To start things off, I know it's not normal to want to dress up as a menacing figure in spandex and foam armor. This post is for those who push through normalcy in search of a lot of crazy fun. So here you go!
Thanks for checking out this costume build! If you think it's worthy of a
like or a vote, I would really appreciate that. My hope is that this will be helpful to many.
For several years, I've wanted to have a solid Star Wars costume so that I could apply to the 501st, the insanely cool Star Wars costuming group that does volunteer appearances for good causes. Well, after several weeks of working on my costume late into the night, I've finally completed my costume and submitted it for approval into the 501st.
[UPDATE: This armor was not approved by the 501st, so I'm working on a new version of the armor that is made of PVC board. Will post info and instructions once that is completed and approved. If you're interested in purchasing this armor, you can see my eBay listing here.]
Whether you're interested in building a Sith Acolyte Eradicator costume or creating a different costume that has armor, I hope that this 'ible will be helpful to you.
So let's get started.
Step 1: Gathering Reference Photos & Materials
Start things off by amassing all the reference photos that you can pull together. As you search Google images, looking at each of the detailed image, whisper your gratitude for living in the digital age. It's nice not to have to scour game footage to capture every element of the costume.
A bit of warning: As you're collecting these images, you'll begin to get a feel for the photos that are source material (from the SWTOR video game in this case) and which images were taken of fan costumes. If you're not careful, you'll end up making something that's isn't correct because you were looking at the wrong source. Learn from my mistake here - and save yourself the wasted time (and foam).
There were two pieces of the costume that I picked up already made. The mask and the lightsaber, and I've included a link to both next to the items below. These two items alone made up about half the cost of the costume.
- Sith Acolyte Mask - Wicked Armor
- Sith Acolyte Lightsaber - Holocron
- Foam Flooring Mats (2 sets) - Home Depot
- Black Spandex Bodysuit with Hood - Amazon
- Black Tactical Gloves - Amazon
- Black Fabric (I think I bought 8 yards, and I still have some left) - Walmart
- Red Fabric Paint - Hobby Lobby
- 2" Straps and Buckles - Amazon
- Rubber Concrete Boots - Home Depot
- Contact Cement - Home Depot
- Super Glue (3 bottles - this stuff is amazing) - Home Depot
- Silver Rub n' Buff (2 tubes) - Amazon
- Black Plasti-Dip Spray (3 cans) - Home Depot
- Black Primer/Paint Spray Paint - Home Depot
In addition, you're going to need the following tools:
- rotary tool (a flex shaft helps with control) - Amazon
- really sharp blade
- heat gun - I bought one on the cheap at Harbor Freight years ago, and I love it
- respirator - please don't leave this off your list. It doesn't cost much, and your life is worth it.
Step 2: Start Making Patterns
(Sorry for the lack of photos on this step. I fell into a swamp and lost those images when my phone died.)
If you're anything like me, you want to start cutting some foam, and nothing could be more boring than making paper patterns. But since pretty much everything about this costume is completely symmetrical, there's pretty much no way to escape it.
Try sketching out the piece, including both sides to get a feel for the piece (I started with the chest armor). Then, once you think you've got it right, pick your favorite side, fold the sheet at the center of the armor, and cut the piece out using the good side.
If you're cool and have large sheets of paper laying around, that's great for you! Congratulations! But if not, you're going to have to tape sheets together to give yourself enough space to work on each component. And lucky for you, the Sith Acolyte has a TON of components. (And I thought I was getting myself into an easy costume. Lol.)
In fact, you're going to have to make the following pieces of armor:
- Shoulders (2)
- Elbows (2)
- Gauntlets (2)
- Hand armor (2)
- Finger and thumb armor (10)
- Thigh armor (2)
- Lower legs (2)
- Boots (2)
So that means that if you have all your appendages, that's 26 pieces of armor! Yikes!
But don't lose heart! It's going to be awesome when you're done, and you get look all mean and angry even though you're smiling underneath that mask!
