Forming and shaping EVA foam, custom patterns, wiring LEDs, fans and servos, rigging, strapping, sealing, painting, weathering, and bringing all that together for the final product. What started out as a simple design project turned into an ambitious first-time-ever full-on bring-a-character-from-a-video-game-to-life endeavour! Here's how I built Raynor's armor from Starcraft 2 from scratch!
For videos on suit-up, walking around, hand movement and other tests check out my YouTube channel!
Step 1: Design and Research
Before you begin a build of any sort, pick a subject or character you really like. If you aren't all together interested, the chances of abandoning the project are much higher. In other words, don't start what you don't intend to finish because it would become a waste of both time and possibly money.
That being said, start your research on your character. Dig up as many screenshots and videos as you can so you have an accurate reference to go by. Many characters in the Comic universe have many different looks or costumes, so pick one that you like, but also that has enough reference that you can accurately reproduce it. Find out how they move, what they're clothing or armor is made of, and keep an eye out for all the little details.
Unless you're the type to build your own suit from scratch with nothing to reference, in which case skip this step as I tip my hat to you. I've seen wondrous and impressive things come from the minds of builders.
The character I started with was the Terran Marine from Starcraft 2. Luckily, there is a wealth of reference for the suit, so I put together a library of photos I grabbed from the game, as well as fan art, scale models, and videos of builds others had attempted before.
I modeled the entire suit to scale using SolidWorks, basing the size off a virtual mannequin scaled to my own height. I used sketches of the armor to make sure I had proportions right. Three angles are typically enough, front, side and rear. If you don't have access to SW, any 3D modeling program will do and many of them are free. Blender is a free program many users turn to because its learning curve is gentile and it specializes in character modeling.
I started at the feet and worked my way up, piece by piece. Luckily with this armor, it's symmetric so I only had to model the left hand side, then mirror the entire thing over to the other. Once the model was done, I broke it out into pieces to begin planning how I'd build each part.
After even more research, I found what I thought would be the best medium to work with for the large stature and elaborate shapes of the armor. EVA foam! With that knowledge, I gathered together everything I'd need to get to work.
Step 2: Tools of the Trade
Being a suit of armor, something dense but lightweight would work well for my design. Since the entire thing is based off of a steel (or something) shell, I didn't have to use cloth for any of it, so sewing is not something I'll cover in too much depth, tho I did work a little with vinyl for the holster. More on that later.
In addition to the foam itself, here are just a few of the tools you'll need if you plan on using EVA: (all prices are from Harbor freight)
1. Heat gun - like a hair dryer but can get much hotter. $14.99
2. Razor blade - use either replaceable blades or a sharpener. they dull really fast! $5.99
3. Dremel Tool or similar rotary tool - with lots of sanding bits $29.99
4. Jig saw - hand held or table mounted $22.99
5. Palm sander - for smoothing out surfaces and rounding corners $17.99
6. Barge or Weldwood Contact Cement - for gluing pieces together $4.98 3oz bottle, $11.98 32oz can
7. Soldering Iron - for carving in details, connecting wires, and burning fingers $3.99
8. Hot glue gun - a must for foam builders $21.99
9. Air Brush - for painting of course! $19.99 (and a compressor to go with it)
10. Duct Tape - great for.. well.. pretty much everything! $4.49/roll
Also some safety equipment. Trust me, you'll be glad you have these...
1. Safety glasses - if you don't know what these are for, put down the power tool... $1.49 (well worth it)
2. Rubber Gloves - protection and cleanliness all in one $10.99 50ct
3. Respirator or mask - keeps particles and fumes out of your lungs $1.99 - $16.99
4. Fire extinguisher - you know, just in case.
5. Duct Tape - seriously, it's a life saver!
Step 3: Material Manipulation
EVA foam is a closed cell (meaning dense) foam that is primarily used in anti-fatigue floor mats. I used 1/2" thick sheets that I found in packs of 4 at Lowe's. Typically one side of the foam is textured for grip, the other is smooth. You can purchase it in rolls or mats of different thicknesses depending on your needs for your armor. The beauty of this material is that, when heated, it becomes soft and pliable. It can be stretched, bent, and folded to create any shape you can think of. As it cools, it will hold whatever shape you've manipulated it into.
