Introduction: Sorceress Edea Kramer Cosplay - Final Fantasy VIII
For my third Instructable I'm going to be doing a write up of the process my wife and I went through to make a Sorceress Edea Kramer cosplay from Final Fantasy VIII (8). She refers to this as a "passion project" and a "dream cosplay" of hers, so there was absolutely no pressure going into it. To give you an idea of how smoothly the process went, we originally started it with the intent of having it done for AMKE (Anime Milwaukee) 2019. We finished it the night before leaving for AMKE 2020.
This cosplay is an elaborate one and was crafted using a mix of EVA foam, Worbla, 3D printed parts, acrylic rods, tears, and more. In the following steps I will highlight some of the methods used to work with these materials and some to avoid.
Note: I am not a professional. I am mostly self-taught and have learned these techniques over years of trial and error or from tips from others. Hopefully I can help you learn from my mistakes. Have fun, take your time, read chemical warning labels, and use proper personal protective equipment. Also remember it's healthy to take breaks and sometimes walk away from it for a few days, or a month....or longer.
Shout out to my wife Katie aka Dockter Cosplay for making an amazing dress, helping with various parts of the helmet and for overall being a wonderful human being. Special shout-out to Charlie (o2.supply) for taking awesome photos of the finished product and also to red wine for helping me solve some changing problems.
EVA Foam, Worbla, PLA (3D Printing), Fabric, Acrylic Rods
Step 1: Gather References
If you've read any of my previous Instructables, you saw this step coming. I usually use a mix of google images and Pinterest to get a good variety of image sources to fill a folder called "References."
Final Fantasy VIII (for my sanity I'm going to write it out as FF8 going forward) was originally released in 1999 for the OG PlayStation. Fortunately for us, Square Enix rendered cut-scenes to give us more details to work with. I watched, re-watched, and re-re-watched cut-scenes on YouTube, taking screenshots to get different angles of Edea's helmet. For some reason it was difficult to find a shot showing the right side of the helmet, so I took some artistic liberties but tried to follow the original design as closely as possible.
Story Time: To add a little background to this project, my wife is a huge Final Fantasy Fan. Growing up she played and replayed FF8 countless times and calls it her one of her favorite games and her favorite Final Fantasy game. She walked down the aisle at our wedding to an orchestral version of "Eyes On Me" (the iconic song from the game). So again, going into this, no pressure right? Right?!
Alright, now that we have our references, it's time to move on to the next step. This is going to be a long one, go grab a drink or some popcorn, you're going to need it.
Step 2: Building the Helmet Base - EVA Foam
This was a first for me and after watching a bunch of YouTube videos on helmet making, we settled on EVA foam. Fiberglass would have been a durable and lightweight option but after years of mold making, I want nothing to do with fiberglass if I don't have to, especially sanding it.
What's EVA foam you ask? You know those foam mats people put in home gyms or in their garage on the floor? It's that. Fortunately, there are a variety of brands of EVA foam in larger sheets that are made specifically for cosplay. During this project I used EVA foam from TNT Cosplay Supply, SKS Props HD Foam (found at Blick Art Materials), and Yaya Han's Foam (found at Joann Fabrics). All of them are amazing. They typically come in black, gray, and white. Each brand also has their own specialty trim pieces.
To make the patterns for the EVA foam, we wrapped Katie's head with saran wrap (not over her face). On top of the saran wrap was a layer or two of duct tape. I drew out a rough outline of the helmet on the duct tape to make sure I covered enough of it with plaster. We used plaster bandages to create a hard shell. This was done by dipping the plaster bandages in water and then applying them in layers around her head. Once that hardened enough for removal, Katie took it off of her head. After allowing it to dry completely, Bondo was applied and sanded to create a smoother surface.
