This top ten was definitely coming to my blog as this is where it all started for me. The whole reason I moved to Florida and went to makeup school was my dream of becoming a SPFX makeup artist. All these films and the makeup artists that produced their work in them was complete inspiration for me to set goals for myself to lead me to today.
I may not be in the industry now, but the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve acquired were a direct result of the passion for the craft. I’ve tried to recreate some of the makeups here and plan to do a few more to satisfy the “itch” or craving to make it happen and help answer the inquiry…”How in the world did they do that?”
There’s definitely a re-occurring theme with the makeups I chose as they tend to be more on the gory or horror side, so I’ll fair warn you if you can’t stomach these kinds of images. Vampires are also shown as a few examples as I love the mystery behind their myth. So without any further delay, here we go with my top ten movie makeups:
#10 Sloth From Goonies
Chunk and Sloth from the 1985 classic Goonies
“Hey you guys!” This movie just missed the cut as a top ten film of mine, but here it is making it in the makeup’s list as number 10. Sloth has my heart as a character and has my appreciation for his grotesque yet cool deformity. This masterpiece from 1985 is from the work of special effects wizard Craig Reardon. Foam latex ruled the 80’s in SPFX makeup and this was no exception. Several piece latex head appliance with blinking droopy eye and wiggling ears that were radio controlled (servo motors).
#9 Skinless Julia From Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Skinless Julia from Hellbound: Hellraiser II
They say the most complex and most beautiful form is the human body (inside and out) and I definitely agree. I loved this makeup and look so much I tried to do my own version for my final project in the makeup school I attended in Florida. The shock value is quickly masked by the incredible attention to detail and the believability of how it looks to see the flesh without skin. There are plenty of references in anatomy books how it looks, but with lifeless, colorless cadaver photos. To see it alive and vibrant is stunning to say the least. There was a large makeup crew for this film, but the credit is under the guise of Bob Keen and Image Animation who is also responsible for just about any film by Clive Barker.
#8 Legend (1985)
Legend favorite makeups: Darkness, Meg and Princess Lili Black wedding dress
I may have been able to make this top ten list longer since I couldn’t quite settle on just one makeup from this film…so I lumped three into one. I absolutely love this movie because the visuals are better than anything I can imagine, which still holds up to todays standards of computer enhancement. No computer help here, just raw foam latex, paint and powder. Rob Bottin and his crew are credited for all the incredible makeup effects. I knew there was something about this film that proved to me it’s worthiness as an elite choice and that is that it is a Ridley Scott film as I’ve already credited him twice in my top ten favorite films (Blade Runner, and The Gladiator).
#7 Interview With The Vampire
Vampire makeup from Interview With The Vampire
Okay, so I did it again…a collage of makeups from the same movie. It just makes sense when the makeup artist (Stan Winston) shows a noteworthy design performance throughout. The subtle undead pale, veiny vampire look is wonderful here. Costume design also played a role with the success of the look, but this will be addressed in another top ten on favorite costumes.
#6 Se7en 1995 (Sloth)
Sloth from 1995’s Seven
Rob Bottin strikes again for me on this list of favorite makeups. The intense studying and imagination to bring this makeup to life is incredible. I saw this film on the big screen and when the cadaver comes to life all the sudden and takes a last gasp and struggle to stay alive seared that moment in my psyche to this day. This could pass as a perfect zombie makeup as well. Once again I choose what a human form could be like at any given stage of life. Just the most perfect engineered machine in all the universe (in my opinion). This makeup was created just as silicone appliances were making it’s way into the effects scene, leaving foam latex to be used less in the higher budget tier of film making. Silicone has an amazing translucent quality that allows for flesh painting to look more believable as skin tones aren’t opaque in real life.
#5 American Werewolf in London (Transformation Scene) 1981
American actor David Naughton on the set of An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Innovation can always play a roll in catapulting a film or idea to the forefront and the transformation scene from man to werewolf done by Rick Baker put him and the film in the spotlight as something like this has never been done before. It still is considered an incredible effect and is studied by film makers and aspiring makeup f/x artists today. Such a fun movie with humor, a love story and tragedy that sells the makeup or is it the makeup that sells the film.
#4 Dracula’s Brides From Francis Ford Coppola’s Film Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992
Brides of Dracula from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992
I made another attempt during makeup school to try and recreate an image that I loved inspired by this look. Beauty and hypnotizing seduction comes across wonderfully in these makeups with another costume enhancing factor to bring these characters to life (or undead). This film won an Oscar for best makeup in 1992 and receiving the award was Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke, and Matthew W. Mungle.
#3 Return of the Living Dead III, Julie Walker as a Zombie
The character Julie Walker as a zombie in Return of the Living Dead III
A tragic love story and cool concept as Julie is brought back to life by her boyfriend as she becomes a zombie and struggles to not eat him. The way she attempts to curb her hunger is to constantly cut, stab, poke and maim herself to make the cravings go away through pain. An incredible study with wound type makeup; and again this is a makeup I tried to recreate. I actually found a girl who looked like her that agreed to be my subject…Thanks Jen! Steve Johnson is the makeup guru for this film.
#2 The Bride from Bride of Re-Animator (1989)
1989 Bride of Re-Animator
This makeup has some of everything that I listed above to make it a favorite from lifelike anatomy, undead beauty makeup, costuming and prop enhancement and a story or idea that makes it a terrific concept. Splicing body parts and organs together to make a complete whole person is not a new concept as in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, but a cool idea that makes for great cinematic entertainment. The masters of KNB Effects were responsible for this epic makeup job.
#1 Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact 1996
Surprise! Nothing like from above as a favorite, but just an all out absolutely gorgeous makeup. Imagination runs wild as you’re invited as a spectator and fan of the Trek series to try and understand how the Borg Queen is the way she is and not like the other Borgs that assimilate their subjects. When her upper quarter of her body with spine comes down and attaches to the torso, I was hooked. I’ve been staring at this makeup for years and just marveling at the paint job and clamp placement and effects. Michael and Monty Westmore known for the Star Trek Franchise and James MacKinnon and a host of others were the Makeup artists associated with this film.
My Makeup Tests From Favorite Film Makeups
Thanks for checking out another one of my “top ten” favorite lists. I definitely showed my age as the films I’ve chosen my favorite makeups are probably considered classics now, HA! Let me know what you think and comment below on some of your favorites.
Case molding as one example of the many different ways of preserving your masterpiece through molding
Molding 101: Preserving Your Creation
You may not realize this, but we deal with simple molding all the time in our daily lives, including the ice we put in our drinks which each piece of ice has been molded from the tray’s shape the water took as it was being frozen or to the cup cakes we eat that have been formed as the cake batter rose and fluffed in the oven inside it’s paper cup.
The mold process has been throughout history in human civilization with ancient weapons making when molten bronze was pored in a hollowed out sword shape out of stone; and even nature has produced some amazing natural molds with fossils embedded in rocks of extinct plants and animals.
Making a mold of your sculpture or object you need for your next project is the best way to preserve what you’ve captured and a way to be able to rapidly produce several pieces you need repeated multiple times over (i.e. scales, horns, spikes, or fake bullets).
I’ve used it as a way to be able to make armor out of a different/lighter material than what real metal armor would be or even to make what I need stronger and more durable than foam would be. And if any piece of a finished armor build breaks or doesn’t last, I have a mold to make another one without re-sculpting it.
Poor mold for Borg Glove by Damaris Degen of Mystique’s world of Cosplay
Poor molding can be one of the fastest and easiest ways of making molds of your artwork or object you need mass produced. Typically the material used as the mold substrate is a liquid rubber such as silicone and/or a urethane based rubber. The liquid rubber starts off runny and by adding and mixing a said amount of catalyst or hardener is what makes it eventually become hardened flexible rubber.
The decision to make a poor mold is based on how simple and or symmetrical the shape of what it is your trying to mold is. For instance, if it has a flat surface to it and isn’t too tall or complex, glue it to a board, build some dam walls around it, spray mold release on the piece and then poor the mold.
A poor mold can be a little more complicated as a two part mold, meaning there is two halves to it as the piece to be molded is shaped and detailed all around as you’ll see in the galleries below. There you’ll find some tools and knives that I’ve made molds of for movie props made to be safer for stunt use.
The advantage with a rubber type mold is the flexibility to facilitate releasing a finished piece out and the incredible amount of detail it accurately captures after hardening. There is always the pesky air bubbles, however, that manages to find its way to hinder the process which I’ll be addressing a little later down the article.
Tools and Materials Typically Needed for Poor Molding
Brush molding is for those projects that are just too big, round or uneven
Silicone brush mold for Skull Knight arm armor
shaped to be considered for a poor mold; whereas it would take way too much liquid rubber to complete a mold that was pored. Brush mold becomes smarter and more cost effective because of the control you have on where exactly the rubber goes and how thick.
