Saturday, June 16, 2012

Free Puppet Pattern: Blacklight Fish

In 2011 I had to quickly create a piece for the children's ministries at Hilltop Community Church to compete with in NCN's Kids Fine Arts Festival. Using a fun idea from a friend of mine, I used the song "Fishers of Men", a parody of "It's Raining Men" (available at

I had to build a few fish puppets in a hurry so made a simple pattern. The pattern for the prototype was freehanded and built in less than an hour. The mouthplate pattern was freehanded after each face was made.

Click to download pattern.
You are welcome to share this with others but please give credit and a link back to our website.

Below is a rough set of instructions for making your own fish. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask via the comments. Have fun!

Materials Needed:
‣  1/2 yard of 1/2 inch upholstery foam
‣  Spray adhesive
‣  Contact Cement
‣  Foam board
‣  Fluorescent spraypaint
‣  Black felt
‣  White foamie


Step 1: Pattern

Determine how big of a fish you want to make. Don't be afraid to experiment with sizes for the pattern. On my prototype, the top and bottom of the face and the body fit along the length of one 8.5x11 page. It was a good "standard" size but from there we varied the lengths, widths and shapes of each piece to make each fish unique.

‣  Cut out the pieces you need onto posterboard.
‣  Trace out the pieces onto the upholstery foam with a sharpie. Please note, though you are cutting two of the face/body/etc. so you want to trace the piece on the foam, flip it and then trace the other piece. That way you have two "partner" pieces. Cut them with an Xacto blade.
‣  Spray the pieces with spray adhesive. This will help preserve the foam's softness and allow to dry for one hour.

Step 2: Spray paint

We painted the foam before gluing the pieces together so we could have more fun with the colors.
‣  Paint the pieces of foam on the side that was NOT marked with the sharpie. Give it an even coat and keep a good 12 inches away from the foam so it doesn't "cake" on too thickly in one area.
‣  Allow to dry for at least 24 hours, though 48 hours is best. Be sure the area is well-ventilated!

Step 3: Gluing and Mouthplate

Having let the paint dry for at least 24 hours, the pieces should now be ready for gluing.
‣  Dab contact cement along the pieces with the BLUE edges indicated by the pattern. You only need a light coat on each edge of the piece. When it is dry to the touch, press each piece with its "partner" (so face 1 with face 2, body 1 with body 2, etc.)

Next we need to make a mouthplate:
‣  Your face and chin pieces should now be slightly curved. Use this curvature to trace out a semi-circular mouthplate pattern onto your foamboard. Use the yellow side marked on the pattern to trace out this pattern.
‣  Once you have a semi-circle shape for both the face and chin, place them side by side so they create a circular shape. Place a pencil between the two pieces to get a good feel for spacing and use duct tape to hinge the pieces together (don't forget to remove the pencil!).
‣  You should now have a "mouthplate." Trace out your mouthplate onto the black felt, cutting out two copies. One to line the inside of the mouth and the other for where your hand goes. Use contact cement to glue the felt pieces on each side of the mouthplate. You can also hot glue some elastic onto the felt to keep your fingers and thumb in place.

Now back to gluing:
‣  Glue the face to the body, you should have a long torpedo like shape.
‣  Next, glue the mouthplate along the yellow edges marked in the pattern of the face and chin of your fish. You want the foamboard to be "flush" with the foam so it creates a smooth lip. Your fish puppet's face, body, chin and mouth pieces should now be one unit. You can try the puppet on at this point.

Step 4: The Details

Now for the fins and eyes:
‣  Using the contact cement, glue each pair of fin pieces to each other. You can then dab the edges of the fin to join them to the body like in the photo above.
‣  I used a circle cutter to cut out circles of foamie to create the eyes. For pupils, I cut open the "wiggle eyes" and used the black pupil. I then hot glued them in place on the fish.
‣  A final detail that can help give your puppet a "finished" look is to dab contact cement along the "squared" edges of the puppet. So the body, the chin, and the fins. Once the contact cement is dry to the touch, you can "pinch" the two edges of the foam into each other. This creates a rounded edge that looks much neater.

So there, you made your own fish! Please, be creative and experiment with colors, shapes and sizes and see what you can come up with. Again, feel free to ask any questions in the comment section. I'll do my best to answer them as I do realize it can be difficult to understand some of the steps without pictures. But I hope you enjoy the pattern!


  1. Thank you very much! It's a very interesting idea! Would you mind if i link you from my blog?
    Visit me and tell me if you like, I'm reading now your full blog and I'm finding it really interesting! Congratulations about it!

    1. I'm trying to make a covering cloth pattern for this, I'll send you when finished!
      See you!

    2. Cristina, thank you! I'm glad you like it. I do not mind at all if you link to my blog. Also glad you're enjoying checking out the blog, I have a few updates I will need to write up soon.

      And a fabric pattern would be awesome, please do feel free to send! Gracias!