In addition to these, which made up 95% of construction, I also used the following, also available at your local hardware store.
1. PVC pipe - varying diameters, including elbows, tees, and PVC cement
2. Flexible PVC, or PEX pipe. - I used 1/2" but it comes in several sizes.
3. Plywood - just for the bottoms of the feet, don't need much.
4. LED's and wiring - several online stores, get resistors too
5. Acrylic domes - custom made to order, beware long lead times.
6. ABS plastic sheet & rod - bought 24"x24" sheet x 1/4" thick and a 1/2" x 48" rod for about $15 (plus shipping)
7. Cardboard - 'nuff said
8. Open cell foam mattress - the kind you take camping, soft but easy to carve
9. Strapping and Webbing - to attach all the pieces to my body and each other. Check StrapWorks.com
10. 1/4" wide fabric elastic & 1/8" paracord - for the finger movement
11. Miscellaneous screws and hardware
And finally, not required but it can definitely speed things along, a 3D printer, or at least access to one. I was fortunate enough to have a coworker who printed a whole bunch of things for me. Thank you coworker! More on that later as well.
Step 4: Start at the Bottom
Just like my 3D model, I started building the feet first. I started by building PVC platforms that fit my shoes. I used 5/8" plywood for the foot bases and platform, then attached the PVC to the wood with pipe straps and screws. I had 3D printed some feet to be able to attach the PVC to the bottom piece as well. I had planned originally to make the toes flex with a piano hinge, but due to improper planning (at this point) further building rendered the toes too stiff.
I designed a heel stop that sould contour to my shoe as well as add a secure place to mount the straps to hold my foot to the platform. I 3D printed the heel stop and screwed it to the top platform, then ran the straps and buckles around the top.
I began wrapping the feet with several layers of EVA foam, cutting it into pieces large enough to cover my shoes and form the outer layer of the feet. Using your heat gun, slowly heat up the area of the foam you want to make a change to. Heat both sides evenly before you make your bend or it will want to spring back into its original shape. Keep the heat gun moving though, as it can start melting the foam if it gets too hot! I bent the foam around the heel to match the contour of the wood, then stretched the toe into a dome using a football to push against.
If the shape is too complex, you may have to cut reliefs into it and glue the edges back together to get it to bend enough.
This was entirely trial and error but it turned out pretty good in the end. I got lucky, but I learned a lot in the process. Don't be afraid to experiment! You never know what you might discover on your own!
Step 5: Beginning to Pattern
With my 3D models done, I needed to find a way to translate that 3D data into a real word model. After exhausting most of my research channels, I looked over and saw a small saber tooth tiger skeleton puzzle. I'm sure you've all seen these but for those who haven't, the bones are laser cut in wood and grooves are added at strategic points to be able to fit them together to resemble a figure. Now imagine covering that figure with cloth or clay to fill it out and give it a covering. Boom, inspiration hit.
I modeled cross sections into the various body parts that I could print out and cut out of cardboard. I built my own frames from the cardboard to get a positive that would form the inside of each section. There is no real science to deciding where these sections are, but try to think where they would best serve support to the overall shape of the thing. Top and bottom surfaces, highest and lowest faces, drastic changes in shape. Play with them a bit to make the foam manipulation as minimal as possible. The less extreme you have to bend or stretch the foam, the better it will hold its new shape. I glued all the sections together and added some soft foam to fill out the shape.
Cover the entire thing in aluminum foil, no glue or tape here! Just lay it out as flat as you can manage over the entire surface.
Next, wrap the entire thing again using duct tape. Again, try not to crease the tape, follow the contours of the piece.
Using a permanent marker, draw lines over the surface of the tape following your frame edges as best you can.
ProTip: Thanks EvilTed for this tip! Along each of your marker lines, draw tick marks every couple inches. This will help you align the two pieces later once you're reassembling.
Using your razor blade, cut along the lines and extricate your new flat pattern! Then make small cuts around every tick mark. Again, this will help later on.
Lay your pattern out over your foam, try to minimize waste by arranging the pieces to best fit on your sheet. Trace them onto the foam with your permanent marker or ball point pen, including the cut out tick marks.
Use your razor blade to cut out all the pieces. Don't cut the tick marks! They're only there for reference. Also, try to keep the blade as vertical as you can, this will help with alignment when you go to assemble them.
