Introduction: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle [Michelangelo] - Costume

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and sometimes work in IT.

I told myself I'd take it easy this year - no full body costume ... no head with visibility comparable to having glasses made from salt shaker lids ... and no oversized feet, which make walking impossible. Why couldn't I just be a Pirate? Oh nooooooo ... that would be to easy and result in far too much sleep. I just HAD to be Ninja Turtle and I just HAD to come to that decision two weeks before Halloween. Nice job, self.

Reference materials, tutorials, templates, and appropriate credit

I wanted to go with the Nickelodeon TMNT version, not only because kids would be more familiar with them, but also because I figured the hand and feet fabrication would be easier to replicate in EVA foam.

While searching online for a slew of reference photos, I quickly found an existing Nickelodeon TMNT Instructable by nbehling. The Instructable is great and gave me lots of design and fabrication inspiration. You'll notice that I replicated his leg design.

The wild card for me was the turtle head. The truth is ... I'm not very good at mentally dissecting compound curvatures in order to know how to rebuild a shape. I can visualize the exploded view of square and rectangular construction (houses, furniture, etc), as well as simple shapes like a dome or sphere, but a realistic character head is currently out of reach. I decided to search for existing templates and found some great Pepakura files posted by Nintendude. You'll notice that I translated his patterns to work with foam.

Building Materials

The majority of this costume is constructed using EVA foam floor mats (both the puzzle and rolled style), which I acquired from Harbor Freight. 1/8" craft foam was acquired from Michael's (the craft store ... not my neighbor who borrowed a screwdriver, which he failed to return. Damn you Michael!!). I used/love/recommend Barge cement and I highly recommend investing in a Kershaw Ultra-Tek Blade Sharpener.

My Templates

I don't have access to a large format scanner, but I'll work on digitizing all of my templates.

Update: As of 2022, I still haven't done this.

Step 1: The Arms and Hands

Fabrication started with a prototype arm, so that I could troubleshoot any issues and make improvements on the design before committing to a matching set. After a few changes and notes, the prototype was dissected and used to make poster board templates.

The top of the arm and two fingers are one piece. The prototype helped determine that this would be stronger than having a glue joint between the palm and fingers, which is the point of flex. Two layers of 1" foam strips were laminated to the finger tips, cut flush with the finger sides, and a bevel added to the front for shaping [Fig. 1-5]. The thumb is a separate template and piece so that it can be cut to the appropriate length and positioned during a fitting. The same technique is used for the tip, but the sides are boxed in using small sections of foam for the sides and 1/8" foam for the bottom [Fig. 6]. The prototype proved that a strap didn't provide enough support and control for the thumb, which will make more sense very shortly.

The second part of the arm is a 10 1/2" square piece of foam with a semi-circular notch removed, which allows your arm to bend at the elbow. One side gets glued to an underside edge of the arm top, bent into an arc, and then glued to the opposing underside edge [Fig. 8-9]. Just be mindful of the notch placement and glue the second arm up as a mirror image [Fig. 10].

1/8" craft foam was used for strapping. A loop for each finger and a larger loop for the palm. These help keep the foam hand tight to your own hand and make it possible to curl the fingers. Placement and length will depend on the size of the individual hand [Fig. 11-12].

Once the hand was complete, I was able to put it on and mark not only the distance of the thumb from the finger, but also the angle at which to cut the foam. The thumb was then glued in place and I laminated a strip of 1/8" foam to the interior face to reinforce the seam [Fig. 13-14].

Step 2: The Legs and Feet

As with the arm, I made a prototype leg to work out the bugs and make templates. I used my shoe to assist with sizing while determining the dimension and shape of the sole. My curved cuts left a bit to be desired, so I cleaned up the shape using the oscillating belt sander.

The leg shape is cut from a single piece of foam with the seam in the back. There is a notch in the front top for knee movement, the ankle is open, and a good portion of the back is left open. This design results in unhindered mobility - very easy to walk and even crouch down.

The sides of the foot are built up using 2" wide strips of foam. The mats aren't large enough to do this with one piece, so I determined a splicing point and used two - a full strip around the back and then a shorter strip to fill in the front. A second full strip was then added to the front to reinforce the splice points, add rigidity, and provide more backing material for upcoming toe cuts.

I wasn't sure how to get the proper toe shape, so I pinned the leg to the foot and made a few attempts with contractor paper until I got it right. The toe edge gets a bottom bevel and the ankle edge gets a top bevel [Fig. 8]. To keep the parts centered, during assembly, I started in the middle and worked out towards the ends. A fillet of hot glue was added to the inside of this seam, which is probably overkill, but it makes me feel better.

