Here’s my first cosplay build log, as my documentation has been pretty lacking up until the last few months. I tend to be extremely focused when I’m working on making my projects, so I continually forget to document up to days’ worth of progress. When I do remember, I’ve already breezed through several steps, and haven’t taken enough photographs. It can be quite tedious to have to crunch through a large build log without photographs, but I’m working harder to better document and photograph my work in future. I’ve written quite a lot for this tutorial, so I’ve split it into two sections so that its easier to digest. I will upload the next section next week, so stay tuned.
(This handsome dude’s Chestplate is what this build log is about)
This is a tutorial/build log on how to make armour, specifically Ezio’s chest plate of Altair. This can be easily applied to making any other piece of armour, from chest plates to cuirassesJ. It would be best if you can breeze through the article before beginning work on your armour, so you can properly plan it out.
Disclaimer: This particular build log involves working with sharp tools & heat, so exercise common sense when utilizing them. It isn’t my fault if you manage to set your hair/yourself/your cat on fire.
- PVC Foam board(3mm works well, 5mm for stronger parts)
- Chart paper
- Superglue/hot glue
- Nylon/leather straps
- Blind rivets & washers(optional)
- Primer & Paints
- Box cutters
- Cutting mat(useful, but not essential)
- Heat gun(or your mother’s stove in her absence :3)
- Sand paper(80,100,220)
“We must do research!” –Jackie’s Uncle
Well said Uncle, so grab a cup of beverage and acquire as many decent reference pictures as possible. I personally prefer in game screenshots, official art and concept art, but some like to use fan art as well.
Once sufficient reference is gathered, begin making patterns. Start by drawing out the outline of the selected armour component onto chart paper, and redraw and refine the drawing until it looks exactly like the armour piece, and make sure it is to scale with your body. After that, cut it out and pin or tape it against your body to ensure that the sizing is correct. Don’t be afraid to scrap the pattern and make a new one if you aren’t satisfied with it, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of grief in the long run.
(Black KG Cardboard used for making the patterns 1:1 scale)
Once all your pattern pieces are satisfactorily finished, take your PVC foam board (colloquially referred to as “sunboard”), and place your patterns out onto it. Leaving a small cutting margin around each chart paper pattern, trace them out. For making symmetrical pieces, one can simply flip the pattern over and trace the reverse. Make sure to write each panel’s name onto the sunboard, or you might get them mixed up later on.
A note about armour materials- The material you choose for your armour really depends on what is available, what you’re making and what you feel comfortable with working with. Some skilled individuals can work wonders with even cardboard, while EVA foam is a mainstay for many others. I like working with sunboard because it has a good combination of hardness & softness, and is able to permanently hold its shape without wrinkling or distending like EVA. It can also be sanded much easier. Downsides of sunboard is that it can be scratched or broken if you treat it roughly, and that it cannot be bent or stretched too much. It is also pretty inflexible, so consider where you use it.
With all plates traced out onto your SB(sunboard), begin cutting it out using the box cutter. Make sure to keep a cutting mat or scrap wood plank below. 3mm sunboard doesn’t cut too easily on a single stroke if working with curved sections, so what I like to do for curved cuts is to extend the blade by about 2cm, hold it firmly with my right hand, and apply pressure to the back of the blade with my left thumb. I guide the blade along the pattern’s line away from me with my right hand. I find that this gives me much more control than trying to hold the cutter like a pencil or a knife. It also helps to cut a few mm outside the drawn line, so that you can later shave off the excess from the panel rather than risk cutting into the panel and ruining it.
(Some panel sections cut out & sanded)
Once you’ve cut out your panels, sand the edges smooth with progressively finer grits of sandpaper. The panels are now ready for heating and bending.
I personally use my Black & Decker 2KW heat gun, nicknamed Julius Root for the volumes of hot air it blows out, for heating my plastics, but earlier I was forced to use my mother’s kitchen stove(Don’t tell her that! J) Since the armour in this case was fitting to my body’s contours, I decided to thermoform the panels directly onto my body. This is obviously very hazardous, so take a pinch of salt and common sense while working with high heat.
I first memorized how each panel was placed and shaped, and then I covered my torso in a insulating but fitting hoodie. I wore gloves, and held each piece over the hot air blast from the gun until it became soft and pliable, then I pressed it over my body with a towel and held it there until it sufficiently cooled. The hotter it is, the more flexible it is, and any corrections to be made can be easily done by heating the part and bending it with your hands.
REMEMBER, holding hot pieces of plastic onto yourself is a pretty terrible idea, but is somewhat safe as long as you follow standard safety rules, keep cold water nearby, insulate yourself, and preferably have someone assist you in doing so. Again, I don’t need to repeat the need to use common sense or brains while doing this.
If you are using a stove, hold the pieces high over the flame, and turn the flame to a medium or low setting. MAKE SURE the plastic at no point darkens, burns or catches fire. PVC, PolyVinyChloride is a respiratory hazard when burnt, as it can release chlorine fumes. Keep the chimney/fan on, and ensure you have adequate ventilation & airflow through the room.
(All panels Thermoformed and sanded. Left image is the front chest plate, right is the back)
After ensuring that each armour panel is formed to the correct shape & fitting, give it a light sanding all over with 100 grit sand paper. If you want a smoother finish, go higher up to 220 or even 400. The higher you go and the more you sand, the smoother the end result will be. While sanding to smoothen or flatten any area, it can help to give a thin coat of primer to your prop, and then sand so that you can observe the high & low spots of your armour piece. After this, I made the holes for rivets in the chest plate. If you look at the armour’s pictures, there are little gold rivets which dot the surface, and I decided to use blind rivets to function both as the decorative rivets and to hold the plates to the straps.
Foreplanning is key here, have a friend hold the armour against you and figure out how you can get into and out of the armour, and how you will attach the straps so that you can comfortably wear the armour for several hours. Writing notes can really help. After making the holes for the rivets, you can proceed to the next step, Painting.
Whew, take a bow for getting this far down this log without losing your mind. This build log was so long I had to split it in twain, the next part will be uploaded next week at this exact time, so stay tuned. As usual, I’m here if anyone has questions, or just send me an email or FB chat. Thats all for now, so see you next week!