Introduction: Pepakura Alien Queen
Some of you may have seen my Alien Queen costume back in October for the Halloween costume contest. The response was fantastic, not just here, but on many other wonderfully nerdy sites like Kotaku, MAKE, and Fashionably Geeky. I was brand new to Instructables at the time and didn't realize how detailed users prefer their Ibles to be. In response to the many inquiries I had about the pattern I used and the pepakura aspect of the process, I've created this Ible to walk you through the paper craft end in greater detail. The Queen is a BIG project and requires a lot of hours, but hopefully the following will make it a little easier for those who dare construct her. Consider this your crash course in large scale, advanced Pepakura, to use as a spring board for your own Alien prop and costume projects.
Step 1: The Source File
I knew I wanted to make the Alien Queen for Comic Con/ Halloween, and some quick googling revealed that there were bountiful resources in fan driven prop recreation forums. The file I ended up choosing came from The Hunter's Lair, and was created by a user named MovieMan. I have since sent him a thank you email for his lovely work, though it appears he hasn't logged in for months.
The original file is now offline, but I've re-uploaded it for you HERE.
You'll need to downloadPepakura Designer 3 in order to read the file. The program is free to download, but it will not save any changes you make to the file unless you get the paid version.
The program will allow you to view/ rotate the model in 3 dimensions (like in a 3D rendering program), and will also display the flattened print view (right), distributed over a number of pages.
Step 2: You Will Need...
In addition to the source file and the Pepakura Designer program, you will need
BASIC PEPAKURA ASSEMBLY:
1 Ream of Cardstock --regular paper will not withstand the scoring and gluing this project requires. You need card stock for its body and structure.
X-Acto Knives and Extra Blades -- Standard shape or swivel head
Self-healing Cutting Mat
Several Envelopes or Folders
Access to a Printer -- Any black and white home printer will do, as long as it can feed card stock through.
FOR OPTIONAL RESIN HARDENING:
Chip Brushes --or other cheap industrial paint brushes. DO NOT use foam craft brushes as they will not hold up.
Disposable Containers -- like rinsed out cottage cheese or yogurt tubs. You'll use these for your resin and they'll be thrown out after, so do not use anything you care about.
Bondo Fiberglass Resin + Hardener Drops
TBSP Measure -- This will also be used for your resin, and may never come totally clean. Buy a cheap plastic set of measuring spoons at the dollar store so you don't ruin one you use for other projects or food.
Step 3: Before You Print
The original pepakura file was created in Europe, and thus the printable pieces are configured to A4 paper. If you're working on A4 paper (first pic), you're good to go.
If you live in North America, you will need to change your paper settings and re-arrange some of the pieces in order to print successfully.
Open your pepakura file. In the top menu, go to "Settings" > "Print and Paper Settings"
Change the paper size to regular Letter size.
After doing this, you will see that the boundaries of you pages, shown on the right side of your screen, have changed. The Alien pieces may be hanging off the edge and bleeding over onto other pages.
Using your mouse, select offending pieces and move them back up onto their page. Selected pieces will highlight red and move where you guide them. Do this for all pages, and don't be afraid to zoom in and be sure you got everything.
If you're interested in conserving cardstock, this is also an opportunity to put more pieces on each page. You can move smaller pieces to fill existing gaps on more populated pages. I did this and reduced my sheet count by at least a dozen pages.
Step 4: Number Setting
The little numbers on all your flat pieces are VERY important. These are your guides for what goes where.
The program default seems to put a lot of the number outside the pepakura pieces. This is bad. If you were to print and cut the pieces as is, you'd have to transfer all the numbers onto your pieces by hand, or risk not having any idea how things fit together.
Go to "Settings" > "Other Settings" and locate the box for "Place Edge ID Inside Face".
UNCHECK THE BOX
I know that sounds like the opposite of what you want, but it works. All your numbers will pop to the inside of your pepkura pieces. Now they will be intact after you cut and it'll be easy to figure out what links together.
Step 5: The Printed Pattern
Ultimately you'll end up with a rather formidable stack of card stock. Pages sometimes curl when they come out of the printer (depending on the style of printer), but this will not effect your final product.
