For my upcoming photo shoot of Mitridate, the tyrant king needed some fancy armor. Buying custom armor is very expensive, and so I went with the standard Cosplay route of making my own!
Cosplay is a hobby where a fan creates an outfit and dresses up like a popular fictional character (Star Wars, Video Games, Anime). The cosplayer often has to use Craft Foam to make their own armor. This is something I did before I knew what cosplay was, but when I found out about cosplay, I was very pleased to find that they provide many useful tutorials on making things out of craft foam. I have adopted a few of their recommendations over the years, and I would like to make a little tutorial to show you how I created Mitridate’s breast plate using all of these techniques.
Update (April 2013): I am now able to share the final image so that you can see the breastplate in action!
Craft Foam Breastplate.
(Note: Any piece of armor you make will utilize these tools. This post will only focus on the breast plate, however.)
Step 1. – Gathering Supplies:
- Craft Foam (Available in many colors at craft stores like Michael’s. I use white mostly.)
- Gauze Fabric
- Large Gauge Wire (I used AnchorWire Multi-Purpose Wire, 16 Gauge.)
- 3D Paint (I used Delta Accent Liner – Air Dry PermEnamel for glass ceramic and tile.)
- Metallic Paint
- Metal Leafing supplies (Leaf and Glue)
- Jewelry pieces (If you want accent details)
- Hot Glue
- Mod Podge
- Scissors and Knives
- Straight Edge
Step 2. – Making A Craft Foam Form
First, I drew a picture of what I wanted to make. Then, I took the measurements of the model and padded out my dress form to match. Then, I took a large blank sheet of Craft Foam and guessed at making a pattern. I do this sort of thing quite a bit, and I realize this might be difficult for some people to do. I have put the final cut-out piece on my cutting mat so that if anyone wants to know the dimensions, they can see them in the picture.
The following image of a foam rectangle with a hole cut out of the middle is the breastplate. The head goes through the hole, pointed edge facing the chin, and the foam covers the breast and back.
Step 3. – Adding a Fabric Backing
My next step was to cover this craft foam piece with fabric to add durability. I used a cheap gauze from JoAnn’s (It’s like .99/yd) and glued it to the back of the foam using Mod Podge. Mod Podge is a glue/sealer that is available at most stores that sell craft supplies. It comes with many specialized finishes and consistencies (Matte, Glossy/Fabric, Paper Mache). I used the basic Matte version. Many tutorials talk about mixing glues with water, etc. to get the correct consistency, but since Mod Podge has already perfected it, why bother mixing? The Mod Podge dries with quite a bit of flexibility, unlike some glues (like Tacky Glue) that dry hard.
This step is recommended by many cosplay tutorials, and this is the first time I adopted it for one of my projects. I chose to use it because the craft foam needs to support the weight of a cape in the photo, and I thought extra stability would be useful.
In the pictures you will see the un-glued fabric gauze sitting next to the craft foam in case you need an idea of what the fabric looks like. On the back of the foam I put a layer of Mod Podge, and then smooth the gauze over the top of the glue. Next, I add another layer of Mod Podge over the fabric. This is generally a messy process, and you can use gloves if you prefer.
I know I do.
Then, you wait for the glue to dry. Once the glue is dry, you can trim the edges to match the craft foam.
Step 4. – Wire Edging
This is a step that I have never seen on any other tutorial, but it is one that I have always used. I take a large wire, I used 16 Gauge Multi-Purpose wire, and hot glue it to every edge of the craft foam. I glue it on the back, the side with the fabric. This wire can later be bent to shape the armor in any shape you want. It is very much like how Millinery wire is used in the brim of hats. The wire needs to be thick enough to support its own weight without bending, but not so thick that you cannot reshape it easily. I bought a spool at Lowe’s.
Step 5. – Decoration that goes under Edging
With this project, the wire will be covered by craft foam edging in a later step. Therefore, anything that goes under this edging needs to be finished now.
Using some drawn guidelines, I glued strips of craft foam to the front of the breastplate. I also took a 3D Paint (Delta Accent Liner – Air Dry PermEnamel for glass ceramic and tile) to make a fancy etching-style pattern on the front lower edge of the breastplate. This “etching” matches the tattoo that Farnace wears in my previous Mitridate Photo. The 3D paint is applied in two layers on this particular project.
I also have Jewelry Pendants and Findings that will be added towards the end. In the image below, you can see there are some circles drawn in where one of these will go.
Step 6. – Craft Foam Edging
This is the step where I cover the wire, and created a nice finished edge all around the breastplate. Using a strip of craft foam which is wide enough to cover the wire in the back and the rough edges on the front, I hot glue the strip all around every edge of the breastplate.
Sometimes I do not use this step. You can get away with just leaving the wire exposed on the back if it will never be seen, and you don’t want a raised edge all around your piece.
Step 7. – Gesso that Sucka!
The next step is to prime the piece for painting. I use a primer which comes highly recommended to me, and from me, called Gesso. It is a very nice primer.
Step 8. – Painting, Leafing, Details
Next, I painted my breastplate with two types of paint. One is your typical Silver acrylic paint, and another is a metallic paint from “Sophisticate Finishes”. Sophisticated Finishes make the best looking, affordable metallic paints. In the image you will see the blue-metal is one of theirs.
I also used Silver Leafing on top of the silver painted areas once it was dry. Leafing is a technique where you put down a layer of special glue, wait for it to get tacky, and then apply thin sheets of metal over the top of the glue. Leafing is fairly difficult to learn how to do well and evenly, but the results are far better than the cheaper alternatives of metallic paint or Rub ‘n’ Buff. Actually covering the piece with metal leafing makes it look more like metal than any paint can.
Leafing is extremely messy, and many a wayward breath or gentle movement has sent the metal flying all across the room, but for all the trouble, and all the glue that bonds your skin together, and all the vacuuming, this is one of the only difficult processes that I swear by. The result is worth the trouble.
This is also the point in the process where I added my Jewelry findings, because they needed to be leafed to match.
Step 9. – Finishing Touches
There are a few finishing touches that this piece needed. Different pieces will need different finishing touches. This breastplate needed eyelets for closure, sealer and distressing (not pictured). I use either Mode Podge or Leafing Sealer for the sealer.
Any armor item you choose to make will use the tools and steps listed in this tutorial. This breastplate is only one of the many craft foam pieces I have made over the years. I have made masks, hats, models and props out of craft foam (and leafing) to achieve custom metal items at a low cost.
Mitridate’s breastplate was actually created to match a helmet I made for him over a year ago! The helmet, which is a great deal more complex, uses a plastic mask and paper clay in addition to the techniques listed above! You can see it in the image below.