Introduction: Skyrim Dragon Priest Costume Build
For Halloween 2015 I was Morokei, a Dragon Priest from the video game The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.
The costume consisted of the mask, robe, armor, and the daggers. How did I do it? Great question, here is the how to.
• Rotary Cutter - Pair this with a cutting mat. It's much better than scissors for cutting cloth. Your pattern can lay flat which makes cutting easier because the template isn't flopping around as the cloth folds up.
• Scissors - I did use them for smaller cuts. You can use pinking shears to prevent fraying. I should have done this!
• Sewing Machine - I have a Brother machine, much like this one. It does what I need!
• Hobby Knife - For cutting EVA foam
• Hobby Blades - If the blade doesn't slice through foam like butter, you need a new blade. Sharp blades also produced clean cuts instead of tearing up foam or leather.
• Hot Glue Gun - For gluing EVA foam.
• Heat Gun
• Dremel with grinding bit to clean up rough foam edges.
• Pencil, Paper, and Tape - For the robe pattern and test fitting.
• Pins - To attach the cloth for testing before sewing.
• Linen Material - I used 5 yards (60" wide).
• Scrap Leather - It's a little thin, but the price was right for the mesh cape
• Brads - For the leather mesh cape.
• EVA Interlocking Foam Mats - For the armor, bracers, and hip armor
• Nylon Webbing 1" - For armor rigging.
• Elastic Banding 1/4" - for bracers
• Leather String - For leg armor
• Leather scraps - For belt
• (2) 1.5" D rings (or square) for the belt
• (2) Chicago Screws - For belt
• Shoe Polish - Brown - For belt if you don't have a scrap piece of brown leather
• Plasti-Dip Rubber Coating - For all EVA foam
• Rustoleum Black Enamel Paint for weathering
• Cheap Plastic Halloween Mask
• Polystyrene Plastic
• Rustoleum Gloss Paint - Light color
• Glazing Putty - To repair imperfections after paint before molding
• Silver/Chrome Spray Paint
• Leather scraps for mask straps
• (4) 1.5" D rings for mask straps
• (1) O ring for mask straps
• Epoxy - For D rings
Molding and Casting Supplies for the Mask:
• Smooth-On Smoothcast 325 - 1 gallon - $82.64
• Smooth-On Ease Release 200 Aerosol Spray - $13.20
• Smooth-On So Strong Black Tint - $13
• Smooth-On Mold Max 10 - 1 gallon - $96.54 Alternatively, use Mold Max Stroke and a Plasti-paste mold jacket. I used Mold Max 10 because I had it on hand.
• 32 oz pack of 10 mixing containers - $7.10
• Foam Core Boards for mold walls
• I didn't have time for the staff, and since I really wanted to build the dagger, I only did one type of weapon.
• This is how I built the daggers. I created the dagger from wood and plastic and then created a rubber mold and cast it in plastic resin. Click the link for the full process. On to the costume!
• Hobby knives are sharp! Be careful and use a cutting mat.
• When drilling, make sure you don't accidentally drill through anything you don't want to.
• Spray paint must be used outdoors in a well ventilated area. A respirator or mask is recommended. Allow time to dry fully.
• Wear old clothes for painting. Chances are paint will find a way to get on your clothes.
• Put down a drop cloth when working with silicone rubber or resin. You will spill at least a few drops, if not more.
Reference Photos - The first step was searching for reference photos. There are many photos showing the front of the dragon priest , but very few showing the back.
Initial Sketch - As usual I took to Google Sketchup and began drawing the robe. I scaled the robe and armor based on comparing my leg length to the dragon priests. While I free handed the individual pieces of armor, for utmost accuracy, I should have printed it out and traced it.
Step 1: The Robe
I started with the robe. I have sewn things before, but I don't consider myself an expert. The very first thing I did was extrapolate the robe pattern into Google Sketchup from reference images. There aren't many images of the back of the robe, which led to some guesswork. I sized the pieces based on where they hit the in game figure.
The base of my robe is in essence a sleeveless dress with a zipper down the front. I added to that the sweeping material across the chest and back that also forms the sleeves. In the back, there are tails that form a cape. The hood drapes around the shoulders and then has a length of material down the front. This piece will hide the zipper.
There is also a leather mesh cape, we'll get into that later.
I made the robe from paper first. This allowed me to make adjustments to size. It's still kind of guess work as paper doesn't lay like cloth.
