The first season of Star Wars Rebels is well underway, and with that comes people wanting to cosplay as characters from the show. I’ve spent the past few months working on and off on a Sabine Wren cosplay. Her outfit is relatively straightforward in terms of what to do, despite the challenges of each individual piece. However, when it came to doing her armor, I found myself presented with several options.
The first and most simple option would be to buy it or commission it; but both of those options cost several hundred dollars and weeks or even months of waiting. I went this route with the helmet, paint sprayer, and blasters, but for the armor I wanted the experience of making it myself. So, my first question was which material to use. Worbla, craft foam, EVA foam, leather, and Sintra are the most common armor materials used in the cosplay community. For Sabine, I knew that worbla would be too thin by itself. For thicker armor when using worbla cosplayers typically double up with worbla and sandwich a piece of craft foam in the middle for stability. I didn’t think this would look right for Mandalorian armor (not to mention the high price of worbla) so I opted out of that. I worried that craft foam would be too flimsy, and leather too expensive to consider those materials. I hadn’t yet heard of Sintra, and I didn’t know that it is a very common armor building material used by the Mandalorian Mercs. So, this left me with my last option at the time- EVA foam.
I’ve worked with EVA foam to make props, and I’ve seen it used for armor, so I was excited to experiment with it myself- whether it would be my long-term Sabine armor or not. A few days after finishing my EVA foam build, I learned of Sintra from some local Mercs. I decided that I would re-do my Sabine armor with Sintra to experiment with the material. In the long run, I’m glad I did. I have a goal of making it into the Mandalorian Mercs with my Sabine build, and they do not accept EVA foam armor. Despite that, I’m glad I had the experience of making Sabine’s armor with both materials. To me, time spent crafting is never time wasted because of what you can learn for the future. Which brings us to here, a run-down of my experience building Sabine’s armor with both materials, the pros and cons of both, and cost.
What You’ll Need:
- Armor Material
In this case, either EVA foam or Sintra. EVA foam is floor mat foam, and Sintra is a PVC board.
- Armor Pattern
I used several reference shots of Sabine and patterned my own armor on plain computer paper proportionate to my body. However, Eitanya (the Mando Mercs’ first official Sabine) has graciously created a PDF of Sabine’s armor pattern for download. You can find it here: http://eitanya.deviantart.com/art/Downloadable-Sabine-armor-templates-483881333
- Something to cut with
Scissors or a heat knife work for EVA foam. Sintra is much harder and requires either a heavy duty box cutter or a Dremel cutting tool- both of which work for EVA foam as well.
- A source of heat
You’ll want to heat both EVA foam and Sintra to mold it to your body. I used my trusty heat gun for both builds, but you can put EVA foam in the oven for a few seconds and that heats it just fine too. Sintra can be heated by dropping it in boiling water for a few seconds before molding. No matter what you do to heat your material- use caution. Both EVA foam and Sintra emit toxic fumes when heated and can leave you feeling sick afterwards if you don’t wear a mask.
All foams are porous. Heating EVA foam helps to seal it, but you still need to prime it before you start painting it or the paint will absorb into the foam. I used Plasti Dip, which is essentially liquid rubber. It works its way into the foam and seals it to create a smooth painting surface. I chose not to prime my Sintra because I didn’t feel it needed it, but it can be primed as well if desired with a standard paint primer.
- Paint and paint pens
For the EVA foam, I used spray paint for the base grey color of Sabine’s armor. The Sintra I bought was already grey so it didn’t need any initial paint layers. I used acrylic paints for the purple and orange details. The white stripes on the chest armor and knee pad I used spray paint. For the checkered piece, wolf, lightning bolts, and “damage” I used black and silver paint pens.
- Paintbrushes, etc.
To paint my armor I used a combination of paint brushes, paint sponges, and old toothbrushes.
For both materials I used two layers of Mod Podge and one layer of semi-gloss spray-on sealant to seal the paint job.
As you can see, EVA foam and Sintra require essentially the same list of materials. I used the same patterns for the EVA foam and Sintra, so regardless of how you obtain the templates I would recommend holding onto them for future use.
