This year my 9 year old son asked if he could be a First Order Snowtrooper for Halloween. When asked why that character, he simply replied, " I really like the look of the costume." Growing up, the Snowtrooper from The Empire Strikes back was one of my personal favourites, but there's something regal about the costume used in the Force Awakens. The character exhibits a nice balance between tailored clothing and armour with a clean white look and plenty of details. With that said, working with an entirely white costume is a bit nerve racking as both a builder and a parent of a 9 year old boy. I had visions of cheesy finger swipes smeared across the pants from a class Halloween party, and splashes of dirt and mud from a rainy Halloween night. Thankfully, none of that came to fruition.
I started the costume around mid September which didn't give me a ton of time considering I had to work on it outside of my full time and freelance professional obligations. I banged away at it during any available evening and weekend. Somewhere between that time, I did a little parenting. By the time Halloween rolled around and I had completed the majority of the costume but fell short on a couple of accessories. I tried not to worry too much as there's plenty of opportunities to wear the costume to upcoming fan conventions around the greater Toronto area. In the coming weeks I will add the forearm and hand armour, upgraded gloves, a blaster and an officer pouldron.
Step 1: Materials
I generally use the same materials in every costume I create. The are usually a combination of various foam and foam board. For the Snowtrooper I used 3 main materials but of those 3, I used a PVC foamboard called sintra most often.
PVC Foamboard (Sintra) 1/8" - found at plastic suppliers
- Relatively inexpensive - roughly $40 Canadian for a 4' x 8' sheet
- Easy to use, can be cut with a olfa knife / xacto knife
- Responds well to heat and can be shaped using a heat gun - heats up quickly
- Will form over some shapes once heated
- Can be sanded easily by hand or with a dremel
- Smooth surface
- Can be primed and painted without issue
- Can be glued with just about any adhesive
Doesn't respond well to stress, will break if forced too much. Also available in 1/4"
Plastazote Foam - Smooth closed cell foam found through foam supplier
- Comes in various thicknessess
- Can be carved
- Can be sanded by hand or machine
- Cuts easily
- Responds to heat - can be shaped
- Can be glued with spray adhesive and hot glue
- Not easily accessible
- Needs to be sealed before painting
EVA Foam - Smooth closed cell foam comes in interlocking puzzle mats
- Inexpensive - Roughly $13 for a pack of 4 floor mats
- Easy to find - Carried at retail stores such as Walmart
- Cuts easily
- Responds well to heat - can be shaped
- Can be sanded with a dremel
- Will accept various adhesives
- Smooth surface
- Cannot be carved - requires very sharp knife to bevel or needs to be dremeled
- doesn't hand sand well
- Textured on one side
- Limited thickness
- Needs to be sealed prior to painting
Step 2: The Helmet
Prior to starting any replica costume, I do extensive research on the character gathering images, and information about it. Next I decide the appropriate type of build and materials needed and begin making templates to achieve my goal. In the case of the Snowtrooper helmet I relied on my PVC foam board (Sintra) for most of the construction. Because it is only 1/8" thick, I figured I could replicate the helmet characteristics closely by using this material. NOTE: The Snowtrooper helmet is actually a Flametrooper helmet that has been adapted for cold climate. I decided that it was only important to build what you see and basically reduced the helmet into 3 parts. Dome and flared hood, faceplate, and jaw / breather valves.
I use a pie shaped wedge template to create a sphere. I can scale it appropriately, to create the desired size sphere, or in this case a hemisphere. After taking measurements of my son's head, I calculated the size of each of my template wedges. The formula is: diameter x pi (3.14) = circumference. Then I divide the circumference by 8. The number I get is the width of the base of the wedge template. 8 wedges make half a sphere. I used 1/2" plastazote to make the dome. Once the pieces are traced and cut out, I apply heat with a heat gun and shape the wedges with my hands. The goal is to curve each piece both vertically and horizontally. I glue the pieces together using contact cement or spray adhesive. In order to widen the dome, I add a strip of foam, separating the halves at the appropriate width.
Next I worked on the flared hood around the helmet. This was a bit tricky as I needed to make a paper mock up rather than just create a template on my computer. (Side note: I create templates using Adobe Illustrator)
Once I was happy with the flare, I transferred the paper template to a piece of sintra, traced it and cut it out. Again I used my heat gun to soften the sintra and shaped the flared dome over a curved surface in order to achieve the desired shape. NOTE: objects such as paint cans, tubes, bowls all make good starting points when shaping material into a curved form.
The flare was then glued to the plastazote dome using spray adhesive. I carved into the foam a bit to allow the sintra flare to sit flush with the domes surface.
Next I began work on the face plate. I created a template, applied heat and shaped the faceplate. The first attmept wasn't the right size so I made a second altering the template slightly. To achieve the flared openings around the breather valve, I heated the faceplate and shaped it over a thick cardboard tube.
Creating the jawline / breather valves was the most difficult part of the build. Getting the angles, slope, shape and size were all, at times, frustrating. I started with a paper template and modified it as I went along. The base of the jaw / breather was sintra with plastazote foam glued on top. Using the plastazote gave me freedom to carve the form. Once it was finished, I noticed some glaring descrepencies, it was too large, so I carved some more away, sliced the breathers down a bit and reshaped the entire lower portion of the helmet.
