Introduction: X-Men Cyclops Visor
Feel free to skip this part, this is just a fan rant of Cyclop's visor over the years, and what went into the design I chose (hint: ear cups rule). It's a hard choice!
Since his inception in the 1960's, Cyclops has gone through scores of design changes.
I'll go over them chronologically, since the designs build off each other. The original was a simplistic blue hood and yellow bar visor covering only the eyes and nose bridge.
Comics in the olden times chose their designs based printing's limitations. The limited amount of colors available for printing comics forced artists to have a basic palette of bold colors; red, blue, yellow, green, black, etc.. Each added color added cost, and the rules of comics said "fast, cheap and bold". Longevity didn't matter either, so they'd be on cheap news print paper, which looked aged and yellowed hot off the press. Because each color printed would "bleed" past the original thickness of the lines printed (think about a really old tattoo) the thickness off lines was important, fine detail would just end up a blurred mess. Making your character stand out relied on keeping a good contrast. Without fine detailed lines, recognizing a character's facial features wasn't an option. Instead they stuck to hair color (like Mr. Fantastic's grey streaks, or Jean Grey's bright red hair) and bright costumes to tell each other apart.
Fun fact, an old comic was printed one color at a time also, so one sheet would go through a machine at least four times. Often there would be tiny shifts, where the colors didn't line up where they were supposed to. You'd see a yellow blob next to a character's head, and their normally blond hair turned white. Even more rare, they'd miss a color all together, and you'd end up with a comic full of blue faces.
Not even blank white paper was safe; since ink bleeds through the pages of cheap news print, any large white areas on a comic would be instantly stained from the printing on the back. So comic characters almost never wore white; bold colors was the first and final rule.
Cyclops can emit powerful beams of energy from his eyes. He cannot control the beams without the aid a special visor made of ruby quartz lens, which he must wear at all times.
The first time we learn about him, your first thought is "that's an amazing power!", but then you think abut his situation. He can't take off the visor; not to shower, not to sleep, he has to wear it all the time. Scott isn't glad to have these powers, he's using his curse to be a hero. Even if he's afraid of losing control, he's strong willed, smart and alert.
I love the idea, such a cool concept. The character's story is instantly unique and mesmerizing, but not so much with the drawing's execution. The 1960's design was overly simplistic and a poor design. It didn't sell the concept that the visor was containing a powerful force, that Scott needed this to function and to keep people safe. The flimsy thin frame looked like plastic, holding a wide lens is more evocative of a scuba mask than a weapon of destruction.
Next era came from late 70's the with the X-Men revival "Giant-Sized X-Men". I really love this look. Dave Cockrum shows so much more detail in his design. This look would become so iconic it would last through the 1990's. The design was perfect, albeit old school. From the lines breaks in the smooth yellow surface, hinting at separate parts. The stiff contoured piece looked like something machined with armored plates, tooled for combat but also containment. The way he drew the lens was so different, even by modern artists. Instead of drawing a solid red bar, Cockrum would draw two red glowing eyes floating behind the ruby quartz lens. Instead of drawing it bright red, he made it look like a welding mask. Dark glass blocking two intense bright orbs. It really gives the sense of intense power being shielded. Even the way he drew the shape is suggestive of armor, with sloped thick pieces like a tank, a thin slit just wide enough to see through. And my favorite part? Ear cups! The new design curved around the sides of his head, fully covering his ears, giving the impression of how reinforced the design was. As a reader contemplating his design, you got a sense of a man wearing armor, but also afraid of his strength.
While we still have the hood, a look I never really liked to be honest, there's so much more being hinted at. And if you've seen the old pic "how Cyclop's visor works", you know that there is a ton of tech hidden in that thing. What is an "ear cup lock" and how would that even work? Is that the only thing keeping it secured to his face? If you tried to take off his visor, could you rip his ears off? It just seems like a bad idea...
