Trying to put together the perfect Harry Potter themed party but still haven’t gotten your Hogwarts letter? Never fear, Muggles–this tutorial will help you make the most magical memories yet! Hold on tight…
Here’s how I built a Platform 9¾ photo booth, using paper, printer ink, foam board, cardboard, and paint.
Oh yeah. And MAGIC.
Materials I Used
- 2 sheets of 40″x60″ foam board – $1 each at the Dollar Store
- Elmer’s Extra-Strength Spray Adhesive (10 oz. can) – $15 at Office Depot
- Many sheets (14+ for legal size, or several more for letter size) of Premium bright ink jet paper (I used 96 brightness, 24 weight)
- Plenty of printer ink (make sure you’re not running on empty)
- hot glue
- frame hanging eyelets – a few bucks at Wal-Mart or Home Depot
- Bamboo skewers (a few bucks at the grocery store)
Faux brick wall
- 1 small to medium-sized refrigerator cardboard box, at least 6.5 tall and 9 feet wide once unfolded and laid out. (Avoid much larger fridge boxes because they are difficult to transport after painting.)
- Base paint – White or off-white interior house paint (house paint is durable and you will need a lot of it)
- Assorted colors of craft paint – Tan, brick-red, black. I used fabric paint since that’s what I had available, and I recommend using that or another type of durable, opaque paint. Do NOT use poster paint.
- Many sheets of newspaper
- 1.5″ wide masking tape or painters tape (a few bucks at Home Depot or Wal-Mart)
- Small nails/brads for nailing the backdrop to a wall
- Color printer – I used my own Epson Workforce 435
- Paper cutter
- Box cutter
- X-Acto knife
- Hot glue gun
- Paint roller & paint tray (I used $1 foil trays from the Dollar Store)
- Grill cleaner pad with a handle on it ($1 at the Dollar Store). Another option is to use a sponge, but it really helps to have a solid handle attached to a coarse pad. It takes a LOT longer to stamp a pattern with a sponge than with something tough that has a handle.
How to make the faux brick wall
Plan on spending at least a week preparing the brick wall. It takes a lot of time to locate a refrigerator box, transport it, paint it and then wait for it to dry.
Step 1 – Get a refrigerator box
Contact your local appliance or hardware store to see if they have a spare refrigerator box they don’t mind giving you. Many stores recycle their boxes so timing is key to nab a box before it hits the trash. It might help to speak with someone who works in the stock room or receiving department.
Look for a box that, when flattened, will measure out to at least 6.5 feet tall (needs to be at least as tall as the people in your photo booth!) and 9 feet wide. Make sure to take the height of the top and bottom flaps into consideration when you measure. Your box may not stand on its own without sitting on its bottom flaps, so you may lose that height. I nailed my finished backdrop to a wall so that I could maximize the height of the entire box, including the top and bottom flaps.
Bring a box cutter with you when you pick up the box so that you can cut the box open to flatten it. I acquired a few boxes to test out the sizes.
Once you get home, open up your refrigerator box to test out the size and see how well it stands on its own. Cut it down to size with your box cutter if you need to. I cut the 4th panel off the box below because it would have been too big to fit into the photo booth room.
Step 2 – Paint a base coat
Lay out your fridge box on a flat, clean surface and paint it with your white house paint. I used about a quarter gallon of leftover white wall paint. My paint had a satin finish but a flat finish would work best to cut down on glare when you take photos of the brick wall. (Learn more about types of wall paint finish here.) I used a mini roller and tin foil pain from the Dollar Store to quickly roll paint onto the cardboard. Make the paint uneven and even sloppy–This will add character and texture to the brick mortar. It should not be complete coverage.
The finished base coat:
Step 3 – Mask the brick mortar with tape
Now, this part can get tedious. So put on your favorite Harry Potter tunes and keep imagining the finished product–you can do it! I think this is the tape I used, but any similar tape should work fine:
Take your roll of masking tape in one hand and your box cutter in the other. Be careful with this step! Run the box cutter along the middle of the tape to cut into it several layers deep, until you’ve made a cut around the entire circumference of the tape. The goal here is for the cuts to be uneven so that the strips of tape make the brick mortar look realistic–not perfect.
Peel strips of tape off one by one and begin masking out horizontal rows with the tape. I eyeballed my rows, but you can use a measuring tape to keep the rows even. I placed each row of tape about 5 inches apart. You will need to alternate between taping rows and cutting new grooves into the tape.
You can see here how the strips of masking tape are a little jagged from when I cut down the center of the tape roll with my box cutter. This is the desired effect.
Once you have all the rows taped on, add shorter strips of tape in vertical lines to separate the bricks. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this step, but you get the idea. Here is a good example of how to apply your tape in a brick pattern. Alternate with long bricks and short bricks. Historic Panorama has some good examples of this brick technique.
Step 4 – Paint the faux brick wall
Now for the fun part! Grab your red, tan, and black paints and paint layers of color onto the cardboard. (You may want to use some rubber gloves!) Put some dabs of paint in your paint tray and stamp your grill cleaner pad/sponge into it.