To secure the turtle appendage to my foot, I used nylon strapping and plastic buckles, which can be purchased online, but I've also seen them at Lowes. After a few tests, I found the best anchor point to be the back center and glued to the sole. I used barge on the faces and then flooded the edges with hot glue. A walking test revealed a tendency for my toe to raise up, so I added some foam blocking to eliminate that possibility [Fig. 13].

The leg was glued to the foot in the same manner as the toe - center and work your way to the edges. You could leave the ankle open, but I chose to fill the void with a softer/more flexible foam so that when I wrapped the leg in spandex, I didn't end up with any unsightly indentations. I used hot glue for this because barge was just too tricky.

Lastly, the toe locations were laid using a seamstress tape to offset them equally from the center and then cut them out with a razor knife. This is where that second row of foam earns its paycheck by providing enough depth for the cuts, while leaving backing material to which spandex can be adhered.

Step 3: The Head - Foam Shape

As previously mentioned, I used Pepakura files to help my wrap my mind around this cranium. I was able to edit out some of the cut lines using Pepakura Designer, but not all of them. The files were saved as a PDF and printed. One hemisphere worth of pieces were traced onto foam, cut out, and then glued together. This tangible shape made it possible for me to determine how to translate the form into templates for foam. The bottom section could be pressed flat and cut from one piece [Fig. 3], while the top section just needed two darts cut in order to be flattened [Fig. 4]. That reduced the thirteen pieces from the Pepakura file down to four.

Two new parts were cut out and glued together in order to ensure they maintained the desired shape. A haphazard mock I shall call "Frankenhead," was used to enlarge the bottom hole so that my head could actually squeeze inside [Fig. 6]. Once that was achieved, I dissected the head, made poster board templates, and cut four new parts out of foam.
Note: Remember to flip templates if/when you need left and right/mirrored parts.

I glued up the top and bottom of the head separately and then joined the two sub assemblies - as opposed to left and right hemispheres. It seemed reasonable that if any distortion or misalignment were to occur, it would at least be symmetric and less noticeable.

Step 4: The Head - Adjustable Suspension

With Marvin The Martian, I padded out the head with EVA foam, which ended up looking bulky and making the head a bit top heavy. This time around, I wanted to see if I could come up with a better solution. It's reminiscent of the suspension found in hard hats, but just the back half. It's probably been done before, but it works so well, it be a pity not to share.

I used 2" wide strips of foam - one running over my head - side to side, and one running behind my head - side to side. This does take a bit of fitting and trimming. You want the length of the top strip to terminate above your ears - unless you like your ears being crushed. You wand the back strip to cradle your head. Too long and the fit is too loose/big ... too short and the fit is too tight/small.

The strips are glued together where their ends meet and the entire assembly is glued inside the foam head, but only at the top center location. The beauty of having the sides free floating is that you can add a piece or pieces of foam as a shim to snug up the fit. With no shim, the sides have room to flare out a bit, so this foam head can accommodate several human head sizes.

A small block of softer foam was added to the front - inline with the my forehead. This keeps the foam head from sliding backwards and eliminated the minimal slop that remained.

Step 5: The Head - Eyes

I had planned to use billboard sunglass lenses for the eyes (another pearl of wisdom from nbehling), but the Amazon listing/seller failed at life. Picture showed billboard ... description said billboard ... they were NOT billboard. They also fell apart in my hands almost immediately. Without the luxury of time, I push on with the standard lenses and formulated an alternate plan.

I found an adequately, pupil sized washer and traced it onto some masking tape, which in turn was adhered to packing tape. The packing tape was folded over on itself, so not sticky, and in effect became a large sticker. I cut out a few circles, separated the masking tape from the packing tape backer, obsessively placed them on the lenses, and then pressed them down. Two light coats of plastic primer followed by three light coats of white spray paint ensued [Fig. 1-5].

While the white paint dried, I made a second mask with a larger washer. This time I stuck the packing tape to paper instead of folding it over on itself, which was faster and easier. In this instance, the circle cut out is the waste portion so that a ring of color can be sprayed without tainting the sclera portion of the eye. Three light coats of blue spray paint, two light coats of spray lacquer to lock it in and prevent finger prints (learned from experience), and then carefully peel off the masking tape. The blue bled onto the white a bit, but only noticeable close up [Fig. 6-20].

Before painting the lenses, I used them to trace the eye locations onto the head. It could be done afterwards, but, but I wanted to cut out the holes while paint was drying. The holes were roughly (very roughly) cut and then sanded to the line with a Dremel and sanding drum [Fig. 11-12].
Note: The holes are just a tad smaller than the lenses so they can be glued to the foam exterior. If you recess them, they will have a sunken look by the time you add the mask.

