I created my XCOM Body Armor for MomoCon 2015. The Body Armor is the base armor in XCOM: Enemy Unknown by Firaxis Games. You can find out more about the various armor types in XCOM: Enemy Unknown on the Wikia site.
The body armor was unwrapped in Pepakura Designer. Then I took the unwrapped image into Adobe Illustrator to create the templates for the EVA foam. I used a combination of 3D printing, 1/2″ EVA foam, 2mm, 3mm, and 5mm fun foam to make the armor.
All the templates are based on the exported in game model. The knee pads, pauldrons, and elbow pads are the actual in game geometry that’s been seriously modified. I had to cut off the digital edge padding (I made the padding from EVA foam in the cosplay), and also add details that were only in the texture map, not in the original geometry.
As you can see in the photo below, I did have to make some scale adjustments for reality. My knees are not as big as my head! So, I scaled the knee pads down. The model’s elbows are also HUGE, so those are scaled down too. The proportions of the rest of the armor stay pretty consistent.
I’m 6’3″, with a 48″ chest and 38″ waist. The templates are scaled to fit me. If you’re significantly larger or smaller than me, you’ll need to scale the armor before building it. I decided on the scale of my armor based on the width of the main chest plate. That may be a good place for you to start too. Just print the chest piece, cut it out, and see if it looks like it’s the right size.
Note: The side straps in the template are REALLY LONG. I ended up cutting about 5″ off of each strap. You’ll want to determine the final length of the side straps while you’re working with your paper template. That way you can stitch the edges of the straps BEFORE you cut them off. (who wants to stitch EVA only to cut it of? No me!)
This armor is made using the same techniques I used for my Gears of War armor. Because of that, I’m not going to go into all the techniques of making EVA armor. You can see the techniques in the tutorials on our website. This post will be more of a instruction manual about how to cut/assemble the armor.
After you’ve decided on the scale of your armor, you’ll print your templates, tape them together, and cut out the pieces of EVA foam. The next step is rounding the edges and cutting any stitch grooves.
I generally round the back edges that you’ll see…areas like the sides of the shoulder straps, or side edges of the armor. You won’t want to round the back edges that will be glued together. Those are areas like where the front side straps are glued to the bottom edge of the chest armor.
You cut the stitch grooves for two reasons. 1) it accentuates the stitching 2) it gives you a guide of where to actually stitch the seam. Hand stitching the edges takes time, but really adds to the realism of the armor. You can really see how the panels below look like the stitching has compressed the edges of the armor.
Probably 90% of my gluing in the project was done with Barge Contact Cement. I still used Loctite Superglue, but that was mainly for high stress points. Being my first experience with Barge, I still relied on superglue if I had any concern about the Barge holding up to the stress. Now that I’m done and I’ve worn the armor to a few cons, I’m really impressed with the Barge. I’ll definitely trust it more now that I’ve got more experience with it.
After assembling the armor, you’ll do any fun foam details like the shoulder strapping. You’ll 3D print the two details for the back edge of the shoulder straps. Note: Make sure to scale these the same percentage as you scaled the paper armor template.
There is a circular base to these prints. You can align the print and then press it into the EVA foam. It should leave enough of an impression so you can mark where to do a plunge cut with a dremel tool. This base/slot will help you align the piece when you go to superglue it together. I’ve also found using this technique helps the superglue hold better than just gluing onto a flat surface.
After I finished painting, I added the two insignia to the armor. There’s a HUGE American flag on the back and the XCOM insignia on the front.
Assault Class Shotgun Recoil Pad
The shotgun recoil pad is made using the same techniques as the body armor. This pad is not permanently attached to the armor. You can use velcro straps to secure it to the armor. That way you can remove it if you’re going to cosplay a different class.
You will 3D print 4 keepers for the strap on the recoil pad.
Make sure to scale the .stl files to the same percentage as you scaled the paper armor template.
Elbow Pads, Knee Pads, and Pauldrons
The elbow pads, knee pads, and pauldrons are all 3D printed plates with a EVA foam edge. They are each two pieces. I booleaned cylinders into the seam edges. You can insert short pieces of wire into the holes. (I use copper 12/2 Romex wire) This helps with alignment, and also makes the seam much stronger.
The elbow pads and knee pads will be sized to fit your elbows/knees, but the pauldrons should be scaled to the same percentage as your paper armor template. That keeps their proportions to the armor correct.
You can see in the photo above that I had originally thought that I would create an extra lip of EVA foam that would rest behind the 3D print. That idea did not work out. The EVA foam ended up just being the width of the edge (the white template in the above photo). I superglued the edge of the foam to the edge of the 3D print. The EVA foam does go behind the two tabs on the elbow and knee pads. You’ll grind those areas thinner before stitching the foam. (you can see these cutouts in the photo below)
There will are two circular 3D prints on each elbow and knee pad. So you’ll need a total of 8 of the 3D prints. There’s a circular base to them, so I made a shallow plunge cut with a Dremel grinding bit so the base would set into the foam. I did this so I could align the pivots and to give them more surface area for the superglue to grip to.
All the template and 3D printer files! For Free!
Hopefully, even after my ramblings, you’ll want to make a set of this Armor of your very own! If so, you can find the templates in the Costuming section of Hardscrabble Farm.
Additional Costume Making Resources
I’ve learned all I know from the amazing costumers and prop makers who’ve shared their knowledge on the internet. There are many makers out there that you can learn from. Here’s a list of a couple of guys who’s techniques would work well on this build:
And of course, you can see all the details of my construction techniques in the tutorials section of our website.
P.S. I just realized that I had not detailed my strap attachment system…at ALL! I will cover that in a later post.