How to make the Disney Pixar’s Coco Guitar into a miniature or key chain. Use foam to make Ernesto’s guitar from the movie Coco.How to make a miniature guitar out of foam and decorate it to look like the Disney Pixar's Coco guitar

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My daughter and I saw Disney Pixar’s Coco and loved it. The animation is beautiful and there is a fun plot twist at the end. It’s the perfect family movie because it’s all about how important family is. Here’s what my 10 year-old daughter wrote:

I liked when Miguel goes into the Land of the Dead and when you see the colorful spirit animals. And I like Miguel because he likes music and I do too. And finally, I love the guitar because it looks so cool.

How to Make a Guitar out of Foam

The white guitar in the movie is a key part in the story, so I wanted to make a miniature version out of foam. This mini guitar can be used as a key chain, a doll accessory, or just for display on a shelf. I used foam to make it because we’ve learned that foam is an easy material to work with. (Check out our LEGO Batman Helmet and Foam Gauntlets). You don’t need a saw or fancy tools to work with foam, just an X-acto knife with sharp blades.


A Template of the Coco Guitar

I used graph paper to sketch out the guitar shape. The graph paper helped me to make it the same on both sides. My guitar shape is 3 inches wide and 7 inches long.  I drew the guitar a little wider than the proportionals of the guitar in the movie to give it a little extra strength, especially the neck. I’m working on making a template you can print out instead of creating your own. 

Cut Out the Foam Guitar

Cut out the guitar shape template, then trace it on the 1/4 or 1/2-inch foam. I used 1/4-inch foam because it’s easier to find and we happened to have some left over from our Halloween costumes, but to make it thick enough I had to glue two piece together. Buying a 1/2-inch piece of foam would be easier, but it’s really hard to find. Floor tiles work, but they have a texture on one side.

I glued the two layers of 1/4-inch foam together with contact cement. To use contact cement, you coat both sides to be stuck together with glue. Then let the glue sit for a few minutes. After waiting, you put the two pieces together, but be careful, when they touch they will stick. And the bond is permanent. It’s stronger than the foam. Each time I use contact cement in this tutorial, I did the same thing: apply glue, wait, press together.

Use a sharp blade to cut out the foam shape. The sharper the blade, the cleaner the cut and the more easily it will cut the curves and corners. I usually keep a box of new blades nearby.

Foam for the Neck and Head

I cut the shape of the guitar neck and head out of 1/8-inch foam and glued it on top of my guitar shape.  This made the neck look more realistic because the neck usually sits on top of the body of the guitar, just above the soundhole. Realistically though, the neck is just a thin piece of wood with frets, but to give my little foam guitar more stability and structure, the neck and head are the thickest part.

Shaping the Head of the Guitar

I’m not a guitar expert, but the Coco guitar looks like a classical guitar, where the tuning pegs go into the head of the guitar and the strings wrap around the pegs inside the head. The head needs two long openings where the strings connect. These opening look like the eyes of the skull on the Coco guitar.

I drew lines where I wanted the two openings, then carved them with my wood burning tool. You could also use a small drill or rotary tool to carve out the opening. Or, if you want to go simpler, don’t carve them out, just draw black shapes on later.

Sand and Seal the Foam

Even the most exact cuts with an X-acto knife are not going to be perfect, so the foam guitar needs to be sanded down. Especially on the sides. I used a sanding bit on my Dremel to smooth out the sides. Sanding by hand with a piece of sandpaper would work too. I had to use a piece of sandpaper to get into the corners where the neck meets the body.

When I had a smooth shape that I liked, I used a heat gun to seal the foam. This also gets rid of any fuzzies from sanding. It isn’t necessary to heat seal the foam, but it does smooth it out and gives the paint a more solid surface to stick onto. If you don’t heat seal the foam, you’re going to need more layers of paint.

Paint the Guitar

First, I sprayed the guitar with a coat of PlastiDip. This covers the microscopic holes in the foam with a layer of plastic. It makes the finished paint look more smooth. Like heat sealing, if you don’t do this step, you will need more layers of paint.

Next I spray several coats of white paint onto the guitar. I didn’t use a special paint, just a regular glossy white Krylon spray paint.

Add Decoration

I used permanent Sharpie markers to draw all the details on the guitar. I have to admit that this was the hardest part. It takes a steady hand and a good eye for detail. I used this still from the movie to copy the details.

In Disney•Pixar’s “Coco,” Miguel’s love of music ultimately leads him to the Land of the Dead where he teams up with charming trickster Hector. © 2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

First, I used the silver marker to draw stripes around the sides of the body of the guitar. Next I brought those stripes onto the front of the body, just a little. Then added a small rectangle between each to give it a checker board look. Technically, those rectangles should be slanted, but that was more that I could do in such a tiny space.

Next, I used a fine-tipped black marker. There are three areas that need this fine, black detail: the head, just above the soundhole, and at the bottom of the guitar. I drew the details on the guitar in pencil first, then marker. Several times I also had to take a deep breath and realize that I am not a machine, it’s not going to be perfect. In fact, the bottom detail has several major mistakes because my hand was getting tired.

I used a regular black marker to color in the soundhole. I wish I had used something to trace a circle because my free-hand circle is a little lopsided.

Finally, I added gold details with a gold paint marker. The skeleton teeth, the fret lines, the symbols between frets, and the triangles around the soundhole are all in gold.

Add the Bridge and Strings

To make the bridge, I cut a 1/8-inch think foam rectangle that was 1 X 1/4 inches and painted it white. I cut a piece of a toothpick a little less than 1 inch (I wish I had flat toothpicks, that would have looked better than my round ones). I cut 6 pieces of gray thread about 10 inches long and tied them to the toothpick.

I glued the toothpick with the 6 strings tied on to the white rectangle with contact cement. Then I glued the white rectangle onto the guitar just above the  bottom decoration.

To make the tuning pegs, I used straight sewing pins called bead pins. I stuck the sharp end into the guitar on the outside of the head and through the hole. Then took it back out and used wire cutters to clip the sharp end off the pin. When I stuck it back into the same place, the head of the pin stuck out like a tuning peg.

Then I put the strings through the guitar head above each peg and tied all 6 thread together behind the head of the guitar. I used a little super glue to keep the knot from unraveling. I also used a little super glue on the top fret of the neck so I could space out the thread and keep them looking nice.

And here’s the finished Coco guitar.

A perfect size for my daughter’s 18-inch doll. Or to be made into a key chain.