I'm a big fan of the costume design from the Batman Arkham video game series. And when I saw the fantastic utility belt Batman wears in the latest game Batman Arkham Knight, I set about to make my own. It's an unusual design with oversize pouches with leather flaps, funky scalloped wings on the buckle, and various cylinders. This was a challenge to be sure.
Step 1: Planning
When I began this build this, the video game was still weeks from release. For research I was limited to preview images online. From these images I was able to get a good look at all sides of the belt. My first step was to draw a 2D view of the belt in Adobe Illustrator and create a blueprint to get the scale and proportions correct.
Step 2: Materials
Materials for this build fall into three categories. Build, mold & cast, and finishing.
Build: For building the master pieces that will eventually be molded I used primarily styrene sheets and a thicker sheet plastic called Sintra. Sintra is a lightweight yet rigid board of moderately expanded closed-cell polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It comes in many thicknesses and colors and cuts, sands and parts well. You'll see later that I also used various hardware store pieces for some details.
Mold & Cast: I used Smooth-on's excellent products including their Oomoo silicon rubber, and Smoothest 300 urethane resin.
Finishing: For paint and weathering I proved with Rustoleum matte black primer, painted a basecoat of Rustoleums Satin Metallics Classic Bronze, and used Rub N Buff Antique gold for the final finish.
You'll also need hot glue, super glue, some #6 X 7/16" Pan Head Metal Stud Screws, and a 2" work belt.
Step 3: Master Build 1: the Buckle
The main buckle is a complicated, organic shape that built in five separate pieces that would join together. This allowed me to control the various angles and bevels that would have been challenging as one piece.
I printed out my full-scale plans and used them as a template. Pieces were built by layering various thicknesses of Sintra and Styrene to get the various levels of each piece. For the two winged pieces on either side of the buckle, the main piece is from 1/2" Sintra. Then I layered a thinner piece os white Sintra with the various cut-outs on top. Sintra and Styrene both glue together with Super glue.
For the three central pieces, I used a small disk sander with a anger table to get the various bevels expect.
After the five individual pieces were make, they were all glued together.
Want a tip to get cheap, or even free pieces of Sintra? Call up your local sign shops. I found one that frequently has piles of trimmings and scrap. He is more than happy to have me come buy and take some off his hands!
Step 4: Master Build 2: the Pouch
The main body of the pouch built by layering 1/2" Sintra to get the right thickness. The finer details were again created with 1/16" or thinner styrene sheet.
Want to save money on Styrene? Buy those plastic For Sale and Rummage Sale signs at your hardware store. They and made from Styrene and you can't beat the price.
To create the two piece "clasp" that sits on the front of the pouch, I used the blueprints and layered the shapes up with sheet Styrene. Using multiple layers allows you to easily add features like recessed shapes and screw holes.
To soften the undercuts of the pieces I used a green modeling putty.
Step 5: Master Build 3: the Cylinders
I admit, this seemingly simple part vexed me for a good long time. I wanted this to be precise and the thin bands that wrap around the cylinder set could make molding difficult.
I built the entire thing with vertical layers of plastic spaces I found at the hardware store. The larger oval pieces for the "bands" are cut from Styrene. all of these pieces were stacked and glued together with superglue to create the look of the cylinders.
Step 6: Molding
With the buckle, pouch and clasp, and cylinders compete I had all the masters I needed to make a full belt.
All the parts were primed and wet-sanded to get a smooth surface. Most pieces were able to be molded with a one-sided "dump" mold. Adhering the piece the a glass sheet, I built a mold wall around each with Lego bricks.
The cylinders required a two-part mold to cast the complicated shape. Check out Smooth-on's awesome YouTube page for great tutorials on using their products.
All the mold boxes were then filled with the two-part Oomoo Silicon Rubber.
Step 7: Casting
After the masters were pulled from the cured molds I cast duplicates of all the individual pieces I needed for a belt.
All the pieces were cast with Smooth-on Smoothest 300 white urethane resin.
I should also mention the leather flap in my design is actually an imitation leather (but a nice one) that I found at the fabric store.
Step 8: Finishing
The belt in the game has a distinct look to it. It's a worn brass with lots of smudges and grit.
To get the look I first primed all the resin pieces with Matte Black Auto Primer. I then sprayed a medium light base coat of the Rustoleum, Classic Bronze. You want to go easy with the base coat. You want to retain the black primer in some of the shadow areas.
After the base coat dried I applied the Antique Gold Rub N Buff. Again, you don't want to cover the whole piece with this. Smudge it around, leave some spots bare. It should look random and antiqued. Each piece gets a light satin clear coat to lock the paint in.
Step 9: Final Assembly
After finishing, you need to superglue the leather flaps to the front and back of the pouches, then superglue the clasp pieces to the front of the leather flap.
For the base belt, I've used a could different belts. The simplest and best turned out to be a 2" web work belt from the hardware store. The pictures above show my "splurge" version: A police tactical belt with a $35 metal cobra buckle. Overkill, I know.
To attach the pieces to the belt, I first used Hot Glue to attach the various pieces. Then from the back, I used several small black screws (#6 X 7/16" Pan Head Metal Stud Screws) to secure each piece.
The last pic here shows my belt on an actual Batman cosplayer. And I'll be damned if it doesn't look just like the video game.