Look at a page of pattern pieces. You'll see that the numbers on each tab or edge correspond with what is directly across from it, in most cases. This makes sorting easy to do as you work your way through the pile.
Don't get discouraged. This project takes a long time, but the steps are easy. Take that stack a chunk at a time while you watch netflix or listen to music.
Step 6: Cutting Tips
1) The best way to begin is to cut a sheet into more manageable pieces. Use scissors to cut in broad chunks, going between your pattern pieces. This will make each piece easier to deal with than trying to fight the whole sheet of card stock.
2) Use scissors to cut away the easy straight edges. Some pieces will be better suited to scissor cutting than others. Cut from segment to segment to stay precise.Do not attempt to do a whole side of a piece in one long cut, as you can risk tearing as you turn corners.
3) Use an X-acto blade and metal ruler for small areas, curves, and notches. This will ensure precision and also give your hand a nice break from the scissors, which can start to hurt your hand after a while. Mix it up and alternate the tools to stay comfortable.
4) With both tools, remember to work in successive cuts (5th photo), working segment to segment. This will give you crisp edges and precise corners. Trying to cut all 3 facets of this piece in one swoop would risk damage and misalignment.
Step 7: Organization
Use envelopes or 2 pocket school folders to keep your pieces organized by their number range. Folders are good for the large pieces that make up the shield. Staying organized will keep smaller bits from getting lost and will also keep companion pieces near each other, which will save you TONS of time when it comes to assembly.
Step 8: Scoring the Pieces
Your Alien Queen comes together as this network of many pieces interlinks. To do this, the pieces will need to be able to fold/ bend, in either a convex or concave direction (sometimes both within one piece!). You will "score" along the lines provided to make these folds happen.
HOW TO SCORE -- Line up your metal ruler with the line you wish to score. Run your X-acto over the line, applying about half the pressure you would if you intended to cut all the way through. You want the card stock to remain intact. Bend along the scored line, in the direction indicated. If your fold is not crisp, try applying a little more pressure, or change to a fresh blade.
What Do the Lines Mean? (See first image)
Dotted Lines will be scored on TOP. See photo 2 and 3 These are easy to follow along with and are the type of score you'll do most frequently.
Dot and Dash Lines will be scored on the UNDERSIDE (blank side). See images 4-7. These are a little trickier. I like to make a little notch with my knife at either end of my line, then flip the piece to the back. Use your metal ruler to connect the two points and score with your knife. This will give you a facet or tab that bends up.
Once you've scored and bent some pieces you'll begin to see how this can actually come together to form a 3-D object.
Step 9: Gluing/ Assembly
Note: For the assembly section, I'll be recreating the "dome" portion of the Alien skull for you. I find it to be one of the most interesting sections, and it does a great job of demonstrating the curved forms that the pattern pieces will ultimately get you. Plus, its faster than making an entire second Queen head. All the techniques you need to build the whole head are right here, just keep at it until you have several major sections to connect!
GLUING -- Dot Elmer's glue onto a tab. Be sparing. One of the worst things you can do is over saturate your card stock and weaken it. Use your finger to smear the glue into a thin film over the entire tab.
Find the edge piece with the same number as your tab.Connect and press together, adhering the tab to the underside of the piece. Photo 7 shows the backside of some small connected pieces, so you can see the tabs forming a network of connections.
Allow the tab a moment to dry. Some pieces may need you to pinch them in place while drying, and others can sit on their own. Small and intricate pieces are more likely to require pressure while drying (photo 8). Wait until the tab is dried before moving on to the next. Continuing to work while pieces are still wet can cause slipping.
If you're an efficiency beast like me, or just impatient, you can be working on two sections simultaneously (photo 5). That way you're gluing one section while the other having its drying time. It keeps your hands busy and makes progress while preventing you from messing with pieces that aren't quite ready yet.
Work in Sections. Photos 9-12 show the progression of the dome assembly. You can see how the smaller sections came together to form one unit. This piece is ultimately the front of the Queen's face. Continue your assembly methods until you have your major sections put together. I highly recommend keeping the top and underside of the shield separated until the very end. It makes the whole thing less awkward to handle. Refer back to my color coded model image if you need to.
