Monday, October 25, 2010

The Making of Thomas

My son is a Thomas fanatic, so I figured if I could make him a Thomas costume I'd be his hero forever. I had seen some Thomas costumes in the store, but thought they were pretty boring. So I searched online, came across, and let my imagination get the better of me. I worked on my son's costume over 2 weeks (I only had a small amount of time each day to work on it). My son watched Thomas begin as boxes and turn into his favorite train costume. I had actually planned to surprise him, but decided he'd enjoy watching the Thomas transformation and even "helping" me out a bit (and he really did love it). The end result was awesome!!! Here's how I did it...

  • Medium Box w/ Lid
  • Shoe Box w/ Lid
  • Round Boxes w/ Lid
  • Tube
  • Paper Dessert Plates
  • Straps
  • Construction Paper
  • Extra Cardboard
  • Tissue Paper
  • Blue, Black, and Gray Paint
  • Black Marker
  • Carbon Paper
  • Glue
  • Paper Tape
  • Extra Strength Mounting Tape
  • Extra Strength Velcro

  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Paper Cutter
  • Utility Knife
  • Computer & Printer (optional)

Step 1: I started by deciding on my materials. The hard part was keeping Thomas proportional. I started with an Office Depot box that was 17 1/2" L x 11 1/2" W x 9" H. I cut a rectangle in the bottom of the box large enough for my 3 year old, Raymond, to stand in. I then placed the box upside down (open at bottom) to form Part A. This same box had a lid, which I cut in half to make Parts B and C. Part B is open where it attaches to Parts A and D. It is also open on the bottom due to being cut in half. I used paper tape to secure Part B to Part A. I cut the remaining half box lid to create Part C. It is open on the bottom and where it attaches to Part A (which is where it was cut in half). I secured it to Part A with paper tape.

Step 2: I used a small shoe box with a lid for Part D (it happened to also be 11 1/2" W). I secured the shoe box to Parts A and B with paper tape, making sure that the lid was able to be taken off and put back on so that we could use the shoe box as a candy "bag". I then covered the entire formation (Parts A through D) in paper tape to reinforce it, and painted it Thomas Blue. Taping the box before painting covered up the writing on the boxes and let me get away with just one coat of paint.

Step 3: I had planned to use styrofoam circles to make Thomas' neck (Parts E) and face (Part F), but the styrofoam was much more expensive than I expected. I did, however, come across cardboard boxes with lids at Michael's that were the perfect size (7 7/8" round, 3" deep) and were only $3 (example boxes pictured above). I bought two and prepared to tape them together with paper tape (without their lids). Before taping them together, I cut a hole just barely large enough to fit Thomas' smokestack (Part G). The smokestack was a Crystal Light container (the type that holds 6 small tubs that each make 2 quarts) covered in paper tape. I then taped the boxes together and fit the smokestack into its hole. This formation (Parts E and G) was spray painted black.

Step 4: Thomas' face (Part F) was simply the lid of one of the round boxes. I spray painted it gray. I got a head-on image of Thomas from the Thomas and Friends website and printed his face (after resizing the picture to make his face 7 7/8" round). I then traced Thomas' face onto the lid using homemade carbon paper (paper that I covered with pencil). I printed Thomas' face a second time, and cut out his eyes and mouth. I glued these in place on the painted lid, then used a black Sharpie to outline the rest of Thomas' face (using the previously traced lines as a guide). The lid was then placed onto Thomas' neck. The whole formation (Parts E-F-G) was taped to Parts A-B-C-D using extra strength mounting tape (seriously strong stuff!!!).

Step 5: The designs on Thomas' sides were made with construction paper. When necessary I created a design on my computer and printed it onto the right color paper so that I had guide lines for cutting. This was especially helpful for Thomas' whistles. I cut red construction paper for the trim along Thomas' bottom edge. I cut circles out of cardboard and spray painted them black to make Thomas bumpers (two in the front and two in the back). Thomas' wheels are paper dessert plates painted Thomas Blue. The "rims" were printed onto blue construction paper, cut out, and pasted onto the plates. I created 6 identical wheels, and used my super mounting tape to attach them. I also covered the top of the shoe box with black construction paper and cut a flap in the top to put candy through. Finally, I crumpled up some tissue paper, spray painted it black to resemble coal, and taped it to the top of Part B.

Step 6: I thought I was pretty much done, until my husband (ever the engineer), realized that Raymond would have to figure out how to put his candy in the shoe box BEHIND him. We decided it would be much better if Raymond could drop his candy into his smokestack. So we took Thomas's face off (Part F), cut the bottom out of the smokestack (Part G) so that it was simply a pipe open on both ends, and cut out the box floor between the two round boxes (Parts E). Now Raymond could drop his candy down the smokestack and it would all collect in Thomas' neck. We could then take Thomas' face off to get the candy out. GENIOUS!!! By the way, if anyone decides to do it earlier than we did. It was quite hard to do with the whole thing already assembled.

Step 7: The final thing to do was add the straps that would keep Thomas on Raymond. I bought red straps and extra strength velcro with an adhesive backing. I attached the straps as shown in the pictures. You'll notice that the straps go not only over Raymond's shoulder's, but also around his body. This helps keep the straps up and the costume balanced so it doesn't shift backwards (the back is heavier than the front). I also should note that I made the straps adjustable since I don't know how bulky Raymond's clothing will be (that will depend on what the weather is).