There is one extra important step when building a brush mold where after the final layer of rubber is applied and hardened, and that is to make a hard (typically fiberglass) layer to the outside or on top of the last keyed rubber layer at the end to help hold/cradle the rubber to shape when the mold is empty. This is called a mother mold.
Tools and Materials Typically Needed for Brush Molding
Along with the tools used for poor molding, brush molding will add:
several disposable boar bristle chip brushes various sizes depending on scope of job – single use as each brush will harden as well
thickening agent for liquid rubber to help keep rubber in desired place and thickness to hinder drooping and “runny”
pre-made rubber keys to be added to last layer to help lock mother mold in place
It usually takes a minimum of three layers of brushed on mold material to acquire desired thickness. The first layer is brushed on as a skim coat without any thickening agent added so the thin material can get into any fine detail easily. The second, third, and any other layer has the added thickening agent mixed into the rubber to help hold the substrate in place without running off the piece.
Above, in the list, I mentioned keys to be apart of the last step in the liquid rubber phase of the mold. Keys are a button, or knob shaped mini protrusion from the mold to help locate exactly how the mother mold will fit every time the rubber is placed back into it’s cradle of the mother mold to define the shape as an empty mold.
keys are also a term used for a channel, button, or knob that will be part of the break wall if the mold is separated into two halves or more to help relocate exactly how the mold will fit back together again. The better the key system the less seam work to do on the casting.
Case molding is a more complicated way to make a mold, but done right will save on rubber material and give you better quality pulls with less finish work to the final casting. If done properly, it may preserve the mold longer and you can get more pieces out of it. It’s more complicated because of the many extra steps that are needed to complete the mold.
This type of molding has you working backwards a little where you actually finish the mother mold or outer shell first before any silicone is pored. Since this is just an introduction, I’ll just do a quick list of steps that are involved in making a case mold. I fully intend on doing a complete tutorial on how to make a successful case mold in the near future…but for now here’s a rundown:
Most important is make sure the original sculpture is fastened to the surface (pre-determined board) and NEVER MOVES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PROCESS.
Protect the sculpture with plastic wrap/foil to help keep any clay residue from getting on the sculpture. If the sculpture is made of clay, be careful not to press hard against it as you work on the mold so you don’t damage any detail. I usually spray a couple layers of high gloss clear over the sculpture to help give it a “candy coating” mini shell for added protection and smoother surface that will show up in the casting.
Wrap the protected sculpture with at least a 3/8 inch thick layer of modeling clay including any keys that will be represented and any poor funnels at the top. Also, if the mold will be a two part mother mold, have a dividing wall with it’s own type of keys represented along the split point of the piece. (see pics below)
Cover the board and clay with wax or a good mold release.
Lay up the first half (or all if only one full shell needed) of the mother mold over top of the clay as a medium to thick layer of fiberglass or desired hard strong substrate and allow to harden completely. Create a flange on the board as well.
Lay up the second half after removing the clay or whatever you used to represent the dividing wall and waxing the first side that has hardened already creating a flange on the board as you did with the first half.
After the shell is done and you’ve waited a good while for the mother mold to cure completely, drill some registration holes and screw the hard flange of the mother mold to the board the whole mold is built on. This step is VERY important so you know exactly how to put this shell back over the sculpture without any of the 3/8 inch thick clay added earlier.
Remove the mother mold and then remove the 3/8 inch thick clay that was added earlier. This clay was there to represent the shape and space the liquid rubber was going to take up during the poring process.
Before placing the shell back over the sculpture, drill tiny (1/16″) holes in several strategic spots on the mother mold as vents, so you can see the liquid rubber fill and push air out through the shell. Relocate and place the shell back over the sculpture, that hasn’t moved, and secure the mother mold down tight on the board and screw or bolt the wall flange together if it’s a two part mold.
Mix the liquid rubber substrate according to the specs of the product. It is highly recommended that the liquid rubber is put through the process of removing air out that was forced in during the mixing process before poring into the mold. This is done with a vacuum pump and chamber. This is optional but desired for a stronger, cleaner and better mold.
Poor the mold material slowly and push clay over the 1/16″ holes as they begin to have the liquid substrate begin to seep out. In fact you can use clay to cover up any areas that may not have been well secured to prevent loss of mold material.
After the mold is filled to at least half way up the funnel spout, wait a full 24 hours or however long the product specs suggests for curing time before demolding everything.
Take it all apart and you may have to cut a sizable slit along any inconspicuous areas (the back) of the rubber to help remove it from the original sculpture. Don’t worry about the cutting as the rubber will relocate exactly where it needs to be with only a minor line showing as it sits back in the mother mold. Easy clean-up or finishing on the casting.
Now that you have a mold you shouldn’t have to worry about saving the sculpture unless it was a hard sculpt that could withstand the demolding process. Cast your pieces however you’d like (i.e. fiberglass, roto-cast resin, etc…)
Skull Knight shield hard mold, gel-coat and fiberglass
Hard molds, if cared for properly, can last a long time and withstand several more parts pulled out of the stiffer and stronger mold then it’s counter part as a flexible rubber mold. The rubber will break down over time, whereas the hard mold could last as long or longer then the maker attends it to.
My personal choice of material and kind of hard mold is the fiberglass mold. My experience has led me to believe the fiberglass mold is the most versatile and more widely used type of hard mold to be had. It’s strength, when thick enough, is uncanny and has countless uses and sizes for differing mold applications.
One famous type of fiberglass hard mold is with the manufacturing of medium and large boat hull fabrication. The hard mold will always keep its shape with minimal shrinkage and will last multiple parts pulled without losing any integrity if a consistent release agent is used each time.
One very important factor to be taken into account when deciding on a hard mold is that the sculpture or piece to be molded CANNOT have any undercuts or difficult shapes that fold over to create a “lock” making it impossible to demold a rigid piece from the hard mold, as the two (mold and plug) lock together.
Tools and Materials Needed for a Fiberglass Hard Mold
See pictures below for examples of fiberglass hard molds I’ve made in the past.
Brush molding plaster of a clay sculpture
Plaster molds combine both the brush molding technique with the characteristic of a hard mold. It can also be pored as well, but most of my experience has been to brush mold to control air bubbles on the detailed surface for quality assurance.
Plaster molds are excellent for casting non-rigid materials in, like latex for mask making. The detail the plaster mold captures is remarkable and therefore transfers onto the casting for an amazing end product.
Tools and Materials Typically Used for Plaster Molds
burlap or long fiberglass strands – mixed in last layer for reinforcing and strengthening cement
disposable boar bristle chip brushes
large oven for baking finished mold to expel excess moisture
Vacuum forming example
Vacuum forming is probably the least type of method used for mass production at home since it requires a system and/or machine that just isn’t economical or reasonable for personal use. However, if I had the room and funds, it would be a top ten purchase for me as I would invent uses just to have one–cause it is a fun thing to do.
Vacuum forming is, as it says, forming a sheet of a thin plastic type of material over an object of desired shape by use of heat and suction. The simpler the shape with no undercuts or “locks” the better. So, I would say that this type of molding is opposite of what one is used to, as the part to be kept from the mold is made on the outside of the plug. More like taking a skin from the shape that is desired.
The first thing that comes to my mind as a popular use for vacuum forming is with clone trooper armor and storm trooper armor. And my own experience with vacuum forming is when I had to make lenses for the Viper helmets I was making during my time with commission work.
Quickie, “Down and Dirty”, Simple and Cheap
I confess that I’ve used this method more times than I’ve should, but it’s just as effective with results and gets the job done with little cost at all. You can call this the disposable mold method, where the mold is just a one time use only.
The disposable mold type I’ve used the most is the “press” method. The press method is when you push a shape into clay and make an impression of the object you use to create the desired negative…(i.e. bolt head, half round, etc). You can press the shape as many times as you want side by side and produce a gang mold of several of the same shape if you need many castings of the same thing.
A good tip to know also, as a cheap simple method, is the use of clear silicone caulking as a substitute molding substrate. All you need to do to speed up the hardening is a shallow bucket of soapy water and inject the desired amount of caulk in it and mix it up in the water and apply quickly to the plug or piece to be molded–mold is done, add mother mold if needed. I’ve even used this method as a casting material for a fake, soft rubbery brain that I made using a pre-made jello mold.
I know there are other mold types I haven’t discussed here, but these are the most popular and the ones that I’ve used the most–so I hope you can take advantage of these methods and stay posted as I will do more detailed and elaborate instructions for each type in the Tutorials section here on my website. Thanks for hanging out…so until next time, happy crafting!
Side by side comparison of Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel vs my Cosplay
Becoming The Man Of Steel
So it took me long enough (about ten years) of being a cosmaker for other people, to then converting my skills to do actual cosplays for myself, and I’m excited to do one of my favorite comic book characters as one of my firsts. I loved the newer Superman design that has been portrayed since the 2013 release of The Man of Steel with Henry Cavill as Superman. The colors, the chainmail texture, the metallic muscle shading undertone and the “no external underwear” appearance.
