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Hello everyone, and welcome to our most ambitious project so far!

It all began when we looked at the family's old-looking VW bus and started wondering how to transform it. The first idea was to transform it into a woody-vw bus, but after a Star Wars marathon, we finally found the droid we were looking for.

We decided to recreate all the objects on R2D2 and adapt them to fit the bus. All the measurements and computer work took about 50 hours, plus vinyl wrapping till we lost count.

Without further ado, let me show you how we developed this project!

Step 1: Planning the design

No, I don't have much pride on the first draft. But it did the job.

R2D2's body is a cylinder, so our initial idea was to unroll the cylinder and wrap the bus with that pattern. But it ended up not becoming one with the force, I mean the bus. Simply throwing the original layout of R2's objects on the vehicle was the easiest way, but as you can see on the second image, even by stretching and shrinking the original layout (from a papercraft file), it lacked proper interaction with the bus. So we chose the hard way and decided to re-imagine and recreate the layout specifically to fit the van. The main adaptation would be the head elements, which would go in the front of the bus.

In Brazil the VW bus or "Kombi" was manufactured continuously up until 2014. If know a little about the different models, you will notice something odd about this one. While on the rest of the world the vehicle updated from the T1 > T2 > T3, in Brazil they have a single windscreen (from the T2) with square side windows and a barn door (from the T1) for passengers, made from 1975 until 1998 (when the T2 production took place). Engine upgrade to water cooled only came in 2003. Our particular bus is a 1992 1.6L aircooled with staggering 58cv that is converted to also run on CNG, which gives it better mileage, but even less power.

Yeah, the force it's not strong with this one.

The T3 model never was manufactured in Brazil, but considering it's overall shape with less curves, it would be an easier candidate for this project. But do PLEASE use a white one, it'll make things waaay more simple.

It was all planned based on vinyl wrap customization, since we already worked with vinyl stickers. We had absolutely no experience on car wrapping, but a VW bus seemed flat enough to begin with.

Step 2: Recreating the objects [vector]

Based on a high resolution blueprint image from the web, we recreated in vectors by manual tracing each and every object on CorelDraw. At first we left the black outline, then realized we did not want a cartoon-looking robot.

To make the next step easier, we used contrasting colors for each part of the object. Take a look at the leg and you will understand why we took so long on these first steps.

Step 3: Recreating the objects [color]

Once the vectors were done, Photoshop work began.

Most of this was done by setting layer styles, since it is an easy way to create a sense of depth. Besides, it saves a lot of time when making multiple objects uniform regarding size of bevel, shading, etc.

Step 4: Photoshop overview

I will not attempt to show how we made every single object, especially because each could be a Photoshop tutorial by itself. However, just to illustrate, here are a few prints from the object 46, or "High power recharge coupling" according to the blueprint (we called it "cooler" the whole time just because it's easy and it looks like one).

First, save the vector you created on CorelDraw and export as high-res .jpg to use on Photoshop (at this point, you might notice we are not quite familiar with Illustrator). Once you have your image, and if you have followed the advice of using crazy contrasting colors, you can easily select each section with the Magic Wand tool. Create a new layer (Ctrl+Shift+N) and fill the selection with a medium shade of grey (there are way more than 50 to choose).

For each new layer, work with layer styles to set "gradient overlay" and "bevel and emboss". The pictures show a couple of examples.

We decided the light would come from the back of the bus for all objects, so some of them needed a separate version for each side (for most, mirroring was enough). It is not necessary, since no one would ever see both sides at the same time, but it simply did not feel right to neglect.

Step 5: Measure everything

If you cannot find a blueprint of your car on the internet accurately depicting every measure and the position of every light, hinge, handle an what not, you'll have to measure them all. That may take some time, but it is the only way to make sure the design becomes one with the vehicle.

Also, this is the part that the project starts to get physical, and not only computer work.

Step 6: Prepare for printing

Once we had all the objects, we had to decide on where to place them. For that, you can either use a vector of the vehicle or pictures of the front, back and side. This is important to get the proportions of your layout correct.

