DURAS SISTERS (Star Trek TNG & DS9) 2. Collars, shoulders, and bibs, OH MY.

The other thing I get questions about all the time is how I made the “bibs” of my Duras Sisters dresses, and specifically, the edging around them. This is a quickie post about that!

STEP 1: Patterning, Cutting, and Sewing

You might notice a lot of my posts have a “Step 1: Patterning” section… bummer, eh? This was an easy one, though, I promise! I used that weird no-slip rubber stuff that people put under bath mats to keep them in place. You can find rolls of this at Home Depot for a few bucks. Unfortunately, since I’m posting in SUPER retrospect, I don’t have any photos of just that material. But you can get the idea from the below photo. I made the same vinyl strips that I used for the dresses themselves (sans taper) and simply sewed them on to the black rubber grip stuff that I had cut into “bib” shape.


Keep in mind that you need to be able to get your head through these. For Lursa, the two halves (front and back) were separate at the shoulders and held together by velcro (and by the plastic border… see below).

STEP 2: Friendly Plastic

You can buy friendly plastic on amazon, again for a few bucks. It’s basically a thermoplastic that has a low melting point… They tell you to melt it in hot water, then carefully shape it. I, like a moron, used my heating gun to melt and probably took 20 years off of my life by inhaling the fumes. DON’T DO THAT.

But anyway, here’s what I did. I made a rough border first, then did a second layer in which I created texture to look like rough metal.

If I had had more time, I might have actually thought through this patterning. I simply used some clay carving tools— I jammed them into the warm plastic and twisted in alternating directions to make big swirls. You can really play with this.

STEP 3: Painting

Good news! Plastic accepts paint… Didn’t consider that this could be an issue until well into the plastic process (which took FOREVER). So here’s the tidbit of the day: Always check before starting a project that your materials are compatible. I got lucky here, but did not have the same success when buying $80 of spandex that I later realized could NOT be dyed to the color I needed it to be. Always do your homework.

Not a lot else to share about paint. I used a bunch of different silvers, blacks, and even browns. I wasn’t super happy with the results the first couple times and just kept adding layers (the finish costumes had much darker borders than the pictures below…). Sometimes, just like with the sleeves that I mentioned I redid multiple times, you have to stand back, look at the whole picture, and make some decisions. It’s OK not to get it right the first time!


STEP 4: Shoulders Embellishments

These shoulder pieces were one of my first worbla projects… If you don’t know anything about worbla, I recommend looking up YouTube videos by Kamui Cosplay. These are the videos I used to figure everything out! The basic idea is to cut some craft foam to the right shape and melt worbla over it in layers (first picture below is after sandwhiching craft foam between worbla and trimming). Then paint. Here are some pictures of the little shoulder pieces I made. If I were to do this over, I might skip the worbla and just use plain old EVA foam (check out some of my Liara posts for instructions there…) for lighter, less rough looking pieces. But hey, this is what learning is all about!

OKAY. I have to admit, I started this post over a year ago and am just now finishing it. SORRY FOR THE DELAY! From here, I think my next post will be about resin. I LOVE RESIN. Stay tuned.



Another awesome KHANNNNNNN! (Thanks to B Squared Photography and Chad Buffett of Raptor Props for some rad photos!)


DURAS SISTERS (Star Trek TNG & DS9) 1. The Dresses

I get requests pretty frequently to elaborate on the process of making our Duras dresses… So here we go with the first in what I expect will be a 3 or 4 post series.

Full disclosure, I spent YEARS on these dresses. (For a reference point, notice that the photos below span 3 different apartments I’ve lived in…) Truly, these were a pain in the ass, and here’s why:

1) I didn’t know how to sew when I started these. I had hand sewn some stuff, and I think I made stockings once using my mother’s machine. But ultimately, this was a project I specifically used to learn how to sew. Mistakes were made.

2) VINYL SUCKS ASS. Spandex is no joyride either. Now that I have some actual seamstress experience, I know to consider such things. But I certainly didn’t know then, and I blindly jumped into a very difficult, advanced project right off the bat.

