Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Horns Tutorial

To paraphrase (plagiarize?) the intro of my hooves tutorial (found here), I strayed from my “pretty dress” niche in costuming for JordanCon 2015 and instead went with a monster: a female Trolloc, to be precise, complete with horns and hooves. Since there’s been interest in how I built those elements—and I’m a wee bit of a progress pic whore—I have enough photos to write up a tutorial on how to create them.

Disclaimer: Despite having won multiple costuming awards over last four consecutive years, I am self-taught. Read: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK, and YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY.

This tutorial is going to show you what I did. It may not work for you, but it may be the jumping off point you need—maybe it’ll inspire a different idea that will work. Don’t get discouraged. Costuming as a hobby is an exercise in trial and error. Research. Plan. Try. Revamp. Edit. Just attack your design and get it done. You can do it. There’s no right way to do anything—just the way that works for you.

Be warned: This is not a “whip it up over a weekend” project. With drying times of clay, paints, and glues, you’re better off to work on this in stages over a couple of weeks than to try and rush it.

Materials and tools used:

- tinfoil
- masking tape
- Crayola Model Magic (in white)
- butter knife
- Elmer's Carpenter's White Wood Filler
- acrylic paint
- Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic top coat/sealer (spray in satin finish)
- faux fur
- Beacon Gem Tac glue
- wire
- Sharpie black marker
- needle and (strong!) thread

When beginning a project, my first step is always research. Which means I hit up Pinterest, googled the shit out of “costuming/cosplay/horns tutorial," read until I was confident I had a plan of attack, and charged ahead.

A costumer friend of mine (hi, Paul!) had used Crayola Model Magic for a Trolloc helm he’d made a few years back, so I knew that was the direction I needed to head. But building entire horns out of Model Magic isn’t exactly cost effective. After research I decided using tinfoil for the internal structure would be both lightweight and cheap.

Plus, we had a box from Costco (heh).

After looking at images on Pinterest and deciding the shape I wanted (accounting for bulking it up with Model Magic), it was a matter of creating the tinfoil armature yet doing so without compacting the tinfoil too much. I didn’t want to add too much weight, so there were multiple runs to see if I could get these bad boys the right size and as light as possible.

Beginnings of foil armature.

 Once I’d made the internal structure, I wrapped it with masking tape to secure their shape and help mold the main ridge down the outside of the curve.

Generations of taped foil horns. Deciding size, shape, and attempting lightest possible weight. The bottommost ones won.
Then it was adding Crayola Model Magic. I opted to roll it out flat (1/4”) and then wrap that floppy pancake around my tinfoil taped horn, keeping the seam at the back (read: the part of the horn that would be closest to my head). I’m sure there’s a more successful technique out there, but this worked for me.

Model Magic adds BULK.

The ridges in across the horn were created with the blunt edge of a butter knife. I carefully pressed evenly into the soft clay until it was covered in ridges. You don't want to go for even and precise here: natural looking horns are random and uneven, so variation will look more realistic.

Regard the lovely ridges.

Dry time for the Model Magic clay was longer than they suggested on the package. If I recall it should have taken an estimated four days to dry. I waited over a week—partly waiting for it to dry, and partly out of laziness insurance.

And it cracked.

Cracked undersides of horns.


Cracks along ridges.
I’d read online plenty of instances where Model Magic had cracked, so I was prepared. It was recommended to fill them carefully with white wood filler, one at a time, and to sand down any rough edges afterwards. It worked.

Behold the miraculously mended horns:

Fixed! Whew!

So I am telling you: if your Model Magic cracks while dries, DON’T PANIC!

The above photo is also a great spot to point out asymmetry. If you want to kill yourself going for perfection, knock yourself out—the reality is you're wearing one horn on each side of your head and likely no one is going to notice if they're not perfectly identical. Besides, once upon a time I heard great advice for grooming eyebrows and I think it applies here: they don't have to be twins, the just have to look related (heh).

Next: paint. I heard Model Magic absorbs paint, so I did a preliminary paint job in tan to get the absorption out of the way before I started in with the chosen colours.

I went dark first (a milk-chocolate brown), and then lightly dry brushed a cream colour (meant to imitate bone) over top so that the brown remained within the ridges.

After that dried, I sprayed them with the acrylic satin-finish sealant.

Next, I took two circles of faux fur (I erred on the side of having enough to trim down later), clipped down the centres of them so they weren’t as fuzzy, and used Beacon Gem Tac to glue them to where the horns would attach to my head. The reasoning was that this would be something I could sew wire onto, and that wire would then be hidden in my hair.

I used elastics to hold the faux fur in place while the glue cured (it takes 24 hours), shifting the placement of the elastics every few hours to keep from having funny bumps.

Then I trimmed down the excess fur around the edges of the horns and created a triple wire harness for the horns to sit on my head and sewed it onto the horns. I really wanted a way to wear my horns that didn’t look like they were attached to a headband or some other gear—I wanted them to look as if they were a part of my head.

Insides of horns: costuming isn't always glamorous behind the scenes... we're not winning beauty contests here.
So I designed this triple-wire system: the top two wires were to act like headbands, and the bottommost one was to go around the back of my head under my hair. Measuring these wires so they were the right size so the horns would hang with the proper placement was very much a trial and error process. I settled on having the lowest wire a wee bit too large so I could kink it to tighten the entire rig. I sewed these wires into place and then slathered that with more Gem Tac glue to hold it all.

The biggest challenge of this wire is to ensure it doesn't bend/fold enough that it creates weak points and snaps, so be gentle with your horns.

I used a Sharpie to colour the top two wires black so they’d hide better in my dark hair.

Yes, that’s all there was holding those horns in place: the joke the whole time I was building them was that they’d be attaching with a wish and a prayer. That’s pretty much it.

With this rigging I was able to pull part of my hair through the front/top two wires to keep it in place (securing placement on my head), and pull the hair right around my face up and back over the top of the black wires (hiding the wires). The rest of my hair was pulled through the larger gap between the middle and bottom wire, thus effectively hiding the back wire underneath the rest of my hair. The horns shifted slightly if I turned my head quickly, but otherwise I could look up, down, tilt my head off centre and things stayed in place no problem. Would I have been able to hang upside down? No. But that wasn’t the purpose here, anyway.

So that’s it. Hope this has been helpful, and happy costuming!