At Anime Revolution this year (2014) myself and two of my cosplayer friends decided to take on a challenge, running beginner aimed armour and weapon making panels. We had mixed opinions on who they were aimed at, but generally came to the conclusion that we just wanted to improve the general level and props and weapons that we saw around our local conventions. After sharing a few horror stories of things we had seen (eg. a single cardboard layer scythe and things made out of raw styrofoam) we put together our panel.
During the panel we were asked as to if we would be willing to post our slides or notes online. For anyone who saw our panels, the slide show was just a bunch of pictures and that was us naturally spewing shit about our hobby for an hour without any notes. The slide show was there to make you all think we were super pro.
As a result, I’ll do my best to do a write up of the information we covered in our Armour panel and Weapons panel over my next two blog posts.
As an amusing side note before I begin this tutorial, when the three of us ventured to the panel room to do set up, myself in my Male Castanic Alliance Zerker armour, Tiny Champion in their Dragon Age armour for Lady Hawke and Featherstone in their plug suit for Rei one person in the line up went “Why are you guys here? You don’t belong at this panel!” I responded with “I’m your panelist.” All I got was an “Oh…” Flattering and amusing to say the least.
Armouring for Beginners
Written by Toast Cosplay & TinyChampion Cosplay
Original Panel hosted by Toast Cosplay, TinyChampion Cosplay and Featherstone Cosplay
Originally I had a funky little animation, but it won’t translate well on my blog. So you’ll have to make due with just the ending photo from it.
This is Kirito:
My height is about 168cm.
Therefore this gives us a conversation ratio of;
168/20 = 8.4
So the size of this piece is 0.8 x 8.4 = 6.8cm.
From here you can continue to figure out the sizing of things. I use these to size out small detail pieces on my armours. Here is an example of one of these sheets for a weapon I built. I like to include a conversion to ft/in because my brain finds that easier to estimate most of the time.
No, my weapon was not 9’4” in the end. I believe it was about 8’6”.
I’ll make a mini-tutorial, which I will post at a later time, with the specifications on how I build these sheets, for the excel impaired.
From here you end up with an item like this:
Templating off the body:
For templating you are often best to start off with templating your body, if the armour is going to be fitted to you. To do this wrap saran wrap around the body part like so;
Then cover this saran wrap with painter’s tape or scotch tape, any kind of paper tape.
Never under any circumstance use a duct-tape or anything similar. You will sweat to death.
As was included in our panel;
I actually have no photos of my armour templating, just a photo of my cat sitting on top of my templating. This is a common issue in my house.
So please have a cat on a template of mine:
If you build large armour sets you will want to track and plan your tasks so you aren’t up until 3am the night before your con. I build a sheet like this to plan each task for each piece of armour, then track how done I am. It helps me to understand how much of my project I have left and also helps keep me motivated to get to write just how much I finished in a day/work period.
TinyChampion: As for me, what I like doing for tracking my progress is making a comprehensive checklist on a sheet of paper and sticking it to my fridge, along with milestones I wanna be at overall (i.e. have all the base pieces of an armor made by X date.) When I finish a task, I get to cross it off the list with a sharpie. Sometimes the list is very long, and sometimes it’s not, depending on how big of a project it is, if I’ve encountered anything new I didn’t notice before, or if any problems have arisen. Trust me, problems are more than likely going to occur, no matter how long you’ve been at it. Just give yourself plenty of buffer before a convention to get your stuff done, just in case.
Foam – Written By TinyChampion
Foam is really great if you’re looking for a really cost effective way to make armor, if you don’t mind having your armour in florescent colours before painting. It’s super cheap, and you can find it at most craft stores. You can hot glue it, heat shape it, basically it’ll take whatever you have to throw at it. It’s also pretty durable and lightweight, so it’s pretty ideal.
I personally like it because it’s incredibly easy to work with and easy to get a hold of.
