DIY High Tech Halloween Costumes

October 5, 2020 | Denise

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The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and the grocery store shelves are filling with boxes of mini chocolate bars and bag of chips. That can only mean one thing: it's Halloween season!

Halloween is going to look a little different this year. But we can still partake in the second best part of the holiday: the costumes. (Candy is, of course, the best part and you can be sure that I'll be partaking in that aspect as well). 

Group of children wearing Halloween costumes
The Caped Crusader was popular with this group of parading preschoolers. Stand out from the crowd this year by adding a high tech touch to your costume. Toronto Star Photograph Archive.


Halloween costumes are serious business. If you're like me, you leave it to the last minute and end up with something uninspired and unimpressive. Not this year though. The cat ears and devil horns just aren't cutting it anymore. It's time to take costuming to a higher level – a high tech level, that is! And I don't mean just buying a more expensive costume either. Oh no, I'm talking about adding the bells and whistles, or maybe flashing LED lights, all by yourself!

Now, don't freak out. It's the finished product that's supposed to be scary, not the assembly process. Whether you want to 3D print a custom prop or borrow an Arduino kit to program an LED light display, we're here to help you go high tech this Halloween.


Wearable Technology

As a nerd with a love of crafting and a unique sense of style, I'm completely fascinated by the new fashion possibilities that wearable technology offers. If your day-to-day style choices aren't as out-of-the-box as mine, Halloween is a great time to dip your toe into the waters of wearable tech. 

Make it, Wear it : wearable electronics for makers, crafters, and cosplayers by Sahrye Cohen and Hal Rodriguez

"Make It, Wear It clearly explains cutting-edge sewing, crafting, and electronics techniques and features a series of easy-to-follow projects using readily sourced components and tools. You'll see how to embed the latest technology into your garments, including Arduino, color sensors, and Bluetooth – you'll even explore laser cutting and 3D printing!"


Cover image of Make: wearable electronics :bdesign, prototype and wear your own interactive garments

Make: Wearable electronics: design, prototype and wear your own interactive garments by Kate Hartman

"Perfect for makers new to wearable tech, this book introduces you to the tools, materials, and techniques for creating interactive electronic circuits and embedding them in clothing and other things you can wear. Each chapter features experiments to get you comfortable with the technology and then invites you to build upon that knowledge with your own projects."


Cover image of Practical fashion tech : wearable technologies for costuming, cosplay, and everyday

Practical fashion tech : wearable technologies for costuming, cosplay, and everyday by Joan Horvath, Lon Hoge, and Rich Cameron

"Pull back the curtain on making fun and innovative costumes and accessories incorporating technologies like low-cost microprocessors, sensors and programmable LEDs. This book is a collaboration between two technologists and a veteran teacher, costumer, and choreographer. Regardless of whether you are coming at this from the theater costuming, sewing, or electronics side, the authors will help you get started with the other skills you need."


3D printing

Although 3D printing has now been around for several year, it still feels a little bit like magic to me. I'm lucky enough to work in one of the branches that has 3D printers available. I am forever poking my head into the Digital Innovation Hub to watch as the creations take shape.

There are so many things that you can create with a 3D printer, including custom parts for your Halloween costume. You can download ready-to-print objects from websites such as Thingiverse or try your hand at designing your own using software like Fusion 360 or Tinkercad. Please make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules for 3D printing before coming into a library branch. You are not permitted to print weapons or other materials that violate the Rules of Conduct. 

Cover image of Fusion 360 for Makers : Design your own digital models for 3D printing and CBC fabrication

Fusion 360 for Makers by Lydia Sloan Cline

"Learn how to use Autodesk Fusion 360 to digitally model your own original projects for a 3D printer or a CNC device. Fusion 360 software lets you design, analyze, and print your ideas... Fusion 360 for Makers is written for beginners to 3D modeling software by an experienced teacher."


Cover image of Tinkercad

Tinkercad for Dummies by Shaun C. Bryant

"This free tool gives everyone the power to create 3D models, regardless of your level of experience. With the help of Tinkercad For Dummies, you’ll have the knowledge you need to plan your designs, the know-how to utilize the platform’s drag-and-drop tools to create your design, and the information you need to print or export your designs to use them elsewhere. Tinkercad is for everyone! It’s simple enough to be used by kids and students, but robust enough that an adult could use it to create a complex product prototype."


