Costume Breakdown: Aranea Highwind

Aranea Highwind is largely an armor build, so having a basic knowledge of armor making is extremely helpful. The costume is essentially full body armor, with the only piece not containing some kind of “armor” being the skirt.  While it is mostly an armor build, its an intensive armor build, and it will take a lot of time and effort to make.

Sketching References

With all complicated costumes, I start by drawing references to better help me understand how the costume works.  For Aranea, I made sketches of the armor pieces by referencing numerous screenshots that I pulled either from Youtube videos or the game itself once it came out.

 

Patterning

Once I had a good idea of what the armor looked like, I started to make the patterns for it. Starting with the breastplate, I set my dress form to my measurements and wrapped it in a plastic bag and masking tape so I could draw the pattern directly on it.

Once it was done, I labeled all the pieces so I could remember where they went together and cut them all out.  I also added dotted lines where pieces would overlap and color coated the lines to differentiate what was on top and what was underneath.

If you’re unsure that your pattern will work, test it with paper first!  I drew the pattern for the pauldron over my shoulder with the plastic wrap and tape method, but I wasn’t sure I got the same or size right.  To test it, I just transferred the pattern to paper, taped it together, and checked it on my body.  It turned out my first attempt didn’t work out, so I had to alter it to get it to fit right.

 

EVA Foam

To make the amor, I used EVA foam.  I used various thicknesses for different parts of the armor, ranging from 2mm to 6mm.  I used thicker on the base layer for the breastplate so that it would add structure and support to the entire piece.  I used nothing but a sharp X-Acto knife to cut each piece out.

I also used my heat gun and a foam ball to form the curved shape of the boobie cups directly into the base layer of the breastplate. This allowed me to keep the base layer one solid piece. I also used packing tape to keep pieces in place until I was ready to glue.

I also marked where the layered pieces fit with a marker so that I could easily put them back together when I glued them.

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I cut all the detail pieces out of 2mm craft foam.  I also marked each piece of foam with all the identifying markings I made on each pattern piece.  Without doing so, I would never have been able to puzzle them back together.

Using contact cement, I glued each piece onto the base layer.  Everything besides the circles were cut by hand.  I cut the circles with a laser cutter, but they could also easily be cut by hand as well if you don’t have access to one.  As always, be sure to use contact cement outside or in a separate shop area, and always wear a mask for fumes.  Contact cement fumes are extremely harmful.

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Repeat!

I repeated the patterning and foamsmithing process for all the armor pieces.  I patterned each piece out first, either using measurements and drawing them flat on paper or by wrapping my body in plastic wrap and masking tape.  With the patterns, I cut the corresponding foam pieces.

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Sanding

Sanding is necessary if you want smooth edges. Rather than sand paper though, use a rotary tool (like a Dremel) with a sanding wheel.  It goes super quick and you can even use it to give your edges a bevel! Below you can see the differenced between the sanded edge (right) and the not sanded edge (left).

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Reinforce Seams

While contact cement is extremely strong if applied correctly, I don’t usually trust my EVA foam pieces to stay glued if they’re only held together by a thin edge.  To reinforce the seams, I like to add a strip of 2mm foam to the back of the pieces using contact cement, just to be sure the pieces won’t come apart. This part isn’t 100% necessary, but its an extra step I like to take.

It is also worthwhile to note that its a good idea to heat form any pieces that need to be curved BEFORE glueing them together.  It makes the pieces fit together much more easily! The heat from your heat gun can also open up the seams with using contact cement, so its a good idea to do any major heat forming prior to glueing.

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Adding Attachments

Adding attachments to armor can be tricky.  Especially if there are not obvious points of entry on the armor.  Aranea’s breastplate covers all the way around her torso, fits skin tight, and has no visible breaking points on it.  So I, of course, had to use my imagination to figure out how to get it on and off. I settled on a zipper in the back and magnets on the straps.

Adding zippers to foam armor was a mini tutorial on Patreon! You can access it by clicking HERE.  Basically, you add the zipper to the foam by first sewing it to another thin piece of foam and then contact cementing it in place.

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I also used magnets and Velcro to hold other pieces on my body.  Neodymium agents are super strong and I used the for armor a lot. They can be found online and in hardware stores and are often called “rare earth magnets”  I imbed them into the amor by cutting a hold, either with an X-Acto knife or by using a Dremel, and super glue the magnet in.

