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Making Simple Foam Armor 1 by Celyddon Making Simple Foam Armor 1 by Celyddon
So! I figured I would chronicle the steps I use when I make cosplay armor. I find that craft foam works really well! This is the same technique I used for my Deedlit, Umi Ryuuzaki and Lina Inverse armors in my cosplay gallery.

Here are the materials you will need:

Tape (either packing or masking, doesn't matter)
Ruler at least 12 inches long
Pen or pencil
Craft foam (several sheets; at least 3mm thick. I used 6mm here)
Tacky glue
Mod Podge
2 liter bottles if your armor is curved
Fabric in the base color of your armor (I highly recommend a
basic cotton mix, like broadcloth)
Thread in the color of your fabric
Either a hand needle or a sewing machine

Let's begin! I'm demonstrating on my Black Sun armor for Princess Azula (Avatar: the Last Airbender).

1) Grid out a full piece of posterboard in inches or centimetres, whichever you're most comfortable using.

2) Trace out a basic pattern for the piece of armor you'll be making. The gridlines are to help with measurements and proportions. You'll see in the picture above my pattern piece to the left. If you find that you don't have enough posterboard in one dimension, tape a couple of pieces together and re-grid. Really large pieces might take quite a bit of taping!

3) Hold up your pattern to yourself in the position the final piece will be in (i.e. if it's shoulder armor, curve it and hold it on your shoulder). Check the fit and proportions. Adjust as needed--you can always tape more posterboard together.

4) If you're satisfied, take your pattern piece and trace it onto your craft foam. Again, if you're short on foam, use Tacky Glue to glue the edges of two pieces together (make sure it's the same thickness foam), wait for it to dry, then trace. Cut out the piece of foam.

5) If you need to shape the foam to a curve, I found that the least time consuming way was to wrap the foam around a 2 liter bottle, wrap a strip of newspaper around the center of the foam, and tape the newspaper strip down. (Don't tape directly to foam--tape will destroy the foam when removed.) Let it sit for about a week while you're working on the rest of the costume. When you remove the tape/newspaper strip, the foam will hold its curve. You can see two of my shoulder pauldrons sitting on 2 liter bottles in the upper right corner of the picture above! (You can also shape foam over a low heat stove burner or with a hair dryer if you don't want to wait a week.)

6) Trace your pattern PLUS 5/8" ALL AROUND onto your preferably-preshrunk fabric; then, flip the pattern piece over and trace it again (make sure you include the extra 5/8" all around!) for a total of two pieces. The extra 5/8" is your seam allowance. The two pieces of fabric will be sewn into a sandwich, or sheath, for your foam core. My fabric sheath is on the right in the picture; I didn't finish pinning it.
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Thevina Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've been trying to figure out how to make her armor for the longest! Thank you!!!
Celyddon Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
No problem. At any rate, it's the cheap-and-easy way of making it--I ended up redoing the armor later because I didn't make the neck hole large enough. It's much more comfortable now. The image in in my gallery as armor version 2; same method, same materials, just better planning. :)
Comrade-Dave Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm trying to make this armor for myself and my fiance, It's pretty much the same for zuko
s armor thank you this is going to help a lot!
Celyddon Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Best of luck!  I know you guys will look fantastic when it's done.  (Fire Nation, of course, rules.)
Comrade-Dave Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you, unfortunately I'm obsessing hardcore about it, and losing sleep. It's my first cosplay and I'm terrified of messing it up. I wish I had a template or a pattern, I'm new to sewing too. My cardboard templates are a little off and I'm worried about cutting the foam to their specs. Do you have any suggestions, tips or resources for your builds? Zuko's armor is slightly different than Azula's from all of the images I've found and it seems everyone who has made this this cosplay does it differently. The parts that are giving me the most trouble are the top shoulder and chest plate and the chest pieces.
Celyddon Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I'd play around with the cardboard--or even use some EVA foam (those anti-fatigue floor mats) for modeling since it's cheap and easily carved/cut.  Once you're happy enough with the pattern--it will never be perfect, because we as cosplayers are the hardest on ourselves--go ahead and proceed.  If you need actual armor patterns, you might take a look at some of the Simplicity, McCall, and Butterick patterns; they're starting to come out with some soft armor.

It's not worth losing sleep over, believe me.  You'll want all the energy you can muster to work on it, which means getting good quality sleep.  (Bad quality sleep makes it more likely you'll get sick, and then you'll lose a LOT of cosplay work time.)  I drafted my own patterns--I used a ruler and a cloth tape measure across my body to take some basic measurements (figuring out how 'tall' I wanted the armor to be on my chest, figuring out how long I needed the shoulder pieces to be, etc).  Then I took some posterboard--nice and cheap--and gridded it into inches, then did some basic sketching of the pieces onto the posterboard in PENCIL.  That's important.  I then cut out the pieces and held them up to my body to check the proportions and fit.  If I didn't like it, I would tape some additional posterboard to the existing pieces and adjust my lines.  Only when I was happy with my pieces did I trace over the lines with a pen to mark them as 'final'.  (I keep all my patterns.)  Transfer the posterboard pattern pieces to your foam and fabric, then go to town.  That's literally how I make all my armor, props, and accessories.  All of my posterboard is always gridded into inches first so that I can get a sense of proportions.  If I look at a piece of armor--say Azula's chestplate--I go, okay, the pointy ends at the bottom strike right below her ribcage.  So I measure to the bottom of my ribcage, round to the nearest inch, and mark that on my posterboard.  The measurement across the widest part of her armor goes nearly all the way across her torso, so I measure across my torso.  It's all relative measurement.  Once I have a rectangle measured out on the posterboard--with length and width, in this case the height of Azula's chestpiece and the width--then I start sketching in the actual shape so that the final piece has the right proportions.  Again, in pencil until I've declared the lines final.  I use a lot of rulers, French curves, and papercraft templates (those Fiskars circles, ovals, and rectangle templates are great!) for making even/exact lines.  I also keep a few erasers handy.  :)  When you're doing the posterboard-ing, you'll want to start considering how you're going to attach it to your body.  I made Azula's upper shoulder piece as a three-quarter circle--seams are at the shoulders and back; shoulder seams are sewn, while the back seam is separate (like a vest worn backwards)--I used a parachute buckle across the back seam to hold it shut.  You could just as easily use a zipper.  The lower shoulder pieces can either strap around the biceps or be connected with straps running under the upper shoulder piece across the back of the neck, kinda like football pauldrons.  (Sports are a great inspiration for this.)  The chest and back pieces I attached simply with straps running across the shoulders, almost like a backpack, so that the straps were covered up by the shoulder pieces.  Makes it easier to take off.

Hopefully that helps a bit.  There aren't too many resources because I draft everything custom for my body shape--I have low bust, so I can't use most commercial patterns without some sort of alteration in the torso.
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Submitted on
April 1, 2010
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1/45 second
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Date Taken
Apr 1, 2010, 7:14:16 PM