New cosplay pics – Gunbuster photoshoot

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Kazumi Amano from Gunbuster Photographer: Grumpy Bear Productions

Even if, during the past months, I spent most of my time working on Soda Pop Miniatures’ robot, I still managed to organize other projects on the side on which I have slowly worked when I could.  That’s how I could make that super cute costume from a Japanese anime called Gunbuster.  I built the set with a friend of mine when I had a little free time and took 2 days to shoot many different pictures.  That old school anime from the late 80s showcase the typical workout outfit that was so trendy at that time, with the bodysuit and leg warmers.  In the anime, Kazumi Amano is the best student of the school and is seriously training on a regular basis.  It was the perfect setup for a gym inspired photoshoot.  We reproduced the inside of a spaceship as seen in the anime, the beige wall with a red stripe and the turquoise fake leather bench.  Then we painted the training weights to match the bench’s color and we had our set!

I should eventually have more pics from that photoshoot to share, but for now, let’s start with 3 sexy and very cute pics that are available as autographed prints on my store. Enjoy a little 80s touch!

Comiccon Chile 2016 Invitada

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I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to visit a country where I have never been before and this time, it’s Chile!  Yes, I’m received as a cosplay guest for Comiccon Chile in Santiago on June 3-5. :) Thank you so much to the organizers for giving me the chance to travel to South America again.  I can’t wait to discover Chile!

http://www.comicconchile.cl/

Es un honor estar una invitada por la Comiccon Chile.  Muchas gracias por la invitaciòn. ¡Nos vemos allí!

Making of MKX Scorpion cosplay – PART 4

Making of MKX Scorpion costume – PART 4

The man behind the mask

I’ve been wanting to integrate new technologies into my costumes for a while and since 3D printing is everywhere these days, I was really looking forward to finding the appropriate project to use this technology.

Back in 2009, when I made my Frost cosplay, a friend of mine helped me sculpting the mask on a plaster bust of myself. (I had my head molded and casted a couple times in my life.) Then I made a simple plaster mold and a fiberglass cast. That was probably the very first fiberglass prop I made. (Now, when I look at Soda Pop Miniatures’ robot, I can’t believe it… That little fiberglass mask seems like it was made a century ago.) That was old school stuff! Today, 3D printing offers infinite opportunites and since it’s still a very slow and pretty expensive technology, it’s perfect for small pieces like a mask. And if you have an unlimited budget, well, lucky you, go ahead and print an entire armor! That’s what I would do if I could. :D

So 3D printing it would be.  However, 3D printing means 3D modeling first, which is something I don’t know at all. (Hey, we can’t be good at everything.) I found someone to help me with that matter.

But first, I have to tell you something that may fall into the fantasy category for some of you.  A couple years ago, I had my body 3D scanned.  So I do have an actual 3D model of my own body.  Perfect 3D replica of myself!  Before some of you think about it, no, I won’t make that 3D model available online.  I know too well what you guys do with those Daz models. ;) Just kidding.  I found online a 3D modeler whose work I liked and contacted Dutch Props who became my collaborator for this project.  I provided him my body’s scan so he could 3D model Scorpion’s mask directly over my own face.

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Dutch Props was very open to follow my directions and understood exactly what I wanted.  He did an excellent job reproducing the original design and adapting it to my proportions.  Once again, the challenge was to have a mask designed for a man’s face fitting a smaller, female face and Dutch Props nailed it.

You can see more of Dutch Props’ work here:

www.facebook.com/dutchprops

Instagram: @dutchprops

 

3D printing: let’s get excited!

I don’t have a 3D printer, but I wish I would. One day, I went to Division XP, my local airsoft store, to buy props for an upcoming cosplay and I learned that the owner also had a 3D printing company.  A high hand 3D printing machine in a store half an hour from home!   Things are rarely that easy to find in Quebec City!  I was blessed by the Gods of Cosplay!  Division XP was already my official airsoft provider, the second company, Action Fusion, would from now on be my partner for 3D printing.  All owned by the same guy, thanks, Daniel. :) I was excited like a kid when I went to get my 3D printed mask. When I said that 3D printing is a slow technology, for those who’d be wondering, it took 20 hours to print my Scorpion mask.  Cleaning the support material required to print the mask’s shape, a little sanding and I could try the mask on. The fit was perfect and Dutch Props’ design adaptation was spot on.

