Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stormcloak Soldier Full Body

I'm working on editing my photoshoot for this costume as well as a ton of illustrative work, so in the meantime, here's me wearing the full, finished costume!

I also made a profile for this costume.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stormcloak Armor

 Finally, the Stormcloak armor.

Again, since the toning in Skyrim is desaturated, I used a more vibrant cloth than you see in the reference. The jerkin is made from faux leather as are all the belts and pouch. The chainmail parts are just sleeves that are linked across the chest and back, since you only really see the chainmail on the arms anyway. I sewed some leather cord around the arm holes. The blue scarf/sash is a bit tricky to wear because it doesn't want to stay in position too much. I'll probably put in some safety pins when I wear it to a con next.

The gloves are very comfortable. They take a while to get on though, what with the belts. I put everything together except for the gloves which were bought.

The boots are really nice. Really warm too! I used some general purpose cosplay boots as a base and then built the rest around them. The shoe part is suede sewn with leather cord, and the padding is craft foam covered in faux leather.

Here you can see how the jerkin started out. It's lined with wool which was especially nice for my winter photoshoot. 

The pattern on the sash was done in one layer of fabric paint using a stencil.

All done! But doesn't look like it's seen years of wear so...

I used scissors and sandpaper to weather it.

Here's the two finished sleeves.

The fur was actually made from thin fur ribbon strips that they sold in a roll at Jo-Ann's, so I had to sew them together to make bigger pieces, like those seen all the way around the boots.

My next post should be pics from the shoot!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Iron War Axe

Very excited to show you my work on the axe for my Stormcloak costume. It was tough to decide specifically what weapon to make from the game. Since it was to accompany my shield, two-handed weapons were out of the question. The concept art for the costume depicts the Stormcloak with a sword, but I really felt an axe better fit a Nord and Nord culture, as well as the traveling Stormcloak soldier. It's got that nice hammered texture and looks like it was made quickly for outfitting a soldier, which I liked.

Here's the finished project. The handle is made of wood, but the axe head is fiberglass over foam using the same process as my shield.

I found a nice branch in my backyard that had the correct shape needed. I sawed off the ends and sawed/sanded off the bark as it was very loose and wouldn't be good for the finished prop as it was.

I continued to sand it to fit some PVC which would be used as the cap for the axe.

Since the branch had fallen off a tree some time ago, I wanted to strengthen it to make sure it could take a bit of abuse as a prop (not that I'd be really hitting things with it :P). So I used wood hardener along the entire length.

I made some approximate measurements from the in-game render to draw out the shape of the axe head on foam.

Here you can see some of the sanding process.

I used an exacto to carve out the edges. I didn't focus on any of the texture yet, just creating the base shape to work from. I sanded the interior edge of both pieces to allow them to fit the PVC.

Like the shield, the foam here was covered in 3 layers of masking tape to protect it from the resin.

After applying the fiberglass with an extra layer of resin to work into, I used my trusty dremel to create that hammered texture. I also used the dremel to carve into the handle to regain that barky texture, and used a dark ebony wood stain to match the hue seen in the reference. I glued the handle on with hot glue, which I also used to seal off the top. It was painted with chrome spray paint, semigloss clear, and a bit of black and burnt sienna acrylic for the rust and weathering. The final step was sewing on the faux leather grip to the handle.

I'm very happy with the finished product. I only kinda wish it really was made of metal so it would make a cool clanking sound when I hit my shield with it!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Windhelm Shield

For my Stormcloak costume, I really wanted to make this shield. I love all the shields that represent the different holds, with their different colors and emblems. A lot of the Stormcloaks that go to war actually use hide shields and the like, since this is more of a guard's shield. But I couldn't pass this up, I love the bear design. Plus, it's the symbol of not just Windhelm, but the Stormcloaks as well. And when I get around to making the guard's helmet, I can go around as either a guard or a soldier.

So here's the finished piece. It's all fiberglassed over, and carved to look like wood; it isn't actually made of wood. That keeps it nice a light. I used a more brilliant blue than in the reference because the in-game graphics have more desaturated and blue overtones to set the mood of the game, which I can replicate in my photoshoot.

The back of the shield, painted to look like wood, with a comfortable leather handle cover, made from the same faux leather I used for the rest of the costume.

And here's a closer detail shot.

Alright, onto how I made it!

