Queen of Blades tutorial: Introduction

I’m going to be doing a lot of tutorials rather than one really long tutorial to take you through the steps I went through to make my infested Kerrigan costume. I decided to do several posts because there are so many different parts to the costume, and also because it would make for such a long tutorial, since I like to post so many pictures with my tutorials.

Edit: These tutorials can be used more than for Kerrigan. They can be used for fiberglass molds, life casting, foam latex gloves, cowls, and body suits. You can sculpt and make any type of suit or gloves that you want. I couldn’t find any definitive foam latex body suit threads on the internet, and so I’m showing you what I did, because all in all, it’s one piece, didn’t (and hasn’t) fallen apart, and moves beautifully. We did all of this for the first time, everything we did was new to us, and we’ve learned so much, so we wanted to pass that on.

This is an introduction, where I tell you what you need to know before starting on a costume of this caliber.

Now, we made Kerrigan the way we did because one, we wanted to do her justice, and two, we wanted to make it as realistic as possible. This was definitely a joint effort between Mario and I, because he just handles the power tools better, and with a lot of the mold making, it would have been impossible for one person to do.

I’ve said this several times, but it bears repeating: We aren’t happy with the cowl/face. We had to use the face prosthetic to cover up elastic that was holding on the cowl, and it didn’t fit correctly because we didn’t allow for the extra room that the dreads would take up under the cowl. I will talk about ways to prevent this when I get to that part of the tutorial.

If you’re planning on following this tutorial to make this costume how we did, please, listen to me now:

Do not plan on doing this costume for cheaper than $4000. This is all material costs. Foam latex, building materials, renting a huge mixer, gallons and gallons of resin, yards of fiberglass, contacts, clay, fiberglass rods. If you are interested in what exactly everything was costing, email us and I can send you an itemized list, but know that we bought the minimum of everything that we needed, and only had maybe the tiniest bits left over, and had to go back and get more of a lot of the materials because we underestimated how much we needed. This also includes reference materials, DVDs that cost hundreds, expensive books, etc. Ours was over 4k, but I believe 4k is the absolute lowest you can go with cutting things out unless you have a friend with a special effects studio you can borrow.

Do your research. There are some forums, reading materials and DVDs that I recommend you check out before you start on this project. You need to fully understand what you are doing and why you are doing it before you even pick up your first tool.

Have a friend(s) or significant other to help you. This is absolutely not a project you can do alone. Our method calls for lifecasting, which is impossible to do by yourself, and fiberglassing a mold of a large size is also impossible. It took us two days working 17 hours each to get the full body mold finished. If you have more people working with you, you will get things done much quicker. 

Budget your money. I had to order a ton of things online because we didn’t have a store nearby that carried what we need, but if you live in Los Angeles or another city that has a lot of special effects stores, you might be able to save a lot of money just in shipping by getting your materials local.

Make sure you have all of your materials before beginning each step. I know there were a few times we almost ran out of fiberglass sheet or resin and had to run to TAP Plastics before they closed for the day. Make sure you have plenty of all of your materials ready and on hand before you even begin.

Have the proper amount of space for this project. You’ll need a large garage or covered outside area to do the majority of your work. Working with fiberglass needs lots of open air and the proper safety measures, and working with stone molds is just plain messy. We didn’t do anything but the sculpting inside. You will also need a garage for the large oven to bake the foam latex in, unless you know someone who has a very large oven that you can borrow (not one that’s used for food, the fumes that foam latex puts off during the curing process makes ovens unusable for food). 

Budget your time. This is not a costume you can just decide to do a month before the convention, unless you are a professional special effects artist and have a team of people working for you to get it done. Even then, you’re probably pushing it. It took us 700 to get this costume ready to wear.

We are not professionals. I got a lot of advice from a friend, which I will transfer here, but we have never, ever done anything like this before, we may have done things ‘wrong’ a few times, but we learned as we went, and a lot of what I go by is from the first book on our list below, so please pick that up.  

