Introduction: How to Make a Robot/synth Style Costume/ Fursuit Head
This is a tutorial on how to make a fursuit head (specifically of protogen or other synth styles).
This tutorial was created to help those with limited budgets unable to commission other artists to make them a fursuit head. This is not the typical way that fursuit heads are built, however it works well for more inorganic head shapes. I have seen this technique used for both realistic and toony Canine heads and other species, so it can definitely be used for other types if you are creative enough. This instructable however is only going to cover how to make a protogen or synth-like fursuit head (as that is what my character is). These same techniques can be used to make mascot costumes as well.
- EVA foam/ thick craft foam (layers of craft foam can be used if it is all that is available, just make sure to glue them together well and to the correct desired thickness.
- Faux fur (the two colors I used can be seen in the images)
- Hot glue
- Needle+ thread
- Drawing supplies
- Paper+ cardboard (for pattern drafting)
- Duck tape
- Mini Breadboard
- Battery and connector
- Plastic Dino toy mask with movable mouth (easy to build on, would require modification for full sized human heads)
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Step 1: Character Creation and Simplification
The first step is to figure out what character you want to make. This has to be done first so that the fabric colors can be chosen. For my design, I wanted an insect like creature with raptor feet and armor. Usually, when one is making a fursuit they would need what is called a reference sheet, but since this is only for the head, that is not necessary. It is important to keep in mind the number of colors used because each color is another type of fur, adding on to the price.
After the design has been sketched out, it needs to be simplified. Gradients and complex patterns are the first to be removed (unless the one making the head/suit is skillful at intricate sewing or airbrushing). Gradients can usually be simplified to two or three colors. There are some artists who make fursuit ref sheets specifically if you have trouble creating your own.
It is easiest to simplify in stages, and part of this simplification process can be seen in the second image (the headshot). All of the gradients have been removed and simplified down to four colors. These will be simplified even further before the actual making of the head.
Step 2: Cardboard Prototyping (OPTIONAL)
I did not do this step for my head as it was simple enough to skip this.
WARNING Cardboard is not to be used in the final head design as it molds easily from the moisture that builds up in the head.
Even though cardboard CANNOT be used in the final design, that does not mean that it is not useful to the process. Cardboard can be an especially useful tool for prototyping the shape of the head. Just build up the cardboard to the shape desired using sheets as if it were a 3D model made of polygons(or pieces roughly connected flat and in smooth lines). Once the cardboard model is the correct size and shape, it can be taken apart and transferred to the EVA foam as a pattern. Make sure to use thick enough foam for this (recommended .5cm and above), as the thin craft foam sheets (if not strongly glued together) will end up sagging and changing shape as soon as the fur is added.
Step 3: Foam Cutting/Gluing
Make sure to be safe when cutting foam.
Foam cutting can be done with a variety of tools. For my project I used both scissors and a utility knife. The utility knife will give smoother edges but it is harder to cut tight curves into the thick foam. The scissors will leave a jagged edge but are easier to use for cutting curves. Of course if there are other tools that the maker is more comfortable with, they can be used. When cutting, follow the patterns made either from sketches and measurements or from the cardboard prototyping step. To ensure that the head is symmetrical, make a pattern for one half and then flip it for the other side.
With all of the pieces cut out of the foam, they can be glued together. Depending on the thickness of the foam, it will need to be cut at an angle to fit together properly. I used hot glue for this step but other glues can be used.
There are a few ways this can be done:
A) When initially cutting out the foam, use a utility knife and hold it at the correct angle. This method works well for right angles, but it is harder to do with more specific angles that would require measuring and tweaking first.
B) cut the foam out straight initially, and then use scissors to trim the edges to the correct angle. This method is useful for angles that change as the piece goes on, or for angles that require comparison with other pieces. The downside is that it leaves jagged edges that have to be cut down later.
Double check all seams to make sure they are securely attached.
