Friday, March 20, 2015

Prop Planning - Making templates from thin air

Last year was a big step in cosplay for me: I made the leap into props. By leap, I really mean a toddler step. The important part was that I moved in that direction and I learned skills and confidence that will help me expand more this year.

My biggest fear with non-fabric work was the pattern. I'm not an artist, despite being surround by them in my family. The easy answer was to have my mom or sister make my template design, but I was set on creating it on my own. My challenge was making the star crest for Sailor Cosmos. (The staff will be another blog post.)

I tried to hand draw the wings, but I was never satisfied with the result. It looked awkward and not to scale. So I went back to my roots - I was always really good a tracing.

1) Load the image into Photoshop. On a budget? Gimp is free and works just as well.

2) Open a second layer and, using a black pencil tool, trace over the item. Zoom in as much as you want. No need to struggle! You can get as detailed with your trace as you want. When a line was missing, I made it up.

3) Trace all the patterns you want and you'll end up with a photo that looks like this:

Remember, this is TWO layers. That's really key and why paint will not work for this method.

4) Copy your tracing layer (Layer 2) to a new document. I made a separate file for each wing piece on a document that was set to 8.5x11 inches. This will help with the next step.

5) Scale your pieces. It's going to look blurry, but roll with it. I found it helpful to measure on myself how big I think I wanted to prop to look (4 inches high vs. 6 inches high) and would scale the image to match that size in the document. See why you want the document to be in inches and not in pixels?
My result looked like this:

6) Clean up your image. If I printed this out, it would be a hot mess for me to work with. I opened another layer and worked with a different color (red) to draw new lines. I was tracing my my tracing. I used the shift key to help draw series of straight lines over my pattern. All the while, I was turning layers on and off to check my progress. The final result was this:

7) Print it! Minor adjusts can be made by scaling your image in your print settings (print 100% to scale or 70% to scale). It's a faster adjustments then scaling your image and risk losing your pretty lines.

8) I placed the paper pattern over some craft foam and traced the lines very carefully with an x-acto knife to make a foam pattern I could use over and over!

(This is one with some paint trials on it)

The beauty of this method is
1) No real art skills required
2) Easy to scale
3) Easy to replicate

And that is how you can make a template from thin air.