I got an comment from Ronnie on my 2 November 2009 post about my children’s Halloween costumes last Halloween. It appears that Ronnie is making a Cyberman costume, which I think is wonderful; and wanted to know how I made the breastplate on my son’s Cyberman costume.
For those of you who don’t know, the Cyberman is a villain from the British science-fiction TV show “Dr. Who”. “Dr. Who” is quite a phenomena, having started in Britain in the 1960s and continuing as a show until the 1990s. It was revived, wonderfully sucessfully, in 2005 by the BBC, this time in an hour-long weekly format that also acknowledges that at least half the audience is adult. [It was originally classified as a 'children's show' and shown on Saturday afternoons in a half-hour format.]
My husband and I are both long time fans of the show, and now are kids are fans too. They like the old shows, but adore the new ones. My sons both wanted to be Dr. Who monsters / villains for Halloween, and I obliged. Ben wanted to be a Cyberman [you can read more about them on the Dr. Who section of the BBC website as well as see (copyrighted) images of the Cybermen costumes from the show].
So, for Ronnie, here is as in-depth a tutorial as I could manage. I apologize now to those who hate long wordy posts. Just skip this one. It’s very wordy, because there just wasn’t any way to do it otherwise. I only have a limited number of pictures.
Ben sans costume
Ben as a cyberman.
First, pictures of Ben before and after his Cyberman transformation. I am proud of this costume because it was, oddly enough, the most sucessful of the costumes I made this year; yet, it was also the cheapest. Seriously. It consists of posterboard, paper, straws, flour and water (paper maché paste!), silver colored fabric, and grey sweatpants and sweatshirt (purchased at thrift store). Oh, and silver spray paint (one can), masking tape, a few staples, two styrofoam flat disks, and a single lonely checker. So, for Ronnie, here is how I did the costume in general, and specifically the breastplate.Okay, first a note about paper maché. If you’ve never done it, it isn’t hard. The exact mixture of flour to water is personal preference as much as anything else – various artisans use different ratios. I prefer a mixture of regular white flour (cheapest you can find – we aren’t worried about nutrition after all) to enough warm water to make a “batter” the consistency of pancake batter. Hopefully you’ve made pancakes (or waffles) and understand that statement. If not, think Cream of Wheat or Orange Julius / smoothie. Birth of a cyberman breastplate.
Okay, first the breast plate. What I did was sort of “measure” Ben to get the basic size I needed. To do this, I laid the sweatshirt he’d be wearing under the costume – after making sure the shirt fit him and marked where the armholes were, and the neckline and the waist line. Then I drew an outline of the breastplate – using a BBC picture (see link above) of a Cyberman to get the shape.Now, Cybermen have articulated armour. If you’ve ever seen a medieval gauntlet – you know, the armoured ‘glove’ knights wore – you’ve seen articulated armour around the fingers. A series of small overlapping metal plates let the knight bend his (or her!) fingers. The Cybermen have this between their main chestplate and their legs.I wasn’t about to make articulated armour for a Halloween costume.
So I drew the breastplate shape to include the shape of the articulated “folds” in the Cyberman pelvic area. I held it up to Ben to see if it looked like Ben would be able to sit wearing the shape. That’s why it is ‘v’ shaped at the bottom. I then cut it out, and held it up to Ben and had him sit in it, and trimmed it so he could sit comfortably. If he could sit with the posterboard shape, he’d be able to sit with the finished breastplate.
Birth of a cyberman breastplate.
Then I drew outlines of the various shapes on the breastplate, again using a picture. Below the chest section I drew fake “articulated” armour lines (where, if it was real articulated armour, the plates would overlap). Take a look at the picture on the BBC website and you will see layers of plates. So, I drew lines to show where the bottom of each plate would be on my (smaller sized) Cyberman breastplate.
Breastplate close up to show the layers of paper.
Rice terraces in Indonesia.
Then I made stacks of paper. You can use newspaper if you wish, or old telephone books; but I used my kids old school papers (4 kids = beginning of the year paperwork X 4, with lots of paper needing recycling… ). In the picture above you can see how I made each plate by cutting the ‘v’ shape’ through a stack of paper and adding it to the poster board with masking tape. Each plate higher up on the chest was more paper added on top of the previous layer. Think terracing farmers use in mountainous areas.
Don’t worry about the masking tape! Use as much as you need! It will be covered with paper maché soon enough and no one will see it or know! Use as much as you need!
I also made a posterboard circle (in this case from an old cereal box) and lifted it up with paper underneath as the basis for the center ‘heart’ cover in the top part of the chest plate.
Cyberman 'heart' plate beginnings.
Finally, I took old school papers – you will want to use a light paper for this – old copypaper, or the thin glossy adverts from the Sunday paper – and wet my fingers in paper maché paste. Then, sort of wetting them with the paste as I did it, I rolled them up into longways to long thing squishy tubes of paper. I then put these “tubes” along where the edge of the ‘plates’ were to give them definition. The paper maché paste made them wet, shapable, and sticky. They stuck nicely to the paper already on the plate. I also used short cut apart tubes to make the illusion of the wires in the Cyberman belly area. Here’s a somewhat blurry picture of my pointing to these tubes.