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See the biggest airsoft shop in the province of Québec:

www.divisionxp.com

For info about 3D printing services: info@actionfusion.ca

Many cosplayers use the 3D printed piece as their final piece.  I prefered not to do so, for different reasons.  First, the 3D printed mask remains fragile.  Since it’s a thin piece, it could be broken.  Each printed layer is a weakness if you force the piece.  So I decided to mold the printed mask.  Plus, as I would have a mold, I could easily make another cast if my mask was broken or lost.  I made a silicone mold using Smooth-On Rebound 25, with a fiberglass shell for the mold. Then I made a couple fiberglass casts.  I use a mix of polyester resin and auto body filler to make the print coat, the brush-on first coat that you put in the mold. That’s the coat that you will sand and finish to be painted.  It’s easier to sand that mix of resin and body filler than sanding fiberglass alone.  When you mix the polyester resin and the body filler, add both resin catalyst and body filler hardener.  Working on various fiberglass projects, each time I had excess polyester resin mixed, I would use it to make a fiberglass cast of my mask.   After a while, I already had a few copies.

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Buffing the excess fiberglass cloth around the mask, sanding the little imperfections and my mask was ready to be painted!  Many types of paint will hold on fiberglass, from cheap acrylic paint to expensive automotive paint.  I mixed different shades to match the yellow fabric’s color and used an airbrush to apply it.  Since the back of my head is hidden by the costume’s hood, I could make the mask hold with a simple elastic.  That’s what I had the time to do before leaving for Romania last October.  The costume was brand new, made of clean fabric and shiny silver pieces.  And that’s one of the 2 negative critics I got for this costume: it was too clean and Scorpion’s emblematic spears were missing.  When I came back home after my trip to Romania, I distressed the costume, made it look used and dirty, put the silver pieces in acid and added ‘blood’ to the costume and mask. I also added the skull to the costume’s belt. And… the spears are still missing.  I may have them 3D molded/printed.  I think I’m getting lazy. ;) But overall, I have to say that I’m very satisfied with this costume, my tribute to Mortal Kombat X, that I even got to show to Ed Boon in person in a MKX competition in Burbank, in January 2016.

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2 cow hides and one costume later…

Through the making of my Scorpion costume, I definitely learned a lot about leather techniques.  It’s all in the details, and details really make the difference.  It’s funny because the first thing you see, when you look at Scorpion’s costume, is a yellow garment and black pants.  But I really needed a whole brown cow hide to make all the leather straps, belt and bias and almost a whole black cow hide to make the sleeveless top, hood, bracelets and other details.  For me, Scorpion’s costume is a leather costume, even if it doesn’t look like one.  There’s so much more to be said about this cosplay.  I will certainly blog about other details eventually.  It’s a pleasure for me to share the knowledge and techniques I have developed with ones who are interested.  To the cosplayers and costumers among you, I hope you have learned something that you’ll be able to use for upcoming costumes. :)

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Count-I-Con 2016 Cosplay Guest

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Great news! I’ll be traveling to the States again this summer! I’m received as a cosplay guest for Count-I-Con in Grayslake on August 27th-28th. What about another road trip? Now, let me think of the costumes I may bring…

Visit their website for more info:

www.counticon.com

Making of MKX Scorpion cosplay – Part 3

Making of MKX Scorpion costume – PART 3

Adding some metal:  When jewelry meets costuming

The final touches on the costume were all the silver pieces custom made by Vincent Zimmermann from Joaillerie Zimm’s in Québec City. The reference pics for Scorpion’s costume were so detailed, especially since Scorpion is the character on the game’s promo shots, that I had plenty of views of the many metallic pieces and buckles that garnish the whole costume.  The most recognizable metallic pieces are of course the huge belt buckle and middle front convex circle; the 4 rectangular buckles and 8 triangular shaped pieces garnishing the leather straps on Scorpion’s shoulders; and the 6 one-of-a-kind designed pieces garnishing the black leather straps on Scorpion’s chest.  These pieces, and a couple more, were hand made in silver by Vincent, each of them being a real little jewel.

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That’s the most he could do before I left for Romania.  I had to use ‘standard’ buckles from the store for the rest of the costume (arm pieces and accessories) but I will eventually replace these store-bought buckles with custom made silver buckles that will match perfectly the original design.  At least, thanks to Vincent, the essential metallic pieces of Scorpion’s costume were ready on time, giving its personality to the costume and bringing it to another level.  It was the very first time that I included jewelry in my costumes and I definitely plan to do it again instead of imitating metal with any other material.  I like to go for the real thing.

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You can see more of Vincent Zimmermann’s work here:

www.zimms.ca

Or visit his Official Facebook Fanpage.

