Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crick (Raksa) figure from Hinges

We love Meredith McClaren! Not only is she a great friend, but also an amazing artist and wonderful PhxCC booth buddy(AA28 for 2013). Last year we asked Meredith do a Wasp design that would be the base for Jackies costume. This year we wanted to do something more focused on Meredith's work, so we decided on making a figure from her comic Hinges. She has ton of interesting characters to chose from, but Crick (raksa) really caught my eye.
From a design standpoint, I liked the idea of taking an essentially 2D character and representing him in a 3D space.  Meredith had done such a great job of portraying that concept in the comic that I felt it would be a great first piece to do.

Lucky for us, Meredith had drawn him from several angles, so we had quite a bit to base our templates on

After Jackie came up with the templates I decided to use 1/4 inch plywood for the master copy. Raksa reminds me of those wooden dinosaurs that you built as a kid, plus the the grain of the wood and the way it chips would add an extra level of detail to the finished piece.
I used some fancy washers that I found at Ace hardware for his shoulder joints. I backfilled them with resin to add surface area for gluing. Jackie also used these to keep everything in proportion. Remember that when you use off the shelf parts in a build you need to scale everything else to that part.

To save on time, I decided to cast Crick in a simple open back box mold, which meant he would be assembled out of  seven  pieces. You might notice that after I traced all of the pieces on the board I drilled a ton of holes in it. Those are to make cutting it out easier. I tried to put a hole where ever there would be a tight turn with my coping saw. It helped save some time and avoid broken saw blades.
                                                                       Always label your "don't cut" areas! It will save you from hours self inflicted frustration.

 Cutting, sanding, filing and shaping. This took an entire sunday afternoon, but it was going to make or break the figure. I ended up using a blade shaped mini file to shape out the mouth area, stripes and to get it symmetrical. It was very slow going but necessary.

The plywood that I got split and chipped everywhere. There were a lot of splinters, too many if you ask me.

Once all the sanding was finished it was time to get the pieces primed and ready for molding.
When I do an open back mold, I like to glue styrene to the back of my master pieces. That way when I am casting there is a spill shelf built right into the mold.
I also like to use scrap styrene and a low temp glue gun to build my mold boxes. I was pretty proud of my layout for these molds.
I got a bag of colored hot glue for free, but I love how it shows up in pics. I wonder how much more it is to buy than regular glue?

Smooth-On Mold Star 15 Slow has now become my silicone of choice. Its easy to mix, has a nice balance of flexibility and strength, Arizona Art Supply carries it, and it's the same color as our logo. What's not to love?

The molds came out beautifully, no air bubbles on the surface or major leakage! I was counting on the silicone to pick up every little detail of the wood. It will make the painting and weathering I do later much easier.

I didn't take any pictures of the sanding process, but to get Raksa's head to look like the comic I used my belt sander to file the middle part to a wedge, and then super glued the two outer pieces on. I also used the sander to give the smooth backside a grainy texture.

The first casting looked...ok. The tint I used in the resin worked great, but he was lacking something. Then I remembered that Jackie wanted to carve some extra face detail before I molded it. So after getting yelled at for rushing ahead, I got to redo the head mold. I had used up all my Mold Star 15, but I had some leftover Rebound 25 brush on silicone.

Not really the kind of mold Rebound 25 is designed for, but I made it work.

We also noticed that Crick was having a hard time staying on all fours. Any bumps to the table or gusts of air would knock him down. He also looked a little too 2D. For the second casting I glued styrene spacers between the legs and the body, and bent the body and tail a bit. To do the bending I removed body section from the mold before it had cured all the way and just flexed and held it. The end result was a piece that could stand on its own and had that 2.5D pop that was missing from the first casting. I used Rub'n'Buff for his joints, Krylon Matt topcoat, and several layers of watered down black acrylic paint to finish him off. This will be the way we assemble him from now on. Everyone we do will be slightly different, but I look at that as a bonus.