But don’t let that deter you. I picked a difficult project specifically because I saw many opportunities in these costumes to learn various techniques and media, and I learned everything I know up to this day by embarking on this adventure. I certainly don’t consider myself enough of an expert to be doling advice… Yet, I cannot stress enough how exciting and rewarding it was for me to just simply PICK a project, and see it through over 2 years. And bonus, I won $2000 at STLV 2017 with these costumes… SO YAY!

OK, so… Klingon dresses…


For those of you who know what you’re doing, here is the basic gist of what I did. I made base dresses out of spandex and strips out of vinyl. I sewed the strips to the base dress, then added details like fur sleeves, paint, belts, etc. I would totally rethink my fabric choices in the future. I also, having now sewn stretchy fabrics, would pay more attention to how one fabric attaches to the other — there was a lot of buckling in mine. (See my thoughts below.)

STEP 1: Patterning

I didn’t know anything about this. I still don’t. But here is what I did. I bought a dressform for something like $40 on Craigslist and adjusted to the size I needed. I also chose 4-way stretch fabric knowing full well that my ability to make something fit perfectly was minimal. (Also, I started with the “Lursa” dress for my friend who lives across the country. We met up at Thanksgiving for a couple of years in a row to “fit” and “fix” things that I made her.) Spandex seemed like an appropriate base fabric for this project because of the price, availability, and stretch. Some retrospective notes:

  • It’s not as breathable as I would like it to be. I’m a pretty hardy gal, but I felt like I was dying wearing these costumes. If I were to make new ones, I might look into gortex or mesh or something more porous. I would definitely at least put something breathable in the armpits. :X
  • Spandex is kind of tough to sew. Vinyl is even worse. As I began to add vinyl strips to my base pattern pieces, I found that things did not drape correctly, or had odd puckers. A less stretchy fabric, especially if you have sewn ANYTHING EVER before might be advisable if you can size it to yourself appropriately.

Some action shots! Notice that I can pin right to my dressform!

STEP 2: Vinyl Strips

Originally, I tried to make the ONLY seems those that attached the vinyl to the spandex. I quickly gave up on that, as you can see below. I sewed each strip, then used my seems as a guide when attaching them to the spandex base.

It wasn’t until I started the second dress (B’etor) that I figured out a trick that saved me HOURS: I started putting masking tape down each strip on both sides, allowing my sewing machine to glide over the otherwise friction-ful vinyl. Yes, I wasted a bunch of tape, and yes, I had to peel the tape off of each strip (which sucked in the instances where I had accidentally sewn over the tape rather than just next to it). But…


STEP 3: Putting It Together

This is really just more patterning. I made each piece out of spandex, THEN covered each piece with vinyl strips, and THEN put it all together. Fit was not perfect the first time… there are always adjustments to be made.

A word to the wise… If you don’t like how something comes out, DO IT OVER. It’s a pain, it takes forever, and it sucks financially. BUT, this is just the base for your costume and it is not too late. Don’t be rushed, don’t be lazy. I personally made some vinyl strips that were just too wide. I made a whole skirt out of them and it took weeks. But I hate how it looked. I am SO glad I started over.

STEP 4: Sleeves.

Funny story… speaking of doing it over. I did the sleeves for these 3 different times. You can see the original black fabric I used above! And here are some swatches that I considered:


Ultimately, I ended up with a completely different fabric. You just have to try and try again until everything is right. Here’s what we ended up with:


STEP 4: Artistic License

The whole sleeve saga has a point: You might notice that they are not the same as those you see in the actual movie (Generations). I learned about something called “perceived color” in a conversation with someone who currently manages the part of the Star Trek collection where these particular costumes live. If you watch Generations, you will probably perceive Lursa and B’etor’s dresses as grey with black sleeves. Something like this…


But, guess what?! They’re actually beige and hunter green! (This blew my mind!)

The green sleeves and beige/tan leather made these costumes look black/gray (and more importantly, weathered) on screen because of the lighting and context.

This realization really allowed me to move forward on these costumes. It allowed me to make decisions that I think resulted in the best look, even if they meant straying a bit from “screen accurate.”

So, I guess that’s the moral of the story: It is not always about being accurate as much as it is about being true to your perception of accurate. This helped me make what I think was the best possible looking costume, and one that others perceived as “accurate.”

Something to think about.


COMING SOON: Making the collar and shoulder pieces.


Here’s a word of wisdom… DON’T START A SCULPT 2 WEEKS BEFORE A CON.

