View Full Version : Batman Cowl Vacuum Formed Foamies (Pics)

11-07-2010, 12:16 AM
Here is a vacuum formed Batman cowl I made. I vacuum formed craft foam then overlaid fabric on it...

First I sculpted a mask design in super sculpey...

Then I cast a plaster master.
Then I built a vacuum form rig and vacuum formed craft foam over the master

Then I glued black spandex fabric over the mask to make a cowl...

...and here is the full costume...



11-07-2010, 06:48 AM
VERY cool!!

11-08-2010, 10:56 AM
So – this is my journey in creating a Bat Cowl and vacuum forming it using craft foam ( foamies )
Here is the final result-

The Bat Cowl is a vacuumed formed foamie with a black cloth overlay to blend it into the cape…
My suit is kind of a hybrid batsuit – comic style with some TDK and a “Dead End” inspired "snarling". Boots are Converse special “bat” edition and the suit is Brad’s sub-dye batsuit http://www.spidey4fun.ncable.net.au (Great suit, but you’ll notice I need to do additional “tailoring” to the suit - the thigh area is too loose.)

Here is a close up of the near final cowl:
The pic on the right shows off a feature for the eyes that I call a “privacy screen“ – it’s a one way see through black that you can flip down at any time– great for times when you don’t want to wear black eye make-up or when you want to be that really “mysterious” guy. (I’ve made other costumes with this “blind” look and it always seems to attract attention and curiosity – more stories about that later…)

Here is the original sculpt that I vacuum formed…

So, the results here do not tell you about the journey I went through to get to this point. It’s been interesting at times, fun at other times, and frustrating also - but I learned alot! I’m gonna re-count this journey and maybe it’ll help out others with a curiosity for cowl making…

I’ve been a “bat” fan ever since I was a kid. I’ve made my own costumes through the years.

I work in the video game industry and even got to work on a Batman game – Batman Forever arcade. I even got to visit the “batcave” set in the Long Beach just as Jim Carey was destroying it as the Riddler.

Cyrus Lum (http://www.cyruslum.com)

11-08-2010, 10:58 AM
Here is more of my work…

My first foamie bat cowl.

While I like the rubber cowls, at that time, I wanted a bat mask that was “party friendly” – not a sauna, didn’t require eye make-up and could easily be taken off if I wanted to just “hang-out” and talk…Basically the mask was like a hat, I could wear it forward to be batman, or backwards so I could show my face and not have to hang onto the mask – it just sat on my head so my hands were free to carry things like beers ;)
This hat sat on top of a black balaclava.
I also covered the foamie with a black “see through” material to hide my eyes but still allow me to see out.

That worked out great so, 6 years later… I decided to do another “foamie” bat mask, but this time I wanted to do something more advanced – try to vacuum form the foamie like this guy…

I found out how to do this from this site

Cyrus Lum (http://www.cyruslum.com)

11-08-2010, 10:59 AM
I also found plans for a vacuum former from this site

Here is a pic of someone making a full bat cowl with vacuum formed foamies – or maybe just “heat formed”

Well, I still wanted to make a “party friendly” mask, so I stuck with my old design – (hat-like), but because I could vacuum form more complex shapes, I decided to “sculpt-out” a new bat mask.

For inspiration, I always loved the “etched” batman mask by Jeff Fowler - I loved his stylization

I also liked the look of the “Dead End” cowl – especially the nose and “snarl” expression. My favorite version of this is Shawn Reeves' version.

While it’s not an exact replica of Sandy’s design (IMHO), I find that Reeves' creative changes made the mask look more cool.

So, with these as inspiration, I set out to make my mask. I thought it would be pretty straight forward…HAHAHA

Cyrus Lum (http://www.cyruslum.com)

11-08-2010, 11:00 AM
Now, I’ve done sculpting in the past…

I even sculpted a design for a Batgirl concept

I’ve also done molding and casting in the past too…

So, I thought I knew what I was doing – HA! - I was wrong...

In my next several posts, I’ll break things down and actually go into all of the steps I took to sculpt the bat cowl, mold and cast a master, vacuum form a foamie on top of that to make the mask, then overlay a material on top of that to finish it off...

..so check back on this thread...

Cyrus Lum (http://www.cyruslum.com)

11-08-2010, 11:04 AM
Part 2 - sculpting tutorial

It looks like this tutorial will be spread out over several "parts"/posts...

So - I started to sculpt the bat hat...

I thought that I could eliminate steps by getting away from molding and casting since I was just going to “vacuum form” the foamie on the master.

