Click here for Part 1 : Beginners guide to Cosplay Armor |The Many types of armor.
Welcome to Part 2 of Beginners guide to Cosplay Armor | Constructing EVA Foam Armor. In this guide, we are going to go over everything you would need to know about creating and crafting EVA foam armor. This tutorial will not include sealing your armor and getting it ready for painting or 4-way stretch wrapping. This will be a separate tutorial since they are techniques you will need to know for both Eva and Worbla armor.
I will take you from start to finish and guide you on how I personally create EVA foam armor and props.
So, why EVA foam armor? Well if you didn't read " A Beginner guide to Cosplay Armor | The many types of Armor " Here are a few reasons why EVA foam is one of the most common and part of the top favorites for cosplayers around the world.
- Comes in different thickness, great for different armor styles.
- Easy to work with
- Beginner friendly
- Affordable for cosplayers on a budget
-Available in major retail stores
Let's get started!
Note: This guide will also include tutorials from other cosplayers who's tutorials I personally use. Some of the cosplayers who's tutorials you will see referenced a lot in all of my guides armor are Kamui Cosplay and Evil Ted. Both of them are masters of the craft and you really should learn from their tutorials and pick up their books as well for further information and tips that might not be covered here.
Kamui Cosplay Website: https://www.kamuicosplay.com/
Kamui Cosplay Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC79qFuymkVas5dCScbLF9fw
Evil Ted Website: http://eviltedsmith.com/
Evil Ted Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/evilted40
What this guide will cover:
-What is EVA and the different types of foam.
- Common Materials and tools you will need.
- Safety tips
- Blocking out, cutting, heat forming and test fitting your armor
- Gluing, and Detailing your armor
What is EVA?
If you skipped the first part of the tutorial let me copy and paste the section about EVA in here for you.
EVA foam: EVA foam is a very versatile material that comes in a variety of shapes and
sizes. You can get EVA foam as thin as 2mm which is your basic crafting foam, all the way up to the thicker 0.5 inch foam mats. It is super lightweight and flexible, and extremely affordable. You can make just about anything with the foam. EVA foam is one of the top choices when it comes to crafting cosplay armor.
What is EVA foam? EVA foam, also known as Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA), is a closed cell foam. Often used for craft projects, Floor mats and even making shoes, It has a variety of uses.It can be used on its own for armor or covered by a thermoplastic of your choice like Worbla or Thibra. You can purchase it in many brick and mortar stores near you. In the USA you can find the 2mm foam at craft stores like Joann's, Hobby Lobby, and Michael's Arts and crafts. The thicker foam most often used for armor bases and originally created as floor mats for workshops can be found in construction stores such as Harbor Freight, Home Depot, and Lowes. However, the best thing about this material is how easy it is to learn and create with. You can get away with using a basic utility knife, heat gun, and some contact cement to start constructing. Thanks to its popularity in the cosplay scene there are tons of tutorials out there to help out with armor building.
EVA foam comes in different thicknesses and densities. If you are in the United states please also check out TNT Cosplay supplies. They are a supplier based in Texas that distributes different thickness EVA foam that is smooth on both sides, unlike the 0.5 in foam you can find at hardware stores that either has a tread or diamond texture on one side. This is actually very handy for cosplayers when crafting.
Example photo by Kamui Cosplay. ( Go buy her books. They are really wonderful )
Here is a link to their store: http://www.tntcosplaysupply.com/index.html
When working with EVA foam, these tools will help get the job done very nicely.
I will include the price ranges for each of these and where you can find them!
Consider this a little shopping list guide!
All materials listed are recommended to have for your armor kit. I will go over the uses of each too.
Utility knife and extra blades
There are 3 objects that are a MUST HAVE when making EVA Foam Armor. A Utility knife is one of them and will be your best friend when making foam armor. This handheld knife is meant to cut through material with precision and ease. It is a must-have in every armor toolkit. You will also want to pick up a pack of extra blades. Your blade will want to remain sharp at all times to prevent tear and fraying. So having replacement blades is a great idea and a life saver.
For cutting out your EVA foam ( or anything ), if you do not have a surface you feel comfortable cutting on and leaving marks in then I recommend picking up a cutting mat. These handy little mats are built tough and made for cutting on. They will protect any surface you choose to cut on. Many mats also come with guidelines. This is very handy for when you are cutting out some things that need a straight line.
