What you need to know about foams - Azure Cosplay

Publié le : 06/13/2017 15:00:36
Catégories : Discovery , News , Tuto

What are foams ? For what are they used in cosplay ? Why do so many types of foams exist? Why are there different density, thickness and colors?  

If you are wondering at least one of these questions or others about foams, this article is made for you. I wrote this in all modesty, only with little experience with foams. I would not pretend to know everything, on the contrary, but I hope it will help you a bit.

 For purposes of clarity, I decided to divide this article in 4 parts.

  1. Foams in general, and few examples of foam crafts.
  2. How to use and choose your foam?
  3. Essential tools to use foam.
  4. Step « After-foam », what to do?


Let’s begin!

1)    Foams in general, and few examples of foam crafts 

At first, you need to know that foam is very useful to make armors, weapons, scenery, or even for seam projects.

Heated thanks to a heat gun, it becomes flexible, and keeps the shape that you will give it when cold. Thick or thin, foam will adapt to your different projects. Alone or combined with thermoplastics, it will address your needs.

Foams that you will find in the cosplay world are usually foam you find as exercise mat or ground sheet, mat made especially for gym. All these different formats and each foam is not the same!

We will speak of the 3 types of foams the most used in cosplay:

  • EVA foam (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate), or evazote :

Eva foams are the most resistant and dense of foams, you can find different thicknesses, density and colors!

Most of the time, its surface is smooth. In the cross-section, we can see a « full », compacted material, without cells or air bubbles. This « compacted » aspect of the foam increases with the density you choose.

  • Plastazote foams.

These foams are an assembly of polymers, which make rigid foams that are also heat-resistant, but also easily thermoformed. They are often softer and lighter than EVA foam. They have a cell aspect, which means we can distinguish small air cells in the foam, giving it a granulose aspect while still remaining smooth.

  • « Craft foam ».

It is the same as EVA foam, but in a thinner format. Thanks to that, it keeps flexibility and versatility!

Now, I have to convince you that we can make great thinks thanks to foams!

Here are some examples:

A vambrace from my barbarian of Diablo 3 made of Plastazote foam (Now do you see the « granulose » aspect I was talking about on the two first pictures?)

Some armor parts from my Widowmaker costume from Overwatch are made in EVAzote. By the way, the LEDs are from Cosplaymat ;)

Or even the breastplate of Solidus from MGS V made by Zephon Cos in EVA foam.

Another example of using craft foam! To make the vambrace/gantelet of McCree, by Zephon Cos too.

Last but not least an example for craft foam, my Diadem for the Diablo 3 witch!

I hope that, now, you know a little bit more about the different types of foam, maybe you want to work with foams for your cosplays? :)

 So, next step!

2)    How to use and choose your foam?

That’s a lot of foam, isn’t it?

Because I am sooo nice, I will help you understand how to use all of these, and also give you some tips to choose the most appropriate foam depending on your projects.

At first: The thickness needs to be chosen depending on the « style » of your armor, weapon, or anything you are making!

You cannot use the same thickness of foam for all of your cosplays, you need to adapt to what you wish to make!

For doing so: Look at your reference pictures, look at it carefully…

 Ask yourself the right questions:  

  • Is my armor imposing, thick? raw ?
  • Is my armor thin? Delicate? –Like an elf one for example
  • Do I have armor pieces that need several layers of thicknesses (For example : a thick vambrace, but with fine details, or the opposite)
  • Should I sculpt the foam to create the shape or should I thermoform it?
  • Am I a flying lemon pie?

Eh? …Nope, not the last question…um. Anyway.

To help you, I am making this small table where you can find the several foams you can find at CopslayMat and how to use them! ;) 

That’s a lot of technical words, right? But, we understand each other, nope? :p

What is mostly important with foams, it’s to understand the interest, the convenience of the density: the density is the amount of matter contained in a given volume. Then, higher is the density, more compact and resistant it will be.

Depending on your project, think a lot about the density you may choose, but also the proper thickness will make your piece the most similar to your reference picture.

Another thing to know: If you have big foam-based projects, it will be easier to use foam in roll because you will have a bigger surface available for make your pieces. And you won’t have to make connectors which may weaken your piece once finished.

I think that, with all this information, we begin to know a lot of stuff about foam and how to use it! Now we can move on to the next point!


3)    Essential tools to use foam

Which tools do you need, now that you know which foam to chose ? Then, let’s go for a small list of essential tools :

  • A HEAT GUN: Without a heat gun, it will be very difficult to use your foam correctly. The heat gun has an appropriate temperature to warm the foam enough without burning it. [Except if you let it heat the foam for 200 years of course x) ) Thanks to the heat gun, you will be able to thermoform your foam to give it a new shape and sculpt it! – adding from the translator, you can also give cutter strokes in your foam, warm it with the heat gun and the strokes will open itself!
  • A very good CUTTER: Yes, the cutter is now one of your best friends. Better it cuts, prettier will be tour armor pieces or weapons! So grab one!
  • Very resistant SCISSORS : Yes, scissors too are now your friend, they will be very useful to cut some foams such as craft foams and thin EVA foams ;)
  • A DREMEL: It is used to sculpt foam, sand it, or make other details. The foam is very useful to obtain difficult shapes you cannot obtain in thermoforming it. thermoformage.
  • NEOPRENE glue: The Neoprene glue is a great glue to stick foam with itself, or mousse with another material!
  • A HOT GLUE GUN: Last but not least, it is also one of your essential friends to work with foams. It will be useful to stick foam parts with each other, parts that are quite heavy or will endure some pressure !

From the top of my head, I don’t have anything else that would be « essential » to use foam. You can use other tools, but I think that with these ones, you can already have some fun in making your costumes!

Almost finished…

4)    Step « after-foam », what to do ?

Your piece in foam is finished, but… It’s still foam ! WHAT ARE WE DOING NOW???? We wanted realistic armors, weapons, LEMON PIE! /SBAFF/

Um… How can we give to the foam an armor aspect ? THAT IS THE QUESTION.

You have several options:

  • My favorite, and the one I use most of the time, is WOOD GLUE
  • Another one that I also use: plastiDIP in spray, or in liquid pot, you only have to apply several layers (at least 3) on the foam. Once dry, you will have a smoother surface which will have a plastic aspect. Thanks to that, your paintings effects will be emphasized!
  • GESSO in spray (or liquid, but I prefer the spray one, not a big fan of the liquid one), applied on the foam in several layers (minimum 3), it waterproof the surface and can be sanded once dry to have a smoother aspect!
  • Last option is to cover foam with another material, such as PVC of a very thin thickness! A nice cunning with an impressive result which stiffen the piece.

It’s done! Now, it’s up to you to see what is the best solution for you; you only have to try ;) Then, just let yourself be guided by your own imagination thanks to the painting step, a little advice: Use acrylics, acrylics are life! *get out*  

I hope that this small (huge) article would have helped you to better understand the infinite universe of foams, and now, you wanna try it ! Still, do not forget, whatever the advices people give you, or that you can find, it is always more enlighten to try things by yourself, even if you have to do it all over again! You will see, and who knows, you may find your own technique of using and crafting foams! ;)


Bye, make some amazing crafts <3

Big thanks and big hug to Zephon Cos for his amazing pics <3

By Azure Cosplay.

Translated by Kamelia.

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