Introduction: Optimus Prime Costume
First Prize in the
DIY Halloween Contest
When first beginning my search for the most AWESOME Halloween costume ever created, I first wanted to pick something I've always loved... this lead to my childhood amore for Transformers which eventually became my Magnus Opus or Optimus Prime to be exact. Once I had the idea I shared it with my family and thus began the endless nights, thousands of Glue gun burns and my invasion occupation of my living room. I unshackled the little geek in me and let him run buck wild 'til his heart's delight.
All together I spent about $40 - $50 bucks, finding most materials from what I had in my garage or around the home.
Things you'll need:
- Hot Glue Gun (and sticks - the bigger the bag the better)
- Duct Tape (Red, Gray)
- Masking Tap (Mainly for paint)
- Small Ruler and Big Ruler
- Exacto Blade
- Spray Paints (Primer, Red, Blue, white and Mettalic)
- $.99 cents store Mini Flashlights (4 of them)
- Hard HAt (about $6.00 at any Hardware Store)
- Velcro (Found at Major stores like Target, Kmart etc.)
- Lots and lots of cardboard, or foam board. Most companies throw out scrap or just go to your local markets and ask them to save you some before tossing.
- 2 tin cans (emptied of course)
- 2 plastic report sheet covers (for the windshields)
- I used old Hockey Gloves but any cheap canvas ones will work.
- Packaging tubes or PVC piping
Over the last month I've found myself staring at piles of trash while driving, hoping to find something I can use for my costume. Always try to be frugal and inventive.
Step 1: Creating the Head
Let start with the head.
First select an old bicycle, snowboarding, or hardhat helmet that you never plan on using again.
From the Cardboard or foamboard
- Cut 2 ear flaps (Triangle shape)
- Cut 1 center unit piece (Retangle Shape)
- Cut 2 side discs where you plan on attaching the 2 antennae. (circle discs) Antennae.
Like most of this project it will be a series of trial and error to make things fit, the ear flaps are no exception. Once you have your desired shapes cut out, you'll need to cut circles on the inside to affix to the helmet with hot glue. Adjust fast because the glue dries quick.
The Center unit will present the biggest challenge as the concave center will need to be cut out with your best estimate then refitted for additional cuts. Remember don't over guess because you can always take off more, but you can't regrow once cut. Take your time on this fitting, it will pay off in the end.
Finally as for the side discs, just cut out 4 identical round discs, then for interior spacing take small scraps of cardboard and stack them like pancakes. Identical in number so both discs are even. Sandwich the small scraps with 2 discs and glue in place. Wrap then glue with out rim with a thin strip that covers the sandwich space. While drying cut out 2 long strips which will be the antannae (equal length) then measure out there width on the strip part of the disc. Cut slats on the discs just big enough to fit the antannae then put some glue on the tips and insert in the hold. Attach to the outer flaps and you've got an Optimus helmet.
Prepare for Painting by taping open areas of fabric with masking tape and any plastic bags around the home. Primer first, then paint over with the blue color of your liking.
The Grill was made from Foam board found at any Target, Kmart and many times are at CVS or RiteAid stores. It comes in big sheets of 36" x 24" and is pretty inexpensive. (You'll maybe need 2 sheets for the entire project, more if you're prone to recuts)
I cut out a cross shape on it about the size of a regular sheet of paper (8" x 11-1/2") then folded and hot glued the edges together. Again the better your measurements and cuts in the beginning the better your final project will look.
I cut 1 center line the same length as the longest side (11-1/2") and hot glued it to the center.
I then measured and cut out 16 equal slats, slight taller than the interior depth because I planned on slanting them. Carefully I glued each slat into place, visually trying to adjust them to the same angle slant. (Trust me your hands become more skilled as you do this.)
Luckily foam board doesn't require primer as it is almost alwasys ready for paint.
Step 3: The Chest Piece
Basically it's trial and error for sizing.
Take a box, slide it over your body like a sock and guess how much needs to be cut to fit perfectly around your chest without counting your arms into the space. Cut out 2 big holes on the sides and try it on again. Most times your guess will be spot and won't need redoing.
Cut a vertical opening in the back so you can enter and exit easily.
Close off the top and cut out a big head hole. (Cut it a little larger than your head so your shoulder/neck muscles will fit through it better. (You may notice that while a box is perfectly happy to have all 90 degree angles, our shoulders aren't built that way. The have a little bit of a downward "V" shape)
Duct tape all interior bends. This reinforcement will become invaluable as you work the suit and tears begin to reveal themselves.
Step 4: Adding Comfort and Detail to Chest
The opening on the back has an additional interior overlaping flap that I used to affix velcro straps to. Kinda like putting 1 hand over the other.
I put 2 strips and tried sewing them in for reinforcement but found the needles couldn't hold up so I hot glued them. If you can get any sewing in I recommend it highly as sometimes the glue tends to rip off the first layer of cardboard.