Heat guns are an armor makers tool of choice. Many different styles of armor require heat for shaping or sealing. You may have seen them used by nearly every armor maker. There is a reason for that. A heat gun can reach higher temperatures that can warp and shape not only the Foam but also plastics.
Barge / Contact Cement
Barge and other contact cement are the needle and thread of armor making. These glues are what will adhere your pieces together when crafting armor to make that awesome chest plate you've been wanting to make. Contact Cement is a strong and durable glue with a quick drying time. You can apply it with a brush or put it in a condiments container for precise and controlled placement of the glue. Barge Cement is primarily sold online, however, I have personally used the Weldwood contact cement with very nice results. Please keep in mind contact cement can have a very powerful odor to it. It's highly recommended you either have a window open or that you are in a well-ventilated area.
The cosplayers choice, Hot glue can be very useful when it comes to crafting. While it's not as strong as contact cement, hot glue does do a great job with holding together as long as its the industrial strength Hi-Temp hot glue. Low-Temp hot glue will not work as well and you may find your pieces coming apart more than you like. So please be mindful of the glue you are using when picking up hot glue.
A Dremel tool is a handy little tool for all sorts of things. It is great for fine precision sanding and grinding on props. If your armor calls for a beveled edge or indentations, this tool can help you get the job done. This tool is a fantastic tool to use when it comes to detailing.
While it is not recommended to cut out large pieces of armor made out of 6-10mm+ foam with an X-acto, this little blade is great for smaller details for armor. Not only is is much easier to use one of these on the 2mm foam, but it is also great for making slits and indentations on foam armor. This little blade has a lot of uses when it comes to armor.
Foam and extreme heat do not usually mix well and can actually cause the foam to melt... however, this can be advantageous to most when it comes to carving out details in foam. This tool is not only great for Soldering together materials for LED's and electrical work, it can also act as a carving tool. I personally prefer the Wood Soldering toolkit from Micheal's Arts and Crafts. It comes with a variety of heads that can be very useful for making carvings and indentations. I also like to use the tool as a way to punch holes into the armor if I need them for lacing up the armor. The Wood Soldering tool is also great to have because it does not reach the extreme temperatures that a Soldering tool used for soldering metal can reach.
This is great for EVA foam because the EVA foam doesn't require the higher temperature of the regular soldering tool. The wood Soldering tool from Micheal's also has an adjustable knob to set the temperature to different heat settings.
Various Household items for Patterning:
Paper, pens, Sharpie, scissors, Saran ( plastic ) Wrap, Rulers of Varying sizes and shapes, packing paper , and tape
All of these tools are essential when it comes to drafting out a pattern for armor, which you will be doing a lot of. These tools will help you with making a pattern that is adjusted and fitted to your body. Patterns are key when it comes to your pieces for armor. Without a pattern, You may end up wasting a lot of material or have a piece that doesn't fit at all.
Paint brush ( Sponge )
If you don't plan to transfer the glue to another container such as a condiments container for application, it is wise to pick yourself up some brushes. My personal preference is a small sponge brush. These are cheap and disposable. They will not leave anything behind in the glue such as a loose bristle.
Honorable mention: Googly Eyes
If you are in desperate need of something is round, and will fake the illusion of rivets on armor and props. Something that comes in varying sizes and is cheap. Then you will want googly eyes. I know it sounds silly but these little eyes are wonderful for that specific purpose and do the job well. Sure your armor and prop might look silly at first and also make a small shuffling sound now ( unless you take out the black centers), but now you have all of those rivets that will look amazing once it's finished.
Sealers of Choice:
Plasti dip is a rubberized coating that comes in two different ways for application. It can be applied on with a brush , however for a smooth effect many go with the spray can.
It does not eat away at the foam, and it provides a flexible waterproof coating for the armor. If your armor requires a lot of flexibility or mobility then you will want to use plastidip.
You can also get creative with plasti-dip while it is drying if you are feeling a little brave. I have used this to create a rough wood like texture on the back of my Travelers shield. However, DO NOT SAND this coating. It will shred it like paper/
Wood glue is a great inexpensive hard coating for props and armor. When mixed a little bit with water, it becomes an easy to smooth on coating. IT IS SAND-ABLE , and can be great for creating a very smooth surface, which is great for metallic and reflective surfaces. The more coats the harder and more durable it is. However it is not flexible.
Modpodge is a fun little sealer for projects. The consistency of Mod-Podge is a much more watered down version of Elmer's glue. While this sealer is better for Worbla and thermoplastic projects, it does have a place as a potential sealer for EVA foam armor. It can take some LIGHT SANDING. It is also flexible which is great for EVA foam armor.