Now I know I just said applying my skills, but I’m here to tell you I was just introduced to the other side of cosplaying that doesn’t involve the armor building I’ve been accustomed to. The different techniques were in changing my appearance drastically with body building, growing my hair out, changing my hair color and removing the gray, shaving off my goatee, filling in my eyebrows, anti-wrinkle cream, and the list goes on…
Once I decided to make it happen, the research on the best suit that I liked was on the hunt. Since I have no experience with textiles and sewing, this would be a costume that I would have custom made to my size. And the best Super suit in my opinion is from YoungKnight Props Studio.
Receiving The Super-suit
Measuring chart for custom suit fabrication
After contacting the maker of the suit, they e-mailed me a list of instructions on what they needed from me (besides the money of course) before they would start the suit. One option was if I were to get a muscle suit to be underneath the super-suit. I opted out of this because the cost of adding a muscle suit was nearly doubling the cost for the whole job. It would have been worth it, but I couldn’t afford it at the time and I’ve seen some examples without the muscle suit that looked really good as well.
The most important thing I had to do was measure my body specifically according to a measuring chart they provided in the email. I was to give measurements in centimeters which gave me the clue this costume would be coming from overseas. I also had to provide how long the cape needed to be to end at my ankles from the base of the back of the neck.
The waiting time for arrival was promised at 6-8 weeks, but it took a little longer since I ordered the suit to arrive before Halloween. I understood the delay completely since this is the busiest time of year for any costume maker.
Unpacking the super suit from YoungKnight Props Studio
Christmas came early for me as I received the suit on a Monday the day before Halloween. So the suit did come right before Halloween, but I knew there was a lot of work to do before it can be worn complete. All the trim/armor pieces made of urethane were to be superglued to the suit and it had to be done as I was wearing the suit since I don’t have a mannequin of myself, yet. (I fully intend to make one for myself for future cosplays).
I recruited my friend Dave (Thanks Dave!) to glue down most of the trim pieces that I couldn’t reach. Since I didn’t get the muscle suit, the trim pieces were from a mold of a muscle suited costume and, therefore, were too big for my body so the pieces were strategically cut to fit. There was an important, specific process recommended to do when supergluing the urethane pieces on. The parts and suit where the piece would be laid had to be primed first with this and then glued down with this.
The suit did not come with a hard under sole for my feet, so I had to provide my own foot protection for walking around in wearing the costume. I chose a size 12 woman’s thin sandals to be cut apart for the sole. Since I wear a size 13, a woman’s 12 would stay hidden or undetected under my foot after painting it red. The red paint I used was Rustoleum Sunrise Red gloss spray paint. It’s important to note that the surface that was to be glued was masked off so as to not have the paint cover any of the area where the adhesive was applied.
The cape was probably the easiest thing to attach as all I did was locate the proper placement of the cape to the suit and added a Velcro system. The Velcro on the suit was superglued the same way as the urethane trim pieces and the corresponding Velcro piece was hot glued to the cape material.
Changing My Normal Appearance
As I am getting up there in age, and I’ve always kept my hair buzzed cut and maintained a goatee, just putting on the Man of Steel Super-suit wouldn’t pass as a recognizable Superman. So I made some drastic changes to pull off a successful, but far from perfect cosplay. This was a six month process as I had to grow my hair out and work out regularly to get in shape and lose some weight.
As it came time to don the suit and do a photoshoot I had planned with Vicarious Cosplay for my write up on her in the Featured Cosplayers section to this site, here’s a list of extra things I did for my appearance:
coloring my hair to remove the aging gray evidence with product Just For Men dark brown.
getting my hair styled similar to the film’s (my hair still wasn’t long enough, though)
filling in empty (or bald) spots on my head with the product Toppik dark brown
Fun comparison to comic book where Poison Ivy successfully seduces Superman; picture taken at Holiday Matsuri 2018 with the amazing Alyson Tabbitha
Soon after the photoshoot with Vicarious Cosplay I got the chance to debut and test out my Super-suit at Holiday Matsuri 2018 at the Orlando World Marriot Center and I had an amazing time. This became one of my favorite cons I’ve ever been to because of the excitement of the people, the many terrific cosplays there and the Holiday atmosphere cause it’s no secret I love Christmas! The Hotel was decked out perfect for the season and parking was a breeze. Maybe parking was easy because I went early on the first day, Friday, but the line to receive an entry pass was incredibly long…even if one pre-paid.
I met so many incredible people and Cosplayers there and took several pictures to preserve the memories. I particularly tried to find DC Cosplayers to have my picture taken along side for a fun instant collaboration. My biggest highlight was meeting the great and sweet Alyson Tabbitha as she was a special guest invited to be there. In fact my primary reason for a Friday appearance was because Alyson was showing up that day in her epic Cosplay of Uma Thurman‘s Poison Ivy from Batman and Robin. I had a plan to have her help me re-create a theme from the Superman comics where Poison Ivy actually seduces Superman for awhile. She truly is a wonderful person to her fans and all those who want to meet her! I, of course, sounded and acted like a nervous goofball when it was my turn to get a picture with her. Perhaps one day I’ll get the opportunity to do an interview with her here for my Featured Cosplayers page.
One drawback to this costume, especially if I’m alone as I was at Holmat with no handler or friend, is that the zipper is in the back to get in and out of the suit, and it’s tight and form fitting, so if I need to use the restroom I would need help. I anticipated this as I stayed away from beverages until half way through the day and didn’t eat anything until I was ready to leave. I also preemptively took some immodium pills just incase (if you know what I mean…lol)
Soon I will be taking my suit to do an outdoor photoshoot to include action shots and recognizable poses from the comics and movies. As soon as this happens and I get the pictures back I’ll be posting a gallery of photos here, so stay tuned and thanks for reading.
The Man of Steel Outdoor Photoshoot by Photographer Melissa Blyth
Welcome to my second installment of “My Top Ten Favorites…” where I discuss my top ten favorite movie props. This was tough for me to compile as I love props and there were so many I left out to get to only ten. I had to come up with some guidelines to keep the list short like “no helmets” since I’ll probably do a list of favorite movie costumes and helmets are a main part of costuming. Also, as much as I love lightsabers from Star Wars, the actual prop is the handle and visual effects are what make the lightsaber work on screen, so no props that need extra help on film. I pretty much went with what I think looks really cool to me and works well for the purpose in the particular movie.
“That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” One of my favorite movie quotes where Dundee was talking about his famous knife that he always carries with him. He was being approached by a gang threatening him with a tiny switch blade knife when he spoke this line.
“The Dundee knife was created by an Australian gunsmith named John Bowring. He was approached by the studio that produced Crocodile Dundee film and asked to make an original knife for the Dundee character. Bowring agreed and produced the famous Dundee knife.” (Survival Knife Mary)
#9 Doc Brown’s DeLorean Time Machine
DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990
Yes, a whole car made my favorite prop list. It probably helped that the DeLorean itself is one of my favorite cars anyway. But by adding all the “bells and whistles” as a time machine catapults this car as a prop icon I think everyone will love. The inside of the car with the “flux capacitor” and digital time display is an important memorable detail as well.
#8 LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box
LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box from Hellraiser films 1987-1996
The Hellraiser puzzle box is simple, but can also take on a complex shape when activated opening a gateway for Pinhead and the Cenobites to enter our world. I love the design and overall look to the cube and still aspire to having one of these in my prop collection one day.
#7 Wolverine’s Claws
Wolverine’s Claws from X-Men and Wolverine spin off movies 2000-2017
A spoiler about Wolverine, perhaps, if I do a list of favorite comic book characters is that he would be #1. Seeing his claws designed well as a workable esthetic prop on film is exciting for me. It’s a simple design that I’ve seen used in cosplay a lot but looks real and very cool as the Wolverine’s signature weapon.
#6 Hannibal Lecter’s Prison Mask
Hannibal Lecter’s prison transfer mask from Silence of the Lambs 1991
Another simple design of a prop, but makes a huge statement on film because of the character (and acting performance) that wields the power of it’s use. Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter can’t bite anything but his own tongue wearing this. What sells this mask the most is seeing the whole shot of him wearing the classic straight jacket for an insane person strapped to a dolly, as well, as he’s being transferred.
#5 Ghostbusters Proton Pack
Ghostbuster Proton Backpack from the Ghostbusters films 1984-1989
“Who you gonna call…?” Such a cool concept piece especially as a whole with the gun and trap that is the perfect design for what it’s supposed to do on film. And there’s four of them, too! I loved the Ghostbusters and my favorite parts of the films is when the Ghostbusters show up trying to look tough and important in their jumpsuits and technical gear. I’d feel important too if I were wearing it all.
#4 Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol
Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol opening scene from Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
We get an introduction to exactly how the character of Indiana Jones is going to be like through the entire franchise of Archeology films starring Harrison Ford with this opening scene–and the lengths he’ll go for a priceless artifact, particularly this first one, is incredibly exciting. I’ll never forget watching this film on the big screen as an eleven year old kid imagining being an archaeologist myself one day. Of course that didn’t happen, but my love for art, particularly 3D art, is portrayed with my love for prop making.