I set out to make two (matching) sculpts, and really got down to the wire. The result was decent — certainly good enough for a non-competing cosplay — but do yourself a favor and allow yourself enough time to enjoy the process, and to really perfect the product. I already can’t wait for my next sculpting project! This was by far my favorite step!

And a word about materials…

I used Monster Clay for my sculpt, which is a lot more like wax than it is like clay. Generally, oil based clays are used for sculpting, and there is a wide variety available, many of which are cheaper. However, Monster Clay is completely reusable, and pretty fun to work with. The process is more akin to carving than molding. It’s also pretty hard when not warm, which means your sculpt can sit around without any danger of damage pretty indefinitely. If you can splurge on the $30 container, I really think it’s worth it.


  • Your lifecast (Click here to see my tutorial for making a cheap, “good enough” lifecast of your head)
  • 1 Monster Clay, 5 lb package, medium hardness (per sculpt)
  • Carving/clay tools (you can get a cheap pack at Michaels or online)
  • Sculpting rake
  • Mineral spirits OR Turpenoid
  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Cheap paint brushes
  • Rubbing alcohol (91% or 99%)

STEP 1: Getting started

Being a total newbie, it took me quite awhile to figure out how to get the stupid clay out of the stupid container. I resorted to ripping the container off of it (and into pieces), cutting it down to smaller pieces (which was nearly impossible), and slowly heating small amounts of clay in my little craft toaster oven. It turns out, you can just pop the entire container (after taking off the top plastic) in the microwave for 2 minutes and be done with it. So yeah, do that.

WARNING: Be careful when heating this clay… watch it carefully. The middle of any size chunk seems to melt first, so while the outside may be cool enough to touch, you can easily get burnt by a molten core if you reach in to grab a chunk. Heat in short bursts of time, test in between, and let it cool if you’ve gone too far!

I used the melted clay to cover my lifecast in all of the areas that would eventually become the headpiece. Keep in mind that you’ll be carving into this clay, not adding to it, so you need to build up your clay enough to be able to carve any major details in.


STEP 2: Basic Shapes

OK, this was my favorite part… once my head was sufficiently covered with clay, I began hacking away with some of the clay carving tools to get basic shapes in. I started by smoothing the surface…


Then I worked on getting basic indentations and creases in the right places. Really think about anatomy… above and below the cheek bones need to be indented… skull shape… ears, etc.

With my basic shapes in place, I started to “draw” details into my clay that I would carve more carefully later.

Definitely pay attention to symmetry… I took a LOT of pictures during this process so that I could reference them while working on the corresponding part of the other side of the head. The ears were especially hard to line up. Be sure to look at everything from ALL of the angles — Don’t just measure from the front, for instance, as your ears might be in line vertically relative to the top and bottom of your head, but not horizontally along the side of the head.

STEP 3: Details

After I was happy with the overall shape of my head and the placement of details, I spent a solid couple of days just refining each feature. (As I mentioned, I was trying to make two identical sculpts… you can see the process a bit by comparing the two.)


There are a billion YouTube videos about carving Monster Clay, and I highly recommend watching some. People seem to have very different opinions about how to shape and heat clay. Many of them advise against heating the clay on your mold directly with a heat gun… This is precisely what I did, and it was fine. It does totally melt the clay, so just be careful. I carved big shapes with the tools, melted the clay in a small area with a heat gun, and work to shape the clay with my hands after it cools just a bit.


STEP 4: Preliminary Smoothing

This is where I really failed— I just ran out of time. You can see in the photos above how much carve marks show in the sculpt, and smoothing out with mineral spirits will take care of *some* of them, but not all. What I think really needs to happen, and what I just ran out of time for, is “raking.” I highly recommend watching some video tutorials online. I have not tried it, and don’t want to lead you astray, but it seems like raking fine lines into your sculpt, then smoothing is the way to go.

But if you are a bum who saves everything to the last minute like me, just try your best to get as many carve marks out as possible by making finer and finer passes with your tools. I also tried using my tools in different directions, and melting really “dented” areas with the heat gun.


You can also use sand paper on this material, which is pretty effective in getting rid of lines. The issue here is that, as you sand, little scraps of the clay melt enough to ball up and stick to your sculpt. I didn’t try it, but saw several mentions online about using compressed air to “freeze” the debris, and simply brushing them off. If I’d had more time, I absolutely would have gone this route. My final sculpts, ultimately, had very visible carve marks.

