Not only is Halloween just around the corner, but so too is Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I don't know about your house, but Star Wars fever is high in our home this year.
Not surprisingly, my son wanted to be Luke Skywalker for Halloween this year. Of course, Bespin Luke simply wasn't enough. Dad needs a fun project, so we brainstormed, and he decided that he wanted to be Luke decked out in his X-Wing gear.
This isn't a terribly tricky build, though it is time consuming. I'll try to take you through all the steps you will need to recreate what we've done here. Mainly, you're going to need foam, fabric, glue, and a bunch of trips to the hardware store.
Good luck, and may the Force be with you!
Step 1: Helmet and Chest Box Construction
Rotary Tool (optional, but really nice)
Pepakura Designer Software
Helmet .pdo file (See attached - PDF version also included)
Chest Box .pdo files (See attached - PDF version also included)
1/4" Foam Sheets (I use cross-linked polyethylene)
Hot Glue Gun
Spray Primer (gray)
White Spray Paint (matte)
Red Spray paint (matte)
Various acrylic paints
Spray Clear-coat sealant (matte)
Not surprisingly, the helmet is the most time-consuming part of this costume. You will need to have at least a passing familiarity with Pepakura and how the program works to be able to make this helmet using the files. The process really isn't terribly difficult, but it does take some practice.
Pepakura is a program that can turn a 3D model into 2D pieces that you can cut out and reassemble like a puzzle. There are lots of great tutorials to get you started. I recommend looking here first.
As far as Pepakura projects go, this one isn't terribly difficult, so it's honestly not a bad place to get started.
If you're used to using Pepakura, you know that most of the files are set up for construction with paper. I prefer the faster, cheaper approach, so I use foam. I have modified fierfek's original files to make them suitable for foam construction. They can be downloaded from this instructable.
You will need to print out the templates. Some people like to print them on cardstock. I simply print them on regular paper, as it is more cost effective, and works just as well for me.
Cut your paper templates carefully. You'll want them nice and clean for the transfer to foam. Some people use scissors, but I much prefer using an Xacto to get nice clean edges.
When you have your templates cut, you'll want to transfer them to your foam. The way I like to do this is to go over one side with a glue stick and then stick the template down to the foam so I don't have to hold it. The glue is thin enough to not cause any problems.
When your templates are stuck down, go over the edges with a thick sharpie, which will leave you clear outlines to cut out. The templates attached to this instructable are only one side of the helmet. Since the helmet is symmetrical, you can just cut the pieces twice to get the other side (if your foam is textured on one side, you'll need to flip the template before cutting again). Be sure to cut on the inside edge.
Mountains and Valleys
Once the pieces are cut out, you'll need to check your templates to look for places to cut mountains and valleys. Again, this isn't terribly difficult. Any place that needs a mountain cut will have a dashed line. Trace along the line on the foam and make your cut. Cutting a mountain means cutting a v-shaped channel along the line. You can then fill the channel with glue, bend it to the desired point, and wait for it to dry.
Any place that needs a valley will have a line made up of dots and dashes. Again, trace the line on the piece. Cutting a mountain simply means cutting along the line about halfway through the foam (1/8" down), allowing you to bend the foam the other way.
What Do I Do With All These Pieces?
When you have all of your pieces cut out, it is time to begin building. Throughout the building process, it will be essential to pay attention to the reference pictures in Pepakura. You'll need to know which way to angle your edges (using a rotary tool, ideally, but this can also be done using your Xacto) and where to glue the pieces together.
Now it is time to heat your glue gun. Hot glue will be more than sufficient to keep your foam together. To try to get the seams as tight as possible, it is best to go a little at a time. However, if you end up with some gaps, don't worry too much about it. If you look at movie stills, you'll see that there's significant battle damage on nearly everyone's X-wing helmet, and Luke's in particular. You can fill the gaps, but they won't look all that bad.
If you have trouble with an edge, don't fear! Use the tip of the hot glue gun to slowly loosen the seam from the inside, and you'll likely be able to try it again.
Go slowly. Patience is your friend here. Make sure you're constantly checking against your reference.