The pic "Cyclops Visor" was the first one that really got me thinking about making his visor, actually making it light up, and how I could hide batteries in it.
This classic look would go through some minor changes, mostly in shape, but the yellow ear covering visor would be standard through the 90's. Cyclops would also phase out the hood slowly, starting by letting his hair loose, but eventually just donning the visor bare-headed. Good riddance to the hood, in my opinion, it was probably hot and itchy anyway.
Around "All-New X-men", we get the simplified version of the visor, going back to a narrow piece that doesn't cover his ears. This smaller variation has the most versions, but the most consistent feature is the switch from yellow to chrome. The silver makes it look super sweet, and by the late 90's, printing technology had advanced to the point were artists could include much more detail. This gives an unchained creativity for artists to experiment, but the metallic version of the visor would stick from this point on. If you're fighting Magneto, you maybe want to stick with plastic, but Cyclops will make sacrifices for style. THe burning question I have, especilly when considering making it real, how does he keep that tiny thin on his face? Does it glue on? Magnets? Maybe there's a tiny fishing line strap around his head...
In the 2000's, Marvel had a renaissance of new content, especially with the X-Men line. There were dozens of amazing artists and writers, taking Cyclops back and forth in time, mixing up new looks to his visor in many ways. Some big bulky chrome caps, some narrow new-wave inspired sunglasses. Some with a hood, some with half a hood. Some hoods with ear holes! But there wouldn't be anything really unique done to his look until this next stage.
The big design change to the visor comes with the "Revolutionary Cyclops" era. That's the one with just an big "X" shaped red stripes going across his whole face. I don't like this one. It doesn't make sense! How it turns on and off, what's holding it together, and why it covers so much of his face that isn't necessary? I considered this briefly, but decided that this was not something worthy the name "visor".
Cyclops got a fashionable upgrade with the Phoenix Cyclops version. This design is very cool and a refreshing bold new concept that fit perfect with the story he was in. Keeping with the bird theme, it was shaped the avian features; a domed sloping profile, coming to a hawk-like peak, angled downward and solid gold. I really like this one at first, but the longer I looked at it, the less I liked it. It's really large, covering his forehead and nose. That would be helpful for hiding electronics, but would be really annoying to wear a long time. Plus, if you breath through your nose, it'd fog up your lens. We all know Cyclops is not a mouth breather. I do like the ear cups are back, with more detail that is traditional too. This was a close runner up for which design I wanted to make.
I have to talk about the movie versions, but I won't say much about them. They're the best point of reference, since all were practical props made by professionals. I didn't have to imagine what it would look like in real life, it was right there on screen. Plus, movie merchandizing made just buying any of them easy!
Each movie had things I liked and didn't like. The first X-Men movie from the late 90's, the only thing I liked were the ear cups (I don't know why I'm obsessed with ear cups, they just make more sense to me). The design was weird; the shape covers the top of his cheeks, then the lens juts out too far. The ear cups are really big, and squared vertically, rather than contouring his head. The overall look comes off as squared and bulky. By X2, they ditched the ear cups and went simpler. Now he rocked a practical pair of sunglasses, but the lens again sticks out really far. A much better look overall, but neither were made of chrome or gold, just a matte dark grey.
The X-Men: Apocolypse movie did much better, finally we got the chrome look I love, but only at the end. I still don't know how it stays on... This was one of my favorite looks, and they made it look great.
Dark Phoenix had the sunglasses style from X2, but moved to a grey plastic look. The style of it made up for it's color, with a wide lens, sleek lines and well contoured shape. Sadly, no ear cups. I really liked this style! Not to big, not tiny, fits his face well, and looks solid.