You don’t want full coverage–the patchier, the better. Paint each of the bricks differently. I found that it worked well to stamp one color at a time onto the cardboard quickly and sloppily, while moving all around to paint different bricks. I would then stamp another color on top of it before it had a chance to dry. This technique added to the natural appearance of the brick.
Wait about a day for the paint to be completely dry before moving on to the next step.
Step 5 – Remove the masking tape
Once the paint is dry, peel off the masking tape piece by piece. I wouldn’t wait longer than one day to peel off the tape since the tape can become stuck to the cardboard the longer it sits–you don’t want to rip off your paint job when you peel off the tape. Peel gently and starting in the same order in which you applied the tape. This technique can help you pull off multiple pieces off at once.
Your faux brick wall is now complete!
How to make the props
Step 1 – Download and print
Download and print the PDF files below, which I compiled and edited from a variety of image sources on the web. I modified all the images to isolate them from their background and enlarge them to scale. You can find links to the original image sources on my Pinterest board. The original image of the snowy owl is by Raymond Barlow Photography–His photography of snowy owls is gorgeous!
Platform 9 3/4 sign (PDF)
“Have You Seen This Wizard?” sign (PDF)
Azkaban Prison sign (can be purchased & downloaded from Etsy)
Hedwig the snowy owl prop(PDF)
Sorting Hat prop(PDF)
Triwizard Cup prop(PDF)
Open the PDFs in Adobe Acrobat and print them using Acrobat’s poster printing function. You may need to toggle the Portrait/Landscape mode in order to use the fewest sheets of paper. Here’s an example from another DIY tutorial of mine.
Use small margins, 0.25″ at the most. You will need at least 14 sheets of legal size paper (8 1/2″ x 14″) to print the props if arranged as shown:
I used legal size because it’s what I had available, but you can print the images on regular letter sized paper too–You’ll just need more sheets of paper.
Note: Ignore the printout in the photo of the school badges–those were my failed attempt at printing onto iron-on transfer paper. Sadly they did not iron on properly and I had to throw them out. 😦
Step 2 – Trim print-outs
Using scissors, cut out the white center of the “Have you seen this wizard” sign, and cut all the white margins off with a paper-cutter if you have one available. It helps if you have a GOOD paper-cutter, so try to find one at your local office supply store that has a sharp blade. Most office supply stores have a paper-cutter available for you in their printing/shipping department.
For the remaining printouts, just trim off the white margins and cut some of the excess white paper with scissors as shown below. Leave the more precise trimming for later, after you have mounted the printouts to the foam board.
Step 3 – Prep layout of print-outs
Lay out and line up the sheets on top of the foam board to plan their position and make sure the foam board is big enough. If you arrange the images as shown, you should need only 2 foam boards on which to mount the sheets. (Place the cup and prison sign inside the empty space of the “Have you seen this wizard” image.) The “Have you seen this wizard” image may be slightly bigger than your foam board, depending on the size of the board. A slight overlap of the paper is okay, but if the overlap is major then you may want to tape 2 foam boards together with packing tape to accommodate the size of the sign.
Once you have the layout decided, remove the print-out pieces from the foam board, keeping them in order, as you will need them again in just a moment.
Step 4 – Apply print-outs to foam board
Spray the entire foam board with spray adhesive. (Be sure to do this outside where you can breathe!) Then apply the sheets of the printouts to the foam board, piece by piece, matching up the seams carefully. Don’t forget to mount the cup and prison sign print-outs inside the empty area of the wizard sign.
Step 5 – Trim foam board
Trim off all the excess foam board from all pieces using an X-Acto knife or box cutter. Trim right up to the edges of the printed paper. If you accidentally make any tears or rips, use spray adhesive or craft glue to patch it back together.
Use a small blade to cut out the finer details, such as those in the Triwizard Cup. Avoid using scissors to cut anything, since scissor blades will crush the foam board and weaken its structure.
Step 6 – Attach bamboo skewers
Hot-glue bamboo skewers to the sorting hat, Hedwig, and the Platform 9¾ sign. You may need to impale the props with the skewers after coating the skewers with hot glue. Whichever technique is easier and sturdier. I ended up taping two skewers together per prop, and then gluing and taping the skewer onto the back of the prop to give it some stability.
Trim the Hedwig bamboo skewer just long enough so that you can hold it, but the rest is concealed. This will make it look like you’re really holding an owl! 😉
Your props are complete!
I also added some props from a few choice finds from my local thrift store: A graduation gown and ties for each school’s colors.
Welcome to Platform 9¾!
The time has come! Place your faux brick wall where you’d like the photo booth to be. You can either stand the cardboard up on its own, or nail it to the wall using a hammer and small nails or brads. I nailed mine to the wall because it needed to be taller, and the only way to make it taller was to suspend it a foot off the ground.
Place your props by your brick wall, and there you have it! Enjoy your very own Platform 9¾!
Now for the fun part! Bust out those broom sticks and start taking pictures!