 

 Now, let’s accessorize

I had the pants, sleeveless top and yellow uniform with the hood, but all the arm pieces and bracelets were still missing.  The 2 bracelets that Scorpion wears around his biceps were made of more leather straps, using the same chromed-tanned leather that I had used for the rest of the costume.  Basic work, easy and as fast to do as making leather straps can be.

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The pieces that Scorpion wears on his forearms were more complicated to do, though.  I used a thick vegetable leather piece and glued a piece of black chrome-tanned leather over it, the same black leather used for the sleeveless top.  I could have dyed the vegetable leather in black.  This is done a lot for LARP armors, for example.  But it wouldn’t have had the same texture as the other pieces of leather in the costume, so I preferred to glue the good leather on top of my vegetable leather armpiece.  Since this accessory will be very curved when worn over my forearm, I glued the chrome-tanned leather piece over the vegetable leather while it was curved in its final position.  When I open the armpiece and put it flat on a table, the black chrome-tanned leather is full of wrinkles.  But when I curve it and put in on my arm, it’s perfectly slick.

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I used the same glue that I use to glue all the sewing allowances inside every leather garment I make.  Then I tried to figure out the design of the brown straps on these armpieces.  There were more custom buckles that the jeweller didn’t have the time to make, so I used store-bought buckles and made a simpler version of the original design.  I sewed the straps on top of the armpieces, glued one last layer of black leather inside so it would look good on both sides and made a finish with a brown bias on the edges of the pieces.  This is literally the last part of the costume that I made just before leaving for Romania.  I made these armpieces fast and they were not perfect.  They were actually a little too long and they  hurt me when I bent my arms.  Later, when I came back home, I modified them and made them shorter. Eventually, I’d like to redo them with the proper custom silver buckles so it will be identical to the reference pics.

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Check out for Part 4 of my blog for the making of a very important part of Scorpion’s costume: the mask!

2017-2018 Cosplay for a Cause Calendar

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Great news! The new 2017-2018 Cosplay for a Cause Calendar is available for pre-order! The 17 months calendar features never-before-seen photos of cosplayers from all across North America, including a shot of my Power Girl cosplay!  This time, 100% of the profits are going to the WildLife Conservation Society.  Visit www.cospayforacause.com and pre-order your copy now!

Visit my store for another 8” X 12” print of my Power Girl cosplay.

Making of MKX Scorpion Cosplay – PART 2

Making of MKX Scorpion costume – PART 2

The easy part:  The pants

Previous versions of Scorpion showed him wearing very tight pants that would have been, in real life, made out of a stretch fabric.  This version of the costume, though, shows loose pants that are way closer to the traditional ninjutsu uniform  (shinobi shozoku.)  However, these traditional pants have many pleats at the waist, which we don’t see on Scorpion’s pants design.  I decided to cheat and to make the pattern of very high rise pants, adjusted around the waist (worn under the sleeveless leather top) and loose around the thighs and calves. Tucking these loose pants into the boots gives the same look than on the reference pics.  The pants open with an invisible zipper in the back.  It was, obviously, the simpler part of the costume.

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Scorpion’s yellow uniform, or where the fun begins

The most complicated and recognizable part of Scorpion’s costume is definitely the yellow garment.  Since all the reference pics showed very clearly a detailed woven texture, I tried to find a fabric with very visible warp and weft yarns.  I finally found what I was looking for in furniture fabrics.

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I used 2 layers of this yellow fabric with one layer of thermal batting (or insulated lining) in between to give the piece more thickness.  Making a female version of a male character’s costume, I had to keep in mind that I wanted to reproduce the effect of a warrior costume, with structure and thickness.  Male characters in MKX are particularly muscular.  Scorpion, in real life, would have the figure of a bodybuilder.  I not only had to adapt this costume’s proportions to my own figure, but also to use the materials to add bulkiness in order to create a more masculine and credible look.  I made a mockup of this uniform and studied carefully the proportions of the black collar and shoulder yokes.

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I made the collar very large around my neck to add bulkiness.  I used brown leather bias to make the finish around the yellow garment, just like on the reference pics.  (This brown bias, by the way, is made of leather straps that I cut in the hide and skived.)

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Some details look insignificant, but are actually complicated. As an example, I had to ask a teacher who specializes in leather clothing to figure out how to sew the leather bias around the corners of the yellow garment in the bottom front and back.  It was precision work and took some time.  It’s a very good example of a design detail that shouldn’t be choosen for mass produced garments.  Time consuming techniques that require many manipulations equal a higher cost.