After all of the foam is glued together, it should be cut down on the corners to ensure a smooth transition. This can be done with scissors, the utility knife (carefully), or a small handheld rotary tool with a sandpaper bit. For my head, I used scissors.
More information on gluing EVA foam and sanding it smooth can be found on cosplay tutorials.
It was during this step that I also made the antenna. They were pretty easy to make, and required a coat hanger as an armature, craft foam, and fleece. I drew the shape that I wanted onto a sheet of craft foam and then traced that shape onto the fabric for the antenna. Once I had the parts traced onto the foam and fabric, I cut out all of the pieces. Make sure to leave a hole big enough at the base of the antenna to allow the foam to be inserted once they are sewn closed. Insert the foam into the antenna and position it to lay flat, then sew a line down the middle to add detail and secure the foam. I added more stitching to imply the feather like texture of moth antenna.
Step 4: Light Installation (OPTIONAL)
I ended up scrapping this, but it might be useful for others who want their head to have lights. A simple circuit that works for this can be seen as made in TinkerCad. In my head, I secured the breadboard using two elastic straps so that it was easily removable and then secured the components in place using easily removable electric tape.
Step 5: Furring
This is where the whole project starts to come together.
Eyes should be added before this part. Make sure to test different mesh fabrics for eyes. One example of a fabric that would work for eyes would be a light, loose knit muslin. Make sure you can see through it. When painting the eyes it is a good idea to paint the back side with black paint. This will make it easier to see out of than if it were a different color.
Before any fur is purchased it is important to decide what kind of effect you want the fur to have. For the visor portion of my head I decided on dark blue anti-pill fleece. Other fabrics such as minky would work too. For items that are supposed to be smooth use short pile fabrics (furs that don't really have lots of long hair) instead of faux fur. As previously mentioned, minky and fleece are good options for this. one thing to keep in mind is price and skill level. Fleece is usually cheaper than minky and is easier to work with. The only issues are that since it doesn't have any actual "fur" the seams are extremely visible, and fleece has a tendency to pill. When buying fur it is important to make sure its high quality. Fabric stores usually do not have a good selection of high quality (and inexpensive) furs. There are many online retailers that sell faux fur of good quality, but make sure to read some reviews. (I will update with a list)
NEVER make fursuit parts out of real fur. It is harder to clean/maintain and the fur is often gathered in inhumane ways. Also people really do not like it when someone walks in wearing an endangered wolf pelt.
For the actual furring, most people recommend covering the heads with tape to use as a pattern, but if you already made a pattern for the foam this doesn't have to be done. For my head all that really needed to be sewn out of fur was a cowl to go around the back of the head and connect to the jaw, a fleece part to cover the visor, and the antennae. For the jaw I used the pattern I had made for the foam and added a seam allowance of one inch. When cutting out the fur its a good idea to transfer the pattern onto the back of the fabric and to mark the direction of the fur. Try to make the fur go as realistically as possible.
REMEMBER: It is easier to take away fabric than to add it on.
To attach the fur, sew all connecting parts of the fur together. If you made a duct tape pattern, it would be a good idea to add reference lines (hash marks across cut lines) to ensure the fur matches up. It’s ok to use hot glue if that is all that’s available, but it doesn’t look as neat and is not as durable as sewing.
Once the fur is sewn together, lay the fur over the head to make sure it fits. Make any adjustments to fit in this stage. One of the biggest differences in a good looking head and a bad looking head is upholstery quality. Pay close attention to the eyes, making sure they line up correctly. Once the fur fits well, gently brush out the seams using a fine tooth hair brush to make sure it there is a seamless transition from piece to piece. Hand sewing can be useful to make sure the seams don’t end up with fur stuck in them. To attach the fur to the head, start from the middle points such as the middle of the forehead between the eyes, or in my case, the top front panel and nose panel. Use hot glue to attach the fur skin to the foam, smoothing down as you go and making sure to not get hot glue on the fur.
