Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of foam!
Many of you know, that Worbla is a great solution to create armor and props. This time though I would like to talk about the super affordable alternative. EVA foam is cheap, widely available and creating costumes and props with this material is super fun! So let’s check out out!
You might have noticed that many of my costumes in the past where made mostly with the brown thermoplastic Worbla. I got a little bit bored with it after a while though and switched to EVA foam, which gives me not only new challenges but also forces me to learn new techniques! So one of my latest projects was the Erazer Girl, a commissioned costume for the German computer manufacturer Medion. The whole armor was completely built out of simple EVA foam in different thicknesses and therefore I was able to keep the material costs pretty low.
Another project was my Sole Survivor from the video game Fallout 4, which was my first complete foam costume and the first time I applied the rusting technique featured in my Advanced Painting Book.
And finally, my Zinogre armor from Monster Hunter, which was my most elaborate foam project so far. I think, all these projects show in a great way, that EVA foam is great for creating cool costumes and props!
Crafting on a budget with EVA foam!
I really like how these costumes turned out! Plus: Their armor cost me maybe $50 to $100 in total using mainly EVA foam! My other costumes in comparison were a lot pricer, less comfortable to wear and more challenging to transport. So, if you’re searching for a good alternative to Worbla, think about switching to EVA foam!
In general, there are a million different kinds of EVA foam in various thicknesses, colors, densities and chemical compositions. The most well known is probably cheap puzzle foam mats, which you can easily find on Amazon. They are around 10mm thick, come in a puzzle shape of 60 x 60 cm (24 x 24 inches) and have a rough texture on one side. They are the cheapest version (6 mats for 23$), but it will cost you extra time and effort to built something (since you might have to get rid of the texture again).
My favourite crafting material
My personal favorite is high density EVA foam, which you can get from cosplayshop.be, a crafting shop in Belgium – they also ship the US btw. I heard the cosplay foam from TNT Cosplay in the US is good as well, but since they don’t want to sell me samples, I don’t know for sure. This material comes in 10, 5, and 2mm sheets, is smooth on both sides and a lot more durable compared to other EVA foams.
The largest size and thickness actually costs 60€/65$ for a sheet of 2mx1m, but it is already enough for a whole armor costume! Smaller sizes come a lot cheaper of course. That’s surely a bit more pricey than the cheap floor mats, but the material already comes smooth on both sides and you have a minimum of waste since you’ll get a single, very large sheet of foam and don’t have to cut away the puzzle borders.
How to find the right EVA foam
Creating costumes with EVA foam might require some research. Depending on what you want to build, it also helps a lot to find a foam which actually shrinks by heating it up instead of simply melting. You can see why in the following picture. By cutting lines with a sharp blade and heating it up afterwards, the lines will widen. This is extra helpful for adding details on armor and props. Just order a sample and try this out, then you’re good to go for your upcoming material order! (P.S. If you have foam that melts, the cuts will disappear again when you heat it up!)
Aside of high density EVA foam, you’ll also often find black mats, which are softer. They are called L200 in the US, Pro Foam S from Craftperium (a crafting shop in Germany) or EVA-PE45kg from cosplayshop.be, all pretty much the same products. This foam is cheaper and melts together under heat, though it’s easier to heat shape and is more lightweight. Just the perfect materials for affordable armor costumes! It’s also the black foam you’ll see in the following pictures.
What else do you need?
As you can guess, you will also need some glue to connect your foam pieces. Unlike Worbla, foam doesn’t just stick when you heat it up, but needs a strong adhesive to stay in shape. A common solution is contact cement, contact glue, Kontaktkleber in Germany or Barge (in the US). I’m using contact glue from cosplayshop.be.
Contact cement is basically a very strong adhesive which you have to apply in thin layers to both sides, let it dry properly and then press both parts together afterwards. Depending on the glue, drying might take a bit longer. Mine dries actually instantly and allows me to work pretty fast. The bond created here might destroy your foam if you try to rip it apart, so work carefully and think about your next steps.
Additionally you’ll need some tools to work with foam but nothing fancy: A box cutter and an exacto knife, a dremel and a heat gun. That’s pretty much all! And yes, even if you prefer to build your costumes and props as simple and cheap as possible, these are tools you have to get. They are pretty basic and I guarantee you, you’ll need them for all your upcoming projects as well. I’m actually also using an flex shaft extension, for my dremel which allows me to work more precise.