Recommended learning materials: 

These are materials I will be referencing throughout the tutorials; in some spots I was going step by step from one of the books, so if nothing else, pick up the first book I list because I’m not putting word for work pages and pages from the book.

1. Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen: Todd Debreceni. This is the book where I learned most of the techniques I used for Kerrigan. Read it front to back, make sure you understand each step and why you do each step, or you won’t understand what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Make sure you pick up this book, if nothing else. I also suggest putting tabs in the pages for quick reference for each step.

2. Neill Gorton’s Creating Character Prosthetics in Silicone. No, we aren’t working with silicone, but these DVDs helped me to understand how to make molds and work with fiberglass. If you can’t afford the whole set, at least get parts 1-3.

3. Mark Alfrey- Prosthetic Makeup for Beginners DVD. We decided to use foam latex for all the pieces of Kerrigan, as well as make a cowl for the head/dreads. This video is definitely a must have if you’re doing the dreads/head the same way we are. This DVD helped us to understand more on how we need to make the foam latex cowl, and how to handle the foam latex.

4. The Monster Maker’s Mask Maker’s Handbook. This book is for a latex mask, but helps to understand with the sculpting and molding aspects. Not a must have, but a good reference material.

5. The FX Lab forums. Definitely fun to look around, read, and even ask questions if you have any, but I definitely suggest using the search engine for any questions first. Lots of good tips and helpful people.

I think that’s it for the intro. I’ll be putting up a post or two each week, depending on how long it takes me to write these out.

EDIT: I forgot to add in one important thing. Have lots and lots of patience. This costume was one of the most stressful things I have ever done, there were times when I just wished that we hadn’t even attempted it, but we’ve learned so much over the course of making it that I’m glad we went through with it. There were nights when we just had to step away from it for a few days, not look at it so that we could get a clear mind. Don’t rush, and take your time with each step.

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Queen of Blades update: September 27

Well… I really hope that this is my last update, and that next week I can happily report that this costume is finished. We’re pushing to get it done by Sunday, but I guess we’ll see.

This week, we have to: finish painting the body suit, paint the gloves, shoes, cast the dreads, cast another cowl (we had issues), paint the cowl, make the spikes for the cowl, make the dread holder for the cowl, paint the dreads, attach the dreads, finish putting modelling paste on the wings, sand the wings, paint the wings, and done.

This last week, we painted a lot of the body suit, finished the basic wing structure, covered it, carved the wings, and halfway covered it in modelling paste. We also sculpted the heels, practiced gluing the cowl on, and tried to mold some dreads- but it was too cold outside, and they didn’t want to rise properly. We also practiced painting the feet, with a spare foot cast we had.

That’s it for this week! We’ll see if next week I announce that it’s finished!

Queen of Blades update: September 13

Well.. we’re like three weeks away from wanting to be finished, and I guess we’ll see if we make my deadline!

This week:

I modified the body suit slightly, raising the armpits and sewing the arms to make them tighter.

We also worked more on the wings, which upon sending to two close friends, both replied with “aren’t they a bit large?”.

We molded and cast the largest dread, to understand how much material we’ll need.

We molded the cowl, which unfortunately I didn’t get a finished picture of, but you can kind of see it in a later picture.

It turned out well but we still need to cast at least one more.

Lastly, I glued the foot covers to the shoes. The above picture does not show the finished glued shoe; I obviously cut off all excess foam latex when I glued it on. I need to sculpt the heel soon.

These posts never feel like they’ve got a lot of progress, but we’re working on this costume every day that we’re off of work, and every hour of every day that we can. I am taking a mandatory break this coming up weekend (family in town, pretty much being made to be out of the house for two days) so we’re working hard during the week to be ahead of schedule, and next week we’ll start painting.

Thanks for following our progress, I hope everyone else’s costumes are coming along great!

Queen of Blades update: September 7

Wow, we have gotten a lot done in the past week. Never as much as I want to get done, but it’s a lot nonetheless.

We cast the gloves, but need to recast one of them again, due to it ripping when we took it off the hand form- my fault, I needed to go slower, but we can easily recast.