- Saran Wrap (to keep the duct tape from sticking to your head)
- Duct Tape (you could stop here and make patterns directly from this, I took it a couple steps further)
- Plaster Bandages
- Smooth with Bondo and sanding (this step wasn't totally necessary, but it did make it more smooth)
Using this plaster cast, we then covered it in saran wrap and duct tape. I don't have any photos of this process, but we marked the center line of the helmet on the duct tape and then created seam lines to cut it into pattern pieces. When making the patterns, put darts or keys (triangles) on both sides of the seam lines every few inches. These give you markers where they should be lining up when assembling them together.
The patterns were used for half the helmet and then flipped over to make a symmetrical opposite half. It ended up being three pieces per half, six in total. This took a few tries to get the sizing snug, but the end result was worth it.
Most people who work with EVA foam use contact cement to connect the pieces together. I ended up using Bob Smith Industries Super Glue paired with their accelerator to connect the seams. This is my favorite super glue and I usually keep a stock on hand.
Before attaching the pieces, they were heat formed to shape and the edges were roughed up with sandpaper and heat sealed before using adhesives.
To get cleaner and tighter seams using the super glue method, I started at one end, spraying one side of the foam with accelerator and putting super glue on the other side. This makes them bond almost instantly when they make contact. I did this a half an inch or an inch at a time, making sure to line up the darts / keys between each piece. Practice with scrap pieces to get your technique down before moving on to the final pieces.
After the helmet base was assembled, I sanded the seams smooth with sandpaper. I used a utility knife to help cut down some of the seams.
Author's Note: Contact cement is the preferred method in the foam community and it definitely has a lot of benefits. Unfortunately, contact cement has a very strong odor. It was winter in Minnesota and I didn't want to work in the cold garage with it so I went with super glue. If your costume is going to be exposed to cold temperatures, super glue can get brittle and crack.
This step seems a little redundant and it may have been. You could just use saran wrap and duct tape to make the patterns, instead of creating a 3D object with plaster bandages and then making 2D patterns from that. In hindsight, that probably would have worked better but live and learn as they say.
I didn't go into detail on techniques of working with EVA foam here but if you're interested in how to cleanly cut foam or other foam techniques, I would highly recommend checking out Evil Ted, Punished Props, and Kamui Cosplay. They all have videos, books, patterns, and other amazing resources available.
Alright, so now you have your helmet base. It's time to make it SHINE. *jazz hands*
Step 3: Sealing / Painting EVA Foam - Helmet Base
This step ranges from "YOLO good enough" to "Sanding your finger(print)s off" in length. If you're like me, you need to get things as smooth and perfect as possible before applying primer, completely ignoring diminishing returns.
Looking at the second image (top right), the helmet base after a pass of sanding with 120, 220, and 320 looked great. All it probably needed was gap filling at the seams in a few places but that would be too easy.
I used coats of "Rapid Fill" and "Fine Finish" to create a base for sanding. They are both "nontoxic brush-on acrylic-based filler" that gives you a strong, easily sand-able surface on EVA foam that is flexible. It brushes on in a similar manner to "Mod Podge" but is safe for wet sanding. I used a couple coats of rapid fill, sanded up to 320, and then a couple coats of fine finish, sanded to 400. EVA foam is porous, so using both of these creates a more durable and flexible shell over the foam, giving you a smooth surface to apply your paint.
There are ongoing debates of what is the best material to seal / prime EVA foam. I have always been a fan of Plasti-dip for its relatively low price and ease of use (it's in a rattle can). It is a spray-able (or dip-able) rubber coating that sprays on really thick. Practice on scrap pieces before coating your final pieces. It doesn't need a heavy coat but if you haven't used it before it may look like you ruined your piece when you coat it. Don't panic, it settles after a couple minutes. Again, practice first so you get a hang of how much to use. Rust-oleum also makes a rubber spray called Flexidip that is very similar.
You might be wondering "Brian, why do I have to use a rubber coating, why can't I just use a typical primer?" That is a great question! I mentioned earlier that EVA foam is porous, which means typical paint applied directly to foam (depending on your finish surface) maybe bubble due to the pore / open cells in the foam. Because of this, you want something that seals the foam first.
