How to Make an Ironman Costume Using the Vinyl and Foam Method!




There are quite a few Ironman costume tutorials out there, but most of them require sculpting, molding or Paperaku.  All these require sanding down your costume and painting it.  We all know Ironman has an awesome metallic red finish but that's pretty much impossible to recreate unless you can afford to coat your costume with automotive paint.

The vinyl and foam method is much more DIY friendly...its flexible and gives you that great metallic look!  This instructable will show you this process, and also other cool cheap ways to make your costume look awesome!

Step 1: Overview, Materials, and Tools

Making the armor pieces
Step 1: Make pattern
Step 2: Cut the foam
Step 3: Cut the vinyl
Step 4: Mount the foam onto the vinyl
Step 5: Glue the pieces together
Step 6: Making the full suit come together
Step 7: Finishing touches

Construction Paper
Masking Tape
Fun Foam
Weldwood Contact Cement
3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive
Loctite Super Glue

Paint Brush
Glue Gun

Step 2: Make the Pattern

Materials: Construction Paper, Masking Tape
Tools: Pen/Pencil, Scissors

This step may be the most simple and straight forward, but its the most important step.  Spend time to perfect your pattern.  One starting point is to use a many good reference pictures of ironman.  You can use Photoshop or any photo editing program to resize the images to life size.  This is a good starting point for your patterns.  Don't be afraid to mess up, construction paper is cheap! 

Step 3: Cut the Foam

Materials: Fun Foam, Weldwood Contact Cement
Tools: Ballpoint Pen, Scissors, Pattern

Trace the pattern onto the foam using a ballpoint pen.  Ballpoint pens glide easily across the foam.  Label the foam (and your patterns) to help you stay organized.  For most of the armor pieces, I like to use 3mm Fun Foam (Michaels, Jo-Ann, or any craft store).  I'll double up on the foam with a thin layer of Contact Cement in between to give the armor more thickness and durability.  There are thicker sheets available, however these tend to be more expensive and come in much smaller sheet sizes.

If you decide to double up on the foam like I do, let the contact cement dry a little (5-10 mins) before going onto the next step.

Step 4: Cut the Vinyl

Materials: Vinyl
Tools: Ballpoint Pen, Scissors, Cut & Glued Foam Armor pieces

Layout the vinyl with the nice shiny side down.  Now lay your foam armor pieces on top and trace around.  Cut around your traced pattern, leaving approximately 1/2in to 3/4in of material around it, depending on the size of the piece you're working on.

Cut out tabs on the vinyl patter.  These will be folded over and glued in the next step.

Step 5: Mount the Foam Onto the Vinyl

Materials: Cut Vinyl Pieces, Cut Foam Pieces, Weldwood Contact Cement, Super 77 Spray Adhesive, Glue Gun sticks
Tools: Paintbrush, Glue Gun, Scissors

First apply a thin layer of contact cement using the paintbrush onto one side of the foam (the side you want to mount your vinyl onto).  Set it aside and let it dry for a few minutes.  I'll usually apply the contact cement to several pieces.  Don't let it completely dry!

Once you've let it set (it should be still moist), spray Super 77 onto the same side.  This will make your foam very tacky!

Finally flip it over onto your cut vinyl piece, making sure you line it up inside the tabs.  Press firmly and evenly onto the foam.  Make sure you do this on a very smooth surface, the vinyl will pick up textures from your work area (small particles, wood grain, etc).

Set your foam and vinyl piece mounted aside and let it dry for 10 minutes.

Finally, using your glue gun, apply a seam of glue onto the tabs and fold them over.  After a while, you'll get the hang of how much glue gun to apply.  After the glue gun has dried, you can use scissors to cut away any excess vinyl.

And Voila! You've got yourself a shiny, metallic looking piece of armor!

Step 6: Glue the Pieces Together

Materials: Foam/Vinyl Armor pieces, Loctite Super Glue
Tools: Just your hands!

Here's the exciting moment where you begin to see your armor pieces come together!  Arrange your armor pieces so that you know where each piece goes.  Check the fitment.  most times, even if one piece is a little to large or too small, the foam is forgiving enough to account for any mismatch.

When you're ready, apply a very small bead of super glue onto the edge of your armor piece.  You're working with superglue, so the less glue, the stronger the bond.  Carefully attach the adjacent piece and hold it there for about 10 seconds.  Continue this process with the rest of your pieces.

Step 7: Making the Full Suit Come Together

For my particular costume, I decided to purchase a full gold unitard and stitch the armor pieces on.  I made this costume for a Halloween party and needed it to be very durable be mobile enough for me to dance!

This is entirely optional, you can make the armor pieces as detailed in the previous steps and build your entire costume that way.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

In this section, I wanted to share some final tips to make your completed costume look better and share experiences I had in building and actually dancing in this costume.

Polishing & Shining
Since the armor is made of vinyl, you can use any vinyl polish such as Armor All, Meguir's etc.  Just spray some of the polish onto a towel and polish away!

When using your armor, especially in conditions I used to for, damage is going to be inevitable.  Most repairs can be easily fixed with some superglue, so carrying a small bottle around with you isn't a bad idea.

One last tip: Remember to make yourself a flap, hole, anything so you can go to the bathroom!  You don't want to make yourself a full body armor only to find that you need to strip half of the suit off just to relieve yourself.

Hope this helps a lot of you out there!

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    19 Discussions


    4 years ago

    can you tell me please from which website you got the helmet paterns


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Best one I could find

    Sorry probably a dumb question but how did you add the glowing strips to the suit?

    Also what are the glowing strips?

    Thank you


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Where did you buy the unitard, also can you but a picture of the vinyls and how you made the lights


    7 years ago on Introduction

    do you have any patterns for the armor shapes?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, this isn't a complete suit. I had to finish what I could in time for the Halloween weekend. I was literally working until the last minute but one of these days I'll fully complete it!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Where do you buy the vinyl ? I'm looking to make a better megaman costume than I did last year


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I got the vinyl at They have a very nice metallic "wine" colored vinyl. Its the perfect color! I've actually done a megaman costume, but not in vinyl. Maybe one day I'll build a better one


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    well I definitely love the way it looks, hope to see an update once you complete it!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    agree!! where did you buy the vinyl? more infor about this would be nice