Sunday, March 7, 2010

Final Fantasy XII - Ashe Leg Armor Tutorial

Here's a reference picture of the project:



Before I can begin a project like this, I need to make a pattern. Before I can make a pattern, I need to make a form around which I can shape the pattern. Since this armor is going to cover the thighs, I will need to take detailed thigh measurements for the client who will be wearing this project. (Specifically, I'll need to know the circumference around the knee, the widest part of the thigh, and the distance from the top of the thigh to the knee. )

Once I've gotten the measurements, I take a wide strip of cotton batting and/or scrap fabric and roll it into a cylinder at least 2-1/2 feet long. I then wrap my measuring tape around the form to see how thick it is. If I need to make the roll bigger, I simply wrap more batting or fabric around the outside.



Once I get the roll to the shape and thickness that I need it to be, I wrap lengths of masking tape around it to keep it from unraveling. I then remeasure the roll to make sure it matches all the measurements in my measurement chart. I can either tighten or loosen the tape to adjust the size of the roll.



At this point I have a good representation of the thigh around which this armor will eventually be worn. The next step of the process will involve drawing the armor pattern.

This I did by taking a piece of thick white paper (newspaper would have worked as well) and wrapping it around the form thusly:



Okay, this part is the hardest to explain. Using my reference picture, I sketched out the design of the pattern freehand. After lightly sketching out the general shape of the armor and its surface decoration, I laid the paper down on the floor and began hacking out the fine details:



Bonus: here's the picture I used as my reference for the front and back of the armor:



You do need to have some talent in drawing from observation to make this happen. Start by roughly sketching out the width of the leg armor, and then filling in the details, making sure the parts of the design that go above the knee, go above the knee, etc. When you're finished, you should have something like this:



Cutting the pattern free from the paper and wrapping it around the thigh should roughly give you something like this:



That done, you should cut the "windows" in the center of the armor like this:



The next step will be to lay the pattern down onto a sheet of styrene and cut it out--and I'll get to that during the next update. Again, I wish I could be of more help in explaining how to design the armor and its surface decoration. (I could scan in the pattern I made, if I had a working scanner, but I don't so I can't.) My advice when sketching out the pattern, is to lightly sketch out the general shapes, and then draw a refined version of the pattern with a dark marker.

Once that was done, it was time to lay the pattern down on a piece of .020" styrene. (You can buy a sheet like this from me via this website: http://amethyst-angel.com/styrenesheets.html ) Once the pattern had been laid out, I can traced around it, transferring the design to the styrene, which I then cut out.



Here's a tip: When tracing out a design, trace out only HALF of the pattern, then turn it over, line it up at the middle, and trace out the OTHER HALF. (I only drew the full pattern when it was on the form to get a general idea of where all of the design components would be. Tracing the same half of the pattern as shown will result in two sides that are exactly symmetrical.)



That done, I took a pencil and refined the traced image a bit, then I sketched out the small raised rectangular area in the middle of the armor, like so:



(You'll notice I haven't cut the design free of the styrene yet. There's an important reason for that, but I'll get to that in a bit.)

Anyway, the next step in the process was to cut a rectangular piece of styrene that matched the raised area that I had just sketched out in the middle of the armor. (This was simple to do--I just measured the dimensions of the rectangle onto a piece of scrap styrene using a ruler. I then cut out the rectangle and hotglued a layer of 3mm thick craft foam underneath it.)



I hotglued the rectangle into place in the center of the armor design. Then, I took my hotglue gun and squeezed a raised border around the outer edges of the raised rectangle. I had to take great care to make the border even and to not apply too much hotglue, lest the edges of the styrene start to warp and melt.



Now came the absolute fun part: applying the rest of the raised decoration, using my hotglue gun and several sticks of all-purpose hotglue. (Basically, it's a lot like coloring in a coloring book--only instead of using crayons, you're using hotglue. Care must be taken to make sure the hotglue doesn't bleed "over the lines" Also, the design should be applied so that adjoining(touching) areas of the design don't run into each other. (If you try applying the entire design all at once, the heat may cause the styrene to warp and the entire design to melt into a single incomprehensible blob. Therefore, only a small section of the raised design should be made at any one time.)



I hope this is making sense so far.

Once I had finished applying surface decoration to my thigh armor using hotglue, I waited for the glue to cool and then began cutting the armor free of the styrene sheeting.



I used a utility knife to cut out the areas within the armor's central "window":



That done, I took a hotglue gun and applied a light coating to the backside of the armor (the side with no decoration on it.) I made sure NOT to coat the "filigree" within the "window."



I then took a large sheet of 3mm craft foam (the color doesn't matter) and applied it to the backside of the armor, cutting out a hole in the area that covered the "window."



I wanted to reinforce the filigree so I applied hotglue to the back of the scrollwork and then pressed a shaped piece of .020" styrene to it.



Here's how it looked from the front:



Next, I took a craft knife and very carefully cut away all of the styrene in between the filigree, making it look as shown:





We're almost in the home stretch as far as finishing the thigh armor is concerned. The only remaining thing to do is make the flanges that lay on either side of the center rectangle.

The first thing I had to do was take a piece of paper and lay it next to the rectangle. Then I sketched out the rough shape of the first flange piece:



Once I figured out the general look of the piece, I cut out the paper shape and used it as a template to cut a couple of matching flange pieces out of styrene. I placed the pieces next to the rectangle and refined the design.



That done, I hotglued a layer of 3mm craft foam to the back of both pieces.



To get the flange pieces to flare out from the armor at the correct angle, I hotglued some scrap pieces of 6mm craft foam next to the rectangle, creating a ramp of sorts.



I then hotglued the flange pieces in place. (You can see how they flare out from the rectangle, drawing the viewer's eye into it.)



That's pretty much all that needed to be done for the thigh armor. (One note of caution: make sure the flange pieces don't extend down so far that they scrape against the wearer's knee and make walking difficult.)



Oh, and speaking of knees, the next step in the process is to make the part of the armor that covers the kneecaps and upper shin. (Unfortunately, I lost the pictures pertaining to that part of the project. Here's a picture of the finished armor though:)



I made the knee armor by building prototypes out of tagboard and tape, and attaching them to the part of the armor that was finished. Once I was satisfied with the shape of the knee and shin coverings, I could use the tagboard patterns as a template for cutting out the craft foam and styrene used to make the final armor.

(Again, sorry for the lack of specific pictures dealing with this subject. Sorry also for not covering the rest of Ashe's armor, as I wasn't asked to do that particular part of the costume with this project. With enough practice and prototype building, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to make these pieces on your own.

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