Overall, this approach worked, but the lenses kept fogging up, which blocked all visibility. Billboard/perforated lenses would've been ideal and I'll probably end up drilling out the pupil to eliminate the issue.

Step 6: The Head - Mask

Wrapping a spandex mask around the head would've been quick and effective, but visually, I wanted it to have a bit more thickness. Since I wanted to use 1/8 foam, which would need to contour with the shape of the head, I decided to make a template instead of winging it with several free drawn attempts.

To make the template, I covered the head with aluminum foil (trust me on the foil), applied masking tape, and drew a mask onto half of the head. Once satisfied, I removed the tape/foil, cut out the shape, and transferred it to poster board. Using this template, I traced out a left and right side of the mask (flip the template) onto 1/8" foam, cut them out, and glued them together in the center [Fig. 1-5].

The mask was skinned with orange spandex. A light coat of Super 77 on the foam held things in place well enough to cut the spandex, wrap it around to the backside of the mask, and lock it in place with hot glue [Fig. 6-10].

I did cut excess length at the ends so I could tie the mask in the back and have the spandex freely hang like banners in the breeze. Sadly, the spandex just rolled up on itself and looked like two oversized penne (type of pasta - not a typo). A better plan may be to cut that excess wider and added a 1/8" foam core.

The mask gets attached to the head in four locations with Velcro (front, each side, and back) [Fig. 13]. Making the mask removable enables switching out for other colors, which correlates to other turtles. Sure ... you'd have to make a different belt and weapons, but the option is there.

Step 7: The Head - Mouth

The mouth wasn't difficult, but my indecisiveness in regard to the shape, size, and location made it take longer than necessary. I started by drawing several version directly on the masked head. Once I had a general idea of the shape and size, I cut out a template and pinned that to the head. Moving it higher and lower affected the overall look more than one would imagine. Once I finally decided on a location, I traced the template onto the foam, cut out the mouth with a razor knife, and cleaned it up with a sanding drum to remove any tool marks and round over the edges.

For teeth, I used two strips of 1/8" white craft foam, which were hot glued to the inside of the head. The entire opening was then concealed with a piece of black spandex - also attached with hot glue.

Step 8: The Chest Plate

With fabrication of the limbs and head complete, it was time to move on to the body. I decided to start with the chest plate so I could size it to my human body and then use it to help determine the size of the shell.

After measuring the distance from my collar bone to a lower distance which concealed my private turtle parts, I drew several layout lines on contractor paper - vertical center, top, bottom, armpit, nipple, navel, etc. These lines were guides for the overall shape - where curves would start, where the belt would fall, and where the form would be separated into 6 tiles. Once I had the final shape, I cut it and and transferred it to a poster board template. The paper shape was then cut down the middle, one side split into the three separate tiles, and then those transferred to poster board [Fig. 1-4].
Note: Once you have your desired shape on one side of the paper, just cut out that half, fold it along the vertical center, and trace it onto the opposing half.
Note 2: The chest plate has 6 tiles, but you only need templates for one side. Just flip them to get the mirror image.

I fabricated the chest plate as two layers, which will make sense as we progress. A full chest shape was cut from a rolled mat and the six individual tiles were cut from the stiffer puzzle foam. Inside edges of the tiles were rounded over, while the outside edges received a wider chamfer. Battle damage was added using the edge of the sanding drum [Fig. 5-7].

The tiles were wrapped with tan spandex, but since it was somewhat transparent and the tiles had markings from an ink pen, I first heat sealed them and then applied two coats of Plasti Dip. Sections of spandex were cut oversize and stuck to the front of the tiles with Super 77. I ensured the spandex followed the contours of the battle damage, wrapped around the sides wrinkle free, and then secured all the edges on the backside with hot glue [Fig. 8-11]

The full chest shape received the heat seal and Plasti Dip treatment to cover up ink markings and then the individual tiles were attached using Barge. I'm very pleased with this method as it gives the desired depth to the part and when it's worn, the tiles separate a bit to reveal the black substrate [Fig. 12-14]

The chest plate needed a spot of Velcro for attaching the belt. I initially tried to attach it directly to the spandex, but it was short lived. Since I didn't want to trash my work with hot glue, I made an over complicated anchor point using 1/8" and plexi. I glued a small rectangle of plexi to the middle of a foam strip [Fig. 15] and continued wrapping around to the backside until the foam met in the middle and was then spot glued to itself - think of the letter T. The vertical section of this foam T was fed through a slit in the vertical center of the chest plate. The two flaps of foam were then glued to the back of the chest plate using Barge [Fig. 17 & 18]. This won't hold a lot of weight, but it's enough for it's intended purpose and unlike the spandex, the Velco actually sticks to the foam.

