2014 m. birželio 12 d., ketvirtadienis

10 things worth remembering when making your costume and/or entering a competition

I am an occasional cosplay judge, and I have two more cosplay competitions to judge this year (as far as I am aware), one of them is for EC. I thought I would share the things that I notice and pay attention to during a judging. Surely all of it depends on all the cosplayers that have entered, and they set their own standart, so the judges have to judge accordingly, but in an ideal world, your costume(and mine as well :)) would be...:

1. Proportianate. A simple issue that can ruin the entire look, no matter how detailed or neat your costume is, if you have too small weapons or way too large knee pads - that is quite a serious issue, so it is worth taking a time in the beginning to scale your character down according to your size and getting these proportions right before you start cutting your materials.

2. Ironed. This may seem silly, but I have seen lots of cosplayers on stage with un ironed cloth pieces. I have no justification for this, and "not having an iron" is also not really an excuse, because I am sure you can borrow one, and you can take your costume to the con on a hanger. Ideally you should choose fabric accordingly to how messy it gets after wearing or handling, and stick with something that does not require ironing every fifteen minutes or so. Iron is also a must have when you are just sewing a piece, for example, to iron out your patterns at first, then to iron out the fabric before you even cut it, to flatten out the seams in the inside of the garment, to get the edges of bias tape nice and flat, to heat on appliques, to make the fabric more sturdy with fliseline, and a thousand more uses. Actually, me and my very good friend and collegue at work have this saying "if faced with a problem - try using heat". It works both in a sewing department and in prop making (heat gun), I have solved thousands of problems that way :))

3. Your seams should be finished on the inside. That's pretty much self explanatory, when looking on the inside of your seams, I expect to not see fraying edges.

4. Your costume should have all the details that are in the reference. This is rarely the case, but generally the more details you will have transfered, the better for you. I will absolutely notice them all :-) I will also give bonus points if you can take of a part of your costume and underneath there is still an accurate costume, and not a hidden tangled mess. 

5. You should have more than one or two techniques in your costumes. If your favorite material and the only thing you work with is EVA/WORBLA/SINTRA (insert any), try and make some details using something else, e.g sculpt them in polymer clay, carve them out of xps, cast them, and so on. The more techniques you will have in your costume - the better, this is the thing that EC judges actually look for.

6. There should be no hot glue or any other glue clearly visible on your costume. Also, pretty much self explanatory so I don't think it is needed to dig deeper into this.

7. You should have neat seams and surfaces. Now I am not really talking about the clothing seams, of course they have to be neat, but there may be required to have more seams than your reference does, because for example an artist just draws a naked character in anime and then draws on some clothing, obviously that will not work in a real world, so you need to make seams for a fitting garment in quite a few places. This is not the case for the props! I understand you need to make this part out of a few pieces, because you cannot bend the material that way from one large piece, I do this all the time and I understand it. But I do not understand when the prop is finished and painted, and I can see the extra seams has not been filled out. Or I can see them overfilled and sticking out. It is supposed to just not be there, guys, you can make thousands of seams while making your prop, but the final piece has to have just as many as your reference does. The surface can be smooth or it can be textured, depending on your character, but it should not have your fingerprints and other things that do not belong there :)

8. Your paint job should make sense. Now that is something that I would like to see more often than I do.Things to consider is not only the right colors, but whether you need to have a color solid and glossy, or matte, maybe darker to the edges, maybe two toned colors, dark or light undertones, etc etc. Look at your reference and see more than just a color. Also, I think that artificially painting on highlights with something white-silver is really a bad idea for a 3D object (with some exception in cartoony character cases), it will look awkward and obvious from more than one direction. You should aim for natural, blended highlights, that will actually bounce the light of your prop. Metalic surfaces: do not use metalic paint spray paint cans. They have thousands of shiny particles in them, sort of glitter like, and your sword blade ends up looking like a brand new silver colored Toyota car.

9. You should have weathering. I guess I must say what weathering is. There is a huge common misconception that it's all dirt, grime, and battle damage, and if your character is "clean" and "noble" he will have none. That is not truth. If your armor has edges, there will always be darkened seams right next to them, because if it catches any dirt ever, it will be impossible to remove. There will always be something in the areas that a hard to reach and impossible to clean, so think about that. It is incredibly obvious to me if a costume has or has not been weathered at all, so a little goes a long way. Just make your character "real" and not a toy figure, that's about it. Think about who your character is, what elements is he or she (or even it) exposed to, how old are the pieces that are being worn, which era are they from, and many more. 