STEP 5: Final Smoothing

I used mineral spirits for further smoothing. (I was too cheap to buy turpenoid, but I hear it’s better if you can spring for some!) The mineral spirits literally melt the clay, making it smooth out a bit. Use some paint brushes, work on small areas at a time, and spray or dab rubbing alcohol on the sculpt to neutralize the mineral spirits when you feel that you are done. You can see the before (foreground/right) and after (background/left) below.


Again, I didn’t give this stage nearly enough love. With some time and patience, you can really get your sculpt clean. I relied on paint to cover some of these flaws, and in a pinch, that was good enough.

So there you have it! Sculpting for dummies! Much like the lifecast tutorial I posted earlier, this may not be the “professional” way. But it works… it’s not horrifically expensive… and it’s fun.

Happy sculpting, and check back soon for the next step: Making a mold of the cast!

BYNARS (Star Trek TNG) Making Prosthetics: 1. Life Casting (the complete bum’s way)

For years I’ve put off updating the makeup for my very first cosplay (from over 7 years ago now!) for one simple reason… I didn’t know how to go about getting a life cast made of myself, let alone how to make one for my partner in crime who lives clear across the country. I came across a tutorial by Emmabellish (who does an incredible Asari cosplay that you should check out immediately) that outlined a seemingly simple process for making a life cast that is *good enough* for some basic sculpting. Full disclosure: they look HORRENDOUS. They’re really just the worst. But, as promised, they were good enough to help make some pretty killer Bynar head prosthetics. I’m hoping my process might inspire some of you to give it a try.

I was able to make a decent life cast of Alison’s head while she visited for only a couple of days over Thanksgiving— after all, my Thanksgiving tradition wouldn’t be complete without a good ol’ Alison torture session in the name of cosplay. Again, it’s not perfect, but it worked, and more importantly, IT WAS CHEAP AND FAST. Here’s what you need to make what I will henceforth refer to as a “hobo” lifecast:

  • Plaster strips, cut into various sizes
  • A bowl of water
  • Cling wrap
  • Vaseline
  • ~30 lbs Ultracal 30 (This is a tough one… you can order it online, and the material itself is pretty cheap, but shipping will kill you. I found Ultracal at Reynolds Advanced Materials, which is a chain! Some local hardware or pottery stores around you might also carry it. Do some research before buying online.)
  • Home Depot 5-gallon paint bucket
  • Sand
  • OPTIONAL: Apoxy Sculpt or Free Form Air
  • Clear coat spray paint
  • Face mask (wear while mixing Ultracal to protect your lungs from fine gypsum dust)
  • Latex/vinyl gloves

STEP ONE: Preparing the model

I began by covering her head with the Press & Seal cling wrap, which easily sticks on both itself and the subject’s hair. I then covered everything, especially seams and any exposed hair, with vaseline. This is a super important step, unless you’re looking to skip your next facial hair waxing…

STEP 2: Creating the back half of mold

Plaster is pretty self explanatory… dip strips in water, ring them out a bit, place them on your subject, mold for a close fit. With this particular project, however, keep in mind that you have to make two halves that lock together neatly (otherwise your model cannot escape her plaster prison without destroying the mold).

For Ali’s, because I could actually see what I was doing, I started working from what I judged to be the center point of her head, and worked backwards. I left a small lip and built up layers starting about half and inch back from the edge of the first layer. (So in other words, do and entire layer or two on the whole back of the head, then on your next 2-4 layers, start about half and inch back, leaving a lip along the midpoint of the head that is not as built up as the rest of the mold.)


When I repeated this process on myself, however, I couldn’t see very well (and I had a not-super-artistic friend helping me). I found it was easier to make little bumps on the first half that I just molded the second half over. These were like “registration keys” that allowed my halves to “snap” in place. I didn’t take any pictures of this, unfortunately, but I just cut a small piece of plaster, dipped it in water, mushed it into a small ball, and placed it on the very edge of my back half cast.


Seriously, let it dry. Put on some Star Trek, drink a beer… LET IT DRY. We hung out for about an hour before starting the front half.