Scrap/ Extra fur can be saved for other projects, such as tails, paws, or feet.
Step 6: Making the Mouth
The mouth was very simple and consisted of five parts.
- The bottom of the mouth. This is the piece that the tongue rests on top of
- The teeth
- The tongue
- The Lip lining. This gives a clean edge from the inside of the mouth to the end of the fur.
The flaps of fleece that add an extra effect (similar to the ones seen on dinosaurs.
I did true mouth after the rest of the fur because I had initially used a raptor head as a base. I removed the raptor head as I wanted more room and to be able to customize it more.
All of these pieces were sewn with right sides facing together and then flipped right side out after sewing.
The first part that I made was the bottom of the mouth under the tongue. I did this because I wanted a reference of how crowded the mouth would be so that I wouldn’t add too many teeth or too big of a tongue. To do this, insert paper into the space saved for the mouth and trace the shape of the inside of the mouth. Add a few inches depending on how deep the jaw is (I added two or so extra inches of fabric, it’s better to have a bigger piece as it can be either altered or fit snugly into place). The shape I ended up with for my mouth was a filled parabola like shape. I cut this shape out of fleece and stuffed it. After stuffing I sewed a line down the middle and lines off of the middle line to the edge at a 45 degree angle (somewhat like a leaf) to add some extra texture to the mouth. Make sure to leave an open space for stuffing.
The tongue was the next part to be added. To make the tongue, draw the shape that you want on a piece of paper. Make sure to make it slightly longer than you think you need it so that it can lay relaxed instead of sticking up (unless that’s the wanted effect). After drawing the shape, transfer it to the fabric and sew it. I again sewed a line down the middle of the tongue long ways to add a nice divide. The tongue doesn’t need to be stuffed.
The skin flaps on the inside of the mouth get made next. To do these, draw a triangle with a convex or straight base on a piece of paper. Make sure the triangle is larger than the space that you want it to fill. Transfer the pattern to the fabric as was done for the previous steps and sew it together. Sew some lines parallel with the base once the piece is right side out.
To assemble, attach the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, the skin pieces to the corners of the mouth, and the teeth to wherever you prefer them to be (mine are on the top half of the mouth, on the sides). Secure them firmly using hot glue, but be careful to not get glue on the fabric. Once those pieces are secured, the lip lining can be added if needed. To make this piece, measure a half of an inch down on both sides of the lip, or however wide you would prefer the lip. take a piece of fabric (I used navy anti pill fleece) and cut it to the length of the jaws and twice as wide as the preferred width. Fold it in half so that the width is what was measured, and then sew along the long edge. Turn right side out and then sew the ends closed. Attach the lip lining from the middle first and work outwards.
Step 7: Cleaning Up
This step is really just adding finishing touches such as fur shaving and removing threads that might have been missed. The first photo shows a good seam while the second photo shows a seam that needs cleaned up. Of course, this is not a big issue and mistakes are often made when one is learning. Make sure to remove all threads and glue strings for a neat and finished look.
Step 8: Painting Details (Optional)
This step might be one of my favorites, as it takes the flat boring fleece parts to a whole new level with just one step. To do this, all you need is fabric or acrylic paint of a color a bit darker than the fleece used. On my creation, I used this on the mouth crevices and the antenna to add depth. Examples of the final product can be seen in previous steps showing the mouth or antenna.
Take some paint on the brush and get most of it off. This will be using dry brushing for the initial layer. Brush the paint into the crevices gently, carefully avoiding streaks. If too much paint is added, it can be easily removed with water and a towel, however not all of the paint will come off. Blend the paint into the plain fabric using water, painting it onto the edges. Once this is done allow the paint to dry.
NOTE: Painted pieces should only be spot cleaned when necessary, as to avoid removing the paint. This depends on the type of paint used so keep that in mind.
Participated in the
Warm and Fuzzy Challenge