Today we're going to Steampunk up the Dodocase VR!
We'll be going from a piece of cardboard to a fully finished piece of Steampunk art that will function as a full VR helmet! This piece will vary from person to person and making a unique piece is highly encouraged.
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Step 1: Tools, Materials and Errata.
1. Dodocase VR kit.
2. Hot glue, super glue epoxy or any other adhesive material.
3. Gears, interesting bits and bobs, foam, paper, whatever you think you can attach and "Looks Steampunk." Look at the shape, we're going to change the color of everything so even if it is a Hot Pink Barbie Barometer, you can fix it.
3. Paints- This is one of those things that garners a huge amount of debate. Some people like buying the sample sized paints from Home Depot or Lowes en masse. IE buy 8 oz bottles of Behr's or whichever they carry. Some people prefer the cheapo $1-3 bottles of paint you get from JoAnn's, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I like a combination of each. Apple Barrel and Americana are cheap and effective. The majority of my paints are Apple Barrel or Americana and I picked up some of the big Martha Stewart Metallics from Home Depot. Martha Stewart paints are overpriced and not as good as Apple Barrel or Americana EXCEPT for her Metallics paints. I hate saying this, but her Metallic Paints are fantastic. Best course of action, pick up some cheap Apple Barrel and Americana paints and play around, find what you like.
4. Primer- PRIME EVERYTHING. Some of the biggest problems come from not priming your material. If you prime it, you'll get better adhesion of your paint, better control of your colors and better ability to layer. Spray primer is fine, just choose a color that is a good base to whatever you're painting. I'll explain more on this later.
Step 2: Plan Ahead
I can't stress this enough. Plan ahead. Test fit things together to make sure they fit well and work together. I spent a good 4 hours drafting up gears and mechanisms and making sure they fit together before I cut them out of a thin wood.
I've accrued a list of tips and tricks I recommend for making sure something looks Steampunk.
- Gather reference photos and use them often. Google Image Search "Clockworks", "Gear mechanisms", "Steam Engines" and, of course "Steampunk." Look at these photos, take bits and pieces you like and think would look good on your Dodocase.
- Test fit your pieces on your Dodocase. Just set them in places you think they'd look good. Adjust them, layer them, give your Steampunk mechanism depth. Make it look like it DOES something. There is a joke amongst Steampunkers about "Just glue some gears on it and call it steampunk, that's the trendy thing to do today." I once left a room laughing because someone was showing off their "Steampunk trenchcoat" and they had literally just glued gears all over it. That was it.
- Figure out what color you are going to paint everything. I admit, I started this project thinking I'd paint the base so it looked like it was made of steel. When I was done, I changed my mind and decided to make everything look like it was made out of copper. It is okay to change your mind, but you should generally have an idea of what you are doing in advance.
Remember, do not glue anything over the flaps, rim, opening or over the trigger mechanism. The case still has to be functional, so avoid covering the holes.
Step 3: Prime Everything
Choose your primer color and prime everything but the lenses and NFC chip. You want to base your case according to what color you want it to be primarily. For example, for a "steel" look, go with black or dark brown primer. For a copper or brass look, go with dark red (brick red) or reddish brown. There are giant tutorials all over the web for color theory and I could write a dozen Instructables for just the principles behind color theory.
I really like Red Oxide Colormaster Spray Primer for copper, brass or bronze. For steel, go with the black. You can also buy brush on primer that you can tint to any color. Again, this is all preference and I really, REALLY recommend trying different primers and paints until you find something you like.
Make sure you get edges, corners and flappy bits primed. It sucks being near completion and realizing you missed priming an edge.
CAUTION: You HAVE to be careful on how much primer you apply at once. You are painting cardboard and making it too wet with primer will turn cardboard to pulp. Prime in layers, let it dry between and don't be afraid to let it sit overnight. I waited 8 hours for my primer to dry before I began painting.
Step 4: Painting Part 1
Here is where the "art" part gets arty.
There are methods called dry brushing, washing and filling. If you don't know how to do these, I'm going to give a quick run through on them.
"Loading your brush" is a term meaning how much paint is on your brush and controlling the consistency of the paint. It is what separates the beginning painter from the expert painter and it really is something that takes some getting used to. Throughout the tutorial, I'll be using these terms and I'm going to explain them there.
Dry Brushing- Dry brushing is loading your brush with a miniscule amount of paint and brushing it over a surface. This will brush paint on the high points or apply 'scratchy' brush strokes. Best way to achieve a dry brush is using a very stiff bristled paint brush to LIGHTLY dab in some paint then swipe your brush over a paper towel a few times to remove the majority of the paint. The less paint in the brush, the better this effect works.
Wash- A Wash is the opposite of a dry brush. This is tinting water with a hint of paint and then brushing it on so the paint settles in the low points. Divots of screws, nooks and crannies on diddlybobs and fissures in material are best painted with a wash. A wash can also be used to apply a tint to a larger area and keep areas from looking monotone.
Feather- Feathering is the blending of paints from one area to another. Think of it as Anti-Aliasing but in real life. One of my favorite methods is called Schmooie'ing. It's a very regional term but it really does instill the idea of feathering. I'll cover this more later.
Triads, Ranging and Variance- When painting, you will never see something that is a solid, monotone color. If you don't believe me, take a picture of something and take it into any image editor and use the color picker in various spots. You'd be surprised how much a color varies within an inch. When painting, I always suggest brushing more than one layer of color into an area and feather them together subtly. It is the difference between a piece that is obviously fake and something some-one double takes and goes 'whoa, that's paint?'