#3 Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle
Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle from Aliens 1986
I love this movie and I love this gun! Everything about this rifle is so cool…from the shape, the sound it makes on film, the badass marines who use it, it’s killing force against the aliens, and the digital countdown of ammunition. I especially love the scene when Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) cocks it with one arm and launches grenades into alien eggs when approaching the Queen alien’s lair. A close companion to the rifle is the scanner used alongside the rifle to detect movement when locating how close the aliens are. “Game over, man!”
#2 Ash’s Chainsaw Hand
Ash’s Chainsaw Hand from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness 1987-1992
“Groovy!” How ironic that the very chainsaw used to cut off his hand becomes the extension to where his hand used to be. I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler because the events of this movie and the way Bruce Campbell plays the role of Ash is something NOT to be missed! The chainsaw is an iconic symbol for the Evil Dead series and rightfully so. The scene in the shed where Ash constructs his defense with the chainsaw and sawed off shotgun is a filming and editing masterpiece.
#1 T-800 Endo Skull
T-800 Endo Skull from The Terminator 1984
This is definitely a must have in my collection! So brilliant of a design and concept, and so awesome and cool to look at! I can totally see and imagine flesh overtop of the chrome to get to the face of Arnold Schwarzenagger as the cybernetic assassin. I list reasons why this is one of my favorite movies in my blog post on My Top Ten Favorite Movies, but I left out this one reason that the film houses my favorite prop. “I’ll be back.”
And I’ll be back with more top ten favorites soon on makeup and costuming in film. Let me know what you think so far with my favorites and comment here what some of your favorite movie props are.
Thanks again for hanging out and keep a look out for more content here with cosplay, prop and costume making.
So I thought it would be cool to do a series of my top ten favorites like my top ten favorite movie props, or my top ten favorite comic book characters, etc… I’ll start with my top ten favorite movies, which most of these are directly responsible in influencing my passion for makeup, cosplay and prop making. I know many of you will agree that these films are quite good if you’ve seen them, but I’ll also be revealing my age since several of these films impacted me as a young lad finding my place in the world. The countdown will start at #10 and work it’s way down to my #1 favorite movie of all time. One criteria that I went by, when choosing these films, is that I could watch these movies over and over again and never get tired of seeing them repeatedly, which I’ve already done time and time again.
#10 The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal 1982; directed by Jim Henson
I could no longer watch the muppets the same after seeing what I believe to be Jim Henson’s greatest masterpiece. Not only was the puppetry and special effects incredible, but the story line was well written and went along smoothly with the film’s intent. The gelflings in the movie were almost human or lifelike enough for me, as a kid watching, creeped me out so much that it hypnotized me and I couldn’t look away. Today when I watch it again and again, the skeksis are clearly the best part of the movie for me. The sculpting and work that went behind them must have been intense for such an amazing design. I am still in awe every time I watch it.
#9 Evil Dead 2
Evil Dead 2 1987; directed by Sam Raimi
There are several reasons this movie easily made the cut into my top ten and I’ll get to them in a second, but perhaps what stands out the most as the best part of this movie is simple…Bruce Campbell! This was my introduction to the genius of Bruce’s acting and humor and even though he was in the first one, Sam must have held him back then, no holds bar on this performance of Ash for Evil Dead 2. What a terrific treat. Sam Raimi’s vision on technical film style and camera angles gets my next kudos for this film. Several new and innovative shots were introduced here and we still see them today thanks to Sam Raimi. In a time when I was obsessed with horror films I remember after watching this one that I had to get into the industry somehow and I left for Florida soon after to become a makeup artist.
#8 True Romance
True Romance 1993; directed by Tony Scott
Acting is king in this film and the cast is unmatched…just look at them all! But perhaps the greatest performance, in my opinion, was Gary Oldman’s as Alabama’s pimp. In fact I remember making the decision that Gary Oldman would be (and still is) my favorite actor after watching True Romance. This film has everything from humor, elite acting performances, action, and best of all an amazing script. Here is where I found out about the one and only screenwriter Quentin Tarantino. Most of you know him from his work on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill. The man is brilliant and interesting dialogue is his specialty.
#7 Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back 1980; directed by Irvin Kershner
There are several Star Wars films that could have easily made the cut since I am a big Star Wars fan, but this is clearly my favorite and can represent the Star Wars saga for me. I picked The Empire Strikes Back mainly because of my childhood attachment to it. One of the first biggest Star Wars toys I had, other than the figures, was the T-47 snowspeeder from Hoth. I had countless hours playing the Hoth battle scene out with my friend who happen to have the large AT-AT introduced in the film as well. I also started collecting trading cards and I remember trying to find all the cards and stickers in the set. I’ve watched this movie the most out of all of them and I can say that even today I get excited and find new gems within the movie to admire. The reveal of Darth Vader’s and Luke Skywalker’s true identities propelled the plot exponentially.
#6 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001; directed by Peter Jackson
Where do I begin with this one? So many reasons why I love it, I can’t just name a few, but I will try for this entry. Peter Jackson‘s commitment to keep the film as accurate as possible to J.R.R. Tolkien‘s masterful work from The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books helped him recreate the story with visual perfection. Since the FOTR (fellowship of the ring) was the first one to see in Peter Jackson’s trilogy it would have the most impact in introducing the enormous undertaking of the project. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King were just as beautiful as the first. In fact these three movies were filmed at the same time over a period of three years! I love watching the making of these films on the DVD’s extras menu almost as much as the films. Props and SPFX makeup get me giddy here thanks to WETA Workshop. New Zealand’s beautiful diverse landscape was the perfect choice to film the many different lands in Middle Earth, so set design propels the film even further. If you’re a fantasy nerd like me and love stories and tales of medieval times J.R.R. Tolkien’s books are brilliant. But even if you haven’t read the books these films are the ultimate eye candy and will give you the greatest emotional roller coaster ride a movie can offer.
#5 The Terminator
The Terminator 1984; directed by James Cameron
The script to this film is absolutely brilliant, which is why it was able to be so successful and launch several more well made films in the franchise. When I tell folks why I love this movie I tell them about the story of the first time I saw it. To keep it short, the highlight of the story is that I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about because I never seen a trailer for it. This is why, even today, I try to avoid too much pre-hype of a film and also try to avoid long trailers that give the film away. Watching this film for the first time and seeing two (what appears to be) hostiles from the future, at the beginning, pursuing an unsuspecting damsel is captivating. I’m sure most of you have seen this, but if not, I’ll stop there so I don’t spoil it, since not knowing about it wooed me. I’ll be doing a list soon of my top ten favorite movie props and if you read this, you’ll get a hint of one of my favorite props which is the T-800 endoskull.
#4 The Matrix
The Matrix 1999; directed by Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Kung Fu, computers, leather and shades…doesn’t get any better than that…OH, except when you add a mind blowing story to go along with them. The Matrix has an intense, brain-buster script similar to The Terminator, but, in my opinion, slightly better which is why it falls just one more closer to my favorite film of all time. Visual effects reins supreme as well for technological reasons. New techniques in cinematography were invented with multiple cameras and angles and editing that forever immortalized scenes in our heads…if you’ve scene it, you know what I’m talking about. Pure magic!
Manhunter 1986; directed by Michael Mann
Michael Mann is a master at creating the perfect mood and emotion using the soundtrack and composition of any scene. I loved this movie precisely because of it. I was a huge fan of Miami Vice TV show growing up and I was thrilled to see Michael Mann was involved with this film. Here is where we get our first glimpse of Dr. Hannibal Lecter portrayed by Brian Cox. Even though we remember Anthony Hopkins immediately for this role, Brian, who is just as much a high caliber actor as Anthony, played Hannibal first. This movie is based off the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. I don’t really know how convincing I can be and do the film justice, but it’s one you just have to trust me on and seeing is believing. A true Masterpiece!
Gladiator 2000; directed by Ridley Scott
Best “come back kid” revenge story ever! This movie is sensational! It has everything from being visually stunning, a captivating story, superior set and even beautiful costuming. The main character Maximus portrayed by Russell Crowe goes through an amazing journey at every stage of power to near death to being hated and then being loved, which keeps you emotionally attached throughout the entire film. Each action sequence is set up to be more anticipated and exponentially more exciting than the previous one. An absolute must see again and again!
