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Cosplay Materials: EVA Foam

Wondered how people make massive pieces of armour in cosplay? Want to know what to look out for when buying your materials? In today’s Cosplay Materials post, we’ll be looking at EVA Foam – And the variants that they come in. There’s a lot of confusion as to what EVA foam is, as there’s many forms of it – So join me if you want to understand more about the foam, what they can be used to make, how much it typically costs and more.

eva-foam-flooring

EVA Foam flooring

If you’ve come here looking to understand EVA foam in its entirety, you’ve come to the right place. As a disclaimer, I haven’t actually made much with EVA Foam – Just a few simple bits and pieces here and there. I’ve always been a bit slack with blueprints for making a cosplay, as well as the materials, the time and more. However, EVA Foam is the one material I can’t go without. I’ve got so much of it that it’s absolutely uncanny. However, it doesn’t solve every issue in the world. In this article, I’m hoping to show you what EVA foam can do, as well as to give you a better understanding of what it actually is.

My first ever EVA Foam project was Oskar!

My first ever EVA Foam project was Oskar! This is the back of the flooring variant of EVA Foam.

EVA stands for Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate – And if you don’t know what that means in common English – don’t worry. Seriously, I bet if you were to ask the vast majority of cosplayers what this actually means, they’d not know. However, they do know what it is used for! If you are looking for something that can be used to make armour, this is the stuff you want. If you want something that is used for props: You’re better off using a more solid foam, such as XPS (Extruded Polystyrene). Typically, people use EVA foam for armours, including helmets, body armour, boot covers, wrist guards and much more.

Some of the coolest costumes I’ve seen have been made entirely out of EVA foam. I’ve had people tell me they’ve made full blown swords out of the stuff, however I certainly wouldn’t recommend this, as it’s far too flimsy. However, it’s certainly going to be stronger than you need for any piece of armour: it can even take being pushed and thrown around a little bit, without it falling apart. EVA foam comes in a few thicknesses, but typically you will either get the floor mat varieties, or smaller forms that you can get at a typical craft shop. For me, I go to Hobbycraft and I always have lots of “craft foam”, or “fun foam” here.
There are two major variants of EVA Foam: The floor variety and the fun foam variety. Both can be worked in the same manner, however, the fun foam variety is typically used for things that need a lot more minute detailing. The floor variety is typically used for larger areas: Say a chest piece. So if you’re looking to make a chest piece, which has a flat plate on top of it, you’d use the floor variety for the main material and the fun foam variety for the plate on top. An interesting fact with both of these pieces: You can make them look “leathery” – By ironing them!

 

The above video is a great example on how to cut EVA Foam mats, as it’s not as easy as it first looks. The technique of pushing the craft knife down onto a cutting mat before you drag across is actually really effective. It ensures a much cleaner cut than, say, the one I used to make my Oskar mask. When I look at my mask, although it certainly does the trick, it’s definitely worn out over the years. The poor guy is definitely near the end of his (un)life. After about 2 years of using him at conventions, he’s finally getting a bit too old and the foam is beginning to get weaker. However, he’s still certainly usable!

With this said, it’s important to remember that an EVA Foam piece really should be coated, to give it a bit of extra life. Without a sealant, the foam can begin to warp over the years. The paint job will crumble (which in the case of Oskar was a good thing, but many armour pieces will need to be coated first and then sprayed to become all shiny and metalic looking. You can seal it with:

  • Plastidip – Americans swear by this and you can get it here. Typically used in automotives – Comes in a spray can. I see this for about £10-£16 here in the UK.
  • Gesso – I use this a lot, but you do need to use many layers. You can get a large pot of this for about £5-£10.
  • Mod Podge – Great stuff, but better for smaller surfaces. You can get a fairly big pot of this for about £4-£6.

Tool of choice heatgun

Another great thing about EVA Foam is that you can heat it in shape. With both variants, why not have a hard surface to heat around? If you can’t get ahold of that, you can easily shape EVA Foam with your hand. Apply heat evenly over both sides of your foam – take it in your hands and shape. Just be warned: It will be hot! Once you’ve got the pattern, the cut, the shape and more sorted, you’re just down to gluing it all together. For this, you can use anything from a heat gun, through to what people call “concrete cement”. I’d recommend concrete cement, however often you can only get your hand on a glue gun, so don’t worry – You can often get the job done with a heat gun. Just be careful that you don’t let the glue seep out too much!

Got any tips to share with us about EVA Foam? Think I’ve covered all the best lessons? What cosplay piece should I make out of EVA Foam? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

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3 responses

  1. When you make something in Eva foam does the costume end up looking like it was made on a low budget, which causes Shinji to whine a lot?

    Liked by 1 person

    November 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

    • Both: Shinji just whines a lot

      Liked by 1 person

      November 20, 2016 at 11:57 am

    • In seriousness though: most of the best costumes you see are made of EVA foam. Check out Evil Ted on YouTube :)

      Liked by 1 person

      November 20, 2016 at 12:03 pm

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