Over all I am really proud of the piece we were able to create. Hopefully we will have some for sale at con this year, so make sure to stop by. And if you are reading this close to the time it was published, you can help Meredith print the first run of Hinges by supporting her Kickstarter!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Henchmen Mask Kit

This is a quick tutorial on how to assemble our Venture Brothers Henchmen mask kit, which you can buy here( if it's in stock).

This is what you will get in the mail, but depending on what my plastic supplier has available it may be white(or the angry eye version, the build method is the same):

Now we can start by assembling our tools. This is what I used and suggest, but it is not the end all be all.

1:Sandpaper: Both high and low grit. At least 400 grit, preferably 600 for the high.

2:Dremel  with thin sanding drum: This will help you quickly sand out the eyes and clean up the edges of the mask. You can put the mask together without one, but it will take much longer.

3:Paint: I used Krylon Plastic Fusion yellow and Now wagon red. (black primer & black acrylic paint if you have a white mask)

4:Low temp hot glue gun: Make sure its LOW temp! You do not want to warp the plastic or burn your fingers. The cheap little ones work just fine

5: Scissors: Kinda self explanatory

6:Elastic band: So you can wear it!

Ok, now we can start! The first thing we need to do is get the mask into the proper shape. This means sanding, and lots of it

The Dremel really helps out here, just be careful with it. It's very easy to take off too much material. So take your time and get the eyes and the edges cleaned up and smoothed out. You will also want to take your high grit sandpaper and go over the whole mask, this will help the paint adhere. I know the Plastic Fusion brand paint says that you don't have to sand, but don't believe them! After you are done with your sanding, clean off your mask. Either use an air gun to blow it off or rinse it in some water and let it dry. Before you move on really take a close look at it. You do not want to get it all painted up and then realize that you needed to even out an edge. Now if your mask is white plastic you will want to first lay down a layer of black primer. This will help the yellow look "right" without having to spray multiple coats. Get the eye mesh out as well. You do not have to prep it at all, just paint it. Remember to follow all the directions on the spray paint can! This can really affect how the  finish looks. If possible hang your mask from one of the eye holes for painting. I didn't not paint the backside of the mask because we will be hot gluing things to it.  Let the paint dry overnight. We will be handling the mask a lot so you want the paint to be fully cured before we move on.

All right, at the start of day to your pieces should look like this ^. Now before we glue in the eye mesh there is one detail that we have to do first. To really make the eyes "pop" we are going so make the tiny inner edge of the eye hole black.
If the mask that you got is black plastic, all you need to do is very carefully sand off any paint that on that edge. If you have a white mask you can carefully paint the edge with some acrylic paint. Let that dry completely before moving on.

We are ready to start gluing. Plug in your glue gun and while it is heating up see if you need to trim any of the eye mesh. We want as much overlap for gluing as possible, so don't trim anything unless it hangs over an edge. To start you are going to put a bead of hot glue down along the top ridge of the eye hole. I used colored hot glue to make it easier to see.

Press the top of the mesh down into the glue. You want to see the glue worked into the weave. The safe way to do this is to use a pen or a stick to push the mesh down, and that's how I'm telling you to do it. I used my fingers, but that's because I'm dumb.

After you have let the glue cool down on the top, flip your mask over and press your thumb gently into the center of the eye mesh. You want the mesh to have a gentle bulge out of the eye hole. That, with the black line we added earlier  will give the eyes a more 3d look.

Once you have the mesh in the right place you can start gluing it down. Really work the glue into the mesh, and make sure to overlap the edge. Work it in small sections and let the glue cool before moving on.

Once you have both eyes glued in you can add your elastic. Start from the middle edge of the eye and lay a bead of glue out towards the side of the mask. Quickly press one side of your elastic into the glue and let it cool. After it has cooled, top coat the elastic with more glue, overlapping the edges. Once that has cooled down, hold the mask up and pull the other side of the elastic around and touch it to the side of the opposite eye. Adjust how much you have to pull for comfort and then cut off any excess. Repeat the the gluing process and you are all finished! I hope that was helpful, and feel free to post pics of your finished masks in the comments.