Step 2: Helmet and Chest Box - Sealing and Painting
Gray Spray Primer (matte)
White Spray Paint (matte)
Red Spray Paint (matte)
Black Spray Paint (matte)
Various Acrylic Paints*
Sealing The Helmet and Chest Box
It is technically possible to just paint the foam pieces as they are, but it is inadvisable for two reasons. First, the propellant in the spray paint will eat through many kinds of foam. You've put a lot of work in so far. This would be a bad time to find out that your foam is one of them. Second, even if the foam is fine, it will soak up the paint like a sponge. Sealing the foam will give you a better finish, and use less paint.
To seal the foam, you'll need to spray it with Plasti-dip (or Flexi-dip or other equivalent product). Spray multiple light coats or it will start to pool and you'll have a poor finish. I generally like to do 3-4 light coats. This stuff is BAD for your lungs. You should really wear a respirator. Please.
I allow the plastic coating to dry overnight. Then the pieces are ready for painting. Give everything a good coat of primer. You can use any color of primer you like, but I use gray because I can let that be the base color for the chest box as well. When Halloween is on the line, time is more important than perfection.
Once the primer has had a few hours to dry (again, I like to leave it overnight), you can start in with your paints.
The base coat is easy. Just spray the helmet/chest box all over (again, using multiple light coats until you have satisfactory coverage).
Once you have a good base coat, it's time for embellishments. There are three types of embellishments that you'll be doing. The majority involve lots of masking tape.
For large areas of color, like the stripe on the top and the red on the sides of the mohawk, you simply need to tape off any areas you don't want painted. Make sure your tape has the edges pressed down well. To cover large areas you don't want painted, you can cut up pieces of plastic shopping bags and tape those over the foam (so not to use more masking tape than necessary).
To get the finer details, particularly ones you want very crisp, you'll need to make stencils. This is very easy to do. Simply print out the image you want (I've included ones for the Red V hemlet) at the size you want them. Tape them down over the masking tape (I generally use 2", and even then I have to overlap multiple pieces sometimes), and carefully cut them out with your Xacto knife (with a VERY sharp blade).
To use the stencils, cut a hole in a plastic bag large enough for the stencil and stick the tape over the hole. You can then stick the stencil down to the surface (being sure to press it down VERY well), and spray over it with your spray paint (again, use multiple light coats. if you go too heavy, it will seep under the tape).
Peel it up, and you'll have awesome graphics!
Painting by Hand
There were some graphics that I simply couldn't do stencils for, so I ended up doing those by hand. Using small paintbrushes and acrylic paints, I just took my time and followed the reference pictures. Most of the graphics right under the mohawk were painted this way.
If you don't want to procure acrylic paints, you can spray some spray paint in cups and use that as well, but it is messy, and the paint will dry REALLY fast. It can work, though.
Once your paint is done and has dried, it's a good idea to put a couple layers of clear coat over all your foam pieces. This will make it more durable, and give you a bit of weather resistance.
Step 3: Helmet and Chest Box - Finishing Touches
Washing Machine Hose
90 degree PVC elbow
Black Spray Paint
Army Green Webbing
Large Snap Hardware
The visor is simply a pair of yellow tinted safety glasses with the ear pieces removed. I just glued them right in.
In addition, I ordered the chin strap from amazon.com. However, it only came with a black cup, so I gave that a quick blast with the white spray paint. One end of the strap is glued inside the helmet, and the other is attached with velcro (which is glued in.. the adhesive won't stick to the foam on its own).
The silver piece on the chest box is the back part of an extra large snap for clothing, glued into place.
The hose is a dishwasher hose. One end is inserted into the bottom of the chest box, and the other is glued to a 90 degree PVC elbow, which is attached to the suit (just under the armpit) with velcro.
The straps holding the chest box up are green nylon webbing that are attached at the back with velcro.
Step 4: Jump Suit Construction
McCall's Pattern M4951
Blaze Orange Fabric
Yep. You're going to have to sew.
The McCall's M4951 jump suit is nearly perfect for this project. Sewing the suit is pretty straightforward. Cut out the pattern pieces, trace them onto the fabric, cut out the fabric, sew together inside out, and invert. You have a jumpsuit. The suit is pretty baggy, so your seams don't have to be perfect, but you still want to take your time and get them as straight as possible.
