A friend of mine mentioned that she was going to make a Slave Leia costume for Halloween. Having always loved Halloween and the building of neat costumes, when another friend mentioned I should go as Han Solo, I dismissed it at first as not unique enough. Until I thought of carbonite! I researched it online, and found a few (Instructables user bserinese made a great one!), but thought I'd try it on my own. While this costume took a month to build (after work and days off) it seems most of that time was spent waiting for paint or paper mache to dry (which is as boring as it sounds!). Having done it once, without instructions, I think with a better plan, I could do it in a weekend off and a few nights after work.
Step 1: Making the Shell
I started with the biggest wardrobe moving box I could get my hands on. The width was what I was looking for, and close enough in height I couldn't complain. The only problem was with how deep it was, so I cut it just off centre and glued it back together to lessen the depth, keeping the shorter side to the inside of the box so it wouldn't be seen. I then hot-glued some 90 degree brackets to the inside to help it keep it's shape. As there were slight gaps where the cardboard came together, I used a product called Celluclay to fill them. It's a shredded paper mache product that you just add water to and then work it like clay. I taped some metal screening inside the box to help keep it in place.
Step 2: The Front Side
Next was figuring out where to put the hole for my face. Since I really only had one shot at this, I just used a scrap piece of cardboard to make approximate measurements on, adjusted them as needed, then used that as a stencil on the box. After a trip to the thrift shop for clothes (which I bought in grey, in case paint didn't stick as well as I hoped it would), I cut them in half, folded the edges around themselves, and hot glued them to the box, first the shirt, then the pants. I stuffed those with pillow stuffing as it's lightweight and fairly cheap. A pair of rubber glove from the dollar store made the hands. I bent some coat hanger wire to make the fingers bend the way I liked, then stuffed and hot glued those in place. I recommend using LOTS of hot glue on these, as everyone I encountered wanted to high-5 them. At this point I also used painters tape to make a border around the edges to keep a distinction between the messy frozen part of Han, and the smooth edges. As for the shoes, I couldn't find any that I wanted to cut the ends off of until I found some that had been purchased years earlier for a Wizard of Oz group costume that never happened. Once cut, glued, and painted, only Han would know for sure!
Step 3: The Back Side
It was about this time I also had to decide what to do with the back side. The back isn't shown in the movies, and online I could only find one collectible figure online that showed what it's back side looked like. I decided to go for a touch of humor, and added Han's butt.
Step 4: Carbonite Detail
So it wouldn't just be clean lines of Han's clothes on a cardboard box, I needed to make it look as if he were frozen into it. To accomplish this, I whipped up some more Celluclay and pressed it all around the edges of the clothes, shoes, and face-hole. Before I started to paint it, I wanted to add texture to the panel Han was frozen in. To do this, I tried smearing white glue over the front, but found it just ended up flat, and worried that it may not look any different once painted. I then decided to add streaks of hot glue for a more 3D effect.
Step 5: Painting Starts
I researched a lot of pictures and forums of people who build replicas of HIC (Han In Carbonite) and found no firm answer as to what colour to use. Seems to depend on what scene in what movie you're watching. I found a Rust-oleum Universal called Hammered Antique Pewter that I liked the look of and seemed to stick well to just about anything I tried it on. I don't have a paint booth in the garage, so I simply bought a large roll of plastic sheeting from the paint section of the hardware store and hung it from the shelves. 4 or 5 coats later, things were looking not too bad, IMO. I decided to use the Hammered Antique Pewter on the parts where Han was frozen in, while using a lighter silver around the edges and sides.
Step 6: The Panels
I found the easiest thing to make these from was empty tissue boxes. Originally made from the dash panels of a 1978 Volvo, I figured the tissue boxes would be cheaper and easier to come by. The one in the photo is not one of the ones I used, and the dimensions are a bit off. I also only created 6 of them, as opposed to the 8 in the movies, but with my HIC being shorter, I thought I could get away with it. The only one I really tried to make look like the movie was the "Hero Panel". It's the one with the handles on the side. Again though, this panel in the movie bounced from one side to the other depending on the scene. To counter this, I made two. I painted the Hero Panels all silver, while the other four were black with a silver front panel. I cut out holes of assorted sizes, then glued some cut outs of translucent binder dividers I picked up at the dollar store inside, added spray painted bottle caps for dials, and set them aside. I also used a spreadsheet program to make some grid patterns to put behind the coloured plastic to make the light shining through seem more like some kind of data screen. I also add a pair of smaller "panels" that were just cheap drawer organizers from the dollar store painted silver. I added a couple cheap blinky LEDs to (scavenged from a grocery store cardboard stand up display for batteries. I just asked if I could have them before they threw the display away) . I needed these to cover the hand-holds punched into the side of the packing box, where I would be lifting Han from the inside.
Step 7: Panels Continued...
I also had some old flashing LED pins shaped like cowboy hats that were left over from a work event, so I figured if I could add them, I'd have some flashy chase lights for cheap. I simply took a black marker to them, taking care not to colour over where the lights actually flashed. I cut out some of the foam backing from the display they came in and inserted that into the back of 4 of the panels. Because I wanted to back-light these to make them look like real control panels, I measured out where I wanted them on the sides, and then painted the bottom of where they sit the shiniest silver spray paint I could find, figuring it would help reflect light on the inside. In hindsight, I'd have painted the interior of the panels too. I also cut flaps that I could open on the inside to press the LED lights I bought at the dollar store. After that, I lightly pressed painters tape over the painted section, and proceeded to paint the rest of the side. I chose a lighter grey here to add a bit of contrast with the darker part where Han is frozen.
Step 8: Attaching the Panels and Hair
Actually attaching the panels was almost the last thing I did, as, once glued and paper mached, I wouldn't be able to access the blinky lights I had put into the small panels over-top of the hand-holds. After completing the paint on sides, I simply glue-gunned the panels over the shiny parts with the flaps. More paper mache and paint added like I did the clothes, and it was done. I was worried about not having any hair showing, but at the last minute I found a really creepy mask that had hair sculpted in. I simply cut the forehead off, painted it, positioned it in place, and glued it. By the time it was time to go out Halloween night (the next night) everything would be dry and finished.
Step 9: Out for the Night
I had stopped at a costume shop and found some face paint that would match the Carbonite pretty well when I started the paint process, so it was just a matter of painting my face, loading Han in the back of the truck, and off celebrate (after popping into work to show it off)! It was the hit of the night. Lots of stopping for pictures, lots of positive comments, and, at the end of the night, FIRST PRIZE IN THE COSTUME CONTEST!