We’ve also made a ton of progress on the wings, of which I’m not going to show pictures of yet, sorry. You’ll get to see those closer to the convention, when we get them more refined.

Mario’s been working on his seaming so we can get all the pieces seamed and painted, and I put on the full suit today! I’m not happy with the arms and armpits, so I’m going to alter them, but overall, it looks pretty awesome. Here are some pictures with it with the gloves (one of the gloves is the ruined one) and the feet (not glued on to the shoe yet!).

We’re also working on the mold for the cowl- it’s taken us a few days because it’s a three piece mold, so it should be finished up today.

We have a lot more work ahead of us, hopefully it will be finished in 25 days! We’ll see, though!

 

Queen of Blades update: August 28

Okay you guys. It’s really hard to hide my enthusiasm; yesterday was one of the most amazing, fantastic, wonderful days to happen since we’ve started on Kerrigan.

This week, we mostly focused on having the body mold ready to mold with; we filled in some holes, sanded it, and baked it out overnight to get rid of vapors.

Here’s our progress for the week!

We made a really long trip down to San Francisco to pick up some large 20 quart mixers for making the body suit, since it’s so large. Friday, we also worked on learning how to use foam latex, and I have to say, our first try came out beautiful. It’s not seamed yet, so still has some extra pieces hanging down, but you get the idea.

Looks like a Kerrigan foot to me!

Then Saturday, we had six friends over, who helped us pour and brush the foam latex, and also get the molds together very quickly before it set to the point that we couldn’t use it. It went so smoothly, we’re so happy to have such wonderful, helpful friends!

We baked this for nine hours and let it cool for an hour and a half. The detail picked up beautifully, I can’t wait to put it on! We haven’t taken it off the body core yet, because it’s still a bit damp and we want it to dry out first.

Queen of Blades Update: August 23

This has been a busy week for us. We never get as much done as I want to in a week, but something always happens to take up our time (Mario had duty, so he had to work on a Saturday), and I also tend to give us way too many things to get done in a week… but we’re still right on schedule.

The oven is finished, dimensions are 5 foot wide by 4 foot tall and 4 foot deep. That’s exactly enough to fit the body suit in there.

We also cleaned out the body molds (finally…) and dried them really well. I still need to get a tiny bit of clay out of one of the glove molds, but that shouldn’t take long at all.

Here’s the body core that will go inside the body molds… not exactly my size, it’s a bit larger, but we’ll be seaming and cutting down the body suit once we get it baked, and it will fit me perfectly.

We molded the hands for the gloves, we needed to do this because if we used the stone molds as they are, the gloves would have ripped from us trying to get them off of them, and the fingers would have broken off. We’re recasting in resin and will be making the thumb and last two fingers detachable to keep from ruining the gloves.

Please excuse the messy table, Mario was still working on painting a commission when I took this picture. The dreads are all sculpted, we have not had time to mold them yet, but I hope to soon.

Speaking of dreads, this is what the dreads will be attached to. This is a cowl that will be glued onto my face, and will support the weight of the dreads. I’m pretty proud of those ears; they were giving me issues before but I conquered them :)

We also got a ton of stuff in for baking the foam latex, but haven’t taken a picture of it all yet, so you guys can see it next week.

The plan for this next week is to start baking some molds! We’re drying them out right now in the oven, and Thursday or Friday we will be practicing with foam latex, to get the feel of it, then Saturday we’re having a bunch of people over to help us mold the big one- the body suit! I’m so excited to finally be able to put it on!

Queen of Blades update: August 9

So.. this past week was just chock full of progress. We got the foot molds open (apparently I didn’t take any photos of that, sorry), the hand molds are made and opened (though not cleaned out yet, doing that today!), and the beginning of the wing structure is finally finished!

We’ll be using fiberglass poles for the wing structure :)

By next week, we hope to have the dreads sculpted and molded, and the cowl that the dreads will be sculpted on molded, as well as having an oven built, hopefully!