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO GET YOUR HAND DIRTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Really, I use my hands as much to paint as I do a brush.
Step 5: Painting Part 2
Learning to mix your paint and applying a base layer is going to be challenging. One of the biggest challenges is SEEING what needs work and what doesn't.
You know that feeling where you make something then come back the next day and you notice all the things you did really well or did really poorly? That is the Art of Seeing. This takes time and just let it build and grow in your artist's repertoire.
One of the tips and tricks I like to teach people to help them build their artist's palette is this trick-
Sometimes you will buy a paint labelled "Black" or "Ebony" or whatever that brand likes to call it. Then, when you apply the paint to the surface, it looks more grey or musty than black, This is where Optic Black comes in use. By mixing dark blue in with your black, you achieve a color that looks more black than straight black. If you really want to get fancy, I prefer using Burnt Umber (really really dark brown) and really dark blue to achieve a really black tint. Learn to mix this and you are well on your way to understanding color theory and painting like a true professional.
Step 6: Painting Part 3
My original intent was to make the whole case steel and have bronze, wood, copper and other metallic bits on top. Here, you can see my dry brushing.
If you smear straight metallic paint on your piece, it is going to look fake. It's great if you're trying to achieve that circa-1930's Futurist look but to make something look real, it looks bad to be monotone. For steel, I like painting it a dark brown/black mix and then Dry Brushing on some metallic scratches.
To dry brush, get as much paint off of your brush as you can and gently 'swipe' it along the edges and faces that are going to see a lot of use if this was a functional object. Corners, sides, flat areas that get held a lot are good areas to dry brush.
Mix some brown with your paint now and again to vary the hue. Do this again with dark blue, grey, black, etc to achieve variation. It only takes a drop to change the tint on your brush I like to Schmooie between the colors as is seen in the picture of my palette above.
I really can't emphasize this enough- the smoother the variation in your paint, the more realistic it looks.
Step 7: Finding Gears, Bits, Bobs and Doohickies.
The drawers of a Steampunk'er are full of all kinds of weird bits, bots, things and stuff. One of the most frequent questions I get is "Where do you find gears and stuff?"
That is one of the most funky questions of steampunk I have ever known .I once glued a McDonald's toy to a piece and nobody knew what it was. It was a little Superman stopwatch thing but I peeled off all the stickers, gave it a good paint job and boom- everyone was raving over how awesome it looked.
If you want neat pieces, take stuff apart.
- You can pick up a broken VCR at a thrift store for a dollar. Pop that thing open and you will find so many interesting bits and bobs you'd be astonished.
- Printers are another good place to look for things, those are full of belts and gizmos that can make a piece Spectacular. Print Toner Error? Print Steampunk Terror!
- Cheap kids toys are often full of gears and neato bits. I picked up a Chinese-manufactured plastic robot-dog for 50 cents once that yielded many gears and bits that amazed me.
- Make your own! If you want something that is specific, don't be afraid to get some sculpey or carve it out of foam or cut it out of wood! Heck, gears are thin enough sometimes that I cut them out of paper grocery bags and by the time you prime, paint and seal them, nobody would know the difference.
Other than that, troll hardware stores and fish through the discount bins. That's it! It may take time to build a decent inventory of neato bits and bobs, just dig and look around!
Step 8: Glue Some Gears on It and Call It Steampunk
Have fun! Make it look Good! Glue diddly-bobbers, bits, bobs, thingamajigs and doohickies on there until it looks awesome. The Victorians liked to make things look pretty so add flourishes where you can.
However, make sure it looks like it DOES something. 3 gears joined together do not move, hinges attached to hard points can't move. Don't just stick things on there without having a story to why that does what it does.
Nobody is going to come along and ask for the circuit diagram for what you are making, but PRETEND that you are building it so if some-one asked for one, you could provide one!
Make sure you have contrasting colors, make sure there is a visual flow to what you do. Don't make it brass on the left and silver on the right, try to intersperse and make things look coordinated.
On top of all else, HAVE FUN and make it look GOOD.
Step 9: Smooth Your Errors
I apologize for the blurry photo, but you can use hot glue to 'smooth' over the big divots in the cardboard and 'fill and smooth' the edges of the cardboard so it doesn't look corrugated. You can paint on top of hot glue but I recommend sealing it when you are done.
I put this in the middle of the tutorial because I like doing this before I finish embellishing.
Step 10: Embellish
One thing about Steampunk is that it is Victorian and Victorian things have had time to age. If things are old, they tarnish.
Google Image Search tarnished metal and build up a palette of ways to make metal look aged. Copper can tarnish black or dark blue-turquoise-white. Steel ages black, brown and red. Iron tarnishes dark black. Brass turns red or brown. I could go on and on, just learn that nothing is ever a singular color.
In this example, I brushed on a mix of blue, turquoise and white paint to a few spots where I thought the Dodocase VR would age if it was handled a lot. Then, I feathered the paint in to the background color by letting it dry a little then "Schmooie'ing' in with my finger. This takes practice and don't be afraid to re-paint and re-apply as needed. The more color, the more believable something is.
I also like painting any obvious hot glue with some straight silver paint to make it look like the device is soldered together. A tinge of white here and there gives the appearance of flux.
Step 11: Season to Taste!
Like I said, this is an individual and unique piece. If I was to do this again, it'd probably look completely different.
The idea behind Steampunk is to make something that looks like somebody invented it on the fly to do something awesome using Victorian era technology. Make it unique, make it yours, make it awesome! Use reference photos but don't DUPLICATE those reference photos.