Today’s post is brought to you by the following poem:
There once was a very bad blogger,
who found Halloween was upon her.
She’d promised to write
About potions of fright
But her camera said the pics were a goner!
Ok, cheesy, I know. I won’t quit my day job. In all seriousness though, I know I promised a picture-laden tutorial on the potion bottles I showed you in the Halloween reveal post (catch that here if you missed it the first go round!). Unfortunately, when I went to write the post on Halloween, I discovered that my camera malfunctioned, and I lost ALL the pictures I took of the process. At first I was going to chalk it up to bad luck, and just skip the post entirely, but my inner Jiminy Cricket kept whispering “a promise is a promise.” So, here it is – a very text-heavy tutorial on the Halloween potions. I am really truly sorry this is so frightfully (Haha. Halloween. See what I did there?) overdue and I’ll try my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Luckily for me, Halloween comes around every year, so maybe you can use these next year!
Now that I have my groveling out of the way, lets take a closer look at those potion bottles! You might have caught a glimpse of them here, but I wanted to go a bit more in-depth and share a quick rundown of how I made them. I have been seeing similar projects all over Pinterest lately, and I just knew I had to put my own twist on them. The idea of creating all those lovely labels just spoke to my inner graphic design nerd. What can I say – finding the perfect font, kerning the characters juuuuusssst right, and laying it all out in a pretty vector frame just sets my li’l ol’ heart a-flutter. Of course, the fact that this project gave me a perfect the opportunity to dust off my inner geek and incorporate all sorts of Harry Potter references didn’t hurt either!
Here are some glamour shots of the potion and ingredient bottles all completed to refresh your memory – keep reading for a (picture-less…boo) tutorial and a printable of all the labels I used (since I know not everyone wants to typeset them from scratch, lol).
TUTORIAL – warning: this is long and detailed…I write tutorials the way I would want to read them and in my experience the more detail, the better! Normally, I would break this up with pictures buuuut #technicaldifficulties.
The very first thing I did was start saving bottles and jars. I did end up buying a few at the thrift store and Joann’s Fabrics (similar here), but for the most part I had the bottles laying around my house. Try and get a variety of heights and sizes – it will help make your completed vignette more balanced and interesting. Also try and save some corks if you can – if not you can buy some from the craft store, but free is always better in my book (note: I am not technically advising you to drink wine in order to complete this project, but it does seem a valid method of obtaining corks!). Make sure to thoroughly remove the labels and clean the bottles thoroughly inside and out before you begin brewing your potions.
After I had my bottles collected, I sat down at my computer to create a list of potions/ingredients I wanted to make. I drew on a variety of sources for this – Harry Potter books, movies, Shakespeare plays, fantasy novels I have read over the years, pop culture, other bloggers – this is one of the most fun parts of the process, so take your time. As you list out your items, try and think of something that you could put in the jar to represent that item and make a note of it. For example, I knew I wanted to use dried mushrooms for “Boomslang skin” so I noted that on my list. Keep in mind that these bottles are likely going to sit out at room temperature for at least this year (and possibly more, if you keep them for your decor next year), so try and put things in them that you know will be shelf-stable. We don’t want anything rotting away or getting moldy – that could be a health hazard! Also, if you have small children, try and only use ingredients that can’t harm them if they get into it – although I felt perfectly fine putting cayenne pepper in my “fire salts” mixture, I wouldn’t have done so if I had kiddos. Same goes for the mini liquor bottles I used for several potions. Safety first!
The next step is to match the bottles with the contents. Just use common sense – bulkier items like “Owlet’s wing” will need a bigger jar, while rarer potions would be kept in a smaller jar to reflect their special and limited status. Some of this boiled down to economics – for my “beetle eyes,” I knew I would be buying iridescent seed beads. There was no reason to put them in a humongous jar – that would just mean more beads for me to buy! Common sense, kids – it’s a good thing.
Next up – print the labels, cut them out, and make them look old. Click the link at the bottom of the post to download the labels I used, or feel free to create your own. There are also several other bloggers who have done labels and offered them as printables if neither of those options appeals to you. I printed mine on parchment to give them a head start on looking old – this is similar to the one I used, but any ivory paper will work just fine.
