Parade floats are a great way to advertise a business or organization while giving something back to the community. In order to make an impression, your float will need eye-catching, large props that will both entertain and delight the gathered street crowd. By planning carefully and playing to your artistic strengths, you can build impressive float props even with a small budget.
Decide whether to make flat props, three dimensional props or both. This decision will largely depend on the materials available to you and your own artistic skills. Make flat props if you have some ability in drawing and painting and have access to materials like thick corrugated cardboard and plywood. Make three-dimensional props from things like papier-mache and Styrofoam.
Determine the space requirements of your float. Look at the trailer or truck bed you're planning to use as the foundation for your float, and then figure out how much space will be taken up by things like chairs or signs and any people who will be riding. Leave some space to allow people to move around on the float and get into position, then look to see how much space you have left for props.
Sketch a design for your float. Even if it's just a rough sketch, creating a drawing will help you envision how well your props will work when placed on the float together. It will also help you decide what sizes to make the props, as well as what angles to position them in.
Create three-dimensional props from papier-mache. You can build props in any shape by creating a frame from household scraps like cardboard, duct tape, dowels, balloons or chicken wire, then coating the frame with strips of newspaper soaked in a solution of one part white glue to two parts water. Once the glue solution has dried, paint the finished prop with gloss acrylic paint for the most eye-catching effect. These are quite lightweight and make excellent parade props.
Create flat props. For the best results, use plywood. If you only have corrugated cardboard, glue two sheets back-to-back. Paint designs that suggest three-dimensional objects. Be sure to use a primer coat of paint and to apply the colored paint thickly. Again, use a gloss acrylic or spray paint for best effect.
Step back. As you're building your props, periodically step away and view them from a distance of at least 30 feet. This will give you an idea of how they'll look to people watching the parade and allow you to see if you need to make adjustments, such as brighter colors or thicker lines.