…and the #1 favorite movie of mine is…
#1 Blade Runner
Blade Runner 1982; directed by Ridley Scott
So my top two favorite movies are directed by Ridley Scott. Coincidence?…I think not. The man is a genius. So, if I were to have a list of favorite directors, he’d be number one also. When I came up with the list and I was thinking of movies to consider in the top ten, Blade Runner and it’s position as number #1 was the only one I knew of right away. The movie is king of all of them and I have talked to a lot of people that agree with me that Blade Runner is their favorite movie also. (At least folks my age). Even though I’m a visual guy, my favorite part of this movie is the soundtrack by Vangelis. The soundtrack is a fluid merger of every stunning scene that solidifies the film emotionally. I still get chills and hold back awesomeness tears every time I watch it. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick is the novel that the film is based off of. This film has an elite cast including Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah. The story takes place in the future (well…the future from 1982) and what is so alluring about it is that it seems like a future I believe could really happen to some extent.
I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers if you haven’t seen any of these and I want to believe I hyped these movies up enough that you want to make an effort to view them for yourself or even see again if they’re already part of your library.
This was a fun list to make and there were several movies I considered to be in the top ten, but didn’t make the cut. A quick list of these, and not in any particular order are:
Aliens 1986; directed by James Cameron
Goonies 1985; directed by Richard Donner
Labyrinth 1986; directed by Jim Henson
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens 2015; directed by J.J. Abrams
Blade Runner 2049 2017; directed by Denis Villeneuve
…just to name a few…
Thanks for takin’ a gander at my opinion in films and please leave a comment on what may be some of your own favorites and/or if you agree with any of these films as a possible contender as your own favorites.
I absolutely love anything steampunk. I once saw the perfect, quick, definition for steampunk as …a time that never was, but one that we wish we had…
The actual definition from Wikipedia is [Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.]
What’s great about steampunk is that your imagination is the only thing limiting you on what you can do for any deco or cosplay accessories relating to this popular genre. This means endless combinations and countess leather, goggles, gears, brass, copper, fashion and made up time travel device add ons to any project. Fun stuff!
I remember my exact first encounter where I fell in love with the theme and that was at DragonCon 2011 after the realease of the movie Sucker Punch. I’m sure steampunk has been around since the real industrial revolution, but this movie seamed to unlock the fan base to explode in exposure. I was at DragonCon 2010 the year before and I can’t think of any instances of steampunk that I could remember. 2011, however, every time I turned around I could easily spot brass and leather immediately.
So in honor of my love for steampunk, I’m dedicating this post to the three costumes I’m designing and making for me, my wife and daughter for MegaCon Orlando 2018. Here I will be walking you through the design, fabrication and test fitting for our group Cosplay.
So, to start, I have to disclose the absolute driving force to this project besides my love for it, and that is the budget. I’m trying (for once…ha, ha) to make everything as frugal and cost efficient as possible. Which means I’ll be making almost everything from scratch and repurposing stuff that I may already have.
Our group cosplay is going to tell a story…I am a steampunk airship mechanic, my wife is just steampunk “bad to the bone,” and my daughter is a life sized windup doll we made because the narrative we’re pushing for is that we can’t have kids of our own.
I always like to start any cosplay with the props that will be used because I believe that is my specialty and is what I have the most control over. If the prop making goes well then my confidence gets boosted and the rest of the costume making should be successful. Earlier I wrote a post on prop weapons where I talk about how usually this is where I start a project, so naturally this is where we’ll begin.
As I mentioned earlier, budget comes into play as a dominate motivation and I just happen to have a prop gun that I can repurpose for me and a prop gun, perfect for my wife to use. The only cost is with little accessories, paint, rub-n-buff, and materials to make a holster for Debbie’s flintlock gun.
My Prop Steampunk Gun
Finished steampunk gun from repurposed prop weapon of two other themes I made from before.
I’ve seen many cool steampunk guns during my researching stages of this cosplay and a lot of them were nerf guns painted to look the part. I was impressed enough that I had planned on doing the same until I realized I could just take what I already have and modify it. This gun started as an anime prop I made and molded from the mini series Gungrave. Then I turned it into a Zombie Apocalypse prop gun, and then to what it is now. See the transformation below. The parts added to make it steampunk I found at a local surplus store called Skycraft where you can get just about anything dealing with electronics, motors, wiring, hardware, LED lighting, etc… I chose mostly small parts that made it cost efficient, especially when I started off with a free gun that I already had. I used a product called Rub-N-Buff to color the gun the proper metallic steampunk look. Rub-N-Buff is not a paint, but a metallic wax that you apply with your finger or brush and rub it in and buff to give it the metallic sheen. You can make just about anything look steampunk with Rub-N-Buff. The only new paint on the gun is the patina aging effect I gave it to simulate a realistic weathering effect to copper and/or brass. This is taking a chance because the countless pictures witnessed during referencing, I saw absolutely no aging. They were all brand new clean looking repainted nerf guns–which was actually still impressive, but I chose the aged look.
Prop gun transformation from Gungrave to Zombie Apocalypse to Steampunk
Turning an existing prop gun into a steampunk gun:
Debbie’s Flintlock Holster
I’ll begin here by emphasizing budget again. I already had a flintlock replica gun in my collection that could be used for Debbie’s accessories. All that was needed was a way for her to carry it without carrying it in her hand the whole time and that is making a holster. All I used was faux leather material from Joann’s, 5/8″ push snaps, grommets, and some real leather strapping. See pics below.
Back to my costume…one of my favorite steampunk accessory invention is the gauntlet. It’s a perfect add on to my cosplay because of my mechanic status. The gauntlet for my character gives him the ability to protect his hand from hot steam pipes, and offers the added strength as a gauntlet represents more power and strength for the hand that it houses. See pics and video below on how I made mine on a budget.
Props Cut from CNC Router
I have the great fortune of working at a sign shop, Vital Signs of Orlando Inc, that has a computerized cutting table (CNC router) that can cut almost any shape out of almost any material real fast once it’s programmed in the computer. I of course asked permission and used scrap material that was going to be thrown away. I also was making something for myself and not anything I could potentially make money off of.
The few props highlighted here that are cut from this tool are my pipe wrench and Cassidy’s windup key mechanism with gears on her back, for her doll cosplay. The material used was plastic board called sintra that keeps the props light weight for comfort and easy function.
Pipe Wrench-I knew as an airship mechanic I had to have some sort of tool on me and what better tool for steampunk is an oversized pipe wrench. Nothing beats the real thing except, if you don’t have one and the real thing would be WAY too heavy! So I made my own out of sintra and cut it at work using the CNC router table.
Windup Key Mechanism-Nothing says life sized doll better than a giant windup key protruding off the back of the subject. To make the key at least turn manually I used the inner bearings out of a fidget spinner.
Here’s a quick video of the CNC router table in action cutting out the windup key:
Debbie’s Steampunk Girl Costume
Debbie’s MegaCon Steampunk Girl costume
Here again, I’ll refer to the budget and tell you that what a nice surprise to find my wife happened to have some threads like the undershirt and brown jeans along with boots that could be used perfectly to go with her steampunk girl cosplay. Instant savings.
I freely confess that there are store bought items, but a major plus is that her goggles and corset were bought from a store closing sale at a Party City where 75%-90% off everything in the store.
Other new, but reasonable priced items for her were the spats, pocket watches, and skeleton keys (0.50 cents ea). I did buy some lace material at Joann’s and made her choker and bracelets.
The only store bought items for the steampunk girl costume
Finished Props and Accessories Ready For Test Fitting
My Steampunk Airship Mechanic Costume
Enough of the teaser photos, here’s the first test fitting of my cosplay. I started to cheat a little with the budget and had to get a couple of things of mine on Amazon. Time was running out and I couldn’t find my shirt, or suspenders at any local thrift store. I also bought my spats as well.
Airship mechanic first test fitting
Unforeseen Change of Plans
My original intent was to take these three cosplays to my local comic book convention, MegaCon Orlando, with my family and show them off there. I had successfully finished the costumes and had tickets for all of us to go on Saturday of the con’s long weekend schedule. But life sometimes throws you “curveballs” and forces a different direction with plans. We had a friend of the family pass away suddenly and we wanted to attend the memorial service that was happening the same day. Some things in life are more important and I didn’t hesitate to support our friends in mourning.
We’ll always have the costumes and I knew I was also going to take many good photos specifically for this blog.
Sculpting 101: Choosing What To Use For Your Masterpiece
This post is an introduction to different media you can choose from to make your project. I highlight mostly what I’ve used in the past and I’ll tell you now that there are many more different ways to “make an omelet” so I can’t say I’ve given you all the materials you can choose from. I believe these ways are still the most popular so you will probably already have an understanding about what I’m talking about in each section. The order of appearance down the list doesn’t reflect importance of use either. You may also have an idea already what you want to use.
Oil based modeling clay is my preference for projects with great detail and jobs that will require molding for producing a rugged final piece. Clay is easy to work with and you can quickly change shapes and texture with a push of your thumb. A stiffer clay is designed for holding refined detail, where a softer clay for ease of making big shapes. I usually go with the medium clay that has some properties of both.
If you are making a large sculpt, such as a helmet or a slender project with protrusions, an armature or structure is needed to wrap the clay around for stability. Stability is not really needed for the large i.e. helmet sculpt, but taking up a lot of space on the inside of the mass will save on using a lot of clay.