Ok, let's get cutting!
Step 3: Transfer Your Pattern to Foam
Yay, we're making stuff!
But I know what you're thinking. You're thinking my foam looks silly, don't you? But don't be that way, because when you're done, nobody will know that you, a Sith Acolyte are so colorful on the inside. Well, nobody but you and me, I guess.
Use your sharp knife to cut out the pieces. The sharper your knife, the cleaner the cut, and the less time you'll spend cleaning up the edges with a rotary tool afterwards.
There are some areas that need to be built up, and you can easily do this by layering foam. Use your contact cement to cover both surfaces that will be attached to one another, then let the glue dry before putting the two pieces together to form an incredibly strong bond. And when I say "an incredibly strong bond", what I mean is, make sure you put the piece in the right place before you start sticking the piece down.
As you're tracing out your pattern, poke holes through the paper on one side to mark your reference points for details, then flip the pattern over, and use the same holes on the other side as well. Symmetry! Isn't it beautiful? Use those holes as reference points to draw in all the details on your armor.
Step 4: Detail & Shape the Armor
Now this is where things get crazy fun! You can use your rotary tool to clean up edges, round off corners, and start adding detail. Make sure you practice all of this on some spare pieces of foam first, so you can get a feel for the way this works.
When you've finished detailing the part, you can use your heat gun to warm both sides of the piece and slowly shape things into place. Make sure you heat things evenly, and wear a pair of gloves so that you don't burn your hands with the hot foam.
Step 5: Seal That Foam!
There's a lot of ambiguity out there as to the best way to seal foam. Many will say that you can just paint it with primer, and some will tell you to use Modge Podge, or cover the outside in glue. From my personal experience on this project, I'd highly recommend starting with a couple of layers of Plasti-Dip. After that was dry, I used a couple of layers of black primer/paint spray. So simple.
And for heaven's sake, use your respirator for this stuff. I don't know what kind of harm this might do to you, but I'm going to imagine that having plastic and paint in your lungs doesn't do anything good.
Step 6: Finish Him!
Welcome to the strange world of Rub n' Buff. You squeeze a bit out of this little tube and then rub it around with your finger, trying to keep things in thin layers and letting the detailed areas stay black. You'll want to cover everything but the inside of the armor with the stuff.
The whole time it felt like I was doing it wrong, but it turned out great in the end.
Think of it as caustic finger painting for adults. Embrace your inner child.
Step 7: Rise. Repeat. (Working on the Thigh Armor)
You've finished one piece of armor! Pat yourself on the back! (maybe not really - your hands are probably covered with silver stuff at this point)
Now, it's time to start working on the remaining 25 pieces of armor. :)
The next things I tacked were the thigh pieces, using the same process as before, as pictured in the photos.
A few tips:
- Cut the piece too wide, then test fit it on your leg once you have it cut out. That will help to make sure that you have it sized correctly. These pieces need to be tight, but they don't need to stay up on their own. You'll use strapping to hang them in place at a later step.
- Contact cement is really useful in getting the armor to stick to itself, but I also used superglue very often for details. Especially since the drying time is shorter.
- A wadded up paper sack was the perfect thing to stick inside the middle of each piece and hang them for spraying.
You've worked hard. Let's do something easy for a change....
Step 8: Elbows
This would be the perfect time to fire up Spotify and play a bit of one of your favorite British bands (surely), as we take on the elbow armor.
And I wasn't kidding about them being quick and easy. Just double layer some foam, trace the pieces, cut them out, and then add the detail work.
To get these to fit on your elbows, you're going to have to create an inset on the bottom sides. Fortunately, we're working with foam here, so using the rotary tool, you can easily scoop things out for proper elbow ergonomics. :)
Seal, paint, and finish, and we're ready for something new. How about some freakishly amazing gauntlets? Yes. Let's!
