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Side Quest Unlocked: Apply Color

12 Jun


Finally, finally, FINALLY – we got to paint!!!

That meant we were so close to completing our first Cosplay project!!!

Ideally, we would have liked to have built our pieces and then painted them as we went. However, we didn’t (and still don’t)  have a dedicated work space which made that a little hard. Plus, we waited a little too long and, when the time came to paint a few pieces, the weather had turned. So in an attempt to wait it out, we kept building and planned to paint everything at once. With no more building to do, it was time to put some color on ‘em! Time to transform them from foam and paper into convincing, hard metal objects.

We had two options when it came to painting. We could hand paint everything in the relative comfort of our apartment or spray paint our pieces in one of the common areas of our apartment building.

Hand painting would have let us paint whenever we liked as long as we laid something down to catch the paint and opened the windows with fans for ventilation. However, we thought it would have taken a long time to paint everything; especially if we wanted nice, smooth, streak-free finishes. I figured spray painting would eliminate that concern. Plus, I’d had more experience with a spray can. So, we chose to do the majority of work with spray paint but for some detail work, touch-ups and distressing done by hand.

Now, the first problem with spray painting in Chicago is that it’s illegal to sell spray paint within the city limits. We’d only been living in the city for three years at this point and who would have guessed that this was an actual law!? It exists to combat graffiti and tagging within the city; but, if you’ve ever spent a day in Chicago… lots and lots of graffiti… So the only thing this stupid law really does, it make it very difficult and annoying to procure spray paint. The nearest place for us to get some was at a  Home Depot on the border of Chicago inside Evanston’s city limits. That’s a 45 minute train ride, plus a 25 minute bus ride… Through out the course of the this project I had to make three separate trips to the suburbs for paint.

Oh well. On our first trip, we made the trek and the paints we decided to use were: Antique Brass for the base tone of the brass pieces, an Antique gold for the highlights on the brass pieces, Dark Steel for the steel pieces, and a Leather Brown for painting some of the rubber pieces to appear leather. “What about the primer,” you ask? Well, as much as I would have liked to have given everything a nice primer base coat we were very limited on time and I didn’t want to have to do any more spraying of harsh chemicals then need be in an apartment complex. So, we decided to skip it.

Paint in hand, it was time to… well, paint. Wouldn’t you know it? This was one of the harshest winters in recent US history and Chicago was hit pretty hard. Ever heard of a Polar Vortex? Here we were, well into March, and the temperatures were still right at or just below freezing. With C2E2 just around the corner we had to paint or we risked not having the costumes ready in time. So we decided to do the worst thing imaginable… spray paint indoors.

I know, I know… don’t get me started. We all know how this ends.

Spray Painting Inside?We decided to set up a small, make-shift painting room in the kitchen. We laid painting tarps on the floor, hung some from the walls, opened the kitchen window, and used a floor fan for ventilation. Surely, this would be sufficient.

Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon Pre-paint


We started off with a couple of small test pieces and everything seemed to be working okay. First, we sealed all of the foam with Elmer’s glue. We do this so that the Shellac won’t eat into it. Next we hit the pieces with at least three layers of Shellac and allowed it to dry completely before moving on to the paint. I sprayed in light layers in very short sessions. The open window and fan did the trick for adequately getting rid of the paint fumes; however, after a couple of hours, I noticed that it was not so efficient for getting rid of the residual paint particles that did not adhere to the cosplay pieces. Instead, it was falling in a fine layer of dust all over everything… :/

 A couple of hours of cleaning later and only a small percentage of Cosplay pieces painted – it was back to the drawing board.

C2E2 was creeping up faster and faster and still we had constant snow fall and below freezing temperatures, painting outside was still out of the question. We were so desperate that it forced us to be creative. So, after a late night of — social hydration — I decided to use our common laundry room as a new paint studio and to knock out all of the spray painting in a few marathon sessions. It was the only indoor common area that was anywhere near warm enough and had proper ventilation.

Subject Delta's HelmetEleanor Lamb Syringe Eleanor Lamb's Helmet

I didn’t want to piss off the neighbors or get the land lord called so I waited until 2 or 3 am before beginning. I crept as quietly as possible down three flights of stairs to the basement where the laundry room is located. I laid out my painting tarps over a couple of tables and lined up as many pieces as I could that were going to be painted the same base color. I did this every other night or so for a couple of weeks until all pieces were painted with their base coats.  I even spent time after each painting session wiping down any surfaces that might have collected residue; including but not limited to the washing machines and bikes stored there.

