Tutorial: How to Seal and Paint Foam Armor for Cosplay 15


One of the biggest challenges when making foam armor is how to seal and paint it so it actually looks like armor and not “foam with paint thrown on it.”  Most of my armor is made out of foam and I have been complimented on how “metallic” it looks.  Here are a few examples:

This is another excerpt from my upcoming Raiden: Metal Gear Rising armor tutorial that can apply to anyone trying to paint foam armor.

Materials I used for this stage:

In order to paint foam, it needs to be properly sealed or else paint will seep through the pores of the foam and will not be smooth. I have experimented with a few methods that I have researched through google and therpf.com (user DocHolliday has a lot of good methods) and this has produced good results from me.

Steps:

    1. I used a heat gun to pass over the foam until there is a slight glimmer/sparkle on the foam. You’ll know when you see it. I pass over the foam with the heat gun twice just to make sure the entire surface area is hit.

      Raw foam

      Raw foam

    2. One the foam is cooled, I used a brush to coat the foam with 2 layers of Rosco’s Flexbond (Recommended by a user named “Full Metal Sam”) which is a sealant that I found more effective than sealing with PVA glue (white glue) or Mod Podge. When I used PVA and Mod Podge in the past, I used 8 layers with about an hour of drying between layers.

      Sealing Foam

      Sealing Foam

    3. I let the sealant dry over night, and then I sprayed the pieces with 3 layers of Plastidip, waiting for each layer to dry for lat least 30 minutes before applying the next coat. You’ll know if you sealed the foam correctly here if you end up with a smooth application of Plastidip and no pores on the foam. Always remember to wear a good organic respirator as this stuff is toxic.
    4. After letting the last coast of Plastidip dry for at least 4 hours, I sprayed the piece with 2 layers of Bulldog Adhesion Promoter per the instructions on the label, and then automotive primer. The primer is important as it will make your color look much better.
    5. Once the primer has dried for the recommended time per the label, I applied my color coat. For Raiden, I used a Metallic Black.
    6. I sprayed both Bulldog Adhesion Promoter and a Clear Coat spray on the dry piece to give it some shine and an extra layer of protection.  The clear coat will give the paint the final pop so it looks shinny and metallic.

So there you have it.  With the above tips, you can have a nice finish on your foam armor that will look nice and metallic.  Questions?  Feel free to comment below.


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15 thoughts on “Tutorial: How to Seal and Paint Foam Armor for Cosplay

  • Reply
    lalala

    Where did you get your Rosco’s Flexbond and which type of Plastidip did you use? There seems to be many varieties including “multi-purpose”, “primers”, etc… and thank you!

  • Reply
    TheQuantumHelix

    Likely a dumb question, however, is the foam hardened after painting, or does it retain its softness at all? I’d like to use this method as opposed to duct tape / HVAC tape for prop sword making, however I need it to stay somewhat flexible and non-painful to be hit by. Could I possibly drop the plastidip step and have the paint still hit and stick, if it does harden up?

    • Reply
      Andrew Makes Things Post author

      No, not a dumb question. The plastidip is flexible… basically it’s a rubber/plastic coating. Flexbond/modpodge/pva glue are all thin layers as well. None of those products make foam stiff enough to be solid, so the foam retains its flex. If you skip the plastidip step, paint will still look okay, but in my experience the paint job will be less durable which will lead to paint cracking and and coming off sooner.

  • Reply
    DebbieW

    This is very helpful. Thank you for posting this. I have a question about the plasti dip in regards to spraying both sides of the foam. Do have to wait 4 hours to spray the other side of foam or does the plasti dip literally dry in 30 mins?

    • Reply
      Andrew Makes Things Post author

      I just spray the outside, but if you need to spray both sides you could do one side first, other side half an hour – hour later, then do the original side again after 30-60 min, then flip one more time. I usually go with 2 coats. It dries to the touch after 30-60, but I believe it takes the 4 hours to fully cure.

  • Reply
    Stina

    Hey Andrew, thanks for a great read.
    However, I was wondering + instead of using all those different sealers and whatnot, wouldn’t it be easier just to mix some prosaid (or even simpler Display mount) or something with metallic paints? Talc it down and then make a new coat with acrylic paints?
    I can totally see where you’re going with everything, though to save time do you reckon that would work?
    I am very new to making Cosplays, though I have background in prosthetic makeup, so to me all of this looks very time consuming where I’m use to having, sometimes, limit budget and time to get a job done. :)

    • Reply
      Andrew Makes Things Post author

      Hi Stina – The method I outlined is just what I use, but if anyone wants to improve the technique feel free to experiment! I haven’t tried what you said, nor do I know what some of those things are but if you do try that method please let me know how it goes. I’m always looking for new ideas.