STEP 4: Building the front half of the mold

Once the back half is dry, throw another layer of cling wrap and vaseline over the seam where the back half meets your model’s head (and vaseline over your model’s eyebrows if you haven’t already), and repeat the process. Leave the eyes for last, and leave the nose holes open completely. Make sure the edge of your front mold piece butts up against the ridge in your back mold (with the thinner lip underneath the top layer). OR, build your plaster up over the registration keys you made. Both of these methods worked for me.


STEP 5: More waiting… let it dry… again…

This is a great time to get some killer blackmail photos. Be warned, untrustworthy friends in your presence while YOU are covered with plaster can also take advantage… Thanks, Phil.



STEP 6: Remove the dry plaster mold and prepare for casting

  • Fill in the nose holes with plaster. I like to ball up some plaster strips and shove them in the holes a little bit, just so that the edge of the nose is clear on my cast (the balled up plaster will amount to negative space on your final cast).
  • Allow your two halves to completely dry before messing with them. I let mine sit outside in the sun for a day. You can also fix cracks and major flaws with something like ApoxySculpt or FreeForm Air, but it’s not essential. After all, this is a ROUGH product in the end… it may not be worth the extra time to fix flaws.
  • Glue your halves together, carefully making sure they are locking in place in the exact same way they did on your model’s head. I actually completely failed the first time I tried making my own cast… I didn’t accept help, and my two halves didn’t lock together cleanly. When I glued them together they looked fine, but the cast came out clearly crooked.
  • Fix center seam on inside of the mold by applying a couple strips of plastic along the center line where the two halves meet on the INSIDE of your mold. Then apply a few layers of plaster on the outside for structural support.
  • Spray the inside of your mold with a couple coats of clear coat to help protect the plaster from the Ultracal that you are about to pour in.

STEP 7: Casting with Ultracal

Another disclaimer: I AM NOT AN TRAINED EXPERT. This method could be totally bogus, but I’m here to tell you that it worked… TWICE. Here’s what I did:

I filled a 5-gallon bucket about 1/4 full with sand, then balanced my plaster mold on top, pressing it into the sand enough that it would stay in place on it’s own.

I covered the opening to my mold with a damp paper towel, then filled the sides of the bucket (on the outside of the plaster mold) with sand to hold everything in place. Plaster is pretty week… supporting the sides of your mold with sand helps reduce the likelihood of the ultracal busting through and leaking everywhere. It also absorbs some of the moisture that is excreted as the Ultracal cures.


I mixed up some Ultracal. I wish I knew what to tell you about measuring; I ended up waisting a LOT of Ultracal because I just mixed what I thought might be enough. Ultimately, I would guess about 1/3 of a 50lb bag will do for your cast.

I bought some cheap plastic containers from IKEA, knowing I would just dump them at the end of this process. I estimated how full I wanted the container to be, then filled it with water to the half way point of that estimation. Then, I used the “dry river bed” method of measuring Ultracal, meaning I sifted in the Ultracal until it reached the surface of the water enough to crack a bit like a dry river bed (middle photo below).

Then mix. I personally like to just put gloves on and mix by hand (hence the long flat IKEA container… the ultracal wasn’t too deep for a gloved hand to mix), but you can also use an electric mixer or drill with mixing attachment. It is critical to break up as many clumps as possible!


Last but not least, I poured the Ultracal into my plaster mold, allowed it to cure for an hour or two, and ripped the wet plaster off to reveal my HIDEOUS, but effective life cast!




So here’s the problem. I have many wonderful friends with incredible talents… none of whom I trusted to entomb my face with plaster and algaenate. I was, however, able to find a willing assistant to at least cover the back of my head, knowing full well that the most important parts to get perfect were around the neck where a prosthetic would attach and the face, both of which I could easily do in a mirror. This process is hardly professional, and it certainly isn’t perfect, BUT IT CAN BE DONE ALONE.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about sculpting, casting, and painting prosthetics!

LIARA (Mass Effect) Armor Build: 4. Body Suit (and arm piece sneak peek)


Didn’t take long to get sick of trying my armor on with jeans and a t-shirt… Pictures are so much more satisfying with a body suit!

