Tag Archives: Props

Mitridate – Craft Foam Armor Tutorial

26 Mar

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!

Mitridate Act One by Tyson Vick.

Mitridate Act One by Tyson Vick.

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.)
  • Gesso
  • 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.

Here is the foam breastplate cut out. I laid it on the cutting mat in case anyone wants to know the dimensions.

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.

The next step is to use a fabric and glue it to the back of the foam to add durability. I used a cheap gauze that I had laying around, and put a layer of Mod Podge (Matte) on the foam and then over the top of the fabric.

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.

Here is a full view of the gauze back glued, dried and trimmed.

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.

Here are two close ups of the wire that I hot-glued on the back edges. This will help shape the foam into any shape you care to have, and it will hold.

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.

This is the design I created using strips of craft foam and 3D Paint.

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.

These two images show the craft foam edging which covers both the wire on the back (left) and the rough edges on the front. (right)

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.

This is a detail of the finished edging.

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.

I used Gesso to make everything white.

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.

Here is the breastplate painted with blue-metallic paint and leafed with silver leafing. The Jewelry has also been added.

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.

The Craft Foam Breastplate is seen here on a body form. The sides are held shut by running a string through eyelets. After this picture was taken I distressed and aged the armor, but this was a late decision and I will have no images of this effect until the final shot is taken.

Tutorial Achieved!

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.

Mitridate Helmet to go with the Armor. It is made in the same way with craft foam, but on a plastic mask base. It is based off of a historical military mask called Sutton Hoo.

Mitridate Act One by Tyson Vick.

One final look at the helmet and breastplate in the final photo! Mitridate Act One by Tyson Vick.


23 May
Jewelry and Silver

All of the Jewelry and Silver I'm using in my shoots in Los Angeles.

Making The Philosopher’s Stone (Jewelry Tutorial)

11 Dec

The Philosopher’s Stone wasn’t invented just for Harry Potter, you know! It has existed since the ancient Hindu people told of a magical element that could turn all metals it touched into gold, as well as grant immortality and raise the dead! It could probably also change your tires and give you an oil change while it served you pina coladas on a beach!

At the end of his life, Mozart collaborated on a fantastical opera called “Der Stein der Weisen” (The Philosopher’s Stone). Not all of his contribution to this piece is known, but they have identified at least 30 mins of music (much of it is duets with cats). This history, however, can be discussed in another post. Right now, let’s talk about the opera.

When a dispute arose between the two sons of the Wise Philosopher over possession of The Philosopher’s Stone, the Wise Man threw the stone into the sky where it was carried away by an eagle. The eagle would only return  when the Wise Man’s sons, either Eutifronte, the evil god of the Underworld, or Astromonte, the benevolent god of the Sky, had a child, and that child had a need for the stone.

Needless to say, there arises all sorts of trouble when many years later, Eutifronte, evil god of the Underworld, arms a teenage boy to the hilt (with an evil sword of dooooom!) and sends him on a quest to murder the sky god, Astromonte, who has mysteriously carried off the boy’s girlfriend. This opera is essentially anime or manga set to music.

Well, I am currently planning and constructing the “Der Stein der Weisen” props and costumes for my future photoshoot, and today I decided to Build a philosopher’s Stone.

My basic ideas were inspired by Twisted Sister Arts on Etsy an Illinois based wire-weaving jewelry maker. I wrote to her about my project, and though she was very busy with commissions she recommended her tutorial article in the current issue of “Step by Step Wire Jewelry Magazine” (Dec/Jan. Page 34).

A Twisted Sister Necklace:

A Necklace Designed by Twisted Sister Arts on Etsy

So I gathered together some supplies, and dumbed-down what I learned from her tutorial to my skill level! I very seldom make jewelry. I find that I never am able to create what I imagine, and it’s always easier for me to purchase finished items. The Philosopher’s Stone needs to be unique in a number of different ways, however, and it I knew from the beginning it would need to be custom made.