I also tested with my mockup all the straps that go over the pants and yellow garment in a very particular way.  If you look carefully at Scorpion’s costume, you’ll see that some straps go over the yellow garment and are attached to the belt while other straps just disappear under the yellow piece of clothing.  I had to observe my mockup and think a lot before I figured out a way to make that complex strap system work.

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Which strap goes where?  How does it all hold together?  How does it logically open to make it easy to put on and take off?  I didn’t want to have a whole bunch of leather straps and a belt all sewed together.  Even though costumes do have design details that you’ll never find in regular clothes, it’s my work as a designer to make these costumes wearable in a credible way.  Some of the leather straps are stitched to others while some are removable with snaps so in the end, it’s a leather accessory that makes sense by itself and looks like the reference pics.

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I also made a mockup for the black hood since I thought that the yoke, in the center of the hood, was larger than what I would ideally have made it in a regular pattern.  The yoke, on the reference pics, is actually so large that I was afraid it would make  a ‘squarish’ hood once sewed in leather.  Since I had less and less time before leaving for Romania, I decided to make a removable hood using snaps inside the collar.  I would make a temporary version of the hood for the convention and could change it after if I wasn’t satisfied.  But the leather hood turned out very work well, so I kept it as it was, and the fact that it is removable is just as convenient as it would be for any regular garment.

By the way, there are many ways to make leather straps and each technique will produce a different result.  Some techniques take more time, but the straps will look good on both sides, while other techniques are faster, but the straps will look good only on one side.  I could explain these techniques more in detail in another blog.  The amount of time that I spent cutting, skiving and sewing leather straps for my Scorpion costume was considerable.

Don’t miss my next blog, Making of MKX Scorpion costume – PART 3!

 

Making of MKX Scorpion cosplay – PART 1

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Mortal Kombat came into my life about 20 years ago.  I was really into it as a teen, then had less and less time to play, but had always kept an eye on it.  When I started cosplaying, it didn’t take long before I considered creating a Scorpion cosplay. I had even started sculpting the previous version’s skull belt buckle, but the project never came to completion.  And then, MKX arrived.  And they got me.  I was literally astonished by the costume designs.  Highly detailed with realistic fabric textures, almost every piece was believable and captured the essence of the characters.  The costumer in me was pleased.  Looking at all the concept art was making me happy like a kid in a candy store.  And that was it, I HAD to create a Scorpion cosplay.

But, hey, we’re professionals, aren’t we?  I also had serious reasons to choose this costume (of course.)  It was a cool opportunity to test 3D printed pieces and to integrate other artists’ work into my projects, like jewelry, as an example.  Plus, I was studying specialized leather clothing techniques and needed a final project to get my degree.  I graduated partly because of my Scorpion costume.  3D printed mask, molding, fiberglass casting, painting techniques, tons of leather straps, handmade silver buckles and accessories, distressing techniques –  my Scorpion costume was a journey in itself.

 

A word about leather

Before moving on, let’s first say a few words about leather.  Working with leather is totally different from working with any other type of fabric, including faux-leather.  Leather requires specific techniques for everything:  pattern drawing;  cutting the pieces in the hide or skin; preparing each piece before sewing; and of course, sewing.  I could blog about various leather techniques and I will, eventually.  But right now, I want to focus on Scorpion’s costume, so let’s simply mention a few basic facts.

There are 2 types of leather, chrome-tanned and vegetable leather.  Chrome-tanned leather is what we use for garments. This type of leather can NOT be hand carved and is sold already dyed.  Hides’ color can vary from one lot to another.  Thicknesses vary depending on the animal, the part of the hide or skin, etc.  Vegetable leather CAN be hand carved.  Some hides are sold either black or nude beige in order to be dyed.  Some vegetable leather is sold already dyed with embossed patterns, like snake or crocodile imitation fantasy patterns.  Vegetable leathers are used to make all kind of accessories, boots and shoes, hand bags, LARP armor, etc.  Thicknesses of the hides vary.  Cow hide, pig skin leather, lambskin, kid skin leather, rabbit skin leather, snakeskin leather, skate fish leather and so many more can be purchased on the market.  Each type of leather will be used in specific ways.  Delicate, supple and thinner leathers like lambskin or kid skin leathers can be used, for example, to make fancy women gloves.  Motorcycle jackets are generally made of cow hide.  Smaller skins like snakeskin will most likely be used to make smaller accessories.  The smaller the skin, the more yokes and seam lines you’ll need to have in your design to integrate pieces of a small skin in a garment.

Cutting the pattern pieces in a hide or skin isn’t like cutting in fabric.  Each pattern piece has to be placed on the hide, one by one, avoiding any hole or defect.  There’s a lot of loss when you work with real leather because some parts of the hides and skins have wrinkles, are thicker and won’t be used for the garment or accessory.  The most beautiful part of any hide or skin is the center of it, which is the back of the animal.