 Here's my friendly materials. The base was made of a single 1/2" thick piece of insulation foam, about 20" in diameter. There's 2 cardboard rings at the same size, width being 1". Finally a strip of thicker cardboard to go all the way around the edge which is about 3/4" wide. I glued these all together.

After that, I used 3 layers of masking tape all the way around to properly seal off the foam and protect it from the resin. You can also see the axe in this pic; I'll talk about that in the next post.

Here's the shield and axe fiberglassed over. I followed up with a layer of plain resin so I would have a surface to sand and carve into without ripping up the fiberglass cloth.

Since I only had 1/2" thick insulation foam, I glued two pieces together for the handle. I traced out the shape I needed, about 10" long, then cut it out and carved/sanded it into shape. Again, wrapped the whole thing in 3 layers of masking tape.

I stuck the handle on directly using fiberglass resin, and made sure there was enough covering over it in order to keep it strong.

Unfortunately I'm missing a few photos here - from the carving process, but I think it comes out more clearly when painted anyway. Using a dremel, I carved into the body to give it a wood texture as best I could. I used more rounded bits to carve into the rim to give it the hammered looking texture, as if the metal rim had literally been pounded at a forge. My little dremel had a lot of trouble getting through so much resin that I only got about 20 min. tops out of the battery before I had to recharge it again. I probably wore down the battery a lot on the project ^^;. But this process literally took a few months of work off and on. Once the shield was cleaned, I primed it all the way around with gray primer. Then I used a dark gray automobile spray paint with an extra bit of chrome shimmer for the metal, covered by a layer of semi-gloss clear to seal it (used on the handle too). Then a base layer of black acrylic on the wood, both sides.

With the black layer in place, I built up the brown wood tones. The black underneath was used to accentuate shadows. I mixed several different browns to build up the wood, using a cut piece of firewood I had for reference.

On the front of the shield I painted the browns all the way across, even though a lot of the front is blue. The reason is, since this is supposed to be a guard's shield, it would probably be made as quickly as possible. The blacksmith wouldn't take quite as long on something like this as he might the Jarl's own shield. So this means the painting job would be a little more crude, as evidenced by my reference image at the top of this post. If that's the case, you're likely to see bits of the wood underneath the blue paint too, so that's why it needed that base layer of brown right the way across. Admittedly though, since I knew mostly of it would be covered up, I painted it a bit more quickly in a solid color, somewhat transparently.

In Photoshop, I took the shield reference and blew up the bear design to the approximate size I felt it needed to be for the shield (15.5"x12"), and cleaned it up a bit. I printed it out onto a few pieces of paper, taped them together, then used stencil film on top to cut the design out. Once ready, I taped it onto the shield and painted it.

The final step was to spray some workable fixative on the front to protect the paint job, and sew on the leather handle. And that's about it! It took a while but I really enjoyed the process, and even though using real wood may have been easier so I could skip that whole long ass carving step, the shield benefits from being very lightweight yet still durable. Looking forward to doing more props like this in the future!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Amulets of Talos and Akatosh

Now that my Stormcloak costume is finally done, I can start posting construction logs about how I made each piece. I'll start with the Amulets I made. These were kind of optional to the costume, but they were in the concept art for the Stormcloak armor, and I felt they played a lot into the storytelling.

This is the in game render for the Amulet of Talos. In order to explain this item's importance, I'm going to give a little history lesson. Please feel free to skip ahead if you just wanna get to the item's creation. 

In Elder Scrolls lore, Talos is the Nordic name for the revered emperor, Tiber Septim. He singlehandedly started the Third Era on Tamriel by forging a new empire and uniting the whole continent through well-planned strategic maneuvers. There are various stories about him through different names by different cultures. He is especially noted in Skyrim because he was of Nordic descent, and was also a Dragonborn who sought training from the Greybeards. In fact, all emperors descended from Talos were Dragonborn, the line ending with Martin Septim in TESIV Oblivion (also starting the Fourth Era). But I digress...

While prior to Talos's existence there were "Eight Divines" (Aedric gods worshipped largely by mankind), many believe Talos to have ascended to god-hood at death, becoming the "Ninth Divine". By the time of TESV Skyrim, the empire is in shambles. The death of the last Dragonborn emperor was enough to weaken the empire's hold on Tamriel, and countries began to "secede from the union". An old Aldmeri (High elves) sect from the Second Era known as the Aldmeri Dominion has been reforged by the Thalmor noble house with their own ambitions to rule over Tamriel as they once had long ago. Soon a Great War begins between elves and men, and Skyrim is instrumental in supplying strong warriors to aid the empire. Eventually there is a stalemate, and although humans have regained control of the Imperial Capital, they are in a much weaker position than the elves. As such, in order to preserve the peace, the empire signs the White Gold Concordat, a treaty that has some serious ramifications. The most notable to the Nords is a ban on the worship of Talos.