The background was initially this dirty white texture, because it pictured R2 better than plain white. But because we really don't wash the bus so often, we figured it would get dirty by itself and ended up using a slight beige/creme-white instead. And if you think about it, R2 isn't particularly clean during a large part of the movies, so it get even more legit (what an excuse).

We decided the leg should come right above the rear wheel (the flat "fender" seemed like a perfect base), and up on the window so it would not look out of proportion, and because we wanted the amount of detail on it to show. Of course, it should also align with the gas cap.

What we needed to prepare at this stage was the bottom half (everything below the windows), which would be printed on vinyl. The second picture shows the file we sent for printing, with the modules already defined. Basically, we had a separated module for each door, one for whatever was left of the side, and one for the entire front.

If we were to do this again, we would choose to paint the background white and print each object as an individual sticker. The wrapping process can easily deform the vinyl, which is fine when applying a plain color, textured pattern, or even a landscape, but a nightmare when you have rectangular, round and square objects that look awful if distorted.

Also, there is a curved corner that connects the back and the side, where the tail light is located. It was a terrible idea to make a single module for this.

Step 7: Cutting the stickers

On the bright side, it all looked amazing after printing!

This sort of service is priced by printed area and the brand of adhesive. Do not use a vinyl unsuited for wrapping, it makes a huge difference on the adherence, elastic memory, and durability. We used ORACAL vinyl for this project.

The total dimensions of the print were around 3ft by 35ft, or 1m by 11m.

Just cut your modules apart, close to the edges you intend to align by, but leaving some excess background on the others to work with. A rule of thumb for wrapping is to always work with more material than the surface to be wrapped. We left some excess (or "bleeding area") for each module when preparing the file, but a little extra makes the job easier afterwards. Remember you can always trim excess, but adding makes it pretty obvious. The excess is also essential to "anchor" the vinyl on hidden corners.

Step 8: Preparing the bus

Here came the exhaustive part, executed during the worse of Brazilian summer (therefore the shirtless pictures, sorry about that).

We spent a lot of time on treating all the scratches and rust, then painting over it and sanding. The rear bumper was pretty rusted, so we scraped off all the old paint, treated and repainted in the best R2-blue we found (it was my first time with a paint gun). Putting the damn bumper back on place was waaay more work than I expected.

The bus also had the best wash in its 20 years. We removed every part and attacked every little corner with toothbrushes until it was truly sterile.

We wiped the surface with alcohol before applying each sticker (ONLY DO THIS IF you don't care for the state of the paintjob). Just make sure it is dry before starting.

Step 9: Wrapping the front

We started applying the stickers by the front, since it would probably be the hardest part. The lens, or R2's "eye", aligned perfectly with the VW logo (non-removable in this bus model). The small blue rectangles had to fit below the "bump". We fixed it all in place with pieces of transfer paper before removing the liner.

If you see professionals doing this, they will probably remove the entire liner at once. Since alignment is everything in this project, we took the safer way and split it in half, so we could work one side then another, from the center toward the edges.

We used felt squeegees to press the vinyl bit by bit, careful not to leave any bubbles or wrinkles. In order to shape the sticker, we used a heat gun about a foot away from the surface. Be cautious whenever inflicting heat upon the vinyl: if you overstretch, it might be complicated to make the printed image look straight again.

Because of the shape of the bus, and maybe because we did overstretch a bit, we had to do a little cut on the top middle to fit the sticker (see picture). Even we did not notice it afterwards, so good job!

After it is done, work the excess around the edges and to the back of the metal panels to give a better anchorage. It is good to put more heat on the invisible parts and pressing hard with the squeegee to prevent the edges from lifting.

Step 10: Real buses have curves

Our second target was the back, to rest from the hard time we had on the front. No major issues on the flat surfaces, besides having to make a cut to pass the license plate through.

On the curve, however, we dreaded the decision of planning it on a single module. This curve is not just cylinder-like, it is actually bent in the two dimensions. It is more than a sticker can take, when you cannot stretch it up until it fits.