So, I decided that I’d just sculpt the mask "master" right on the armature using super sculpey so that I could bake it with a heat gun, then pull the master off the armature and vacuum form it. So, most of my time would be on sculpting the master, then building the vacuum former.

To do this, I thought I’d sculpt on top of something that I could easily pull off of the armature when I was done.
The armature is from Monster Makers.com (http://http://www.monstermakers.com/product/deluxe-full-head-sculpting-armature-life-size.html)

I chose to line and tape the armature head with heavy duty aluminum foil. Heavy duty only because that’s what I had laying around in the house. I figured also that the aluminum would help later when I "heat-gunned" the sculpey – protecting the armature while reflecting back the IR heat back onto the sculpey to bake…

Next, I formed a thin layer (1/16”) of super sculpey on top of this.

Now, I used a blow dryer on high heat to bake the thin layer of sculpey – I did this for a half an hour – don’t stay in any one spot too long – keep moving around the head. Then, let the head cool down for an hour or two so the sculpey can harden.

Now that I had a solid base, I started sculpting. I’m primarily an “additive” sculptor – I like to build up my shapes and volume instead of “cutting away” or subtracting from a mass – it allows me to define the shape rather than letting a hunk clay do that for me because for some reason, I’ve fallen in love with how a part of the clay has randomly shaped itself.

To do “additive” sculpting , I start with adding small chunks of clay a bit at a time to build up the shape from the side, front, or whatever angle…

I’ll work on one side, then the other to build up mass and check proportions…

I added more detail to the brow and to the nose area to add the "snarl". Initially the snare was going to be shallow like on the “etched” bat cowl, but I thought that that detail might be too small to show up on a 2-3 mm thick vacuum formed foamie, so I opted to go "large" with the snarl. Now, I’ll start to smooth one side…

Now, I smooth the other side. You can see here, the mask isn’t quite symmetrical – I used the right side to play with some modifications and see how it looks compared to the left side. This gives me some options and a way to "think" through some creative ideas.

11-08-2010, 11:04 AM
At this point, I’m done for the night. I like to get away from a sculpt for a while before I do any final sculpting – so I can see things fresh again and spot any issues.

Next post, Part 3 - refinement and sculpting wrap-up...

11-09-2010, 10:59 AM
Part 3 - sculpting tutorial

Night 2

So, I come back and look at the sculpt and start thinking, “I need to make some changes”. My first thought –– get rid of the chiseled/planar cheek and go more organic. Then I thought about putting a more defined shape to the wrinkles between the brow and get that “S”/”check mark” shape.

I also re-looked at the “lines” of the cowl. The bat cowl design has some characteristic “lines” that give a “sleekness” to the design. So I took some pictures and traced these in Photoshop to plan how to adjust the curves of the brow, the curves to the ears, and the curve from the nose scowl to the cheek.

So, now I have my final sculpt…

…and I’m ready to go back to the blow dryer. This time I blow dry the sculpt for 2 hours.

…And now I can pull the sculpt off the armature…

It was getting late and I wanted to goof around so I put the sculpt on my face and did some photoshop tinting…

End of night #2….

Next post – Part 4: Ready to vacuum form a foamie over the master sculpt…

11-10-2010, 10:56 AM
Part 4 - Vacuum Forming tutorial

So, the next day, I decided to construct the vacuum former using plans from here.

It took about a day to get all the parts and make. Then, just as I was about to vacuum form the master sculpt, I noticed a soft spot on top of the head.

...And as I inspected the sculpt, I noticed a couple of hairline cracks. I began to get worried – would my sculpt be too weak to vacuum form?

So, instead of risking it, I thought I’d hold-off on vacuum forming the master sculpt until tomorrow and do a test instead. I made a quick head "dome" piece and two bat ears out of sculpey and baked it the same way that I baked the bat mask- basically an abbreviated version of the master sculpt.

I also did some reading on the vacuum former – all indications pointed to the vacuum from this device being low pressure – so I was hopeful that my test would be successful and I could move onto vacuum forming the bat mask.

So, I set everything up, cooked a foamie sheet at 350 degrees for 1:45mins, turned on the Shop Vac and put the hot foamie over the test sculpt…and then it happened...

...the test sculpt collapsed and was totally crushed! It happened so fast...
I guess that vacuum pressure was pretty powerful afterall.

Here’s what the vacuum formed foamie looked like

My "nightmare" perfectly captured in foam...
Needless to say, I was horrified!

So, if I’m going to vacuum form the bat mask, I’m either gonna have to figure out how to reenforce and strengthen it or mold and cast a copy in a stronger material.

