Making an armor costume is great for festivals, Halloween parties, and other themed events. To make a flexible, lightweight costume like these, you need a few materials like EVA rubber (ethylene-vinyl-acetate), heat, glue, and paint. Making an armor costume would be a fun project for kids or could be used to create compelling props for movies. Make the armor as simple or complex as you like, depending on your needs.
Part 1 of 3: Design the armor
Step 1. Draw a sketch of the design
Focus on the basic shapes (their sizes and connections for adjacent pieces) rather than the color or details, which you will take care of later. Decide where and how the individual pieces will overlap so that they are flexible and connectable. Simplify the structure as much as possible to avoid having a lot of pieces moving around and connecting them in too many places (thus weakening the armor). You could also look online for some ready-made armor patterns, maybe you can even print them out. Here is a list of common armor pieces that you will want to sketch:
- shoulder pads or shoulder pieces
- gola or neck protector
- arm parts such as armguards, bracers and gauntlets
- leg pieces such as thighs, scarps, and greaves
Step 2. Take the measurements
Measure head size, height, waist size, arm and leg length, and any other parts that need to be measured for the person wearing the armor. These measurements will help you determine the dimensions needed to make the helmet, bib, shoulder pads, and any other covering. Although they will not be the primary values that you will use to measure the armor, they will serve as a reference if you need to cut, connect or alter something and there is no way to test it accurately.
Step 3. Transfer the measurements to a template of the reinforcement (pattern)
The quickest way to do this is for a friend of yours to hold the hard, flexible pieces of paper (such as construction paper) over your body and draw each piece of the design individually, creating an outline that you can modify if necessary. A more precise method would be to create a figure (or a mannequin) to have the stencils drawn on.
Step 4. Finish the template
Make sure you've worked on all the pieces and adjusted their sizes or proportions. As long as you have matching pieces (for example: two shin guards, gauntlets, etc.), choose the best version and discard the other. In this way, you will use the prettiest one as a pattern for the other one and thus keep the armor symmetrical. When you're happy with the pieces, firm and smooth the lines, label both the original sketch and the corresponding pieces (noting any that will be duplicated), and cut out all the shapes.
Step 5. Transfer the template to EVA rubber
Trace each piece onto the EVA with a ball point pen (which will glide smoothly over the material without breaking or wrinkling it). Make duplicates of the pieces if necessary. Label the undersides and cut out the figure.
- To make very long pieces, you may need to patch two pieces of foam together. Preferably, join the pieces where it is discreet or can be integrated into the design. For example, create a zipper below the center of the bib.
- Use any other material to create the armor costume, such as cardboard, wonderflex plastic, or something else that fits your needs. Apply the same steps on any other material.
- To lengthen the foam, trace the longest pieces first, then wrap the smaller pieces around them.
Step 6. "Decorate" the armor if necessary
Lightly sketch the designs with a ballpoint pen or blunt knife, and when you're in the mood, go over them several times, pressing hard so that they etch into the foam. It is much easier to draw on the foam if it is flat and has not been assembled. Just make sure you don't tear the materials.
Part 2 of 3: Assemble the armor
Step 1. Adapt and contour the EVA rubber to your body
Since it is flexible, it will be easy for you to glue it and bend it in different places. However, in some places you will want to mold the foam into shapes so that they will stand on their own. This can be done if you hold the foam close to a continuous heat source (such as a heat gun or stove) to soften it and fold it with another object, such as a liter bottle or a rolling pin.
- You will only have a few seconds to do it, so work fast. It's best to try the technique on a few disposable pieces first so that you learn how to heat the foam without roasting, shrinking, or blowing bubbles.
- If you want, you could also use a hair dryer on high intensity or an iron to heat the foam.
- If you don't have a heat source, try wrapping the armor around a circular object for a few days to create the curves you want. Create the arm and leg pieces with a can of Pringles potatoes and a plastic rubber band to hold them together.
Step 2. Glue the foam pieces where you designed them to overlap
White glue will do the trick. In some cases (for example, places with many overlaps or dramatic curves), it is best to do this after the parts have been heat molded to avoid undue stress on the materials. However, when it comes to pieces that require little molding or that do not overlap in a way that restricts movement too much, you will want to glue them together before molding.
Step 3. Strengthen and stiffen the armor
Flip the joined pieces over, paint them with glue, and smooth them with a gauze cloth (for example, cotton gauze or cheesecloth), making sure to go over the folds and curves with sharp corners. Once they dry, trim the excesses and apply one more coat of glue.
Step 4. Work in sections
If you are working with multiple pieces, you may have to assemble many to complete a section of one part of the truss. Think about how it would be best to connect the subsections before attaching them to the larger pieces.
Step 5. Leave some openings
Since the foam is flexible, you will take time on the following: a well-placed seam that you can force will not be a problem for the foam. However, for traditional-style armor, you will want to be similar to the way authentic armor is assembled by joining various pieces together with leather or fabric strips that can be untied or unbuttoned if necessary.
Step 6. Decide how to attach the armor to the body
Unless you've made a complete set from one piece, you will need to put the separate pieces together in a different way. Wear tight-fitting clothing under the armor and hook it up in various places to anchor each other. This will work really well if you can get everything lined up correctly.
For example, you may want to stick double-sided velcro on the necessary parts of tight clothing. Press the armor on these points in front of a mirror until it looks good. Then, more firmly attach each Velcro half to its respective part of the assembly using string or strong glue to hold the pieces in place
Part 3 of 3: Painting the armor
Step 1. Apply raised designs if necessary
If you used an embossed design on the armor, just line it with fabric paint from a jet tube to create a raised design. You may have to do this more than once to make it visible. Since the result will end up being thick, let it dry overnight.
Step 2. Seal the foam
Since the foam is fluffy, you will need to seal it before applying any glue. A suggested mix is 1 part white glue or Sobo glue, 1 part flexible fabric glue, and 2 parts water. Apply and dry thin layers that the stamp does not form holes from air bubbles. This will take 7 to 9 coats, but since they are thin, drying time will not be as much of an issue. Don't let debris stick to the glue or it will leave bumps on the armor.
Step 3. Paint the back of the armor with acrylic paint if necessary
If the armor is sticking out in places (leaving the underside exposed), paint the back to give it a more professional look.
Step 4. Paint the front of the frame
Because the foam bends and moves with your body, the ordinary pint will crack. Experiment with flexible paints on a disposable piece of foam to see which one will work best with your design. Make sure to apply the paint evenly to avoid cracks and ridges.
Step 5. Give the armor a weathered look
You can do this by brushing on dark acrylic paint (for example, a mixture of black and green to form a tarnished copper look) and wiping most of it before it dries so residue will fill in the cracks.
Pay attention to the details. The trick to making the armor costume look real is the small details you add to the pieces