Monthly Archives: December 2009

Safety Violation

Dust masks like this won’t save you from anything.


Giving Shoes a New Color (Manmade Materials)

Let’s be honest: a lot of shoes aren’t made in the colors that most anime characters like to wear. But does that stop them? Heck no. And it shouldn’t stop you, either.

 A majority of fashion shoes are composed of manmade materials (read: plastic), fabric, and leather. Depending on that material, different supplies are required. This tutorial is for shoes made from manmade materials. The photos are from Grell Sutcliff from the anime/manga series Kuroshitsuji, for turning a pair of eggshell heels to a red/mahogany.

I got these from Stock there moves pretty fast (so fast that I saw another pair that I really wanted for Grell, and then had to get these and then paint them to match that gorgeous first pair. But I like these better now.) 

The process covered in this tutorial is potentially super-unsafe. Wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated area when using spray paint of any kind. Extra points if you put on a respirator! If you end up using pure acetone (its purpose is discussed in a little bit), make sure you have a respirator (yes, the kind with cartridges) and heavy rubber gloves.

 After you’ve figured out what your shoes are made from, get your paint. For manmade materials, a product called Nu-Life spray paint is recommended (this can also be used for leather, but shoe dyes for leather are not recommended for manmade materials.) I purchased mine from a site called about 72 hours before Christmas and they still showed up on my doorstep the Monday afterwards.

 Tip: You don’t really need that Nu-Life Preparer in order to clean the shoes beforehand. The main point is that there’s nothing getting in the way of the spray paint doing its job, like dirt or grease.

 Tape off everything that you don’t want the spray paint to touch. In general, the top lift (the usually black bit on the bottom of the heel), the sole, and the inside of the shoe as well as any hardware should be taped off. For the inside of the shoe, it’s easier to stuff the shoe with newspaper and then tape the newspaper to the sides of the shoe.

 If the sole of the shoe is drastically different from the end result, like this pair, it can be painted as well. Some hardware, like grommets, isn’t easily taped off, but acetone or any nail polish remover, even non-acetone, will remove this paint. Be careful, though, because it will also strip the paint from the shoe itself. Acetone will also work on leather shoes, but is not recommended on fabric shoes.

 After taping, spray paint in successive even coats, waiting for each to dry before applying the next one. This paint does have quite a kick, so let your shoes air out overnight.

 The shoes pictured here have undergone two coats of red paint. Tomorrow, I’ll touch up with the red, then tape off the top part and spray paint the rest in mahogany. But for now, I’m letting them do their thing.

At the Movies

With movies like Sherlock Holmes and The Young Victoria hitting the silver screen, it’s a great time to check out the fabrics used for period cosplay. Because of the nature of anime, manga, and even most video games, it can be tough to figure out what fabrics to use without a bit of outside research. Even though fabric for period costumes tends to cost a bit more, it only takes a glance at a cosplay made with those fabrics to see that the final result is definitely worth it! And once you’ve gotten the feel of working with those fabrics, you’ll probably start to look for excuses to use them in future costumes.

Personally, I’m excited to see Sherlock Holmes to get a sense of what people who weren’t nobility wore, for my future Kuroshitsuji cosplay. While The Young Victoria gave me some really good ideas for men’s shirts, there were (understandably) hardly any characters that weren’t a Duke or a Viscount, and the years between The Young Victoria and the last years of the 1800s when Kuroshitsuji is set might be enough to make a difference.

In general, whenever historical costuming and cosplay cross, looking to the movies for textures and 3D design elements is a fun way to research without feeling like you’re doing (too much) work.

Glue Breakdown

This is not a complete list of all the glues out there. Rather, these are the glues that I find are particularly useful for cosplay purposes.

Hot Glue—For costuming purposes, do not think of this as a glue; think of it as a wax. In other words, it makes a terrible substitution for products like Liquid Stitch. If the hot glue is being applied to a material whose melting point is below the glue’s temperature (like wig fibers!), then go ahead. Likewise if the material is porous enough for the melted ‘glue’ to lock into when it dries, or if you can trap the material (like feathers) with the melted glue as it dries.

Low-temp hot glue guns, then, don’t seem to make much sense, do they? They’re useful in case of extreme emergency at conventions because with the lower temperature, the chance of the melted glue locking into fibers is kind of decreased, so it works quite well as a temporary fix that potentially does little permanent damage to your costume. But it’s harder to carry a low-temp glue gun around than it is a needle and matching thread, isn’t it?

White glues (PVA-based)—Tacky glue is the most popular form of this type of glue. It bonds to many different surfaces, it dries clear, it can be used to make raised designs if you let it sit and become tacky, and as long as you check out the price per ounce ratios on the bottles on display, it is very affordable.

Tacky glue can also be used for other purposes, like creating a shiny finish or papier/fiber mache. But there’s a better glue for that, Tacky glue’s undiluted big sister, PVA.

PVA stands for polyvinyl acetate. You can use it to even out surfaces before sanding, it’s excellent for mache, and you can use it to create shiny finishes (and even mimic patent leather if you play your cards right).

It also smells. Even in a ventilated area, you have a pretty good chance of getting high and/or queasy if you aren’t wearing a mask of some sort.

Contact adhesives—you know how you usually don’t really read the directions when you use glue because it’s, well, glue? These are the glues where you need to read the directions. Unlike the other glues described above, contact adhesives work by putting the gunk on each side of the surfaces to be attached, let it become tacky, and then press together.

E6000 is one of the most popular forms of this type of glue because if you do it right, it sticks anything to pretty much anything else (except for Styrofoam.)

No only do these smell, but they often have that carcinogenic label. There are perfectly effective half-face respirators out there for $30.

Gorilla Glue—has some unique properties that set it apart. It is marketed as the go-to glue for Home Depot denizens, but I’ve found that it’s most useful and durable on repairing and modifying shoes. A major problem with Gorilla Glue is that it does expand if you don’t clamp it, but it can be sanded and, more importantly, it absorbs paint and stains.

Green glue—is a glue that doesn’t eat Styrofoam, making it perfect for larger props that require insulation foam (and it really is green).

Random Thought

I was looking through costume storage last night in search of something that my model could wear to match my Firebird headdress, and found armor in the same vein as Albireo’s. It was basically a thick tunic with metallic vinyl diamonds cut out and tacked onto the shirt. And honestly, I was kind of jealous because the distance between the stage and the audience allows the costume designer to employ such a simple and time-saving method for theater, and… something like that would never fly on cosplay!