For my costumes, I like to use cow hides of 4oz (about 1/16 of an inch of thickness).  One of the biggest difficulties of working with leather is the thickness.  The more leather pieces you sew together, the more thickness you have.  Where many seam lines meet, it can turn into a thickness nightmare.  That’s why working with leather requires a lot of preparation.  Before starting sewing, all the pieces of the pattern that have been cut in the hide or skin have to be skived.  Skiving is the process of ‘shaving’ the edges of a leather piece on the fleshy side with a width that is twice as large as the sewing allowance.  Wherever there’s a sewing allowance, it has to be skived.  This step can either be done by hand using various knifes or with a machine called a skiver.  Skiving the edges of every leather piece is essential and necessary for every thick leather.  However, it doesn’t have to be done in thinner leathers like lambskin.

In a leather garment, all the sewing allowances are glued with a special glue following various techniques, regardless if the seam lines will be top stitched or not.  Every seam line will be flattened down with a special hammer.

And yes, to sew leather, you will need a special sewing machine called a ‘walking foot’ and a stronger and  thicker type of thread and needle.

 

First step: Analyzing

All my cosplay projects start by the analysis of many reference pics.  As many as possible. I need to see the costume from every angle, see every detail.  I always work with printed pics that I can easily refer to during the process.  I carry these prints everywhere from the workshop to the fabric store.  My work as a designer is to understand what the artist tried to capture in his drawing, his intentions, his ideas.  What fabric does this texture imitate? What type of seam and stitch does that drawing look like?  And how am I gonna translate it in real life, using real fabrics and real sewing techniques?  There’s an entire interpretation and adaptation done before I even start working on the pattern of a new costume.

 

Cleavage, or no cleavage? That is the question.

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Making a female version of a male costume obligated me to make a very big (pardon the pun) choice.  Original design or sexy version?  I could have worn the yellow garment alone, with nothing underneath, like I did for my version of Frost many years ago.  But even though many men and women are attracted by canyon cleavage, I choose to respect the original design.  Go for the cleavage and some will accuse you of going for the easy, popular option.  Go for the original version and others will say they are disappointed not to see your boobs.  Folks, I love boobs too, but I think I can wear a more covering costume from time to time, especially when it’s as awesome as Scorpion’s costume.  Get over it or, as Scorpion would say… Get over here!

 

The beginning of my journey:  The black sleeveless top

Analyzing Scorpion’s costume, I first had to decide how many garments this costume would be made of.  The pants are obviously one piece.  Then, the character wears over his pants what I would interpret as a short waist corset, which could be another garment.  What about the signature yellow garment?  Are the black details on the chest and the hood part of it?  Or should they be separate pieces?  I decided to make the waist corset and black front part of only one single piece of clothing.  A short, sleeveless top with a collar that would cover my breasts on the side, where Scorpion wears nothing, and that would imitate the original look.  In the middle front of that black top, there are 4 rings and 6 straps garnished with custom silver pieces hand made by a local jeweler.

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Silver pieces handmade by Vincent Zimmermann – www.zimms.ca

The way these 6 straps are drawn made me think that the artist imagined them being sewed in the front opening of the yellow garment, which I already knew wouldn’t be possible since I intended to use genuine leather.  First technical problem related to a finishing technique – too much thickness to possibly sew the straps to the yellow garment  and make a proper finish in the front.  The only logical way to go was to make the 6 straps part of the black sleeveless top that is already decorated with 8 straps holding 4 metallic rings.  Leather straps overlapping other leather straps forced me to think of a specific design for the sleeveless top that would make it possible to sew of all these straps.  I added in the pattern vertical seams  in which the various straps are sewn.

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We can’t see that design detail when I wear the complete costume since it’s hidden by the yellow garment.  It was all about handling a technical finishing issue.  Of course, I had to sew a leather mockup to test this design before sewing the real one.  In case you’re wondering, the top opens with a zipper in the middle back, which is hidden by the yellow garment.

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Stay tuned for the Making of MKX Scorpion costume – Part 2!

Cornwall and Area Pop Event cosplay guest

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Great news: looks like Scorpion will be visiting Ontario! I’ll be a cosplay  guest at Cornwall & Area Pop Event  (CAPE) in Cornwall, ON on April 23-24.  And for the event, I’ll have a brand new MKX cosplay! Check my social medias to discover which costume it will be and visit the convention’s website for more details about the event:

www.cornwallpopevent.com