Introduction: Star Trek Inspired LED Astronaut Costume DIY
Captain’s Log: We’ve been in transit at light speed for well over six weeks now. Like our imaginations, space is seemingly endless.
A plethora of advanced spacesuit designs have surfaced from here to the Pleiades. On this strange planet called Earth, this new spacesuit seems well-equipped for a terrestrial celebration the indigenous Earthlings call “Halloween”. Most bizarre – this ritual.
Step 1: Review the Motifs - What Earthlings Expect From a Spacesuit:
Step 2: A Compendium of Milky Way Galaxy Spacesuits
Image Credit (Counterclockwise) Dailymail.co.uk, Wallpaperup.com, Wordpress.com, StarTrek.com, Pinterest (center)
Most interesting is the great variety of suits these creatures have already amassed. And this is just the tail end of the comet.
Step 3: Draw Your Inspiration
We’re still rendering elemental tests of the local atmospheric conditions, flora, and fauna, so we aren’t taking any chances on the construction of this suit. Skipping steps can quickly make you a bio-hazard or even worse; a Popsicle in no time!
With such a vast genre to work with, Captain Kirk from Star Trek: Into Darkness really inspired the final look of our Earth suit. The in-mask “LED-halo” is just too awe-inspiring to not dole out the motivation.
Target acquired. While capturing the exact look would be futile without a bigger budget, we can call upon elements from multiple spacesuits and movies to find the perfect combination of aesthetic queues.
Warning: Building this spacesuit is a commitment and not for the faint of heart to construct. When it came time to boldly go where most cosplayers have never gone before – and split infinitives with absolute impunity – it was obvious that anything less than A TON of work just wouldn’t cut it.
Skimp on the details and it will be your own downfall.
Step 4: Supply Up – It’s a Long Journey
Be prepared to throw down a few Earth-bucks on this undertaking. All of the costume pieces, paints, and other art supplies add up fast. To complete the look, you will need:
- Deluxe Halo Master Chief Costume: Cost $78.99 at HalloweenCostumes.com
- Catchers Helmet: Cost $20 at Play It Again Sports
- SWAT costume: Cost $58.99 at HalloweenCostumes.com
- Umpire Pads: Cost $15 at Play It Again Sports
- Darth Vader Gloves: $14.99 at HalloweenCostumes.com
- Batman Dark Knight Belt: $12.99 at HalloweenCostumes.com
- Fake Chain Mail (arms): Free, but only because there was already a leftover one from a few Halloweens ago
- Jump Suit: The one in this post is one-of-a-kind. But you can usually find jump suits at Ragstock for between $20-$50
- Two Bike helmets: These only cost about $5 a piece at Good Will
- Plexiglas – $4 at Hobby Lobby
- Shimmer Metallic Black Spray Paint – $9 x 3 at Hobby Lobby
- E-Z Form Plaster - $5 x 3 at Hobby Lobby
- Wire Meshing - $9 x 2 at Hobby Lobby
- Mini LEDs – $6 x 2 at Hobby Lobby
- LED Pens - $9 x2 at Target
- Duct Tape - $5 anywhere
- A Razor – roughly $5 anywhere
- Wood Screws – less than $5 at Ace Hardware
- Sand paper - $7 at Ace Hardware
- Car Window Repair Tape – about $11 at Autozone
With a little budget set aside for odds and ends as you work through the challenges that always present themselves with big DIY projects; you can estimate the cost of this costume at roughly $350. If you are a penny pincher or just have more costume items at your disposal, you might be able to trim that down to $250, although it’s doubtful. This planet Earth – things don’t always come cheap…
Step 5: Get Your Head Right
You are going from this (on the left above) to that (on the right above).
Note that it’s optional to detail the inside of the helmet, since while it is worn, this goes unseen.
Making the helmet is the most involved part of the project and could have been simplified with the purchase of a motorcycle or luge helmet. Since motorcycle and luge helmets are extremely expensive, however, it is possible to turn this very cheap catcher’s helmet into a full-fledged space helmet.
And in the spirit of DIY, let’s celebrate that this is far more challenging and embrace it.
