Just a picture of myself wearing a work in progress helmet of mine. It is a mix of thermoplastics given to me by friends.
Thermoplastics are great for cosplay and you can make almost anything with them. Thermoplastics are expensive and im quite poor so I normally use scraps from friends. My scrap box is full of a mixture of all the different thermoplastics you can by so I can give you my take on using each kind.
I love using thermoplastics and if you have experience sculpting in clay, you pretty much already a master. You can easily create almost any you set your mind to.
Unfortunately, I will not be using it much less because there is EVA foam and I have a 3D printer.
You can make the same cosplays with the same details using EVA foam. you may not have the same sculpting and sturdiness of plastics but you are only limited by your imagination. I have seen spectacular cosplays created using just EVA. (Worbla use worbla to laminate their eva projects for durability)
I normally order my EVA foam from TNT Cosplay Supplies or order
Darice 2mm Foamie Roll, 36-Inch by 60-Inch, Black ,Bulk Buy: Darice Foamies Foam Sheet Red 3mm thick 12 x 18 inches (10-Pack) 1184-52 from amazon.
Here is a list of different thermoplastics I have used:
Worbla is actually my favorite thermoplastic to use since you can do anything with it and is great for people who are thrown into the world of armor making. You only require a heat gun and is quite malleable. It has a rough surface and a smooth side and has the ability to stretch over things you try to laminate. You can also combine scraps and mold details and it behaves a lot like clay.
Black worbla is the finer and smoother version of regular worbla and is great for creating filligree and details. it requires less sanding than normal worbla and I mostly use it to mold and sculpt detail. when heated the plastic becomes rather soft and fragile. You can easily scratch the surface of black worbla while laminating your EVA form. This is the reason I perfer Worbla over black and just use Black worbla for details.
Transparent worbla: I didnt really making something that was intended by transparent worbla. I used it as filler for part of my current armor project. I do see potential for using it for creating face shields and plan on buying a sheet when I finally get round to building Tali’s mask (Link to Tali’s Mask Project). I will have to do further investigation but I do know the plastic is similar to PETG. A plastic orthotist use to create test molds for people.
Thibra is an interesting alternative to worbla. Its like a smooth plane of plastic that can readily take the form of anything. Heated up thibra is quite delicate, the slightiest touch or scatch will leave a mark on it. So work carefully if you want your project to be smooth as possible. In my opinion, I normally save my thibra pieces for filligree design or intricate detail for my armor. It can also combine with worbla if you like using scraps like I do.
Kydex – same plastic used for gun holsters and boots. its very rigid and will not mix with worbla. I do not recommend it for armor making since it is soo rigid. But you can make really awesome props with it. If I were to describe the consistency of the plastic I would compare it to the cutting board seamstress you. (Im talking about these: Fiskars 3 Piece Rotary Cutting Set)
Sintra is another popular thermal plastic but is quite toxic when heated. Its cheaper than worbla but you need to use it in a well ventilated area. It is not mixiable with worbla and shaping is permanent. when you heat it and shape it, it can not be reshapen. I normally stay away from sintra due to the toxins it emits.
Terraflex – Tandy Leather Factory’s own thermoplastic that is similar to worbla. it has a maple syrup smell and can bind with worbla. also the material use to make it seems to be much more durable that worbla. I noticed terraflex holds its structure alot more studier than worbla after it cools.
Polly plastic sheets and friendly plastics are low temperated plastics and are highly moldable but are difficult to control. I have a hard time creating perfect diamonds even with the tools I use. The sheets are useful for laminating eva foam or just melting down for sculpting. I like using it for creating fake diamonds on my armor.
Some additional things I use with all the thermal plastics:
Epoxy Sculpt: a 2 part resin you can us to quickly mold designs on your projects. I like using this stuff to create smooth surfaces and bind 2 3d prints together. I also like using it to quickly smooth out divets in my armor or fill seams. I also plan on creating template 3d models of armor so people can print them and add designs with Epoxy Sculpt. I believe its a cheap way to create precise armor pieces.
Heat gun – everyone uses it……. he burnt me a lot
Leather tools – tools used to cut into leather and create imprints. can also be used on thermal plastics for intricate designs or punch holes for attachment.
Sculpting tools – I use sculpt tools to create fine detail or smooth out the project. I use to be a ceramic artist and it helps me loads when designing details on armor.
Water – to immediately cool a thermoplastic and make it retain a shape I am statisfied with before I mess it up. It helps when you are creating curves with thermo plastics and do not want to hold its shape while it cools off.
Dremel – to smooth out seams, cut, and play with.
Printer – to print out 2d paper designs of my project…. I use 3d printers to help create attachment pieces or designs on my projects.
Photoshop or inkscape – to create vector blueprints of my project.
Here are some photos:
My pile of thermoplastic scraps I gather over the years, from cosplay friends, from trash, from old cosplays… etc. It has gotten thinner lately since I have been working more on my armor lately.
Before It was a wild mess and completely unmanageable…. I had 2 used sheets in my closet and a tubby full of assorted thermoplastics.
My armor I am working on. I am quite stingy with money and do not like wasting it! That is way my armor has so many different materials used to create it.
Thanks for reading brohs, GG