Using a rubber (or latex) coating fills in and seal these pores, giving you a smoother surface for your top coat. EVA foam is also flexible, so as you wear or carry around your EVA foam object, it may flex. If you have a hard shell of paint directly over the foam, it doesn't allow for that to flex and may crack. Plasti-dip is rubber and is flexible. (Note: I haven't tested putting typical primer over the Rapid Fill / Fine Finish shell, it's worth testing as that acts as a sealer to the foam and is also flexible)
Did I mention to practice all of this on scraps before applying it to your final pieces?
Alright, at this point you have a nice clean base that is sealed with a rubber coating. Now you are ready for your top coat! The possibilities are endless at this step. You could dry brush with Liquitex hard bodied acrylics, use a rattle can of spray paint, airbrush, other acrylics, etc, depending on what finish you are going for.
Edea's helmet's base color is a metallic, shiny purple. For bright and shiny colors, my favorite available paints are in Createx's pearlized airbrush paint line. The base helmet top coat is the "Pearl Plum" which is one of my favorite paint colors (and not just because I'm a Vikings fan). The caveat to these is that they require an airbrush (with a compressor) to use. If you've never used an airbrush (or have one in your closet that you're afraid to use) check out Eric aka Coregeek's youtube series on airbrushes. They take a little practice (and cleaning) but they open up a whole new world of color and paint options for you, as well as added control.
Step 4: Helmet Accessories - EVA Foam / Worbla
What would a Final Fantasy costume be without a lot of overly complicated multi-color horns and other random objects all over it? Now that we have our base helmet, it's time to make it look like it's out of a Final Fantasy game, not a fantasy football league.
Edea's helmet has three distinct horns on it, each with a purple to magenta gradient. I'm going to be honest with you, I didn't originally intend to make these with worbla, it just happened.
- Find or make your own pattern. I used Kamui Cosplay's Horn Collection pattern for these guys, printed on to cardstock. I messed around with the scaling a bit to get them the right size for the helmet.
- Transfer the pattern to foam and cut it out. I like using sewing pins to hold the patterns in place. Don't forget to label each part, specifically which side is the exterior.
- Heat form the foam pieces to shape and glue them together when ready.
- Sand the seams. Now, here is where you could continue to use foam and follow what I did with the helmet base using "Rapid Fill" and "Fine Finish", sealing it with Plasti-dip. If you want to go that route, do those steps and then skip to #9 below.
- Now you have what you see in the 3rd image, a mostly smooth foam horn. I wanted these to be more rigid than just foam and a higher gloss finish, so I decided to cover it in Worbla. Outline half of your object onto a flat Worbla sheet, giving it enough extra to allow it to wrap and create an edge (shown in picture four). Do the same for the other side.
- When working with Worbla, I like to use a metal cookie sheet, placing the flat pieces of worbla on it and gently hitting each side of it with a heat gun before applying over the foam piece. Worbla has two sides, a shiny side (the glue side) and a dull side. You want to apply the shiny glue side down towards your object. See links before for more detailed resources on working with Worbla.
- Image 5 shows the horn covered on both sides with Worbla and a large edge along the center seam line. I like to cut this back gently with a sharp utility knife and then either sand it down or use a hot knife to heat the Worbla seam smooth. If using a hot knife, be careful not to burn yourself or overheat the Worbla. A Dremel with a sanding bit works well for this too.
- I sanded the Worbla obsessively until it was mostly smooth (seen in picture 6/7). This isn't super necessarily, a light sanding and then priming should do the trick, I just apparently really love sanding.
- Priming: There are a lot of popular methods of priming Worbla. See the Ultimate Priming and Smoothing Guide here. I used Flexbond, which applies similar to Mod Podge but is designed for Worbla. After this step you're ready for paint!