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For Velcro, be sure to get industrial strength.  Regular Velcro usually isn’t strong enough.  Some Velcro comes with an adhesive backing to it, but even if it does, its a good idea to use super glue to stick them on anyway, since the adhesive sometimes isn’t strong enough on its own.

For all the straps on the arm and leg armor, I made my own straps using a thick black vinyl fabric.  I sewed each one by machine and added buckles and eyelets. I attached them onto the armor simply by super glueing them in place on the underside of each piece.

More Details

You can also make patterns for details using the surface of your armor but covering it with masking tape and drawing the details on.  This worked great for Aranea’s pauldrons.

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I also used paper fasteners to add the “rivets.” I just poked holes into the foam and stuck the fasters in.  I also added super glue to make sure they wouldn’t come out.

Moving on, I added the spikes/horns to the glove armor using resin cast spikes and imbedding them into the foam.

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To do this, I simply cut a small hole in the foam and shoved the spikes in from underneath.  It helps if you use heat to soften the foam and make it moldable as well. Once the spikes were in, I glued each piece in place using hot glue.

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The helmet was last on my list of armor piece to make.  You can find a full video tutorial for it on my Youtube channel HERE.

When making the helmet, I built it as I went along.  I made some patterns, tested them, built a section, then repeated the process until it was done.  I didn’t pattern the entire thing out first, but rather I patterned small parts out and built as I went.

In order to make the front of the helmet move up and down, I used leather snaps!  I installed them into the circular pieces that sit over the ears.  The snaps rotate and allow the piece to move up or down.

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Boots

My boots are not 100% accurate to the character.  I chose to make a simplified version to save on time and materials.  Instead of sculpting the actual heel to look like Aranea’s heel, I got a pair of boots with a clear heel and attached the heel shape (made of EVA foam) onto the back to simulate the look.  The top of my boots is made of a piece of EVA foam covered in suede fabric.  I was extremely lucky and I already had the perfect color and texture squirreled away in my fabric stash.  It matched the boots perfectly! I used this fabric to cover the foam top and made them detachable from the boots using magnets.

 

Plastidip

Once the armor is all built, its time to seal it and paint it!  To seal, I used Plastidip.

Plastidip is great for sealing foam while also keeping it flexible.  To help my breastplate and belt piece keep their shape, I kept it on the dress form while I sprayed it.  I just wrapped the dress form in plastic wrap to make sure it stayed clean.

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Make sure if you’re going to use Plastidip, you do it either outside or in an area separate from your living space.  Plastidip is VERY harmful to breath in.  It is also very sensitive to temperature and weather, so you’ll need to make sure the area is warm.  If its too cold, the Plastidip may bubble.  If done correctly, however, the Plastidip will remain very smooth.  I usually do at 3-5 coats of Plastidip on my armor, and I make sure to layer it in thin coats.  If you apply it too thick, it can drip and mess up the surface that way.

 

Wings

To start, I cut and carved the shape out of pink insulation foam for each “bone” section.  Insulation foam is light, and I wanted to keep the weight of these wings as low as possible.

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Next, I covered each one with Worbla.  I used Worbla’s Mesh Art, but any kind of Worbla will work for this step.  I only used the mesh because it was what I had at the time.  Worbla’s Mesh Art can be tricky to work with.  Its really sticky- sticky enough to stick to you fingers while you work- so I would actually recommend using regular Worbla or Black Worbla instead, as these gave me a lot of grief while trying to cover them.

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I also smoothed each piece out with Bondo, filler primer, and a bit of sanding before painting them with a flat black spray paint and gloss clear coat.

Attaching them on was a bit tricky.  I originally tried to make them detachable with neodymium magnets.  It worked really well up until I added the fabric covering to them, at which point the wings became too heavy and wouldn’t stay attached.  I then tried using screws to hold them in place, but they were also not strong enough and the wings would fall down against my back instead of staying propped up.  Eventually, I gave up the idea of having detachable wings and attached them into the neckpiece permanently with a ton of hot glue.

On the inside of the neckpiece is a large piece of Worbla that covers the entire underside of the foam.  This provides support for the wings all the way over my shoulders and also creates a solid platform for the wings to attach onto.  Worbla’s Mesh Art actually ended up being great for this, because the mesh lining makes the Worbla super strong.  Having that extra strength is great for things like this where you need a lot of support.

