Materials – Where to Find Them
Below are the basic materials you’ll need. I give links to specific items on where to buy online when possible. You don’t need the exact brand or model of any of the items listed below. These are all just one of many options.
A heat gun is used to curve and heat seal (1st step before painting) your foam.
Pretty much any heat gun will do. Hair dryers do not make good substitutes!
You can get a heat gun at most hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Here’s a reliable heat gun on Amazon:
Craft Knife/Hobby Knife
For smaller and more detailed cuts, you can use a hobby knife. You can find them at hobby shops or stores like Joann’s Fabrics or Michael’s Crafts Store. X-acto is a popular brand of hobby knife.
Telescoping Blade/Utility Knife
For thicker and larger pieces, use a telescoping blade/utility knife. A craft or hobby knife is generally too small to get the deep cuts you need and they likely won’t make as smooth of cuts. You can get one at almost any hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Here is the utility knife that I use:
Believe it or not, foam dulls blades extremely quickly. It is essential to use sharp blades if you want clean cuts and finishes on your pieces.
Instead of spending tons of money replacing blades all the time. Spend a few bucks on a blade sharpener. If your blade starts to snag and tear the foam when cutting, you waited too long to sharpen it.
A self-healing mat will increase the longevity of your blades and protect your work surface. You can find them at craft stores like JoAnn’s or Michael’s.
Here’s a list of different size you can purchase on Amazon:
Generally, the bigger the mat the better to give you the largest possible cutting space. But, of course, you have to keep in mind the size of your actual work space when choosing a size of mat.
Craft Foam and EVA Foam
The key material used to build your costume. It’s a great cost effective material for projects like these. It is very inexpensive and you can get it in thicknesses ranging from 2 mm (1/16″) to over 10 mm (3/8″).
There are many online and local places you can get your foam at. TNT Cosplay Supply is one place online.
You don’t have to get your foam from TNT, there are other many great sources. I personally try to source my foam at local places as it is generally quicker. For thinner craft foam, you can get it at craft stores like Joann’s fabric or Michael’s Arts and Crafts. For thicker foam, 10 mm (3/8″), you can use anti-fatigue floor mats where you can pick up at stores like Harbor Freight, Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Check out the tutorials themselves for specific materials lists.
Contact cement is the recommended default for gluing your foam pieces together. You can use something like a hot glue gun but you will generally get a cleaner finished piece that will be a little more flexible when using a contact cement.
There are many brands of contact cement out there but my preferred brand is Barge Cement. You can usually find it in leather stores like Tandy Leather.
Another brand alternative is DAP Weldwood contact cement. It is more readily available and can be found at home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
A 3oz bottle probably won’t be enough for this project. A quart container will give you more than enough.
I recommend picking up a container of glue that has a built in brush. But if you don’t, pick up a pack of disposable brushes. You can pick them up at hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. 1” chip brushes will work fine. Find whatever is cheapest as you’ll just be using them once or twice before throwing them away.
Sewing Straight Pins
I recommend using straight pins to hold pieces and patterns in place temporarily. They are not necessary but will make things a lot easier if you do have some. They are available at fabric stores like Joann’s Fabrics.
Patterns and Cutting Out Pieces: Tips
- Replace or sharpen your blades often to get clean cuts.
- Use a silver sharpie fine point pen to mark pieces you will cut out in black foam so you can see your markings.
- Keep track of which cut out pieces are which by labeling them all.
- When cutting your pieces out of foam, cut on the inside line of the traced pattern. Not the outside.
- Cut out the darts and mark them on your pattern pieces for easier line up when gluing pieces together.
- Practice! Sometimes your cuts won’t come out as nicely as you’d like the first time. If a piece doesn’t turn out as nicely as you’d like, learn from it and consider it a practice run.
- Generally you will want to use your larger blade for thicker pieces of foam and your hobby/craft knife for thinner pieces of foam.
- When using Barge Cement:
- Lay down two thin layers of glue on each piece that is going to be attached.
- Use extra scraps of foam to wipe off excess.
- Allow time to dry between layers so glue is tacky to the touch and doesn’t come off on your finger.
- Sometimes pieces will start to curl when laying glue down on them. This can happen especially with thinner pieces. Don’t worry. As the glue starts to dry, they will go back to their original shape.
Painting: Basic Steps
1. Heat seal your foam
Before cutting out your pieces heat seal your foam. Do this by using your heat gun to heat up the surface of the foam. This melts it slightly creating a smoother, less porous finish. Generally a good indicator of when your foam is healed sealed is when the finish goes from a flatter to a shinier finish.
There are many ways to paint your foam but one of the easiest and most convenient ways is using spray cans. There is no specific brand you should use. I lean towards using Dupli-Color brand as the coats go on evenly and smoothly but don’t feel like you have to use Dupli-Color.
Always do multiple light coats instead of one heavy coat. Lighter coats will give you a nicer more durable finish.
You should prime before painting your pieces as a rule of thumb.