After we split the sticker, it went fine. To play smarter, we did it to the other side before we began. Since we were already planning a silver or blue frame on the lanterns, we could work a continuation of this shape to hide the blank left where the halves should meet.

Step 11: Sweet sides

These were quick and easy. The advantage of picking a VW bus for the project.

Since it is all flat, there is very little need for the heat gun (just enough to avoid wrinkles).

Although the bus only has passenger doors on the right side, we used the same modules for both sides. Because alignment is important, it is better to work with shorter (preferably within your arm span) pieces since they always tend to go up or down halfway through.

Step 12: A few more details

We took a while to apply the top part of the leg. At first, we tried to think of a way of leaving it flush with the columns, instead of sticking it flat on the glass. No solution seemed bright enough, so we gave up. It looked pretty good in the end, so no regrets!

On the other hand, why did we choose to wrap the front grid instead of painting it? The outcome looked nice, though.

At this point, you can see the bus already had a blue sticker on the bump beneath the windows. It is a reflective sticker, made out of a polyester that cannot be shaped with heat. Adding this frame truly gives life to the robot.

Step 13: Are we there yet?

Well, almost! Since we were done with the printed stickers, we added a silver one to the window columns and another stripe of blue to the top. The bottom, around the wheels and under the doors, demands plasticity, so we wanted to use a regular blue vinyl for this part.

Step 14: What a cool droid!

Sad truth is, we did not get to finish the project. We got as far as we could, up until our last day in Brazil. Now we are set to live in the US for some years, so it will take a while until we finish all the details. The second picture was edited to include some of the missing parts.

We plan on adding Millennium Falcon to the top, and maybe write "On a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" as well. We also desperately need some hub caps, and it would be nice to give them R2's top-of-the-head pattern. Please share your opinions on these final ideas!

We often talk about repeating the project in the US, since R2D2 would be recognized way more often than in Brazil. So there is hope to see this droid around in California! For now, let us know if you ever end up in Porto Alegre - RS and we'll tell where to find the droid you're looking for.

UPDATE: We have included the object art files to this step. One is an .eps with line and colored vectors (the crazy colors you saw before), the other is a zip with each object already containing effects. Enjoy, and let us know where you use them!

