How To Make Realistic Cosplay Armor – Without Breaking a Sweat!

How To Make Realistic Cosplay Armor

Are you wanting to make your armor costume more realistic? You can achieve this by using foam armor for your next project. You can choose patterns that are easy or modular so you can follow step-by-step instructions.

There are also patterns that show how to create adjustable costume armor that you can use not just during a single event but even until the next costume play event. Don’t hesitate on the costs for your costume armor as cost-effective plans are widely available to use. Read on and let’s get started!

What Is Craft Foam?

What Is Craft Foam

A seasoned cosplayer will definitely know what craft foam is. However, if you are a beginner, you might wonder what this material is and how to use it. Are you ready to learn the basics? If so, let’s talk about craft foam and why it’s a go-to for most cosplayers.

Where Can I Buy Foam?

Did you know that craft foam is widely available? You can find them in grocery stores, craft shops, and shopping malls where home improvement materials are sold. This foam is a useful material, especially for DIY projects. They are also inexpensive and come in different colors.

You can get one from Walmart or Target along with other crafting tools like a heat gun and paint for your shoulder armor project. You can even find craft shops online and order from them if there aren’t any nearby stores selling craft foam in your area.

Wonderflex Vs EVA Craft Foam

Although EVA foam is a sought-after material in creating realistic costume armor, there are other materials available in the market as well. This includes Wonderflex which can also bring about a real armor design when correctly crafted. Is this your first time to hear about Wonderflex? Let me give you an idea of what it is. This material is used especially when EVA foam is not available. It is a low melting thermoplastic that has woven fiber on one of its backsides.

You can compare the looks of this material to plastic duct tape. Similar to foam, it can also be easily bent when heated. It can stretch and flex as well as curve making it easier for you to form your armor. You can also add in some basic compounds to enhance side curves. Also, slight curves can also be possible because of the woven backing that Wonderflex has.

Why Is EVA Foam Armor Preferred?

Did you know that craft form is easy to cut, sew and join together? This makes it an ideal choice in making custom armor for cosplay. Although there are a variety of colors available, plain craft foam can be bought and colored using acrylic paint. It is also easy to bend and form, making it a preferred choice by most cosplayers who are looking to make custom armor, arm pieces, as well as leg pieces to complete their cosplay look.

Heat Gun Vs. Hairdryer

Heat Gun Vs. Hairdryer

For the most obvious reasons, a hairdryer is used to dry your hair. This means that the heat it produces is lower compared to that coming out from a heat gun. Although both operate almost the same way, sealing your foam layers using a heat gun is highly recommended. Meanwhile, if you are only looking to speed up dry time, you can make use of a hairdryer.

Hot Glue Gun Vs. Heat Gun

Did you know that both glue and heat guns are actually power tools that can help speed up your craft making? A heat gun is absolutely necessary whether you are looking to use foam or individual pieces of other materials. Working with a blow dryer can help you get the material pliable but this will take some time to achieve.

However, with a heat gun, working time is reduced because you can adjust the tool’s temperature setting. You can get one for $10 but there are others that can heat faster at a hotter temperature though at a more expensive price.

On the other hand, a glue gun is also a necessity when it comes to gluing almost anything quickly. There is actually two types of glue gun that you can make use of. If you are using thin materials, you can go for the cool melt type. Meanwhile, if you are looking to work on your piece before dry time, then a hot glue gun is recommended. This is because it will allow you to work on your material before it completely dries and becomes hard.

Joining Foam Layers

When it comes to joining all the pieces of your foam, did you know that a heat gun is more sought after rather than using conventional tape? This is because a heat gun can join craft foam pieces together tightly. On the other hand, using tape can also get craft foam layers joined but sealing it becomes a problem. However, using a heat gun that’s not only joins it together but also seals these tightly, ready for forming.

Some people even use a rolling pin to get a layer of EVA foam flattened. This means that if the layers aren’t sealed perfectly before painting, chances are it will break apart causing malfunction to your costume armor. Then, there’s Plasti dip for your priming needs. You can also make use of this special rubber coating when you join the layer together. Plasti dip allows controlled grip so your armor costume materials are able to resist acids and moisture as well as corrosion.

Let’s Start Making Your Armor

Let's Start Making Your Armor

Are you excited? I bet you are! After learning some of the common materials used in making armor, it’s now time to gather these and start the actual work. I will be discussing realistic armor but with just the cheap stuff involved. This will cut all your buts and what-ifs regarding prices and hopefully works well for you, too. Let’s get it on!

Cheap Cosplay Armor Ideas

Did you know that a cheap cosplay armor can still look realistic? You don’t need expensive materials to look posh in the next con. You can find a lot of ideas from platforms including YouTube where DIY videos are posted. You can also look for sources about creating little details more visible as well as achieving a weathered look for your armor.

Once you’ve found a good pattern for large pieces, you can start shopping for the materials you need. Although craft foam is always the go-to for large pieces, most cosplayers would go for the EVA type because these are prepacked in bigger sheets. It is also more sturdy with well-textured, and smooth sides.

Using EVA foam is very common and has a lot of colors to choose from. If you want to make N7 armor from Mass Effect, you can get this material as there are already existing textured sides. It will also allow you to easily cut through it using an Exacto knife or a sharp blade. You can also easily lay the cutout pieces on cardboard before finishing the armor.