- It's easy to work with and dried relatively smooth but it mentions on the bottle you can wet sand it once it's dry. Maybe it needed more curing time but my experience wet sanding it didn't go as well as hoped. The water seemed to reactive the 'paste" and gunked up the sandpaper. I ended up smoothing it out with a little bit of water and my fingers. I need to do some more experimenting with this but after sanding the Worbla, wet-sanding a thick coat of filler primer might work well.
- To get a nice metallic finish on the horns, I used a base coat of semi-gloss black Rust-oleum primer. Metallic paints usually show the best over a clean black coat of paint. Matte - Semi-gloss - Gloss are your typical options for least to most shine.
- Top coat time! The main color of the horns matches the helmet, so I again used the Pearl Plum Createx paint through an airbrush. Once that dried, I lightly painted a gradient at the tip with Pearl Magenta, releasing less paint through the airbrush as I moved downward, blending the two colors together.
Step 5: More Helmet Parts - Foam Clay / Worbla
During the build, I referred to this piece as the "Spiral boi" for obvious reasons. Again, it wouldn't be from Final Fantasy if it didn't have a lot of random shapes with crazy colors on it. This was created in a similar manner to the horns except we used SKS Props Foam Clay for it!
If you don't know what foam clay is, it's exactly what it sounds like! It can be formed like clay and in 24-48 hours it hardens into an EVA foam object. It's great for organic shapes like this spiral and is incredibly easy to work with. Unfortunately, I got really into this process and forgot to take a lot of pictures, but here's the gist of the process.
- Put down a sheet of wax paper / parchment paper (we didn't have wax paper) and roll out your foam clay. If it's a little tough to work with, dip your fingers in water and work it into the foam. Water can also be used to smooth out the surface of the clay. For the spiral, it was rolled into a "snake-like" shape and then coiled up. Katie is much better at working with clay, so she formed the clay spiral. For more tips and tricks of working with foam clay, check out this YouTube video with Punished Props and SKS Props.
- Wait 24-48 hours (or more if you want) until the foam clay is dry.
- Cut out a sheet of Worbla slightly larger than your object. Heat up the Worbla with a heat gun and form it around your object. As you're working with the Worbla you will probably need to reheat it. Take your time and be careful not to overheat or stretch it, it could tear. I like to use these silicon "brushes" to help form the Worbla into cracks and crevices. Repeat for the other side.
- Clean up the edges of your piece (as mentioned in previous steps).
- Seal the Worbla with your preferred method. I used Flexbond.
- As mentioned earlier, I like putting a black base coat on everything, especially if it's going to be a top coat that is a metallic.
- Top coat and accents. I used a rattle can from Rust-oleum's "Metallic" line for the gold base and airbrushed the accents with Pearl Magenta Createx paint.
- Weathering! This is always my favorite part of a paint job. I did a quick color wash (watered down acrylic paints) with black acrylic paint to make the valleys in the spiral pop. Look at the first picture (finished spiral with weathering) and compare it to the last one (spiral before weathering). It's a quick step but makes a huge difference.
- For more information on doing a "color wash" check out this previous Instructable of mine. I described the process in the middle of Step 5.
I made more parts with this method and the previous method but I'm getting long winded so in the next step I'll skip ahead to the next material.
- Be careful with your heat gun. Use heat resistant gloves if necessary. The tip of the heat gun gets very hot and hurts if you accidentally touch your hand or leg with it. It can also leave scars but as the great poet Papa Roach once said, scars remind us that the past is real. So there's that.
- Use proper ventilation and PPE when using spray paint / airbrushes / chemicals / etc. Read the recommended safety instructions for each material. I have a filtered spray booth that vents out of my shop, but I still use a respirator when spray painting.
Step 6: 3D Printing
If you've read my previous Instructables you know that I do a lot of 3D printing. I won't go too in depth on the process here, but I'll mention a few new things I tried with this build. Some might call that "being innovate" but I can that "throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick."