Flexbond by Rosco
Last but not least on the list of wonderful sealers for EVA foam armor is Flexbond by Rosco. Flexbond is a special type of sealer. While primarily available online, flexbond is very useful. Like its name suggests it is a flexible sealer that requires very little effort to make smooth thanks to its high surface tension. What does that mean? While it is drying instead of settling in every little nook and cranny, flexbond pulls tight to give itself an even surface. This is amazing for a smooth surface and it takes out the hassle of sanding. However, it's not the easiest to obtain. It's not sold with major retailers unless its the 5-gallon container. So ordering it is usually the only route to obtaining this. For more information on Flexbond please check out their tutorial.
Don't let it fool you. It's just as great for EVA as it is for Worbla.
Now that you have all of your tools, lets go over a couple of other things you will need to remain safe and help minimize injuries.
What you should have in your Safety Kit:
A safety kit IS A MUST when you are operating any hazardous equipment. These tools are in no way kid friendly or idiot proof, and with a slip of a hand, you can injure yourself if you're not careful. Here are some of the things you will want while working on all kinds of armor.
First Aid Kit-
Having a standard first aid kit is a wonderful thing to have working with anything. If you obtain an injury while working you want to make sure you have the supplies to help sterilize and patch it up quickly, or temporarily so you can get to the hospital. You can buy a standard First aid kit or make one yourself.
For more information on what to have in your first aid kit please visit here:
Protective clear glasses-
Protective clear glasses will help prevent any injury to the eye from flying particles.
Your eyes are a very delicate part of your body, and if you are not careful you are risking the possibility of something getting into your eyes and causing severe retinal damage.
To prevent cuts, burns, and chemical spills on your hands, you will want to use safety gloves. Safety gloves provide protection for your hands. While working with your tools, safety gloves can help prevent you from burning, cutting, or even sanding your fingers down to the meat. It only takes a second of not paying attention for an accident to happen. These gloves are not like your standard latex gloves. Safety gloves are made from a thick durable fabric.
A face mask can be anything like a doctors mask to a painters mask. You will need something that can cover your nose and mouth. The purpose of a face mask is to prevent flying particles from entering into your lungs and causing issues down the road.
Always be mindful while working with power tools. You want to remain focused and have little to no distraction when working. Focusing on what you are working on is key. If you are playing around and not being careful, you can injure yourself while working.
You've made it past the tools and safety section, and now it's onto creating the armor. Before we can work with the EVA foam and build some armor, we first need to learn how to pattern it out. The easiest method to creating quick and customized armor patterns is by making a tape pattern and then transferring it to paper.
Making the pattern
If you've ever made a duct tape mannequin, then you've already mastered this technique.
This technique can be used to create any pattern that will fit your body. If you've never heard of a duct tape mannequin, or have seen how to make a duct tape pattern, that's okay!
I will guide you step by step. However, there will also be times where a duct-tape pattern won't work. That's okay too! I can show you how to make those too.
What you will need:
1. Saran Wrap
3. Marker / sharpie
5. packing paper ( to transfer your pattern to )
Making a Duct-tape pattern:
Duct-tape patterns can be very versatile for making a large variety of armor patterns. They are usually for patterns that need to fit around certain parts of your body. However, they are are not always so useful. When making knee armor and pauldrons, a duct-tape pattern won't always work. For those patterns, you will have to get creative with making them. When making a duct tape pattern, you can use a sewing mannequin as a stand-in for your torso. However, if you are working straight from your own body, having an extra pair of hands is always helpful.
1. First, wrap the area of your body that you are making armor pattern for in saran wrap. It's highly suggested that you wear old or worn out clothes that you wouldn't mind cutting or getting a hole in.
Don't wrap to tight to where it will squeeze, because this may make the armor a little too small later on. EVA foam shrinks when heat is applied. So no need to be so tight.
2. Once the Saran wrap is wrapped around the area, it's time to cover it with duct-tape. Cut
smaller strips and place them on the area you've wrapped. By doing this the placement is a lot more controlled. If you go full ham and try to wrap around the area, it will not fit properly later on.
Duct tape doesn't stretch, so wrapping it around will not make it fit your body correctly. Your body would much rather squish and fit inside of the tape, much like a compression garment.