The material I got is a linen. It seems to best match the texture of what I think a dragon priest would wear, though honestly I have no idea. I wanted something with a visible weave pattern.
Once I was happy with the paper robe I attached the paper to the material. I used tape at this point because I forgot I had pins. A rotary cutter made quick work of the patterns. You want to cut your patterns as straight and even as possible for when you start sewing. A rotary cutter allows you to leave the material flat on a cutting mat. I then pinned the pattern pieces together and test fit the robe again. Pin it at the seams where you would sew it. I typically leave about 1/2" hem. Make sure the ends of the pins are to the outside. You don't want to poke yourself when trying it on. This is the time to adjust. Taken in seams, or let them out.
Start sewing! Remember when you cut the patterns very precisely? This is why. I use the edge of the pattern pieces as a guide so my seams are straight. I sew the seams together and then sew a line down each side of the seam. It looks better to me and it keeps the hem on the inside flat.
The collar needs to be a separate double layered piece. You can't hem a curve very well folding back a single piece of cloth. You can quite easily sew two pieces of cloth together on a curve. I sewed the cloth draping over the shoulder to the robe at the collar. I sewed the tails to the back of the draping cloth in the back to form a cape. The strip of cloth down the center matches the game and also hides the zipper. The hood attached to this strip which circles my neck. You may need to adjust the head opening and/or hem so that the hood and neck opening seams are equal length.
One thing to note, I used an off white thread when sewing the robe together. My linen was off-white. I didn't factor in the fact I would later dye the cloth. My thread did not take the dye at all. It's not extremely noticeable, but match your thread to the final color, not the current color of cloth.
I used one packet of powder Rit Dye - Wine for the robe base color. I filled my utility sink with enough hot water to cover the robe, added 1/2 a cup of salt and then submerged therobe, making sure it was fully saturated. After 45 minutes it dyed perfectly.
The wine color is too bright to match in game. I used half a bottle of liquid Rit Dye - Black. I let this soak for thirty minutes, watching it to make sure it didn't get too dark. Wet, the martial is darker anyway, so you have to guess when to remove it. When my robe was on the edge of too dark, I removed it. It lightened up more than I expected when dry. I wish it was a shade darker.
Rinse the material with cold water until the water runs clear, ring it out, and then let it air dry.
I took a dull hobby knife and cut the bottom edge of the robe for a ragged look. A dull hobby knife creates a more jagged cut. I then hit the bottom edge with an electric sander and 80 grit paper.
I was going to spray the robe with watered down acrylic paint, but couldn't find a spray bottle. Instead I used black and gray hair spray dye. I made the bottom edges darker and a where the armor hit the robe in a few spots. I took the gray and lightly misted the robe to give it a mottled look.
The mesh leather cape is scrap leather cut to 1" x 36" and 1" x 24" strips. I used (7) vertical 36" strips and (9) horizontal 24" strips. I used brads and hot glue at each connection. I had the brads on hand and they seemed to match the game aesthetic. The top strips were sewn to the robe.
Step 2: The Armor
The armor is EVA foam held together with hot glue. I use a heat gun on the surface to help seal it before painting. The heat can cause the glue to melt, but if you're careful and don't get the panels too hot, you can avoid that. A dremel and grinding bit were used to finish the foam, smoothing rough edges, adding bevels, and damage. Once the pieces are finished, a heat gun is used to seal the foam before spraying with Plasti-dip rubber coating. The surface will turn slightly darker as you heat it. The heat gun can also melt any stray glue spots, to help clean up the final product. The foam is porous, so the rubber coating prevents the foam from soaking up paint (which it definitely will). A hammered metal finish was applied, and then I added black acrylic to weather it. The black gets in the cracks and crevices to make it dirtier. Wipe on the black and lightly wipe it off. I used mineral spirits at edges and cuts to lighten the paint. You want to layer the weathering. Some gashes will be bright and fresh, others not as much.
I sketched the patterns from in game images. I scaled the pattern to my size. using the dragon priest belt as a reference to my waistline. I started with the horizontal strips from shoulder to shoulder. It slips over my head and rests on my shoulders. I built the front and back curves first. and layered the foam. The nylon strapping was used to allow the long strip of panels in the front the ability to flex. Leave excess at the top end of each foam armor panel so that you can glue it to the above piece. If you cut each armor panel to the exact size, you won't have any backing to glue them together. The curve/hook in the front is curved shapes, cut at a 45* angle and then hot glued to form the organic shape. I had to heat the front and back panels so they would curve into me and fit better as the layering of the foam tends to make them curve away from the body. I tried it on a few times, would heat it up and try it on again. Eventually I got it right.