Sharpen your blade (or replace it) often, as the foam can dull it in less than a few linear feet of cutting. Clean, crisp edges are the key here. The glue will adhere better, the edges will merge cleaner, there will be less cleanup down the road.
Once you have all the pieces cut out, grab your heat gun and warm one of them up, then you can use your frame as a guide for shaping the foam. Once you've got a hang of how the foam works, you can use your knee or some other tool to help you stretch the piece into shape.
Finally, once the pieces are in about their final shape, coat the edges with your contact cement. Wait about 10-15 minutes for the cement to dry, then press the edges together firmly. Be careful lining the pieces up, once the cement touches itself, it's stuck! It'll destroy the foam before it'll pull back apart. Sometimes if you screwed up really badly, you can use your heat gun to heat up the seam and you may be able to pop it back apart to try again, but this has to be done quickly after touching the glue together, or it dries and sticks forever.
Step 6: Repeat As Necessary
I ended up repeating this process for every single body part of the armor, which ended up being about 19 more times. Lots of cardboard, lots of duct tape, lots of foil. The tally in the end was:
2 calves, 2 thighs, 2 shoulders, 2 upper arms, 2 forearms, 2 hands, 2 exhaust ports, cod piece, front and rear armor plates, rear torso hood & torso body.
Luckily the legs and shoulders were just mirror images, which means all I had to do was flip the patterns over before I traced them onto the foam, so I only ended up building half of one of the frames and making the foam pieces four times, two of which were backwards.
Step 7: Getting a Grip
I wanted to build robotic looking hands for the suit but I wanted them to be functional. After even more research I found a method that uses elastics along the back of a hinged finger and cords along the inside. This allows the user to flex their finger and have the oversized one do the same, but when they relax the elastics take the finger back to straight.
For MkI I designed a frame for each section of finger that would connect together, get strung with the cord and elastic, then coated in expanding foam and carved into shape. Halfway down that path I hit too many obstacles so I returned to the drawing board for a redesign.
For the MkII I decided to build the outer shell and the inner mechanics into one piece. Same elastic/cord theory but the finish work was significantly less. Again I turned to Helpful Coworker and his 3D printer to help me build these. Lots of assembly later and I had a complete set of digits! I mocked up a mounting frame from cardboard to test out the movement, then traced and cut the design onto 1/4" ABS plastic sheet. I added loops to the mount for my palm and wrist and lined them in foam for comfort. They attach to my arm with velcro straps.
Finally, I designed the finger holds, tied everything together and tried them out. Kind of heavy, but they worked just like I'd hoped!
P.S. I'd be happy to share the files, but they required far too much post-printing work in order to get them functional. I was still learning about 3D printers and the tolerances and they don't work without about two weeks worth of drilling and sanding. I'll modify them and get them posted here when I get the chance if there are enough people who could use them!
Step 8: Devil in the Details
I used several methods to detail each piece. I started with my soldering iron. Once hot, you can carve grooves into the surface of the foam. I used this to make the parts look like they were made up of different plates stuck together. Bonus: you can even use the iron on existing seams so they're impossible to see later!
Other details were added using 2, 3, and 6mm thick craft foam. These too can be heated and stretched then glued into place to add depth to a part. For the thinner foam, I used 3M Super77 spray adhesive due to the large surface area. for thicker pieces I used hot glue.
Step 9: Sometimes You Just Have to Wing It
For those pieces that don't lend themselves to flat patterns or frames, you will occasionally have to form the foam completely by hand. Don't be afraid to try new things! The knee joints, knee caps, hips, outer forearm layers, left hand and most of the torso had to be free formed with trial and error, trim and glue, guesswork and estimates. You can even take an existing pattern that you've made and modify it to make it work for your new part. I hadn't designed the knee joints in my model so I had to figure out the best way to mount them inside the calf and thigh pieces. lots of cutting to shape, bending into place and starting over from ruined pieces finally got me close enough to a functional joint.
I added short pieces of PVC pipe to the joint to give it a smooth face to ride on. The thigh piece fits over the outside of the knee of the calf, so the pipe is smaller to fit inside the larger pipe of the knee for a pivot joint. After they were finally mounted together, I made the PVC hydraulics for the knees and mounted them up inside the thigh and behind the kneecap. PVC pipe is great, as each size fits nicely inside the next larger size. It lends itself well to rotational joints, as well as linear joints such as hydraulics.
