DIY Cosplay Helmet Part 3: Paint and Surface

We’ve successfully constructed the foam helmet, so it’s now time to give it some color and finish. Here’s what you’ll need:

Step 1: Fill in the Seams

Identify the seams that you’d like to smooth out and apply some Kwik Seal to those areas. Apply water to help soften the seal. (For a more in depth explanation, see Punished Prop’s tutorial here.) Let it dry and harden. If the seams aren’t as smooth as you’d like, apply some more seal and repeat until you’re happy.

Step 2: Prime it for Paint

Get ready: your helmet is now going to make a dramatic transformation from janky to professional! Find a way to mount or hang your helmet so you can spray paint it with Plasti Dip. (I temporarily hot glued a piece of string to the inside of the helmet and hung it from a makeshift painting booth.) Be sure to do this in an open, well ventilated area while wearing a respirator – you don’t want to breathe this stuff in!

This will apply a thin layer of rubber to your helmet and give it a uniform surface that’s primed for paint. Plasti Dip comes in different colors so choose the color that would best work as your base color. I chose black.

Step 3: Mask and Paint Base Colors

Identify the main base colors and the surfaces they occupy. For the Boba Fett mask, there are 4 main colors: green (general helmet), red (visor + trim), dark grey (antenna), and yellow (striped decal). Mask off the areas you want to paint using paper and painter’s tape and then apply your paint. I wanted a very even application so I used an airbrush.

Making the masks can be really tedious but take your time with it. I ended up spending way more time fixing places where paint had seeped past the mask rather than if I had done it carefully the first time.

I ended up going over several of the same spots multiple times for different purposes. That meant recreating the mask multiple times. Once my first pass was in place, I went back over the green surfaces so that I could create subtle highlights + shadows in the greens. I ended up experimenting with mixing in some metallic acrylics into the colors as well to add a subtle sheen. I did the same for the red and dark grey sections as well. This step can take a long time, so be patient!

Step 4: Weather It

We’re going to darken all the crevices and give the form age and wear. (For you CG artists out there, this is sort of like applying an ambient occlusion pass.) With a large brush, quickly and liberally apply black acrylic paint to the entire surface. Be sure to get a lot of black paint in the hard to reach areas.

After 4~5 minutes before the paint is fully dry, use a thick paper towel or sponge to wipe/dab/rub off the majority of the paint on the larger surfaces, but leaving paint in the crevices and textured areas. (For a great in depth guide to this, check out Zonbi’s tutorial here.) In some areas, I accidentally rubbed the surface a little too hard and actually exposed the Plasti Dip surface, but it looked good so I went with it. Look for happy accidents.

Here’s what the before and after looks like:

Step 5: Detail It

The funnest part about Boba Fett’s design is that his armor is all scuffed up and battle worn. It has a lot of stories to tell. To simulate the look of metal having been hit/scratched/dragged on surfaces hard enough to chip paint, I took an old, stiff paint brush and gently dry-brushed streaks of metallic paint over the top. I kept referring to the images I had collected as well as photographs of worn armor and machinery as I painted. I also introduced some subtle hints of yellow and brown rust to help sell the fact that this has gone through a lot of adventures.

Finally, to fill the visor part of the helmet, I bought a reflective “solar face shield” from the dollar store, cut it up and glued it to the inside.

Step 6: Enjoy It!

That takes us to the end of this walkthrough. I had a lot of fun stumbling around with this project for two months and I hope, with this write up, you have a better understanding of how to better go about a project like this. If you do, let me know – I’d love to see what you make and if you’ve found better ways to do it!

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