Step 9: The Shell - Basic Shape

To get the vertical and horizontal dimensions for the back shell, I temporarily strapped on the chest piece with assistance from a bungee cord and held a tape measure behind my back ... all in front of a mirror. It was truly a magically frustrating exercise. Contractor paper was once again used as my sketch pad as I progressed through 3-4 versions. I'd draw one half, trace it to the other half, cut it out, check myself out in the mirror, and then make necessary revisions. Once I had a base shape, I glued two floor mats together and cut out a foam base [Fig. 1-3].
Note: At this point, I cut the paper template in half vertically and made a poster board template.

To support the dome, I made a centered spine. After deciding on a measurement for the highest point of the dome, which is the center, I drew a gradual taper to the edge. This pattern was used to cut 4 pieces out of foam, which were then glued into a 2 ply lamination and the top edge rounded using a sanding drum [Fig. 4-6]. For additional dome support, I added 2" wide foam strips on each side [Fig. 7].

For the actual dome, I used rolled floor mat, which is a bit thinner and a lot more flexible than the puzzle style mats. Using the shell base template, I traced and cut out one half of the dome. I knew this piece would be too large, but it would get me in the ballpark and could be easily trimmed. After beveling the bottom edge with the sanding drum, I temporarily pinned the foam in place, marked true center with a flexible metal ruler, and trimmed the foam [Fig. 9-10]. This newly shaped piece was then traced onto foam to make the opposing side (smooth side to smooth side for the mirror image), as well as on to poster board for a keeper template.

This glue up was a bit precarious, so I split it into sections [Fig. 11-12]:
1. Center Top - sides to each other and the top of the spine.
2. Each side to the 2" foam strip supports - started at the top and worked down.
3. Vertical spine - sides to each other and the top of the spine - started at the top and worked down.
4. The bottom edge of the dome to the base - top half .. then bottom half.

Halfway through gluing the bottom edge to the base, I decided that there was too much flex in the foam - it was actually dipping down a bit in a few spots. I was aware that previous builders used expandable foam for this purpose, but my solution was fiberglass insulation. Expandable foam can be messy, it takes time to cure, overfilling was a risk, and I already had insulation. After stuffing this turkey, I finished gluing the bottom edge to the base {fig. 13-16].
Note: Since I cut the first dome half in place, I ended up with a beveled top edge and had to mirror that on the other side. This left a sharp ridge, which I sanded down with the dremel. In hindsight, I would not bevel this edge and just alter my template.

Step 10: The Shell - Tiles and Edging

It seemed logical that the quickest and most accurate way to layout the shell tiles would be to do it directly on the shell. I covered the dome with masking tape, laid down a few horizontal reference lines, and started scribbling away. I thought I'd be able to easily peel off the masking tape since it's usually gentle on painted surfaces, but that assumption was proven to be false - learn from my mistake and lay down an aluminum foil barrier prior to the tape (mistake was not repeated on the head).

After arduously peeling up each tile and cut them free with scissors, they were used to make poster board templates (four center templates and three side templates, which I just flipped for the opposing side). Each tile received rounded edges courtesy of the sanding drum and an under bevel on the edge adjacent to the base layer [Fig. 2].

While testing the fit/spacing of the tiles, it became apparent that the base layer was undersized. The reference photos showed a wider rim around the entire shell, which I lacked. My solution was to cut out segments of foam, glue them them the existing edge, and then conceal the visible seam with a layer of 1/8" foam. The easiest way to get properly fitting pieces was to trace the shell onto contractor paper [Fig. 3], draw a 1 1/5" offset from this line, split that larger egg ring into segments, cut out the individual segments, and use them as templates for marking and cutting the foam [Fig. 4]. The 1/8" foam was then cut to fit and adhered with Barge [Fig. 5-7].

Gluing on the tiles was pretty straight forward. I started with the bottom and top center tiles, filled in with the three side tiles (maintaining an equal spacing), and finished with the two center tiles [Fig. 8-9].

Reference photos show a V notch between each of the shell's edge segments, so I used a small piece of foam as a consistent marking gauge and cut them out with a razor knife. A few additional notches are cut at the top of the shell to simulate battle damage and then a bevel was added to the outside edge. Additional cuts, chips, and scars of war were inflicted on the foam using the edge of the sanding drum [Fig. 10-13].

Step 11: The Shell - Sides and Strapping

A design for strapping on the shell without using visible straps over the shoulders eluded me for quite some time ... until I found pictures of some high quality costumes used for promotional events, which integrated the sides as part of the shell. One of those head smacking realizations.

