A full-on TMNT costume is the best way to get a truly authentic look on Halloween, but building your own can be so much more fun, especially since you can make it into a parent-child activity. The big payoff comes when you see your son or daughter in a costume that they helped to imagine and create themselves!
For our general guide to TMNT costumes and costume ideas, click here. Otherwise, if you’re interested in getting a few quick tips to easily outfit your ninjas, continue reading to get ideas. Aside from the Turtles themselves, we’ll also be talking about two of their partners in crimefighting, April O’Neil and Casey Jones.
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DIY TMNT Costumes for Kids
We loved growing up with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and kids today get to experience their own Turtles adventures, too. Even though the Turtles have been around for over three decades (yikes, we feel old), their looks haven’t changed too much. Leo still wears blue, Mikey orange, Don purple, and Raph red.
This means it’s pretty easy to make a TMNT costume from scratch, and add in special extras like TMNT weapons and accessories later. Here are our ideas for the pieces you’ll need. Little embellishments like this work wonders with things like TMNT T-shirts and hoodie costumes, too. Suddenly, an easy costume alternative becomes a detailed costume in its own right.
- The basics: All of the Turtles are green, so that’s what your child needs to be, too. We suggest a green hoodie (the hood lends itself well to the whole ninja), but anything works as long as it’s green. Green pants are ideal, too, but regular jeans are fine for a costume.
- Shells: Heroes in a half-shell need shells, right? The most classic way of making your own turtle shell is to spray paint one of those big, round, disposable foil pans. Then, make it wearable by duct-taping to an empty backpack (the “shell” will hide the actual bag).
- Pads and armor: Knee pads and elbow pads can be spray painted to fit the look.
- Belts: Each ninja turtle has a brown leather belt around the waist, as well as an extra strap across the chest. Thrifted belts are great for this, as are toy weapon holsters.
- Masks: Ninja masks are easy to DIY from fabric or from printable paper. Check below for more detailed how-tos and suggestions.
DIY April O’Neil Costume Ideas
In the original cartoon, April was the Turtles’ best friend outside of the sewers, and a TV reporter for the Channel 6 News. She’s still a fan of the color yellow in today’s version of the show, but the matching cargo pants and jacket have been replaced with a more modern outfit.
Not only that, but the new April trains in ninjutsu under Master Splinter, just like the Turtles do, which makes her a valuable asset in battle. Unlike the Turtles, she even has some telepathic abilities, which allow her to tap into the mysterious “Universal Vibrations.” The storylines in the show haven’t quite fully explained these powers, but they sound awesome!
April O’Neil character image by Nickelodeon
If you want to create a DIY April O’Neil costume for your daughter, here’s what you’ll need:
- A yellow top: April wears a short-sleeved and white-striped sports jersey, but anything yellow, like a t-shirt or hoodie, will work just fine.
- Denim shorts and black leggings: Regular jeans or a denim skirt are two alternatives that are probably already in the closet
- Yellow and white striped socks: If you can’t find the exact color, similar combinations of black, gray, white and/or yellow are okay.
- A fan: April’s ninja weapon of choice is the tessen, a traditional Japanese weapon which looks like a harmless paper fan but is actually made of iron plates. Black spray paint and a silver permanent marker can be used to customize a fan to look like April’s.
- Black boots: In a pinch, paint over a pair from the thrift store.
DIY Casey Jones Costume Ideas
Casey Jones, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ other human crime-fighting partner, makes just as a good a Halloween costume as any of his half-shelled friends. We actually think he’s a little scarier, too.
If you remember him from the ‘80s cartoon, you probably remember his trademark hockey mask, sleeveless shirt, ripped pants, and boots. In the early 2000s, he looked pretty much the same, but with a red shirt instead of a gray one.
In the new show, he’s still got the hockey stick, but almost everything else is different. Fortunately, it’s still really easy to make – you could even say it’s a thrift shopper’s dream, because you probably don’t want to use clothes your child already has for this project.
Casey Jones character image by Nickelodeon
- Black hoodie and gray T-shirt: The sleeves of Casey’s hoodie are cut off at the shoulders, so that the whole thing looks a little like a vest. Try to keep the edges tattered and ratty. Then, add some miscellaneous colors of paint splatter by spraying paint into the air above the hoodie, or by flicking paint onto it. Add some paint to the shirt, too.
- Blue jeans: Once again, just add paint. Casey also likes the bottoms of his jeans with a cuff, so keep that in mind.
- Pads: Use old and out-grown elbow pads and knee pads to re-create Casey’s DIY armor. To make his spikes, try sculpting some with a moldable modeling compound, like Sugru or Crayola’s Model Magic.
- Belts: Any old belt, or even part of an old backpack, can be used to make the utility belt around Casey’s chest.
- Skull face paint: Casey still usually has his mask with him, but he always has his face painted like a skull. Here’s a face-painting tutorial that explains how to create a skull step-by-step.
- Hockey mask: This piece is optional for the new Casey, but a black-painted Jason mask with a spot of white sprayed into the center looks good and is easy to make.
DIY TMNT Ninja Masks
The mask is the most important piece of ninja gear that there is. Every ninja needs one in order to conceal his or her identity. Likewise, your child will need one while dressing up, and if you’re hosting a TMNT birthday party, then giving everyone their own mask is a great way to bring everybody in on the fun. Here are a few easy ways to make DIY ninja masks.
Cloth Ninja Masks
If you’re looking for something quick to help dress up a room full of birthday guests, or an easy mask alternative for a ninja costume, you can make do with sashes of colored cloth. Grab a yard or so of each of the Turtles’ colors at the fabric store, and cut strips that are about six inches to a foot wide – just make sure that you’ll have enough for everyone to be their favorite turtle. Hem the edges and cut eyeholes if you want, or just use them as colored ninja headbands and belts (fun fact: tenugui is the official ninja terminology for something like this).
Printable Paper TMNT Masks
Printable masks are great because they’re easy to make, and ninjas can color and customize each one to their own liking. Here’s an official printable TMNT ninja mask from Nickelodeon (.pdf). Print as many as you need on card stock or thick paper, and your ninja clan will be all set.
There are a few different ways to secure paper masks like these. The best method is to attach a piece of craft elastic to each side of the mask with a small dollop of hot glue. It’s sturdy, fast, and is sure to fit all ninjas, big and small.
Alternately, you can take a hole punch (or even just a sharp pencil) and create two holes on either side of the mask. Then, tie two pieces of string or colored ribbon onto each hole, and use the lengths to secure each mask on each ninja with a bow in the back. Don’t make the holes too close to the edge or too close to the eyes, or the mask might rip. Here’s a quick tip for paper mask durability: before punching holes in the mask, fold a piece of clear tape around the edge of the paper. This will help prevent the mask from tearing.
You can also use crepe paper. There’s no tying and no hole-punching involved – just tape – so even the littlest of ninja apprentices can make their own masks without help from Master Mom. Plus, if you’re using costumes to bring dress-up fun to a TMNT birthday party, you might even already have some streamers.
There are a ton of crepe paper varieties over at BirthdayExpress.com. Just cut a length that will fit snugly around your child’s head and tape it in place. Don’t forget the eye-holes!
What do you think of our DIY Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume ideas? What kind of costume ideas do you think we should come up with next? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter, and check out our Pinterest boards for more costume ideas, too.