Monday, August 6, 2012

Commander Shepard Cosplay


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Costume made by me, sponsored by

Photos from
and Entertainment Weekly
Omniblade commissioned from
Carnifex pistol loaned from



HD References
Narayas' ME2 Armor Patterns
Volpin Props' ME2 Armor Build
Evil FX's ME2 Armor Build

Armor Construction

Note: Closeups were mostly done after wearing it, so there's a bit of crazing!

First of all, I had to have patterns to work from.  Narayas' patterns were based off of ME2, but came with an amazing sizing guide, so I used those as a starting point.  While some pieces are too different between games and have to be scratch patterned, most of the pattern pieces still use the basic shape.  I just redrew all of the details onto the base patterns I was using, and added taped extra paper onto pattern pieces that needed to have their proportions changed.

Most of my technique I learned from the many N7 armor builders before me, especially Volpin and EvilFX, linked above.  Their builds are very helpful.  I used a mix of .5" EVA foam floor mats (available at Lowe's/Home Depot), 6mm EVA foam (from Michael's), and craft foam (also from Michael's).  In addition, I used a large sheet of 6mm EVA foam that I got online for the calf armor and shoes, but it was crappy so I won't link it here.  When using the foam floor mats, I never used the textured side. In addition, to make the armor more flattering, I only used the thickest foam on the back/front piece, the bicep armor, the thighs, and the elbow and partial knee armor.

After cutting out the foam shapes for the armor, I used a heat gun to shape the foam.  You can use a form to shape it, but I found I got the best results just curving it in as much as I could.  To adhere pieces together, I used super glue and hot glue.  Despite my typical aversion to hot glue, it worked pretty fantastically, especially when two edges of the foam have to meet.  Areas with flanges were carefully dremeled down to reduce thickness, and a layer of craft foam was laid on top for smoothness.  All of the detail grooves were done with a dremel cutting tool.

The one piece of my armor that wasn't foam was the breastplate.  I tried using Evil FX's method, and while his looks great, it wasn't working right for me.  Instead, I sculpted the bust in Monster Clay, used gelcoat and fiberglass to mold it, and did the final pull in shore grade 60 urethane rubber.  I also added a few layers of fiberglass cloth into the cast for rigidity.

Armor Painting

While I'm really happy with my painting technique, it's certainly very expensive and kind of complicated.  First off, everything got coated with Plastidip to seal it.  I had black nails for weeks!

Then everything was painted silver.  I then masked off the "smooth" parts of the armor so that only the areas that had that reflective texture showed.  I placed a screen on top and painted it black. Then everything was unmasked and coated in a thin layer of black.  Finally, I got to the weathering!  I used black acrylics in the grooves, seams, and edges, and then wiped them partially off.  I also added "dirt streaks" with the black and damp paper towels.  I then grabbed some silver paint and did all the highlights on the raised portions and edges, along with some damage streaks. In my opinion, it's better to exaggerate a bit on the painting.  In a full body photo, everything tends to get blended together and washed out.  It's the same concept as makeup for photos!

One note I'd like to make is that URETHANE IS TERRIBLE TO PAINT.  I had to do the same method on the urethane bust for uniformity, but the paint just kept peeling off when I removed the masking tape.  In the end I was just sure to be VERY careful when handling the bust, and it wasn't damaged during wear, thank goodness.

Armor Assembling

Pretty much everything is held together with buckles and Velcro.  The entire costume is modular, which makes it pretty easy to get on and off.  Even the stomach plate and back plate attach to the other pieces with Velcro!  The only exception is the calf armor, which closes with zippers.  When gluing straps and Velcro to the foam, I had the best luck with hot glue; super glue and contact cement didn't work out for me this time.  I hear barge is best, but I've yet to get some.

The fabric between the upper and lower thigh armor is a thick corduroy, and the thigh armor was mounted onto neoprene.


The undersuit was made from custom printed lycra.  I pulled the design right from a game model and made it repeatable.  Expensive, but worth it!  Construction wise, it's a simple front-zip bodysuit with a black collar closed with Velcro.  The fact that the upper chest was easy to open was great when I was feeling hot!  The bum armor plates were simply glued in place with contact cement, while I was wearing the suit.  This was a very special experience.

For my first full suit of armor, I'm really satisfied with it.  Shepard is one of my favorite female video game characters: she's strong, she's badass, and she's sexy, all while being fully armored head to toe!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Laughing Beauty - Metal Gear Solid 4

I was planning on completing MGS4 Raiden for Comic Con 2011, but when Konami asked me to judge their cosplay contest, I put that project down to make something I could judge in.  I chose to do Laughing Beauty because I already had usable fabric on hand, it would be something comfortable enough to judge in, and it was a costume I was already planning on doing in the future. 

This costume was made with wet look spandex and 4-way stretch vinyl.  I rush ordered custom stamps to put on all the white text and barcode detailing.  For more information on the sewing aspect, check out this blog entry.

I only had about 3 or 4 work days, so there are a number of things that were incomplete or need to be redone.  In the future, I plan on making the correct gloves, styling the wig better, and maybe even tinting the dark grey fabric to make the contrast more drastic.  Also, while all the white text is there, it isn't as clean as I'd like and I plan on redoing it.  For the time crunch, I am happy with it!

Photos by Eric Ng and Mike Rollerson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Making Bodysuits

I get a number of questions on making bodysuits with stretchy materials, so I thought I'd write up a little guide.

1. Make sure you use a stretch stitch!  It allows the seams to stretch without the thread breaking, and it isn't distracting as a top stitch if needed.  Here's my favorite stitch to use:

2. Always use 4-way stretch fabric on every part of the suit!  If you don't some parts could be too tight once fitted, or wrinkle strangely.  Also keep in mind that when sewing a lot of foam pieces on top of a base suit, the suit may become tighter.

3. Invest in a walking foot.  It moves the top and bottom pieces of fabric together, which reduces puckering in stretchy fabrics and vinyl.  It also is fine to use on non-stretch fabrics.

4. For a pattern, I use a zentai suit that I took apart.  If you use this method, use a zentai suit that's a touch larger than needed in case the fabric you use isn't quite as stretchy.

5. If you want to use a mesh overlay, all you have to do is cut the mesh out of the same pattern.  Make sure it's 4-way stretch, or you may not be able to put on your suit!  If you want, you can sew the edges of the mesh and spandex together before putting the suit together, but I find it's not usually necessary.

6.Before adding anything on top of your base suit, make sure you fit it first.

7. If you want raised/padded portions such as on the Old Snake costume, all you need to do is cut the same size of a thin piece of foam and fabric to cover it with, and just top stitch the fabric around the foam onto the suit.  Make sure the fabric is pulled tight!  If you do the reverse of this (foam and fabric on the inside of the suit) you can make a really clean looking muscle suit.  I use the thinnest green foam found at JoAnn's.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Swimsuit Selvaria

I made this costume for Anime Conji 2011. Swimsuit cosplay isn't my normal thing, but the convention is so small and is just hanging out with friends, so I didn't want to wear anything too complicated or uncomfortable. It worked out perfectly and I was able to comfortably wear it the whole day, except for needing a light jacket at night.

This is obviously nothing spectacular construction-wise. It's essentially a heavily modified bikini with an added bolero, and a holster which only made it into one photo because the knife and gun made it too heavy to walk around in.