I really wanted to go all out with an Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter Tea Party for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. Party props and details were key to capturing the look and feel of my super ambitious vision for this shindig. I was not going to let my reality of being on a slim budget cramp my style. So, the challenge throughout was to be super resourceful with what I could realistically get my hands on without breaking the bank.
For this project, I used:
- Paper/Sketch Pad
- Transparency Sheets
- Overhead Projector
- Painter’s Tape
- Poster board – Foamcore, cardboard, wood paneling, or a sheet would also work depending on the look and feel you want to create for your finished props. I experimented with foam core boards and tri-fold cardboard for this project.
- Paint – The type of paint depends on your preference. I used acrylic craft paint in lots of different colors and different brands.
- Paint brushes (or I suppose you could finger paint if that floats your boat)
- Black Paint pen (I used an oil based acrylic paint pen to outline the final painted images)
- Exacto knife
I sketched out the characters, and then I traced them with a marker onto transparency paper. You could also just print the images of your choice right onto transparency paper (but I like to do things the hard way). I used blue tape to attach poster board onto the wall in the dining room (my favorite place to work).
After tracing the images onto the poster boards, I used craft store acrylic paints to “color” in the images. Then I outlined everything with a black paint pen. The oil paint Sharpie pens were my favorite for this. I actually started coloring the images with colored paint pens, but (a) it was taking forever, and (b) those little pens are pricey.
The paint absorbs super fast on the foam boards, as you can see in the quote piece below (not technically a character, but totally helpful learning experience).
The poster boards were easier to work with than the foam boards and really easy to cut out. I would recommend the poster boards for designs that require some fancy outline cutting, since you could totally just use some scissors for the task.
Don’t mind my munchkin’s bare feet in the background. She kept trying to sport this guy as a mask.
My favorite “canvas” for this project was definitely the cardboard. I used tri-fold science display boards, but I’m sure old cardboard boxes would yield similar results. The paint was easier to work with on these, and it left a cleaner finish too.
General craft stores carry most of this stuff. I get most of my supplies from Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnn’s. If you aren’t near any of them, Amazon is a great place to grab most of this stuff online. Here’s a breakdown of where I got my supplies for this project:
- Paper/Sketch Pad– Target (you can pretty much use any kind of paper)
- Transparency Sheets – I had a few on hand from my teaching days that I bought from a recycled teachers’ goods store. Otherwise, I would have just bought a small pack from any office supply store or I might have ordered them online from Amazon.
- Markers – If you’re tracing the images onto the transparency sheets, you can use any kind of marker. I tend to use the ones from the dollar store for most of my projects. Just be careful as you trace because they do “smudge.”
- Overhead Projector – I initially borrowed one from my mom who works at a school, but halfway through my cousin (who is super awesome) scavenged one from the local thrift shop. You could technically get fancy and project the image straight from your laptop if you have one of those awesome techy projectors that connects directly to your computer.
- Painter’s Tape – I used blue tape from the hardware store. They also carry it at most craft stores and grocery stores.
- Poster board – Foamcore, cardboard, wood paneling, or a sheet would also work depending on the look and feel you want to create for your finished props. I experimented with foam core boards and tri-fold cardboard for this project. I found my supplies at the local Dollar Tree.
- Black Paint pen– I have seen these at Target, but I got mine with a coupon from Michael’s.
- Paint – I have accumulated a collection of these little bottles. I buy them when they are on sale from Michael’s.
- Paint brushes – Local hardware store, Target art supply section, local craft store.
- Exacto knife – Any local hardware store or specialty craft store should carry these.
Some notes on the boards I used:
The foam core boards were great for the Guardsmen but not so great for any of the other characters. The process for those little guys was a bit different as no paint was involved. Check out the guardsmen tutorial for details on how he came together. The Queen of Hearts is a case in point with her broken heart. The foam boards/foam core tends to warp with the paint and is a bit challenging to cut. It also absorbed the paint and I found I had to paint more layers to get an even finish. I would avoid using it if I had to do this over.
I used poster board for the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, and the White Rabbit, which worked just fine. If you plan on propping your character props up, you might want to use a sturdier cardboard. These guys were mounted onto the wall, so it was perfect. They were light enough to hold with tape through the entire party and extremely easy to cut out.
I used the tri-fold cardboard science fair boards for the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb photo prop. It was perfect for this project. It held up fairly well and wasn’t as much of a hassle to cut around. In the end, I painted the Mad Hatter on this type of cardboard too. I was able to prop him up in an old suitcase, and the look was perfect for displaying the mini tophat favors. The cardboard also did a great job of “holding” the paint – not too much absorbing, so I didn’t have to paint layer upon layer, and I could spread the paint much easier with a paintbrush.
You could totally use this “method” for any themed props. I might just do that for a Sofia Princess Party I’ve got coming up soon. ;)
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