Step 6: Strip Down & Tape Up
Get those nasty old pads out of the helmet, remove the facemask and give the mask a good wash with LOTS of soap and water. Last thing you need is to contract a nasty Earth-bug from the local inhabitants. Duct tape the back-cap of the helmet (which was previously attached by vinyl in two separate helmet pieces) to the main part of the helmet like in the picture below.
This builds in some flexibly later for slipping the helmet on and off, since there is “give” and strength in the duct tape in multiple layers all at once. But make sure it fits over your head before proceeding any further.
Step 7: Shape Up
Take your two old bike helmets from Good Will or perhaps from your garage from summers past – ideally one adult and one child helmet – and cap the catcher’s helmet on the top and back with the adult and kid’s helmets, respectively.
Yet again, duct tape is a fast and admittedly amazing tool for all things – perhaps Earth’s greatest contribution to the intergalactic list of utilities. Don’t be afraid to trim excess plastic on either the back or top helmet to get it to readily fit. Surprisingly, all three pieces fit together quite nicely without much adjusting.
Step 8: Lighten Up
Now is a good time to tape your LED pens in place. This part was pretty simple since the original catcher’s helmet already had two small holes symmetrically drilled through the top.
Slide your pen lights through the holes and tape them down on the inside. Be careful not to tape the battery cases down, because leaving them untapped makes it easy to change the batteries in the future.
Step 9: Get a Grip
Since the plastic is intermittently perforated and sleek, that presents two problems. First, the plaster won’t readily stick as is. Not to mention the ridges will show through if/when the plaster is added.
To work around that problem, some wire meshing makes for a porous surface that bonds with the plaster and creates a consistent surface free of holes.
Simply cut long strips of meshing, stretch them out, and tape them to the inside of the helmet just under the lip before draping them over the top and taping them down on the other end.
Step 10: See Your Halo
Now is time to build the most exciting part of the helmet by creating the LED-halo effect. By taping the battery case in the top of the helmet and stringing it along the inside of the helmet around the facemask opening, you can start seeing the lighting effect come to life.
Step 11: Lens Crafter
As the photo shows, before you can add the lens to the mask, you want to add a layer of plaster beneath the lens area and paint it with your silver-black metallic spray paint.
This is simply an act of anticipating your inability to paint this area later in the process. Once you have it painted, you can take your Plexiglas, measure the size of the face-hole in the mask, carefully cut the Plexiglas with a razor (which does indeed cut with a simple razor), and drill screw holes.
Be careful not to slip with the razor as they are most unforgiving if you fancy keeping your flesh intact.
You want to tape where you plan on drilling on the Plexiglas, and then carefully and rather slowly drill holes in the four corners from the front and back with your wood screws, alternating flipping the glass and drilling from both sides. Wood screws provided the right amount of “give” to still penetrate the ‘glass’ without cracking it. Take this part slow. Cracks can appear suddenly and totally ruin your day, which on Earth is 24-hours – more than enough time to ruminate on your loss.
Step 12: Get Plastered
Using hot water and cutting long-and-wide strips, add your strips of plaster atop the wire meshing, following the contours of the helmet and carefully smoothing out where the strips meet. When the strips are still warm and wet, they are rather malleable and you can pretty easily smooth out the areas where the strips meet.
Obviously cover the entire helmet, and then do it again. Here two packs of plaster were used to completely cover the helmet with enough thickness that sanding later was easy.
Step 13: Primed and Ready
After carefully taping off the lens with painter’s tape, run your fingers around all the creases, especially along the edges where the tape meets the plaster.
Filler primer is very, very hard to remove, so you do not want to get this on the lens whatsoever. Once the tape is added, shake the filler primer thoroughly and add an even coat to the mask. Wait about 30 minutes, and repeat. Do this in as many layers as you can until you begin to see cracks, crevices and pours disappear.
Step 14: Smooth Operator
Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Using 600 grit sandpaper, evenly sand the helmet, paying close attention to bumps and ridges. As seen below, there will always be some imperfections left behind unless you spend hours sanding.
Leaving some imperfections can be a good thing, giving it a ‘hammered’ look, as if it has seen some action in battle. With the glossy, metallic paint coated on after the helmet has been sanded and cleaned, it begins to take on a metallic appearance.