It’s really great for making general armor shapes, or the overall base of an armour piece. Make sure you mark it out on the foam with a pen before you cut it, because foam tends to be unforgiving in this way, and the scraps, most of the time (depending on the overall size of the piece and what you intend to do with it), will be scraps. You can attempt to patch it by gluing in some pieces of foam, but you’ll probably wanna spackle over it so it’s smooth, and not do what I did and just dump copious amounts of hot glue over it, as seen here (I’ll put up a better picture when I get around to taking a higher res one):
One thing I forgot to touch upon in the panel we did was that the thinner pieces are going to be a little more bendy than the thicker pieces, even once you’ve finished shaping, sealing, etc. One thing you can do to help eliminate this, is to hot glue a piece of thin fabric on the underside of the foam (the part that will not be seen) to give it some stability. The glue will help retain the shape of the thinner foam and keep it from bending.
I am a Worbla builder. This shit is wonderful, it is costly, but it is wonderful. If you can afford it Worbla is very much worth it for armouring.
This is my giant collection of scraps:
Why do I have a giant drawer of scraps?
No not to cry over it.
Worbla scraps are very useful for detailing your armour. They can be used to add depth or do small pieces. Even the smallest Worbla piece can be re-heated and used to add details.
These details were all done using Worbla scraps:
Once your template is complete you will cut your foam pieces from there. I generally check the fit by taping these pieces together with a painter’s tape (causes little to no damage to the foam) then test the piece by roughly placing it as it would be when it is fully shaped and bent. This will prevent you from having to do adjustments once you have applied your worbla and is good practice in my opinion.
To add small details you can layer foam on your base layer. Once this is completed cut Worbla pieces about 2 cm bigger than your foam piece, one for each side of the piece, and cover it. Once you have smooshed the sides together re-heat the edges and clip them with scissors. If the cutting is done while the edges are heated you will come away with clean edges. I often do not cut the edges on pieces where I am going to be placing them together with another piece.
Your pieces will look like so;
In each image the foam is on the right and the covered is on the left.
Once you’ve covered your pieces, shape them. For pieces that will be tight to my body I often just let the worbla cool a bit then press it against my body until it cools. This often takes some tape to force it to shape or stay together. In the summer warm worbla on your body isn’t fun, but I find it highly effective for getting it to fit tightly to your body.
Once your base piece is done you can add pieces to it for more effect, or detail as above. A mix of under-worbla foam details, plus worbla scrap and additional foam covered in worbla for detailing works well.
Wonderflex is another thermoplastic, similar to Worbla. It was on the market before worbla and was the first thermoplastic I worked with. I have worked with other thermoplastics (friendly plastic), but I don’t recommend even thinking about them with Worbla now on the market.
Wonderflex can be more useful than Worbla at times and I recommend all Worbla crafters have a small amount of it around. If you are ordering Worbla off of cosplaysupplies.com order a small or medium sheet of wonderflex as well. Where wonderflex is more useful is for its strength. Wonderflex has a fabric integrated into it so it will not stretch like Worbla will. As a result this means that it’s small scraps are not as useful, but it can strengthen your projects in weak or thin areas (or when you mess up and have to shrink/re-attach some parts like I do) and for holding fixing pieces like snaps, clips and d-rings into Worbla armour pieces. As Wonderflex is also a thermoplastic is stays very well inside Worbla and integrates with it.
It can also be useful on its own for building long and thin pieces or weapons that need a lot of support.
There is a long, long list of other materials you can build armour out of. I’m just going to mention a few others that are not bad for a beginner to start with:
– Styrene; this is a thin modeling plastic which has slight thermoplastic properties but tends to just give right out under heat and isn’t ideal for complex curves. Can be useful for detailing and straight pieces. Thin pieces can be found at local model shops and I’ve found thicker pieces at plastic shops in my city.
– Sintra; This is a plastic commonly used in sign making. It also has some thermoplastic properties but is more ideal for simply being glued together. Good for making very straight pieces, likely good for props as well.
– Can tops; Tiny Champion has done two cosplays which took making chainmail. To quote them “you can make chain mail this way, or you can make chainmail and everyone anywhere around you will hate you”. Photos below of their lovely chain mail;
That’s all for this tutorial, I will cover painting, resin casting and electronics in a different tutorial from either my weapons or armouring one as my advice for both is identical.
Tiny Champion cosplay on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/tinychampion
Featherstone cosplay on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FeatherstoneCos
Myself on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ToastCosplay
You can check out some lovely photos of all of us from Anime Revolution on our facebook pages