Even though I was trying to avoid it to save time, I decided to mold and cast in an effort to preserve the master sculpt…and maybe give me some options down the line...

…and I would start that night….

Warning on Cooking Foamies

So, I know that people have used kitchen ovens to cook this stuff in...I'm cautioning you not to.

While EVA foam(foamies, craft foam) is not as bad as styrofoam, you still might want to consider cooking the craft foam in some other device...

Here's plans for a cheap oven...
DIY cheap foamie oven (http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=621858)

Also, so you can stay informed - the material safety data sheet on EVA foam...
Safety Data for EVA Foam (http://www.foamorder.com/material_safety.php?page=closedcell)

Decide for yourself...
I'll also go into more detail on temperature, cook time and how to find that sweet spot later on for cooking foamies no matter what device you are using...

Next post (Part 5) Making the Mold and Cast a new Master

11-11-2010, 11:25 AM
Part 5 - Molding and Casting tutorial


Oh no...how did this happen? Let's go back in time a bit to the day before...

First, I had to prepare the sculpt for molding – I was going to just do a box mold and stuff it with “filler” material so I wouldn’t have to use a whole lotta mold rubber. The mold material I use is stuff from Bare Metal Foil called Experts-Choice Low viscocity Mold Material. It’s a two part 1:1 mix ratio. I like using it because it’s easy and cures on anything – the problem is that you can’t brush this on in layers - it's self releasing – each new layer will not stick to the previous "cured" layer…so I’m just going to have to pour it into a box mold.

So…I grab a scrap piece of wood and start sculpting the mold support for the sculpt.

One problem immediately – I use some green clay that I had around the house. The problem – it’s too sticky…and then I remember after I finish – I think I used this stuff before and it inhibited curing rubber…F&*k!!!

Ok – tomorrow I gotta hit the local hobby shop and get new clay and more mold rubber…

Ok, so this time I re-sculpt the mold setup with non-sulfur Plastalina.
I also start to “engineer” the mold so that the resulting cast will work better with vacuum forming – especially the nose – make sure that it doesn’t drop off so steeply – give it a bit of a ramp. The most effect "masters" resemble more of a volcano - small at the top and wide at the base - this helps the foamie to "flow" and "suck-down" more effectively to the master

While I was out shopping , I stopped by Hobby Lobby and found this stuff called Activ-Wire Mesh – it’s a shape-able aluminum mesh that hobbyists use to make mountain and terrain forms with. I thought I could use it to create an outer shell that would contain the poured rubber for the mold – I also picked up plaster strips that I could wet down and place over the mesh to create a mother mold...In a way, I’m doing things backwards – creating the mother mold before the inner rubber mold. I was thinking that it might allow me more control when limiting the volume of rubber I needed for the mold – I only had 4 lbs of molding rubber…

That mesh stuff is actually hard to work with if you are making an enclosed shape… After fussing with the mesh and bending it into shape, I took a break….

While on break, I started re-thinking the mesh. For one thing, I didn’t give any thought to liquid proofing the mold. This mold is going to have to hold 4 lbs of rubber without leaking until it cures. I didn’t seal the edges where the mesh and later the plaster would meet the clay. Doh!

I needed to be able to construct a cage around the sculpt, but also have access to the inside so that I could build a liquid proof seal strong enough to contain the rubber…

I thought about it some more and hit Home Depot…I grabbed 16 and 18 gauge aluminum wire, Nashua Waterproofing repair tape, and duct tape.

So, the first thing I did was to build a waterproof border seal around the sculpt by taking the waterproof tape, bending the bottom edge in about ½ inch to make a lip that would stick to the clay edging that I modeled. Then, on top of this, I spread more clay over this tape to seal the edges. I was hoping that the positive down pressure from the weight of the curing rubber would force the seals closed.

11-11-2010, 11:26 AM
After making a complete water proof border, I cut and shaped the aluminum wire to match cross sections of the cage that I wanted to surround the sculpt. I also made a loop of wire for the bottom – to hold the cage tight together on the bottom so that the rubber wouldn’t push out the walls and leak. Then, I sealed this lower border from the outside with waterproof tape. This also “locked” the wire cross sections into place.

So, I kept building the cage up - tape layer after tape layer – first the inside with waterproof tape, then the outside with regular duct tape to re-enforce the strength.

And then, I finally sealed the outside bottom with more water proof tape – especially the nose section that over-hangs the board.. This thing looks like a clothes iron now!

Of course, the hole at the top is so I can pour in the mold rubber. I tried to make sure that everything slopes up to this point to help push any bubbles or trapped air to the hole.