Step 15: Lift Off!
The final touch is simple. Grab a car window insulation repair kit, cut the strips to fit the dimensions of the perimeter of the glass, and tape off a nice, clean line around the inside and outside of the lens. This will make everything clean and flush.
Congratulations! You have a helmet!
Step 16: Suit Up
Again, layers are crucial to making a convincing space suit. It is cold in space, debris is traveling at thousands of miles per hour, and what interstellar soldier doesn’t want to feel the comforting weight of armor on their shoulders?
Simply start at the bottom and work your way up. Here a manikin came in quite handy, but you can just as easily sew and hot glue the pieces together laid out on the floor.
Paint, paint, paint!
Here we found a great base suit (far left of the image), but unfortunately this is a one-time grab (something we had laying around in the spaceship unfortunately). If we ever locate this piece for sale on Earth, we will be sure to update this post.
The armor pieces in the middle of the picture were snipped off the Deluxe Halo Master Chief Costume linked above, and the thicker armor piece beneath is a simple Umpire chest plate, obtained at lay it Play It Again Sports. The lighter grey pieces with all the pocket pouches came from the SWAT team uniform linked above. And last, the gloves are Darth Vader costume gloves.
All of the layers were painted generously with Krylon Shimmer Metallic black spray paint obtained at Hobby Lobby. You’ll want to apply several coats, providing roughly 30 minutes between coats, and remember to look at every fold, crack and crevice in the materials for missed spots.
Step 17: Sew What? We’ve Got Hot Glue
With all your bits painted, you can piece them together. Since the materials are so thick, sewing was rather difficult. However, sewing at the four corners of any given piece after hot-gluing it in place was possible with some needle nose pliers and a very thick needle – using the pliers to force the needle through and pulling it out the other end.
(WARNING: Never hot glue on materials you are wearing. It will work its way through the pores of the clothing and burn you severely. Make sure to hot glue on a flat surface or on a manikin only for your safety.)
Step 18: Step-by-Step
In this order, you can now add your pieces to the base suit with hot glue:
- Glue your fake chainmail onto the sleeves (pic 1). As seen below, the chainmail was painted to match the rest of the costume and dull it down to look less like a Knight costume and more like a Kevlar-like, space-age material.
- Glue down the ‘runners’ aka your accent pieces (pic 2) – in this case, ridged rubber tubing painted gold – to the sleeves leading up to the gauntlets and going under the Umpire gear. Something about this type of texture screams ‘Sci Fi’ and adds a pop of color to the design.
- Glue your painted gauntlets to the wrists of the sleeves as pictured above, slightly overlapping the golden runners to smooth the transition between layers.
- Take the pieces you cut from the SWAT uniform to make the cargo pants (pics 3-4), and glue them to the legs of the base suit. You will still use the top part of the SWAT vest for your collar, so make sure to cut along the zipper, still leaving it intact and functional
Step 19: Step-by-Step Continued...
- Once the remaining top of your SWAT uniform is painted, zip it up like a coat to make the collar of the space suit visible beneath the Umpire padding.Slide your painted Umpire padding into place, buckling it down to the manikin. This is your base for the armor and since it can easily be removed and put back on, it makes it easier to get in and out of the costume.
- Here you also want to pull the back-fabric from the SWAT uniform over the straps of the Umpire uniform to hide them and give your back this appearance (pic 1 above). You will need to cut a slit just above each shoulder, running parallel to the floor, to provide a slot for the straps of the Umpire uniform to still wrap around your shoulders, but then tuck under the SWAT uniform in an over-under configuration. You will likely need a friend to pull this together at this juncture, but it is relatively easy once the slots are cut in place.
- Glue your Halo chest plate and thigh plates onto the chest and shoulders respectively.
- The SWAT uniform came with some great knee pads. After painted, they can be added to the shoulders. This adds a lot of bulk to the costume, and though painstaking, sewing here is a must to ensure they do not fall off.
- At this point, you will have some extra HALO uniform pieces laying around. Take creative liberties to paint and glue these on as a holster, shin guards or whatever else you think fits.