Yaya Han recently came out with a line of sewing patterns (and heinously expensive fabric). I’m pretty happy with her “ultimate body suit” pattern. I’ll be using one uniform fabric and coming up with some system for going to the bathroom easily for the real suit.  But for now:

I rounded off the collar shape and added some gold piping to customize this pattern for Liara. All around, the pattern was pretty easy to work with— I recommend it. Just know they mean it when they say “for fabric with 2 or 4 way stretch ONLY.”

And of course, having finished my suit, I tried on some armor. I’ll be posting about the arm pieces soon… they still need some detail paint. But here are some spoiler pics!

Mass Effect Armor Build- Liara breastplate shoulders

LIARA (Mass Effect) Armor Build: 3. Weathering Foam Armor

I mentioned in my last post that I was not completely happy with my foam armor until I “weathered” it… it makes a HUGE difference. After painting several layers, and filling in all of the details with black, the chest and stomach pieces still just looked cartoony to me…

So, weathering…

Since I sprayed all of my armor with glossy clear coat, I wanted to rough it up a bit before painting on the dirt layer. I used a coarse grit sand paper to scratch the surface in random patters. Just like with the battle damage, be logical! Edges, high points, and “battle scar” surfaces will be the first to weather, so apply some scratches there!

To make the armor look dirty, I used paint mixed at about a 1:1 ratio with water. The diluted paint is then applied thickly to the pieces, and “dabbed” or “wiped” off to look like smudged dirt. I started with a black coat all over the pieces, then spot-applied a brown coat. For both, I used the following technique.

And there you have it… this one simple, but critical step was the ONE thing that made me finally say “Ah ha!” and like my armor! It’s a small difference, but a really important one!

(I recommend another clear coat after the weathering layers, as this diluted paint is extra easy to smudge, scratch, and remove all together!)

Coming soon: Shoulders, biceps, and forearms! I’m on my third try, FYI, and I think this one is a charm. 🙂

Mass Effect Armor Build- Liara breastplate and shoulders painted

LIARA (Mass Effect) Armor Build: 2. Breastplate continued… detailing and painting

DETAILING: I have to admit right off the bat that I am no expert at detailing. The results have all been passable, but I’ve seen clean in my local stores, so that’s a thing… Regardless, you have some options for making fine details in foam: 1. dremeling, 2. burning (with a wood burning tool), 3. cutting lines and using the heat gun to expand them, and 4. hand sanding. I’ve done a bit of each.

I drew out my details in sharpie on the breastplate and used the above methods to burn/cut lines. By far the cleanest looking lines come from making cuts into the foam with a razor and quickly running the heat gun over them, though they come out quite thin. If you look at the image below, you can see that the outside two lines (those that start at the neck and run down along the sides toward the chest) are nice and neat and thin—they were made with this method. The inner neck details and center lines were made with a wood burning tool.


One thing to think about with the fine lines, however, is that they are sometimes easily filled in by the paint application and appear even smaller. This method is really not an option for larger lines and details, hence the wood burning tool.

(BTW, I bought a wood burning tool at my local craft store for $13.)

DREMEL. BUY A DREMEL. DO IT. DO IT NOW. I used a sanding stone bit on my dremel to smooth and round all edges of all pieces. Hand sanding is an option, but… well… it sucks.

BATTLE DAMAGE: I put several cuts and scrapes in my foam on purpose, knowing I would later paint them to look like battle damage. Be creative! I ended up poking little stab holes in, making large cuts, and even hand-picking at the foam a little to make it look like it’s seen some shit. (Look at the above picture again for reference.)

PRIMING FOR PAINT: After a lot of research (and facebook stalking), I found what I think is the widely accepted method for painting:

  • Step 1, prime your foam with modge podge— This seals it (or closes the cells or something fancy-pantsy) so that you require less of each of the following steps.
  • Step 2, spray at least 3 layers of “plasti dip.” You can get this in “brush on” form too, but the spray distributes way more evenly. And, BONUS, your finished sprayed pieces look a lot like Batman armor. I was tempted just to leave them.
  • Step 3, BASE PAINT. From what I can gather from the internet, you can use pretty much any paint at this point, but the more flexible, the better. So, for instance, if using spray paints, make sure you buy those that say they work on plastic, not just wood and metal.