If you're interested in reading more about the process of 3D modeling and post-processing 3D printed files check out my Instructables on The Ancient Bladesaw from BotW and Noctis' Engine Blade from FFXV. Both of these go in depth on how to get 3D printed parts smooth. TLDR: Lots of sanding and filler primer, explained with dry humor and self-loathing.
One of the main pieces of this cosplay is a large back piece. I refer to it as the "clock" piece because it resembles a clock. Or more so, part of a clock. Naturally this is a 6 foot wide monster and we were planning on taking it to a convention out of state, so I had to come up with a way to make it easily transportable. Once again, no pressure right?
The clock was designed so each "hand" was its own piece and the middle section between each of the hands was also its own piece. In the base of the hands and in the joints between the middle pieces were small rare earth magnets. In the end, they were almost able to hold their own weight. Not taking any risks, I ended up using a small amount of hot glue in some of the joints to make sure they didn't come apart during the photo-shoot. It was temporary enough and didn't bond the parts together permanently so we were able to take it apart again to bring it home. Some pieces broke in the removal process but we got pictures to prove that it was at one time fully assembled.
If you look closely at the clock hands, you'll notice that there are three thinner rods in the center of each of them. To save myself a ton of sanding and print time, I designed these to be 1/4" diameter acrylic rods. They were all the same size and cut down from 6 foot long pieces ordered on Amazon with a small saw and miter box.
Several pieces on the helmet were also 3D printed. These were known as the "ear pucks" and the "pointy stabby boi." I'm good at naming parts, I know. These all went through their typical "Eat. Sleep. Sand. Repeat" phase until silky smooth. (Again, refer to my previous Instructables about that process).
If you're wondering why some parts were 3D printed and some were made with foam / Worbla / etc, it came down to geometry and symmetry. The ear pucks and the "stabby boi" have a lot of precise geometry and symmetry, which was easier to achieve with 3D printing. Those models took me under an hour to model in Fusion 360, so it was an easy choice for me. They could also be made with foam and / or Worbla but I wanted them to be precise and knew I would spend way too much time trying to do that by hand. The clock was entirely 3D printed (minus the acrylic rods) for the same reasons. It also needed to be rigid and thin.
Step 7: Helmet Assembly
I've written a lot already, so I'll keep this step short. It's fairly simple.
- Super glue on one contact point, accelerant on the other.
- Press together
- Wait a few seconds and it's chemically bonded.
I love Bob Smith Industries super glue and accelerant. It can be found in some hobby stories and on Amazon. As the list above implies, it's a quick process and will help your cosplay form a closer bond.
To elaborate on it slightly more, to create an almost instant bond, spray accelerant on one contact point and put super glue on the other. When they touch, the accelerant accelerates the chemical reaction and bonds them together almost instantly. Shaken, not stirred.
- If you need more time to adjust it, don't use the accelerant and you have a few more seconds of working time before the super glue cures.
- If you didn't use the accelerant and are having a hard time getting the super glue to cure or have the connection set and want to speed up the process, spray it with the accelerant.
- Remember to breathe during this process. It can be anxiety inducing to super glue parts together that you've spend days, weeks, or months working on, but you've come this far, you can do it!
As always, practice this before doing it with your final pieces. Some paints react with the super glue and accelerant, so do some tests to make sure everything plays nice together. Bob Smith Industries also makes a "debonder" spray that releases the super glue. I have a bottle of it but have never tried it.
I said I was going to keep this step short but I guess I lied.
Oh, one more thing, wear nitrile gloves while super gluing things together. That way, if you get super glue on your hands it won't cover your fingers in glue and prevent you from using the finger print scanner on your phone for a few days making you realize you don't actually know some of your passwords and question some of your life choices like how did I end up gluing horns and spirals to a purple helmet to take to a convention in the middle of winter in Minnesota. Or so I'm told.
