Last year I completed my personal favorite turtle, Mikey. It took me 1 year to complete the costume, but there couldn't be just one turtle. SO, it was a must that I complete his three counterparts. After 2 years from the birth of the idea to create the ninja turtles, they are finally finished and ready to clean up the streets!
Step 1: Research
First thing I did was to buy the TMNT dvd set. I watched all the movies to refresh my childhood memories of the amazing films. All the movies are amazing but I had to go with the first movie's costumes. The nostalgic value and just awesomeness of the original costumes can't be beat.
I did some research and figured the best approach would be to sculpt the entire costume. Even though I had no experience at sculpting, I wanted something challenging. My first sculpts were laughable. But with the encouraging help from members at the Replica Prop Forum, I was able to hone in on my sculpting and the improvements speak for themselves.
Step 2: Materials
Most of the products used were from Smooth-on. Great quality products.
Alja-Safe® Skin Safe Crystalline-Silica Free Alginate
Plaster of Paris
Chavant NSP Soft
EM-217 (WED) Clay
Ease Release 200
Ease Release 200
Dragon Skin 10 fast
Ease Release 2831
Hobby Fabric Paint
Psycho-Paint (silicone paint base)
Silc-Pig (silicone pigment)
NOVOCS (silicone thinner)
Step 3: Armatures
An armature is the base used for sculpting. It is used to save time and the amount of clay used. It also helps ensure the proper size for each piece. It would be awful to sculpt a piece that would not fit later.
Options for armatures include:
• Lifecasting- A process used to get an exact replica of the body part. Expensive but guarantees proper sizing.
• Duct Tape Dummy- A cheap alternative but not as accurate.
• Pre-made Foam Pieces- Another cheap alternative. At local hobby stores, you can find foam heads and even arms. Not exactly the correct size but can be used.
In building my costume, I used all three methods. For the head I used a pre-made foam piece, for the forearms and legs I used a lifecast, and for the upper body I used a duct-tape dummy.
Step 4: Sculpting
This is the creative step. There are several types of clays out there and each has their pros and cons. For everything except the shell, I used Chavant NSP soft clay. For the shell I used a water-based clay.
The process is simple but not easy. You simply add clay to the armature until you get a rough shape of the desired piece. With the help of sculpting tools, you can then get the piece to the exact shape. The final step is to use a texture stamp to give it the finished look.
Sculpting takes practice but is forgiving. Nothing is permanent and can be redone in the sculpting stage.
Step 5: Molding
To turn the sculpt in to a usable or wearable piece it must first be molded.
Here is the steps that I personally used.
1) Apply a release agent to the entire sculpt.
2) Mix and apply a thin layer of silicone to the entire sculpt to pick up all the detail.
3) Mix and apply additonal silicone to fill in any undercuts.
4) Mix and apply silicone until a uniform layer of 3/8 of an inch is achieved.
5) Add registration keys to the sculpt to aide in proper alignment lager.
Plasti-Paste Mother Mold
1) Build a dividing wall along the high ridgelines of the sculpt with clay.
2) Add registration keys to the clay dividing wall.
3) Apply sonnite wax to to the silicone mold and dividing wall.
4) Apply plasti-paste material in a uniform layer of 3/8 of an inch.
5) Remove clay wall and repeat as necessary.
Remove mold and mother mold
1) Slowly and carefully remove the mother mold from the silicone along the dividing walls.
2) Once the entire mother mold is removed, draw a cut line for peeling of the silicone mold.
3) Carefully cut up the cut line until the silicone mold can be removed from the sculpt.
Put the mold back together.
1) Be sure the silicone mold is clean from all clay and debris.
2) Lay the silicone mold into one side of the plasti-paste mother mold.
3) The registration keys will ensure the silicone sets properly in the mother mold.
4) Line up the cut seem on the silicone mold.
5) Place the other half of the plasti-paste mother mold over the silicone mold.
6) Strap or screw the plasti-paste mold together to make it a solid structure.
Check out these links from smooth-on
Step 6: Casting
Now that the molds are finished it is time to cast in the desired material for the final product. For my build I used dragon-skin fast silicone. The material is flexible and long lasting. Perfect for all the ninja moves that Mikey will be performing!
1) Apply a good coat of releae agent to the inside of the silicone mold.
2) Mix and SLOWLY pour the dragon-skin material into the molds. (Helps remove in air intraptment)
3) Continuosly rotate the mold until the dragon-skni material evenly coats the entire mold.
4) Add more dragon-skin until a good even thickness is achieved.
5) Open the mold and gently remove the dragon-skin cast!
*Same process is used for the foam shell, just different materials*
Step 7: Painting
Now that you have all the pieces casted it is time to bring them to life. For all the silicone pieces you must you a silicone paint. The reason being that the only thing that bonds to silicone is silicone.
For the foam pieces a fabric paint works great.
1) Clean the casting first. A paint thinner or mineral spirits will work.
2) Mix your base color. For a silicone paint, you will mix the equal parts of psycho-paint parts A and B with the Silc-Pigments. (The silicone pigments only come in the standard colors so you will have to practice at mixing pigments to make the desired color.) Then mix in the NOVOCS silicone paint thinner. Now it is ready to be airbrushed on.
3) Add accent colors (yellow)
4) Added shadowing and details(brown)
5) Blend the colors with another coat of green.
Silicone paint is transparent so be bold with your colors as they will blend with each additional coat.
Just like painting any fabric.... pretty straight forward.
Step 8: Accessories and Details
To finish off the costume add the accessories!
For the head:
Custom eyes from tech-optics
A custom bandana (Orange of course)
Teeth were sculpted and casted in plastic
For the body:
Custom pads and belts were made.
Purchased some dummy weapons and added paint and leather to them.
Step 9: Harnessing
Harnessing is fairly simple with this build, but is still important. You want to make sure everything stays where it should be.
The shell needs to have some strapping like a back-pack sewn in to hold the shell to the back. The front portion of the shell is held in place with the belt and some overall straps.
Step 10: Suit Up or Put Them Out for Display for Everyone to Enjoy on Halloween!
After 2 years of work, the Ninja Turtles raided downtown Dallas!
Photo Credit: Jacob King http://www.appleguyofdallas.com
Mikey: Nathanial Hummel
Raph: Casey Womack
Don: Daniel Hooberry
Leo: Leonel Urias
Fourth Prize in the
Halloween Costume Contest
abelg18 made it!