Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more.
Ho, ho, ho – Merry Christmas one and all! With Christmas Day being exactly a week today, I figured it was a good time to look into presents you can give the geek in your life. However, you’ve probably heard lots about what to buy the gamer, or the comic fan, or the Star Wars nerd in your life – So I figured I’d share with you some present ideas that would make the cosplayer in your life a very happy person. So if you’re stuck for those last minute presents, whether it be large or small, check out what I’d consider some great presents for a cosplayer in 2017!
Worbla, a thermoplastic that we are all now accustomed to as a staple of the cosplay scene. We know it’s expensive, we know it’s hard (ish) to work with. But cosplayers who wish to take their craft to the next level may invest big bucks in the material. Dare I even call it a super material? But now, courtesy of Coscraft, there’s a challenger on the market; Introducing Thibra.
There are much better ways of doing this, I’m certain of that, but I thought I’d try my hand at using Foam Board and Worbla to make this badge. Over all the effect has turned out okay, but the effect is from a distance.
So how did I do it? First of all, let’s cut some foam board.
With this cut, I stuck these two pieces of board together with a hot glue gun. I probably could have done this with a Pritt Stick or some PVA glue, but never mind! I wanted it done quickly.
Next up, I took a large cut of Worbla, big enough to not just cover the two pieces, but to completely melt over them. This would mean that the worbla would sort of melt into the nooks and crannies of the top piece (the one with the bits cut out). Needless to say, the Worbla happily contorted with some persuasion from a heat gun.
Now what? I stuck some cork on the back, making pinning easier later.
Finally, I added the detailing of the scales of justice. They’re not the most perfect scales in the world, but hey, they’ll do.
All that’s left is to cover in one or two layers of Gesso, paint the correct colour (a somewhat golden colour), then cover in some more gesso and we’re done! I’ll put up pictures of the shiny badge later.
Time taken: 30 minutes.
Material cost total: Approx £1.50.
OBJECTION! Could I not have made it ‘better’?
What would I do differently in future? I’ll probably do this at some point, actually…
So I could make a silicone mould for the badge and cast it from that. That’d give it the absolute smoothness that you’d expect. The mould could be made simply by the method shown above, but instead of putting Worbla over the foam, I’d cut a hole in the middle of the top piece, then make the scales stick out of the foam. Possibly the scales could be done in Worbla. Then, The silicone should be able to pick up the details of the scales and thus leave a little imprint inside of the badge.
Once this is done, spray in the correct colour and gesso it up.
If anyone thinks this should be my first experiment with silicone, give us a Like!
If I get more time at the end of the night, I might completely remake this and make it look a bit more “Sunken in” like the actual badge.
So, I feel as if I’m getting somewhat obsessed with thermoplastics, but that’s okay by me!
What does it look like?
Kobracast is a thermoplastic version of Plaster of Paris bandages! No, seriously, check this out!
You might be able to notice that it has some fine wires going through it. Made up of a flexible knitted polyester fabric along with a thermoplastic, Kobracast is a lot like plaster of paris bandages, or simply plaster bandages. The difference with Kobracast is that you don’t get the flaky problem you do get with plaster. Furthermore, once you’ve heated it into place, you can keep doing this.
How does it take shape?
Much like with Worbla, you shape Kobracast with heat (Hence it being a thermoplastic). I used my trusty old heat gun for the job, however I’ve noticed a lot of people mention that this isn’t the most effective way, due to how sticky Kobracast seems to get. It’s said that Kobracast is best worked with boiling water (So bring yourself some tongs of some sort to lift it back out of the water!)
Much like Worbla, once the material has been heated, it becomes rather floppy and easy to shape. For my Oscar Kass mask, I blew up a balloon and by heating individual strips of plastics, applied them to the balloon directly. This is much in the same principle as doing a papier mache mask when you were a kid, but hey – If it’s effective, why knock it?
