With all the conventions coming up, I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer your questions over the next several weeks on everything cosplay.
I have recently been asked how to make armor pieces, so today I thought I’d tackle one of the most puzzling armor challenges; the female breast plate.
Most experienced, dedicated cosplayers will suggest using Worbla or Wonderflex, but these materials are pretty expensive.
Wonderflex breastplate by Mandi180sx
Worbla breastplate by Kamui Cosplay
While these materials do create the best looking pieces, if you are just starting out and don’t really know how to work with them yet, you may end up a dollar short and frustrated. I will touch on these materials another time, but for now let’s start off with my favorite cheap alternative, craft foam!
You can pick up craft foam from Walmart or any craft supply store like Michaels. They come in different colors of thin sheets and a couple of colors in thicker sheets. If you need a certain thickness or size, you’ll have to take to the web for more specialty options.
Craft foam is extremely pliable which is great for shaping. I always try to use a piece of foam as close to the color I will be painting it, if available. This is not necessary as you will be painting over it anyway. You want to start by cutting out the shapes you’ll need to create the armor. Next, you want to use heat to mold the foam to the desired shape. I have used a heat gun and a stove for this. A hair dryer usually does not get hot enough to be a functional tool for this project. If you use a stove, you want to hold the piece of foam high enough over the heat not to burn yourself or melt the foam. When it starts to droop or feels hot enough, begin to shape the foam piece to the shape you want. Once you start getting that shape, put the mold under cold running water, or a large pot/bowl of cold water to set the shape. You may have to repeat the process of heating, shaping and cooling several times before achieving desired shape. If you are using the thinner craft foam, be careful, as too much pulling and stretching can tear it.
The best way to shape the breast area of the plate is by using a rounded object close to the size you need and molding the foam over it. Once you are done shaping all of your pieces, glue them together with hot glue and you are done. Now you just need to paint it to make it complete. Be mindful of your edges!. If a piece of your armor has an angled edge, make sure the connecting piece is cut to match that edge so that it will not only connect the way it should, but it will be flush.
Here is a great 6 minute tutorial by Tayla Barter on how to use craft foam to make a breast plate. If you are confident enough in your skill of handling craft foam, I would say you can skip the body wrap part and go straight to shaping. Wrapping the body will get more of a firm and sturdy form. With a good paint job, you can achieve the look of metal, plastic or wood! Check out Tayla’s paint tutorial to see how awesome you can make craft foam armor look. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use oil based paint like she does. Also, you don’t have to prep the surface first. I have used acrylic paints without prepping the surface and have had pretty good results. It takes a few coats of paint to get the coverage you want, but it’s less work than prepping the surface. Once painted you can leave it as is for a matte/ battle tested look, or clear coat it with clear gloss spray paint.
You can stop here or if you want to go the extra mile to give your foam a hard surface, continue on. Hard coating will make your hard work last longer and feel more realistic to the material you want it to be. Here is a video tutorial by James Bruton of how to achieve this. It’s more work, but you’ll be really impressed with yourself.
Ultimately, this craft foam – armor tutorial without hard coating or prepping the surface for paint is the most cost effective and less time consuming way to get good looking armor.
If you have any cosplay questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. Maybe your question will be featured in one of the upcoming tutorials!
Tune in next week for more on cosplay.
Often times referred to as Optimus Prime, Tabatha LeStrange is a machine. A ghost machine.
Catch her if you can on Twitter @BD_Danger
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