Death Jester (Warhammer 40.000) – MAKING OF

This is not a tutorial. It only shows how I chose to build these pieces, given my budget and tools. It isn’t the best way to do it, but I hope my progress pictures (and mistakes) will help you come up with your own methods.


I also apologise for butchering the English language.

I was asked to create a mask for a Death Jester costume. I was free to design it as I wished as long as I kept the Harlequin vibe. The final product was inspired by Death Jester miniatures, Jes Goodwin’s Harlequin concepts, and Venetian masks.

The most recent version of the Death Jester mini wears a mask split in two. One side is a skull, and the other is a grining face akin to commedia dell’arte masks. I liked the idea a lot, but didn’t split my own mask in the middle. Instead, I made it look like the grining part was slowly “eating” the skull and made it much more decorated than it appears on the mini and artworks.

I could have scuplted and cast the mask. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an option given the budget, so I had to find something else.

The mask started as something very ugly. The base was patterned thanks to a simple toy mask, by covering it in tape, cutting the pieces flat, and scaling them up with a scanner. Why not use the mask directly as a base, you could ask. Well, the answer is pretty simple: it was a rather small mask, and a grown male couldn’t possibly fit his head inside.

I then cut all of them out of 5mm EVA foam and added the sharp jaw. At first, I wanted to use the papier mâché+craft foam method I used for the Visarch (create volume with paper and aluminium foil, and then cover everything in craft foam because it’s quite stretchy). I quickly realized that whilst it worked pretty well for the Visarch, it wasn’t the best idea in this case.

The Visarch’s belt. The tassets were made with a 5mm foam base, papier mâché, and everything was covered in craft foam. It was totally improvised but worked for some reason.
How to use the ads you find in the mailbox.

I ended up removing the paper to keep only the foam base.

Yes, this is what the Death Jester mask started as.

It was the perfect occasion to try foam clay for the first time, since the tub had been sitting in a drawer for almost a year.

Quite ugly, but it was starting to look like a mask.

I did several placement tests for the rhomboids.

I do not remember why I cut off the nose at this point but I probably had a valid reason.

I cut all the rhombi out of 2mm EVA foam and sanded the edges.


I glued them to the mask (with superglue, if my memory is correct).

The right side was slowly getting its shape, but the left side was still an awful mess. The nose was back (I still don’t know why I cut it off).

I sanded the left side a bit with a rotary tool, and tried to draw where I wanted the details to be with chalk.

The poor thing looks like its jaw partially melted. Remember, this is what hot pizza does to you.

I added the extra detail with 2mm and 5mm EVA.

That nose looks extremely weird.
It almost had its definitive look at this point.

I primed the whole thing with Flexbond and made a really bad color test (I usually do my painting simulations with GIMP though).

Really quick, but I wanted to get an idea of the general look.

I spraypainted the whole mask with a (flexible) matte white. The skull side was handpainted with ivory and then got a brown wash, while I rubbed the left side with pearlescent white acrylic. It gives a slight shimmery effect to the mask. It then got weathered with brown, I tried to create the kind of shadows you see on Venetian masks. The rhomboids were painted with nail polish.

I made some tests with a single yellow LED and black mesh -stockings- (I do not have pictures, but I actually tested several LED colours). The rhomboids had changed again…

I changed the colours one last time, to match what I had done on the rest of the armour.

I then sewed a matching hood, and got the result you saw at the beginning of the article.

[BEHIND THE SCENES] Post apocalyptic photoshoot

The very first “homemade” photoshoot. After looking for locations on the Internet with DrCassbul, we decided to go scouting in the Massif de l’Étoile (the mountain range surrounding Marseille).

Thanks to Google Maps’ satellite view, we got the coordinates of an abandoned house. The map showed a road connecting the town’s 13th borough to the location, but we didn’t know if it could be accessed with a four wheels vehicle. We decided to drive as far as we could and walk the rest of the way. We had to stop 2km (roughly 1.2 mile) away from our destination, which was closer than I had expected.

It was a warm day, and DrCassbul brought his drone to film the area. After a bit of walking, we spotted the house.

Google Map’s (pretty recent satellite) view showed a terrace with a stone railing, which wasn’t there anymore. The house was apparently going to be levelled soon, and the workers had already started. The view was nice though.

As expected, the house was in bad state. Don’t enter buildings with compromised integrity. Or don’t enter abandoned buildings at all, it’s illegal most of the time anyway (AND dangerous). Since this house was out in the open, we considered we weren’t violating property…and given the state of the roof we stayed outside.

When you try to hold your life together.
Drones are useful when you’re trying to take pictures of a roof.
This lovely coffin-shaped water reservoir.

I still took a few pictures of the house from the outside.

But what had caught my interest wasn’t the building in itself, but its surroundings.

There was also this mysterious tanker lost in the bushes.

I wonder what’s the story behind this.

After looking at everything, taking pictures and aerial videos, we walked back.

The goal was to shoot my post-apocalyptic costume there (photos and drone videos), preferably in a gray weather, since the Mediterranean blue sky isn’t exactly menacing. It would just be a bit tricky to carry all the material. We checked the weather forecast and chose a day (I’m self-employed and Scalpa is retired, so our schedules are adaptable, but DrCassbul is still at university, so we had to take his own timetable into consideration).

And…we ended up not shooting there. Basically, the weather was too menacing, and getting stuck in the middle of the hills wasn’t the best idea (and lightning would make it impossible to use the drone). So we changed our plans and went to a more accessible location. It was in a urban area, so using the drone would be forbidden, but at least we could get a few pictures. In the end, it only rained lightly so we could actually have gone to the abandoned house.

I’d like to thank the former Electrical Factory of Allauch for letting us take pictures outside and inside the building. It was built around 1904 to connect the town to the Mediterranean coast electricity network and stop using oil lampposts. It ceased to function in 1960. Nowadays, the building is used for art exhibitions.

The whole pediment reads “Énergie Électrique du Littoral Méditerranéen” (Electrical Energy of the Mediterranean Coast)

The back of the building is interesting as well, with broken glass panels and painted walls.

DrCassbul was behind the camera, and Scalpa was nice enough to throw the dirty rag I call a cape around countless times.

He got so good at this I didn’t even have to edit him out of the picture.

It was DrCassbul’s first photoshoot, and my first time editing pictures as well, so everything is a bit basic…

That’s only a few of them. We came back a few weeks later, but switched roles. My father was wearing the dystopian prosthetic arm I made for a short movie, DrCassbul and I were taking pictures.

If the abandoned house hasn’t been levelled yet, we’d still like to shoot a video there.

Mechanical arm
Manzoo

I love post-apocalyptic settings, and was thus delighted to be was asked to build a mechanical arm in this style. The main material is 3mm thick Sintra, shaped with a heat-gun, textured with a rotary tool, a rough wall, and some Flexbond. It was painted using acrylics mixed with gloss varnish.

This accessory is now in Martinique.

Photo gallery

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