It’s not easy to create realistic-looking costumes, weapons and accessories for fantasy and science-fiction characters. Nonetheless, many people do it, some as part of movie and play productions and others for everything from comic and anime conventions to costume parties, live-action role-playing events and holidays such as Halloween.
Props and Costume Armor , written by Shawn Thorsson, focuses on how to “Create Realistic Science Fiction and Fantasy Weapons, Armor, and Accessories.” And the author clearly knows his subjects. He operates a “custom production shop specializing in costume, prop, and set fabrication services,” based in Petaluma, Calif.
His new book brings together an impressive array of how-to steps, photographs, cautions and encouragements for readers who want to learn the art and craft of creating costume armor, fake but impressive-looking weapons, and assorted accessories for fantasy and sci-fi characters. He also provides information on tools, materials, techniques and safety tips.
It is not enough, of course, to create shiny new armor, swords, axes or laser rifles. To really get into character and play a role, you want your creations to appear somewhat weathered and battle-scarred, as well. After all, you don’t want to look as if you are fresh out of a Barnard’s Star boot camp.
“Verisimilitude [the quality of seeming real] is where a prop maker really proves their worth,” Thorsson writes. And: “In order to add the element of verisimilitude, you must embrace the general state of filth that is reality.”
In other words: Use the filth, Luke! Or: May the filth be with you.
Thorsson gives excellent, well-illustrated tips for how to add scorch marks. scratches, wear marks, rust and other combat blemishes to your creations.
Very importantly, he includes a chapter on how to make costumes stay strapped on and wearable (without falling apart), as well as accessible (when inconvenient calls of nature strike). And his final chapter, “Showing Off,” has excellent suggestions for how to behave when going out in public in full costume. You may be dressed as a superhero, but you should have at least one civilian friend along who can stop little kids from attacking you or help you get up and down stairs, or assist with crowd control.
People likely will want to take pictures and pose with you. So you will need to rehearse “at least one or two iconic poses that show up in the comic, game, or show” associated with your character, Thorsson advises.
Props and Costume Armor is an excellent guide that can help you set up your own workshop and create fanciful, realistic-looking sci-fi and fantasy gear, using a variety of techniques, tools and materials.
— Si Dunn
Create Realistic Science Fiction and Fantasy Weapons, Armor, and Accessories