VoilĂ ! Thomas was done! A few things to note...I tried very hard to keep Thomas as light weight as possible but he's still a good weight. I also made a costume for my 1 year old, Ryan. I will post about that in the near future. The two costumes combined cost about $40 in materials. I tried as much as possible to use items I had in the house. My biggest expenditures were paint and velcro.

I'll post pictures of Raymond in his Thomas costume following our neighborhood Halloween party this Saturday.

*** Updated THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2010 at 10:32 PM ***

Below are the templates I created when making Thomas.

1. 2.

3. 4.

1. Thomas' Face
2. Thomas' Whistles (print on yellow paper)
3. Thomas' Windows and #1 (print on yellow paper)
4. Thomas' Wheels/Rims


  1. Wow you are awesome!! I am going to try this for my son's book parade!!My son is a Thomas freak~thanks so much!!

  2. This is such a great costume and tutorial - thanks so much for taking the time to post the instructions. I am making this costume right now (it's really fun), and I was wondering if you would mind sharing the graphics that you mentioned for making the rims on the wheels and whistles and other details? Thanks again!

  3. Thank you both for your compliments. You made my night!!! I added my templates to the end of the post. Please let me know if you have any trouble with them. Cheers!

  4. Thanks you are too sweet!! Where can I find paper tape? Is there another name for it?

  5. You should be able to find it at your local office supply store, like Staples or Office Max. It's most commonly used for packing boxes, so even the post office or UPS store may have it. Here's a link to some paper tape on Staples' website. I'm pretty sure I bought mine at the section with painter's tape and other heavy duty tapes. You usually have to wet paper tape to activate the sticky side.

  6. THANK YOU for taking the time to make this tutorial! I made this for my daughter this year and it turned out FANTASTIC! Everyone was really impressed! :) You are AWESOME! :)

  7. *mckenzie* you are very, very welcome! I've actually had a rough day and you just brought a big smile to my face. Thank you for your kind words!

  8. I love this and was looking for an idea for a Thomas costume for my son this year! You did an amazing job. Did you use the brown paper tape that needs to be wet to stick? Was it easy to paint on?


  9. Hi Kristen. Thanks. Yes, I did use the paper tape you wet first and yes, it was very easy to paint. Have fun making your son's Thomas costume!!!

  10. I am so excited that I found this tutorial! My son LOVES trains! He's only two, so he doesn't really know the difference between Thomas and other Trains, but this is amazing. I am on my way to the store right now to get the supplies. Did you use Spray paint or brush on paint?
    Thank you for sharing your creativity!

  11. Hi Carla! I used spray paint for everything that is black and a brush for the Thomas blue. Thanks for your comment. It always makes me smile to hear from other moms trying to make their kid's dreams come true!

  12. This is awesome!!! I just finished my son's Thomas costume and it's thanks to your tips. May I ask where did you buy your straps?

    1. Hi. Thank you! I've got a big goofy smile on my face right now. So glad to read comments like yours. I bought the straps at Walmart in the crafts section.

  13. Thanks for a great tutorial. I used yours and combine with the other site and made steam train instead of Thomas for my 3 yrs old son. I added batteries operate light in the front face if the train as head light and candy go in smoke stack and come out from the front. It was a big hit everywhere we went. We even won 1st place costume contest from our neighborhood chamber of commerce. Thanks for a very great tutorial. My son loves his train costume. I would have attached the picture if I know how. Thanks again

    1. Hello. Your steam train sounds amazing!!! Such a great idea to add a light in the face!!! Congratulations on winning 1st place. I don't know how to add a picture to the comments either, but if you would like to email it to me I would love to add it to my post. You can send it me at

  14. I am really enthralled with your effort which you have so evidently perfected into this content. I have also liked that you have presented your own point of view with this topic, especially while making your points very much clear with this topic

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  15. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to do this tutorial!! You are a great mommy! I'm going to make this for my son this year! Is is going to be soooo excited! Thanks again!

    1. Thank you so much!!! I know he'll love it!!!

  16. How did you make the back red scoop on the bottom? I see how the front one was made with the cut in half box lid but not the back one. This is a very fantastic idea!

    1. Hi Heather. The red scoop is actually just construction paper, both in the front and in the back. As you noticed, in the front it is reinforced by the half box lid. In the back the red construction paper is not reinforced.

  17. Hi Nerissa - THIS IS FABULOUS! Thank you so much for sharing how you put this together. Quick question: how did you attach the straps to the box? Did you use mounting tape? If so, is there a brand of mounting tape that you would recommend? Thank you again!

    1. Thank you so much Jenn! I used adhesive backed velcro from Walmart to attach the straps to the box (it was easier to get on by removing the straps). I don't remember the exact item I bought, but the packaging looked very much like the item at this link Enjoy!

  18. Thank you so much for your tutorial... I am trying to print out your templates but for some reason it doesn't print out on a fully page. Is there a way to print it out?

    1. Hmmm... For me they print fully on a 8.5 x 11 page. You might be able to choose an option from the "Print" popup that let you fit it on a page (it might say "Scale to Fit"). If that doesn't work, email me and I'll email you the images in a different format.