I started by attaching some foam anchoring points to the base of the shell, as well as a nylon strap and plastic buckle, which would function as a belt and support the majority of the weight. A test run resulted in the nylon ripping away from the form, so I walled the strap in with more foam and added a second lamination to the anchor points [Fig. 2]. More of the flexible rolled mat was used for the sides and instead of making multiple iterations of a part, I decided to glue an oversized piece to the shell, strap it on, and mark a custom fit around my arm and leg [Fig. 3-4]. The two resulting cut outs were used to make a template and that template was then used to cut the opposing side, which I also let run long in the front [Fig. 3-6]. The sides were attached with Barge and then hot glue was liberally applied along the internal seams. After another fitting to determine the front overlap point of the two sides, there were cut to final length [Fig.8].

The two sides connect in the front using four plastic buckles, which were attached with Barge on the faces and hot glue around all the edges. A length of nylon was left attached so that it could be adhere to the foam and provide strength (4" of length, but trimmed as necessary). My fear was that gluing the plastic alone wouldn't hold up ... I'd go to tighten the strap and they'd pop right off.
Note: After cutting the nylon, I burned the ends to melt them and prevent fraying. I used a torch, but any flame will do..
Experience Tip: I glued the female side of the buckles to the foam first, then assembled the buckles and pinned the two sides together in order to get perfect alignment across the board [Fig. 10].

Lengths of 2" wide industrial velcro was applied between the nylon straps - notice both the hook and loop sides [Fig. 12]. The shell was once again strapped on, plastic removed to expose the Velcro's adhesive, chest plate obsessively aligned while floating in mid air ... then pressed against all six magic rectangles - another perfect alignment tip! Removing the chest plate revealed that the velcro didn't have an ideal bond against the diamond plate pattern, so I reinforced each patch with hot glue.

Reference photos show a more substantial edge along the top and bottom of the side panels, which I simulated by beveling a length of foam, cutting off a 3/4" wide strips, then cutting/gluing them to fit along the top and bottom contours [Fig. 14-16]. The sanding drum was used to round over sharp edges, as well as add the depicted battle damage. These edges were painted putty/light tan, while the field of the panel was skinned using brown spandex - Super 77 held it in place well enough for all for edges to be secured with hot glue [Fig. 17-18].

Step 12: The Shell - Painting

I found several shell color variants. Some were a blend of browns, while others leaned towards green or greenish gray. Initially I went with a green palate, but I just wasn't feeling it. The shell didn't stand out enough from the green spandex. I decided to switch to a brown palate, but made the decision to go lighter than the brown spandex for contrast.
Note: Prior to painting, I did heat seal the foam and apply two coats of Plasti Dip.

I used rattlecan spray paint (all satin or flat finish) - starting with a base coat of putty and then dark brown on all of the edges. Once that way dry, I dusted the entire surface with a darker tan. What I mean by dusting is that instead of the average 6 - 10 inch distance, I widen the gap to 20 -24 inches. The paint spreads out for partial coverage as opposed to full concealment. After the first dusting, I wanted more depth, so I added more brown and black to the edges and a blop of putty in the center of each tile. I just repeated variations on this cycle until I was happy with the overall look. I didn't bother adding a topcoat and the finish is holding up just fine.

Paint colors:
Valspar Putty (light tan)
Valspar Rugged (darker tan)
Rustoleum Dark Brown
Project Source Black (Generic $1)
Project Source White (Generic $1)

Step 13: Spandex Skinning

Early on, I made the decision to wrap all of the body parts with spandex, as opposed to painting them. I figured it would be relatively easy to do with 4 way stretch material and would be a huge time saver since I wouldn't need to wait for paint to dry. I'm sure it was partially due to the learning curve, but I'm certain paint would've been faster. I don't really have any shortcuts or templates for this step, as I was just making it up as I went.

Feet: I started at the top of the foot. A little Super 77 held the fabric in place while I tacked the top edge with hot glue. Next, I pulled out the wrinkles, laid down a bead of hot glue in each toe slot, and pressed in the fabric with a putty knife. The remaining spandex was then wrapped around the sides and tacked in place with hot glue [Fig. 1-5].
Experience Tip: Hot glue works very well for securing spandex if you use a small amount - too much and it will look and feel bumpy. Also, be careful not to accidentally touch your work with the tip of the gun or you will leave a discolored spot.
Experience Tip 2: Lay the fabric over the glue and just tap one or twice lightly. If you hold it an apply pressure, the glue will soak through and discolor the fabric.