Step 8: Clock Back Piece Assembly / Straps
Strap in, I'm going to level with you on this step: I had absolutely no idea how I was going to make the clock stay on Katie's back while hiding the straps and not being able to cross them around the front of her torso. I assume in the game Edea uses the power of God and anime (and maybe magic) to keep it in place. I tried that and it didn't work for me so I got out a box of straps, buckles, and misc parts.
After over-complicating it and failing multiple times, I glanced across the room and saw my work branded backpack leaning up against the wall. Looking back it seems like it should have been obvious but since I didn't really have a plan until literally everything else was finished and this was the last step, but maybe it wasn't.
I'm honestly still not entirely sure how to explain what I did so see the pictures above for reference. I turned it into a backpack and used buckles on each side so it could easily be taken off and adjusted. My best advice is to study how the straps on a backpack work and do that, but with buckles.
- Nylon straps and plastic buckles can be found super cheap on Amazon. I keep an assortment on hand at all times. Craft stores also sell these, such as Joann's and Michaels.
- Finish the cut ends of nylon strapping with a lighter, it will melt the fibers and keep it from unraveling. Fire = hot, so be careful. I probably sound like a broken record but always error on the side of caution.
- We covered the base of the back piece with feathers to hide it and match the dress.
Our test fit worked and the clock was as snug as a bug in a rug with a pug so we were ready to pack it all up and head to the convention. I made a quick foam storage box to protect and stack the clock pieces. The helmet was transported in a home depot tote filled with packing peanuts.
Flash forward to the convention. Katie is in our hotel room bathroom doing her fancy latex and makeup to transform herself into a sorceress for her 1PM photo-shoot. Our friends Dan and Katie (another Katie, not the same Katie) helped me hot glue the clock together. See above picture of Dan joyfully holding the clock base in place as I carefully glued each piece into place.
Step 9: Lights. Camera. Action!
If you made it this far, thank you for reading and joining us on this journey! Above are some of the shots from our photoshoot at the Hilton City Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is a beautiful and historic hotel, a perfect backdrop for this cosplay. Charlie (o2.supply) did an incredible job with these photos, huge shout out again to him!
This is by far the most complicated cosplay project I've tackled so far, and I am incredibly proud of how it turned out. My writing may sound sarcastic at times, but I do mean it when I say this was a really fun project to fabricate.
My wife and I are still happily married (if you were wondering) and now she gets to help me with a dream cosplay of mine: Vincent Valentine. Another shout out to her for being awesome and for both helping me with various parts of this build and for a stunning dress from scratch. Her cosplay handle is @docktercosplay.
In closing I'll leave you with a few random musings from the back of my mind.
- The cosplay community (myself included) has a tendency to set crazy deadlines to make new cosplays for so-and-so con. Stop. Doing. That. It tends to lead to unhealthy sleep schedules, rushed work, unrealistic expectations, stress, and burn out. This was the first time I (we) didn't set a hard and fast deadline to finish a project. Like I mentioned before, we were originally planning to bring it to AMKE 2019 but ended up taking it to AMKE 2020. Take your time and remember that it's okay to step back and finish it later.
- Despite my best efforts, this project did not include LEDs. I tried to incorporate them into the clock but my wife told me that I was taking it too far. If I ever end up remaking the clock, it's definitely going to have LEDs.
- Remember that for the majority of us, cosplay is a hobby. Have fun with it, don't let it stress you out.
- Things will inevitably go wrong at some point. In my case that was almost every step of this process. Learn from these mistakes. To quote Ben Gates from National Treasure quoting Thomas Edison about creating the lightbulb: "I didn't fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb," but he only needed one way to make it work." If you haven't seen National Treasure and only take away one thing from this entire Instructable it's this: Watch. National. Treasure. Nicholas Cage is a national treasure.
I just quoted a movie from 2004 so I'll take that as a sign I need to stop writing. Thanks again for following along and stay tuned for more Instructables in the future! If you want to see more of my wacky creations, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @powerupprops. If you have any questions, leave them below and I'll answer them to the best of my abilities.
Second Prize in the