How to make an illuminated Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Art

Don’t freak out people!

 Growing up in Hawaii, I was never really exposed to Mexican culture. The focus was always on Asian, Hawaiian, or U.S. traditions and celebrations. Then, we moved to California and I was suddenly exposed to the Mexican culture and some of their cultural celebrations. One tradition that I found interesting was the celebration of The Days of the Dead, which runs from October 31st through November 2nd.

I know some of you don’t care for skulls, but for some reason I find Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls to be pretty and I love the bright colors that are often used in the decorations for this holiday. It’s believed that deceased relatives come to give guidance and counsel during the Days of the Dead. Thus, Mexicans don’t look at the Days of the Dead as days to fear, but rather as days to celebrate life. You can read about the history of this day on the University of New Mexico’s website, which I think does a great job at explaining the history of this holiday – there’s nothing evil or scary about it.

Since I wanted to do something different this Halloween and I liked the colors of the sugar skulls, I decided to make one for myself. I already had a large white felt skull from the Dollar Tree and decided to use it to make a Lighted Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Art for our mantle. And guess what?! I LOVE IT! The pictures really don’t do it justice because it just sparkles in the light and is so pretty.

Want to make one of your own? Keep reading and learn how – it’s not hard, but it is time-consuming. Of course, I had a helper separate all the gem stones by color and size, which helped a lot 🙂 So if you plan on making this, recruit some helpers and assembly will go much faster.

How to Make an Illuminated Sugar Skull Art

Supplies:

  • Felt Skull (found at Dollar Tree)
  • Black foam core board
  • (2) Black glitter fabric sheets
  • (3) bunches of red roses (found at Dollar Tree)
  • Black frame with glass removed (my frame measures 18.5″ x 20.5″)
  • Gem stone flower sticker
  • Gem stones of various sizes and colors (I used a value package with tons of mixed stones)
  • Hot glue or tacky glue
  • Pen
  • Tape
  • Scrap Paper
  • Scissors
  • (2)LED battery operated light strings (optional – found at Hobby Lobby)
  • Glitter 3-D fabric paint (optional)

Directions:

Supplies
not all supplies shown

1. Plug in hot glue gun.

2. Decide on a pattern for the skull. To make assembly easier, sort out the gem stones into the size and colors you want to use.

Gluing Stones3. Dry place the gem stones before gluing them down. This will help see if adjustments need to made in spacing the stones out or if you need to use different sized stones.  *** I used 3D glitter fabric paint and hot glue to place stones. The 3D glitter fabric paint helps to fill in gaps between the stones to make it look like a continuous line – be generous with the fabric paint and push gem into it. The hot glue was used when placing single stones.***

Template of hair collage

4. Get some paper and tape it together so it is big enough to span the entire upper portion of the skull. Place the skull on top of the paper and trace the upper portion of the skull, including the eye sockets. This will be used to make a template for the hair. ***I placed the paper down to just below the eyes because this is the point where the hair ends.***

5. Once the upper part of the skull is traced out, free hand draw the hair onto the paper and cut out.

hair collage

6. Tape the two pieces of the glitter fabric together so that it is big enough to accommodate the hair template.

7. Place the hair template onto the backside of the glitter fabric. Trace and cut out the hair piece.

Gluing Roses Collage

8. Hot glue glitter hair to skull and center gem stone sticker on forehead. Finish gluing all the remaining stones for your chosen skull pattern.

9. Separate roses and leaves from stems and glue across the crown of the head.

Sugar Skull with lights

Here’s where I forgot to take some photos, but I think it’s easy to figure out.

10. Cut foam board approximately 1/2″ smaller than the outside of the frame.

11. Once you have completed your chosen gem stone pattern, glue down skull onto the middle of the foam core. ***You want to complete the gem stone pattern before gluing the skull to the foam core to avoid any glue spills on the board, as the black background will show every little mark.***

12. Weave LED lights through the roses and try to hide the wires as much as possible. ***This is optional and if you choose to omit the lights, skip steps 12 & 13.***

adding lights in sugar skull frame

13.  Glue one LED light around the inside of the frame where the glass would sit. ***I used small dabs of hot glue and push the wires into it. ***

14. Place glue on the backside of the frame and center the foam core board on it. ***Make sure the LED boxes are pulled to the back of the frame. You can glue them down to the back or leave them hanging – I left them hanging since it’s easier to remove the batteries.***

Day of the Dead Sugar Skull in Frame

Now all you have to do is find a place to show-off your Lighted Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Art!

Day of the Dead Mantle Display

I placed mine on our mantle and added a few other things from last Halloween to spruce it up.

What’s your Halloween theme this year?


I’m participating in a Halloween Crafty Tutorial Link-up with some other craftastic ladies. So head on over and check out their Spooktacular creations too!

Halloween Crafty Tutorial Link-Up (1)

Bugs and Fishes // Family Living on a Budget // Felt With Love Designs

Good Critters // GYCT Designs // House Full of Boys

Hugs Are Fun // Knot Sew Normal // Mommy in Sports

My Pinterventures // The Nesting Spot // Woods of Bell Trees // Year of Sarah

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19 Comments

    1. I’m neither…my ethnic background is Japanese. Since many of the sugar cane workers in Hawaii were from Japan, China, and the Philippines, there is a heavy influence of these cultures in Hawaii. I really wasn’t exposed to Mexican traditions until we moved to Southern California. I found this Day of the Dead celebration rather interesting and thought it would be nice to decorate a little differently than we normally do.

  1. I love this “Scary, Cute” craft. I actually gave it a G+ “Shout out” for our #theWeekendSocial” invitation. Thanks as always for sharing. Hope to see you Thursday.

  2. Growing up in the Catholic Church, I think we may have been exposed to other cultures because of some of the parishioners in the church, and as we celebrate All Hallows’ Eve, as well as All Saints and Souls Day, this is one of my favorite holidays! I usually make spiced hot chocolate and lay out my skull flower holders, too! Great tutorial.
    Misty overstreet recently posted…Fall Savings Series: Halloween Lamp Silhouettes!My Profile

  3. I’ve never heard of this celebration, thanks for sharing :). It sounds very fascinating.

    I love how your skull turned out, it is very pretty & not scary at all!

    Have a happy day 🙂

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