Legs: Super 77 held the fabric in place on the front of the leg while I tacked down the bottom edge. I then worked by my way around the sides using hot glue to secure any edge to the foam. For the back seam, I overlapped the fabric and used Killer Red Tape in order to avoid a noticeable line of hot glue [Fig. 5-7].
Note: Any gaps or unsightly seams around the ankle will be covered by brown spandex.

Head: I split the head into two hemispheres with the demarcation placed under the mask. I started with the bottom half - specifically the mouth. Once I had the fabric wrapped and tacked into the mouth, I worked my way around each side and used Killer Red Tape on the back seam. Instead of Super 77, I used pins to temporarily hold the fabric as I worked out wrinkles and tacked down the edges under the mask and inside of the neck. For the crown portion of the head, I started in the front with the eyes, then the back of the head, and finished by pulling wrinkles out towards the demarcation. I overlapped this horizontal seam and while it's not the prettiest, it'll be covered by the mask [Fig. 8-12].
Experience Tip: Strategically pin in portions of fabric which will either be removed or concealed - the pins occasionally leave visible holes ... especially if you are stretching the fabric to remove wrinkles.

Arms: The arms were a breeze. I tacked one edge and then wrapped the fabric around at an upward angle in order to form a palm. I chose the inside face of the arm as the overlap point and used Killer Red Tape. At this point, I thought I had the technique down and would be done in no time ... nope. The fingers were a nightmare [Fig. 13-16].

Fingers: These were a nightmare. I used one piece of fabric to wrap what is basically the back of the hand, one for the each finger, and one for the thumb. I don't even have a clear way to explain the process other than I would glue one edge and then wrap the spandex around the digit - pulling wrinkles, tucking, folding, and tacking as I went [Fig. 17-20].
Experience Tip: Strategically keep all of your seams in location which will be covered by the wrist wrap, as well as the finger wrap.

Step 14: Feet and Hand Wrapping

For the ankle and wrist wrapping, I used 2" wide strips of brown spandex, which was cut using a metal straight edge and the roller cutter. The wrapping is pretty simple, but I overthink everything and took my time because I wanted the sides to by as symmetrical as possible.

The starting edge of the strip was tacked in place with hot glue and then the spandex was wrapped around the ankle - sometimes over the toe ... sometimes behind the leg ... until all of the necessary green and unsightly seams were buried forever. Each time I ran out of length, I would just tack the next strip onto the last. This helped give the look of one continuous wrap, which I found to be more realistic [Fig. 3-6].
Note: Tack the fabric down as much as possible because it will move. I learned this lesson after the first night of wear when the spandex shifted around.

The wrists are exponentially easier than the ankles because it's a solitary loop. Add more glue tacks than you think you'll need, because it will also move around.

For the finger and palm wrap, I used 1" wide strips cut from a white cotton T-shirt. I tacked the starting edge with glue, ran around the digit/palm twice, cut the end to terminate in a low visibility area, and glued down the end [Fig. 7-8]. Additional tacking was required because these also moved during the first wear.

Step 15: Elbow and Knee Pads

The elbow and knee pads are constructed from three layers of foam - the top layer being split into three sections with the inner edges beveled to create horizontal grooves. I found cutting the bevels on a longer length of foam and then cross cutting that into the required length for the pads gave the best results, because it reduced the opportunity for variations in the angle [Fig. 1-2]. I left the single bevel strips wider than necessary, so I could trim them to fit once I had the dual bevel sections dry fit.

My glue up strategy was to start with the top and bottom sections, using a block of plywood to keep the layers parallel [Fig. 4-5]. That approach made aligning the center section pretty much fool proof. These two layers were then glued to atop a third, which was identical to the middle - one piece at full dimensions.
Note: I let the lengths of the beveled sections run a bit long so I wouldn't have to worry about side to side alignment. It was easy to trim off afterwards.

All of the pads were wrapped with brown spandex. A light coat of Super 77 was applied to the foam to keep the spandex from sliding around too much. A bead of hot glue was extruded into the bottom of one groove and a wide putty knife used to press the spandex into said groove ... maintaining pressure while the glue set. This process was repeated for the second groove. The spandex was then wrapped around the sides, wrinkles pulled out, and secured on the backside with hot glue [Fig. 6-7].

Each pad needed a strap, so I flailed through some sewing to make rings using more brown spandex. I was surprised by how difficult it was to sew spandex, but I don't have a serger, nor do I have any fancy sewing machine feet with built in rollers. Pinning didn't dissuade the fabric's desire to perpetually bunch, but my old pal masking tape helped reacquire the advantage! Tape on one side resulted in minimal bunching ... tape on both sides had around 1% bunching [Fig. 10]. I know this isn't "proper sewing technique," but who am I to argue with results ... especially when time is running out? Once I had the long sides sewn, I added more tape, folded spandex over on itself right side out, and closed the loop with some subpar zig zag stitching [Fig. 11-12].
Note: Right side out makes it possible to hide the ugly seem when the rings are glued to the pads.