Positioning of those "hydraulics" was all trial and error. I ended up cutting the pipe shorter several times to make them fit right. Again, don't be afraid to experiment!
Step 10: Time Consuming Torso
The torso was by far the most complicated piece, and I wasn't able to make patterns for any of it, save the main shape of the inner most layer. This was the time to get creative. Much approximating began with the points that would stick furthest out from the chest. The exhaust ports in the back, the power cells in the front, the collar around the helmet, and the protrusions out the back. The construction was entirely EVA foam, with supports to hold the outer panels in place, then the filler built in around those in layers. I added a flexible PVC pipe frame to the inside to give it some stability and to provide a place to anchor other bits and pieces like the shoulder harness, wiring, shoulder mounts and so on.
In my attempt to free-hand much of the shapes, I cam across yet another method to get approximate flat patterns. Start with a bunch of masking tape and start building the shape you're going for. Leave extra tape around the edges to secure the tape to the part you're attaching to. use a marker to trace the outline of the shape, then remove it and cut it out along those edges. Test fit against the main piece again to make sure the edges touch everywhere they should, add tape or trim as necessary. once it's the right shape, lay it out flat, cutting reliefs as required to make it lay flat. Trace that pattern onto your foam and it'll get you 80% of the way there. Heat up the foam and bend it into shape, then there may be a small amount of tracing to do to get it to fit just right, but it'll be much easier than starting with the foam.
Step 11: Strapping and Suspending
I got all my strapping and buckles from StrapWorks.com, mostly 1-1/2" webbing and black plastic buckles. I built a harness out of the straps and attached it to the codpiece, kind of like suspenders. I also added support straps to the knees and hips to support the weight of the legs on the waist so they wouldn't droop.
This worked fine for the lower half of the suit, but after wearing the top half for a test fit I discovered it was far too much weight on the thin straps on my shoulders, so I switched from the webbing to a tactical H-harness and belt. I attached the harness to the torso, and the belt to the codpiece, then they could strap together to distribute the weight better.
As of writing this, there are still a couple quirks with the straps and I'm in the process of refining them, so I'll post an update when it's complete.
Step 12: Let There Be LED Light!
I wanted to add lights to the torso, as they are in the game, so I bought flashlight reflectors on EBay, and glass lenses to match. I managed to find some that were the right texture and size for what I wanted. I drilled out the hole in the middle for the bulb and glued in a 10mm Ultrabright LED. I wired all the lights together and ran it to another battery pack of AAx8 for 12v, then a rocker switch to my hand so I could turn them on and off on the go.
Next I added a snap switch to the torso and a blue and green rectangular LED right below. These were to simulate the HUD projected on the wearer's face. I wired the switch in a normally closed configuration, and positioned it so when the visor swings down, it closes on the switch and cuts power, thus turning off the LED's.
I added 190mm LED lit PC fans in the exhaust ports in the back to keep me cool, and wired them up with a Dx8 cell battery pack to make sure they would run long enough.
Everything is wired directly to switches and battery packs, no arduinos or chips of any kind.
I also added a speaker just behind the helmet. I used a personal voice amplifier with a microphone routed around to just in front of my face. I didn't want the speaker to be on all the time, so I opened the housing and cut the wires to the rechargeable battery. I then added another snap switch to the other side of the torso, opposite the HUD light switch, but wired it normally open so the speaker would only turn on when the visor was completely closed. That way, I could close the visor and people standing around me could still hear me talk.
Step 13: Automate It With Servos!
The visor/helmet is made up of three main pieces, each has to fit inside the other. From my model I knew the diameter of the domes I'd need for all three, so I found an opaque globe from 1000Bulbs.com that was the size of the largest. Quality of these globes is fantastic and the price was very good. I traced the pattern of the cutout onto the outside then lined the area with tape to protect the edge and used my dremel with a cutting wheel to remove the section of plastic.
The two inner domes are 1" diameter smaller, each. I found a place online that molds these kinds out of crystal clear acrylic so I could see through when it was closed. I repeated the cutting procedure on each. Then, I wrapped the middle dome in 3M carbon fiber-patterned vinyl just for style.
