Introduction: Making Mass Effect Armor Out of Foam
As there have been a few people interested in how I made this, I figured it would be good to get some instructions out for how to do this for yourself! The nice thing about building out of foam is that it is cheap and versatile. So let's get started.
Tools & Materials Needed:
- Utility Knife
- Spare blades for your knife (Or a blade sharpener. Very useful.)
- Heat Gun
- Hot Glue & Glue Gun (Or Contact Cement)
- Dremel (Or a rotary tool)
- Plasti-Dip & Paint (I prefer spray for both, but I did use a few craft acrylics)
- Masking Tape
- Computer & Printer (Or just large rolls of paper for free-hand templates)
- Pepakura Designer (If using the computer templates)
- Pens, Rulers, & Scissors
- EVA Foam (Can be rolls or sheets)
With all that assembled, you should be ready to start.
Step 1: Step 1: Templates and Patterns
When trying to assemble patterns, it can be difficult to know where to start. Of course, if you have the drawing skills or are just looking for the challenge, you can free hand the patterns. Grab reference images of the armor from the game through any number of means (Google Image search, etc.) and then use large rolls of paper to draw them out. As you size them to your body, you'll generally be capable of creating the patterns that you'll need.
However, if you don't have that specific set of skills or know where to even start, you can download Pepakura templates from the internet. Pepakura Designer, computer software for PC, can be found here and the free version should sufficient. However, the license is only $30, so it can be a great investment if you plan on using this software often.
After scaling the templates to fit your body, just print them out and get to cutting them out. Then you will lay them on the foam and use the markers or pens to trace them onto the foam. After they are on the foam, you'll begin cutting and assembling pieces. Ensure that you are always using a sharp blade, as EVA dulls blades quickly.
An important issue to remember when using Pepakura templates: Not all parts are in the template, as they can be mirrored from the parts that ARE available. For instance, the entire left arm may be available, but there is no right arm available. Flip the pieces that are available and trace them out upside down. This will give you the right arm.
Step 2: Step 2: Assembly & Gluing
Now that we are cutting parts out of the foam, it is important to remember that we cut as we build! Reduces clutter as well as confusion.
When cutting parts out of the foam, it is important to keep an eye on your reference images. This will allow you to know what the parts are suppose to look like in their final shape. Just because a part is made of a lot of little lines does not mean that it won't need to get treated with the heat gun and curved into shape before it is glued together. When looking at the pile of yellow foam that I had, it needed to be heated and then curved around a bottle until it was cool and held its shape. Then it was used to form the bicep and forearm armor.
After the parts are cut, but before full gluing, ensure that you have tested the pieces to ensure that they will fit correctly. If there are rough edges, the Dremel's sanding bit can be used to smooth out edges and clean up jagged cuts (like the kind made from a dull blade!). When everything is all snug and ready to be glued, the method of gluing will depend on what type of glue you use. If using hot glue, I will add a line of it to the center of the gluing edge and slowly roll the two pieces together. This will ensure that you have a clean edge with the glue leaking toward the internal seam (and thus, is out of sight).
When using contact cement, the attachment method is similar, but it is important to completely line up your pieces. Once they make contact, the foam will rip before the glue detaches.
These seams can be further reinforced with hot glue on the inside of the seams. This will build the strength of the pieces, while ensuring that the part looks good.
Step 3: Step 3: Detailing
After the main construction is out of the way, it is time to start adding the small details that really make a set of armor pop. In the case of this set of armor, that would be pieces such as the lines on the thigh armor, the untextured chest strips, etc.
Smaller EVA Foam types, such as Foamies, can be used to make these details. In the case of the bands on the thigh armor, I utilized hot glue in order to simulate the texture from the game model. The Dremel bits are useful for carving in details like the forearm and torso lines.
Be creative and if you think of doing things like battle damage, etc then pull out the Dremel, slash with the utility knife, or whatever other types of additions you can imagine.
Step 4: Step 4: Sealing and Painting
EVA Foam is full of tiny little air pockets. This is why it is used as cushioning for floors. So when painting, you can't go directly to painting raw foam. This is where the white glue and Plasti-Dip comes into play. Plasti-Dip is a spray rubber that will fill those pockets, as well as provide a surface for the paint to grab onto. So I use a couple of coats of white glue mixed with water (50/50 or until it is about the consistency of milk) and then after that is all dry, start with a few coats of Plasti-Dip. This will give you a firm surface to begin painting!
After all the pieces are coated, then I will use some old newspaper or grocery ads and masking tape to isolate the parts that I want to paint a different color. This will allow you to add the white stripe without ruining the surrounding black parts. Once the paint is completely dry, you can then repeat the steps and then do the red stripe. I couldn't find a red that I liked in a spray paint, so I mixed a couple of acrylic paints and hand painted the red stripe. So any way that you want to paint that stripe is at your discretion. Then I drybrushed a bit of metallic silver onto all of the edges to show off some wear, as well as help the edges be more visually interesting. I also painted the hip pods, butt plates, and knee armor with the metallic silver as well.
After all is said and done, then you'll add a couple coats of clear coat in order to protect the paint job. I elected to use a gloss clear coat, as it gave the armor an awesome shine and looked great when photographed.
Step 5: Step 5: Final Costume
This is the step where you can add any finishing touches. LEDs, EL wire, fans, strapping, etc. are all important parts of making a costume look less like an interesting statue or display, and more like an awesome set of armor. So take this time to make sure it is comfortable to wear ( or as comfortable as it can be!) and that it looks as awesome as it can.
Best of luck to you in your own costume construction! Ask away and I'll try and answer anything I can!