Armor and Propmaking FAQ
Where do you buy your plastic?
I already said everything I have to say about that subject in the Materials Section. I've tried to be as concise as possible in describing it and I've already posted links to all the possible places I know of where to find it. (I'll be happy to post any additional links, if any of you know of other places where this material can be bought.)
How durable is styrene/foam armor?
It's about as lightweight as paper mache but is much more durable. The armor created is slightly flexible and it should be able to handle most convention-type activities without risk of damage (although it can be dented and bent if hit hard enough so it should NOT be used as combat armor.) The armor can be easily pierced with a knife or other sharp objects (although fixing the armor is easy if one has a mini hot gluegun on hand.) Excessive heat can warp or melt the armor, so it should not be stored in a hot place (ie: lying uncovered in the back seat of a car on a hot day.)
I've read your tutorial and I still can't make sense out of this one section. Can you explain it to me in more detail?
Feel free to direct any and all questions about my armoring tutorial to my e-mail address. (Please make sure you've read over my tutorial completely before asking any questions. The clearer and less spelling-and-grammar-challenged your questions, the better your chances of getting a helpful answer.)
Your armoring method won't work for the type of armor I'm trying to create, do you happen to know of a site where I could get some advice that would help me?
I have a list of links to other armoring sites featuring various other armoring methods on my Links Page. Happy hunting.
Can you tell me how to make a certain (prop/armor/accessory) for character X?
No. I can give you some tips on how I might approach the project, but ultimately, you're going to have to figure out the schematics and structure for your project on your own. The Cosplay.com Forums contain loads of posted advice on sewing, propmaking and armoring methods, finding reference pictures, and lots of other subjects. I suggest you try there.
What's your number one piece of advice for people who want to work on a certain prop or armoring project?
Create a mockup or pattern out of cheap materials (paper, cardboard, etc) before you use a more expensive material. Plan your project as thoroughly as you can - make sketches, make sure your pattern pieces fit together, and make prototypes if you have to. The key is to experiment and to get a good feel for the final look of the project before you commit to using your final, most expensive materials. Don't feel bad if your first few tries look less than stellar. It took me about a year to learn and develop this method to the point where I started having satisfactory results.
Any other advice?
Pay attention to details. There's no point in your using a nice material like styrene if you're going to have glue stringies, globs of paint or crud encrusting the surface of your armor. You might as well have made it out of cardboard. Sand and finish your edges, experiment with different painting methods and finishes, and you're bound to find good ways to enhance the appearance of your projects.
Oh, and if you're still in school or entering college, I would recommend you take some art classes - sculpture, color theory, life drawing, design - all these will go a long way towards making you a better costumer. Also, if your college has a theater department, take a class in costume design or volunteer to work in the costume shop. You'll learn all sorts of useful advice not just from a sewing perspective, but from a "how will this costume look on stage/ how well will it photograph" perspective as well.