How to Make a Wire Puppet

Learn how to make a wire puppet from Joe Vena of the Children's Museum of the Arts in this stop motion animation tutorial from Howcast.

So, how do you make a good, sturdy puppet for animation? There are a number of ways that you could create a puppet for your animation. I like to start with a wire armature and build from that wire armature. So, I take some aluminum wire, kind of a thinner gauge like this. And I’ve rolled out a pretty long piece.

And I’m going to fold that piece this way and then cut it so I now have this length of wire. I’m going to start at the top. The loose ends meet down at the bottom. I’m going to take my finger and my thumb, and pinch and twist the wire to create a kind of a neck for my puppet. I’m going to then take another piece of the wire, loop it out, pinch there at the base of the neck, and twist my puppet’s first arm. When I pinch out the the next arm from the wire, I’m going to do it with a longer piece of wire. I’m also going to measure up and make sure that the arm is roughly matched with the other one, and we’ll pinch and twist that as well. Now that we have two arms and our neck, we will pinch and twist the body. Next I will roll in the wire, wrap it back in to the back, and this will be for the first leg. You want to tuck those loose ends in once you roll them in there. It’s not a bad thing to give your wire armature decent-sized feet so he can stand. You can always reduce the size of the foot later, but at least to start, you might want some of the extra wire there. Measure out for your next leg.

There. And twist that in. Twist. Next leg. And you’re starting to get a sort of a humanoid form, human form. This of course could also become a four-legged creature of some kind if you just bend it down. So, the wire acts as a kind of a skeleton for your puppet. But if you’d like to bulk it out a bit, you can use Styrofoam, and you can cut that Styrofoam down if you need to. You can also shape Styrofoam with your fingers. If you want to give your puppet a belly, a chest, you can add that. And with some masking tape, lock it onto your armature. We’ll go back to him standing up for a moment. Another thing you can do is add a little wood to the leg to give your armature a knee. This also strengthens the legs of the armature. I’m using a very thin dowel here, but you could use bamboo skewers or even toothpicks if they’re long enough. I’ve got the wood against the leg and I’m going to tape it on. You should always have masking tape within reach when you’re building puppets. Really, when you’re building anything.

And I’m wrapping the tape around the wire and the wood. I want to get exactly the length of the leg covered. And I wrap that tape in nice and tight with no air pockets. Make sure that the mechanics of it work. I’m going to break that leg off the bottom there, so now I have this straight leg, and I’ll adjust it and then break the knee in there as well. So, this is the only place where that will bend, otherwise it stays straight. You can do this for the arms as well. It helps to do it for both legs.

Here’s another similar guy. He has both of his legs already on there, and we’ve taped in a nice, big belly for him. So, here we have him. A beautiful armature filled out with some Styrofoam and some wood, all ready to go. He’s standing, which is a good sign. We haven’t even added any clay yet to his feet and he’s already standing. And he’s ready to become the character he’s meant to be.