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.
Step 1: Building the Helmet
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.
Step 2: Painting the Helmet
I started with a black base, spray painted over the entire helmet surface. I applied a few coats after each one dried.
Next was the tedious process of masking off all of the chrome areas. I like to use automotive masking tape as it creates a nice tight seal compared to other masking tapes. I cut thin strips off of the roll in order to get into the tight areas around the face and cheeks. The entire process of masking took me a few hours.
There are several chrome paints available on the market. Some are better than others and some are not very good at all. I used a chrome paint carried by hobby shops called Spaz Stix. It comes in a small can, is more expensive but has one of the best finishes available.
After masking off the entire helmet, I first sprayed the chromed areas with a gloss black. This is important as it is recommended to help achieve a nicer chrome finish. The other advantage is that by spraying black into the masked areas it creates a secondary seal, which will significantly limit any bleeding of the chrome paint. (This is a good trick to use for any paint job. Spray the same colour as your base back into your masked areas. When you spray your next colour it has nowhere to bleed.)
Next I began applying very light coats of chrome by dusting it on. I repeated the process after about 10-15 minutes drying time. In total, I applied upwards of 8 coats. I then removed the masking tape and touched up any small areas with a fine brush and some black acrylic paint.
I aloowed the chrome paint to cure for a couple of days and then gently buffed the surface with some cheese cloth. I think any 100% cloth should work. Doing so, polishes the paint and creates a richer, deeper look to the surface.
Once the painting was down, I weathering the helmet using chalk pastel and some light scuffing with sandpaper. I did this to give the helmet some further texture, and a slightly worn look.
I blacked out the eyes using see thru fabric and a plastic mesh screen I found at Micheal's. I hot glued the fabric to the screen and then hot glued the screen into the inside of the helmet.
Finally, black webbing was used to block out the open holes in the cheeks and some foam was added inside for padding.
I cut a pair of tights and used a portion of the leg to act as a balaclava in order to cover the neck and to tuck my son's hair in from showing under the helmet.
Step 3: Soft Parts: Inner Tunic
It's been established that the screen used costume has 2 inner costumes layers as well as the outer tunic, or robe. There is a layer that has pleated sleeves, and then an additional layer on top with a completely pleated (it's assumed) body and skirt. In order to simplify matters, I combined these 2 layers as a way to save time and money. Considering most of that would not be visible under the outer robe, I opted to focus on areas that would be seen.
Sewing is not my strong suit, so I had to be creative during this process.
I started with a black turtle neck that my son already had and had never been worn. I removed the sleeves and traced them onto the cotton fabric that I was going to be using. Once I created a new sleeve, I calculated how many pleats were needed and cut out 1" strips of cotton. 37 in total for each sleeve. I folded over 1/4" of each strip, and ironed flat. Once I was finished I began laying them out over the sleeve and using fabric glue, attached each strip to the cotton base. I made sure to overlap so that I could hide the glue each time I laid down a pleat. After every pleat was glued, I trimmed the strips to the edge of my cotton sleeve including some seam allowance. These were put aside to be sewn later.
I then repeated the process for the skirt portion that would be visible underneath the outer tunic / robe. I used wool and created a paper template before cutting out the fabric. the mock skirt was sewn to the front waist area of the turtleneck.
Step 4: Soft Parts: Outer Tunic / Robe
I started by taking the appropriate measurements of my son. I then traced out the turtleneck that I used for the inner tunic and brought it into adobe illustrator. I made some modification to the sizing in order to get a more tailered fit. I then drew out the front and back skirt panels and scaled everything to actual size. I printed the patterns, tiling the print and taping all of the pieces together. Once complete, I taped the front and back of the robe together to create a paper version for my son to try on. The initial mock-up was too small and I had to add a couple of inches on either side of the patterns.
From there, I added sewing instructions to the pattern files, printed out each panel and traced them onto the chosen fabric. I then passed off all of the pieces to my son's grandmother who stitched it together for me.
The hood was loosely created from a pattern found online. However, a lot of revisions had to be made once it was fitted over my son's helmet. Once I was happy with it, it was stitched to the shoulders of his costume.
Step 5: Soft Parts: Scarf / Caplet
This piece of the costume was somewhat frustrating. The yoke or scarf, is essentially that. It appears to wrap, and then flow over the shoulder. However, the upholstery fabric I chose for the costume does not lye or flow naturally. I started with a long cape like piece of fabric with a neck hole cut into it. I draped it over my son and starting playing with it, and pinning it in place. Once I arrived at a look that mimicked the reference photos, pinned it to the costume without him in it, hung it up and started sculpted the fabric with my hands, tacking down areas with hot glue. Yeah, a little ghetto, but time was running out. I then cut the neck hole and attached velcro to the shoulder of his costume. The velcro held down the left side, while I draped the scarf around the other shoulder and then added velcro to that. I then took some scissors and cut the fabric in the back to achieve the desired shape / look. I finished it by agitating the edges with a wire brush.
Step 6: Belt
The belt was created using a piece of water buffalo leather I found from a local leather supplier. I needed a piece that was high enough to create the belt from the costume. I figured out the dimensions of the belt (scaled for a child) by doing a quick tracing of a reference photo of the costume with belt and then scaling it up to my son's size. The drawing then gave me the correct measurements for the belt and buckle.
After measuring my son's waist, I created a mock-up belt using 1/8" foam skin. This happened to be the same thickness of the leather and would make the sizing the same. I made sure he was wearing the costume while fitting the belt as the added layers would change the length needed. The last thing you want is to cut your leather too short. Once I got it right, I cut the basic belt using an olfa utility knife. There are 2 strips on the belt that run along the top and bottom. I first masked off the area where they would be glued as I didn't want glue all over the rest of the belt. I cut and glued them using contact cement. Barge is a common adhesive used in leather and holds very well.
The buckle was handmade out of sintra (PVC foamboard) I first traced the buckle from photos in illustrator and figured out proportions. This was easy since the belt was 3.5" high, so too was the buckle as it sits flush with the top and bottom of the belt. I cut out each layer with a knife, glued and sanded the buckle. I then painted it with the same black spray paint as the helmet, and gave it some slight weathering. The buckle is glued wiht contact cement to the front of the leather. half of the buckle is glued on, the other half connects the belt together. Connection is made with velcro.
Step 7: Boots / Gloves and Pants
The boots and gloves for the costume are purchased items that I planned on modifying.
I found the boots at a secondhand children's clothing store for $17. They are girl boots but are perfect for Star Wars characters. I removed the strap and gold buckles that were on the boot and was going to replace them with details that are found on Kylo Ren's costume. I ran out of time for Halloween but still may add something prior to future conventions. For now, I think they worked fine as again, very little is visible.
Kylo Ren's gloves are leather and for kid's, these type of gloves are difficult to find. However, I did find tight leather and fabric finger gloves at an equestrian store. I chose a fabric version with the intention of adding leather details made from scraps, decided against it. I may upgrade the gloves in the future with the leather ones I found.
My son wore black jeans under his costume.