Category Archives: Resources

Online and offline resources to help you in all aspects of propping a show.

Fonts and Logos

Will sent me two sites he uses for making paper props.

The first is Best Brands of the World. This has vector files of the logos for many of the most popular companies around the world. What’s a vector file? It’s a graphic you can resize without getting those jaggy edges. You usually work with them in a vector graphics program, like Adobe Illustrator, but you can still use them in a raster graphics program like Adobe Photoshop. When you open the file, it asks you what size you want to make it. I’ll probably be using this site this week, as I have to build a Starbucks sign.

The second is What the Font. Will says:

You can send a scan of any string of text (it has suggestions for size and length) and it will make a pretty good guess as to what font you’re looking for. This is really handy if you’re trying to duplicate something in a paper prop. They also have a forum that has logos and text that have already been worked out.

Maybe one day, Will can write a tutorial on the newspapers he had to make while I was working at Actors Theatre.

Props Timelines

If you haven’t already found it, be sure to check out the History of Props: A Timeline of Props and Product Usage. If your show is set in 1879, and you need to know whether toilet paper rolls had perforated sheets*, then this is the site for you.

Also, if you head on over to the Designboom history page, you can dig through any number of other historical product timelines, such as the history of shopping carts, the origin of rocking chairs, and a short history of anatomical maps.

If you have any other good historical research resources, let me know. Good research is every prop person’s duty.

*perforated toilet paper rolls were first produced in 1877.

Making indie film props

Lost in Schlock is a blog by Tim Shrum, who creates  props, monsters, and costumes for super low-budget films. The site has been around for awhile, and is chock full of tutorials and guides for all manner of objects. It is geared to the DIY crowd, so almost any prop shop can pull off the projects. I found some great tutorials on how to make Monster Mud, low budget fake heads, and molded gelatin prosthetics. I also found this old video with Leonard Nimoy about making spaceship models out of junk, which I swear I saw as a kid.

Props on Paper

John sent me a link to his Props on Paper site. John is the head of props at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. He has a large number of paper props he has produced from over a dozen shows.

There are a number of other sites which have collections of downloadable paper props. You don’t necessarily need to search for theatre props; there are large communities of replica prop makers and role-playing game prop makers with all manner of documents available online.

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has a number of replica paper props from the early twentieth century, such as telegrams, drivers licenses, and library cards. They also have a nice section on making paper props.

P.I. Vintage has a lot of photographs from their Spy and Private-Eye Museum. Some are too small to be useful, but clicking through will find you many gems.

The Propnomicon blog has a number of posts on paper props.

A great source for researching vintage ephemera is eBay. Though it can be hit or miss, it’s one of the few sites where hundreds of people are uploading photographs of actual historic relics. You can search for your specific prop need, or search for “vintage ephemera“, or browse the Collectibles category.

You can also find a large number of actual historical documents online, which you can adapt for your use. For example, say you’re dressing a New York City apartment building, and want some realistic documents hanging in the lobby.

Continue reading Props on Paper

Happy Friday 13th!

I wanted to talk about Halloween today. It’s a long ways off, but since Friday the 13th is kind of like mini-Halloween, I figured I can get away with it. What does Halloween have to do with props? It’s the most DIY holiday; every year, millions of people make their own costumes and decorations. It’s probably the biggest season for amateur prop-building. With the internet, there is all sorts of pages filled with photographs, tutorials, guides, inspiration, and discussions.

This is not just useful to the props artisan who needs advice on how to build a skeleton for a show; with enough creativity, you can adapt many of these props for non-Halloween challenges. A how-to guide for building a vampire who rises out of a coffin can be altered to make flowers rise out of the ground; a tutorial for a homemade fog machine can be used for any number of effects onstage.

So here are some links to keep you busy for awhile:

The Monster Page of Halloween Links – This is a huge list of links, some of them good, some of them, not so much. It’s divided into sections, so be sure to scroll past the long list of individual projects at the beginning. The last section links to some more general tutorials.

Instructables – They do a good job of promoting Halloween-related material, so there’s quite a good deal of tutorials here. The DIY Halloween 2008 and DIY Halloween 2007 contest pages are some good jumping-off points for delving into what’s available here, or you can just search for everything tagged with “Halloween“.

Halloween Prop Building For The DIY Home Handyman and Beginners Alike – A much smaller and more selective list of links to tutorials and resources around the internet. The descriptions of the sites are a great help too.

Books – I haven’t read any books on Halloween prop building, so I can’t really recommend any. However, you can head over to Amazon, and do your own research; their recommendation engine is pretty top-notch, and checking out a user-made list, such as So you’d like to… Have Great Halloween Festivities, will give you a quick introduction to some of the more popular books on this subject.

I know this list seems short, but these links are merely gateways to much larger lists of tutorials and resources throughout the web. I hope these prove useful; at the very least, I hope it has gotten you thinking about alternative sources for information about building props.