At first, for me, it was hard to fully understand the reasoning behind this. The Aldmeri Dominion largely believes that there are still only Eight Divines; that Talos did not ascend to god-hood. After all, the Divines lack the physical presence that Daedric gods have on Tamriel, in one form or another, so there isn't much evidence to his god-hood beyond just a belief system. But still, what's it to the elves whether men worship Talos or not? Then it occurred to me, the likely reason was that they wanted to weaken the empire further, from within its own self. While many Cyrodiilic humans worshipped Talos, none did so more than the Nords. Talos is the Nordic god-hero. The elves surely knew that not all Nords would agree to sacrificing their freedom of worship for peace, and infighting would occur. So this was a strategy for the Aldmeri Dominion to continue to weaken the empire without having to sacrifice their own soldiers. In a sense, it's a way of surpassing the concordat. It's part of a long-term plan to continue to weaken the empire, and once Skyrim is decimated from civil war and can either no longer aid with soldiers (or if the Stormcloaks win, becomes an independent nation), the Aldmeri can strike them at their weakest. And the civil war is exactly what happens. It's more than just the law against the worship of Talos; the rebelling Nords also feel that they've been betrayed by the empire. They supplied many soldiers in the Great War. Many were sent off to their death. They fought hard for their empire. And in return, one of their strongest cultural traditions is made illegal. 

Anyway, there's no direct evidence of this motive in the game, but it seems the most obvious. I'll be very interested to see what the outcome of this is when we get to TESVI. But again, I digress. The point of this whole history lesson was to convey just how important this little trinket is. An Amulet of Talos owned by any Stormcloak is their most prized possession. It's a symbol of all he/she is fighting for, as well as the strength needed to keep going.

Yep, I'm a geek.

Next we have the Amulet of Akatosh. I'll keep this one brief. This is drawn a little more ambiguously in the Stormcloak concept art, but has the same general shape and makes the most sense if you pair it with the importance of the Amulet of Talos. Akatosh is the Aedric god of time, and appears in the image of a dragon (the amulet also resembles an hourglass). He is the father of dragon-kind, as well as Dragonborns. It is believed that Talos himself was descended from Akatosh. This is why Martin Septim was able to assume the "Avatar of Akatosh" in TESIV Oblivion. Even your main character that you play as in Skyrim, the Dragonborn, is thought to have powers blessed by Akatosh. With dragons having had their largest presence in the country of Skyrim, as well as Akatosh being closely tied to Talos, it is easy to see why this is another valued amulet for any Stormcloak to own.

Now onto the creation stuff! (Yes, I realize not many people will read that whole essay above)

The amulets were both carved from paperclay. This took a good long while. I had to be careful because while paperclay is pretty strong and can survive a fall without breaking most of the time, areas of it can be delicate and brittle while you're carving. I used jewelry wax carving tools for this process.

Above you can see the base paint mixture I used for both amulets. It's a mix of gold fabric paint and brown acrylic. There wasn't a specific reason for using the fabric paint in particular, but it had a nice bronze shimmer that seems apparent in the renders for both amulets. You can also see some progress for winding the hemp cord into shape for the Talos Amulet.

Here's the finished paint job for both amulets. Admittedly, they look a bit better from farther away, but that works fine for me since they're meant as secondary details for my costume, which would normally be viewed from several feet away. I liked the old bronze look of the Talos one, slightly green and dark from years of weathering.

And the finished products! I think the Amulet of Talos came out looking particularly accurate. The wooden beads for Akatosh really work well I think. I used some black leather cord to string them together, and the amulet itself is hooked on my two pieces of chain mail that I spray painted gold. It's missing the carvings seen in the render; I decided to forgo them in the interest of time and actual paid work I have to do haha. Besides, the necklace part barely even shows on the costume as it's covered by the blue scarf. So that's it! I had a lot of fun making these and they were relatively simple to do. It's fun to own little trinkets like these that feel like they literally came from Skyrim. Makes playing the game that much more believable.

I'll be doing a few more making of posts and then I'll post the photoshoot!