Cover image of is a database of video tutorials created by industry professionals. They range from beginner to advanced skill levels and cover a wide variety of business and technology topics, including both Fusion 360 and Tinkercad. If you already have some 3D modeling experience, you may want to also check out the tutorials for Sculptris and ZBrush. They are 3D sculpting tools that will allow you to create highly detailed, lifelike models with curved edges and organic shapes. Lynda is free to use if you have a library card and can be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection. 


3D printed helmet inspired by Skyrim video game
Get inspired by this 3D printed helmet inspired by the video game Skyrim. It was designed using Fusion 360 and ZBrush. After printing, it was assembled and then painted. Photo property of J. Milligan. Used with permission.



Arduino is an opensource technology for programmable microcontrollers. Which is a fancy way of saying miniature computer circuits that you can program to follow commands. Arduinos are a great way to add a high tech element to your costume. They are commonly used to add LED light effects to clothing. They can even be programmed so that the lights react to your body's temperature or movement. Depending on how you are incorporating Arduino technology into your costume, you might want to use the Adafruit FLORA circuit board because the hardware is typically smaller than a standard Arduino board.

Cover image of Getting started with Adafruit FLORA : making wearables with an Arduino-compatible electronics platform

Getting started with Adafruit FLORA : making wearables with an Arduino-compatible electronics platform by Becky Stern and Tyler Cooper

"This book introduces readers to building wearable electronics projects using Adafruit's tiny FLORA board: at 4.4 grams, and only 1.75 inches in diameter, and featuring Arduino compatibility, it's the most beginner-friendly way to create wearable projects. This book shows you how to plan your wearable circuits, sew with electronics, and write programs that run on the FLORA to control the electronics. The FLORA family includes an assortment of sensors, as well as RGB LEDs that let you add lighting to your wearable projects."


You'll also find video tutorials for Arduinos at


Props and Accessories

Costuming isn't just about the clothing. Pulling off a truly impressive costume is all about the details, and that means getting your props right too.

Cover image of Make : props and costume armor : create realistic science fiction and fantasy weapons, armor, and accessories

Make : Props and Costume Armor : Create realistic science fiction and fantasy weapons, armor, and accessories by Shawn Thorrson

"Master prop maker Shawn Thorsson uses his unique blend of humor and insight to turn years of painful experience into detailed explanations. He'll show you many of the tools, methods, and processes that you can use to create professional-looking science fiction and fantasy props and armor. The ultimate collision of creative imagination and practical maker skills, making props and costume armor involves sculpting, molding, casting, 3D printing, CNC fabrication, painting, and countless other techniques and technologies."


Cover image of Cosplay crash course : a complete guide to designing cosplay wigs, makeup and accessories

Cosplay Crash Course : A complete guide to designing cosplay wigs, makeup and accessories by Mina Petrović

"Cosplay Crash Course shares favorite tricks and techniques from some of the community's most imaginative artists. Step by step, you'll learn how to turn ordinary fabrics, inexpensive toys, easy-to-manipulate thermoplastics, wigs and other humble materials into original costumes you'll wear with pride. Whether you're making fabulous feathers, metallic armor, wicked horns, lifelike claws or form-fitting boots, this book puts it all within your reach."



If you're going high-tech with your costume, you've got to do the same with your make-up. 

Cover image of Prosthetic make-up artistry for film and television

Prosthetic Make-up Artistry for Film and Television by Clare Ramsey

"This instructional book offers a fascinating insight into the world of prosthetic make-up artistry. It illustrates two- and three-dimensional make-up techniques and covers topics such as: Life casting; Sculpting techniques; Gelatine prosthetics; Airbrushing; Hair punching; Hand-laid hair techniques; Novelty teeth design and manufacture."


A Complete Guide to Special Effects Makeup by Tokyo SFX Makeup Workshop

"Acclaimed as the best book ever published on the subject, A Complete Guide to Special Effects Makeup covers everything from basic facial makeup styles, simple scars and gashes, to masks, molds and cast-making. With clear step by step instructions and hundreds of color photos, it includes stunning conceptual pieces from many of the contributing artists and a section on manga/cosplay hair and makeup."


Ok, let's see if we've covered everything:

  • Custom 3D features? Check!
  • Flashing lights? Check!  
  • Accurate props and accessories? Check!
  • Movie-quality make-up? Check!


That just about covers it. There's only one last question to ask: What are you going to dress up as? No seriously, that's not a rhetorical question. I am always impressed by other people's creativity, and possibly a little nosy, so I want to hear all about you costume ideas. Tell me in the comments below. 

Have a happy, high tech Halloween everyone!