This is why you should use smaller pieces. The smaller pieces allow you to layer the tape on to fit curves a lot better. The duct tape should feel like a shell. Not a compression garment.
3. Time to cut the tape off! This step can be interchanged with the next step in terms of the order.For some, the tape can become extremely uncomfortable and hot to continue wearing for an extended period of time. So you will want to take it off or your body before continuing.
The best place to cut will be where you want your opening for your seams to be. If you want your seam to be on the inside of the wrist or on your back, then you will want to cut the duct-tape there.
4. Now its time to draw out the sections on the duct tape that you will later cut and lay flat.
When sectioning out the pattern you will want to draw your lines where there will be curves. These lines may seem straight on your body, but they won't be straight when you lay them on a flat surface. This is because these now flay sections will show you how these curves are created. Think of a flattened globe. The sections are not shaped like a sphere on a flat surface, but when they adhere together they make a sphere (see the example to the right ). Remember that the EVA foam comes in flat sheets. Sometimes it is easy to create a round surface with a bit of heat, however, it will not work all of the time. So It's always a good idea to flatten out your pattern as much as possible when you have curves. This pattern will help you create those curves almost 100% of the time. If you are confused on where you should make lines for sections, start from the center and work your way out. Make your sections by cutting the piece into smaller fractions. Start with half of the piece, then move to cut it into fourths, eighths and so on, until your pieces lay flat.
In some cases, you might have a piece that doesn't have enough of a curve to it. If you wish to give your piece more of a curve, you can add a dart in the foam by cutting out a small triangle, and then adhere the edges of the dart together. This will create a curve on the surface.
5. After all of this is done you will want to transfer your duct tape patterns to paper. When transferring to the paper it is always a good idea to add a little bit extra for seam allowance. A good amount to add to the seams is 1/4 an inch on each part of the seam.
I usually transfer the duct-tape patterns to paper not only create a pattern that is much cleaner to use, but to also test the fit before cutting out my foam. Thanks to the paper also being a flat surface I can make a good estimate on how my foam is going to fit. If it is to small I can add to the paper by taping more paper to it or re-drawing it larger. It is too large I can cut it down. This helps prevent me from wasting any precious materials.
Here is a great tutorial on how to make a pattern using the duct tape method by Kamui cosplay that demonstrates the effectiveness of making a tape pattern. It is in German ( Deutch) So you will need subtitles.
Making rough pattern w/o duct tape method:
There will be times when duct tape won't help you, for this moment you will usually be tracing out a rough draft of the piece. When it comes to pauldrons and a knee armor that extends out past the body there are a few ways to tackle these patterns.
The first method you can try out is sculpting a rough base out of aluminum foil and shape it. from here you try the Saran and duct tape method.
The second method to try out is taking a blown up copy of armor in its side view profile and tracing it onto paper. Then when you have that drawn out you will want to cut out at least 2 mirror pieces of that and tape along the seam lines. This is the method I use for my pauldrons. For this it doesn't hurt to also test out the shape on some craft foam sheets you can get for $0.99. Pauldrons and knee armor can be very tricky so it's always a good idea to make a prototype.
Remember that to curve your piece more and more you will want to add in marks along the edges. Those marks, when aligned and glued together, will give you the curve you desire.
Here is a great tutorial by Evil Ted that demonstrates this method.
Something that is becoming more popular now with the rise in technology is digital patterning. Digital patterns are vector blueprints created using a vector or digital art programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator.
When making a digital pattern, it's as easy as taking images from your reference and outlining the piece you want. This allows you to make patterns for detail sections that will later be to scale with the rest of your armor.
By making digital patterns you can resize the piece in the program to fit your body. I do however recommend that before you adventure down this path, you get a feel for making patterns with the duct tape method. That will help build your core knowledge and give you a feel for making patterns.
Blocking out, cutting, heat forming and test fitting your armor:
What you will need:
- Eva foam in the desired thickness for the base of your armor. ( 6mm - 13mm)
- Utility Knife and spare blades
- Your pattern
- Cutting mat
- Heat gun
Blocking out your armor is relatively easy but probably your most important step. Now that you have your patterns it's time to sketch out the relative shapes of the armor onto the patterns, cut them out, and test the fitting.
When you block out your armor you will want to see how all of your armor piece patterns fit together on your body. This allows for final adjustments.
When blocking out your armor it is also a good idea to make prototypes and the base pieces for your armor.
Yay! We finally get to work with the EVA foam!!