I wanted to mechanize the system, and make the two inner visors functional so they weren't just a static piece of the suit. I acquired two 6v servos and pulleys, then build mounts for them out of 1/4" ABS plastic sheet that could then mount inside the torso. I designed a pulley system that fit snugly in the small space I had between each dome, which doubled as the mounting hinges for the domes. I 3D printed each pulley and mount, pressed 1/2" diameter ball bearings (from McMasterCarr.com) into all four of the pulleys, and ran a 1/4" aluminum dowel through the middle to hold the stack together. The left servo controls the inner dome, the right controls the middle dome.
I ran an o-ring around both servo pulley and dome mount pulley and wired up a switch so I could control the rotation of each dome remotely. The switches are double pole, double throw, momentary switches that act a lot like window switches from a car door. For instruction on how to wire such switches, take a look at this Instructable. Thanks to the author for that one! Two switches, one for each servo, and both wired to a AAx4 box for 6v of power.
Step 14: I Can See Clearly Now...
I've seen many people who want to build a visor they can see out of, but appears chrome or colored mirror from the outside. Here, folks, is my answer for y'all!
First, my advice is to take a scrap piece of material and practice with an air brush. Thin layers, consistent coating, no splotches. Control is the name of the game here. And patience. Lots and lots of patience.
I used three different paints for this, Alclad Chrome, Tamiya Acrylic transparent red and yellow, and Alclad Klear Kote laquer. You will have to thin the acrylic with an airbrush thinner liquid, or it can clog the nozzle of the airbrush and cause the spray to spatter. The chrome and clear coat can be sprayed without thinning.
First, spray a super thin layer of the chrome on the inside face of the visor. Check the look from the outside and if you think it needs more reflection, add a second thin layer. Too thick and your visibility through the plastic will suffer. Don't worry about it being completely mirrored at this point, when you attach your visor to your helmet or whatever, and cut all the light coming from behind the chromed piece it'll be nearly impossible to see in. However, be very careful about handling the chrome as it will rub right off the surface, and leave fingerprints that can be seen from the outside.
Next step, mix your colors of transparent acrylic paint for whatever color you want the visor to be. I used two parts red to one part yellow, and thinned the mixture about 50/50 with the thinner. Spray several light coats of the color onto the OUTSIDE of the visor. Keep going in thin layers until you get the color you want, but be warned, the more layers you put on, the harder it will be to see out later. At this point, vision thru the visor will be almost nothing, and the finish will be dull and blurry. Don't be afraid, that's what the clear coat is for.
Wait a while for the color to dry. I waited overnight just to be sure it was dry. Switch to the clear coat in the airbrush and spray a medium-thick layer on the outside of the visor, over the color. Don't spray too thick or it can run and cause drips. Let that layer dry completely once more, and spray a second medium layer of clear over that. Once again, let dry. If you've sprayed it right, at this point your visor should look completely mirror finish without even polishing it! Finally, spray the inside of the visor with a medium coat of clear to protect the chrome.
I took an extra step after this and added a hexagon pattern to the visor. I cut hundreds of small hexagons out of vinyl and stuck them to the outside surface, spaced evenly apart across the whole thing. I loaded the chrome in the airbrush again and sprayed another thin layer over the outside. Then, one by one, I peeled off the vinyl hexes to reveal the pattern left behind. One more coat of clear over this, and it was complete!
Note: Use a very mild vinyl, as overly sticky stuff will not want to come back off the surface and can damage the paint as they're forcibly removed. Lesson learned the hard way...
Step 15: The Last of the Foam Construction
I added the final pieces of foam to the build, upper arms, spine, boots, and codpiece. Everything here was basically a single pattern repeated a couple dozen times. Details were added with 6mm craft foam and dremelled into shape.
The codpiece details were made up of a center line of EVA foam, layers of the soft mattress foam surrounding it, another layer of EVA, everything carved to shape then wrapped in 2mm craft foam. To use foam to "wrap" something, I sprayed glue over the entire surface of the part being wrapped, then heated up the 2mm foam sheet and stretched it onto the glued surface, pressing it onto the shape to get it to stick to all the different shapes.
