Tutorial: How to Make Dragon or Bat Wings

tutorial: wings for cosplay

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Making cellophane wings is slightly more difficult than other methods, but it’s still doable for the determined beginner. This method creates shining, see-through wings that look somewhat ephemeral. It’s best used for open wing structures, such as fairy wings, bat wings, or dragon wings.

cellophane wings

Supplies you will need for this tutorial:

draw the wings
Draw out the wings and include any extra veins or decorations that should be part of the final design.

Step 1: Draw your design

Again, the first step is to draw out your design. Tape as much paper together as you need to get the size you want, but remember, the larger your wings are, the less likely the wire will hold its shape. If you want very large wings, you’ll want to go with a thicker and sturdier wire.

When drawing out your design, make sure to include the top edge of the wing along with any additional designs or veins that you want to show up within the wing structure.

create the wire structure
Use the thicker wire to create the top of the wings. Then use a thinner wire for the details and attach them using tape. Finish by wrapping the entire wire in tape to give it a uniform look (you’ll be able to see it through the cellophane).

Step 2: Create your wire outline

For the top structure that holds the shape of your wings, I recommend using a 9 gauge wire. For the veins and details, I used a smaller 12 gauge wire since this part doesn’t have to support the wing structure at all.

  1. Pull the wire off the spool and shape it against the drawn wing shape. Don’t cut the wire yet.
  2. Add an additional five or six inches to create a gap between your first wing and the second one. Still don’t cut it. You’re creating the two wings in one single piece so that they will stay upright more easily.
  3. Flip the wire over and shape it against your drawing to make the top of the second wing. Now you can cut the wire.
  4. Use the thinner wire to create the veins or decorations inside your wings. Give each vein piece about two inches extra. Use duct tape or electrical tape to connect the small wire to your larger structure. Repeat for every additional vein or decoration.
  5. Wrap the remainder of the main wing structure with tape. This is mainly to give it a more uniform look.
adding cellophane to the wings
Lay the cellophane flat and spray it with glue. Add the wire wings and press it down. Add another layer of glue and roll the layer of cellophane over top.

Step 3: Adhere cellophane to the wing base

Here is the part that gets a little bit tricky. You’re going to need to sandwich your wire wing structure between two pieces of cellophane while creating as few bubbles as possible.

You can get cellophane or cello-wrap in many different colors at a craft store, or just use clear cellophane wrap. The end result will not be a crystal clear wing, but instead, it will have a somewhat foggy or sparkling appearance.

To attach the cellophane to the wings:

  1. Cover the floor. Use cardboard or plastic bags to protect the floor. You’re going to use a spray-on adhesive to glue your wings together.
  2. Place a sheet of cellophane on your working surface. Keep the sheet as flat as possible (I used fabric weights to prevent it from rolling up). Make sure it’s large enough to cover your wings.
  3. Spray glue on the cellophane and press your wing structure on top. Press all of the veins onto the cellophane and add more glue if they aren’t sticking. Wait for the glue to dry.
  4. Spray glue over the cellophane and wings, then take the rest of your cellophane roll and slowly unroll it on top. You want to sandwich the wire wings in between the two layers of cellophane.
  5. Press the cellophane down around the wire. Try to avoid making bubbles as much as possible. Wait a few minutes for the glue to dry before moving the wings.
cleaning up the cellophane edges
Cut out your desired design leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch all around. Glue down the top with hot glue.

Step 4: Clean up the edges of the wings

Now you have two big sheets of cellophane on your wire wings, it’s not very pretty. So, we have to trim the cellophane to make it look like the wings we want. 

  1. Cut the open ends of the wings according to your design. In my case, I’m making bat-like wings, so I’m mimicking the webbing between the wire veins. You can trace your original design onto the cellophane first to make sure you cut it accurately.
  2. Cut about a quarter to a half-inch away from the upper seam along the main wire. If you cut too closely, the cellophane will split and it might start to peel apart.
  3. Use hot glue to slowly fold the top edge of the cellophane down over the wing structure. The hot glue will melt the edge of the cellophane as you go. Be careful, I burned my finger doing this part so you might have to use a toothpick to keep you from having to touch the hot glue.
wing decorations
You can burn holes in the cellophane using an incense stick. You can also paint it, but remember to add a sealant over the paint or it will rub off.

Step 5: Decorate the wings

Now that your basic wings are finished, you can go ahead and decorate as much as you want. What you do here will depend entirely on the look you’re going for. If you’re happy with how your wings look, you can skip this step altogether.

You can easily burn holes in the cellophane to create a weather-worn or fantasy-style look. light a match, candle, or incense stick and place it underneath an area of the cellophane you want to put a hole in. As the heat gets close, the cellophane will melt and eventually form a hole. You can increase the size of the hole or create rough, ragged edges on your wings. I recommend practicing on a scrap piece of cellophane first so you don’t mess up your wings.

You can also paint on cellophane. But remember, unless you are using translucent paint, this is going to create opaque areas on the wings. You’ll need to use a layer of finishing paint on top to prevent the acrylic paint from rubbing off of the cellophane. It can create a cool effect, but it might not be what you’re looking for.

If you want to color the cellophane but keep it see-through, try using alcohol-based markers. I recommend testing it on a scrap piece of cellophane first to make sure the effect is what you’re looking for.

creating a harness
Create a harness that can be tucked into the back of your shirt. Add wire around the middle of the wings and cover it with tape to keep the wire from poking you.

Step 6: Create the wing harness

For these wings, I created a harness that can be tucked down the back of your shirt or dress. You can also choose to attach ribbon or elastic and attach it that way, like I did for the fabric butterfly wings.

  1. Cut a 12-inch length of 9 gauge wire. It doesn’t have to be exact.
  2. Form a deep ‘U’ shape and attach it to the middle of your wings. Twist the wires tightly together so that the wings don’t droop.
  3. Cover the wires in duct tape or electric tape. This will prevent the pointy wire ends from scratching up your back.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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