The bracers are (5) chevron shaped EVA foam pieces with an overall dimension of 6"x9". I hot glued the pieces together to form a solid piece. I used elastic band to attach it to my arm. I thought about using leather, but wanted something that would be a snug fit as it also holds the robe sleeves in place. I used the heat gun to curve them to my forearm. The elastic band is attached with hot glue. I had to melt the glue a couple of times before I found the right spot for the band.
I didn't make the armor from the shoulder down to the bracers due to time constraints.
The leg armor is (3) panels for each leg in triangular shape measuring 9"x9", 9"x7", and 7"x4". The leg armor is rigged with the nylon strapping. I punched a few holes in the foam for the leather string that holds the leg armor to the belt.
I used black enamel paint to add contrast and grime. Wipe it on then wipe it off. The paint will stay in the recesses. Depending on how long you wait for it to try it can provide a layer of grime. I used Rustoleum enamel. It works better than the acrylic paint I have. All of the arcylic would wipe off. Don't apply to much paint. Work little by little. I used mineral spirits to wipe off some of the enamel and it also provided a highlight at edges.
The belt is a piece of scrap leather, with two D rings at one end. Leather scraps are a mystery bag, you don't know what you'll get. Luckily I found a piece the right width and length. It was a bone color, so I used shoe polish to make it brown. The end is folded back, hole punched, and then (2) Chicago Screws inserted to hold the D rings. Use a hobby knife to cut any excess.
Step 3: The Mask
I started with a cheap plastic Halloween mask. It fit my face well, so I scaled the Morokei mask to fit the width of the mask. I added polystyrene to the mask to make the overall shape since the Morokei mask is taller. I then add EVA foam to start building up the mask and after that added body filler. I doubt this is the best method. I should have used clay, then again this method worked okay for me.
I decided to mold and cast the mask as the combination of foam and body filer isn't very strong.
I used the materials leftover from the dagger build to mold and cast. If I were doing this again, I would get Mold Max Stroke. It reduces the amount of excess rubber. I ran out of rubber and had to get more Mold Max 10 since I had already started the mold. I would have come out better to start with Mold Max Stroke. In the words of Vonnegut, "So it goes."
I used Smooth-cast 325 for the cast as that's what I had leftover. The first coat in the mold was thin and even. The next coat seemed to pull at the first coat and created a bit of a layered mess. Successive layers didn't fare well either. I waited longer between coats and that worked better. On the next attempt I think it will come out better if I focus on smaller areas and keeping slushing well past curing.
Smooth-cast 65d is made for slush casting. This may be a better resin as it's made for slush casting.
The mask came out of the mold looking great. The unfortunate thing is that it was up to 1" thick in the middle. I did a bit of grinding to knock down high spots. I cut out the eyes and mouth with a pneumatic saw.
After casting, I cleaned the mask and sprayed a base coat of silver/chrome paint. Once that was dry I did a black paint wash. I used mineral spirits to highlight edges.
I cut 3/4" wide scrap leather strips and epoxied the D rings to the mask. I bent one of the D rings open and attached it to a strap. It hooks to the mask D-ring The problem is that the mask was too thick and weighed three pounds when it should have been less than one pound. It was not fun to wear, but at least I did have a complete costume.
Step 4: Conclusions
I'm glad I finished the costume, albeit the day before Halloween. While Skyrim is a very popular video game, not many people follow video games, at least now where I went over the weekend. I got a lot of comments on the costume and was told many times I need to go to Hollywood to do this full time. If only!
The daggers are easily my favorite part, despite a few issues with making the two part mold. I'm excited to make another mold, and this time I know a little more. I may try to sell copies of the daggers. If you're interested, let me know. =)
I'm a little disappointed in the mask. It's scaled a bit too large. This may be in part to adding foam and body filler to the base, but the base may have just been too big. I tried to use the material I had on hand to mold and cast, and wish I had just done a mold with a mold jacket. Again, I'm learning all the time. I should have spent a bit more time on the robe. It just doesn't look old and dirty enough. Another round of weathering would help.
Molding and casting is an awesome skill added to my repertoire. I can't wait to make the next prop!