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How to: Super Mario Bros Warp Pipe set piece

It’s Mario month! March 10th is Mario Day (get it? MAR-10 looks like Mario!) but I’ve decided to make it an entire Mario month here on the blog by sharing a bunch of Super Mario-themed DIY projects. This assortment of costume and set pieces were made for a Mario Bros skit we did in Becket a few years back, but they would work just as well for Hallowe’en, cosplay, photoshoots or even birthday party decor and favors.

The first of the bunch is a set piece, specifically the Super Mario Bros warp pipe:

If you look closely at the warp pipe you’ll see there are two distinct repeats.

Ignoring the black outline for now, the top section has two unique horizontal stripes followed by a repeat that runs the rest of the shorter section (the vertical sections and checkerboard). The bottom section of the warp pipe has a horizontal black shadow followed by a similar, but narrower, vertical stripe/checkerboard repeat.

You’ll want to scale the pipe to your desired width. For the base of my set pieces I used a roll of recycled paper that was 36″ wide, so that was my max width. The paper would later be mounted onto plywood with an angled brace on the back to keep it standing on stage.

A design like the warp pipe is pretty linear and easy to plot out freehand, but I wanted to make sure I had everything scaled properly so I cropped out both repeats highlighted above and resized them to be 36″ wide. I then taped my printouts together to get an accurate slice of each pipe section.

This is the roll of recycled paper I used. The split sections were cut for the matching stage runners and then I cut a piece about 4.5′ long for the warp pipe itself.

This entire project was done with inexpensive materials, including the acrylic paint.

Start by painting the entire surface the pipe’s base green. I didn’t cut the pipe shape at this point because I would be using the side edges to line up my pattern.

Once dry, draft the pattern onto your surface. You can measure it out if you like but I found it easier to use carbon paper to trace the top pipe pattern, and then used a ruler to measure out and repeat the checkered grid 6 times. By tracing the top with carbon paper I had the exact placement of the vertical lines and was able to easily use a ruler and continue them down to where the lower section began.

For the lower pipe section I repeated the process, tracing the top of the lower pipe and the first checkerboard repeat. I then moved the template down to the bottom edge and traced the vertical lines again. I didn’t trace the horizontal lines as I wanted to measure out the checkboard squares themselves, but by tracing the vertical lines I was able to connect them to the ones higher up and ensure my lines were straight. It really helps to use the longest ruler you’ve got! I use this adjustable t-square for drafting and as a cutting edge and love it.

I boosted the contrast on this image to try and show all the pencil lines. I wasn’t terribly concerned about them showing through the paint as this is a stage prop and wouldn’t be seen from close up, but if you are concerned about that you can sketch lightly or erase your lines slightly to soften them (though that might require paint touch-ups later).

Now that the guide lines were in place I used a craft knife and my ruler’s edge to trim the side for the warp pipe’s shape. I then painted the lighter green color. You can also do this in reverse – do your base layer in the lighter shade and then add the darker details later. You can also sketch right onto your untouched paper and paint both colors later, if desired.

Do as many coats of the green as required for it to be opaque. Once the greens are dry, add a black border and shadow under the top section.

You could stop at this point but since mine was for a set piece that would be carried on and off stage for at least 6 shows and a handful of rehearsals, I wanted to make sure it would be durable. I knew it would be glued to wood but didn’t want the paper to tear or have paint flake off. So I decided to use my favorite cheap & easy lamination method – clear packing tape!

Start by adding one strip of tape that overhangs your piece on both ends to secure it to your cutting surface. (My cutting surface is my dining room table, which has many cuts from previous projects. Don’t be like me LOL).

You’ll want the tape running either vertically or horizontally, but for the best look you want it running in nice, straight lines. I used the edge of the black border to line up my first strip.

I deliberately DIDN’T line up to the edge of the pipe, even though I was confident my edge was straight. This is because I wanted my edge piece of tape to be centered half on, and half off the edge, so I could fold it over the edge for protection.

Continue taping, doing your best to keep the tape smooth and flat, without wrinkles. Large air bubbles can be popped with a pin and smoothed out but an even application will help avoid them. If you look closely at the top left of the pipe in the image above, you can see the tape overhanging the side of the top of the pipe, about to be folded to the back.

Here it is fully taped.

If worried about the glare from the tape you can also use Mod Podge or a spray sealant.

And here it is in the show! For reference, that’s me as Wario, and I’m 5’4″. It made a great bit of stage decor and a convenient hiding place for some skit props we hid behind it!

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

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