How to build your dragon! Part 1 of 2 (Smaug’s Head)

My friends and I always participate in McMennamin’s Kennedy School Tolkien Birthday Bash which includes a full viewing of the extended version of LOTR, live radio re-enactments of The Hobbit by the Willamette Radio Workshop, themed food, dancing, and, our favorite…the COSTUME CONTEST! This year, we really wanted to blow other Tolkien fans out of the water (us Ringers really like to deliver) and decided to take on the huge task of building a giant Smaug costume that would fit three people. I, Rin, was left in charge of the head…I don’t know about you, but I haven’t done paper mache in about 20 years, so this was a hugely daunting task!

Materials used to make Smaug’s Head:

Total Cost: About $20.00


I started this project with two balls of taped up newspaper roughly the size of 18 inches X 6 inches in a cylindrical shape, and 6 inches by 4 inches, also cylindrical.  I paper mache’d over the tops of these to create a thick shell that would be both durable and functional as I started to build the head.

After the paper and glue had cured, I cut the smaller cylinder in half length wise to create the head (above), then I cut the top off of the bigger cylinder in order to attach the head. Keep the circle that is cut off of as it will be used to round out the top of the head (seen below).

The head assembled.

I then attached the teeth (cut from cardboard) into both the top and bottom of the head and secured it with quite a bit of masking tape (below) so that I could place more layers of mache newspaper over the top.

Getting ready to do one additional         layer of mache.


Attaching the horns and nose holes!

After the next layer has cured (about 12 hours), I applied white gesso over the entire head to prime it and get it ready for paint.  After I had put on the gesso, I realized that it was missing several important features: a head ridge, nose ridges, and eye sockets! I fabricated these using more paper and masking tape and then primed them to take the paint as well.

It’s finally starting to look like a dragon!

After the gesso had completely dried, I mixed red, yellow, and white acrylic paints until I came up with the perfect color. I painted all of Smaug, paying careful attention to getting all of the nooks and crannies to create an evenly colored finish.

The gesso is on and the first layer of paint is being applied.
Second layer of paint!

After the red paint was completely dried, I painted the inside of the mouth and inserted the tongue (made out of wrapped up newspaper and masking tape). Then I colored the eyes yellow after priming them to make sure the color was very vibrant.

The eyes are colored and the tongue is installed!


After the base coat of paint dried, I gave it a solid second coat to brighten up the color and then sponge-painted a mix of black and red onto the head to give it more depth and definition.

I am fire, I am death!!!

I think I nailed the head (and I plan to mount it in my new LOTR themed room that Pen made me later this week!) Sound off below to let me know what you think! We would also love to see pictures of any DIY Tolkien projects you have completed. Email me at and you could be featured on our blog!

Click here to see part 2: The making of Smaug’s Body!

Coming Soon: Tolkien Day Adventures!

Rindell Fairbairn

My name is Rindell, Rindell Fairbairn, Rin for short, and you have somehow managed to find Hangry Hobbits, so, welcome! I hail from the rollin’ green hills and my cozy hobbit hole in the Shire is where I hang my cloak. My mother is Primrose Proudfoot and my father is Falco Fairbairn. My evenin’s are spent goin’ with Pen down to the Green Dragon and getting’ a cold refreshin’ pint (they come in pints in the Shire, now, too!) and relaxin’ in the sun with my feet in the dirt and my back against a tall tree, “Old Toby” halfling’s leaf in hand (get it fresh from Pen’s garden), and it’s always a party to remember when Gandalf shows up with some of his fireworks! Though I’m not one to ever turn away from a shortcut to mushrooms, very rarely do I set foot outside of the Shire…if home is where the heart is, then my heart is in these the woods, the fields, the little rivers and grassy knolls, reliable wildflowers, and, of course, second breakfasts.

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[…] When Rin threw out the idea of going to Tolkien Day at McMenamin’s Kennedy School dressed as a 3 person Smaug, I said okay, sure – you get it started, and when I see that you’ve made something, I’ll get going on the sewing. I didn’t really want to invest my time, energy or money into a Smaug costume without knowing that Rin was going to do the goopy part (cuz I’ve also not done paper maché since the second grade, and what I made then was a rattle – not nearly as elaborate as a dragon head). […]

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