The spandex straps were secured to the back of the pads using hot glue. A bead of glue down the vertical center and press the ugly seam right into it [Fig. 15]. A second bead for the other side of the seam and roll the fabric into the molten stream. The look is finished by gluing the rings to all four edges of the pad, which also conceals any unfortunate seams.

The reference photos show small rectangular patches on the pads (two on each side), which I assume would be for reinforcement. I didn't really need the strength, but I wanted to stay true to the look, so I cut 3/4" x 1 1/2" rectangles out of 1/8" foam. These were spray painted with a base coat of putty and then dusted with dark brown and a bit of black. They were secured to the spandex with hot glue [Fig. 16-19].

Each pad is attached to it's respective limb using a medium sized patch of Velcro [Fig. 20].

Foam Dimensions
Elbow Pads: 7 1/2" width x 6" height
Knee Pads: 5" width x 5 1/2" height

Fabric Ring Dimensions
Elbow Pads: 5 1/2" x 15""
Knee Pads: 6 1/2" x 22"

Step 16: The Belt With Nunchaku Holders

The belt is made using brown vinyl wrapped around a 1/8" foam core to give it more heft. The foam strip was cut to a width of 4", while the vinyl was cut to 8 1/4" - this provides enough material for wrapping around the sides. The foam was adhered to the middle of the vinyl so that once wrapped around to the back, the horizontal seam would fall in the middle [Fig. 3-5].
Note: The backing material of vinyl soaks up a lot of Barge, so be prepared.
Note 2: I purchased one yard of vinyl, so I was forced to have a vertical seam/splice point. If you don't want the seam, get two yards. My final belt length ended up being 68 1/2".
Note 3: You'll notice I staggered the splice point of the foam vs. the vinyl.

Each turtle has a different style of belt - Michelangelo's has built-in holders for his nunchaku. Fabrication of these holders started with an EVA and packing foam core. Foam rectangles were cut to the dimensions of 2" x 4" (four out of EVA and two out of the packing foam). Marking 1" in from each edge will give you the center point for the required holes. A section 1 1/4" galvanized pipe was used to punch the holes in the EVA, while 3/4 copper pipe was used to punch the packing foam - the edges of the pipes were sharpened using the oscillating belt sander. The foam was glued into inedible sandwiches, radial slits cut in the softer foam so the nanchaku could fit, and EVA blocks added to the ends to keep the blocks from distorting/squishing [Fig. 7-9].

While gluing up the belt, I also made two smaller sections for the nunchaku holders - 3 1/4" wide foam with 3 1/2" wide vinyl. The foam cores were glued to the center of the vinyl sections, which was then wrapped around the two shorted sides [Fig. 11]. It was at this point that I learned of vinyl's superpower - its impervious to almost every adhesive in existence. The contact cement was partially holding, but the parts separated easily, so I added hot glue, which didn't do much better. I decided to test adhesives on some scrap (results below) and ultimately decided on a combination of VHB tape (Killer Red Tape) and metal rivets.

The holders were pressed down against the work table so that the side flanges could be trimmed down to 1 1/4" [Fig. 12]. A 5/8" marking gauge was used to pinpoint rivet location and a leather punch was used to make the holes [Fig. 13-15]. The holders were then used to transfer hole locations to the belt with an awl and then punched [Fig 16-17]. Killer Red adhered the foam core to the vinyl and rivets were used for the vinyl to vinyl connections [Fig. 18-20]. These pouches will hold the nanchaku and though Killer Red is strong, I'm not confident in its ability to support the weight and sheer force long term.
Note: I intentionally placed the first pouch over the vertical seam in the belt.
Note 2: After attaching the first pouch, I laid the belt across the back of the shell in order to make the location of the second pouch - no measuring ... no guess work [Fig. 21-22].

Reference photos show small rectangular patches on the pouch flanges, so I used this detail to conceal the rivets. They are nothing more than 1/2" x 1" vinyl rectangles stuck onto Killer Red and then placed on the belt like high bond stickers [Fig. 23-25]. Larger patches (3/4" x 1 7/8") were placed on the belt in accordance with reference photos and industrial velcro was added to each end.
Note: The edges of the vinyl patches were white - a wash of diluted black paint was brushed on and wiped off to make everything blend. I also took the opportunity to paint the visible faces of the foam cores black.

The belt attaches to the shell in three locations, as well as the front chest plate location - those can be scene in The Shell - Painting step of this Instructable.