Tracing out your pattern, and cutting your foam:
Taking your paper pattern, trace it onto the EVA foam armor.
A tip to keep in mind: When blocking out the armor for the arms or legs, you will only need to trace and cut out pieces for one arm or leg for a test fit. This will be your prototype.
You can use marker or chalk for tracing the pattern onto the foam. It's really up to you and what you are comfortable with using. Once it is all traced out onto to the foam it's time to take your Utility knife and slice into the foam. You will want your blade to remain sharp at all times during any cutting. A dull blade will cause fraying and unclean edges that can be very hard to work with ( see examples below). To prevent this you will want to change out your blade often. The feel of a sharp blade going through 13mm foam should have very little tension. The cut should not feel forced. The sharper the blade the cleaner the edges.
Take your time while cutting the foam. You will want a steady hand and to keep your fingers away from the blade's path. Being quick can make your work sloppy. You will get faster with time, however, it's always a good idea to go slow.
Heat forming and Test fitting:
Now that everything is all cut out, its a good idea to heat form and do a test fit of the parts to see how well they will fit together.
Heat forming / shaping:
It's time to heat form and shape the foam. Taking the heat gun, hold it about 5 inches or more away from the foam, slowly moving it across all parts of the foam on both sides until it becomes softer and more flexible to work with. While the foam is warm you will want to shape it and add curves that you may need.
Here is a wonderful tutorial on how to heat form your foam by Evil Ted. He will go over some great methods to heat form foam.
When doing a test fitting you will want to do different sections of the body one at a time. If you are going to test fit your leg armor, you won't be test fitting your arms or torso. This prevents you from becoming overwhelmed with too much at once, and you will have more maneuverability.
Since a test fit is not permanent, you should not glue your pieces unless they are your prototypes. Instead, you will use tape along your seams. Using small strips of duct tape, you can tape from the inside of the armor piece. Tape along your seams and see how the armor fits your body. Use this opportunity to jot down any notes for resizing the armor or cutting away parts to re-shape it. Once you are good with the test to fit its time cut out the rest of the pieces, heat shape them again and glue together your armor to create the base of your armor.
Gluing your armor and adding detail.
Now that all of your pieces fit its time to glue your pieces to create the base parts of your armor.
What you will need:
- Contact cement
- A sponge brush or small paint brush
Gluing your armor is the same concept as sewing fabric together. Taking your contact cement and a brush you, paint the edges of your two pieces that will form your seam line. A Seam line is a ridge or a line created by joining together two edges. This will be the line created by gluing the edges together to make a larger piece.
When gluing your pieces, you will want your seam-line to be as flush as possible. ( Flush - Having surfaces in the same plane; even ). If your pieces are nice and flush, this will prevent you from having to add bondo or another filler to sand down to make the surface even.
When you apply the glue, wait until the glue is tacky. This makes it easier to stick the pieces together without them falling apart or needing the assistance from clamps. Glue together all of the pieces of your armor until there is only one seam left. This will be the seam that you will later have open and close to get in and out of your armor. This seam will usually be the opening that's on the backside or underside of the armor. The least likely place for it to be seen when taking photos.
What you will need:
- utility knife
- contact cement or Hot glue
- Soldering iron
- heat gun
- googly eyes
- Materials for detailing ( 2mm foam ect)
- AND MORE
Now its time to add the detail to your armor. Since there are so many varieties of detailing armor, this section will be very brief. If I went and explained all of the different ways you can detail, this tutorial would never end. The best thing to do for detailing is to be creative and experiment with scrap foam and other materials. I promise you that I will have another tutorial dedicated to various detailing techniques.
For now please look at this wonderful tutorial that explains several techniques used to detail EVA foam armor.
You have finished constructing your armor!
Now that you have finished all of these steps and you are satisfied, your armor should now be ready for the second half of the process, Sealing, painting or covering, and Fastening it all together. Worry not! There will be another guide created for you, that will take you through all of the steps of finalizing your armor so that its ready to wear.
Thank you so much for reading this guide on how to construct your EVA foam armor. I really hope this helps you out with your next project, and I look forward to teaching you more about cosplay crafting!
What we will be going over in the next tutorial:
A Beginner guide to: Cosplay Armor | Sealing, Painting and fabric wrapping introduction, Connecting your armor together.
- Sealing your armor for paint prep
- An introduction to painting armor
- An introduction to 4 way stretch fabric wrapping | A painting alternative
- Different methods for connecting and fastening your armor.
Other than that, See you soon!