Subject Delta's Drill

Seeing everything in living color was really really cool. No really. Really cool. It was amazing to see everything in it’s intended color. They looked real for the first time and I could tell that we’d really done good work. Really. I had a day off work when I did all the big major pieces and I sent Sara so many texts with pictures because it was so exciting. Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb were really coming together.

Eleanor Lamb and Subject Delta Helmets

We did all of our touch ups with acrylic paint. It wasn’t an exact match, which was frustrating. Luckily, we were going to distress everything so that would help. Plus, the differences in color can give the impression that something has gotten dinged in battle and been patched up. Even though it all worked out, next time we’re going to try to avoid the spray paint.

Subject Delta's Air TanksThere were a couple of pieces that we painted by hand that turned out looking really good, which also served to sway me toward hand painting in the future. Included in this category was the trim of both Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb’s helmets, the tanks for Subject Delta’s pack and Eleanor Lamb’s arm guards. And for weathering, we used black acrylic paint and the process outlined in our Weathered Metal Effect tutorial which you can find here.

Despite some major stress, sleepless nights and a whole lotta time in transit, we got everything painted and it looked amazing. We were so close to finishing that we could taste it! C2E2 was under a month away at this point, so we were beyond happy to have gotten to this point.

Thank you for following along as we learned a thing or two about spray painting and Chicago winters! — TCG

Level 6-1: Assemble Backpack cont.

12 May

When last we left Subject Delta’s backpack and air tanks we had built all of the separate elements. Now it’s time to truly assemble!

We started by securing the tanks to the frame from the backside using screws drilled straight through the frame and into the tanks.  Here’s a great look at the back for the frame to show the screws and how the tanks are attached and a shot of the front to show the overall look.

Backpack frame constructed back Backpack constructed front


Looking pretty good huh!? What’s that in the front view image you ask? Those are the ADAM and EVE tube panel and a lower back support that I built; but we’ll get to those in a bit.

With the tanks attached to the frame it was time to figure out how to strap the whole kit-and-caboodle to my back. You can see by the reference photos that there’s a belt running around Delta’s waist with diving weights attached to it and a sort of harness that goes down through and around the legs to the back of the frame.

delta photo

Since we decided to build the leg straps separately and attach them directly to the suit, a question remained; how is the pack secured to the upper part of the torso or shoulders? In a lot of reference photos it looks like the pack and tanks are attached to the bottom of the helmet, as if the pack and helmet are one piece. This makes sense and would be convenient, but we had decided early on to take a different approach. So, the only other option was to build some sort of shoulder strap.

We decided to use a nylon strap with a plastic, clip buckle for the waist strap and some cannibalized backpack straps from an old backpack.  We attached the straps to the frame using screws drilled directly into the frame.

Backpack shoulder strap test

Because we decided to drill the straps directly to the frame we had to make sure they were adjusted correctly, because once they were screwed in we couldn’t use the slider to adjust the snugness.

With the strapping in place, it was time to makes sure that it would work properly with the helmet. Although we were too frustrated to take a picture, you can see by the above image that the shoulder strapping was an issue. The helmet was too wide at the base to fit snugly in between the straps. Determined to fix the issue we tried a couple of different combinations trying to get the strapping as close to the frame and my body as possible so that it would allow the helmet to fit properly.

Backpack top strap test

But nothing seemed to work. Finally, we decided that the only solution was to do another nylon strap (like the one for the waist) that would run under my arms and across my chest. That way it would be low enough to clear the helmet and still high enough up on the frame to properly support the pack. What do you think?

Backpack straps right Backpack helmet hit


Also, as an added bonus, the strap gets hidden nicely under the helmet so we didn’t have to worry about masking it. Onward and upward!

Now, you’ll notice that the helmet and the pack are finally fitting together as they should! Go Team-Gilbert!!! 

Our secret is the spacer at the base of my back. It pushes the frame out from my back so it was important that it be a cushion against the small of my back. We purchased some Air-Tech High-Density Foam, cut it out into a rectangular pillow, encased it in 2mm craft foam and glued it to a panel of cardboard. 

Foam Cut Out Foam Cut Out 2 Backpack back pad


For the ADAM and EVE tubes panel I also used a cardboard panel, faced it with foam and attached two of the same plastic 90 degree connector like we used for Eleanor’s syringe. I then screwed the spacer and tube panels to the frame.