I mentioned how Kobracast is brilliant at structure. With all of the little holes in Kobracast, it’ll be quite a pain to paint. Instead, you’ll want to give your Kobracast creation another layer. From the application stage, I was able to make a perfect base for my mask. I’ve even worn the mask whilst wearing the robes, so I know this is the right size. Now that I’ve created the base, I just have to apply a layer of something else. I’ll use Worbla, as now that the base building stage is finished, Worbla will form quite nicely around the Kobracast.
Worbla is effective for a big area, as well as finer detail, however I found it wasn’t that good as a base structure. It was scratchy and solid with little elasticity once it had hardened. Kobracast however, seems to retain some of its elasticity once it’s hardened.
Kobracast, much like Worbla, is self adhesive. However, I have noticed that it gets really sticky on the fingers too in comparison to Worbla which really didn’t suffer that problem. That’s why people advise using hot water, pulling it out with some form of tongs or tweezers and then flattening it on a surface and brushing it down. I’ll be trying this in the future, as I didn’t get a perfectly smooth finish as a result of lapping pieces.
What detail can we do with Kobracast?
Kobracast can be sanded and it’s best used as a base. You might even want to consider using papier mache over the shape. If you have some way of making a mesh for a shape to begin with, then applying Kobracast over the mesh, that might be your best bets.
Kobracast is quite light, thus it’s perfect for making masks… Such as my Oscar Kass mask.
But I will have to show you my much improved mask… Another time!
What did you think of Kobracast? It’s somewhat cheaper than Worbla, but at the same time, you don’t really get a sheet as big as you do with Worbla. The flexibility makes it perfect for a base, which can then be covered with another material.
Granted, all of these plastics are not cheap overall. The roll in the first picture cost £14.00, but you get a 10cm x 280cm roll. Compared to Worbla, which for £30.50, you can get a 75cm x 100cm roll of, it’s hard to tell which is truly better value. I’d argue Kobracast is possible just that bit better value, but again, combined these two make a fantastic material to use for anything that you need to have sturdy.
I thought I’d start looking at cosplay materials as well as some advice as to where you can get them. This is to document for myself some of the materials I’ve used in the past along with materials I am using at present and in the future.
I’ve mentioned this product before, but I’m actually genuinely impressed by the versatility of Worbla. This post is dedicated to the thermoplastic: Worbla.
For those who don’t know much about it, I attempted to use the product to create my Edward Elric arm. Whilst it worked, it was a bit too stiff for an arm so I will use EVA Foam when I remake that arm soon enough.
I potentially could still make that arm out of Worbla, though I am thinking I might need to cast my arm properly before I work with it. This is besides the point of this article, however.
Today, I’m going to talk to you about the basics of working with Worbla, as well as how to get the most out of it.
Step one: Cutting
Worbla is a thermoplastic which means it’s a plastic that reacts to heat.
Worbla comes in a brown-like colour and comes in a big sheet. You can cut it however you like and then shaping it is even easier.
You can cut the Worbla simply with scissors, no specialist equipment is really needed to use Worbla at all for the hobbyist. I would recommend using some way to measure the things you are cutting as well as some strong scissors as Worbla is quite tough when cooled down. After all, this is plastic!
Step two: Melting/Shaping
The best point of Worbla is how versatile it is. You can completely snap it apart then melt it back together and roll it back out to reform it. It’s almost magical and a great material to use in cosplay. I would recommend not going as extreme as I did with a worbla arm, however if you want to make pieces of armour, or belt bucklers, etc then Worbla truly is your material.
I used Worbla to create the effects of my Oscar Kass belt buckler because it’s a durable piece of material, and it does the job nicely.
The back of Worbla gets sticky when hot, which is how the belt buckler will be stuck to the belt: By heating the back up, letting the self-adhesive “glue” back get hot and pressing the belt into it. This will only take a few minutes to go from unbound to bound to another material.
Step three: Complex working
So, whilst you can’t see it so well here (I’ll try to improve the quality of the Worbla arm at some point!) I made the full arm out of Worbla and the hand too. This shows how easy this product is to use and how you can layer it to make something truly complex.