Taking up space inside mass of large sculpt to save on clay and keep sculpt lighter in weight.
Wire armature for structure and stability.
I mentioned oil based here in the beginning because you can walk away from the sculpture for days at a time without worrying about the clay drying out or cracking like in water based clay. My clay of choice that I use most often is Chavant NSP (non- sulfur-plasteline) medium.
Hands and fingers–80% of what you use on clay will be what you do with your bare hands.
Various stiff sponges and rubber coarse stamps for pressing in texture detail
90% isopropyl alcohol and stiff small brush for smoothing out finished sculpture
Various LOTR 1/8 scale trolls, last one on the right WIP Super Sculpey armor.
I’ve always known Super Sculpey to be a form of clay for statues and smaller scaled projects. It’s advantage is after you’re done with your sculpture you bake it and it becomes hard which can be considered a finished project after painting. It comes in several colors and if you get the beige and are sculpting a human form its color remains an almost near perfect shade of flesh after baking properly. It also has different densities for detail sculptures. Once baked hard you can also sand drill and tool it for further workability.
An armature applies here as well for a stable work piece. Keep in mind you’ll be baking it so what you use has to handle the heat. I’ve twisted aluminum foil together, with some wire, real tight as a type of armature and it works well to conduct the heat on the inside for real thick areas of Super Sculpey.
Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
Clay softener for Super Sculpey and small, stiff brush to smooth final details.
Aves Apoxie Sculpt
Aves Apoxie Sculpt is almost like duct tape with it’s many uses. It is a two part equal mix that becomes harder to rock hard after 24 hours. I haven’t done an entire sculpture in it yet, but I know some artists who prefer it to be the soul material for their piece. I love it for it’s strength and workability after it hardens. Ways that it can be used for varies from sculpting, bonding pieces together, filling in voids or holes, and even stopping leaks as it was originally designed as a plumber’s paste for water pipes. It, like Super Sculpey above, can be sanded, carved, filed, and drilled after it becomes hard.
As you work with the material after mixing (follow directions how to mix on the containers) you’ll notice it will start to get warm from the chemical reaction, and it will feel more and more stiff at different stages of the reaction. You’ll find you’re own preference of workability as time goes by. It will hold detail a lot better as it gets closer and closer to becoming hard. Simple water is used to smooth the surface. I always have a cup of water with me while working with the stuff and continually wet my hands to prevent the material from sticking to my skin. The Aves company recommends wearing gloves, but I personally can’t work with it wearing them.
Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
Water is used for smoothing substrate
Sand paper and files for after it becomes hard
EPS (expandable poly styrene) or Styrofoam is another favorite of mine–except for the huge mess it leaves after carving. If you have an extra large project to make, EPS foam is perfect because of how light and versatile it is to work with. It can also be quite challenging as well. You will be summoned to hone in a different set of sculpting skills than clay as with foam you’re taking material away or removing to get your shape. Clay mostly requires you to add on and shape multiple building-up layers. Imagine you’re Michelangelo chiseling away marble or stone from a huge slab to get a shape you see on the inside.
With foam you can cut, chop, saw, slice, chainsaw, file, sand, and even control melt/burn to achieve your desired output. If you burn or cut foam with a hotwire or hot iron WEAR A MASK OR VENTILATOR! The fumes are hazardous to breath in. The advantage of being able to burn your cuts is that there is no foam bead mess. It just melts to itself cleanly.
You’ll notice some of the pics for EPS foam above shows some examples with aluminum foil wrapping and sealing the finished foam form. This is to protect the foam from the fiberglass resin that I coated it with to make a hard shell for molding purposes. Foam has a few chemical enemies that immediately melt and pit the surface of the foam upon contact.
Hand saw and/or keyhole saw
Utility knife, old kitchen knife, exacto blade
Depending on size or scope of project an electric chainsaw
Hot iron for large burn cuts or “hogging” out large sections
Urethane foam has a remarkable property that allows you to capture incredible sharp detail into your sculpture. The cells are much closer together than in EPS foam and the beads and/or structure of the foam is finer. This makes for easier cutting and tooling the surface.
What I love most about this type of foam is that I can polyester resin coat my finished sculpture right on top of the foam without having a protective layer as you would for Styrofoam. Having a tough “candy coating” shell helps protect the foam sculpture for the next step in the process. For my cylon head, I then bondoed some of the line detail back in and then sprayed it with a high building polyester sandable primer to finish him off before molding. Here he is getting ready for the molding process after a high gloss paint job:
Smooth “candy coated” shell over urethane sculpture before molding.
Much of the same tools are needed as with EPS Foam
Dust mask required because of the tiny foam dust is hazardous to breath in
Eva Foam and Floor Mat Foam
Floor mat foam material for Tavion Cosplay by Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay
If you’re a serious cosplayer, you should know all about EVA foam. It’s the most popular choice for comfort because it’s so light and soft to wear–not to mention it’s incredible properties with flexibility to take any shape over body parts and holding details cut into it. I’ve seen some wonderful armor builds that would fool almost anybody to believe it’s real armor.
One tip I learned that I found important is know your cut. Another words cut out templates out of card stock or cardboard first and test fit on a form or yourself somehow and then transfer the correct shape onto the foam before cutting. You’ll save time, money and head aches.
Hot glue is my choice of glue for connecting the foam to itself, plastic, and strapping. However, a real cool affect I’ve used for armor builds is hammering large snaps to connect layers of armor together where the exposed snap looks like armor rivets.
Floor mat foam is a similar form of EVA foam and can be treated the same way for your builds. The picture provided here for Eva and floor mat foam is from my friend Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay on her build for her Star Wars Tavion Cosplay. I suggest following her because she’s fantastic, and keeps no secrets how she does her magic.
All sharp cutting hand tools–scissors, utility knife, breakaway blade knives
Cutting board or hard smooth surface, straight edge guides
Dremmel tool for carving in details
Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks
Heat gun for shaping foam around contours (i.e. body parts…be careful, extremely HOT or do on a mannequin)
Rulers, tape measures, tailor tape measure
Plasti-Dip spray coating for giving the foam a hard candy coat finish when complete.
Body forms or mannequin
PVC Pipe, Shapes and Board (Sintra)
I have the greatest success with PVC shapes and boards for jobs that need a quick turnaround or projects that show me faster results and progress. There are so many pre-fabricated shapes available in PVC such as all the different diameter pipes, plastic planters and bowls (which I used on my Life Size Nutcracker), and various thickness of PVC boards or sintra that is easy to cut.
I must confess that after starting to work at Vital Signs of Orlando, Inc I now have the advantage of a CNC router table for exact cut shapes out of sintra board, such as the clock arms and gears above pic.
Computer controlled cutting table
Hand saw, hack saw
PVC Cement for gluing pipes and/or layers of board together
I’m assuming that the first material ever used for 3D art was probably wood. I’m also assuming most people, if you’re my age, had wood shop in middle/high school and got to make a bird house. Everyone, I’m sure, has had some kind of experience with wood in their lifetime. I like working with wood because there are so many tools made or invented just to deal with certain aspects of it by either cutting, filing, carving, drilling, gluing, screwing, and even staining and painting.
Looking at the gallery of photos above can give you an idea of how I have used wood before including using branches of a tree on my log reindeer.
I’ve learned a fascinating new technique since working at a sign shop which is sandblasting. Here, the face of a cedar board gets sandblasted to get a desired woodgrain and custom signage. Anything on the board that is to remain the surface of the original board gets a rubberized, tough, masking material that causes the sand to bounce off and not penetrate the surface of the board. Anything not masked off gets pushed back and the beautiful woodgrain is exposed. See sign pics above.
Compressor, sand, tanks, air hose, gloves, hood, and sand
Manual hand or power saws (circular saw, jig-saw, chop saw, reciprocating saw, etc..)
Drills and drill bits, hole saws for use with drills and paddle bits
Files, chisels and sandpaper
Bar clamps and large vice-clamps
Wood lathe for spinning wooden dowel rods and filing specific shapes (i.e. baseball bat)
See above picture for sandblasting
Metal can be cumbersome because of it’s weight and difficulty in cutting, shaping and bringing together by welding if you don’t have the experience or the right tools. But, nothing beats the real thing and I’m betting most replication in cosplaying armor and weapons or faux finishing is trying to copy metal’s appearance.
Some metals however can be easier to work with like aluminum and copper because they are lighter and softer. Aluminum is my choice of metal that I have most experience with, which happens to be the choice of metal I use most often in my job as a sign fabricator.
The choice of metal for the fandom culture probably isn’t wise as a cosplay piece for safety reasons. I can’t imagine wielding a real sword, at a Con, being Guts from Berserk manga as monstrous as his prop is. But a real metal sword hanging on a wall with all your other collectibles and props is paramount.