Backpack with pad back view Backpack constructed front











The pack and tanks are looking great, but they’re missing one last detail — some toppers! For the adornment on the top of the tanks I found a couple of PVC pipe caps with threaded edges. I didn’t want the edges to appear threaded so I hot glued some foam trim around them to make them appear smooth.

Tank Toppers


Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of them attached before painting, but you’ll see how they get affixed in the coming posts.


Back to the straps! Even though the waist strap would have the weights attached to it, I wanted it to look like leather rather than modern nylon. I started by covering the waist strap with some upholstery leather. I cut the leather wider than needed so that I could wrap it around the edges and hot glue it on the backside.

Backpack belt pre leather Backpack post leather







Looks pretty good with the leg straps on the suit.







Now it was time to add the finishing touch; the weights!

I wanted the weights to be light but at the same time appear as if they had substance and since we don’t have a full shop of tools, I decided to use basic wooden trim pieces with curved edges that way they would have a smooth finished look like actual weights. I cut the weight pieces to 3″ x 3″ squares, sanded the cut edges to match the smooth trim edges and attached them to the belt with short screws drilled through the back of the belt. Here you can see the finished product with painted weights and buckle:

Backpack belt weights unpainted IMG_0926







Up next, I’ll take you through the painting and weathering and a pretty awesome rust technique. — TCG

Level 6-1: Assemble Backpack

27 Feb

Greetings Cosplay followers! As Sara said in our last post, we definitely have more built than we’ve had time to blog about. So far for Subject Delta we’ve shown you the helmet, the drill and the suit; but we’ve also been hard at work on the boots, the cudgel (that wooden baton thing that hangs at Subject Deltas hip) and… the back pack and air tanks!!!

Subject Delta Action Figure Backpack

We started – as we always do — by analyzing the various reference photos to get a good sense of the general look and feel for the pack as it’s quite a specific design. One of the things we’ve noticed from looking at other Subject Delta cosplay costumes is that the pack and tanks (just like the helmets) can often look a little off, because the game dimensions are so drastic. So again, we tried to be conscientious in making sure the pieces fit my dimensions as much as possible.

sawing pvcSara took the lead on this one! We didn’t want the pack to be too heavy so we decided to make the frame out of 1″ PVC tubing. Sara measured my back to get some accurate dimensions and we figured out from the reference photos how high up and low down on my back the pack should sit. Sara set to work measuring and cutting the tubing to the various lengths.

I helped with the some of the cutting cause there was just so darn much to cut and we lacked the proper tools for the task. I then took a stab at the oblong section that juts out from the bottom of the pack. this is for the Little Sisters to stand on while the Big Daddy goes tramping around, in case you were wondering.

I drilled holes into the frame at angles and used some extra dowel rod to serve as the crossbars. Once complete we fitted the frame together.

Subject Delta's Backpack Frame

You’ll notice from this first assembly that it’s a bit too long both at the top and bottom. The top interferes with the way the helmet needs to sit on my shoulders and the bottom hangs off to low and too far. Good thing we hadn’t glued anything together yet.

Subject Delta's Backpack FrameWe took the pack off, made some adjustments, cut off some extra length here and there a couple of times and tried it again. Perfect fit!!! Confident with the structure of the frame, I glued it together with our PVC epoxy.

Subject Delta Concept Art

Next up; the air tanks! If you’ll notice one of the tanks look to be fairly normal size, but the other is gargantuan and has a pretty decent circumference. This larger tank was the portion of the frame that most concerned me as far as making sure we stayed as true to the design as possible while still making it look appropriate to my proportions. I didn’t want it to be so large that it looked ridiculous on my frame. Like everything else, we wanted to make sure it was made to my proportions.

For the sake of weight, I again settled on PVC tubing for the tanks. A 3” tube for the small tank and a 4” tube for the larger tank each with their corresponding PVC cap. I cut the tanks a little longer at the top of the frame so that they would stick up over my shoulders just slightly like they do in the reference photos.

Since they looked a little bare with just their caps I cut out foam circles from 5 mm foam to seal the bottoms and then used a bit of weather-stripping to accentuate the edge. I then cut strips of 2 mm foam to service as the bands that wrap around the tanks and accented them with hex screw screwed right into the tanks.

Subject Delta's Airtanks

While I’d love to leave you with an action shot there’s always more to do and we have less than a week before we have to take some pictures for our submission to the Crown Championships for C2E2 but we’ll be sure to keep you posted!  –TCG