Just prior to the release of Star Wars, The Force Awakens, I created a full scale replica of the lovable little BB-8. Working with a small budget, I relied on materials lying around my studio, and purchased only what I needed to. My replica was designed many for display, as it's non functioning, however, I did create a wheeled base that was allowed BB-8 to be pulled around.
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Step 1: Building the Body
I was able to confirm that BB-8's spherical body is 20" in diameter. Using that info, I started by creating a line drawing using reference pics. I then scaled the drawing of the body to 20". Doing so gave me the proportionate head dimensions.
To create the body, I constructed the 20" sphere using EVA foam. 8 wedges were made to create each half of the sphere. The wedges are heated using a heat gun and slightly curved to achieve the proper shape.
Next contact cement was used to glue each formed wedge together, gluing 2 at a time. Each half on the sphere was then glued together using contact cement.
Step 2: Creating Circular Patterns
I gathered as many reference photos of BB-8 that depicted each side of the droid in order to achieve as much detail pertaining to his design as possible. This step took a lot of probing, guessing and filling in the blanks. For the most part, BB-8's circular tool-bay discs are symmetrical so establishing 1 panel dictated the rest. The layout is also symmetrical making positioning of the surface design straightforward. The stainless steel patterns are all unique and were a bit tricky to confirm.
Once the drawings were established, I printed each in full scale. (All drawing were created in Adobe Illustrator on a Mac)
Tracing a circle onto a sphere doesn't quite work. The circle becomes distorted and you will lose some of it's circumference. Instead, I created each circle using a measuring tape and a sharpie. Staring from the center, and marking 1/2 the diameter as I rotate the measuring tape.
The silver patterns were cut and traced onto each tool-bay disc (orange panels).
I then cut into the EVA foam, tracing all of the line work and then applying some heat to the foam. Doing so expands the foam and creates the illusion that each panel is it's own piece while adding depth. This process also made masking the droid for paint a little easier.
Step 3: Preping the Body for Paint
Once the build was complete, I sealed the foam using wood glue. I usually like to use flexbond but had none on hand. I applied 3 layers of wood glue, smoothing the 3rd with a little water and my fingers.
Spot putty was used to fill any noticeable seams - except the intended ones. Sandable primer was applied and the body was given a wet sand.
Step 4: Building the Head
Using the same technique as the construction of the body, I created a 2D full scaled drawing and starting building a dome. The dome was created using 8 wedges, headed and shape before being glued together. I constructed the head out of 0.5" plastazote foam. Once the dome was completed, I added 3 layers of 0.5" foam to the bottom in order to created the tapered underside of the head. I carved the beveled edge in accordance to the linear drawing I created.
I then transferred the the pattern details to the finished build. Unlike the EVA foam, plastazote doesn't expand when you cut into it. Therefore, I had to manually cut a groove throughout the entire design.
Step 5: Giving BB-8 a Personality
I started by cutting out the facial openings in BB-8's head. His primary photoreceptor (the large black domed eye) was created using half of a clear plastic ornament ball found at Michael's. It happened to be very close in size and worked well. I painted it on the inside using transparent black spray paint. The casing around the photoreceptor was hand-built using sintra (PVC Foamboard)
The Articulated holoprojector was created by spray painting a large marble gloss black. The housing for it was carved out of plastazote. (SIDE NOTE: I only know the technical names of these parts because Santa brought The new Force Awakens Visual Dictionary)
The small circular light was made by painting a piece of blue acetate with transparent white and gluing it to the inside of the opening.
Not seen here are the antennas. BB-8's rubber duck Antenna was salvaged from a junck shop and painted white. The larger antenna was handmade using some steel rod and foam.
Step 6: Painting
Painting BB-8 was a long and tedious process. After the initial flat white base, I masked off each orange disc using automotive masking tape. The rest of the droid was covered to protect the base white.
Next The metal parts were masked and a combination of chrome and grey spray paint was used.
Weathering BB-8 was the most enjoyable part of the painting process. Making stuff dirty makes me happy.
To give BB-8 that "just been on Jakku" look, I simply used a few acrylic paints diluted with water. The paint is layered by rubbing on and then rubbing off.
Step 7: This and That
I added some LEDs to my BB-8 to give it a bit more life. I wired a single red LED behind the domed eye and used a dollar store pen light to provide light for the smaller circular opening. The head was attached to the body using magnets. Doing so allowed me to access the LEDs inside the head and gave the option of head positioning. The head can be attached so that it faces the other side of the body for a fresh look.
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