Monday, October 21, 2013

Costume Creation: Scorpion from Mortal Kombat

The Character:
Scorpion from Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, made for a friend that had never had a Halloween costume before. (Gasp!)

Reference photo from here.

Aside from the shoes and black clothes, this is made almost exclusively of felt, foam, and glue sticks. Exceptions to that are four straps for the shin guards, one nylon belt with attached clip, some duct tape, an old thin shirt cut up to line the mask and bracers, and a smattering of velcro. The base yellow paint is some heavy duty stuff I had from a previous Halloween, and the other colors are acrylics or water-based paints from the hundred yen store.

I'm not showing the paper patterns because they're boring, but trust me, there paper versions of every part of this costume, sometimes more than one.

Click any of the photos to see a larger version.

The vest is made entirely of felt. The pattern itself is pretty basic, just wide strips that drape over the shoulders. What is harder to show is that there is one layer directly over the shoulders and a higher layer that flares up a bit, with wire sewn into the top of the curve to help hold the shape. Halfway through construction I added a strap across the chest to keep the sides from falling off the shoulders.

1. uncut felt
2. felt strips draped over DIY dress form
3. inside pocket
4. wire added to shoulder flares (sewn in by hand), chest strap
5. side view
The yellow parts are single shapes of felt sewn into fairly simple shapes and attached to the vest.

It wasn't easy to find screen grabs of the back, but I eventually did find one.

The green foam sheets for the center part are held in place initially with velcro. By the end they were glued in along the top edges.

1. felt and belt
2. foam clipped in place
3. center panels marked placement with chalk and temporarily attached with velcro

The belt is a blue nylon strap with a plastic clip wrapped in duct tape. The skull is sculpted from some wood pulp clay I found at the hundred yen store. It's almost bouncy, incredibly light, and takes glue and paint pretty well. The down side is that it doesn't get along with sandpaper. I could have made a smoothing layer out of something else if I had to, but in this case it's fine if it's a bit rough.

The mask went through some agony in the planning stage. I debated between papier mache and foam, went through several paper pattern ideas, and ultimately landed on this.

1. individual pieces; red segments to add depth to cheekbones, heated at nose bridge to form curves
2. cheeks, jawline, and cheekbones glued together
3. adding the T portion to cover the mouth and nose
4. comparing to reference image
5. view of the inside; blue added to keep mask from spreading
6. mask lined with thin fabric to hide tip of nose and mouth
Mom, remember that heat gun you sent me for Christmas? This is what I'm using it for – forming foam sheets into more interesting shapes. I used it a LOT. Some for forming the mask, sure, but mostly to make all the armor parts into 3-D geometric shapes.

I thought I had pictures of making the blocks for the front of the vest, but if I do I can't find them. But you get the idea from the bracers and shin guards.

The bracers were sized by wrapping a foam sheet around my friend's arm and marking where the overlap was. Then it was all sketches on paper based on the reference image. The heat gun helped the foam fold and keep that shape, and glue gun glue was put in all the creases and seams to help hold the shape.

1. foam sheets cut into appropriate shapes
2. Shapes in approximately the right placement
3. shapes formed by heat gun and glued to reinforce the corners
4. Glued to flat sheets (velcro closures added later)
The shin guards were a similar process, except I didn't need to measure any limb circumferences.

Here's where it starts to look like a real thing. A detail that's easy to miss is the very edges of the foam sheets. Where they show, I made sure to color them in. It wasn't worth sealing and painting, so I just used a marker.

To prep the foam for paint, I used a mixture of Mod Podge and water (more Podge than water) with a little bit of Tacky Glue mixed in. After 5 or 6 coats, the foam started to look shiny, and that's when it's ready. Fortunately, each coat dried in about 20 minutes.

The flat yellow is some kind of house paint, I think (the label is in Japanese), because it's waterproof and cracks instead of flexing around corners. To get around this, I cut it with Mod Podge and Tacky Glue, about 2:1:1. It took probably six or eight coats to get it to a solid yellow. It's still a little transparent in that you can tell which foam sheets started out darker and which started lighter (green is harder to hide than pink), but after the shading and battle damage it's impossible to tell. The black paint is a water based paint, that covered pretty well in 2-3 coats.

 The orange shading was accomplished by mixing some of the yellow with an acrylic vermillion, about 1:1. Then it was brushed on with a wet enough brush to smear the colors so they'd blend. The darkest brown is a watered down brown. The light source was easy enough to paint for everything but the arm bracers. For the arms, I just shaded the edges instead of picking an edge for light and an edge for shadow.

The fun part is adding battle damage. It's just two lines, a dark brown one on top, a white-yellow line immediately underneath. 

The same white-yellow was added to the vest plate corners, the high points of the mask, and any edges that would catch light.

I am particularly happy with this picture.
Same thing with the shin guards. The shin guards were completed by adding black foam to the back and gluing additional strips of foam on to hold the straps in place. The straps are strips of woven cotton with added velcro. (Elastic would probably also work.) Lucky for me, I found black glue sticks, which cut down on visible glue blobs.

The arm armor is completed by gluing a foam triangle to a piece of felt, then sewing the corners to one of those cheap stretchy one-size-fits-all gloves with the fingers cut off. The bracer and the glove aren't attached to each other, but this is how they should appear when worn. Foam is incredibly sweaty when worn by itself right against the skin, so the inside of this has some thin shirt fabric hot glued in.

Mask paint progression:
In hindsight, I should have put that black fabric on after the whole thing was painted.

The belt buckle skull is painted with a pearlescent silver acrylic, a shadows deepened with silver tinted with black and then thin coats of straight black. White was added to the high points. The round buckle part is the lid of a plastic jar with a slightly beveled edge, also painted silver with highlights/shadows, and the flat black is a circle of foam. The whole thing is attached to the actual belt with velcro so it can be removed when clipping or unclipping.

The back: paint and glue. The black panels are glued along each top edge where they cover the felt, the yellow arch is glued along the seam at the top of the shoulders and along each outside edge.

The front sides of the vest have some edging, but that process is the same (and less interesting to look at) than the other armor parts. I glued those strips to the backpiece before I attached them both to the felt.

I added just a little bit of color detail to the felt pieces hanging below the belt, so they wouldn't look too flat. I watered down the orange and brown paints used for shading and spritzed them to the top and bottom of each felt piece. Like the mask, I could probably have pushed the dark a little more, but I'm afraid of pushing it too much. Paint soaks into felt exceptionally well, and it doesn't spread easily, so anything painted can't be undone.

Costume pieces semi-assembled (ignore the red shirt and black towel, I couldn't find a plain black tee shirt to put on the dress form).

One of my favorite things about this costume is the mask-hood attachment: magnets! One glued to the inside of each cheekbone in the mask, and one sewn into the corresponding place in the hood. It pulls right off and clicks right back into place (adult Halloween costumes are best designed with drinking in mind).

Of course, it's better comedy when you pretend it never comes off. (I didn't take these, but I love them.)

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