So what I finally decided on was the visor from the "Ultimate X-Men" comic series. The comic line launched in 2001, with many die hard fans hating the line. It was meant for new readers, rebooting the Marvel universe in a retelling of the origin of their most popular comics in a modern setting. I personally enjoyed Ultimate X-Men. The stories were well thought out, fast paced, character driven, and the art was amazing. Seriously good, don't look at the covers, they were awful, but look at the insides! Cyclops here had the classic-yellow ear covering visor I love, but with a new detailed look that was amazing. They took Cockrum's concept, the heavy armored thin-slit look, but so much better. You see metal panels layered so that it hints at thick metal parts, but more compact. The ear cups are detailed and contoured to his head, and the whole thing has a polished gold color. Just stunning...
Gorilla Clear Glue
3D Printer (optional)
PETG Plastic filament
Colored Gel for Lighting (red)
Primer Filler Spray-paint
Matte Primer Spray-paint
Alclad II Lacquers Alclad Gloss Black Base
Alclad II Chrome Lacquer
Alclad II Lacquers Aqua Gloss
Red Food Dye
Yellow Food dye
An exhaustive interest in Cyclop's accessories
Step 1: Design
I'm not going to share the 3D file I created here, not yet anyway. I worked really hard on it for many months, I hope you understand that I feel possessive about it. So I'll do the next best thing i can think of and walk you through how I made it.
Find some photo references of what you want it to look like. The more the better. I'd even recommend making a splash page and printing it out. Get inspired. Then sketch out roughly the side view of how you want it to look. After you get the profile right, you can do a front sketch too.
Measure your head carefully. Not just the circumference, you need to know the curve and placement of your ears relative to your nose, forehead and eyes. Start with a hat that fits well, and trace out the brim on a flat piece of corrugated card board. Cut out a hole in the cardboard and try it on. The more accurate the fit here, the easier it will be later. Use this cardboard cutout to get the final measurements and curves right. You can even scan it to your computer for a reference pic.
Once you have that measured, mark down where your ears will be. Sketch out a front and side view of your head, and mark down measurements of where your visor will touch your head. drawing imaginary lines straight through your head, you'll need to know how far apart your head is measuring point to point spots. Most important are top, bottom and sides of your ears, temples and cheeks. Your head tapers as you move down from your hat line, if you want a good fit, knowing the measurements will make it easier later.
Step 2: Step 2: 3D Build
I don't have too much advice here, except this.
-Use blender: it's free, surprisingly powerful, and relatively easy to use.
-The settings are important, before you start building, set the units to Metric, Unit scale = 0.001, Length in Millimeters. This makes sure your exports are to scale for printing.
-Create a rough model of your head in Blender. Make sure it conforms to the measurements you did in step 1. From there, create your visor!
(I'm not going to go into a blender tutorial. I'm not an expert in it for one, and I'd do a terrible job explaining it. If you want to know how to use blender, there are thousands of tutorials online. Before I started making this, I knew nothing about blender. It's a steep learning curve, it took me a month of using it before I could make anything I was proud of, so keep at it.
Here's a video tutorial I found that has alot of good relevant info. If you're using Blender just to make 3D printable models, this has everything you need!
For the next part, not exciting, but we're still fitting the visor to your face. For that, you need a test piece made of paper.
For your first draft 3D model, make simple polygon version, less than 500 polygons. Just outline it making sure it matches around your measurements. Seriously, don't sweat the details, just make sure it fits. Once you get it to a place you think "yeah, I think this would fit perfect", export it as an .obj type file.
The free version lets you open 3d files and convert them into a PDF you can print, cut out and fold into the same object. I'm super excited about this program, it's bonkers cool. Seriously, look at some videos and builds from it. It's super easy to use, and there's alot of tutorials out there.
Once you load your .obj file into Pepakura, process and print out the PDF template. You can cut it out with scissors, and tape it together for a quick simple 3D model. Try it on and check the fit. I did this about four times before I was happy with it. Once you get the fit right, add the finer details.
Note: You could actually skip the 3D printing in plastic and stay with this program! The templates can be used on thicker cardboard or even foam sheets.
