Before we start – and this is valid for any build, not this one in particular – wear appropriate protection for what you are doing (respirator, safety glasses, gloves etc). I am not saying you should wear a mask when drafting patterns, but know the risks related to any products and tools you are using. I am aware that a lot of people start wearing protection AFTER an accident occurs, but please take in consideration what I just said and you might keep your fingers and/or lungs intact.
I got a fair amount of questions regarding the steps involved in the creation of the Visarch’s undersuit. Please keep in mind that I did it with what I had on hand at the time, and I certainly did not use the best methods and materials for the job. Thus, you shouldn’t see this as steps to follow, but merely as what I learned during the build. Be careful, what worked for me here might not be suited for your project, but I hope this article will give you ideas to make your own.
My suit has four parts: pants, shirt, and gloves. Since I knew most of it would be covered by armor pieces, I didn’t mind having separate parts (it also means I can pee without having to remove everything). The tassets and bracers would respectively cover the shirt/pants transition and the sleeve/glove one. Depending on your project, you might prefer a catsuit.
What I used:
- Stretchy shirt, leggings, and gloves
- Dimensionnal fabric paint
- Sponges (upholstery foam)
- A mannequin
Since I didn’t need a particular design, I used store-bought clothes as a base (form-fitting, black stretchy sportswear). There are two things you should know when choosing your base:
- The fabric should be as least porous as possible (you will see why)
- What I am about to do to it will make it loose a lot of its elasticity. Be prepared.
I had originally planned to brush my base suit with liquid latex. Unsurprisingly, my pot of latex, which had been opened back in 2015, was in the solid state AND mouldy (I had no idea latex could do that). Anyway, since this started out as a stupid experiment, I didn’t want to buy materials for something that was supposed to fail. So I used what I had primed the armor with: Flexbond. Warning: this is probably not the cheapest and most efficient option here, I just used what I had.
As I said earlier, applying Flexond to the fabric will make it loose a great amount of elasticity, so you need to apply it on something close to the volume of your own body, otherwise it might not fit you once dry. The optimal way of doing this would be to brush it directly on the person who will wear the suit. It does have some issues though (they are still valid for other mediums, like latex):
- You cannot do it alone (obviously)
- It requires the model to stand still through the whole application and drying time, and depending on the conditions it can be hard on the body. I am really insisting on this particular point, PLEASE do not hurt yourself for the sake of a costume.
- If your fabric is porous (mine didn’t look that way, but still was), Flexbond, no matter how thick it can be, WILL get through it. You do NOT want that on your skin, especially when it starts to dry, so your model would need to wear something waterproof underneath.
I am lucky enough to own a female mannequin that was given to me by a clothes store after being damaged during a flood. It looks like an elongated version of myself, but what I was interested in was the width of the limbs rather than their length. You can always pad such mannequins so make them closer to your body type. Another option is to make a tape dummy of yourself, you can find plenty of tutorials online (and it will be useful for any costume as well).
Oh, and if you have a lot of time/money on your hands you could just 3D print yourself or make a life-cast.
By the way, what I am about to describe below is also what I did on the foam armor pieces, from priming to painting.
I used a large rough brush to apply a first (it is important to keep your layers thin) coat of Flexbond on the fabric. One of the advantages of Flexbond is that it washes with water, so you won’t be sacrificing your brushes to the prop god (I cannot garanty the succes of the recovery operation if you let said dirty brush dry in a corner though). You can also dilute it with water, I usually choose not to.
Depending on how porous your fabric is, your first coat might soak into it, which will help saturate it. You can speed up the drying process with a hair dryer (or a heatgun if you are feeling adventurous like me, but be prepared to face the consequences). As a workshopless person, I was doing this outside, in December, on a very windy afternoon/evening/then night, so speeding up the process was essential to my survival. Do not be too greedy though, creating bubbles on the Flexbond because of the high temperature will greatly contribute to the organic texture you might be trying to achieve, but I accidentally melted the armpit area of my shirt during the process *synthetic fibers in a nutshell*.
My Visarch armor has some vein-like details all over it. This texture was actually achieved with dimensional fabric paint. I did the same thing on the undersuit.
Once the veins had dried, I applied my second (THIN) layer of Flexbond which I had tinted black (using Black Gesso because it is the darkest thing I posess, but any flexible acrylic paint would do), because I wanted to be able to see where I was brushing it (Flexbond dries clear), and because it gave me a black base for the paintjob (this entirely depends on said paintjob, some might require a white base or any other color). Even with thin layers, undiluted Flexbond is still rather viscous so two were more than enough in my case. The suit was ready for painting.
Once again, the process I am about to describe here is the exact copy of what I did on the foam armor. I built up layers of red with a sponge (a torn piece of upholstery foam from a fragile package). I went like *dab* *dab* *dab* with it all over my surface. It is just my personnal preference, you can use brushes, an airbrush, old socks,
or your cat (my cat stepped in red paint ON THE DAMN TABLE when I was painting the Visarch, so this is not entirely off-topic). As you can imagine, your paint needs to be highly flexible. I mainly use these two ranges, because they are widely available in my country (and rather inexpensive given how long the tubes last): Pébéo Studio and Liquitex Heavy Body. These are (according to my experience) incredibely flexible (remember, THIN layers – both ranges have great coverage anyway, so you do not need to put a ton of paint).
I used four shades of red, going from the darkest to the lightest one to create shadows and help the details pop up.
- How well can you move in it ?
- It just feels like wearing jeans, so I quickly forget about it. It gets really stiff when cold though, but your body heat is enough to make it keep its flexibility.
- Does it get warm inside ?
- As you can probably imagine, your skin hardly breathes in it (wear with caution). My own suit was only coated on a part of the legs and sleeves so it is easier to wear than a full suit in warmer weather.