Sherif Badr with Ashari

Amidst the cosplay scene in Toronto, you may see giant, stunning wings in the distance above the heads of a crowd of photographers - that heroine in the middle is often Ashari. We first saw Ashari last year at Anime North, and we've simply not seen a lot of cosplays with that much detail and ingenuity. At night, you could see her wings glowing from anywhere at the event. "How is that made?" we thought - luckily she is as articulate as she is talented. If you aspire to create armours of her work's caliber or are just interested in how these winged armours are made, keep reading...

Here's  a helpful glossary:

  • Worbla - "Worbla’s Finest Arts is an opaque thermoplastic made from renewable natural raw materials. Worbla’s TranspArt is a new thermoplastic that is transparent."
  • EVA - Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), also known as poly(ethylene-vinyl acetate) (PEVA), is the copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate
  • Gesso - “Gesso  is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalkgypsumpigment, or any combination of these.[1] It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.” ~Wiki
    • “Oh Gesso is a life saver!” “Oh Gesso is a miracle to all costuming!” 

Ashari: Before even beginning my work, I ALWAYS draw schematics, draw a budget and plan out all the materials I think I'm going to need on the costume. While things will change along the way, and certain techniques or materials will be dropped or swapped for other alternatives, having a rough guideline in place and estimates will keep you on track and won't have you panicking last minute having no idea what to do for certain parts.

1.Construction

Ashari: Looking through my work, it's clear that I favor some materials over others. While all my cosplays involve some EVA, whether as complete armor pieces or as backing for other materials, I favor worbla above all. With Kamui Cosplay at the absolute helm of worbla usage, looking at her work with it so easily and flawlessly makes it look easy, however, it is a material that requires some practice and getting used to. 

With the right dedication, something like the pictured armor (Uriel -Darksiders- 2015) is obtainable, but it's advised you research the materials in depth from creation to priming to painting before embarking on making it, as it is costly but will provide durable and aesthetically pleasing results.

you will need a lot of it

As a few tips to new worbla users, you will need a lot of it if you're attempting a full bodied armored cosplay like Uriel (approx 2 1/2 sheets of worbla), so rather than ordering over and over and paying shipping each time, (unless you have a supplier within distance, then by all means buy as little as you think you need) it's recommended you buy more as opposed to less.  As well as this, note that there is more than one way to use worbla. A lot of cosplayers will opt to "sandwich" pieces of worbla over EVA craftfoam, whilst others like myself will simply use one piece on the EVA template and notch it over the edges. There are plenty of detailed tutorials online explaining both techniques and more, so it's recommended you look up those before diving head first into your armored adventures. Finally, never throw out your worbla scraps. They can be reheated and formed into an array of designs, shapes and more, which come in handy for adding 3D designs onto your armor or props. 

2.Priming

Ashari: Certain materials are more receptive to just simply being painted, but if you do opt to work with worbla, it does need to be primed to look clean in the end. A favorite method of mine is 2 coats of gesso, followed by 3 coats of watered down wood glue and topped with a spray on gesso, such as 1-2-3 primer to avoid brush strokes and endless sanding. There are many ways to go about this, but the step should not be skipped. 

3.Painting

Ashari: This is where you truly make your armor your own. Once again, there are MANY ways to go about painting, whether you use acrylics or oils, but a good paint job that compliments your armor will go far, and gives you the chance to cover up any little imperfections that may have been missed during the crafting stage, (BATTLE DAMAGE!)

For vibrant color pops, make sure you base your armor with a dark, flat color. Some gessos come in black, so you can opt to paint directly on them. As advice for working with metallics such as gold or silver though (found in a LOT of armors), the right base can really make a difference in the paint you layer on top.

Ergo; By basing a gold with a deep earthy brown, you will get a very vibrant gold layer.

Basing it with a black will add give it a more cold look. Experiment first on scrap bits to try achieveing the results you want.

Also, invest in a bunch of brushes (they don't have to be incredibly expensive, high end brands), and look up techniques such as dry brushing (amazing technique to get more rustic looking armor).

When all the painting is done, finish it off with a clear coat of your choice (Matte: little-to-no finish, just a coat. Brand depending will sometimes dull shine. Good for more organic pieces.

  • Satin:  A slight shine, makes colors pop. Very good for coating armors.
  • Gloss: VERY shiny looking finish. Good for highlighting smaller details.) This will protect your armor (Look for waterproofing / UV protectant sprays if possible) and really bring out your paint colors. 

 

 

4.Swords and other props

Ashari: Research, research, research! Though you may not always find the exact answers when it comes to prop making, you can see what other people did or didn't do and innovate a little on your own. Another exceptionally important step is making sure the con you will be attending (if the costume is indeed headed to a con) allows you to have weapons of a certain material/type ! A safe bet is always wood (Sword pictured is MDF), but you will need basic tools such as a dremel, sander, and saw for shaping. (Note; Dremels/ hand sanders are relatively inexpensive but an ESSENTIAL crafting tool and an all around worthwhile investment)

Also, templates for both props and armor are very useful, and ensure symmetry and precision. Print out or have lots of references handy if you're basing your costume off another creation. 

Questions? Leave them in the comments below and Ashari will respond!! 

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