See the little rolled up tubes?
Alas, I don’t really have a picture of the breastplate with the paper maché actually on it, but here’s what to do. Run strips of newpaper or other newsprint (telephone books…) through the paper maché paste. Make sure you coat both sides well. Then take your index and middle finger, and run them down the strip (holding with the other hand above the paste bowl) with the strip between the two fingers. Think of it as a paper maché paste squeegy. You are getting the extra paste off the strip.
Lay the strips over your breastplate base. Make sure you go different directions and overlap. Also make sure you take some strips around the edges and onto the back. These will solidify your paper layers to the poster board. Try and smooth your strips as much as you can. Here’s the only picture I have of it at this stage -all blurry because it is in the background of a picture of something else:
See? Horrid blurry pic, but see the strips over the edges?
Also small pieces to make details. You can fold a small piece of newpaper or telephone book into all sorts of shapes after they have paper maché paste on them. Use these to make details, like around the ‘heart’ plate in the center. Cover them with larger pieces after they are in place (they will tend to stick without help to the base).
**If the plate starts to seem too wet and heavy, stop! Let it dry and then put more paper maché strips on it wherever you still need them. Then let it dry again. Leave yourself several days to make this, because drying can take over night on a flat surface that is covered in a plastic sheet or tarp so the paper maché won’t stick to it…**
Once your plate is thoroughly paper machéd and dried it will seem like a solid piece. You can shape it slightly when it is almost dry – just a bit damp. I held mine up to Ben and sort of bent /arched it slightly to follow his natural body shape, then let it finish drying.
Then I spray painted it silver:
Painted breast plate
Violá! A Cyberman breastplate. You could do more painting on it, if you prefered. I just don’t have talent that way, much, and I had 4 costumes to finish, so this was good enough for me. It probably could have used some drybrushing with black to give it depth, but again… time and energy were a big factor here. And it was only a one-night costume.
The way the plate was worn is that it I used a staple gun (wear protective eye gear!) to staple strips of silver fabric to the backside of the plate. I attached them on the shoulders and near the bottoms of the long sides. These were tied behind Ben in a crisscross pattern to hold the breastplate on. [See picture at the end of this post.] You could, instead, make a back plate also and then put short strips of fabric at the shoulders and put it on like a sandwich board. I didn’t bother.
Now, for the legs, and arms, and face. I won’t go into as much detail here, because Ronnie mostly wanted to know about the breastplate.
Birth of Cyberman arms and legs.
For the arms and legs I made 8 paper tubes, big enough to go over Ben’s arms and legs (8 tubes = 2 upper arms, 2 lower arms, 2 upper leg, and 2 lower legs.) I wasn’t doing knees and elbows – that’s what the grey sweatsuit underneath was for!
Then I used paper maché ‘tubes’ and straws to make the details on the arms and legs. You have to make sure that they are mirror one another. (It helps to mark them inside with sharpie with little codes like ‘R up Leg’ or ‘L low Arm’). At this stage I left them solid tubes because they needed to hold their shape while drying.
Cyberman legs, covered with paper maché.
The hydraulic ‘pistons’ things that stick out on a Cyberman’s upper arms and legs (look at that BBC picture again..) I made from drinking straws, taped to little wads of paper at each end to make them stick out and then covered in more paper maché. This kept the ‘suspended’ sticks from sagging (which they would have done if they were all paper).
When they were dry I cut along the back of the sections (what would the back of Ben’s leg or the inside of his arm) and trimed the opening a little so they could be stretched open a little to put over his arm or leg when dressing in the costume.
Then I made the facemask out of posterboard, using ‘terrace’ layers like the chestplate to give it depth and the two styrofoam disks and straws to make the ‘headset’ part. I used one of wig heads (usually used to hold wigs but I use them to display beaded headbands) covered in a plastic bag to help hold the headset shape while it was being worked on and drying. Here’s my friend Amy paper maché-ing the mask:
Using my (wig) head....
Finally, I spray painted everything silver.
Spray painted Cyberman parts.
The circle in the center of the 'headset' is that checker I mentioned, paper machéd over....
So, and lastly, how did this all fit on Ben? I connected each upper and lower arm with strips of silver cloth stapled to them, so that he could bend his elbows. Then I stapled another strip to the top of the upper arm and connected that to the strap from the breastplateto on his shoulder. I did the same for the legs – strips over the knees so he could bend them, and one on the top for tying it to the breastplate straps. [If you know anything about medieval armour, this is sort of how you attach your leg armour to your breastplate - using leather straps...] The mask had twostrips – one from each ear cover that tied behind his head. You could add a third strip from the top center if needed but his mask fit well enough we didn’t have to do that.
Here are a photo of him in the outfit that sort of shows the straps:
See how we tied the straps from the arms to the ones from the breastplate shoulders?
Oh, and his silver hair color. Forgot the silver hair color on the materials list for the costume. Ah well, it was still the cheapest of the four.
Here is again in full regalia:
And again, the finished costume - a bit bigger photo than before.
Okay, so thanks everyone for your patience. I hope this helps, Ronnie! Let me know if you (or anyone else who bothered to read this far) have a question, let me know!
Thanks again for the interest,