To make up for the old tutorials I cleared out, here is a new one that’s more of an intermediate level in the world of cardboard pepakura/papercraft for cosplay. If you’re new to make 3D objects for your cosplays using cardboard or a similar medium, please see the Elphelt belt buckles tutorial first, since it’s a little more beginner-friendly.
This project arrived for me from a very excited Nick and his new Jason costume for AAC this weekend – the 13th falls on a Friday this year in October. I’m skipping the con this year due to a busy November (and opting to return to the NY Ren Faire at last), so when he asked I felt it was my way of being there in spirit!
You will need…
- Cardboard (I used corrugated here for the thickness)
- Paper and pencil
- Scotch tape
- Elmer’s/School glue
- A toothpick
- Dimensional fabric/3D glue
- Acrylic paint and 2 small paintbrushes (a good one and a beat-up one)
- Paper towels and water for cleanup and texturing
The key to making anything from 2D/reference into 3D is to break down the item you want to make into simple shapes and layer them accordingly.
The first step is to start sketching what you’re making and its approximate measurements, based on the scale of the character and the scale of yourself/the person it’s going to. The tip of this spear might look complicated, but it really is just a bunch of triangles, cylinders, and curves combined together.
If your object is symmetrical, the easiest solution to keep things looking ‘right’ is to just draw out half of the template, and then cut out your pieces with the paper folded down its middle. Once you’re happy with your template, begin cutting out your pieces on cardboard to build the basics of your object.
For the fleur, I wanted to keep it simple with a tapered layer for the tip, the 2 sides for the petals at its sides, and then 2 lower shapes that will form part of its shaft (and will get glued onto the PVC pipe on Nick’s end). You’ll notice one is more curved than the other; in the reference, that piece is slightly conical and gradually becomes a little skinnier as the petals form. (Not shown is a second strip of cardboard, which I added later to hide the ‘seam’ from gluing these two bottom pieces. Also great for adding details! Lifehacks!)
The key to a seamless closure is to glue along one vertical end of the piece that you’re closing, and wedge that into the other side. It’s hard to do with cereal boxes, which is also why I went with corrugated this time.
Start gluing your pieces together sections at a time, and you should have the petals, tip, and shaft pieces ready to be attached. Keep in mind that the petals taper as well, so fold it in half to round it out before gluing/taping to each other. The center should be rounded so it can attach onto the shaft pieces.
You’ll notice the pieces aren’t completely closed yet, so now is the time to cut and glue on any filler cardboard to help close the fleur. If you have to do it in smaller pieces that’s fine too, since anything that still can’t be filled completely will just get covered with the 3D glue anyway! Be sure to also add cap pieces wherever possible, because this will help strengthen the project and prevent it from collapsing after all your hard work!
Don’t forget to glue along the toothpick when you do this, as well as when you stick it into the item. Those gap pieces help it grab onto something too.
(Sorry about the glitter glue, it’s the only 3D glue color I have left and I almost always end up painting over it for a project anyway.) Now your piece is ready to be filled completely before painting! I ended up going over a few areas twice, especially by those middle sections on the tip so it slopes nicely. Let it dry overnight before the final and fun step.
I didn’t paper mache before painting because we all know how much I love doing that, but it will result in a smoother finish. The rightmost photo is without flash.
I never painted a rust texture before so it was really cool getting the opportunity to do it for Jason’s spear! I experimented with mixing some brown and orange acrylics with copper metallic for the base layer, but it didn’t show up well, even in person.
Once the base layer is set, start scuffing on orange gradually when the coat is DRY for a weathered effect (don’t oversaturate your paper towel or dry, beat-up brush). Nick didn’t want it too rusted, so I stopped after one or two layers of the rusting.
I tried to be as even as I could when I glued it together, but one side does seem a little slanted than the other. Not sure how this happened, but I could have put too much pressure when I was gluing and taping pieces together. I’ve designated the side above as its ‘cosmetic/camera-ready’ side though. Either way, Nick was a happy customer!
It was awesome to see the final prop all finished and ready for the convention! I was shown the spraypaint color of the bronze for the PVC pipe prior to painting the fleur, so it was amazing how close I came to replicating the paint color. The fleur is glued onto the shaft with Loctite, which is a brand of superglue/epoxy glue (anything similar will adhere well with the cardboard and PVC).
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you understand more about how amazing cardboard is, and what you can do with it. Is it possible to make anything out of it? Probably. Try for yourself, and happy cosplaying!