OK- now is the true test! Will my contraption hold the rubber or will it leak out….

I was afraid that I was still going to run out of rubber for the mold, so I savaged another pound of rubber from some old containers. I wasn’t sure if this would work since this other stuff wasn’t fresh – probably 4-10 years old! Hell, most of the stuff had already separated so “gunk was down at the bottom of the container. I just scooped everything together and mixed it up…I guess we’ll see if this rubber will still cure…

So, with the newly bought rubber, I start by mixing the A&B parts of the 4 lbs of rubber and poured it on to the sculpt slowly. Then I pour the savaged rubber on top of that…oh Sh&^! Not enough rubber! Now what?

The top of the head and the tip of the ears wasn’t covered by the rubber…

Well, time to go to bed – I’ll at least let this cure then figure out what to do next – I put the mold in a trash bag just in-case the rubber starts to leak over night…

The next day, I checked the mold and to my surprise, there wasn’t a leak disaster – all of the rubber was contained!

I decided to go back to the hobby store and grab Platsil 71-20 Silicone RTV rubber (it was all any of the local hobby shops had.). I figure I’ll dump this on top of the other stuff and see what happens.

Platsil is a Platinum cured Silicone which is pretty finicky about what other materials it is touching – if it doesn’t like what it touches, then it will inhibit curing and all you get is a goo mess instead of solid rubber. I had no idea if the Platsil would react poorly to the other rubber or even to the sculpey or waterproof tape.

Oh well, I guess we’ll see – so I mix the rubber, pour it on, then check back in 4 hours...

...4 hours later, and now is the moment of truth…did I actually make a useable mold?

First I start by peeling off the waterproof tape at the base of the cage.

Then I use a piano wire clay cutter to cut off the wood board. I make sure that I cut the clay below the wire cage.

11-11-2010, 11:27 AM
Here we are with the bottom cut off and you can see the inside of the sculpt where I had the aluminum foil. One other fear I had was that the rubber would push itself inside the sculpt – I guess the air trapped inside this dome kept that from happening.

Now, I peel off the remaining clay that is stuck to the bottom of the mold.

Oh man, de-molding is like helping an animal give birth – You slowly try to get various surfaces to release – first around the sculpt then around the outer cage. I wasn’t having much luck, so I had to cut open the cage. It was something I was hoping I could avoid because I could use it later as the mother mold during casting.

When I got the cage off, I was surprised that the Platsil had bonded to the other rubber – Cool! You can see how I have three kinds of rubber – fresh, old, and Platsil on the top. Kind of a “Franken-mold”.

So, back to getting the sculpt out of the mold. As I worked the master sculpt, I could see new cracks - and sections of the master sculpt where moving – not good!...

Part 5 continued...next post...

11-12-2010, 10:07 AM
Part 5 - Molding and Casting tutorial - continued

...The cracks keep getting larger – there is no way that the original sculpt is coming back out in one piece…and then it happened….

All this work to preserve the sculpt and it just ended up disintegrating anyways! F&*K!!!

So, in retrospect, it would have been easier to just re-sculpt the mask to be stronger – it probably only would’ve taken a day..but instead, I went the long route….

or maybe, I just shouldv'e painted the "master" black and wore that on my face...haha

I said a little "prayer" for my "fallen" master then went on to “slush cast” some plaster into the mold to see what comes out.

I got lazy and didn’t make a plaster mother mold over the rubber mold. I figured the rubber was thick enough to retain the shape and, like I said, I was lazy…

1 hour later, I added a second slush coat

and 1 hour later I added a final third slush coat then set it aside until the next day to fully harden.

The next morning, I was full of anticipation this was the only mold I had, the master was in pieces – did I have anything useable?– was my mold any good?

It was like a "Luke Skywalker" moment...one missile, one exhaust port, one chance...

Stay tuned for the next post...Same bat channel, same bat time....

11-16-2010, 03:02 PM
many levels of awesome! thanks for this!

11-17-2010, 10:19 PM
My god, it's full of stars.

12-03-2010, 09:52 AM
Aw, not going to continue the story? This is really quite interesting, and the results look really nice!

01-06-2011, 03:54 PM
WOW!! That cowl looks awesome

01-28-2011, 09:01 PM
Very nice work! Thanks for taking the time to post this ^_^

02-21-2011, 04:06 PM
I'm sad the story wasn't finished. This was a really excellent post, something I'm more used to seeing on the RPF. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thinks "Hmm, maybe I can find a different way of doing this" *lots of work later* "CRAP! Ok, starting again..." *lots of work later* "CRAP!!!" :D