To cut mine out, I used the print and cut feature on my Silhouette Cameo, but it could easily be done with regular old scissors – it would just take more time and patience than I typically have, lol. As for aging the labels, I used Distress Ink in two colors – “tea stained” and “old paper.” You can find it at most craft stores – I got mine at Joann’s and used a sponge dabber (the kind you use for stencils) to buff it randomly into the paper. After all the labels were inked, I crumpled them up and smoothed them back out again to make them look even more decrepit.
With my list and labels made and my bottles obtained it was time to begin the process of modifying my bottles, adhering my labels, and filling my containers. I didn’t paint any of my bottles, but if you want to now is the time. Same goes for etching them to make them opaque or sanding them to distress them. For the most part I left my containers clear – a few of them I did fill with smoke to make them darker and more creepy looking. Check out this tutorial for how I did that.
If you choose to add smoke to the bottles, a few tips/words of caution. The rim of the bottle will get really really hot. Also, only do this with glass bottles. I am sure none of you would be silly enough to try with plastic, but it should be said nonetheless :). Finally, make sure you are using the right kind of candle – soy candles burn too clean and don’t give off enough smoke. What you want is a regular old cheap candle, or – even better – one with a real wooden wick. The smokier and sootier the candle burns, the faster the glass will darken and the better it will look.
Adhering the labels was a cinch. To make things easy, I used my Xyron sticker gizmo for the smaller labels and double sided tape for the bigger ones – no waiting for glue to dry! A few of the tags I wanted to tie onto the bottle, so I just left those aside for the moment and tied them on once the bottles were filled.
Still with me? On to the actual filling! You’ve done your research, you have your list, your bottles are labeled and ready, and now all you have to do is fill the containers.Be creative and use what you have. Colored water makes a great potion, as does colored corn syrup with glitter added in. Look around your yard too – wind-dried weeds can easily become “mandrake root” or “knotgrass.” Pea gravel can double as “bezoar.” Don’t forget your pantry!! I used oil-packed sun dried tomatoes as “toad spleen,” and creamed honey could easily be mistaken for “bubotuber pus.” For “owlet’s wing” I used feathers, and for (albino) “wool of bat” I used fake spider webbing from the dollar store. The sky is the limit – just use your imagination! If you really can’t think of something to put in the bottle, then leave it empty – just spray paint the bottle or sand it so it’s opaque and no-one will be the wiser. If the idea of someone picking it up and realizing it is too light/empty bothers you (or maybe I’m the only one neurotic enough for that to bother), put some plain water or some rice in it to give it some weight.
You’re almost done! All you have to do now is seal the containers. For the bottles, I mostly just put a cork in it and tied the neck with some twine or ribbon to give it a little something extra. The jars were a little more challenging, since they were printed and colorful with their original advertising on them. At first, I was going to mod-podge them with brown paper and distress it to look like parchment. After doing that on one though, I decided that method took too long – I am not a patient woman, and waiting for glue to dry was not something I wanted to do. Rummaging around in my craft studio yielded the perfect solution though. First I covered the lid with small torn up pieces of regular beige masking tape to mimic the look of old paper and cover up the advertising. Then, I distressed them with the same ink I used on the labels to make them look dusty and old. Finally, I layered some fabric netting I got on clearance last year after Halloween over the tops and tied the whole thing up with leather cord and ribbon. This is similar to the fabric I used. The final step was creating the look of wax dripping down the bottles. A little strategically placed hot glue proved the perfect solution. After it dried completely, I took acrylic paint and painted over it to color it red, black, or gold. For the gold I actually used the same sharpie markers I drew on my walls with here.
You’re done! Stand back and admire your work, ladies and gents. If you want to me juuuust like me, you can squeal a little and hop around the room clapping with childish delight, but this is completely optional. I chose to split the bottles up into two groupings – one for the mantle and one on a thrifted silver tray in the dining room. Of course, you don’t have to make nearly as many as I did – I got a bit carried away. Three or four would be perfectly sufficient, and would take much less time to do with the same exact effect. Make sure to comment if you have any questions, and let me know if you try it out – I’d love to see your handiwork! Also, come back tomorrow for another (3 days in a row! woo!) tutorial on the fall mantle hurricanes.
Till next time,
Download your free Halloween printable here!
Halloween Potion Labels by Circa1932 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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