How to make a Nintendo Gameboy Costume

For a recent fancy-dress party with the theme ‘The Wonderyears’ I opted to go as a Nintendo Gameboy. Below I will detail how I made it using easy to obtain materials. All in all, it took me about 5 hours to make at a cost of next-to-nothing. However I did already own some of the materials required such as the spray paints. I’m pretty certain you can pick these up for approx £1.95 a can, which combined with the box paint and a tiny bit of foam means that a similar costume shouldn’t cost much more than £20.

The Box & Materials

The first thing you need of course is a box. The box I used was originally used for a new mountain bike. I got hold of this by just going into a few bike shops and asking if they had any going spare. Luckily Portsmouth Cycle Exchange gave me the one shown above for nothing (although I did by a new inner tube for my bike at the same time). Mountain bike boxes are a good option because apart from the odd millimetre on the height, the dimensions of the box I obtained were pretty much exactly the exact same scale as those of an original Gameboy.

My first task was to then apply a light grey undercoat to the entire box. I did this by purchasing a couple of small sample tins of Crown Fashion for Walls paint in Sidewalk from B&Q at a cost of about £5. The two 125ml tins were just enough to cover the box entirely with one thick coat. After that I dug out my selection of Monster spray paints and picked out a gunmetal grey, royal blue, khaki green, red, white and black and borrowed a spirit level from my parents. I expect you could use any spray paint from a hardware shop but Monster Colors are specific graffiti paints. They can be purchased here:

The Plan

Gameboy costume sketch
Once I had painted the box, my next task was to create a plan for the spraying of the box features. I did this by initially sourcing a high-res image of a Gameboy from Google which I them imported into Photoshop scaled it up to the dimensions of the box. I then used the selection tools to measure the sizes of all the important parts and sketched out a plan on graph paper. If you have an original Gameboy, a ruler and a good grasp of maths, you can probably do the same thing without having to buy Photoshop, although you could always download GIMP for free which does pretty much the same thing.

The Screen

Gameboy screen stencil - graphic design portsmouth

Having painted the box and sketched up my plans, my next task was to spray paint on the screen and the screen surround. This was done by initially sketching out the shapes using the spirit level, a measuring tape and a pencil. After that I masked out the area to be spray painted with a combination of masking tape and newspaper as shown in the photo above. Using spray paint rather than emulsion paint will give you a quick drying time and allow you sketch and mask out the area to be sprayed for the screen itself within about 15 minutes of doing the surround.

The Logo

gameboy logo stencil freelance designer portsmouth

As I wanted my costume to be realistic, I decided that I wanted to include the logo, however it’s up to you if want to do this step because it is a bit tricky and probably the most time consuming part. If you are as meticulous as I am then what you need to do is search Google for the highest resolution Nintendo logos you can find. Then using Photoshop or GIMP, set up a document the dimensions of the logo as you need it in the box and print out the logos onto 2 pieces of A4 card (the Gameboy logo should fit on one and the Nintendo should fit on the other). After that, then carefully make a stencil using a cutting mat and a sharp scalpel, making sure you reserve any counters, bowls or eyes that you cut out from letters such as A, B, D and O.

The next step is then to secure the stencil tightly to the box using small amounts of Blu-tack and then masking out the rest of the box with newspaper and masking tape as shown in the photo above. At this point as I wanted the spraypainting to be as accurate as possible, I opted to continue making the costume in my parent’s garage rather than outside as the wind was picking up. If you do it inside however, make sure the area is well ventilated or you use a face mask.

I set up and sprayed both the logo stencils separately, but you could spray them both at the same time if you wish. Whilst using Blu-tack will help keep the edges of the stencil as close to the box as possible, I still didn’t manage to obtain entirely crisp edges around all the letters but I still think this method produces effective results. If you really wanted it to be perfect, then you could probably using the stencil to mark out the logo with pencil and then paint in the letters by hand.

Nintendo Gameboy spray paint logo results

Once the logo was done and I filled a small section of the bottom right hand corner with black to emulate the curve of the case, the costume was really starting to take shape.

unfinished Gameboy costume - garage hampshire

The 3D Effect

3D shading nintendo gameboy

Before adding the buttons, for extra realism, I decided to add shading to the areas behind where the buttons would go as on the actual Gameboy these areas are inlaid slightly. I did this by cutting the circle and lozenge shapes out of newspaper to act as stencils and then with them in place sprayed a fine mist of white paint at the bottom of each shape and a fine mist of black at the top.

After that I then masked out the speaker grill and the angled area beneath it and used a combination of the dark grey and black paints until I achieved the desired result.

The Buttons

Gameboy buttons made of out foam - web design portsmouth

Now that the box itself was complete the only thing left to do was add the buttons. Luckily my Mum had a bit of foam kicking about at her house that I could use, but if you can’t get hold of foam then there is nothing stopping you also spraying or painting the button shapes directly on the box. However as I had the foam, I decided to use that for extra realism. I have no idea what type of foam it was, but it looked and felt pretty standard and shouldn’t cost too much to purchase if you can find the right source. I did do a check spray check on a spare piece to see if it would take the paint first though and I would probably advise you to do the same as sometimes spray paint doesn’t dry on some materials and will remain tacky. Once the test piece had dried sufficiently, I then used my plan to sketch out the required shapes on the foam using a pencil and a compass before cutting the shapes out with scissors and spraying them the right colours.

Once each piece had dried, then I just used some high strength PVA glue to stick them to the box and my costume was effectively finished. I did have intentions to carry on and paint a games cartridge on the back, but I opted not to and decided to go and have some well-earned food instead!

complete Gameboy costume - design hampshire

Putting on the Costume

The final stage is really up to you. There are a few different options as to where you can put your arm and head holes, so you just have to go with what’s comfortable for you. I opted for a face through the screen and arms hole out the front. Doing this did mean that the box was resting on my arms all night, but it did allow me to drink at the party! I did try to fashion some shoulder supports inside the box but I couldn’t make them strong enough to support the weight. I also considered putting my head out the top of the box, but then I figured moving around might be a bit tricky. I was also a bit gutted I loaned out my home-made Mario costume from a few years back as that would have been a perfect costume to wear underneath, but nevermind. I got plenty of compliments as it was.

Anyway, so here is me wearing the finished costume. Not bad eh?

graphic designer wearing gameboy costume hampshire