This alone shows the versatility of the product. I was able to use the whole hand, although I will admit that playing card games such as Magic: the Gathering became a bit of a task.
Another great point of Worbla is although it’s a premium product, it really isn’t that expensive to buy! You can only seem to get Worbla from Coscraft but considering it costs £5 for the A4 trial sheet or £30.50 for a humongous sheet (Trust me, one sheet was more than enough to cover and arm and probably would have covered a leg, for a price that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (See what I did there?)
With experience, Worbla could truly be one of the products a cosplayer puts in his or her “must have” materials.
Step four: Painting
Use acrylics paints as it seem to be the staple for painting just about anything in cosplay, seriously!
Amusingly, I ended up using a combination of an acrylic undercoat and then I used T-Cut of all things to make this grey-ish silver effect on the hand and arm. T-Cut is something you put over cuts and scrapes on cars, not really supposed to be used for cosplay but hey, you sometimes just have to make do with what you’ve got.
Point is though, if you stock yourself up with acrylic paints, you’ll be able to detail that Worbla in whatever ways you want. Trust me here: There’s a lot of ways to decorate Worbla.
As a complete novice like me, considering even I was able to make something that somewhat resembled an arm, I am proud and I am sure there are those of you out there who have made something out of Worbla that just looked superb.
Have you ever used a thermoplastic yourself? What about Worbla? Does the pricing interest you or is it too expensive for a cosplayers material of choice? Let me know in the comments below.
Join us next Friday for another Cosplay Materials post, where I’ll be looking at another fun material.
So, I’ve literally just gotten back from playing around with Worbla’s Finest Art, the stuff I’m going to be using to make Ed’s arm and leg. Oh boy. If I could make something that physically bound itself together in just 5 minutes… I dread to think what excuses I could come up with for having not made this arm and leg. I guess I have no excuses now! Let’s delve a little deeper into what this stuff looks like, feels like and working with it. But before I do this, take a look at the picture below which is a bunch of stuff I had on hand.
- Worbla sheet
- Heat gun (seems you could use a hair dryer for this, but it certainly was quick with a proper heat gun! I got this one from Maplins for around £13.)
- Marker pen
- Modelling knife
All I want to get out of this is a basic “bracelet” you can wear.
So as you can see above, Worbla’s comes in this lovely brown colour making it very neutral. From what I’ve heard, this stuff is fine with being glossed and once glossed, you can use a spray paint to paint it. Once I start doing those kinds of things, I’ll write a post about finalising a piece. For now, I wanted to make the most basic thing possible: A “bracelet”. I.E just a ring.
Well, this stuff feels grainy. Not a bad kind of grainy, it’s almost like it’s “scaled”. Unique texture but you can sand it, gloss it, do whatever you need with it. The plastic sheet itself is nice and sturdy and will take some effort to do damage to (Which I demonstrate later).
Working with Worbla
So first, I decided to cut my A4 sheet as I wouldn’t need all of it for such a small project. Since this is the first thing I was going to make, I decided I’d take a strip of it and work from there. This cut very easily with a sharp pair of scissors.
Once I had my piece, I got my heat gun at the ready and decided to use the lower setting, as I heard Worbla can be ready to go quite easily/quickly. This, I can confirm, is the case.
So, after I stopped making funny little “seat” shapes, I bent my Worbla into a circle, applied some heat to an end of the Worbla and… after it cooled down…
Well, there it is. I mentioned earlier about how strong this stuff gets… Well, it takes a bit of force but you can damage this stuff relatively easily… For example:
The hardened product (just let it cool back down) will happily spring back into place. If you want it even tougher, you may like to consider fitting it with some form of foam inners. For now though, I have a “bracelet” and will soon enough get some gloss and spray paint to see how easy this stuff is to work with in a paint job. I’ll then try binding other materials to the Worbla Bracelet.
Okay, thanks for reading all, if you have any questions about this then please drop me a line in the comments section or send me an e-mail. This was simply done as an exploratory and quick project, to show the ease of using Worbla, even for a first timer like me.