The Armor Making Process:
I used scissors to cut the EVA foam, and a belt sander to smooth the edges. If using a heat knife or box cutter on EVA foam, the edges should come out straight enough to avoid the need for sanding. For the Sintra, I used a Dremel cutting wheel and then sanded the edges. Initially I used a box cutter to cut the Sintra, but it was time consuming and it cramped my hands. The edges on the Sintra came out clean with the box cutter, though it still took me more time than it did to Dremel and sand.
- So in terms of cutting, I would say the EVA foam is much easier to use.
For molding the armor, I would recommend having an extra set of hands around. In particular, the chest armor can be difficult to mold with either EVA foam or Sintra without help. Be careful not to them! Once your material is heated properly, mold it in the shape you need. For me, I just put the warm material right onto myself (over clothing of course) and molded it like that. It can be hot and uncomfortable for a few seconds but it does give you the exact shape you’ll want.
EVA foam heats relatively quickly and stays warm for a reasonable amount of time to allow for some adjustments. However, it has a difficult time maintaining its shape if it isn’t held in place until it’s cool. Sintra takes significantly longer to heat, and it cools much faster than EVA foam. This gives you a smaller window to mold it in the shape you want. Sintra does mold much better, though, and it holds its shape wonderfully.
For the shoulder and ankle armor, there’s the issue of compound curves. EVA foam handles the gentle compound curves of these two armor pieces with ease. On the other hand, Sintra does not take well to even the simplest compound curve. This makes it difficult to mold those four armor pieces with Sintra. I managed a working compound curve with difficulty for the armor pieces, but in the future I may look into other options for the shoulder and ankle pieces.
- Overall, I would say EVA foam is easier to heat and form.
Regarding EVA foam, this is the longest process aside from painting. On each molded armor piece I used two layers of spray-on Plasti Dip on the back, and three layers on the front. Once dry, I put an additional coat of brush-on Plasti Dip on both the front and back. Plasti Dip manufacturer instructions recommend waiting 24 hours before doing anything else.
The process of priming Sintra is much simpler. You can either do what I did and opt out completely, or give it a couple of layers of plain paint primer.
- For priming, Sintra is much easier.
Painting is a relatively straight-forward process for both materials. I used two layers of grey spray paint on the EVA foam over the Plasti Dip (which is black) before starting the main details. I used the same amount of layers (roughly three) on both materials. Overall, though, I enjoyed the way the Sintra took to the paint better as it required less touching up in the end.
- Sintra was definitely better with the painting process.
For both materials I sealed the paint with two layers of Mod Podge and one layer of spray-on sealant. The Mod Podge dried better and quicker on the Sintra armor.
- Sintra sealed quicker and easier than EVA foam.
EVA Foam Summary:
- Easy to cut
- Easy to heat
- Easy to mold
- Handles compound curves
- Doesn’t hold shape well
- Loses shape over time
- Holds shape well
- Great for long-term use
- Time consuming to cut
- Doesn’t heat well
- Can’t do compound curves
In the end, it’s up to the costumer to decide which route to go with obtaining Sabine’s armor. For me, I intend to use, maintain, and update my Sintra build. My EVA foam build will retire and be hung somewhere as a fun display piece.
There’s numerous reasons why I will be wearing my Sintra build over my EVA foam build. The primary reason is that it’s simply more comfortable. Since Sintra molds better, the armor feels more comfortable when wearing. The EVA foam armor, while wearable, feels flimsy. The EVA foam chest pieces are also extremely bulky and they don’t contour in the way that Sabine’s armor does. The Sintra chest armor, on the other hand, does contour appropriately. The EVA foam ankle armor pieces also gave me a lot of grief. While they looked nice, it was difficult to step properly. The Sintra ankle armor is molded well and sits in such a way that I don’t feel it, and it doesn’t affect my walking.
Another reason why my Sintra armor is taking precedence over my EVA foam armor is that the Mandalorian Mercs don’t allow EVA foam builds. As a Merc hopeful, I might as well wear the armor made with a material suiting to the costuming group.
One more reason why I will be utilizing my Sintra armor is that, personally, I think it looks better. It looks more like armor, and it sounds like it! When you knock on the EVA foam the sound gets absorbed. But knocking on Sintra gives off a clear, solid sound. And as I said, Sintra molds better than EVA foam so it has a much cleaner look.