PAINTING: I have one word for you… LAYERS. The silver parts of this piece are a mash-up of about 5 different silvers. I started with a dark base coat (a gun-metal sort of color), the layered lighter silvers, spraying different areas on purpose to get some spotting and speckles. You can see some of the different silvers below… In this particular case, I was OK with blotches and obvious “mistakes” in the paint since the armor is meant to look battle-worn anyway.

From here, I taped off sections and applied toothpaste… That’s right, TOOTHPASTE… read on.

CRACKED PAINT EFFECTS: The main reason I painted the entire piece with all of the silver layers, even in spots that were ultimately meant to be a different color, is that I planned to leave some “exposed metal” spots in all of the different colored sections. This is where toothpaste comes in. Apply globs to any spots you would like to protect from paint, let them harden (I didn’t wait because I am impatient, and it still worked… just a little harder to clean up later).

Be logical in your decisions for toothpaste placement: I figured some of the gashes I made would have some chipped paint around them. Edges are another obvious spot for weathering.

OK, so obviously there is more to tell about painting. A LOT MORE. I will post again soon with detailing with paint and weathering. But for now, here are some important tips:

  • Layer your paint to avoid a flat look and to keep the paint strong and durable. I used clear coat (glossy in this case) between many of these layers too.
  • Clear coat any layers you plan to apply tape to, and make sure they are REALLY dry before taping. I waited about 24 hours, and the painter’s tape still left marks on the areas to which they were applied. I left these marks and chalked them up to “weathering” and “battle damage,” btw. 😉
  • Cracks do happen quite easily, especially if you bend your pieces after painting… make sure you’ve fully shaped your foam before you start painting. This includes creating your connection points. I carved spots for all buckles before painting!


Below are some teaser images of the finished chest and stomach plates, including the detail paint and weathering. I want to throw it out there that I wasn’t happy with how these pieces were looking during almost the entire process of making them. Even after I painted the details and lines, the colors just looked too… cartoony. It wasn’t until I applied the final coat of “weathering” paint that I liked them! The moral of the story is, don’t be discouraged if your foam pieces don’t look amazing right away. Keep going, try lots of things, and don’t panic. Paint is always re-paintable, and foam is super cheap. OK, now teasers…

Here is finished paint BEFORE weathering…


And here is it AFTER…


LIARA (Mass Effect) Armor Build: 1. Inspiration and Breastplate

Time for a new project. I’ve never worked with foam before… Liara, though admittedly NOT my favorite Mass Effect character, offers a chance for a fun makeup in addition to some basic armor. GOLD. So, here goes…

STEP 1: References

A couple of tutorials/blogs inspired me…(Bioweapons shows a complete N7 armor build, both male and female Shep! So great! AND Emmabellish shows a simplified life casting process and a broken down molding/casting/application process!).

I chose my armor:


Pretty similar to standard N7… missing collar, different textures. A few more references:


STEP 2: Patterning

I wanted to pick ONE piece of this costume to work from start to finish, just for the sake of learning the medium, and the breastplate seemed like the most important hurdle to overcome. After this I’m hoping to slow down and build all of the armor pieces before painting and attaching.

BREASTPLATE: I hand-drew a pattern, drawing only one half and using tracing paper to make sure everything is symmetrical. In terms of sizing, I just tried to measure major landmarks (For example: nipple-to-nipple, ladies… it’s a reliable measurement, amazingly).

Next step was tough… I needed two identical half-spheres, each just smaller than the size I wanted the breasts portions of my armor to be. DOLLAR STORE. Found a Nerf ball that seemed to work for size, but I was really hoping for something rigid. I cut the Nerf ball into halves and covered each half in worbla to add structure. The below device is comprised of these nerf/worbla spheres nailed to a wooden board and a sheet of plexiglass cut to the desired “underwire” shape (which took a few tries, by the way). The foam was stretched over the globes and pressed with the plexiglass to form a hard line.

I used the oven to heat the pre-cut piece of foam (250 degrees for about 10-12 minutes), then shaped the plate over my breast mold for about 3-4 minutes. I used the heat gun, too, after the initial shaping, just to make the underwire line as crisp as possible. Once the cups were formed, I removed the plate and hand-shaped the entire piece to fit more snugly (neck and sides bent inwards, for instance).

VOILA! We have a breastplate.

Coming soon: Detailing, painting, and weathering!