Step 3: Printing
When you're ready to print, make sure the walls of your model are thick enough (at least 3 millimeters). If you don't have a 3D printer, try your local library. I live in San Diego, they have a makers lab where you can print 3D things for free there. You can also go through Etsy to get things printed, there's alot of 3D printer owners who will print things for a modest price. If you own your own, even better! I have a Creality Ender 3 Pro, it was on sale for a bit over $200, and works very well. Your final size will be should be less than 200mm wide or deep. My final dimensions for the visor was 191x171x74 mm. If they're radically different (I have a big head, for the record) double check your measurements and units.
Print material: I used a PETG filament. Some think it's tricky to use, but it's very flexible, something I think is important for a wearable build. You can find a wide range of colors, I used black because i wanted to paint it.
If you are going to paint the visor, SKIP THE END HERE AND GO TO STEP 4
If you don't want to paint it:
Be prepared to sand by hand! I experimented with Dremel's, buffing wheels, and other machines, but it just wrecked the plastic. Because 3D printed plastic has a relatively low melting point, the moment it gets hot from friction, it will deform your model. Just stick to hand sanding, trust me.
Most 3D printed objects will have fairly obvious banding. Start with a 200 grit at least, smooth down all the rough parts. Work your way up to 300 grit, and sand again until its smooth. And again, 400, 600, up to a 1000, however high you want to go. If you take it to 1000 grit, the last step is to use a polishing compound. That should get the gloss you want for the final buff. Sanding 3D models is a deep dive, and there's a lot more info out there if you're interested, google some tutorials.
Alternative smoothing technique: after you do the first 200 grit sanding, spray a few coats of clear gloss lacquer (make sure it's safe for plastic) for the final touch. I've seen people have very good results.
Step 4: Painting
There are a number of ways to paint this, but this one worked awesome for me.
Quick summary: The raw print needs a quick sand and wash to remove stray bits of plastic. Filler primer is good to fill in minor scratches and gaps, but has a very pebbled texture. Finishing sand (400 grit and up after filler primer) smooths out those bumps, the goal is the smoothest possible surface. Gloss black base, Chrome, then tinted clear coat.
The goal here it to get your surface as smooth as possible, that means sanding it smooth first with 200 grit, but you don't have to go crazy perfect at first. Just smooth out the bumpy parts and stray bits of plastic. 3D printing, even the best ones, still leave very obvious layering in it's "raw" state.
After sanding, clean thoroughly with soap and water, use a soft brush if you have one. Once dry, clean again with rubbing alcohol and a lint free cloth.
When choosing paint, make sure it's says "safe for platic", just to be safe. A good tip is it choose contrasting colors. For me, I used 3D printed black plastic, so I used a gray primer. That way, 1. you can better see the coverage you're getting and 2. when sanding, you can tell if you are sanding too far through your paint.
Spray paint "Primer Filler" for your first base coat, a very thin coat. It's useful to hang the model on a wire or have it suspended some way so you can give it an even coat on all parts at the same time. After letting it dry about four minutes, add a second slightly thicker coat. Wait about 10 minutes, and add a third coat. The third coat should look smooth, probably a bit pebbled. It doesn't have to be perfect, but be careful it doesn't start to drip.
Let the visor cure for at least 24 hours, then sand smooth with 220 grit. Use light even circular motions, the goal is a uniform smooth surface. Be careful not to sand through back to plastic.
Wash again as above with soap and water, then with rubbing alcohol.
If you want to be extra, add two or more flat primer coats (same method as before), but not the "Filler Primer", for this use a matte basic "flat primer", make sure it's safe for plastic. Let cure again for at least 24 hours, then sand smooth with 600 or 800 grit. By this point it should be super smooth, but not glossy yet.