Here I've added an awning flap where I plan on putting the small flashlights I bought at the 99 cents store.
Step 5: Painting the Chest Piece
It will become invaluable for you to set up an area outside your home where you will perform all your painting. Not only will it find itself being used all the time, but it's a good place to allow things to dry while your working on other parts.
Here I've set up the chest piece and small flashlights for paint. (Apple red of course)
Try to save your paint by knowing ahead of time what will be showing and what will be covered by other parts. As you can see i didn't paint the front slats in the chest piece becuase I knew I would addint windshield pieces later.
Conserving your paint with bring the dollar value on your expenditures down, so don't paint the inside please; that would just be ridiculous.
Step 6: Chest Piece Detail and Flare
Once the chest piece paint is dry, I hot glued the flashlights into place and used an extra amount of glue for reinforcement.
*word to the wise, if paint is not completely dry, the hot glue will melt the paint and make the bond weak, meaning a.) You'll have to repaint, and b.) Your glue won't stick. So wait until it's dry for sure.
I cut out 2 windshield slats to slide into the chest openings then paint them sky blue. The lighting bolts you see were cut out of regular white print paper then Elmers glued into place. I then took 2 plastic sheets found on those report covers I used to hand in to school, and cut then glued them over the blue sky and lighting bolts. This will give you that glass reflective look without actually have glass.
Hot glue them into the covering and if you want create an outer frame for them by painting metalic foam board strips and hot glueing them to the outer edges.
As you may also notice I painted the bottom of the fram metalic by masking off the top portion with tape and plastic bags found around the house.
*Side note: Notice Spaceballs is on the TV in the background!
Step 7: Torso Coming Together
I spent a lot of time refitting to make sure things work well. I put all 3 parts together.
I kept the lower torso separate from the upper chest portion and similar to the chest piece I opened up the back of the lower torso and used velcro as the clasp. Think of it as a girdle of sorts. adjusting to whatever weight or body types needed. It's pretty much a box that's open on top and bottom. I double walled this torso because I knew it would have to survive multiple attempts at sitting.
I made it slightly thinner than the upper torso so it could slide into it when I sit down, like an accordion. I also added a pair of suspendors to the inside to help with the weight and to keep it from sliding down.
Step 8: My Two Left Feet
To create the feet I took an old pair of shoes and and old industrial floor mat. (Like the ones store cashiers or chefs use) and stacked them on top of each other.
- Decide on how big you want the feet and create the box+trapazoid design you want.
- Cut out 8 to 12 pieces out of the foam and hot glue together on a pancake stack.
- Save just enough foam for the top layer where you will trace out a silouette of the bottom of your sneaker.
- You will cut out that silouette and put the shoe in. This will keep your shoe from sliding back and forth inside.
- Hot glue a velcro strap around all the foam pieces so that it meets just above the shoe. This will hold the shoe down into the silouette and give you more stability.
- Now build the shell around the foot and for added strength, insert some screws into the foam through the cardboard.
- When you paint make sure the shoes aren't inside the boxes!
Step 9: Creating the Legs
Boxes unfortunately do not come in pyramid form so you'll have to enlist your old Geometry skills for this one. Luckily you can skip the Pythagoreum Theorum on it.
Measure the length of your leg and go about 4 to 5 inches above the knee. Remember you can always cut away more, but your can't regrow cardboard.
Add strength and durability to the pieces by affixing duct tape to the interior bends. Again this will help with tears.
Fit the bottom opening to the feet and cut as needed. Double wall whenever time, energy and cardboard allow. It will help in the long run, but it does make the outfit a little heavier.
Step 10: Getting Them Feet to Dance
Once you get the right fit for the leg to foot balance, how to do keep everthing from slopping around?
I added velcro strap to the top of the legs that attach just behind the knee. With the lower half hugging the outside of the feet and the top half held against my knee you'll find it very stable and comfortable.
I also began making the design for the front of the lower leg where the vents will be places.
Step 11: Completing the Lower Leg & Paint
I found an old 4x4 razor scooter in my garage and decided the wheels would make great tires for the side of the legs. You should be able to use an old Big Trike or broken kids toys to use as wheels. (I don't recommend taking them from a toy that's still being used as this might upset the previous owners)
If you can't find any, and need to create some. Then see step 1 about creating discs. Same procedure different paint.
For Gas Cannisters I used old Tin Cans and painted them the same metalic as the other parts.
*Special note: Bolt these wheels and tin can to the leg piece. Just using glue is not enough. They will be knocked off. Make sure you use washers whenever bolting anything to cardboard. This will held secure it better by not punching holes in your creation.
Use the same technique for creating front vents that you used for creating the stomach grill. Foamboard works great.
