I'm a puppet maker with a degree in theatre. A former lighting techie, stage manager and producer. And I like to think that with puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. More...
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I realised I don’t actually have a comprehensive list of the types of puppets, so here goes.
Before you read about the different types, you may want find out what the definition of a puppet is first, or what a puppet maker/puppeteer is. More puppetry terms can be found here. Puppets listed from easiest to hardest can be found here. Looking for inspiration? Try here.
It should be mentioned that many puppet designs can fit in one or more categories, that the categories below are not definitive, and that indeed there are designs out there that are so unique as to not fit any category. There is no ‘how many types’ answer because it’s way more complicated than that… If I’ve missed a definition, please let me know in the comments.
Please note that all pictures are attributed to their respective owners via links to their Flickr pages.
|Animatronics||Robotic puppets. Read the full explanation|
|Blacklight||Puppets seen using UV lighting and neon colours. Read the full explanation.|
|Bunraku||Japanese rod puppets. Read the full explanation.|
|Caricature (portrait) puppets||Any puppet that looks like a real person. Read the full explanation.|
|Costume (body) puppets||Puppets you can wear. Read the full explanation.|
|Finger puppets||Things you can put on your fingers. Read the full explanation.|
|Found puppets||See ‘object manipulation’.|
|Glove puppets||Puppets worn on the hand. Traditionally speaking ‘Punch and Judy’, not The Muppets. Read the full explanation.|
|Hand puppets||A generic term that has mixed definitions. Some people are referring to muppet-type puppets, others use it to refer to glove puppets. I consider ‘hand puppets’ to be the same thing as ‘glove puppets’.|
|Karagozis ||The term given to Turkish shadow puppets. Read the full description here.|
|Light curtain||A trick using lighting where the puppeteers are ‘invisible’, but the puppets aren’t. Read the full explanation.|
|Marionettes||String puppets. Read the full explanation.|
|Marottes||A type of rod puppet. Read the full explanation.|
|Mouth puppets||Puppets that talk. Has subcategories, ‘muppet-type’, ’sock’, etc. Read the full explanation.|
|Muppet-type puppets||A type of mouth puppet usually in reference to the Jim Henson methodology. Read the full explanation. Sometimes they are full-body, sometimes not. Read about that here.|
|Object manipulation||Using everyday objects as puppets. Ie. Kitchen tongs as a crocodile puppet. Read the full explanation.|
|Parade puppets ||Large puppets used in parades. Read the full explanation.|
|People puppets||Another term for ‘muppet-type’, usually just for marketing and avoiding copyright infringement. Read the full explanation.|
|Puppet ministry||Puppets used in religious contexts. Mainly by Christian churches. Read the full explanation.|
|Rod puppets||Anything that uses rods. Read the full explanation.|
|Shadow puppets||Puppets where only the shadow is seen. Read the full explanation.|
|Shoulder puppets||A style of cable-control (rod) puppet, that sits on the shoulder. Read the full explanation.|
|Sock puppets||A form of mouth puppet using socks as the materials. Read the full explanation |
|Table-top puppetry||Puppets that are small and performed on tables, a type of rod puppet. Often known as ‘bunraku’. Read the full explanation.|
|Toy theatre||Puppets performed using small table-top model sets. Read the full explanation.|
|Ventriloquism||The art of making the puppet look like it’s doing its own talking. Read the full explanation.|
|Water puppetry||Vietnamese underwater puppetry. Read the full explanation.|
|Wayang Golek||Javanese rod puppets. Read the full explanation.|
|Wayang Kulit||Javanese shadow puppets. Read the full explanation.|
|White light theatre||Puppetry performed with the puppeteers visible at all times. Read the full explanation.|
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.