Some tips and tricks to build awesome costumes and props
So do you wonder, how creating costumes and props with EVA foam works? Well, as always you’ll need a pattern first. I made one for a shoulder armor and adjusted the shape a bit. Afterwards I transferred the template on 10mm black EVA foam, cut it out with my box cutter and covered the edges with contact cement. Once the adhesive was dry enough, I simply pressed both edges together. For a little bit more depth I added an additional layer with a beveled edge and my shoulder was done! Super simple, right???
That’s how I also made the details for the armor of my Monk costume.
Here is also a making of video:
A better example might be the progress of my Erazer Girl. As you see, I always just wrap myself in plastic wrap and duct tape, draw the shapes I need on, cut them out, glue them together and bring them into shape. It’s a pretty simple technique, which you can apply for pretty much every armor piece you want to create.
Here is detailed making of video of the entire costume if want like to see more:
And finally here is another shoulder piece – this time with a fancy paint job. I simply applied a bumpy texture with some latex and texture paste, painted it black and rubbed it carefully with the wax paint Rub’n’Buff. The result looked just like metal, despite of being simply foam! You’ll find a more detailed tutorial in my latest Advanced Painting Book!
Time for some EVA foam priming fun!
You’ll also find some helpful tips and trips regarding to priming. My current favorite is PlastiDip, which is a spray on rubber coming from the car industry. It’s actually toxic and flammable, so you’ll need good ventilation or have to spray outside. I actually build myself a handy spray booth out of an IKEA closet. Additionally you need some practice to get a clean application (Benni always messes this up!) and using this stuff for a whole armor set might be a bit pricy. A can in the US only costs around 6$, but in Europe it’s more like 16€ (GummiDip is a cheaper German alternative that works great too). You’ll need around three layers so they do not last very long.
A cheap alternative is latex milk. It’s a natural product, can be brushed on and is completely non toxic. If you apply it with a brush, you might create little flakes in your priming coat so be careful. If you like to have a super smooth base for your paint job, latex probably isn’t the right solution unless you filter it and spray it on with a critter gun. You also need special colors to paint latex.
Something I really like is actually Flexbond, which seems to be a mix of latex and white glue. It’s works basically like simple white glue, though it dries out flexible. This means your paint won’t chip of anymore and you don’t need to worry about cracks in your armor. Clearly a good alternative if you don’t like latex or Plasti Dip. You’ll get Flexbond in Europe from cosplayshop.be and in the US and Canada from cosplaysupplies.com.
I actually uploaded a video comparing different primers for EVA foam:
It’s all about the right paint job!
Oh, and this is an armor piece I made out of high density EVA foam and primed with Plasti Dip. Wondering about the cool rusty paint job? My Advanced Painting Book for will help you!
If you want to get more info about costume and prop making, check out my detailed EVA Foam Armor Book, which covers in detail how to find the right material, how to create perfectly fitting patterns for your costume designs, cut, shape, prime and paint your armor and how to attach everything properly to your body!
Well, back to the topic…
Another shoulder armor (everybody needs shoulders protection!). The shape is completely different, though the pattern is still super simple. I used my dremel to sand down the edges into the right angle and connected all pieces with contact cement. The “metal rods” were just PVC pipes wrapped with 2mm stripes of EVA foam. For an used and realistic look, I also added some battle damage with my dremel on top.
And here is a little step by step guide of my D.Va gun from Overwatch. You can also download the blueprint here if you want to build it yourself! :) Here you can watch a complete set of videos that explains how we built this prop:
Do you want to learn more about EVA foam guns? I already wrote a book about this topic: Advanced Prop Making – Guns and Rifles.
And last but not least, here is an EVA foam breastplate from my already finished Nova costume from Heroes of the Storm.
You can do it!
As you can see, creating costumes with EVA foam is not rocket science, but takes some patience. Planning a costume or prop ahead of time is always helpful as well. That’s why I always prepare patterns and Benni draws blueprints for me. EVA foam is a great material, though you don’t just snip with your fingers and your costume is done. Same goes for Worbla though. Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages, but I hope this posts shows you that some skill and time is enough to create something awesome even with a tight budget.