Metal cutting saw blades on power saws
Cutting torches (oxy-acetylene, plasma)
Welder-stick, mig, tig
Safety gear for heat and light (gloves, dark cutting shades and welding helmet)
Again, I haven’t shared everyway or everything you can use to build your projects from and if there is anything you believe important I left out with even talking about the materials highlighted here, please feel free to comment below and I will incorporate your ideas here. Thanks for hanging out here for a while and good luck on your next project! I’d love to see what some of you all are making and using to create your Masterpiece!
Star Wars is KING! Okay, so I know I’ve upset half the readers already. I don’t necessarily believe that. I’m a Battlestar Galactica guy as you can see from my previous blog posts. However, I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Tim, who believes Star Wars rules and after hearing him and the way he talks about theories, news, and obscure facts, I get excited and almost jump on the Star Wars train myself.
This is a blog post about, as the title says, the making of a “die hard” Star Wars fan. You’ll read and experience how he became a fan and how long his passion has been constant, maybe even grown with the excitement of the many installments and how vast the Star Wars Universe has grown as well. I have hand picked much of the merchandise and collectibles shown in the images here, which is only about half of what he owns and shares with his boys. I know there are a lot of serious collectors out there that may not be to impressed with what is shown here, but Tim is the kind of collector that doesn’t keep things on display in it’s original packaging anymore (he used to), but each piece in his collection has a specific memory and even a story that he connects to his life somehow.
So how big of a fan is he really?…you might ask. Well, he never misses every Thursday nights installments of The Jedi Council on YouTube. At his wedding he had the groomsmen march up the aisle first to the opening epilogue theme music right after In a galaxy far, far away… He named his youngest Luke, and those who know him may debate if Luke is the biblical name, since he’s a man of faith, or the Star Wars Luke because of his zeal of the subject. I’m gonna play it safe and say it’s a little bit of both. He organized for me and several of our friends pre-sale tickets to the first showing of the last three films which was a day before their official release dates. Now me, being a regular Con goer, just knew I had to make sure he would get the experience of a Star Wars Celebration adventure which was an experience he will never forget and also a new tradition he will never miss. I know he can’t wait to take his boys with him next time. For one of his boys 5th birthday party he had an authentic life size working R2-D2 from the R2 builders Club rolling around the party with a 501st imperial officer and a non 501st, but well made, Sandtrooper cosplayer hanging out too.
R2-D2, R2 builders club
Is that red eye or light saber reflection in Tim’s eyes?
So how did it all get started? In Tim’s words…”I became a fan when my dad took me and my brother to see ESB at the theatre as a young kid when it first came out. At some point after that I watched ANH on television with commercials and then the regular format. They re-released ESB to get us pumped up for “Revenge” of the Jedi later to be called Return of the Jedi. So I went back to watch ep.5 again in the theater and then ROTJ. I’ve watched these so many times I have lost count. I’ve watched all six first episodes back to back all the way through in one day. I’ve also watched all six all the way through with the commentary. I kept going back to the theatres to see the digital re-mastered and new scenes for 4,5, and 6 right before they released the prequel trilogy (which ep 1,2, and 3 I didn’t enjoy as much). 3D was a must see for me also not long before Disney bought Lucasfilm. Since ROTJ I’ve gone to all the films’ opening nights. I’ve seen all of The Clone Wars cartoon and Rebels animation thus far. I’m giddy with great anticipation for Solo: A Star Wars Story and ep.9.”
You can get a feel for Tim’s passion and a little more history of the foundation and connection he has to Star Wars in this video we shot together as I went through and picked out some of the non conventional merchandise not usually seen or talked about with other fans I’ve come across.
If you watched the video in it’s entirety you would have heard some of the questions I asked him like, …”Out of all the things in your collection, what would be your favorite?” He surprised me with something that is new in his collection that his boys wrapped up for him for Christmas last year. It was the sun shade for his car that features the cockpit scene in Episode IV with Han, Chewie, Luke and Obi wan. (…”that’s no moon…”). He told an emotional story about losing his dad recently and seeing one of the exact same sun shades on the day his father passed and before he received his. Not telling anyone he liked it or even saw it–made it an amazing coincidence, or some might say a sign, when he opened his on Christmas morning two days later.
Windshield sun shade from ep. 4 Millennium Falcon cockpit.
If I were to pick any favorite pieces from his collection after seeing and hearing about all of it I would have to say any of the toys that made sounds like the At-At, Millennium Falcoln, or Blasters. Those sound effects and recorded dialogues took me immediately back to when I was a kid growing up and the memories I had enjoying countless hours playing with these same toys and watching the movies. Mine is the classic story of losing all my toys because my mom sold them at yard sale without my consent.
I found a fun questionnaire on Tumblr @thedisneyunderword that I’ve asked Tim to fill out for me and you can have fun coming up with your own answers as well.
1. Favourite Star Wars movie? (Episode 1-R1). Tim: Episode V
2. Favourite Star Wars era? Tim: Rebellion era
3 Favourite Star Wars trilogy? (Originals, Prequels, Sequels). Tim: Originals
4. Jedi or Sith? Tim: Jedi
5. Empire or Rebellion? Tim: Rebellion
6. Bounty Hunter or Clone/Strom/First order Trooper? Tim: Bounty Hunter
7. Rebels or Clone wars? Tim: Rebels
8. Favourite Star Wars book? Tim: Heir to the Empire
9. Favourite Star Wars Comic? Tim: Darth Vader #1
10. Favourite Star Wars game? Tim: Star Wars Trivial Pursuit
11. Top 5 favourite female Jedi? Tim: Mara Jade, Ashoka, Rey
12. Top 5 favourite male Jedi? Tim: Luke, obi-wan, yoda, Kanan, Ezra
13. Top 5 favourite Bounty Hunters? Tim: Boba, 4 LOM, ig88, bossk, cad bane
14. Top 5 favourite Sith? Tim: Vader, palpatine, plagueis
15. Top 5 favourite Droids? Tim: R2, 3po, k2so, bb8
16. Top 5 favourite Troopers? Tim: Ct-7567, cc-3636, cc-5576-39, cc-2224
17. Top 5 favourite Senators? Tim: Bail, the asogian
18. Top 5 favourite Republic/Rebellion ships. Tim: x wing, y wing, b wing, a wing, cr70 corvette
19. Top 5 favourite Separatist/Imperial ships. Tim: Shuttle from vi, Tie advanced X1, tie fighter, Devastator star destroyer
20. Top 5 favourite planets? Tim: Hoth, bespin, kamino, takodana
21. Where would you live in the Star Wars universe? Tim: Takodana
22. Who would you be in the Star Wars universe? Tim: Episode VI Luke
23. What ship would you own? Tim: the Falcon from IV
24. What Droid would you own? Tim: R2
25. Would you have a team, or would you work alone? Tim: Team
26. If you where a Jedi, would you be a Knight or a Master? Tim: Master
27. If you where a Jedi Master, would you have a Padawan? Tim: Yes
28. If you where a Sith, would you be the Master or Apprentice? Tim: Master
29. If you where a Sith Lord, would you have an Apprentice? Tim: No
30. Married, in a relationship, or single? Tim: Married (as a Jedi Master)
31. Top 5 favourite species? Tim: Human, snivvian, arcana, duros, kaminoan, bith, ithorians, gamorrean, sullustan, rodian, jawa, sand people/Tusken raiders
32. What species would you be? Tim: Human
33. What species is your type? Tim: Human, togruta
34. Who would your best friend be? Tim: Han
35. Would you customise your ship? Tim: No
36. Would you customise your Droid? Tim: No
37. What colour skin/eyes would you have? Tim: Brown/blue
38. If male, beard or no beard? Tim: No beard
39. 1 lightsaber, 2 lightsabers, double lightsaber, or 2 double lightsabers? Tim: 1
40. What colour would your lightsaber(s) be? Tim: Kentucky Blue
41. If you’re a Bounty Hunter, what armour would you have? Tim: Mandalorian
42. Would you customise your armour? Tim: Yes
43. What colour scheme would your armour/robes be? Tim: Blend of KY Blue and black, charcoal, and grey
44. If you where a Droid, what Droid would you be? Tim: K2so
45. What colour would your droid self be? Tim: Charcoal
46. Pod racing or ship racing? Tim: Ship
47. Space battle or ground battle?? Tim: Space
48. Would you have survived order 66? Tim: Yes
49. Where would you go after order 66? Tim: Jakku
50. What would you do after order 66? Tim: Connect with rebel cells
51. Do you have any Star Wars Pop Vinyls? Tim: No
52. Do you have any Star Wars collections? Tim: Yes
53. Do you have any Star Wars art? Tim: Yes
54. Do you create any Star Wars art? Tim: No
55. Do you like/read any Legends/non canon stuff? Tim: Not anymore
56. Top 5 favourite Legends character? Tim: Was thrawn but now he is canon
57. Who is your Star Wars role model? Tim: Obi-Wan
58. Top 5 saddest Star Wars deaths? Tim: Boba, Luke, solo, yoda, obi wan, anakin in vi
59. If you could bring any Star Wars character back to life who would it be? Tim: Boba
60. If you found out the Star Wars universe was real, would you move there or stay here? Tim: Stay
61. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being very little, 10 being an absolute know it all) how well do you know the Star Wars universe? Tim: 7
Okay, I believe Tim is being humble or modest with that last question…I would rank him an 8 or 9 easy with the knowledge of the Star Wars Universe. My knowledge is a dismal 5, which means I get the thrill of learning about this incredible story line. So get ready Tim for a lot of questions from me.