10. You should be happy and proud of what you did. It is too late to think what you could have done better when you are standing in front of the judges, just defend your costume as best you can! ;-) 

2014 m. vasario 3 d., pirmadienis

Worbla: smooth surface magic

All of this information is also available in the write up of my Noble Tac Officer's costume, but this a condensed and Worbla-only oriented tutorial to everyone who ever wanted to know how to make it's surface super smooth. Absolutely smooth, to be exact, without any indication to an original surface or any imperfections that lack of skill (my case) may do to your piece. I will also cover pattern making and general construction of Worbla, however, Kamui Cosplay has an amazing book about that, I suggest it for every beginner and even advanced user, it pretty much explains everything besides the "magical" surface.

1. In order to create some unconventional patterns for my shoulder piece I have used Cobracast (got it from www.mycostumes.de) to copy the form of my own shoulder, it literally took me no more than 15 minutes, I have used ~10cm strips, heated those up one by one and placed them on my shoulder.

2. Looking at the reference I have sculpted my shoulder piece from a soft plasticine (cheap, reusable, and pretty easy to work with, no special tools required, I used my fingers and a single blade from a utility knife).
It took me around 4 hours to complete.

3. Using painters/masking tape, I covered the entire piece with it, marked all the edges/connection spots, peeled it off, and cut it to small patterns, two patterns for each shoulder piece part. It is important to glue it onto paper or the same masking tape, so you have them not sticky and holding the curved form, do not flatten those or they shall not work as patterns! :)

4. My character had two exact, mirrored shoulder pieces, there patterns worked for both of them onto craft foam, and then twice from Worbla so you would have "sandwich material".

Above are all the pieces for one shoulder piece.

5. Make Worbla sandwiches (how to do it you can read in a book by Kamui Cosplay) and press them at the edges, just following the pattern, the patterns will just fall together due to the curve! :)

6. And now - the magic! Even though the raw Worbla creation looks pretty neat, everyone knows that it needs some kind of surface work, be it gesso, wood glue, or my favorite spray filler. In case you need the surface that looks spotless and without any texture, this is the way to go.

a) spray it with spray filler or primer

b) be shocked by all the imperfections revealed

c) put on regular filler for indoor work (just the stuff carpenters use, nothing fancy is needed)

d) wait for it to dry and sand it carefully

e) be amazed by how perfect it's starting to look. To ruin that impression - spray it with spray filler or primer again :D

f) repeat c), d), a), untill there is no more b).

7. It is very relative as to how many coats of filler and primer you may need: it depends on what your expectations are for the smoothness, how messy was your original work, how well do you sand, etc etc..:) I needed 8 rounds of sanding for this one, but only first 3-4 rounds are significant, the rest it, what I like to all it.. licking :))

8. Primer/Spray filler being the last coat, your surface is ready to take in any paint! Very gentle sanding (1000 grit for example) before painting so paint sticks better.

I get my Worbla and Cobracast from www.mycostumes.de

List of all suppliers:


Book about cosplay armor making by Kamui Cosplay: http://www.storenvy.com/products/3889360-ebook-pdf-the-book-of-armor-making

2014 m. sausio 30 d., ketvirtadienis

Noble Tac Officer's Leather Set and Bow: cosplay costume write up

I have played Aion: The Tower of Eternity since open beta in China, and waited for about two years till it was out. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. I'd even play it now, if I had any time to do it, Aion is a very demanding game about being online every day (daily quests, limited purchase of craft items once in every 24 hours or so, arena fights, tickets, flower watering :D) if you want to do good, and my extensive cosplay hobby gets in a way of that :) fun fact - every time I played Aion (had to start over when it transfered to Gameforge, but I was happy to) I was an armorsmith there! My latest character Dulcinea the asmodian cleric is even a master armorsmith. Hopefully I can be that in real life too, at least cosplay-wise.
However, the outfit I chose from Aion is a leather armor. I just really wanted to finally learn to sew, also it was a time before Christmas, and snowflakes stole my heart.