The nunchaku were made using 3/4" PVC pipe and couplers, 1/2" PVC sheeting, eyebolts, fender washers, lock nuts, and plastic chain - finished with spray paint and wrapped in vinyl. The standalone Instructable for them can be found HERE.

Step 17: The Pizza

Instead of just sitting around waiting for Barge to set up during assembly of body parts, I decided to make some accessories ... first and foremost was of course, pizza.

I made a temporary beam compass using a scrap of foam, a pin, and a pen. This was used to draw a 14" diameter circle onto a piece of foam [Fig. 1-4]. The power of the galvanized pipe punch was once again harnessed to convert 1/8" foam into 25+ discs [Fig. 5-6].

The pizza circle was cut out and 1/2" wide strips of 1/8" foam were glued around the edge in order simulate crust. A Dremel with a sanding drum was used to round over the edges and add texture [ Fig. 8-10].

The pizza crust was heat sealed and spray painted brown. Once that was dry, the center was painted with yellow acrylic and the crust was dry brushed with white. The pepperoni were spray painted red and once dry, attached to the pizza with hot glue [Fig. 11-14].

You may notice that I actually took the time to cut a slice free. That's partially because I'm insane, but also because Mikey might need to hold a slice for a photo op. It's all about options, I guess.

Step 18: The Manhole Cover

Accessory #2 was a manhole cover for no other reason than I thought it would be a fun visual element for kids during Trick or Treat.

I made another foam trammel to draw the largest possible circle on one of the foam mats. Before cutting out the circle, I drew four diameters so I'd have the locations for holes. Two opposing holes were punched close to the edge with a 3/4" copper pipe and then elongated towards the edge with a razor knife. Using the remaining six lines, galvanized pipe was used to punch holes equidistant from the edge [Fig. 1-2]..

To form the sides, I used 2" wide strips of foam and glued them around the outside edge. 1 1/2" wide strips were then laminated on the inside to add support for the top, as well as overall rigidity [Fig. 3-7].

For additional flair, I traced letters onto 1/8" foam, cut them out, and adhered them with Barge [Fig. 8-10].

To finish the prop, I heat sealed it and applied two coats of Plasti Dip. Spray paint was then used to give the look of an uneven or dirty texture. I basically just haphazardly dusted the surface with black, gray, and white [Fig. 11-12].

Step 19: Suiting Up and Glamour Shots

Some glam shots putting on the costume [Fig. 1-7]. The order of operations is body suit, feet, shell, chest, belt, arms, and then head.

I had fully intended to made my own spandex pants and long sleeve turtle neck (to conceal my neck ... not just for turtle inception), but my sewing skills just aren't at spandex level. Since I don't have a serger, I was planning on running a zig zag stitch next to a straight stitch, but I couldn't even get that far. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't feed the material straight, nor could I get it to stop bunching. I have enough spandex to try again and plan on making another attempt with a friend's serger.

Note: Experience tips are always welcome!

I'd safely estimate this costume took me at least 120 hours - probably a little more. The body parts were more involved than anything I'd fabricated prior, templates took time, sewing spandex was new and more difficult than expected, I grossly under estimated the time involved in wrapping the parts with spandex, and I generally just overthink everything.

Overall, I enjoyed the process, I added a stack of new techniques to my skill set, and I learned from mistakes - by doing. Maybe next year I'll be a pirate ... Please, self - give your ole pal a reprieve!


Purchased Materials

EVA Rolled Mats (2) = 15.98

EVA Floor Mats (4 packs) = 32.38

1/8" roll of black foam = $5.39

1/8" foam sheet = $.99

Green Spandex (4yrds) = $15.96

Brown Spandex (3yds) = $11.97

Tan Spandex (1 yd) = $3.99

Orange Spandex (1 yrd) = $3.99

Green Morph Suit = $29.99

Eye Bolts (4) = $2.32

Industrial Velcro = $18.50

3/4" PVC Couplers (8) = $2.72

Billboard Sunglasses = $7.99

Poster Board = $7

Plasti Dip (2) = $ 11.96

Tan Spray Paint = $3.98

Brown Spray Paint = $3.98

Materials Total = $179.09

Materials I Had

White T-Shirt

Brown Thread

Lock Nuts

Fender Washers

3/4" PVC Pipe

1/2" PVC Sheeting

Plastic Chain

Metallic Spray Paint

Purchased Tools & Supplies

Barge cement = $32

Barge Thinner = $26

Spray Adhesive = $10

Titanium Roller cutter = $8.50

Tool & Supply Total = $76.50

Final Total = $255.59

Step 20: Video

Halloween Contest 2017

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2017