OK, here is my first and hopefully not last.......Instructable!!!!!
My name is Steven K Smith and I am a freelance illustrator turned prop maker living outside KC, Missouri. This demo will detail my full build of the dragon helm from Bio Ware's highly anticipated video game Dragon Age Inquisition. I will show you the process from concept and sculpting to molding and casting.
First off let me say some of the products that are used in prop building can be bad for you :(
So be safe!!!
Always wear eye protection, wear gloves, and use a respirator when needed.
Step 1: Step 1: Reference Material
When you start to think about making a prop from a video game, movie, etc. Always try and find as many reference images as you can. That being said, at the time I built this helmet there were 4 images on the web and the game was 10 months away. Regardless, the images I did find were pretty good and what I couldn't see I just used some artistic licensing.
Step 2: Step 2: Sculpting Base
For this build I decided that I was going to sculpt the entire helmet. Knowing that the clay would start to get a bit weighty, I decided to build a structure out of Styrene for support. I cut out and heat formed the styrene to the basic shape of the helmet. This provided a good solid base for the clay build up.
Step 3: Step 3: Bulking Up
Ok, so I built my styrene structure. Now it is time to start adding clay to the base.
I like to use "Monster Clay" for my builds. It's easy to work with and will not mess with your silicone mold later on.
You can find the product info here www.monstermakers.com/product/monster-clay-premium-grade-html
Basically at room temp it is fairly hard (great for detailing). A heat source must be used to make it malleable. I have a small convection oven in my shop that I use to melt down the Monster Clay. Once the clay is soft I started applying it in small clumps to rough out the basic shape of the dragons wings and the crest.
Step 4: Step 4: Taking Shape
You can see by now I have covered almost all of my styrene with clay. This will allow me to add and subtract till I get the desired shape. The wings are getting flushed out and the dragon on the crest of the helm is being roughed in for scale. Up until this step I really haven't used any sculpting tools. Tools will tend to make you want to detail, which I admit is the best part. But until you have the scale correct you may waste a bunch of time detailing a section that will have to be redone.
Sculpting Tip: Use multiple light sources. That way your not sculpting with a light on one side and then realize that you are totally off because of the shadows.
Step 5: Step 5: Details
Here is the fun part. I spent a whole day trying to work out the dragon's head for the crest. I sculpted this thing 3 times :) I wasn't really feeling the game accurate version so I decided to make a mix of theirs and my own. Beads were inserted into the clay to center the eyes. After that I used various dental tools to rough out the shape then go back in and fine tune the look. To make the finished product look like it could have been cast iron I used a heat gun to "melt" the surface. Like any other detail do not use the heat gun to much. It can literally melt away a lot of your hard work.
Tip: When using a heat gun the end of it gets crazy hot. I bought a 12X12 granite tile that I keep on my desk to place the gun on to cool off.
Step 6: Step 6: Final Details
Here is where you take your beautiful helmet and destroy part of it in the name of "battle damage" I just decided where aesthetically a scratch, ding, or notch would look cool. I also finished the spike mohawk along the top of the helm. For the spikes I cut and sanded down some oak, that I will cast separate.
Step 7: Step 7: Jacket and Mother Mold
You definitely want to wear eye protection, a respirator, long sleeves, and gloves from here on out.
So my helmet is now fully sculpted and looks pretty badass in my opinion. Next we move onto the jacket mold. I will be honest I do not enjoy mold making. But you don't want to spend a ton of time on a beautiful prop and have a bad cast thanks to a sloppy mold.
Clay is walled around the outside of the helmet and well as the eye and mouth openings.
I like to use Smooth-On Rebound 25 for my jacket mold. You will want to apply this using chip brushes in 3 to 4 layers. The first 2 layers being the most crucial as these are your detail layers. Layers 3 and 4 are just bulking out the silicone so they don't need to be as pretty. You will also notice the plugs at the top of my helmet. Those are for the mother mold to be able to lock around the jacket mold. That will keep the silicone mold the shape you want. I made the mother mold out of fiberglass and used wing nuts to keep the 2 halves together.
Step 8: Step 8: the First Cast
Nothing is more rewarding than pulling your first cast. You get to see hours of hard work start to pay off. I use Smooth On 65D to roto/slush cast the helmet. Now that the helmet is out I move on to cleaning up the cast. The workhorse in my shop is my Dremel. It is great for cleaning up all of the extra bits of resin from the cast and smoothing out the interior.
Step 9: Step 9: Painting
Painting is where your prop goes from just a piece of plastic to "BAM" I always start with a primer on the rough cast. From there I will use a mixture of different rattle cans to setup a base coat. For this build I used 3 different krylon metal finishes before I moved onto the acrylics. I prefer to hand paint all of my props. Nothing makes it pop like adding some acrylic washes and then drybrushing the highlights.
Step 10: Step 10: Setting the Stage
I really tried to get creative with the photo shoot for this helmet. I live in Missouri where it is bright and sunny one day and 5 inches of snow the next. That did give me the opportunity to have a couple of different backdrops for planned out concepts.
I hope you enjoyed this build!!
You can keep up to date on my latest prop builds at www.facebook.com/stevenksmithprops