Here are some of my references:

As you can probably notice, the in-game bow looks purple in the gems areas, but both concept art and wallpaper were blue, same in the modelviewer, so there wasn't much discussion, I stuck with dark blue.
The bow was made out of pvc foam board, 5mm thick sheets, to be exact. The right amount of same part pieces were cut out, all glued together with cyaoacrylic glue, and then shaped with a rotarry tool. Later sanding, filling, and more sanding and then more filling took part. Here are some pictures so you know what I'm talking about:

 It wasn't actually cut with the utility knife you see in the picture, but with a an electric saw (Dremel motto-saw)

 Filler all over the parts.
 Center bow part: glued, shaped, filled, sanded. Right before last coat of grey primmer, widely known as Spray Filler. I use it for almost everything.

The bow has sparkly blue gems visible from even an inner side, so I made 8 thin strips from PET plastic, painted each with nail polish by tapping the brush all over the thing with about 10 different colors and glued those to every side on the bow "wings". Look over here:

The same technique was used to create the gems for the snowflakes and tiaras:
 These gems are made from crystal clear resin  and painted with nail polish from the side of the flat back. Starting with glitter, and finishing with the darkest navy blue one can find.
The good side of the gems is later sprayed with glossy acrylic varnish  giving it lots of sparkle!
I made the snowflakes for the costume, as well as entire tiara, also from crystal resin. I have first coppied the patterns from my references using photoshop (I also used it to get proportions), and cut each different snowflake branch out of thick paper:

And then I sculpted on top of each pattern, using a toothpick, a needle, and my fingers. My sculpting tools were on the way from abroad, and I only had my large sculpting tools at hand, clearly not suitable.

This on the left is the smaller snowflake branch I had to make. You can find it around my large (relatively) gemstone on the tiara.

I baked all the snowlfake branches (I was using Super Sculpey to make them), and molded in Mold Max 30 silicone rubber, and then kept pouring those molds with crystal resin, once every two days, as it took days for each branch to cure :) I finished with all the snowflakes only a day before the shoot due to that, but one of my main goals with this costume was to have snowflakes, that look like ice. The hexagon are made from either polycarbonate plastic (large ones), or also resin (all the small ones).

I sanded the back of each branch as resin poured over the edges at times, glued every snowflake together with Bison contact transparent glue, sprayed all of them with acrylic gloss varnish for extra icey shine, and put some silver gilding wax at the edges from the back side, for even more dimension and a cold gradient look.

Back to the progress of the bow: the center part. Two sheets of pvc foam board were used for the base, one full, and one with holes for the gems cut out:

After that I took some of my favorite material - Apoxie sculpt, that is air dry, super sandable, and fairly easy to work with and sculpted all the 3D details on it. By then I already had my super amazing sculpting tools in, so it was much more fun. 

Two days later, eveything is sanded and sprayed with spray filler:
And after it was painted and gemstones inserted (gemstones surely made the same way, and the "cross" part is 3 layers of translucent colored film in purple, blue, and silver foil all on top of each other. I have used white acrylics spray paint and spray paint can in gold, which was later washed in brown acrylic water, and further "killed" by a clear coat. 

I have also used... a pencil with water to add some dimension to the white parts on the entire bow, it's amazing what you can do with it, just dip the pencil tip in water and draw on the edges and cavities of the prop, and clean ir off with a cloth - not everything cleans off, and the weathering effect from the pencil is silver-grey, which is exactly what Noble Tac Officer's Bow needs.

The last part of the bow front is made of Worbla. I have heated the material to a putty state and made swirls of it, then built around somewhat of a patterns, coppied of this, not sure if you can see what is supposed to be there. I know I couldn't, so I did my best:

As it is somewhat silver yet gold, I decided to spray paint it in silver and add golden gilding wax. I think I am satisfied with what came out of it. Below is the bow in the final stages of the assembly, as I made it in 9 separate parts: base center part, two side "tails", 4 wings from each side, the front top part and the tip I just wrote about. There are also some gems in the tip as well, made from crystal resin and painted from the back in beautiful glossy purple.

