We’re venturing into cosplay and costumes with a DIY Wonder Woman tiara. This was a super fun project to make! We used thermoplastics (Worbla and Wonderflex) for the first time, which are awesome because they get moldable when you heat them. We go through all the details in the video (and you can really see how it is to work with the thermoplastics).
Here is a link to the pattern we made: get it here
Below are the materials we used:
- Black Worbla
- Heat gun
- Liquid gilding (gold leaf paint)
- Liquid gilding (brass)
- Paynes Gray acrylic
- Green acrylic
- Eyelets with setter
- Leather hole punch
- Crystal Gel
- Foil tape
- Tiny hammer
- Hot glue gun
A note about the thermoplastics - Worbla and Wonderflex do function in similar ways, but there are some differences and reasons we chose to use a combination of the two. Wonderflex is about half the price of Worbla, and it's more structural. But Worbla (black Worbla specifically) has a really nice surface finish and since it's black we don't need to paint it dark as our first layer of paint.
Step 1: Patterning
I'll walk through the basics of how we made the pattern in case you want to alter it for yourself, but again, you can also get the one we made. First we measured my head circumference because we wanted to be able to make it wrap about halfway around so that my hair would cover the ends. Then we took pictures of my face with measuring tape against it so I could design the pattern right on top of the picture and have actual measurements to work off of. I designed it so that it is made up of several pieces that layer on top of each other.
Step 2: Combining Worbla & Wonderflex
We made some pieces of the pattern out of two layers of Worbla / Wonderflex, and some using just one layer, depending on how much we wanted the layer to stand out. We found the easiest way to do this was to first attach our Worbla and Wonderflex pieces (if using two layers). We cut two similarly sized rectangles that were big enough for the first piece of our pattern, then heated each of them up using our heat gun on a heat safe surface, which you can make using foil or foil tape. Heat a few test pieces first to get a good feel for it: you don't want to melt the plastic, but you do want it soft enough to mold and shape. It kinda becomes the texture of like, a fruit roll up :)
Then sandwich your two pieces together (making sure the grid side of the Wonderflex and shiny side of the Worbla are the sides being pushed together). We pressed it together by hand, just be careful that it's not too hot to touch. You can kinda see a visual change where the two pieces are fully melded together and where they haven't quite bonded yet (it shows up best in the video).
Step 3: Cutting Out Pattern
Once you have some pieces of Worbla and Wonderflex combined, you can cut out your pattern. At first we tried to trace out the pattern onto the material and cut it out, but we found we got more accurate cuts when we stuck the pattern onto the plastic with a glue stick and cut direction along the pattern. The glue stick residue can be wiped off easily with a damp paper towel. Again, we used the double layer technique for some of the bigger pieces and just a single layer of Worbla for the detail pieces. On the single layer pieces, make sure you're tracing the pattern onto the rough side so that the shiny side is on the back.
Side note, for some pieces, like the little stars, it helped us to label which side was the top. You might want to pencil some notes directly onto the Worbla to keep track of what's what and how you should arrange it all.
Step 4: Assembling
At this point you should have a bunch of little pieces. But before actually sticking those pieces together with heat, we recommend doing a test fit. When we test fit ours, we noticed that we must have cut just outside the line on some parts, because they were a hair bigger than the should be. We cut them down a little to adjust, re-test fit, and then proceeded with the assembly.
We started with the piece that would be on the bottom (closest to my head). We heated it up, heat up the next piece that needed to go immediately on top of it, and then pressed them together. There is a little room for maneuvering if you don't press them too hard at first, but once you get them lined up perfectly go ahead and press them into each other enough that they stick.
Step 5: Curving the Whole Thing
We worked our way up one layer at a time until we had each piece assembled. Note, as this point we kept everything flat because it was easier to line up. But once all the pieces were assembled, we heat the entire thing and started gently forming it into a curve. We started on one end, heating and curving that part, and worked our way across the whole width section by section.
Once we had it generally curved, we heat it one last time and Evan pressed it against my head to make it fit me perfectly. Be careful if you're going to do this because you could burn yourself! If you're worried, you could form it against a bowl or something that's curved and similar to the measurements of your head.
Step 6: Adding Eyelets
We wanted to attach this to an elastic band, so we added eyelets at each end of the tiara. There are a lot of ways you could attach the elastic: you could carefully drill through the Worbla and run the elastic through, you could probably even glue it directly onto the Worbla. We chose eyelets because we wanted it to be reinforced and we also wanted to easily be able to swap out or change the length of the elastic if it got stretched out in the future.
The eyelets we bought came with a setter, and you follow the instructions to add them. You make a hole through your material, set the eyelet hardware through the hole and against this little metal circle that it fits into, then you hammer a metal rod onto the top side to set it. It makes more sense in the video, but it's easy and just takes a few seconds.
To make the initial hole through the Worbla, we first added a little extra piece of Worbla because the place we wanted the eyelet had an uneven surface and we wanted to even it out. Then we punched a whole through with a leather hole punch we had. You could drill through it instead, or there are maybe even other holepunching tools that would work on this material.
Step 7: Adding Battle Scars
We used a photo for reference to add battle scars so the tiara didn't look new and perfect. First we penciled them in, then heated the plastic a little and lightly scratched them in, being careful not to overdo it.
Step 8: Priming and Painting
There are a lot of options people use for priming Worbla. We've heard of folks using plastidip, gesso, and wood glue successfully, but we used a product called Crystal Gel that we got at a local theatre tech shop because it was made specifically for this purpose. You can buy it from them online here. It also works as a top coat, which is nice.
We did 2 coats of primer, waiting til it was dry to the touch in between coats. We used a soft brush to avoid brush marks. The next day we began painting. We did a single coat of liquid gilding gold leaf paint. This is an alcohol based paint that dries really fast, but it's not removable or blendable with water like acrylic. But we used it because it's a LOT shinier. We brushed it on lightly, making sure to leave the black Worbla showing underneath in recessed areas so it had an imperfect battle worn look.
Then we added some additional acrylic paint to add more depth and shadows. We mixed navy (technically the color is called Payne's Gray) and green, and this gave the gold a cool undertone. We brushed it into the recessed areas, using a photo for reference, and then used a dry brush to blend it out. We did several layers to get the proper battle worn / grimy look to it.
Then we went back with the gold and added a few highlights in detailed areas that some of our dark paint had covered (at the top of ridges, on the stars, etc). We used a photo for reference.
Lastly, we covered it with a coat of Crystal Gel as a top coat to protect the gold and add a little extra sheen.
Step 9: Add Elastic
Lastly we added the elastic. We looped it through the eyelets, I put on the tiara, and we tightened them til it felt right. We clipped them in place using binder clips, I removed it, then we hot glued the elastic to itself.
Step 10: Enjoy!
And that's it! This was our first time using thermoplastics or making costume pieces, and we really like how it turned out. It was really fun to play with Worbla and Wonderflex, and the project was pretty easy if you just take a little time practicing with the material and with your painting techniques. We do plan on eventually building out the rest of the costume, and we'd like to do a costume for Evan too so if you have anything you'd like to see, we are open to suggestions!
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