Step 9: Freakishly Awesome Gauntlets
Use the same ol' process here, using layers to build things up, and shaping some foam for the points on top of the gauntlets. Also, when you've finished the rest of the detailing, adding some wires near the front really looks so good.
The challenging part is to get the bottom section of the gauntlets sized correctly. Since I made them of two pieces, one partially inside the other at the front, it created a nice tight fit on my wrists. Rather than trying to add a hinge, I just closed these in. There's barely enough space to get my hand through, if I turn the piece sideways to slip it on. Couldn't ask for a better fit.
Step 10: My Favorite Part
Let's just be honest - I hyped up those gauntlets, didn't I? But I'm not even kidding when I say that the hand armor is even better. Really.
Imagine you're Wolverine with a lightsaber. Yep, that's about to be you.
Use the same process as before, only this time:
- Use some thin craft foam for the top piece and the claws. As you're doing this, try cutting out all the claws at the same time, so they're the same size.
- It's going to feel like the claws are way too flimsy. Since you don't really want to scratch somebody's face off (well, you don't, do you?), some flexibility is a good thing. I mean really. You could lose an eye just trying to scratch your nose. Rest assured that once you finish with the sealing, painting, and silver, they will have firmed up a bunch.
- Superglue is your friend here.
You'll need to cut out some finger and thumb pieces at this time as well. I tried to shape each one to fit snugly on my gloves. Use the same process to finish these out.
Carefully glue the claws and the finger pieces to your tactical gloves - taking care not to glue the gloves to your skin the meantime.
And now, we're ready for the moment of amazement....
Step 11: Be Amazed
I find that every project has a moment of total amazement when it's going well. This was that moment for me - seeing the glove and gauntlet come together like this.
It's these moments that keep me up until late hours of the night working on projects.
But there's still work to do! Let's get the abdomen finished so we can start hanging some armor!
Step 12: Abdomen & Straps
I'm sorry to let you all down, but I forgot to take good pics of the abdomen. Fortunately, this is a pretty simple piece. Once you decide on the overall size that you need for this and cut it out, it just needs to be attached to the back of the chest armor and shaped up a bit at the bottom codpiece section. I added dimension here by cutting a v-shaped valley into the back of the armor where the folds needed to be. Then, I used superglue to pull the pieces together (see the back side image). Even though this was pretty sloppy, it still turned out great.
Once you've done that, cut out your belt buckle pieces, pouches (I made these out of foam as well), and silver belt-greeble thing.
Seal the foam like normal, but only use Rub n' Buff on the belt section (do this before you attach it).
Now it's time to add your straps!
I decided to cross the straps across my back and let them attach to the four corners of the chest piece and also put a strap around my waist. These securely attach with hot glue on one side and attach to a quick-release buckle on the other. This gives me the freedom to adjust the tightness of each of the straps to make sure I have a snug fit.
Step 13: Making Adjustments to the Chest Piece
When test fitting the chest and abdomen pieces, I made the sad discovery that I had been a bit ambitious with the chest piece. In fact, it was so big that I didn't have much of a neck, and my arms couldn't move forward.
The great news is that making the adjustment went very quickly. I simply used my blade to cut off the extra, sprayed the edges with Plasti-Dip and paint, and then added back the Rub n' Buff. Hardly set me back any time at all, and the small adjustments really made a huge improvement to how things fit.
Step 14: Shoulder Armor
Like the elbows, the shoulder pieces were pretty straightforward. The only bad thing is that's a bit hard to get an idea of how to give dimension to the foam. Some people heat the foam in the oven and then press it into a bowl. Instead, I crumpled a piece of paper on my shoulder and used that as a rough pattern.
These probably turned out as the roughest looking of all the pieces, but since they go under the robe, I think they turned out just fine.
After I added the Rub n' Buff, I used hot glue to glue down a few strips of velcro to the back. Then, I used a bit of elastic across my shoulders to attach the left and right shoulder to one another, and I attached a small piece of elastic on each to loop under my arms and keep the pieces in place. In both cases, I prepared the elastic by sewing a small piece of velcro to each side of each piece.