Each element of the helmet was sanded individually beofre assembly. To seal the foam on bothe the dome and breather section, I flexbonded the surface. (Flexbond resembles white glue but is flexible, and a bit more fluid than white glue. It is used as a sealer or an adhesive. Its also now available in small bottles through cosplay supply websites)
I apply 3 coats using a brush, the third coat being the smooth coat. Once the 3rd coat is applied, I smooth the surface by dipping my fingers in water and rubbing over the flexbond.
Once dry, I primed all of the helmet elements using filler primer. Once there is a coat or two of primer on, I can see where all of the dents, seams, defects etc are and I then go over the helmet filling those areas with BONDO spot putty. I then sanded the areas after the spot putty was dried, primed again before wet sanding. I repeat this process until I'm happy with the results, or run out of time : )
When its all finished, I give a final primer coat and sand lightly with 1000 - 2000 grit sandpaper. This helps buff the helmet and give a slick surface before painting.
I painted the helmet and entire costume using Ironlak spray paint. This is a graffiti paint that is heavy with lacquer and gave a nice glossy finish. I sprayed a few base coats of white, allowed to dry for a couple of days and then masked the helmet prior to painting the black striped details. For the black I used a flat Moltow graffiti paint.
The valves seen in the helmet were made using the PVC foamboard (sintra) I created several circle templates, cut them out and stacked the sintra to mimic whats seen on the screen used helmet. I then sanded the valves, primed them and painted them with some chrome paint I had laying around. TO achieve a bit of grease and grime around the valve, I brushed on some black acrylic paint and rubbed it off with a damp paper towel. I glued the valves in with hot glue.
The vision screen is a combination of a black plastic mesh found at Michael's and a piece of black see thru fabric. The fabric is stretched over the plastic screen and hot glued together. The screen is then hot glued into place behind the faceplate.
Step 3: Chest & Back Plate
The chest plate was created using 3/4" EVA foam that I had from a previous project. I wasn't thrilled with the material as its a but spongy and difficult to work. Like I mentioned above, it doesn't like to be carved and made shaping a bit more labour intensive. The inset plate was made using sintra as well as the buttons that appear inside the plate.
Once the chest was built I flexbonded it, primed and spot puttied followed by wet sanding. Due to time, I created the graphic lettering on the chest by replicating it in Illustrator, and printing it our on clear adhesive labelling.
The back plate was simple and consisted of sintra backed by a piece of 1/2" EVA foam. I used sintra because I knew the backpack had to clip onto it and I wanted a strong base that I could screw clips into.
I attached the front and back plates using 2" velcro. The two halves come together and are strapped at the shoulder.
Step 4: Shoulder Bells
The shoulder bells were created using sintra. I started with a basic paper template that was modified as I went along. To achieve the curved portion of the shoulder, I used the same technice as the helmet dome and made a 1/4 sphere out of sintra. Heated the pieces, shaped them over a baseball, and glued them together using E-600 adhesive. The seams needed to be filled with bondo, sanded and primed. The shoulders attach to the chest/back plate with 1 piece of white webbing.
Step 5: Belt
The belt consists of a black rubber belt strip, a cod piece, a simple white buckle and two fabric pouches.
I couldn't locate any rubber that matched so I used a piece of 2" black webbing. The cod piece was created using sintra by starting with a template and shaping the sintra over my son's sport jock. I then trimmed it to shape primed and painted it white. The buckle is 2 pieces of sintra glued on top of each other, rounded at the corners, primed and painted. I created the pouches by making thin foam boxes and covering with the same fabric as the costume. I created box patterns that were used for both the foam boxes and the fabric slip covers. The pouches attache with a loop of fabric that slides over the belt.
Step 6: Shin / Knee Guards Spats
I enjoyed making these. Simple in their construction but with the added buckles they look really cool and complex.
The shin guard was made using sintra. The middle section is one piece the was heated and bent at the knee cap. The sides of the shin guard are separate pieces that were glued on using E-6000. I didn't have time to replicate the buckles used on the actual movie costume so I opted for backpack type buckles that clip together and sliders to attach the webbing.
The spats are double thick sintra that was heated and shaped. The front and back of the spats are attached with 2" white elastic so that they can slip over the boot and snap into place.
The boot covers are made from the same fabric as the clothing and are a sewn tube the slips over the boot to hide the laces and boot uppers.
Step 7: Back Pack
Maybe the toughest part of the build. The backpack combines sintra, EVA and plastazote foam. It was built piece by piece, starting with a frame work. I left the top plate separate and glued when the backpack as complete.
After the raw build, I refined the design by carving and sanding. I flexbonded the foam parts and repeated the process of priming and filling with bondo. The back accents are a mix of paint and printed stickers used to save time. Some details were very small and were better executed by use of stickers. The backpack attaches to the back plate using a picture hanger system.
Step 8: Clothing / Boots
The clothing worn in the costume is highly detailed and I was fortunate to have assistance from a friend who managed the majority of the sewing. Each article of clothing is made with the same fabric and is lined with cotton batting to create the thermal look and quilted top stitching seen on the details.
The boots were purchased at a second hand kids clothing store for $9.50. They were a little big but the chances of finding such a good match in my son's size was going to be tough so I grabbed them knowing he could where them for at least a year with the costumes.
Step 9: SnowTrooper Approved.
Thanks everyone for checking out my instructable on The First Order Snowtrooper costume.