If you skip the flat primer, you can move on to sanding more. Don't bother being stingy with sand paper (over using a piece), once it's stops making dust throw it out and grab a new piece. Starting from the primer filler, you have already sanded using 220 grit. Wash with soap and water, now move up to sanding with 300 grit, with the same thoroughness, being careful not to sand through the paint revealing plastic. Then on to 400, 600, 800, and finishing with 1000, washing again between each pass. This will take alot of time, but it's worth it. By the end, all evidence of layering from the 3D printing should be gone, and you should have a squeaky smooth finish. It's not a mirror finish yet, but after the base black paint, it will be.
Wash again with soap and water, then after it's dry, with alcohol.
NOTE: From this point until finished, only handle with rubber or nitrate gloves on. The surface can be wrecked with any stray fingerprint.
Next, using an airbrush, paint with "Alclad II Gloss Black Base". This layer is critical: the better you get the base coat, the better the final result will be. Make sure painting area is well ventilated and dust free.
Using an airbrush, start with a thin layer of black. Let dry a few minutes, and add a second coat. Continue to build up layers until the visor is completely coated with an opaque layer. It should look glossy and wet. Be careful to keep moving the airbrush to get even coats, and to avoid drips.
If you're new to airbrushing, practice first. I found plastic spoons to be ideal for testing my airbrush skills and topcoat mixing. Stand them up in a piece of Styrofoam or whatever, then practice as above with 4 or 5 plastic spoons. Once you get the hang of it, move on to the actual visor.
Let cure at least 24 hours in a dust free area.
Using "Alclad II Chrome Lacquer" start with a thin layer as before, keeping the airbrush at least 6 inches away and moving continuously (practice on the spoons to tweak the amount you need). This will help keep the layers even. Once dry, add a second thin coat of chrome. Continue this method until you get a very shiny even bright effect. Don't go too thick, or it could actually dull the chrome effect. FUN FACT: the black base is part of the chrome effect, and the chrome paint is slightly translucent. If you go too thick, and completely cover the black base coat, it will actually diminish the chrome-ness of it.
Last coat (and the clever part)
I used this persons technique
It actually works brilliantly.
I modified this video's technique two ways. First, I used "Alclad Aqua Gloss Clear" instead, it seemed like a better brand for the chrome paint I was using. Then I added food coloring (yes, food coloring!) 2 to 1 ratio of yellow and red (two parts yellow for every one part red). For one ounce of clear coat, I added about 6 drops yellow and 3 drops red. I highly recommend doing some tests before doing the final coat directly on your visor! (see spoon pic)
Second modification: Once your clear coat is mixed, you can airbrush it on. In the video he uses a brush, for my skills, I preferred an airbrush. Spray on thin, even coats, and let dry completely before adding second coat. You won't see the color turn gold in the first layer. Beware the temptation to spray too thick! This stuff drips easy, and dries slower. Let dry completely between coats, at least an hour. Clean your airbrush immediately between coats, you don't want his drying out on your nozzle. After the third coat it should be gold, but test out first on your spoons to get it just right. before you do the visor. A fourth or fifth coat may be necessary.
Step 5: Lens
To make the lens, I used a Lighting Gel Filter (red of course). You can get these cheap on amazon. They have amazing clarity, and are very flexible.
To achieve the mirrored look (pay attention, this part is really cool):
Using a piece of paper or cardstock, trace out the area needed for your lens. Re-do this as many times as needed, trim out edges, until you're confident it covers the entire area needed. Using the paper as a template, carefully cut out the shape in the light gel.
The gels have a protective film on both sides. Carefully remove only ONE SIDE of the protective film of the red gel filter. Using the same chrome Alclad paint from before, make a few thin layers directly on the gel and let dry. The painted side will be the INSIDE of your lens. Remember to remove the last protective film on the outside before attaching! For glue, I'd recommend Gorilla Clear Glue. I takes three hours to dry, but the glue dries clear without reacting to the plastic (like superglue can), and is slightly flexible once cured.
And you're done!
Unless you want to add lights to it. I'll have that in a separate tutorial...