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To make the covers, I used a  black vinyl fabric.  I just draped the fabric over the wings and cut it out to fit.  I finished the edges with my sewing machine and hot glued them on.   I also added the long thing capes at this time.  I made them with a very dark gray fabric (not black to keep the colors from blending too much) and attached them on to the inside of the neckpiece using velcro.

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Painting

Even though the majority of the armor is black, I used shades of blue and green to paint it.  The blue and green add hints of light and the illusion of reflection, so the armor really pops when painted this way! I added the hints of blue and green wherever I thought light might naturally hit the armor and shine. I also mixed some yellow into my red for the red details, to give it a slightly orange tint.

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I also added highlights to all the edges using a very light blue.  I didn’t use pure white at all!  The painting took such a long time to do, but in the end it was worth it!

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You can watch a video tutorial for this painting method HERE

For the silver pieces, I used Rub n Buff metallic wax in silver leaf.  I used it on the circular pieces on the helmet and all the “rivets” in the armor. I literally finger paint this stuff on. Its super easy and looks great!

 

Gems and Things

To finish the breastplate, I needed to add the gems and fabric.  The gems on the breastplate were cast with clear epoxy resin and tinted with white epoxy dye.  Before popping them out of their molds, I sprayed the backs with a mirror spray paint, giving them a mirror backed look.  I also added some silver Rub n Buff to their settings before gluing them in, just to make sure that they’d have a sufficient amount of shine.

For the fabric, I used a black canvas and I eventually added a solid gray cotton underneath that. All I did was cut enough to fit and hot glued it in.  No fancy methods here!  I also used super glue along the visible edge on top to keep it from unraveling.

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Belts

First, I made the belts out of foam, grabbed some shower curtain rings, and tested them out before I continued on.  ALWAYS test things before you get too far! It beats finishing things only to find out nothing fits.

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Using a spray adhesive for fabrics, I glued some gray spandex to the foam belts.  I cut the fabric bigger on each side so I could fold the edges over onto the back.  I also cut slits into the corners to make it easy! Once it was covered in gray, I added some black vinyl to the back (also using spray adhesive) to make it look nicer.

To make it look really polished (and to also add even more strength to the bond between fabric and foam) I added a line of stitching along the edges.

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This time for the rivets I used googly eyes!  I spray painted them silver and then glued them right to the fabric.  I also glued the rings in place after spray painting them silver as well.

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Skirt

The template for the design on the skirt was done with a method of hand drawing and photoshop magic.  I started out by drawing the design freehand.  The skirt design is very intricate, but its also very repetitive. Instead of drawing the entire thing by hand, I drew only what I had to.  I then took a photo of what I drew, opened it in photoshop, and resized it, duplicated it, and manipulated it to make all the whole skirt pattern.  I then printed each section out and taped them together to make the skirt template.

Below is the full skirt template. Its a bit messy, but feel free to use it if you are making Aranea and want to cut out some work!

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Once the template was done, I used transfer paper for fabric to transfer the design over to the skirt fabric.  I could only find sampler packs, so I had to put together a bunch of sheets to cover the skirt.

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Next, it was time to paint!  I painted the design on using Martha Stewart multi-surface paints. Big thanks to Drifting by Stars for the paint recommendation!  I wouldn’t have known what to use without her input.

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These paints worked really well and were easy to control on the fabric.  I just had to be extremely careful not to accidentally touch what I had already painted until it dried so it didn’t smear.

These paints are also safe to wash!  There were some smudges left by the transfer paper but I was able to wash it out without harming the paint at all.

I was also able to use the paint to “dye” the fabric as well!  I got to the point where I was ready to sew the skirt together, only to find that I never bought the light gray fabric I needed for the edges!  Instead of waiting until the next day to buy fabric, I decided to try and color the fabric using the paint.  I mixed some paint in with a cup of water, and then dipped the wet fabric into the paint water.  I let it soak in, and when I lifted it out, the fabric was successfully gray!  I rung as much water out as I could and then set the fabric out flat on a garbage bag to let it dry.

I used this new light gray fabric along with some black fabric and some dark gray lining fabric to make the rest of the skirt.  I made a pattern according to my body measurements and sewed the sections together.  The skirt was simply a large rectangle made of other smaller rectangles, so it was pretty straightforward sewing project.  I also added on some belt loops so I could attach it onto the belt.

