With Star Wars Episode VII coming up fast, my 8 year old son wanted to be Kylo Ren for Halloween. He usually identifies with characters from the darkside, not because he's evil, but because their costumes offer such interesting and rich aesthetics. With that said, reference photos for this character are limited and I had to piece together what was available online, or through toys. However, toys often vary in detail from toy to toy, so it's best not to treat them as 100% accurate. My main inspiration for the costume came from images sourced from the Star Wars Celebration exhibit.
Kylo's helmet is detailed and also asymmetrical. The chrome pattern on his face is not identical having a slightly different pattern on either side.
I started by measuring my son's head. When making any helmet there are key measurements needed to create a custom fit. They are;
- Circumference - The distance around the widest part of the head.
- Diameter: The width of the head.
- Depth from to back, including and excluding nose
- Eyes - Width and height of each eye as well as distance between the eyes.
- Height of eyes to chin as well as eyes to top of head.
- Chin to base of neck
I started with a dome shape made out of 0.5" foam called plastazote. The dome is calculated by making half a sphere and is 8 wedges glued together.
I used contact cement to glue the dome together. Glue each side of the foam and allow to dry for at least a few minutes before sticking together. I like to glue each half separately then gluing the halves together.
When finished, you will have a half sphere. This may be fine for some helmets but Kylo Ren's helmet is more flat and squared off on top. I achieved this by cutting the dome in half, left and right hemispheres and adding a 1" strip of foam down the center tapering it at the front and back edge. Doing so widening and flattens the yop of the dome but doesn't change the width of the dome opening. I added another 1" strip between the front and back halves to extend the dome shape. Doing so gave the helmet dome some more depth. • See Dome Diagram in the photo sections.
Next, I refined the dome by carving the form using an Olfa knife until I was pleased with the shape. Note, I tweaked the dome throughout the building process.
Using the same 0.5" foam, I created a basic eye socket that would be used to help glue the face to the helmet.
The rest of the helmet was constructed using 1/8" thick sintra (PVC Foamboard)
I created the flare that wraps around the helmet by first drawing a pattern on paper and then created a mock-up with 1/8" thick foam skin, refining and editing until I arrived at a shape I was happy with. I then traced the mocked up foam onto my PVC foamboard. Using a heat gun, I softened the PVC foamboard and shaped it to the back od the helmet dome. A 1/8" notch was cut into the dome so that when glued, the flare was flush with the dome. Again, I used contact cement.
The same process was used to create a basic shape of the helmet face. After I was satisfied, I cut the foam template out of sintra.
The 2 muzzle faceplates were first mocked up with a paper template that I created and then the 1/8" foam for scale, placement and positioning. I kept it like this until the majority of the helmet was complete. I realized that the 2 faceplates were a little short so I went back and revised them making them slightly longer. Again, once I was pleased, I cut the details seen on the 2 plates out with a scalpel blade before heating and shaping the plates with my heat gun.
Next I began drawing directly on the helmet, trying to get the chrome pattern sorted out. I then did a test fitting on my son before proceeding.
This area was quite tricky and I found the best way to accomplish it was through trial and error. Using tracing paper, I copied the lines that I created directly off of my helmet. I then transferred them to the 1/8" foam and started mocking up the pattern. I used the same process for the face pattern, drawing on the surface and then refining it with tracing paper. To keep things simple, I created the forehead, and cheek patterns separately, glued them in place and filled the seams with bondo spot putty.
Clean-up, sealing, and priming
Once the raw build was complete, it was time to seal the foam for paint, fill any imperfections, sand, and prime.
To prep the foam portions of the helmet, I sealed the surface with white glue. I usually use flexbond but had none available. I brushed on 3 thin coats using a chip brush( Don't use a good brush, you'll only throw it away) letting the glue dry between coats. If you want the surface smooth, brush on the 3rd coat, and while its still wet, dip your fingers in a cup of clean water, and gently rub over the surface. This will help level the brush marks and remove small imperfections.
After that was complete, I filled seams, and any imperfection that I didn't want using Bondo spot putty. Sanded it with 220 - 800 sandpaper.
When I was finished with that, I primed the helmet using sandable primer. 2-3 coats. Gave it a wet sand, and primed again, filling in any further imperfections.