I used the same method of looping around to attach the elbow armor to my arms. Works great!
We're starting to get closer to the end of this 'ible. Maybe it's finally time to take on the most difficult parts of all... the lower leg armor.
Step 15: This Is the Hardest Part - Lower Legs
I never would have guessed that these parts would be the hardest, but dang - they really were. In fact, it took several attempts to get this right, and I kept coming back to it until I finally figured it out.
These were the issues:
- The lower leg pieces needed to fit tightly so I didn't look like I had some stumpy legs.
- The shape of shins, calves, and ankles are pretty challenging to form.
- I needed something that could be tightly secured after putting them on my legs.
I'd seen that some people use straps to tighten up their leg pieces, but I wasn't finding a good way to make it happen. And it was late, and I was tired of striking out.
And then it hit me: Maybe I could use a zipper to close things up tightly? Turns out that it works perfectly. :)
So I shaped the piece to my leg, took my leg out, glued everything together, and then cut a place for the zipper to go on the back of the lower leg. Then, I glued the zipper on, used extra pieces of thin craft foam to cover the zipper, and hurray! From there, it was the same ol' drill. Add details, seal things up, paint, and rub n' buff.
Please note: You shouldn't do this like me - use a longer zipper. At the length that I have this now, it's a real effort to get my foot inside. I have to put it on backwards and then turn it around. It's a silly thing. Don't be like me.
Step 16: Nice Legs!
Crap. That was really a ton of work.
If you get to this point and find yourself victorious over the lower legs, you've done some serious work! Great job!
You're in the homestretch! Don't give up now!
Step 17: Make Some Boots
Ok. Maybe they're more like shoes, but they're still awesome looking.
At first, I tried building the lower legs onto the boot uppers, but they're just too bulky. It wasn't working out. So I cut them off with a pair of scissors.
Test fit these with your lower legs to make sure they work well together. I had to trim up my shoes a bit more to keep them from rubbing on the leg pieces.
Once the fit is right, I used some craft foam to cover up the shoe. I used some pieces of foam underneath to shim the top of the boot to give a nice smooth top - hiding the rounded toe. It makes your feet look smaller (I wear size 11), but it's worth it.
Add your details, then seal, paint, and finish like normal.
Just one thing left. You've gotta have a robe!
Step 18: Sewing the Robe
Under strict secrecy, I asked for a sewing machine on Father's Day a few years ago. Feeling that it was a huge strike to my ego, I made my wife and kids promise not to tell anybody what I had asked for.
But now, I'm pretty much over that. Sewing is actually quite similar to any other kind of construction that I've learned, and it's a very handy skill to have. If nothing else, it's relaxing, and it gets me out of the garage.
For the robe, I relied heavily on the excellent instructions found here. Ultimately, I found his hood to be much too large, so I ended up removing quite a bit of that, but otherwise it was a really useful pattern to follow.
As you begin on the robe, keep in mind that you're going to be using a ton of thread. Have some extra spools of black thread on hand when you start.
Step 19: Adding Red Stripes to the Sleeves
I masked off a couple of stripes. One was three inches tall, and the other was half an inch. Make sure that your masking tape is on very tight, or you're going to have some frustrations.
I brushed on some Tulip brand "true red" fabric paint. Unfortunately, it was far too pink for my liking. Once it was dry, I used a Tulip brand red fabric spray paint, to darken things up.
A few hours later, when it's finally dry, you can remove the tape, and you're finally done! It's time to get dressed up in public, take some pics, and put in that application to the 501st!
Step 20: Looking Awesome!
Yes, it's really as fun as it looks. :)
Thanks for checking out this costume build! If you think it's worthy of a like or a vote, I would really appreciate that. My hope is that this will be helpful to many.
Special thanks to my wife who puts up with my crazy projects and is even willing to photograph me in a public place. You're my best friend and a most excellent companion. Thanks for being mine!