The rear of the codpiece was pretty much just guesswork. Mounts for the rear armor plate, then blocks of EVA to fill in the gaps. There's not much reference for this part of the suit so I made do with what I had.
For the spine, I heated a PVC pipe and contoured it to my back. I then added foam supports on either side of it and hot glued the fins down the center. I added short bits of PVC pipe along the sides and wrapped those in 3mm foam for the hose connections.
Step 16: Just Shrug It Off
Mounting the shoulders was one of the trickiest obstacles I had to conquer. I tried several different methods to make the shoulders mount to the torso, but they also needed to be able to rotate freely. I started with another globe from 1000Bulbs.com to create a location for rotation. I wanted a spherical joint for maximum mobility in the shoulder, and added a double layer of EVA sandwiched around the sphere with 1" elastic and attached that to an internal frame for the shoulder bell. Good rotation, but too much friction and not enough strength to keep it on the dome.
Eventually I attached a thick PVC pipe to the inside of the torso that extended out to the edge of the shoulder bell and attached it there with a push-button quick disconnect. Made for a good pivot point, and the PVC was strong enough to support the weight of the arms. Sold! I was also able to route the wires for the servos thru the pipe and down to the hand where the switch was mounted.
After the first complete suit-up, I found I needed a little extra help supporting the hands, so I designed a bracket that hooked to the pipe and I could hang the hands on it using bungee cords.
Finally, I attached the upper arms to the shoulders using more webbing so they'd move free but still act as one piece. My own arm would snake thru the torso, out sideways into the shoulder, bend at the elbow into the upper arm of the suit, and the hand would hang from my wrist down below the upper arm. Sound confusing? It was.. and quite uncomfortable.
Step 17: Two More Coats.. and SEAL It!
There are countless tutorials and tips out there about how to finish off EVA foam to get a good, smooth surface finish and a durable, flexible coating. Here's my take on that!
Before anything, use your heat gun to go over the entire surface of the foam to make sure it's all heat sealed. The foam pores shrink when exposed to heat, and smaller pores mean less coating. If you've heat formed the entire thing (like I did) then this step has already been done! Move on.
Next, you need to sand the seams that didn't line up quite right on assembly. Using 400 grit sandpaper, sand the edges down to be as flush as possible. The great thing about using contact cement for all the foam is it too will sand down! Hot glue will just melt and gum up the sandpaper. Hit the sanded areas again with 600 grit, then the heat gun once more to burn away all the fuzzies that occurred during sanding.
I used Kwik-Seal caulk, spread into all the seams to fill them in and make them flush with each other. It can be wetted down with water to smooth it even more before it cures, and can even kind of be sanded once it is.
Once all the seams and corners have been sealed with the caulk as desired, the real fun can begin. Although there are dozens of methods, I chose one that worked for me based on budget and time I had left: Plasti-Dip! This is a rubberized spray that adheres very well to the foam and seals it, providing a great smooth surface for the paint to stick to. Spray 5-6 medium layers of the Plastidip evenly over the entire surface of the part, letting each layer dry for about an hour between coats. You can do less, depending on how smooth you want the surface to end up, but the more layers you put on the better it will look and the more durable it will be.
Step 18: Authentic Battle Damage!!
Slashes, near brushes, bullet ricochets, psi-blade cuts, claw scratches, tooth gouges, shrapnel fragments, glancing explosions. Every bit of damage has a story behind it. Some moment worth bragging about that death was evaded yet again, although narrowly. Every chip of paint, every sun-bleached imperfection draws a picture of the life lived within the bounds of that armor. That is what weathering means. It means bringing the world that character lived in on your computer or in your TV into our world, dark and grisly as it may have been. The fine line between imagination and reality. The difference between wearing a costume and becoming a character.
Ok enough poetry, on with the show! The most teeth clenching part of the build so far: damaging what you've spent so long building. Using a combination of razor blades, soldering iron, heat gun and dremel tool with sanding bit, I went to town on damaging the armor, as if it had been in many dire battles of Zerg, Protoss and Dominion forces.
Using a razor blade, cut small valleys into the foam in a "V" shape. These can be used for deep scratches, of if you arrange the cuts in a star pattern, a bullet strike. You can achieve a similar effect using a sanding bit in a rotary tool, starting by holding the tool at an angle to the surface and removing material bit by bit. For slag burns or melting effects, you can actually melt the foam using your soldering iron or heat gun.