Here is the process I went through to make my Philosopher’s Stone!

Blue Moon beads, Large Crystal, Small Fiberoptic Gem, Two different gauges of Wire

Step 1. – Gathering Supplies

  • Blue Moon Beads – Package of two sizes of silver metal beads
  • Large Crystal
  • Blue Fiber Optic Gem
  • 22-Gauge Silver Copper Wire
  • 16-Gauge Silver Copper Wire

Last Spring,  I found a Large Crystal at the Museum of the Rockies, and I thought it would make a nice Philosopher’s Stone. It has a basic “I’m just a rock” quality, while still remaining unique and interesting, unlike a rock you’d find in the garden — which would probably be boring, and just make fun of your fat mother all the time.

Today, I gathered together some of my wires, and bought some beads and a very interesting Fiber Optic Gemstone that looks like light is shining through it no matter where it’s placed. (It even has a very faint glow in the dark!)

I wanted a double gem quality, as if the stone is some sort of sci-fi/fantasy machine that joins Earth and Sky.

The first step is Basic Weaving.

Step 2. Weaving

  • My first step was to take a 28″ length of 16-Gauge Silver Copper Wire and fold it in half.
  • I then cut a 14″ length of the same wire, and placed it in the center of the folded wire. I left a few inches of a tail hanging over the bottom.
  • Next, I cut an unmeasured  length of 22-Gauge Silver Copper Wire (I pulled it to the length I would when threading a needle, around a yard)
  • I wrapped the smaller wire around the base of the thicker wire, and then began a basic weave (over/under) around the three 16-Gauge strands.

Every ten coils, I placed some tiny metal beads on the line.

Step 3 – Beading, and Weaving

  • Every ten coils (I think one made it to eleven) I placed the small sized beads on the 16-gauge lengths of wire.
  • I then continued weaving. (If the 22-gauge wire ran out, I just curved it discreetly into place on the line, and started again with a new length.)

After the eighth line of beads, I split the wire, and started weaving only to lines.

Step 4. – Splitting the Weave

  • After the eighth line of beads, I split the wire (2 strands to one side).
  • I started weaving the smaller wire around only two strands of the thicker wire.
  • I continued adding beads every ten coils.

After the 4th line of beads, I split the wire again, and continued wrapping only one strand.

Step 5. – Finishing the weave

  • After 4 more rows of beads, I split the wire again.
  • I continued wrapping the single 16-gauge wire until I ran out of 22-gauge wire.
  • I left the other two strands hanging.

Moulding the Wire to the stone and gem.

Step 6. – Moulding the Wire to the Stone and Gem

  • I then took the woven wire and played around with it until I found a mould around the stone and gem that I liked.
  • I left the long ends hanging, roughly coiled into spirals.

A rough arrangement of wires and stones, beads added to coil tips.

Step 7. – Arranging the stones and wire, capping the coils.

  • I finalized my arrangement choices. (Some of the tail ends coiled over and under the woven strands.)
  • I  tightened the coil ends, capping them with small beads. (I don’t solder, so I used a hot glue gun. Lame, I know.)
  • I put the stones in place and (again) hot glued the metal to the crystal.

The Crystal proved to be so heavy, and my Jewelry experience so limited, that I just hot glued the metal weaving to the rock as an easy fix to the setting.

The Philosopher's Stone Front View

Step 8. – Finalization

  • I added another “s” coil of capped wire to finish it up.
  • Finished!

While I’m done with the wire work, I may decide to add a charm or two at some point in the future. If that happens I’ll update this post!

Philosopher's Stone Side View

So, that’s what I came up with! It has none of the elegance or craft of the designer that inspired it, but as a prop I think it looks sufficiently fantastical.

When it makes it to the photo shoot, it may be attached on a chain, or something. I’ll decide that when the time comes. For now, I’m going to put this Philosopher’s Stone in a box, throw it into the sky for the eagle (He’ll bring it back when I need it!), and start planning the costumes!