So, no need to worry! Instead get up and start crafting! :)
Also, if you like to get some more inspiration and ideas, check out my tools and materials list! Here you not only find a list of plenty international cosplay shops, but also affiliate links for my favourite tools and materials on Amazon. Using these links supports us directly and I hope it will help you to find what you need for your next project!
Anyway we can see your spray booth made from IKEA? Would LOVE to see how you built it since I am needing to build something myself.
Also what body suits are you wearing?
Is the foam + Plasti-Dip/Flexbond method noticeably bendier than Worbla-sandwiched foam? I’m planning to make the Helm’s Deep elf armor from LOTR, mostly from foam to save money, but wondered if Worbla would better suit the pauldrons and hip armor. The pauldrons, because they stand away from the body and I want them to be sturdy, and the hip armor because it consists of a lot of long, thin, curved lames (strips). Is that a valid concern? I’ve never worked with either foam or Worbla so thought I’d get some advice. Thanks for these tutorials! I used to only daydream about wearing this armor, but when I read your book (The Costume Making Guide) I realized I could make it myself!
Yes, EVA foam is soft and flexible, while Worbla is stiff, hard and heavy. Worbla is also more beginner friendly, but it takes you more effort to transport it and attach it to your body. EVA foam holds fine with velcro or even magnets, but it’s hard to build something really thin and keep it look good. I would really recommend you just to order some samples and see which material you like more. :)
Great videos, and adding the real rust is a super touch!! I’m interested in the machine you use to laser cut your foam/wood pieces. I’d love to start building costumes and props and this machine seems like a huge help. Could you share what kind of machine it is and a ballpark cost? Thanks!
I was just getting ready to ask this question. Really interested in a laser printer that can do this sort of thing.
It’s a Full Spectrum laser, which we had to import from the US a few years ago. The taxes and shipping were insane, but back then it was really hard to get something similar in Europe. Now it should be clearly easier and as far as I know there are similar machines available from retailers in the UK for example.
how can i get d.v.a blueprints and where do you get eva foam
Just google Overwatch dva Eva foam templates and Eva foam can be purchased ranging from walmart in varying sections depending on your walmart to hardware stores such as lowes or menards usually in carpeting
Hallo Ihr Zwei Lieben :3
habt ihr auch ein Tutorial für Stiefel mit den Eva-Platten ?
Wow this is amazing! $100-$150 for the entire costume is insane! The final product looks Hollywood level. Hope to learn more for your articles to come! I am also starting a blog for tips but I am not anywhere close to this level….yet! lol check it out sometime. https://www.magicangeleyes.com/blog/
Hello Benni and Svetlana.
Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the cosplay community. It is very inspiring that people with experience will share knowledge with those who are new to cosplay and crafting. Keep spreading the word!
This is amazing, thank you so much! Does wood glue/pva glue work well as a primer, too?
Super helpful, especially the links! But could you maybe add how you attach the pieces to your body? With Worbla I simply use your method to attach D-rings with some more Worbla, but that doesn’t work here. Do you glue them on?
Thank you very much! Looking forward to add the Lighting 2 book to my collection! ^_^
The female armor u have here. I need something like it but for male. Any blueprints
Take a look at this: https://www.kamuicosplay.com/product/malearmorpattern/
EVA Schaum wirkt zwar ganz gut um solche Sachen zu machen, aber ist es auch so formbar wie Worbla? Also kann man es so leicht biegen, z.B: ein langes langes Rechteck, das der Länge nach einfach gebogen wird (und dann wie ein U aussieht) ohne es woanders zu befestigen?
EVA Schaum kannst du auch biegen wenn du ihn vorher erhitzt. Das Material ist jedoch ein wenig weicher, weshalb es auch leichter wieder in die ursprüngliche Form zu biegen ist. Eine zusätzliche Befestigung kann also nie schaden! :)
This is so useful, thank you! A little heads up though that your “Dremel” link leads to the Barge contact cement instead, that aside though, keep up the great work!
Thank you so much for sharing this!! As a broke student cosplayer, this really helps! Also have your e-books; they’re wonderful! :) Your talent it mind-blowing <3
Your work is amazing! And you make it sound so simple…..which means I am prolly gonna have to give this foam thing a go this coming year. Thanks for the inspiration and keep on.
Can your patterns be used for leather also?
Patterns are patterns and can be used for any material you wish :)