<p>EPIC!!!</p>
Very cool! It looks like quite the rewarding endeavor. Was the printing done 3' wide? Could a person at home print individual modules themselves and apply in pieces?
<p>Yes, the printing was done about 3' wide on a printing plotter. There are 2 main issues to address if printing at home. One is the fact that desktop printers do not print on vinyl (plotters use a solvent ink that opens up tiny pores on the surface, allowing the pigment to settle on the vinyl). The other is the lack of UV resistance on regular desktop inkjet inks (you could adapt pigmented ink depending on your printer). Then it all boils down to the material you're printing onto (paper, plastic, some other film). You could combine a desktop printable adhesive with a transparent film on top (so it'd be waterproof) but it'd be difficult to heat-shape it then.</p>
Thanks so much for the info! And again, very cool van!
<p>Hi, this is amazing work, thank you for sharing. Are you in California yet? I've driven my 1971 VW bus across the States twice, now settled in the Clear Lake area north of SanFran. On facebook my bus is called The YesWeCan CamperVan. Please post a photo of your VW there and link to us so we can keep in touch.</p>
<p>This instructable brought back memories of a panel beater here in South Africa that made a VW Bus that looked the same front and rear he only painted the &quot;Headlights&quot;of the back part in red. Then he made a short version with the body cut right at the back of the front seats and then just in front of the engine removed that centre cutout and welded the front and rear together called it &quot;Half loaf&quot; This was done in the early parts of the sixties!</p>
<p>Haha, I looked for a two-front vw bus. So funky looking!</p>
<p>R2T2</p>
I stumbled upon this because I was looking for templates for a similar project. Would you consider sharing any of the graphics???
<p>Certainly! I just included two files on the last step. We have no rights over R2's objects anyway, so feel free to use them :)</p><p>What project do you have in mind?</p>
We bought a 1975 Boler and the plan is to do the same with it!
<p>Nice! That will look so damn cute :D</p>
Thanks! We will start restoring it in about a year or so and hopefully we can give it a shot. I think we will use white and grey paint and then individual decals so any help would be hugely appreciated!!
<p>Ficou Show! Ganhou meu voto.</p>
<p>Hi, the bus looks great! I was wondering what brand of vinyl car wrap did you use?</p>
<p>I used Oracal vinyl for all the parts (blue vinyl, silver vinyl and printed vinyl) except the reflective section right under the windows (which was a generic brand).</p>
<p>Very cool. Y'all did a great job with the tedious vinyl wrapping.</p><p>I recently painted <a href="http://www.klr650.net/forums/showthread.php?t=124666" rel="nofollow">my motorcycle</a> up as a Viper from Battlestar Galactica. I very nearly decided to do an X-Wing and have the top-mounted case be R2-D2, but that would've been way more complicated. Maybe if I had known to try vinyl wrapping I would have gone for it. Process <a href="http://www.klr650.net/forums/showthread.php?t=124666" rel="nofollow">here</a>.</p><p>Again, very cool! Thanks for posting.</p>
<p>Awesome bike man! It look quite a lot with a x-wing fighter even so. I love the battle worn effects. If you put a rebel alliance vinyl decal above the headlight it`d be a complete x-wing xD</p>
<p>squeeeeeeeeeeeeeelll</p>
<p>Love it!</p>
<p>Chrome tint the windsheild!!</p>
<p>Super...</p>
<p>TOO COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL<strong>!</strong>! <strong>x^D</strong></p>
<p>voted for both</p>
<p>Very cool project, i know what would make this pop even more...cp30 rims!!</p>
<p>Great build, I love how it looks!</p><p>How fast can it make the Kessel Run?</p>
<p>About 12 'parsecs', if it is inside the Millennium Falcon. Otherwise, probably around 100k</p>
If I had an extra VW bus I would so do this.
I voted it for both.
<p>Not seen something so unique and exciting, have I. May the force be with you and the droid. And you have my vote.</p>
<p>Amazing - think of how great looking this would also be on one of the old VW bugs also.</p>
<p>I am very fond of VW bugs also. But I think that one fits better as a C3PO cosplay. Look up &quot;Golden VW Bug&quot; on google images and tell me what you think! Cheers!</p>
Definite 3PO - on the golden bug. I forgot about the headlights and his eyes. What a roll reversal - R2 being the bigger one:^))
super
<p>Being one of R2's biggest fan, need to say this is truly one of the coolest r2difications I have ever seen. Super Duper Awesome job!!!</p>
<p>Wow. You did an incredible job. Top notch work!</p>
<p>OMG, it's so cool!! Two awesomeness in one!!!</p><p>Brilliant idea and implementation! Definitely love it! :)</p>
<p>So cool man</p>
so great! you really captured the essence of r2
<p>Thanks, I really think the natural dirt on the bus from road use (notice on the side on the cover photo) helps to give the appearance of a battle damaged droid. Heck, R2 gets dirty all the time, and so does my bus, haha.</p>
<p>Hello, my name's Josh, I'm a journalist from the UK. I'm interested in writing a news story about your R2D2 van, drop me an email at josh@catersnews.com if you're interested. Cheers.</p>
<p>Absolutely - it looks like it's been cruising around Tatooine</p>
<p>MUITO AFUDE! parab&eacute;ns pela criatividade, nunca mais vou ver uma kombi da mesma maneira!</p><p>abra&ccedil;&atilde;o!</p>
<p>Oh, that is brilliant!</p>
<p>This is so awesome!!!! You did a really great work! Thank you so much for sharing it with everyone :D</p>
<p>OMG I love this! Really nice job!</p>
<p>This is so awesome. Super creative and fun. I bet the chicks really dig it.</p>
<p>This might be the greatest thing I have every seen in my life!</p>
<p style="margin-left: 20.0px;">Awn, we feel so honored ^^</p>
<p>That's just AWESOME!!! I would add a R2 dome on the roof.</p>

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