 

The Lance

My lance was made 100% with EVA foam and PVC pipe.  I was on a time crunch when I made it, so I unfortunately didn’t have the time to pattern it out like I usually would.  Instead of spending the time making a full pattern/template first, I made small sections of the pattern and built as I went along.

To gauge the size I stuck the image of her lance into Photoshop and drew some reference lines.  The lone white horizontal line indicates where the PVC pipe will go.  The tall vertical lines in the center represent where the pipe will break apart for travel. I also could tell how long to make the lance based on how tall in was in comparison to Aranea.  The lance it quite a bit taller than her, so I had to make mine quite a bit taller than me too.

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I started with the bottom section.  I drew out a basic pattern for it and then cut the foam shapes.  I had to layer 4 pieces of foam to make the large pieces thick enough to slide over the pipe.  To make those solid pieces, I cut the middles out of the center two pieces for the pipe to fit through and then used contact cement to glue them together.  I then beveled the edged with my Dremel and slid it over the pipe and glued it in place with super glue when I was done.

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For the middle section, I followed the same basic process.  I made the template, layered the foam, and beveled the edges before sliding them on.  The difference here was that I also had to make to large pieces the hovered around the outside.  To do this, I (once again) made a quick pattern, tested the size, and cut the foam out.  I added the details with craft foam and heat formed them to the curve you see below.  I also glued some foam circles in between the white sections and the pipe to lift them off of the pipe far enough.

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The third section was by far  the most time consuming.  It involved making this solid section of foam for the inside around the pipe.  To do it, I stacked foam circle after foam circle on top of each other and carved/Dremeled it to the shape you see below.  In the end, I had around 20 circles of foam make up that shape, and all of them were cut and shaped by hand!

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I used male and female adapters to connect the sections of the pipe together.  They screw together, so taking them apart is super easy!

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I didn’t document the rest of the build, but the “spear” end of the lance was built with the same basic process I’ve already described.  A lot of patterns, a lot of testing, and a lot of foam.  I also added some small details with Worbla once it was finished.

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Plastidip and paint were the next steps.  I taped of the threads on the adapters and sprayed the whole thing with 5 layers of Plastidip.  After that, I covered the surface with a black spray paint.

I painted the lance with the same method I painted the armor.  Hints of blues and greens over black with light blue highlights, orange mixed with red for the red sections, and Rub n Buff for the silver areas.

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The Wig

Of course, you need a wig to go with all that fancy armor!  Aranea wears her hair in a ponytail with bangs in the front and long sections falling down at her ears.  To replicate the style, I used a base wig from Arda Wigs in Ash Blonde, a matching ponytail clip, and some of extra wefts.

I started with a shoulder length wig, so I put it up into a low ponytail (minus the bangs and the long side sections), clipped it close to the head.  I added on the ponytail clip and started sectioning it off into the smaller ponytails you see below.

I also added in some of the extra wefts along the bottom of the wig to hide the hairline.  this wasn’t a ponytail wig, so putting the hair up into a ponytail revealed the wig’s cap.  Adding the wefts in at the bottom covers that up.  To add wefts in, simply take a needed and thread and sew it to the cap by hand.  Use a color of thread thats similar to your wig color.

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I also added some wefts into the long side sections to make them longer and to make the wig fiber blend better.

Of course, trying it on is necessary!  Wig heads are not always the same size or shape as a normal human head, so you have to try it on to make sure it looks right on you.

Once I was happy with how it looked, I lobbed off the excess wig fiber from the base wig’s ponytail, hot glued the end to stump it off, and attached the ponytail clip onto it.  Then, I cut all the little ponytails to size and trimmed the bangs.

The color of the wig I used was not quite right.  Aranea’s hair is much more gray, so I used Alyson Tabbitha‘s Lightning wig tutorial to learn now to color my wig with acrylic paint.  I highly recommend watching it if you have not already!

The finished wig is below!

And with that, the costume is done!  Its definitely a long process, but in the end you have a badass new costume!  The entire costume took me about 4 months to complete, a lot of the work being shoved into the last couple of weeks before wearing it to a convention.

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A huge thanks to The Portrait Dude for the super amazing photos of the finished costume! 10/10 would recommend.

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