Here's the tutorial I promised for Zelda's shoulder armor. For starters, I printed off a paper pattern that I customized using an app called Inkscape. I use this app because I can't draw free-hand to save my life. I laid the patterns out over 4mm thick craft foam and traced the base shapes. Then I cut out the details from the paper pattern and traced them onto 2mm craft foam.
First and most importantly, I had to make sure the pieces would fit together and were the right size. It would be a total waste of time to cut out all the little details only to find out the armor pieces don't fit your shoulder properly. For this part, I just used a heat gun to heat the pieces and wrapped them around my shoulder and upper arm. Once the pieces completely cool, they'll pretty much keep the shape. (This only works for 2mm, 3mm or 4mm foam. For thicker foam, you might need to cut darts to achieve the curves.) Once your satisfied with the fit, simply heat the foam pieces again until they go flat.
Once the details (designs) were cut from the 2mm foam, I glued them onto the 4mm foam using Foamies glue. For the tiny little waves that run across the lower pauldron, I had to also - painstakingly - trace and cut those from 2mm craft foam.
It took me awhile to figure out what I could use to make the little dots, which go over the waves. I couldn't use dimensional paints or hot glue, because I planned to wrap the whole thing with black Worbla. Then I remembered that I had some pearl rhinestones leftover from my Rapunzel crown in various sizes, so I used those. (You can substitute with other things by all means. That's just what I had laying around.) You could also simply look up "flat back pearls" on Etsy to find a pack for about $3.00.
At this point, certain family members accused my pauldrons of looking like "Christmas Cookies" and good enough to eat - although I wouldn't recommend it!
Note: Be sure that your gemstone will fit the foam circle before proceeding to the next step! Alternatively, you can forgo making the circle with foam and add it to the worbla, using a strip of scrap worbla (but I think my way was easiest).
Next, I laid the finished foam pieces onto a sheet of black worbla and cut around them, leaving at least a 2" edge (seam allowance) all the way around. For those not familiar with worbla, it's a thermoplastic that's sensitive to heat. Therefore, you use a heat gun - on the low setting - to heat it to the point of pliableness (soft and sticky.) You are going to need to cut two pieces of worbla for each foam piece. This way you can wrap them around the foam pieces. This is often called the "sandwich method", because you are literally sandwiching the foam in between two pieces of worbla and sealing them together. You can find a ton of videos about how to correctly use worbla on YouTube and it's many uses, but this is just my little Zelda armor how-to.
Once you begin heating the worbla over the foam piece, use clay tools to gently work the plastic into all the tiny crevices of the design. This part is like uncovering a painting, one small piece at a time. As the plastic starts to cool, apply a little more heat and keep working at it. You can also trim the excess seams off at this point, using a pair of scissors, making sure all the foam is encased. Here is a picture I took in mid-process.
And here's how it looked looked after all the details were uncovered.
At this point, you can now shape the armor. Using the heat gun on the low setting, gradually heat up the back of your pieces, making sure that you don't heat too much, or else the seams will come undone and peel off of your foam. If heating the back isn't enough to give it some flexibility, then you can also heat the front a little. The goal is to get the unit flexible enough to bend without destroying the details or risk the worbla peeling away from the foam core.
For the pauldron (the part that goes on your upper arm) I used a wine bottle to wrap the hot worbla around and allowed it to cool. This gave me the shape I was looking for without burning my arm. Some people apply hot worbla directly to body parts, and that's okay, just make sure you don't burn yourself. For the upper shoulder armor, I simply bent it around to cradle the lower arm pauldron. Since worbla sticks to itself, this process also adhered the top and bottom armor pieces together so that they won't move separately. If you would like the lower pauldron to move separately from the shoulder armor, then you can cut 2 strips of fabric (elastic, leather, etc) glue one end to the shoulder armor (both sides) and the other end to the lower pauldron to make hinges. For me, I chose to make mine one unit to be on the safe side. I even applied extra strips of worbla on the bottom and ran them across both pieces for added security. I can still move my arms up and down without the hinge effect.
Test the armor out on your shoulders to make sure they fit comfortably before the next step.
Now it's time to smooth them out and paint. Worbla has a grainy texture, so it's important to use a primer such as wood glue or caulk to smooth it out. Since natural armor can have somewhat of a hammered effect, I wasn't too worried about getting them perfectly smooth. The ideal is to stay away from gritty. So I applied some caulk and 3 layers of wood glue to smooth things out. After a light sanding, I spray painted them with gold metallic paint.
After fully drying, I went in with a dry brush and used brown oil paint to weather them. Using black paint would have made the armor look more dirty than worn. Zelda doesn't have dirty armor, although it should look a little worn with natural shadows along the base of the high points. It would take another full article to explain how to properly weather armor, so I won't go into lengths. Let's just say I spent more time weathering this armor than I did actually making it (hours and hours).
The gemstones were actually casted from red rhinestones that I had bought online. They were the right size, but wrong color. So I made a quick mold with the red stones, using a product called Composi-Mold. It's microwavable and reusable - which makes it very cool in my book. I used EasyCast resin and color pigment drops (blue) to cast them. Yes, they were also sanded and polished after I took that picture.
I used a two part epoxy glue to adhere the stones to the pauldrons and viola! To attach the shoulder armor to my shoulders, I attached clear elastic bands to the back of the lower pauldrons to wrap around my lower arms (they're secured with velcro underneath). I also ran a clear strap across my back, connecting the two shoulder arm pieces together, using o-rings and an adjustable buckle (similar to a clear bra strap).
Below is a better look at the underlying mechanics. You'll also notice that I used black worbla on the back of one and regular worbla on the other. This is because I ran out of black, so I improvised. ^^
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