Now, on to the armor! I have taken something like a "cast" of my shoulder using Cobracast:

And then sculpted the shoulder piece looking at the reference from plasticine just to be used for patterns:

I covered the sculpt in painters tape, marked the edges of each part, peeled it off and cut it - equals patterns (below)

I then cut out these patterns from craft foam (twice, for every shoulder) and 4 versions of each in Worbla so I could make the worbla-craft foam sandwiches:

 I learned the sandwich technique from Kamui Cosplay, everyone who hasn't should check her out. She even has a book about working with Worbla, and I surely am a proud owner of a copy!

 So I made a sandwich of each part: Worbla - Craft foam - Worbla, and pressed these at the edges, leaving the inside hollow for my shoulder to go in.
 Looks pretty neat, although as soon as I sprayed my beloved Spray Filler, it showed all the imperfections horribly:

And after this I did this routine over and over again: fill the piece with filler, sand it, spray with spray filler (why, you might ask? Because honestly you can't see anything on a piece in grey and white marble, and it also seals the filler in place). You can use regular spray primer for this as well, in any color.

 Lots of filler above
 This is how the piece looks after sanding. After as many rounds of this as I needed (about 8 for each) (filling-sanding-spraying), finishing with spray filler(primer) coat. And so this answers a question I received so many times "how did you get the surface so smooth?" :)
The other part of the shoulders were made from PVC foam board, by cutting, shapping, sanding and filling:

And the finished shoulder piece (left arm, the right has no pauldron with daggers in the game):

Colored in white spray acrylics paint, and the gem-like details are made using transparent films and nail polish (don't want to get into the smallest detail, but I may provide a tutorial later on this, as it's not something I seen anyone do before).

Shoes: I have bought my shoes on Ebay and coated with the same faux leather I used for the dress, and the back details are made from pvc foam board with apoxie sculpt detailing, and the "flappy parts" are chiffon on a transparent clear film, thus giving it studiness but still looking like fabric!
A snowflake was mounted in the middle of each shoe:

As you can see my tights in this picture, I shall now move onto how I made those. I bought regular 40 den grey tights and put those on my dummy legs. Pulled out the snowflake patterns from the references (3 different size snowflakes, exactly as is), cut them out in paper and then craft foam:

Got a pair of extra hands provided by a friend Ieva, and using a textile spray paint, I stamped the tights:

Spray - flip, place, press, press the edges - peel. Repeat for each snowflake, and that's it!

Another part of my costume is the collar: I made it from craft foam glued at the edges (I had first tried a colored foam and painted it, but it cracked all over the place, so then I got some white craft foam and made the collar without paint). I also cut and curled feathers for it, and the brooch is made from pvc foam board with a resin snowflake:

The back of the collar has also two chiffon on a film wings with a part very similar to what on my shoe heels, but I didn't take the WIP photo of it, as it was literally made on the last night and photos was the last thing on my mind :(

Gloves were sewn from faux leather(same as the dress and the shoes cover pieces) and the bracers made from also white craft foam, covered with feathers, to maintain the unique Aion feather look, and yet fluffy:

And now I guess we are finally down to the dress. This was the most scarry part for me. I have not done a lot of sewing before this, definitely no whole dresses in my collection. Thankfully I had guidance provided by my very good friend and cosplay partner Ieva, who tought me so much! 
First I surely sewn a dummy dress from the crappy fabric:

After this I had a hang of sewing straight lines already, so I sewn the original dress from the strechy faux leather (because LEATHER ARMOR :D), with some sequin strechy fabric and a built it, yet somewhat separate strechy underskirt. 

I sewn all the snowflakes on it with a clear sting, and all the fixing of everything on my armor are clear straps - kind of like bras have, you know? They almost completely dissapear in the photos and are super easy to remove if any is left :)

And then lastly I cut my long wig into a shorter one and styled it with some flattening iron and hairspray. 

My guess is, this costume looks much simpler when you first look at the reference. So I thought too, but then when I decided to do every single detail, it appareared my 7 weeks vanished into thin air so fast, I forgot what sleep feels like. Finally I can rest a bit, maybe long into Aion? :D While I do that, check out my finished costume:

Costume, props and model and this horribly long write up: Dulcinea Cosplay https://www.facebook.com/DulcineaCosplay
Make up by Eglė Bžeskaitė
Photos and editing by Indrė Sipaitė Kuodienė
Studio by Tomas Dinda
Support team, santa's little helpers : members of Bearded Pegasus Forge: Ieva, Rokas, Rimas.