Step 12: New Helmet Needed
After working with and mastering the materials I felt a new Optimus head was needed. The old one was too heavy, too hot and looked like a melon head on top of an already growing upper torso. I felt like a school mascot. So I scrapped it and re-did it from scrap.
I purchased a HArd Hat at home depot for $7 bucks, pulled off the straps (becuase they raise the helmet off your head too much and hot glued some padding in it, I ripped off an old bicycle helmet.
the reuslts were much, much better.
I made the sides thinnner and reused the side flaps and antannae from the first helmet. I recommend this one instead of using a snowboard helmet!
The face shield was cut then painted metalic to match the other parts of the costume. It's removable and held in place by 2 small pieces of velcro on the inside. I plan on purchasing a pair of blue tinted sun glasses to wear underneath as I've already got severe tunnel vision in this helmet and don't need to further reduce my line of sight.
Don't forget... PRIMER THEN PAINT!!! IT'S A MUST!!!
Step 13: Almost Finished
Once all the parts were completed I began the comforting process. This means like a wedding dress, I fit then recut and repaste and added duct tape for reinforcement.
The arms are basically 3 boxes.
- The shoulders were originally loose but then I decided the weight was too much and they began to sag (droopy optimus) so I attached them to the chest piece, which made it difficult to get in and out of, so I made the front of them flaps that open up like garage doors. When not open they're held shut by 2 small pieces of velcro straps on each interior side. Unless someone undoes them, they hold pretty well. (Hot glue of course)
- The exhaust pipes are from onld packaging material. Fabric stores have these and toss them. The're thicker than toilet rolls and stronger than Bounty roll tubes. I recommend they be sturdy as I plan on having them tugged at all night long on Halloween. They, like the tires on the legs, are bolted on. Again to prevent shearing. The holes are painted on using label stickers. I firts painted the lower half black. Waited for it to dry; placed the stickers evenly apart, then painted over them with the metalic spray paint. after drying I simple peeled off the stickers carefully with a pair of tweezers. You'll notice I shaded the tops to make them appear used.
Step 14: Arms & Side Wheels
You'll notice the side hip wheels were added to hide my backside as I plan on wearing tights Halloween night. Since cardboard is not very breathable, being able to wear underwear will help me keep the heat off. OF course they are bolted on for strength.
The waist piece is just some rubber foam matting I found at Target for $1.24 in the clearance section. I added the raised yellow pieces by cutting them out and wrapping them in bright yellow duct tape.
The thigh pieces both open in the back and are free standing. They have overlaping velcro closures and are reinforced by straps I found on an old baby front back pack. The velcro wasn't enough, as they would open when I tried to sit, so adding these straps was very helpful in keeping them closed. The design is just lines and dots, although I did add some shading on the outside to make it look more industrial.
As for the Arms, I was lucky that my Garage Junk included a Polycentric Hinge that I used to stabilize the upper and lower arms. See the attached design to help you visualize how the arms were created. Let me know if you have any more questions on the arms and some of the small details.
The final piece was deciding on what gloves to wear. At first I had a canvas pair that were already blue. You might have see them in the background of some of the other pictures. But ultimately I decided that an old pair of hockey gloves would be best.
They look more robotic, have more padding so the cardboard doesn't dig into your wrist and just fit the overall dimensions of the suit better.
Unfortunately the material does not lend itself to being painted, so I had to apply about 6 coats becuase each one kept being absorbed over and over again until finally it held. I have no remedy of this, just some advise to make you you save an entire paint can for just this.
If I look tired in this picture it's because I am. I've lost so much sleep and some nights I didn't even sleep at all. This was last Sunday 10/19/08 where I've been up for about 36 hours... but I finished it!
Now If only can remember where my bed is. It's been so long that I might have trouble finding it.
Two things you'll need to plan on are:
1.) Your home is going to be an absolute mess. If your wife has problems with little messes, then she's going to freak out and problably going to want a divorce before this is over. Try and clean up as you go along. It will definitely get knee deep in trash. Also cover any important wood you'll be working on with layers of extra cardboard. You'll be digging into it with your Xacto knife if you're not careful.
2.) Set an area aside in your home where you can place the completed pieces. Preferably out of foot traffic or where the dog will pee on it. This costume takes up a lot of space so make sure you don't damage your hard work. Also pre-plan how and where you intend to store the costume once completed. Luckily I have a garage and lots of packing material. If your single it could become permanent art in your room, but if you have a girlfriend or spouse these things are not possible, as they will clash with the Pottery Barn theme she is working toward.
All in all I have to say it's been one of the most rewarding expiriences. Lot's of time and love went into it. I hope you can find or commit the same amount when creating yours. I leave you with 3 bits of advice:
1.) Learn the interior fold for cleaner lines.
2.) Duct tape all bends for reinforcement
3.) Learn to work on 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night.
Godspeed and good luck
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