There are a few things you will have to add, however. The jumpsuit pattern does not have pockets. We didn't make actual pockets. We just made the top flaps of the pockets and sewed them on (on the legs and arms) so that the suit looks like it has pockets. The flaps are the most important part. They are just hemmed rectangles of orange fabric sewn on to the suit. One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to make them bigger than you think. You want them to be seen from a distance. Up close, they look kind of absurd, but from only a few feet away, they stand out just right. Also, it helps to put on the jump suit with the boots when you're deciding where to place the pockets. There's no sense in attaching a pocket that will just be buried in the boot.
In addition, you need to add a Mandarin style collar. You should be able to eyeball it (like we did). In fact, I've provided a picture above so that hopefully you can follow it. We made the collar separately, and attached it afterward. It allowed us to make adjustments, and the seams are all hidden quite easily.
Step 5: Accessories
Gray Seat Belt Webbing (2" nylon)
Black "Canvas" fabric
White "Canvas" fabric
Silver Spray Paint
White Nylon Webbing Straps (1")
Flexible Rubber Tubing
To do a good job with the accessories is important. This is what takes you from a good costume to a great one. That means paying attention to reference pictures. I've included the one we used the most above.
A Note About Velcro
You or your child will be walking around in this suit. The adhesive on the back of velcro is simply not strong enough to handle that. Wherever you can, sew the velcro in. Wherever you can't, use hot glue at the very least.
The Flak Vest
All of this was eyeballed.
The bases of the flak vest are cut from the white canvas material. I just free-drew the shape on and cut it out.
The ridges in the flak vest are from small cuts of semi-stretchy white fabric sewn down on the chest pieces cut from the white canvas and stuffed with rubber tubes. Make the ridges only slightly bigger than the tubes, and then sew the edges down to the canvas. Leave the ends open so you can stuff the tubes in at the end. Be sure to leave space on the back for the strap to hold it all together.
You'll also need to attach velcro. We used velcro on one shoulder strap and one chest strap.
I used a pair of those ugly rain boots that were popular with girls a couple of years ago. I found them at a local second-hand kids' clothing shop (first try!) and brought them home. I had to hack about 4" off of them, and did a terrible job, but it doesn't matter because the jump suit covers the top of the boot, so you can't tell in the end.
The bandolier for the leg flares is just a strip of black canvas (long enough to fit around the top of the boot) velcroed together at the back of the boot, and hemmed at the edges. Another small piece runs horizontal and is sewn with intermittent spots to hold the flares. I just stuck the flares in, pinned down the strip, pulled the flare out, and sewed it in. Easy as pie.
The flares themselves are simply a dowel I cut into 3" sections, then sanded round at the ends. I then sprayed them with silver spray paint (didn't even bother with primer) and glued them in.
You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a large, silver, figure 8 buckle.
So, I just made it out of epoxy putty and spray painted it silver. Good enough.
The belt itself is simply a 2" webbing strap that connects with velcro. I made it tight enough to hold a lightsaber, but lose enough not to give him a weird waste. I did sew across the ends to keep them from fraying. I'm not really sure whether or not that was necessary, but it took about 2 minutes, so I think it was worth it.
Again, you have to eyeball it. The 2" gray webbing looks perfect. As long as you have all the pieces, it will look great. The loops around the legs probably need to be higher than you expect. We found that setting the "hang point" (where the loop straps are sewn to the groin strap) just above the back of the knee was perfect. We had to re-do them once. Sew it all together with gray thread and you're good to go.
The groin strap attaches (permanently, no velcro) to the bottom front and back of the flak vest. It's easy enough to step in and out of it, and if you use velcro, sometimes the flares will catch and pull it off (at least, that was our experience).
Remember to leave a way to get in and out of it. When in doubt, use more velcro rather than less.
Making gloves is beyond me. I'm ashamed to admit, I used these
Step 6: Final Thoughts
My goal is not to get you into the 501st, or help you make the most incredibly screen accurate costume ever. I want you to be able to make a fun, head-turning Star Wars costume that you or your kid can wear for Halloween or to The Force Awakens and can be proud of.
My rule of thumb is this: Make it look good from 10 feet away. Nearly all of your pictures will be that way, and nobody but you will look at it any closer than that.
If this looks intimidating, don't let it scare you off. There is nothing here that takes genius or ability that you yourself can't manage. I'm a beginning costumer, so I'm not pulling off anything incredible here.
Get some foam and paint. Start crafting! May the Force be with you.