Thursday, September 8, 2011

Armor from craft foam for Ivy

Craft foam must be one of the most versatile materials there is when it comes to cosplay. I’ve used it before on Mayuri’s hat structures, in Sasori’s puppet body to imitate wood and for leathery look on Luminara’s waist cloth and armguards. And in one or two costume projects I’ve used it in details. But when I started to brainstorm our costumes for WCS preliminaries, I came to realize that I would build armor for my character entirely from craft foam. Thankfully, Ivy only has pieces of armor on her arms and shoes, but never the less; I was in for a challenge.

Even if I hadn't done any myself, I had read about making craft foam armors. This craft foam armor making tutorial is one of the firsts I bumped into years ago and I think it's possibly one of the most referred one out there. The steps on the tutorial are almost the same with how I made my armor with few differences on materials used.

One thing about Ivy’s armor is really convenient; all the pieces are more or less symmetrical. If you look at the upper arm piece, it looks the same whether you look at it from the front or the back. With the forearms and upper arms I could make one pattern and use it on either arm without problems.

And with patterns I started the project. After I has sketched the armor based on references, I used regular paper to define the sizes and shapes of the armor pieces. Everything else was rather easy to do, but for the breast plate I asked Yoki to aid me.

I traced patterns on 2mm craft foam and supporting parts of the breast plate from 5mm craft foam. Behind each craft foam piece I glued slightly smaller piece of fiber fabric, sturdy cotton stiffener used in upholstery. This gives good support to the piece itself and will prevent bending better than regular fabric would. Inside the breast plate I used cups from old bra. This made the whole construction process lot easier, because I already had right shape and size to build the armor on.

Breast plate details.

Some of the armor pieces required few layers of foam for details and rims. Some of the details on the references don’t seem to be as raised as others, so I used thick paper to achieve the look for those. In the arm pieces where armor flares out as in the upper arm and the wrist of the forearm I used plaster tape and putty to hide the seams which were necessary to create the wished shape.

There are some sharp angles on Ivy leg armors. Craft foam tends to reverted after bending, so some heat is necessary to forge it. I used hot-air blower to warm up the foam before pressing the folds on the ankle and shoe parts. I also used heat to create the knuckles on the hand plates, curves on the forearms and the plump on the upper arm. You don’t need to heat the foam long; few seconds with hot-air blower will make the foam moldable.

After gluing the raised pieces, back support and sanding the putty smooth, I applied few coats of gesso on each piece to seal the foam. Lastly I made a glue-water mixture and applied it with a brush to harden the surface. The glue also works great to create glossy finish for the piece.

As primer I used grey spray primer from Prof. The paint I used was silver chrome finish from Bravo Spray. I also planned to age and weather the pieces with acrylics, but the time was against me. Well, something to do before next wear!

The small brooch details could also be counted as part of Ivy's armor. I cut the base shape from pulp board and sculpted the shape from modeling material similar to Das modeling clay. After I let the thing dry, I gave it few coats of glue-water and painted then the same way I did the rest of the armor.

The fastenings on the armor are pretty much elastic band and Velcro. I glued the tips straight to the base shoes with Erikeeper. If you glue Velcro straight to craft foam or any other smooth surface it will not hold that well. I solved the problem by backing the Velcro up with something, this time to scrap tricot I had lying around. The fabric will give the glue nice surface to grip on.

In short, the hand plates fasten to the gloves with Velcro, the forearms close with Velcro, the upper arms hang on with elastic band, the breast plate fastens to the dress with Velcro from the sides, the rings on the ankles close with Velcro and the ankle plates you hardly saw me wearing at Tracon, because they were uncomfortable as they could be, also fastens with Velcro. The brooches hold on with safety pins glued on the backsides.

I’m rather happy how the armor turned out if the shoes are not counted in. Before I’m going to take Ivy to any convention, I’m going to redo the whole leg set and pay more attention to patterning the tips of the shoes. I also need to pad the heels themselves. They are too big for me, which made my walking look like duckling steps.

Few bumps on the road; trial and error with hand plates.


  1. I would NEVER have guessed that you used craft foam for Ivy's armor: they look so metallic. O.O Great job!

    Also, congrats for the second place in the preliminaries! Your performance was kick-ass - my friends and I rooted for you!

  2. Thank you so much!

    And for the armor, I think the trick was the chrome paint. Regular silver would have looked bit dull.

  3. All of my never-ending love for this entry. ♥ It's always so interesting to read about the working process of costumes, so yet again thanks for sharing!