Anyway, I thought he'd be getting past wanting a themed birthday this year - being such a big bad teenager and all. I was wrong. And when he said the word "steampunk," my heart was all aflutter!
Not being typical party gear, this required going completely from scratch - a banner, steampunked water guns for party favors, metallic paper plates/napkins, and cupcakes decorated with cream frosting sprayed lightly with silver edible spray (my new favorite thing!) and topped with mustaches (of course!).
Steampunk Water Guns
The true icing on the cake, metaphorically speaking, were the party favors. I got the idea from - of course - Pinterest. Simple water guns transform into futuristic/retro Steampunk beauties!
Seriously, some times I wonder if I've grown up at all.
Standard Water Guns (dollar or thrift store)
Acrylic Paints, Varied Metallic shades
Acrylic Paint, Black
Paint Brushes, per preference (a detail brush & a larger brush for dry brushing)
Hanging all 12 guns along a string so I could get every angle painted easily, I started with a base coat of Krylon Fusion spray paint made specifically to bond with plastic. (note: while this worked flawlessly on the body of the guns, the water tanks have shown wear and tear, peeling down to the green - in other words, not "bonding" like the paint claims. I think it's because the water tanks are soft, flexible plastic. Next time I'll go for completely hard surfaces when I purchase guns. I don't think soft plastic can ever be completely "primed". However, the guns still look cool because the bits of green showing through look toxic and quite awesome.)
After the brown base coat, each gun received a coating of metallic bronze spray paint. If I could have found the Fusion paint in a metallic, I would have skipped this step. However, I wanted to ensure the bonding of the paint with the plastic. Thus the brown primer coat, THEN the bronze metallic topcoat.
Now for the detailing. Using acrylic paints in antique gold, bright silver, and true copper, paint the rivets, hoses, pipes, handles, fins, anything that could stand out. I used a dry brush technique with the gold, silver and bright copper to achieve a non-streaked, true metallic appearance, particularly with the water tank which would have streaked and looked fake to try and paint solidly.
To dry brush, take a very little bit of paint onto the corner tip of a large brush or sponge. I found it helps to play around with it on a piece of wax paper first to distribute the paint a little. Then in quick, almost smashing motions, wipe and blot the paint onto the gun, concentrating on nooks and crannies.
After the color dries, repeat this dry brush technique with black over the whole gun. I found it particularly helpful with the black to have a paper towel on hand to wipe areas I got over-aggressive with. The combination of dry-brush and wiping with a paper towel created the exact aged look I wanted - even if it isn't an approved artistic technique ;) It really made the details pop.
The guns went back on a line for a final clear coat (again, using the paint specific to plastic). It probably wasn't totally necessary, but I wasn't taking any chances. I didn't want any of my hard work rubbing off, especially since mine weren't decorative, they were for real water play. They looked SO cool hanging all in a line that I couldn't stop taking pictures.
I was so tickled with the way they turned out! More importantly, all the birthday guests were totally over the moon. We had quite the steampunk water war in our backyard that night (and ever since!). I included some close-ups at the end of this post to show how many possibilities can come from one gun.
I used card stock I had on hand in browns, greens and copper tones. The font is called exotica and can be downloaded for free from Steampunk Font. I also used KG Flavor and Frames, another free download on dafont . It has frames, mustaches, glasses, etc.
Since my banner spans a room rather than hanging against the wall, I like to have something fun on the back as well. I printed off a few steampunky images to throw on the back.
And the most essential element was gears. I cut them out of dark brown & copper metallic card stock. The entire banner is simply sewn together using my sewing machine. It's the crazy simplest way to make a banner, and it holds up really well. One lesson I learned is that the gears that were sewn through at exact center spun around all the time, which was super cool.
Who can resist mustaches?
And while they've become very vogue lately, they are decidedly steampunk, and make suave cupcake toppers as well as hilarious favors and photo props! Mustache Party Food and Cupcake Picks - 25 ct
Pop the silver metallic cupcakes and some ice cream on gold metallic plates (from the dollar store) and bronze metallic napkins (Hobby Lobby), and you've got stylish steampunk!
Some more glamor shots of the guns - I couldn't pick a favorite.