The Next Best Thing To A Real Dinosaur

Monday, November 4, 2019

Ever since Jurassic Park was released in cinemas, people have been in love with dinosaurs. Whether it is the deadly Tyrannosaurus rex or the cunning Velociraptor, many people wish they could see one of these beasts in person.

It may not be possible to meet a real dinosaur, but that’s never stopped anyone from dreaming. With animatronic technology, it is possible to create a realistic dinosaur costume that will amaze anyone.

It starts with the design

To make an animatronic dinosaur that can pass for real, you need to design it meticulously. Companies that deal in animatronics, use an entire department to draft a design for the dinosaur that is intricately detailed.

Art designers spend weeks drawing up plans and getting the look right so that each part of the dinosaur can fool the human eye, while still balancing out the rest of the costume.

The costume must be functional, and that is what makes it so difficult. To create a realistic dinosaur is already impressive, but it also has to move realistically. Each part must move like a real dinosaur, or at least how we think a dinosaur would have moved if it were still alive.


The dinosaur begins its life as a metal frame. It must be molded from steel tubing to create the structure that the rest of the dinosaur will be built upon.

All of the animatronic devices will be attached to this frame and each of the limbs and head as well. The whole construction must be able to move and function before the rest of the costume is added.


To give the dinosaur shape, foam is added to the metal frame. The foam comes in blocks and each block must be attached and then carve to fit the shape of the dinosaur. Excess foam is cut away as the whole costume takes on the shape of a dinosaur.

This stage requires a lot of careful handling. The shape of the dinosaur is drawn onto the foam and cut away with Stanley knives or electrical tools like a jigsaw.

It takes quite a bit of artistic ability to perfectly sculpt the shape of a realistic dinosaur.

Skin texture

The next step is to add detail to the foam material. Artists use soldering irons to burn shapes into the foam. The add scales and muscles to the dinosaur to create the skin texture.

For some details, they may use a hand-held electric iron.

The end result is a scaly, bumpy dinosaur skin that looks like authentic lizard skin, or perhaps something you would see on a dragon.


Once the dinosaur has the right texture, the next step is to add skin. The creators use silk stockings for this. They will cut up the stockings into bandages and stretch them over the foam material. This gives the dinosaur a smooth, living-skin look.

Silicon is used to hold the silk stocking material in place and it also adds to the effect. The end result is a rough, reptilian skin that looks like something a real dinosaur would have.

3D printing

There is an alternative to creating the skin. Many people lake artistic ability, or they just may have a bigger budget to work with and prefer some help. In this case, the skin can be printed using 3D printing technology.

With 3D printers, designers can create incredibly detailed skin. This can be very realistic and can even be patterned on real-life lizard skin.

Designers can create the ideal texture and pattern on a computer and play around with it until they get it the way they want. Once they have a skin that they like, they can print it out, ready to be attached to the dinosaur costume.

The printed skin is then attached to the foam on the metal frame. This gives you the best result and looks the most realistic. It is quite expensive though. Depending on the company, they may opt to have people make the skin and texture with soldering irons and stockings, just to make it look more creative.


Once the skin is in place, the next step is to paint the dinosaur. This can easily ruin the effect if it isn’t done well, so a skilled artist should handle the painting.

The paint job should be done in several layers with different colors to match the different gradations you might find on living skin. Just like with a lizard, the belly should be a light color and the back should be a dark color. There should be various shades in between.

It is quite a process with several coats being needed. The paint usually takes a week or more to dry. A final assessment is needed to make sure everything is as it should be.

If the paint isn’t exactly right, then more coats may be needed. It is also important the various shades of color look realistic and balance each other.

Final details

Once the paint has dried and given the OK, the next step is to add the eyes, teeth, and claws. Any final detailing is done at this time as well, such as adding dark streaks to the claws to make them look real.

The claws and teeth may be filed down until they fit right and have the correct look. Anything that still needs to be glued or touched up with paint is finished off and when it’s finished and checked, you have a completed animatronic dinosaur costume.

The wait is worth it. These costumes look incredible, you’ll think you are staring at a real T-rex. On a typical costume, the eyes blink, the head moves realistically, the tail moves, it even roars. If the operator is skilled, it can be easy to think you are seeing a living animal, especially when it comes towards you.

If you have never seen a realistic, animatronic dinosaur costume, then you owe it to yourself to see one soon. Check them out today.