Any way you decide to do it, think about where damage would occur in a fight. Try to imagine where the suit would take the most abuse. Place your damage, and have fun with it!
Step 19: Make Look Nice
Next up is the primer! After the plastidip is sufficiently dry, spray a minimum of three coats of primer. I used a Rustoleum Automotive primer, both grey and black.
Protip: Thanks to Bill Doran of Punished Props for this one! When spraying primer, spray a coat of light colored paint, then sand the surface once it's dry. Spray another layer with a darker primer, sand again after it's dry and the high spots will sand away, revealing the lighter color primer underneath. It's a good way to see where the surface isn't completely flat or even. Repeating it a third time with another light color and sanding once more will show the high spots once more, with the darker color peeking thru.
After sanding the whole primed surface with at least 600 grit, wipe it all down with a clean cloth to remove all the dust. Now you're ready for base coat!
Step 20: Mask It Off
Masking time! Using the most delicate masking tape you can find, mask off the areas that you intend to keep the base color. If the tape is too sticky it can pull the paint/plastidip/foam apart. Trust me, you don't want that to happen, at this point repair is very difficult.
You'll also want to mask off the damaged areas that would have cut through the paint into the metal beneath, as well as paint chips off corners and such. For that task, I picked up some cheap toothpaste and a small, soft bristled paint brush. I watered the toothpaste down just a little with water to make it slightly foamy. It helped in the removal process as well as using much less of the paste.
Paint the tooth paste into the crevasses of the damaged bits, corners that have worn over time, and any other area you think may have lost paint over the years of using the armor.
Finally, you can spray your main color onto the armor. I sprayed 2-3 light-medium coats of a satin black. You don't need to let it dry completely to remove the tape, especially if you put the paint on too thick. It can peel up with the tape around the edges, so I removed most of the tape after letting it dry for only an hour or less. The toothpaste should be left for longer so you don't wipe the color off, but not so long that it dries up. That makes it even harder to remove.
It took months of deliberating on my part trying to come up with the right colors, and the right character! Blue for Tychus, red for dominion, orange just to be cool and different, but finally I settled on black for Raynor. I have a soft spot for the guy after playing the game for several years. Which opened the door for the definitive tell: his pistol.
Step 21: Six Shooter for a Sheriff
I modeled Raynor's pistol in Solidworks using screen captures from the game and reference photos from the sixth-scale Sideshow Collectibles toy. I modeled it with enough detail that the bullets could be taken out of the chambers and the entire cylinder could spin and rotate out for reloading. I wasn't sure how I'd get the model out of the computer into my hand, but I finally broke down and bought my own 3D printer: a Makerbot Replicator 2 that uses PLA plastic. I printed the entire thing out piece by piece over the course of about a week, glued them all together using superglue, and sanded the entire thing as smooth as I could. PLA doesn't sand very well, and it won't melt with acetone like ABS so it took a long time to start making a difference.
There were a couple larger gaps between a few of the pieces that I wouldn't be able to fill with primer, so I bought some Epoxy-sculpt. I'd never used the stuff before but apart from Bondo I couldn't find anything else that I thought would bond well with the plastic. ES is a two part clay that, when mixed together 50/50, creates a clay that can be manipulated into any shape, or pressed into cracks to repair damage. Once it cures it can be sanded down or carved to refine the shape. I finished sanding those spots and got to work on the paint.
I started with a high-build filler primer, several coats worth. It does a good job of smoothing out the surface of 3D prints, but many of the smaller details were lost. I didn't have the time to redesign and reprint those parts, so I figured I'd just repair them during final painting.
More sanding after the primer until it was smooth, then I started laying on the base coat silver. After two layers of that, I hand painted the handle to make it look like wood using acrylic paints, dark brown and burnt sienna. Final painting step was the weathering, which I'll cover for the entire suit in the next step.
Step 22: Weathering and Final Details
This could be the most fun part thus far! I found a place that makes custom water slide decals, and is even able to print in white. As I understand this requires a special type of printer that is no longer made, so this was a great find! I designed all the required decals and lettering that are placed all over the armor and a few weeks later received back several large pages of decals. These are the same decals you'd get in a model kit, where you cut them apart, soak them in water, then slide the lettering off the paper onto the work surface. They dry and stick quite well, but to make sure they done flake or chip off, they are best coated with a clear spray. First, however, the weathering.
