For a cosplayer, there are no rules, and nothing is off limits. Cosplayers can choose to dress as anyone who has inspired them or who they just think it would be fun to dress up as. And with very little exceptions, when a cosplayer arrives at an event there will always be at least one person in the crowd who knows who they are. Most fandoms have multiple characters to choose from, ranging from main characters to love interests to obscure characters who barely get a mention in their source media. But few fandoms have quite as many unique and colorful characters to cosplay as does Star Wars and their expanded universe.
Beyond the movies, there are countless comic books, novels, animated shows and video games filled with literally hundreds of characters of all shapes, sizes and colors. It is little wonder that Star Wars is one of the most popular fandoms among modern cosplayers. When Lucas Films and Bioware launched their MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic in 2011 it was quickly embraced by Star Wars fans all over the world. After gaining over a million subscribers in the first week, the game had officially become the fastest growing MMO ever. As with any game, it eventually loses momentum, but Star Wars: The Old Republic is still going pretty strong almost five years later, and they even announced that a new expansion pack will be released in October.
When cosplay enthusiast and prop designer RuthlessFX was asked by a friend to design the helmet worn by Sith Lord Aloysius Kallig, and later his descendant Darth Nox, in Star Wars: The Old Republic it was nothing out of the ordinary for him. Many cosplayers purchase custom designed props to go with their meticulously crafted costumes, creating an entire industry that artists like RuthlessFX are able to make a living in. Already a fan of the MMO, he grabbed a few screenshots from the game and got to work on modelling the helmet. He used Autodesk’s 3D modelling and rendering software 3ds Max, which has been his go-to design software for years.
After completing the 3D model, he divided it up into five individual parts for printing, and then printed the helmet out using his MakerBot Replicator 2 in PLA. The parts required about a week of printing to complete, and then two weeks and some change for the assembly and post processing. RuthlessFX connected the parts using basic superglue, but filled any gaps with Smooth-On modelling putty. While finishing the helmet, it quickly became obvious that Kallig’s helmet would be popular and more of his customers would want their own. So RuthlessFX decided to make a mold of the finished 3D printed helmet so he could create several copies. After priming the original with some self-etching primer to smooth out the striation marks, it was ready to be molded.
While most props that are 3D printed can usually be painted and used directly, prop makers have started to bring in more traditional prop making techniques like creating molds so multiple copies of their designs can be made. The original 3D printed helmet was coated with another Smooth-On product, their Rebound Brush-On Silicone 24. The silicone material thickens when drying, and will create a durable and highly flexible mold that can survive multiple castings. RuthlessFX then used a process called cold casting which consists of a mix of resin material and metallic powders painted inside of the mold.
The cold casting process gives the final prop a realistic metallic sheen that can be brought out with strategic sanding and various painting techniques. The final detailing of the helmet is done by rubbing the prop with some steel wool to draw out the metallic shine and some slight detail painting. Finally a clear coat is applied both to protect the prop and to make it more realistically appear to be an actual metal object. The finished helmet is pretty cool, even if you have no idea who the heck Kallig is, but his design was well known enough to be noticed by the organizers of this year’s Star Wars Celebration, where RuthlessFX was invited to sit on a panel, and his work displayed in their studio.
This is only one of several great cosplay props that RuthlessFX has designed and 3D printed. He’s also created an Iron Man helmet, an entire Cyberman costume and Batman’s former Robin, the Red Hood. You can see a ton of his creations on his website, and even more on his facebook profile. And you can let us know what you think of his props in our Sith Lord Kallig 3D Printed Helmet forum thread at 3DPB.com.