You can create talons that are like finger covers, or you can attach claws directly to your fingernails for a more beast-like effect. The type of claws you make will depend on the overall look you’re going for and the amount of work you want to put into the claws.
Nail claws are much easier to create. However, they cannot be taken on and off at will. If you’re not used to wearing long nails, they may get in the way of holding things. Talons can easily be removed when necessary, but it will take a little trial and error to get them the correct shape for your fingers.
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Method 1: Polymer clay claws
Clay claws are fairly easy to make since all you really need is some polymer clay and some form of adhesive. The goal here is to create claws that you can attach directly to your nails and then remove them after you’re finished wearing the costume. Polymer clay comes in just about any color you can think of, but you can also paint once it’s hardened to create any kind of effect you want.
This method is great for creating claws for many feral characters that have unruly nails, non-human character races (such as dragonborn characters or some tieflings), or for human forms of beast characters (such as pokemon gijinka costumes). Evil mages and witches can also look great with crazy claws as part of their costumes.
- Use acrylic nails as the base, and shape a small amount of polymer clay around the nails. You may need to knead the clay for a bit to soften it. You can also use your own nails if you prefer. I find it easier to use an acrylic nail as the base so that I can use both hands when molding the clay. The nail base also makes it easier to apply the nails later on.
- Bake the polymer clay. Most brands of polymer clay are baked at a fairly low temperature (around 275ºF or 135ºC). Acrylic is a fairly durable plastic and shouldn’t melt until it reaches about 320ºF, so in most cases, the claws can be baked in the oven with the acrylic nail base. However, it’s best to test this out first to be sure. If the acrylic nails melt in the test, you can remove them and glue them back in after the clay has baked and hardened.
- Add a glaze to the clay nails. Polymer clay naturally has a matte, dull surface. To create a shiny claw effect, apply a polymer clay glaze with a soft brush. You can also take this opportunity to paint your claws.
- Use eyelash glue or spirit gum to attach the nails. After your nails are finished, you can attach them directly to your fingernails. Do NOT use the nail glue that comes with acrylic nails (unless you want the claws to stay on for a couple of weeks). Instead, you’ll want to use a less permanent adhesive. Spirit gum is typically what’s used to adhere prosthetics to the body, but you can also try eyelash glue if you happen to have that on hand.
You can use other types of clay if you are more familiar with something else. However, the benefit of polymer clay is that it does not shrink when it’s baked and hardened. If you create the claws to fit on your fingers, they will remain the same size. Many other types of clay will shrink as they harden. Polymer clay also tends to maintain a pretty smooth appearance, which is ideal for creating nails.
Method 2: Layered EVA Talons (that move)
If you want to create talons that you can wear and move around with your fingers, EVA foam (or craft foam) will be the easiest material to use. You will create three separate pieces and create hinges around your finger joints so that the talons will easily stay on your fingers and you can move them around as you move your hand.
This method of creating claws is ideal for characters who use this type of talon as a weapon in games or for creating humanized versions of a dragon or large bird since these can stylistically represent their talons.
- Paper and pencil
- EVA foam (2mm) or craft foam
- Hot glue or other adhesive
- String, thread, or paper fasteners (brads)
- Acrylic paint (flexible)
- Draw the shape of your talons on paper. Before creating your talons with foam, test them out on a plain piece of paper, so you know they will fit.
- Use the basic shape in the image as a guide
- Use a measuring tape to measure around your finger. This should be the width of your shapes
- You should be able to bend your finger around the bottom side. Cut it out of the paper to test it.
- To create symmetrical pieces, cut them out of the paper on the fold.
- Test the talon pattern and create similar pieces resized for your other fingers. Cut all the pieces out of paper and make sure they fit around your finger and you can still bend your finger on the joints. Then you want to repeat the process to create the same shapes at slightly different sizes for your other fingers.
- Cut the pattern pieces out of EVA or craft foam. When you’re sure your paper pattern fits, trace the pieces onto EVA foam and cut it out.
- Glue the bottom edge of each piece. Using hot glue, contact cement, or any other type of adhesive, glue the bottom edge of each of the pieces. For the pointed tip, you may want to taper the end with scissors so you can glue it into a point.
- Poke holes along the top edges (as shown). These will be the joints that you use to hold the talon together and make it bend with your finger.
- Paint the talon. I forgot to paint it until after I’d constructed the talon in the next step. But it’s a lot easier to paint the pieces before they’re connected to each other. Use whatever kind of acrylic paint you want, but flexible paint often works best with EVA foam since it won’t crack as the foam bends.
- Use string or small paper fasteners to connect the pieces. You can use string or thread to tie the hinges together. Tuck the extra length of thread to the inside of the talon. You can also use mini brads (paper fasteners) if you have any on hand.