I used black acrylic paint and a chip brush to slather the surfaces, making sure to especially get in all the corners, cracks and damaged areas. I used some cheap wash cloths I got at Wal-Mart for 25 cents each, dampened them with water and wiped/dabbed the paint off the surface. This takes most of the paint off, but it'll leave it in low areas such as the lines cut with a soldering iron. All of the exposed silver (that was masked during the painting phase) was given an even wash of paint and dabbed off to leave it looking dirty and grungy. A damp paper towel will also work, but I liked the texture the wash cloth would leave on the part.
The very last step was clear coating the entire thing, top to bottom. I used two coats of Rustoleum matte clear spray, totaling about 8 cans. I probably could have done more, but time was running out.
Step 23: A Place to Hang My Hat.. Err... Gun
The final piece of the puzzle was the gun holster. The one in the game is leather with a steel cap, but I've never worked with leather nor did I have the time to stretch/tan/stain/stitch before my deadline was up. I chose a fabric vinyl that looks like leather from my local Joann's store and some thick cord that looked good for the stitching. Lastly I used a bit more webbing for the straps to hold the gun in.
I started the process with a duct tape version that I could make a pattern from. I wrapped the gun in aluminum foil and wrapped that in duct tape, cut the whole thing in half and cut reliefs around the bottom where the curve was sharpest. I wanted the holster to have some shape and support like it would if it was actually leather, so I transferred the pattern to 3mm craft foam and heat formed the inner layer of the holster. I then transferred the pattern once again to a scrap piece of cloth so I could test fit it and make sure the pattern was the right size and shape. I'd never done this before so again, trial and error. I sewed together the halves of the cloth version, and (although stunning) it was slightly too small so I added a little extra around all the edges when I transferred once more to the vinyl. I sewed up the vinyl halves after adding a little more seam allowance and slid the foam insert inside for a *near* perfect fit.
For the straps I used 1" wide webbing and cut strips of vinyl 1-1/2" wide, folded the strips around the webbing and sewed the edges down.
The cap on the end of the holster was 3mm craft foam, cut to shape, heat formed around the end of the holster then sealed, primed, painted, and weathered the same as the gun and armor, along with the buckles.
I designed and 3D printed the buckles for the straps, as they didn't have to be functional just look the part. I glued them to the straps and sewed a snap to the back of the top strap, it's mate to the right location on the holster. I then reinforced the thread holding the snaps on with hot glue.
Lastly, I made a mounting pad from EVA sheet, 1/2" thick, and used spray glue over the entire thing to wrap it in the vinyl leather as well. This I attached the straps to, then attached the entire thing to the right thigh using adjustable plastic push rivets (thank you McMaster Carr, once again!). The holster then dropped into the straps, the buckles snapped closed and the gun could sit comfortably in it's new home. This entire process took about six hours beginning to end, not counting waiting time for drying paint.
Step 24: Completion! It's About Time....
6 months of design work, 18 months of building, four glue guns, 14 packages of EVA foam, 45 cans of rubber and paint, and of course, blood sweat and tears all add up to the biggest project I've ever taken on.
To clear up a few questions I've had,
It stands about 7ft tall at the tallest point, the shoulders are 56" across, the boots are 23-1/2" long.
The entire thing weighs in at 90lbs, the heaviest piece being the torso, including three battery packs.
I've had some problems with the design of the hands/fingers, so I'm working on a Mk3 version, coming soon!
I only have duct tape patterns, so unfortunately I don't have any digital files to share, apart from the fingers, which as I've said need some work to make them really usable. I can share them, but be forewarned.
No, I can't go to the bathroom in the suit. I'm not Tony Stark. Although I'm only able to wear it for a little over an hour and I don't know anyone who can't go at least that long between bathroom breaks.
Mobility of the shoulders isn't as good as I'd like, so I'm working on a solution for that too.
Yes, both visors can open and close independently.
If I've missed your question, comment below and I'll be happy to answer!
Thanks for watching, and I hope I've taught a thing or two, or at least inspired someone to bring their imagination to life like I have.