Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wayang Kulit: How to Make Indonesian Shadow Puppets

Well I hope everyone had a wonderful relaxing holiday break!!  I have had a major hard drive failure so sorry for the big break between posts.

The kids were back at school today but I won't be in until next week as I try to put my studio back together after the Christmas whirlwind!

Today I want to introduce you to Wayang Kulit or Indonesian Shadow puppets.  Now you can find shadow or transparent puppets in many Asian countries...those of you who saw the remake of the Karate Kid movie will recall a scene set at a puppet show using some traditional Chinese transparent puppets, quite similar to the shadow puppets.

Although I have had a long history of puppet making since I was 12 yrs old I became very intrigued with the Indonesian puppets and related puppet plays after admiring my sister in law's puppet collection. (her Mom lived for a time in Indonesia).

Here is one of her puppets.......

....and here is her traditional "Arjuna" on which this art project is based.

We will be making our own "Arjuna" puppet and you can add other traditional characters if you wish once you have the process down.


- pattern or template, here is my version of ARJUNA
- cardstock, posterboard, or manila tag
- watercolor or tempera paint
- fine sharpies
- single hole punch or press punch (my newest fav tool)
- paper fasteners
- wooden coffee stir sticks, I get mine at the Dollar Store, 200 for $1.00
- wooden skewer
- string
- mod podge (optional)
- gold or silver doilies

Now traditional puppets are made from animal skin but we are going to make ours from cardstock.  If you wanted to make the transparent type you can adapt this project using a heavy duty transparency sheet (photocopy the template directly on to it)

You can enlarge the pattern if you wish and then photocopy directly onto cardstock or if doing the low tech method, print off the pattern and then glue this down to your cardstock or posterboard.

Let's add some color....even though you won't see this in the shadow these puppets are works of art so let's make them as appealing even when they are just waiting to be played with.

Paint in the details and then use a fine sharpie for outlining and definition.

Cut out all the pieces to your puppet.  I wanted to add some embellishment so I added a piece of a gold doily. 

The doily can also stick out from the puppet as it casts a great elaborate shadow on its own.

Using a single hole punch, press punch or even tip of a knitting needle punch a hole in all the little circles on the pattern.  You can also add some extra holes for decoration (look good in the shadow) Here I added some extra to his hairstyle.

These are your joints so you can have some movement in your puppet.  Attach some paper fasteners.
If the ends from the large fasteners are too long just fold back on itself or you can trim them off with scissors.

Attach the main part of your puppet to a skewer. 

I used hockey tape for mine.  I love making things with hockey tape, it's cheap, it's white so it can be painted or drawn on and it's everywhere. (at least here in Canada it is)

Now the best way to attach the wooden coffee stir sticks to the arms is by string.  You can get better movement for your puppet.

Here I attached a piece of string to the stir stick using, you know,  Hockey tape.
I then wrapped the string around the wrist of the puppet as tight as I wanted and tied it off.  This enables the stir stick to sideways from the arm which makes the puppet easier to manipulate.
You can add a coat of mod podge to your puppet so it will last through many performances!
and that's it! Check in google and you can find many images of Wayang Kulit characters as well as some of the traditional plays and you can build your own little puppet troupe.
I'll see you next time.


  1. Hii Gail,
    I'm Cici fr Indonesia
    Thanks you to introduce our Wayang to whole the world ... :-)

  2. Love these! I saw my first Wayang in the spring, it was absolutely fantastic! Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Hey gabrilliya, I just checked the link and the template is still there. Click on the word ARJUNA in the materials list. This will bring you to the pattern I posted on google docs.
    Hope it works for you and good luck with the project!

  4. Wonderful. I plan to use this for a puppet making camp week I'm teaching. Thanks for the generous documentation.

  5. wow.! nice thanks now I can do my homework...
    my classmates didn't know this technique.. haha

  6. nice thank you for sharing

  7. thanks for sharing... it really help me a lot =)

  8. This is incredible! I googled "how to make Indonesian shadow puppets" and this came up:). Can I share the link to this page on my web site as a resource? Or would you like to write a guest post about it? I am doing a unit on Indonesia and would love to include a craft for the kids:). This is fantastic!!!

    1. Hi Becky
      Please feel free to link back to this post

  9. Thanks lots for ur sharing!
    This is real helpful for the project I'm working on.. ^^

  10. thanks for sharing! This is very nice! I'm thinking u could also try using transparency to make the puppet, and colour it, so you could see the colour shadow on the wall as well!

  11. thank you so much for this. we have a geography lesson coming up on indonesia and this is perfect.

  12. thank you for generously posted the step on how to make wayang kulit

  13. Great! Helped my son a lot for his project in school!

  14. Helped me a lot for my school project... Thanks!!

  15. How did you get your template for Arjuna??

    1. Hi,
      You should be able to click on the link and it will bring up the template in google docs. From there you can print or download.