Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Making of Solaire, Part 1

It all started with a helmet.  I was given an armor-making assignment in one of my classes, so naturally I turned to Dark Souls for inspiration.

It's not filled with the flashiest armor sets I've ever seen in video games, but it has a pretty great selection of believable armor.  I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to call it historically accurate, but it's got some good stuff.  As a tribute to my favorite character in the game,  I of course chose to craft Solaire's helmet for my project.

I started by making the general shape of the helmet with industrial felt, a tough, thick material that makes a great base for lightweight prop armor.  And what better way to test out the proportions than with a good old fashioned sun praising!

Once the shape of the helmet had been worked out and the top was attached, I got to work on the details.  Using more layers of felt, I stitched on the additional parts of the helmet to give it some dimensionality.  Next the collar guard had to be constructed.

The closest actual medieval armor piece I could find that was similar to this piece would be a gorget, but I'm not quite sure that's right.  Regardless, I had to "sculpt" it using pattern paper.  When the desired shape and size was found, I then flattened out the pattern and cut it accordingly.

Here's how it turned out once the whole thing was stitched together!  Honestly I really like the way it looked entirely black, but there was no way I was going to just leave the helmet unfinished, so I forged ahead with wind in my sail and sun in my stride!

Now I couldn't leave the helmet all soft and malleable, so I used a lacquer to make the felt rigid.  You know, like armor.  Of course, felt isn't a very smooth material.  This isn't a problem when it's soft and bendy, but once it's been glued solid the felt's surface texture becomes something not unlike sandpaper.  A few layers of a gluey material called "Sculpt or Coat" had to be applied and sanded down in order to smooth out the surface.

Once dried, the Sculpt or Coat became semi-rigid shell that was ready for shaping.  Unfortunately a power sander applied to much heat and pressure and would created deformities in the glue, so it all had to be done by hand from there.

Many hours later, the helmet was finally ready for its final layer of Sculpt of Coat to smooth out all the remaining imperfections.  It felt like I had sanded enough to last a lifetime, so I happily left it to dry over night and went home.

With the base of the helmet all finished up, it was time to get started on the details!  Using a little epoxy and some domed jewelry pieces, I added the "rivets" to the front and back.

The end was nearly in sight, finally it was time for silver leafing!  I used thin strips of masking tape to create segments in the collar guard, and got to work covering up the whole helm.  Meanwhile I also selected and dyed a feather to drill into the top, because it just wouldn't be Solaire's helmet without one.

Of course without proper weathering, the helmet looked like it was made out of tin foil.  It was a little—well, a lot to be a honest—too shiny for my taste, so with some strategically placed black paint I made the helm look more like something Solaire might have actually worn into battle.  Removed the masking tape lines, aaaaaand PRESTO!  Instantaneous [several weeks of work] helmet!  Just add Sun Praising!

And with that Solaire's Helmet was complete!  Here it is sitting on top of a mannequin, above a very stylish tabard (but more on that later).  This was a really challenging, but really fulfilling project for me, and I couldn't be more happy with the final product.  Making this helmet inspired me to go on and finish the rest of Solaire's wonderful outfit, which I'll be sharing with all of you very soon!  The original goal was to have it ready in time for Anime Boston 2014, and *Spoiler Alert*:  I finished!

Hope you all enjoyed taking a look at my process, next up will be every other piece of the costume!


  1. OMFFFG Your cosplay looks F... awesome (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧.
    I'm making a cosplay of Solaire and I'm trying to be inspired... and you inspired me A LOT.

    Praise the sun! \[T]/
    Solaire is love, Solaire is life.

  2. Hi man! Great job on the helmet! It's the best looking Solaire helmet I've seen on the whole interwebs. Can you give me some insights on how you made the collar guard? I'm not even sure what those plastic pieces are in the back of the helmet are. I'm making my own costume and any help would be amazing.

  3. What type of felt did you use, dimensions and how did you stitch them together?