A Reluctant Cosplayer: Part 2 – Adventures in Foam Land
As promised this is my update from the end of week one. What a week! I’ve been learning a ton about EVA, and have used more hot glue than in the rest of my life combined.
Let’s start at the beginning, with some 1/4″ eva foam (intended as floor matting), an exacto knife, and a hot glue gun. I actually was really happy about the floor matting as a medium. It has a really cool texturing to it that lends itself to armour, especially for the bat family…who constantly mention “kevlar weaves” and so on.
So I wanted to start off the build by doing a proof of concept on the chest piece. This is obviously going to be front and center, so I feel like it deserves special attention, and it will probably take a couple attempts to get it right. Last week I posted a picture of Nightwing from the Young Justice animated series. This is kind of the look I’m going for, but with the colouring from the New 52 Series. I like the depiction of the bat family in light body armour as opposed to spandex. So I measured out the lines, including a cut out tab to create that fake pec effect, and we’re off to the races.
The first few cuts actually went really well, surprisingly. One of the best pieces of advice I had received was not to try and cut all the way through the sheet in one stroke. Doing a series of cuts will make for a cleaner edge. The end result was a rectangle with a tab cut out of it…which isn’t really a chest piece. I used a sander and knife to round out a couple of edges, then cut another indent in at the top. Now it was time to shape it!
So heat guns, which are just cheap hair dryers on steroids, are great. I went over the full piece, which I recommend as it melts down all the imperfections left after cutting, and also helps seal the foam. You can’t see it but the foam actually changes under heat. I heated up the edges, and then it was just a matter of making concave corners. I actually got kinda giddy at this point, since it was starting to look like armour. This might work after all. Next step will be what I’m calling the abdominal extension… or I guess we can just say the lower half… fine whatever, let’s not be anatomically accurate.
So I used a sharpie for the first few cuts, then quickly realised black isn’t visible on black. Who knew?! Finally a purpose for a white crayon (I actually used to work with a guy that was utterly useless; his nickname was white crayon…but I digress). So again, it cut out very easily then I used the chest piece as a template for the fit. First mistake.
It probably wouldn’t surprise everyone that if you measure something on a flat surface, then bend it, the measurements may not line up again. Well guess what I did? Remember talking about a proof of concept? Well this is why folks.
Luckily I had enough hot glue and scraps from my “measure twice, cut until it works” strategy that I was able to seal up the gaps, we’ll see how it looks after painting. So it’s on to painting!
Okay, so here’s the thing: EVA doesn’t take paint well. You need to use a sealant before applying paint. The research I did said spray on rubber sealant was the absolute shit, and should be a first choice for sealants…. results differ I suppose.
That’s the first coat, really heavy, thick, and streaky. This caused immediate panic, terror, and regret. Let’s see the second coat, maybe it’s salvageable?
Okay so not awful, and we were looking at this as a proof of concept, right? As a first attempt I was pretty happy. A few key points were raised though, namely that it looks too boxy, and that the two different textures weren’t really noticeable. The big question ended up being how to do the chest piece in a way that looks more “superhero” and less “guy with a foam mat across his chest”? Solution: Instead of a single piece which was harder to shape, use two pieces, form them, then attach them together! To do this I cut out a template, then cut the foam around that. By flipping it over I could then create a mirror image of the piece.
I formed each piece individually to either side of my chest, and glued them together. This has the added benefit of letting me move my arms around freely. I also went ahead and did a second attempt at the one piece chest armour, for argument’s sake. This is a size comparrison to the two piece and the second attempt at a once piece version.
So the problem with the two piece was that it looked like a training bra. My goal here is to keep it looking some what sleek…but I definitely wanted an armoured look to it too. I decided to start trimming down the one peice, and then added some extra lower bits to give it more shape. When I cut out the side pieces I solidly attempted to make them look like separate panels. Just trimming the edges at a forty five degree angle with a pair of scissors really helped give them that appearance. From there it was just a matter of doing the opposite set.
As stated before I was really struggling with the idea that this piece look way to much like a block of foam. So I knew I wanted to make sure this had some detailing to it. One way would be to add detail pieces of 3mm craft foam, but this would add extra bulk. The other way is to score lines with a soldering iron. I chose the latter, and tried to give it the appearance of a series of panels that would allow for movement.
All-in-all, I’m a happy camper with this design, and I’m pretty much calling the chest piece done at this point (knock on wood). Next week I hope to update you guys with the back piece, shoulder pads, and gloves. From there I’ll tackle, and likely fail at, painting and attaching this all together. Until then, I remain…
A Reluctant Cosplayer