Time for something a little different, if not just because my intended post for this week has spiraled out into something larger than originally intended. With all of the Pokémon Sun and Moon revelations rocking the Internet, I decided to return to humanizing Pokémon species for cosplay (my first was Cubone). A friend suggested a group cosplay themed around new Pokémon species as well as the Alolan Forms of existing ones, and the idea struck me: Create a human version of Alolan Marowak, roughly based on Yokai (Big Hero 6) with a skull helmet inspired by Darth Nihilus (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II). To make the helmet perfect though, it would need to be tailored to by own head. I didn’t have the time or budget to create a plaster head cast, so I turned to what was easy and available: a duct tape head cast.
I took pictures of my process, so I figured why not share the steps and results so it can help someone else out as well. This technique is effective for helmets, but not so much for things requiring facial details (such as prosthetics). It’s a quick, easy, and cheap way to create a reusable and quite durable tool. Be warned now though, this is not a technique for the claustrophobic.
- Utility knife
- One roll of duct tape
- One roll of saran wrap
- Great Stuff expanding foam (2 cans)
- Water spray bottle
- Protective gloves
- Nail polish remover
- A tube to breathe through (I rolled a piece of craft foam together and covered it with duct tape)
- A solid apparatus to attach the head cast to (I used a shipping tube)
- A friend you really trust
- An open area to work in that you can get messy
Step 1: Lay down layer of saran wrap
First, for the love of god, make sure you have your breathing tube comfortably in your mouth. We don’t want any obituaries reporting the deceased was found with their head wrapped in duct tape and was last reported saying they wanted to make a head cast for cosplay. Get comfortable and have your friend lay down a layer of saran wrap around your head. This is, if you didn’t guess, protecting your skin and hair from the duct tape that is coming in the next step. Two or three layers is ideal.
Step 2: Apply duct tape
Claustrophobic people, leave now. Prepare to lose your sight and ability to speak, because the next step is for your friend to apply a layer or two of duct tape on top of the saran wrap. They should try to wrap as tightly as they can, to best preserve shape details of your head. It’s helpful for your friend to keep talking to you as they work, because sensory deprivation can be a harrowing experience.
Step 3: Remove the head cast
Now it’s your moment of liberation, but don’t get too hasty with it. Have your friend , starting at the back of your head, cut the cast with scissors very slowly while pulling up with the scissors. This minimizes the chance of cutting your hair in addition to cutting the tape. Once the scissors have reached the crown of your head, it’s safe to pull off the cast. Tape up the cut and prepare for the really sticky step.
Tape up the cut and tape it well. Prepare for the really sticky step.
Step 4: Fill in with Expanding Foam
This step is by far the messiest and most likely to ruin clothing. Spray-on expanding foam will fill in the empty space in the head cast formerly occupied by your noggin. I used the Great Stuff brand, Big Gap Filler variety, purchased at Lowes. Prepare for this step by pulling out any loose saran wrap you can, as it can mess up the settling of the foam. Don’t forget your protective gloves, this stuff is sticky.
Hold in whatever the head will be mounted on, and spray away. Try to move the spraying straw around to get the foam spread out as much as you can. Once the head is full, set it aside and wait about four to five hours for it to dry.
After the foam has dried, you will notice two things: Areas where the foam bled out (it’s called expanding foam for a reason) and soft spots that the foam didn’t reach. Bust out that utility knife and carve away the excess foam bleed.
Next, feel around for any soft places, areas the initial spray was unable to reach. Once you find an area, make a small incision with the utility knife for the nozzle of the foam can. Here’s the catch: Expanding foam needs water to cure. Normally the vapor in the air is enough to cure, but there is very little air in the tiny nooks and crannies between foam and duct tape. Before you spray the foam, spray some water into the incision.
Then, fill in the gap. This may require several goes.
Once the excess bled has been cut and the fill-in foam has dried, you should have yourself a solid cast of your head.
If for some reason you got foam on your skin (which is likely to happen even if you wear protective gloves), it can be scrubbed off with acetone, AKA nail polish remover.
I hope this tutorial will be helpful for you! If you use it for your own projects, I’d love to see what you create with it! As I said before, this technique isn’t the best for getting facial details, but as for the size and shape of your head, it’s just fine for a budget cosplay.