A detailed tutorial on making armor out of craft foam. Specifically, Zelda’s pauldrons from the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Materials: Craft foam!! Kamar Varnish (spray can), gold acrylic paint, black acrylic paint, hot glue gun, elmer’s glue, cheese cloth, a heat gun/stove/some heat source, gold chain and clasps, two round blue gems.
Other: paint brushes, paint containers, scissors/razor, round bowl, cylinder, large workspace
Step 1: Preparing the armor
To prepare your armor to be shaped (and so on), you first need to cut out all of the shapes on a large sheet of paper. The patterns that I used specifically for this Zelda armor are posted. Cut them out after sizing them to your liking and hold the paper over your shoulder to make sure it is the size you want. Trace it over your craft foam and cut. You’ll need to do this twice so that you can layer your craft foam to make sure it’s thick and hard later on. After that is done, cut out the designs on the top part of the armor (the part that goes over the shoulder) and cut out all of the designs of the round armor piece except for the tiny squiqqles that line the bottom. Then once again trace on the craft foam and cut out. The designs are one layer whereas the bottom main piece is two. For the design you didn’t cut out, trace it on the craft foam instead so you can later use it as reference when you’re making that small detail. You are now ready for the next step!
Step 2: Shaping your armor
You don’t need a heat gun to do this part. As a matter of fact, I used my stove for this step! So yes, everyone can totally do this. When you heat shape your armor, you need to warm it up to a degree where it becomes very soft (and does not bubble/burn!). If it does get too hot, it will get a rough texture, turn hard, and not shape well for you. For this step, prepare some sort of cylinder and bowl that has a round bottom. Take the top part of the shoulder armor, heat it up (on the stove I had it at Medium heat so it didn’t get too hot too quickly), and wrap it around your cylinder form (a Pringles can would be perfect for this), and hold it there until it goes back to room temperature. Then your foam should be in the shape you need it to be in! If not, you can always reheat it so you can reshape it accordingly. It took be about five or six times to get it in just the shape I wanted, so be patient! As long as you don’t burn your foam, you can reshape it as many times as you want! For the round armor piece, use the round bottom of a bowl for the top portion and the cylinder for the bottom. Use the photos as reference.
Step 3: Putting design to armor
You are now ready to glue your layered pieces of armor together with hot glue! And once those are dry, glue your cut-out designs on top. Be careful with the glue, though. Yes it is hot, but the metal part of the gun can burn your foam if it makes long contact with it so be careful! Also, try not to use too much so it doesn’t seep out from underneath your design and ruin it with unnecessary bumps. So to avoid that type of mess, keep a few scraps of foam around so you can wipe it while it’s still drying!
Once everything is done and try, carefully use your hot glue gun to go over your squiggly lines you made on the round piece of armor. Use the photos above as reference. Remember- you can always wipe the glue with a scrap piece of foam as it’s trying. If it’s dry and you want to remove it, simply use your nail to gently peel it off. Be careful to not take a chunk of craft foam with it!
Step 4: Backing your armor
You want your armor to be stable and hard as it should be! You most definitely do not want it to fall apart or be flimsy, so this step is pretty important! Using your cheese cloth, layer all the bottom and side parts of your four armor pieces, gluing it down with elmer’s glue. Yes, this part will get very messy! You have to use your fingers to make sure the cheesecloth is spread out evenly and covers everything you need it to. After it’s completely dry, you can layer it once again so your armor is even harder! I layered mine twice. Cotton crinkle gauze works just as well for this part! Leave your craft foam alone for a few hours to dry. This can take a long while but will prove to be very helpful in the long run! And while you’re wearing this cosplay, it is not uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, you can barely feel it touching you! The armor is incredibly lightweight.
Step 5: Painting your armor
To paint your armor, you first need to varnish it. The reason? Foam is like a sponge. It’ll absorb your paint and you’ll waste a lot of paint! If you varnish the foam first, it’ll lock the foam so you can paint right over it. If you don’t varnish it, you’ll be painting around ten layers (or more) of the same paint to cover it well. Varnish comes in a spray can and is typically used as the top coat on paints but in this case it can be used as a base. Why spend extra money buying a separate base coat when this works just as well? Some cosplayers like to mix elmer’s glue with water and use a few layers of that to let the foam soak that up. The problem with that, though, is it limits the types of paints you can use on the armor afterward! Elmer’s glue is a very watery glue and a lot of paints are water based. That isn’t a good combination, unless you want your paint to crack and never dry. Water based paints on dried elmer’s glue is like regular water on elmer’s glue. I don’t recommend using that strategy to lock in your foam unless you have some pretty awesome paints to go over it! Once your armor is painted and you’re satisfied with it (paint the underside as well!), then varnish the top to lock in the paint. Once that is dry, mix some black acrylic paint with water in a container and begin covering small portions of the armor with it. Once you cover a small space, use a dry washcloth (or something similar) to wipe the paint around the armor to give it a weathered look. It’s really important to get it in all of your cracks to give it a good look. Once that is dry, varnish once more. And now you’re ready to glue your gems on!
Step 6: Putting your armor together
This next part is easy. Glue your armor together! You’ll need TONS of glue for this part, though. And yes, it will get messy once again. You’re using your glue gun this time, though. Once everything is dry and done, put clasps inside your armor! If you were to be wearing your armor, you’d need one on the front side and one on the back on each full piece of armor (you now have two: one for each shoulder). These clasps will attack to your chains which will either connect to the chest jewelry piece or back to the other piece of armor! I put two extra clasps underneath the armor to make the chain to under my arm to keep the armor in place so it doesn’t slide off. Look to the photos for reference if this was confusing!
Your armor should now be all beautiful and ready to be worn. The chains in the back should connect the armor pieces together and the chains in the front should be shorter and collect to the jewelry piece which this tutorial does not cover. I hope this will help you guys a lot! I’m always glad to help and answer any questions! Thank you for reading :)
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