wrapping from the outside of the pot and work towards the center. After you have nearly reached the tip of the bolt, run the wire straight down to the hole in the base of the pot. This wire needs to be the correct length to prevent the bolt from moving beyond horizontal when being worn.
Attach the suspenders. Mine were the 3 strap kind and had alligator clips which made them very easy to connect and adjust. Any color will do as they are worn under the body piece and not visible. I used zip ties to attach my speaker that has a case with bungee built into it. I put it in front for easier access and sound projection.
The final step included cutting a piece of EVA foam in a circle the same diameter as the pot where the wire ring sits. Then cut an oval opening in the center of the foam and several (about 15) relief cuts radiating out away from the oval. The oval should be just large enough for the person wearing it to pull up to the waist. I slapped the brown paint on the smooth side of the foam, then covered the foam in craft glue when the paint was dry and applied copious amounts of moss.
*note that my initial plan was to have pot sit really low on my daughter so that her torso appeared longer and more like Baby Groot, however, it was really difficult for her to walk with the pot sitting so low on her, so we raised it so the moss was approximately at waist level.
Step 3: Making the Body
This was the most difficult part of the costume for me to make and took some trial and error to see what would work. I love the fact that is is green (made all of paper) and made of tree products. The supplies I used are:
a roll of brown building paper - Home Depot
about 30' of packing paper
hot glue and gun
acrylic pain - Liquitex raw sienna
fake moss and plant material
one shoe lace string
a couple of yards of green yarn
This part of the project began with making a vest out of paper. I used some heavy duty building paper from Home Depot (essentially craft construction paper), but I think that any sturdy paper such as a paper grocery bag would work fine. My goal was to cover everything on my daughter's body between the mask and the "soil" on her pot. I had to leave a few inches of material over her should height and initially left the length at the width of the paper. It's easy to cut and shorten any time later in the project. I estimated where her arm holes should be and how large to make them by holding the paper against her body. I cut the arm holes and cut the back side of the paper so that about 1 inch of overlap was left as it wrapped around her body. I then began to fold the paper with creases around her shoulders and neck to make it more form fitting and comfortable. Once I was happy with the pleats I used masking tape to maintain the shape.
Next, I took of the construction paper and crinkled and twisted it length-wise. I took sections of the twisted paper and used push pins to attach the paper to the paper body and approximate the location to match the twists on Baby Groot's body. After about 4 pieces of paper, I remembered the thin packing paper I had from a recent delivery and decided to try that instead, as the construction paper was very thick and rigid. I even tore the packing paper into thin (approx 9-12") strips to minimize how thick it projected off the body core. I was much happier with the packing paper as I felt it gave a better look, was lighter, cooler and easier to work with.
After trials with different types of craft glue, I finally decided to use hot glue in several spots (about 6-8) per twisted strip of paper to attach to the body core, focusing primarily on the upper and lower ends of the strips. Some areas only needed short strips that did not run the entire length of the body core.
The arms were the next challenge. My first thought was to use a solid tube core and attach twisted strips to it (like the body), but it became quickly clear that it had no mobility and was easily torn. I tried putting relief cuts at the elbows and other points of movement, but it still was prone to tear. My final idea that I used was to take a single, full-width length of packing paper and start at the shoulder (leaving plenty of paper above the shoulder) and wrap the paper around the arm as it worked down towards the hand. I started wrapping from the top of the should towards the back of the arm and then under towards the armpit and around the elbow down past the wrist and hand. This model allowed good mobility at the shoulder, elbow and wrist and did not have the tearing issue. As the paper went past the hand I taper the material. I wrapped the paper so there was an opening at the wrist on the underside so that her hands could be used, but were not readily visible. After the paper tapered, it terminated in a small piece of fake plant. Masking tape was used to hold the form of the arms in the wrapped position, especially at the hand area. Hot glue was used to attach the plant at the end of the arms. When I was satisfied with the arms, I slid the body vest piece over the arms and then used masking tape to attach the arms to the body vest on the inside. Several relief cuts were made in the non-visible parts of the shoulder area of the arm pieces to assist in attaching them to the body vest.
The wraps on the body help it hold it's form very well, especially with the hot glue. Once attached, my daughter could remove her arms from the costume torso and it held it's shape as well. The entire torso body piece was placed on a clothes hanger and I used a medium brush to paint the entire piece the same base color as the mask.
While it was quickly drying, I used a combination of masking tape and hot glue to attach the shoe lace (cut into 4 even pieces) on the upper and lower portions of the body to allow me to tie the back closed.
The final step was again adding details with hot gluing more fake plant and moss material and even several strips of green yarn to simulate vine or new shoots.
Step 4: Ready to Wear at Your Cosplay or Halloween Event
The final step involves donning the costume. It has to be done in order. First, connect your iPod/iPhone to the speaker (or use a Bluetooth speaker instead) and start playing your Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Then pull the suspender straps out of the center hole of the pot. Assist your child into the center opening in the moss covered foam on top of the pot/party tub. Pull the suspenders on her shoulders and adjust the height so she is as mobile as possible. My daughter still had to take short strides and had a lot of difficulty going up and down stairs. Open the rear of the body piece and carefully insert the arms and slide back onto the torso. Make sure the hands are exposed in the opening and able to be used. Tie the two sets of laces at the back to cover the back completely. Slide the mask overhead and down. Practice dancing like Baby Groot! Be prepared for people to point, laugh, and ask to take their pictures with you!
*Be forewarned that paper has very good insulating properties. I live in sunny southern California and my daughter was pretty warm wearing this costume on our warm Halloween evening. Likewise, the mask only had the open top and a small mouth hole, so it was also very warm to wear. Fortunately, there is really no requirement for under clothing, so she was able to get away with wearing just some brown tights (at her insistence - shorts would have been fine) and a tank top with tennis shoes. We stayed in our local neighborhood and took a break half way through to let her cool off a bit.