I had a lot of fun working on this post with him and seen that he enjoyed it as well. This will probably be an ever changing and growing post and topic because Tim already wants to introduce me to another fan and acquaintance of his that has an impressive display. He’s already sent me some teaser pics so check back here often with updates. Until then, May The Force Be With You!
Tim and James
Tim and I with his favorite piece in his collection…Sun shade ep. 4
Light It UP! Upgrade your Costumes and Props With LEDs
I love how cosplaying is getting more and more popular. There hasn’t been a better time to be a fan of the comic/sci-fi/anime world then now. I remember a time before the term “cosplay” was coined and one would have been considered a nerd or geek for going to a Star Trek convention in full uniform. Now it’s all celebrated and very mainstream which could have some disadvantages, but the fun and excitement will always supersede.
So with the great competition–there’s no better way to succeed than to “Light It Up!” If you’re costume calls for electronics–DO IT! It’s somewhat simple and incredibly effective and will definitely turn heads. We’ll also talk about how lights and electrical effects turns up the WOW factor for your collectible props display as well.
I’d like to start off featuring my favorite ensemble in my collection which is my Battlestar Galactica flight suit and Viper helmet, which both happen to have cool lighting effects. The suit was made by Geoff Gay of Midwick Armory. He does an amazing job by using the same material the BSG production used on the show which makes his suits screen accurate. The electronics for the suit is the O2 (oxygen sensor) on the left lower arm sleeve of the suit. It’s a circuit board with 5 LEDs that can change color from green to red. These circuit boards are made and provided to Geoff by Dana Gassar of Anovos Productions. They have a 3 stage pressure switch run by a 9V battery.
Viper Suit O2 Sensor LEDs by Dana Gassar of Anovos Productions
The Viper helmet, which is made by me, is a fiberglass reproduction from a mold and is painted with automotive paint and has a custom PETG plastic vacuum formed lens. The helmet features two separate lighting systems, one inside the helmet and the two on the lower outside. Both systems are turned on by the same switch, but have their own power source. The two LEDs on the outside are run by a 9V battery and the inside forehead lights are run by it’s own 9V battery. The internal forehead lights were purchased at Autozone. Auto parts stores like Autozone and PEP Boys are a great source for all kinds of lights and electronics.
Next is the full armor Skull Knight costume I made which has a lighting effect with LEDs in the eyes. I managed to strategically place the lighting so not to hinder the vision of the cosplayer inside. Here I am at DragonCon 2011 where you can see the glowing effect in the eyes. This is a daylight shot, so you can imagine if the lights in the Marriot (where this pic was taken) were dimmed.
Isis (Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay) and Skull Knight at DragonCon 2011
Lighting doesn’t have to be the sole enhancer to your outfit. Sound effects is a good way to surprise onlookers to get their attention. I am always in awe when someone in stormtrooper armor adds the voice box to their helmet, so when they talk it sounds just like the movie.
Before we get to lighting up props, there is one more quick electrical thing I’ve done before, which I highly recommend when wearing a helmet for an extended period of time, is putting in little fans or a cooling system. It may not be noticeable for the crowds, but it will keep you marching on.
Miniature electronic fans for internal cooling.
Here is where we venture off into the world of props to give them a boost with lights in your collection. The props I made that will be highlighted here are my 1:1 scale Cylon bust display with it’s sweeping red eye effect, 1:1 scale Guts Berserker armor helmet and decorative base from Berserk manga, and the 1:1 scale bust of Skull Knight from Berserk manga as well.
The Battlestar Galactica Cylon’s LED circuit board was made and provided to me by George from Timeslip Creations. It’s run by 2 AA batteries and I had to convert it to run the switch down onto the base rather than the board. I just used alligator clips connected to wire to run down the inside of the neck to a toggle switch at the back of the round base.
I put window tinting on a sheet of white copy paper and cut out the shape and stuck it to the back of the plexi glass lens to dissipate the lights so you don’t see the harsh definition of each LED. It created a smooth sweeping effect. My first attempt of the eye sweep before asking George to make the boards for me was I bought the Custom Dynamics Night Rider scanner lights. It was an okay start and it looked cool, but it was way to fast and it looked like the Cylon was on steroids.
Knight Rider scanner bar. Too fast for Cylon.
Lieutenant Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson played by Leah Cairns photo-op MegaCon 2008
The Berserk prop entry of the Berserker Armor and Skull Knight bust was a carefully well thought out collaboration with a friend I’ve come to know through these projects. His name is Derek and I talked about him a little on the Home page. He is the moderator of the Berserk merchandise at skullnight.net forum. We turned the project into multiple runs (about 30) for fans of the manga to purchase. Derek was the driving force and designer of these pieces including what to do with the lighting.
For Guts Berserker helmet I used the same style of lights I used on the inside of the viper helmet for the “Z” shaped eyes. For the base I found a nice little gem of a small circuit board with red LEDs that had seven different action settings.
Guts Berserker Armor Bust Display with red LEDs and pulsating circuit board LEDs on base
Guts Berserker Armor Bust Display with red LEDs
Skull Knight was a little more complicated with the small space I had to work with inside the skull and I had to cover any gaps or voids in the helmet skull so the light would only penetrate through the eyes. I just hot glued black jersey material from behind, inside the head where the light shined through. The switch for Skull Knight to turn on the lights is located right behind the inside back of the chin so I didn’t have to run any wires down to the base. All the electronics are localized in the skull.
So if either you have an awe inspiring costuming impression or a prop room display that you and your guests want to hang out in all day it will be because of the extra effort you put in by adding lighting and electronics. This can be a great tribute to the fandom culture by representing what you are mimicking with complete accuracy and detail.
Thanks for hanging out here for a little while and I intend on doing complete tutorials on hooking up LEDs to batteries, resistors and switches in the near future so keep a look out here for updates.
I know what you’re thinking, “DAH–No Kidding! Of course I’m using props to go along with my getup!” In fact I would venture to say the weapon is probably the first thing finished or obtained before the costume is ready for showing off. This entry is about different ways to make and use your prop weapon as a way to save money and keep it light and safe, but also looking great. Not every weapon here is done by me. I’ve asked a couple of talented artists I know if I can feature their work here because what they did looks great and they kept it on a low budget.
It’s amazing what spray paint and some dry brushing can do. She even took the time to drill out the many small holes on the flash hider at the end of the barrel giving it a more authentic look. Great Job Damaris!
Along the same idea as buying the form and then painting is purchasing an airsoft rifle or gun which is what I did for DragonCon one year. I got the airsoft to go with my viper suit in combat mode for the parade with The Colonial Fleet. It was an incredibly easy paint job because it was already black. I just dry brushed some silver highlights to make it look metallic and not plastic. Both the toy and the airsoft are light weight so carrying them around all day is a breeze.
Airsoft Rifle from eBay silver highlights painted for realism.
Building your weapon from scratch is not as easy, but it is very rewarding and a lot of fun. The challenge is to find the right materials at the right price. Here is an example of an accessory my friend made for his son for Halloween. This is how he described
Leather strapped PVC handle and Foam floor mat head.
the process of fabricating it: “I drew the axe head pattern on a large sheet of paper and cut it out. I then traced it onto foam floor mat and flipped the pattern and traced it onto another piece of foam floor mat so I had two halves of the axe to sandwich the PVC handle between. I then glued them together with contact cement. I used a dremmel tool to shape the axe blade and pick. I wrapped the handle to look like a leather grip. The foam head was sealed with two layers of modge podge and then spray painted the whole thing black. Then I dry brushed the metal parts with silver paint, painted brown over the leather parts and dry brushed a lighter brown on the leather.” Thanks Jack…looks great!
Much of my work, however, was not so easy. Some how, I seam to end up doing things the hard and expensive way, but the pieces I’ve made are durable and can be made again because I make molds for about everything I produce. Having a mold means you could make several and you can experiment with casting in different materials. Fiberglass, pour resin casting, or foam are usually the choices of media to manufacture in.
It is a long withstanding or known rule that when bringing a prop firearm with you to a Comic Convention that you paint the tip red or orange for easy visibility to let Con folk and staff know that your piece is fake or harmless.
I hope that this may have been a little inspiring for you to get motivated and be thinking and executing your plans for the next convention you’ll be attending. Prop weapons are a must and there is nothing like posing for pics by excited Con guests wishing that they had a cool prop to go with their costume.