Introduction: Custom Printed Moth Wing Cape

About: Costume and experimental fashion designer and artist. Maker of clothing and accessories for time traveling cyborg superheroes, and lucid dreamers. Interested in fusing couture design and leatherwork with weara…

Capes are controversial in the superhero costume design community, and we all know they can cause some serious accidents if you stand too close to a rocket or fly through a vortex ... but there's no doubt that they make you feel super! Capes are just an iconic part of the superhero look, even if Edna Mode doesn't approve. Especially if your superhero takes its identity form a winged creature, it's hard to resist topping off your costume with a cape.

When I was creating my Metamoth superhero character, I knew that the cape would be an important part of the outfit. Since my character has moth powers, I wanted the cape design to be based on moth wings, so I decided to create some custom printed fabric using Spoonflower. If you've never heard of Spoonflower, you should! It's an awesome web based service that lets you send in digital files to be printed on fabric! They have a pretty wide selection of fabric, the quality of the printing is good, and the prices really aren't bad.

In this Instructable I'll show you how I designed my cape and had it printed! This tutorial is also part of my How to Become a Superhero collection which is a series of tutorials that walk you through designing and creating your own superhero costume. To learn about constructing other parts of a superhero costume, check out the other instructables in this series.

Superhero Costume Design

Designing a Spandex Supersuit

Constructing a Spandex Supersuit

Introduction to EVA Foam

Introduction to Worbla

Painting and Finishing Worbla and EVA Foam

Custom Printed Moth Wing Cape (*you are here)

Step 1: Cape Shapes

Superhero style capes are really quite easy to make, especially if you're using spandex or some other material that doesn't need to be hemmed. I'm not going to spend too much time talking about the structure or patterning, but here'a a few tips:

The shape of your cape really depends on the style you are creating, and what you want to be able to do with the cape. To get a cape with a good amount of volume, you should at least be able to raise your arms to shoulder level. A rough butterfly wing shape like I've created here is actually a good basic cape shape, and the most that can usually fit on one piece of fabric without a seam.

Step 2: Cape Fabric

Fabric choice matters a lot for capes. You definitely want something that drapes nicely, and isn't too heavy. Light knit fabrics like spandex or lightweight flowy silks, for example, will move a lot better than something like a woven cotton or a canvas. For my Metamoth cape I looked for a lightweight fabric that would be flowy and slightly transparent, and wouldn't fray to much along a cut edge. I ended up choosing Spoonflower's poly crepe de chine which was cheaper than the silk crepe de chine and also wider, 54".

Step 3: Designing the Cape for Printing

To get a large design like this printed on Spoonflower you need to send them a file that is the full size of the area you want printed at 150 DPI minimum. I created a Photoshop document that was 54" wide and 72" (2 yards) wide, and then I searched the internet for photos of moth wings using an advanced google search for large images that were available for "reuse with modification". Of course if you have your own photos or want to draw a design from scratch that's great too.

I collaged together several wing images, changing the color and size until I had something I liked behind the sketch of my costume design.

Then I saved my file and uploaded it to Spoonflower. If you have time, it's a great idea to order a test swatch of you print to see if it's the colors you were hoping for. I was rushing to get mine in time, so I skipped this step, but amazingly my wings turned out exactly the color I was hoping for - a very good match for the purple on my supersuit.

Step 4: Finishing and Attaching

Because my cape has such a complicated shape, hemming it wasn't really an option, so I just cut the edge with scissors. Crepe de chine is not prone to fraying, but sealing the very edge with nail polish would still be a good idea.

To attach my cape to the rest of my costume I just sewed small snaps onto the wings and the back of my supersuit so I could remove it when I wanted. You could also attach the cape to the underside of the shoulder piece, or build a special cape attachment point into the shoulder like the one on Thor's costume.

Step 5: Assuming Your Secret Identity

If you've been following my series of How to Become a Superhero instructables, this might just be the last step in your heroic costume journey!

Now it's time to take up the mantle of your alter ego, check your moral compass, and go out into the night to fight for justice, take over the world... or maybe or just enjoy the fact that you can fly or shoot laser beams out of your eyes! I have to admit, if I developed superpowers, I'm not sure my first instinct would be to run out and start rescuing people. I mean, if I had the power to manipulate metal like Magneto, I think I'd be more likely to pursue a career in sculpture or aerospace engineering than supervillainy... but then again, making things has always been my superpower.

Step 6: The Next Stage in Your Costume Evolution

Superheroes are always evolving and gaining new powers, right? I've shown you some basic skills in these tutorials that will get you a long way in your hero's journey, but if you want to take your costume to the next level here are a few skills you might want to explore.

Add Lights: Illuminating costumes is a specialty of mine, so naturally I think adding lights to a superhero outfit will only make it more super. Whether you want to add a simple illuminated element like Iron Man's Arc Reactor, or cover your whole costume with lights, there are a lot of simple lighting solutions to choose from like el wire, fiber optics, and LEDs. If you want to get a more complex understanding of wearable electronics, enroll in push_reset'sWearable Electronics Class!

Take your foam and Worbla game to the next level: there are a lot of great instructables out there that will help you master some of the more complex techniques for working with foam and Worbla. Learn how to carve foam to make large props with this Crusader Flail tutorial from JackieC29, create amazing details with finish and paint in this EVA Foam tutorial from Towering Props, and even incorporate some articulation into your Worbla costumes with this awesome Skeleton Hand tutorial from gpetit1!

For more ideas of projects to work on next, check out this collection of Costume Projects for Superheroes! And if you've create your own costume, write your own Instructable and share your skills with us!