Step 10: Joining Major Forms
To join the top half of your shield to the underside, the pattern provides a series of strip-like pieces with tabs (first photo). Choose the top or bottom of your shield. Attach the "joining mid strip" to that one half first. When it is dry, connect to the remaining half. This is perhaps the toughest part of the whole assembly. I can not emphasize enough: Allow drying time between each tab to avoid any slipping. Work your way all the way around until the shield is one unit (3rd photo). It will be hollow, with an oblong hole in the underside.
You'll find that your Queen skull and the shield are entirely independent units. The skull (4th photo) slides into the front of the shield (see model diagram). Your method of attachment depends on your ultimate goal for this project. Since I knew I wanted one continuous, solid headpiece, I joined the two with E-6000 at this time.
Step 11: The Odd Man Out
As you assemble, you may find that you don't need some of the interior mouth pieces in order to achieve your project goal. I believe this section was meant to line the inside of the lower jaw, but I didn't need it in order to make my headpiece look complete. I left it out of the final build, but its entirely a matter of preference.
There was also a piece or two on the printable pattern that lacked any numbering. Totally blank. I could not for the life of me figure out where they were supposed to go. When you encounter a piece like this, don't worry. Since my head assembly came together perfectly well, I'm guessing those random bits were just artifacts from another pattern that somehow made their way into Movieman's original file (?)
Step 12: Optional (but Recommended) Resin Coating
Chances are that you're making this Alien Queen as a prop, trophy, or costume piece. Bare card stock is not a very enduring choice for any of those purposes, so I recommend applying a 2-3 coats of Bondo Fiberglass resin to harden it into a solid form. This will prevent the shield from bowing or collapsing under its own weight, and provide as firm foundation whatever sculpting or painting you may want to do.
*Remember that I'm recreating this step with our demo "dome" piece. Your fully assembled Queen head will be much larger, and require multiple batches of resin to be covered.
PREP -- ALWAYS use resin outdoors or in a well ventilated area. You are also very likely to drip, so put a newspaper or plastic sheeting underneath your Alien head before working. I'm using newspaper here for this dome section, and I used an old shower curtain for the whole meter long head piece when I did my original.
MIXING the RESIN --a workable batch uses 3 TBSP Bondo resin + 10 drops of the hardener included. Stir with your brush or a stir stick. Remember to use a crappy TSBP and disposable containers, because there is NO washing this stuff off. You can wipe the inside of your TBSP when you're done, but it will probably always have dried resin on it after this.
Remember to wipe the mouth of your resin can after pouring. Having your resin can accidentally seal shut because of dried resin is NOT fun!
Paint your resin on to your Queen head in long strokes. Apply thin layers to avoid drips and pooling. Work quickly as you have limited working time with the resin. The resin is slightly brownish, so you will see where you've been. I suggest doing your whole top side, waiting for it to dry, then flipping it over and doing the underside. Switch back and forth until you have done 2-3 coats each. If you like, you can also do one coat on the inside, to re-enforce those networks of tabs (7th photo).
If your numbers start to smear under the resin, that's ok. We're done with them they'll be covered by paint later.
When Your Resin Starts to Clump you're almost out of time (6th photo). One batch seems to last about 20 minutes before you have to stop. You can either mix a new batch in a separate disposable container, or wait for this coat to dry before doing more.
DRYING --Drying time will vary with the temperature of your space. The warmer it is, the quicker it'll dry. You can also speed the process along with a heat gun. I chose to let my Queen sit out overnight in the summer and got a good full cure each time. When you can knock on the head and its solid, you're done!
Step 13: Oh, the Places You'll Go....
The Pepakura portion of your Queen is complete! Congrats! You have just completed a massive (and impressive) Pepakura project. Where you go after resin is totally up to you!
I chose to smooth out select areas using Smooth On free form air clay before priming and painting. I kept sculpting to a minimum to keep the weight down. Since this was going on my head, I want to keep the whole thing under 4 lbs.
If props and trophies are your thing, you can go crazy with layers of sculpting and paint with less regard for the end bulk. In addition to the Hunter's Lair site I mentioned earlier, this AVP site has some excellent examples of movie real Alien props. In my experience, the people in these costume and prop forums and more than happy to explain their finishing techniques with other curious makers.
Enjoy! If you found this Ible helpful, please cast a vote for me in the paper craft contest.