Making The Knight Armor

Did you know that there are many types of armor that you can actually make? A popular choice is the knight armor which you can often see on online forums when cosplayers start sharing feedback. It’s a popular choice not only because it is easier to make, unlike other costumes that require detail and a more perfect look to make it more realistic. Once your knight armor has a smooth finish and a good painting job, it will surely show an almost real metal effect. Here’s how it’s done.

Let’s start off by using EVA foam mats that measure 6 mm thick. You can use these various pieces to make the main parts of your pattern. After printing your pattern, you can lay it on the foam. This can be an effective way to fit all the pieces in.

You can also use a poster board to make other shapes of your armor pieces. Then, trace them onto the foam using paint or gel pens. Remember not to use ballpoint pens because the markings can be difficult to cover using paint.

The Breastplate

In this pattern, the breastplate for the knight armor we’re making consists of 5 pieces. We’ll be doing some gluing in this part so you better get your glue sticks ready or your glue gun. First, take the two pieces forming the back part of the breastplate together. You can glue along the seam and along the bottom of the front part of the breastplate. To form the foam, you can use a heat gun for this process. You can also create curves along the sides and the shoulders using both half pieces.

Do you want to add extra details? You can do this by using thin craft foam found mostly in local craft shops. You can also get this from online stores where you can easily purchase rolls of foam or those that are already precut in nice long strips. You can use these strips to add along the pieces found in the bottom. You can also add these around the holes near the head and around the arms.

To attach the remaining two halves, you can use velcro straps. They’re adjustable so you can easily stick and wear them on. You also don’t have to worry about multiple sizes as this gives the best fit once adjusted.

On the other hand, you can also make use of belts if you think velcros won’t work for you. Once you get the breastplate done, you can add an emblem to the chest part to make it more realistic. It would look like you are representing a kingdom once you have a fierce knightly sign. Some seal ideas include a lion, eagle, trumpet, or crown, among many others.

Creating Knight Pauldrons

So, you got your breastplate done. Now, it’s time to work on your knight pauldrons to complete your armor costume. Start off by gluing two half pieces together. Then, glue the curvy flappy pieces, too. Using vinyl tubings, you can create some simple hinge rivets. Once done, you can make use of your velcro again to attach the pauldrons to your breastplate. This shouldn’t take a lot of time to assemble. Then, you’re good to go!

Leg And Arm Knight Armor Pieces

Did you know that leg pieces are actually part of the armor costume? Your knight costume armor wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t have leg pieces done. So, let’s start making these as well. Our leg piece here has 5 parts that will make up the lower and upper legs, the knee and two hinges will go on both poleyn sides.

Using your heat, form the leg piece and start gluing the darts on the knee part. Then you can get these stacked together and use the tubing to make rivets. The process is just similar to what you did when you created your pauldron. To make the thick pieces tightly strap together, you can still make use of velcro. This should be enough for the leg pieces to be on your legs. It can also add a little elasticity to your ankle part.

So, we’re done with the leg piece. Now’s the time to get on with making the arms. You will have two options to choose from: you can either go full arm armor or simply bracers. Whichever you choose, just take note of your end goal. Your costume should look high quality with great texture so it looks and feels more realistic.

Using craft foam and free patterns that you can download online, let’s get the work started! If you’ve chosen to make the bracers, simply curl the foam and add in some details. If you’re looking to achieve an iron look, you can style this using metallic paint later. Make sure that the opening is a bit elastic so you won’t have a hard time when putting the bracers on.

Meanwhile, if you’re going for the full arm armor pieces, you can assemble pieces that will consist of the elbow, the upper and the lower arm. Using pivoting rivets, you can glue these 3 pieces together. Straps will also come in handy since they will keep the armor pieces together on your arms and prevent them from breaking apart and falling off. You can also add some accents by using fabric on the edges of the armor and attaching it to the shoulder part.

The Helmet

Are you ready to complete your costume? Let’s finish it off by making the helmet before moving on to coloring it. Get your pattern and lay it on the foam. You can also use a poster board as alternative. Trace it using your pens and cut it with an Exacto knife.

Glue the pieces together to form your helmet. Don’t forget to measure accordingly to avoid making it too small or too big for your head size. Using a heat gun for your heat source, form the foam and add the details. You can also use velcro or adjustable belts to make your helmet easy to put on.

Acrylic Paint For The Knight Armor

Did you know that acrylic paints will help you achieve that realistic armor look? Painting raised designs is actually the best part of crafting your costume armor. This will make your foam look like the medieval armor you’ve always been dreaming to have. Even as this will look very similar, the good thing about it is you won’t have a hard time wearing it because it isn’t as heavy compared to wearing real metal armor.

You can start painting your armor with black acrylic paint. This will create a more weathered look although some would coat it with silver paint after. It will also create a more aged look while adding gold paint on the edges will make it look fancier. Sanding plays an important part in making it smooth, too. If you want to make the armor evened out, you can use medium sandpaper and gently rub it until it becomes smooth.

FAQ On How To Make Cosplay Armor Realistic

FAQ On How To Make Cosplay Armor Realistic

What Are The Basic Materials Needed?

The materials needed to make an armor would depend on which design you are looking to make. Generally, you will need to make your foam the armor base, cardboard or a poster board, some adhesives such as glue, velcro, or belt straps, and paint. You will also need some basic crafting tools such as scissors, small knives, or cutters and fabric to cut and add costume details. Measuring tools are also important as you will need to get the right sizes before starting your crafting project.

How Do I Make My Armor Look Realistic?

Among the many tips that you can read online, the best way to make your armor look realistic is by being creative with the paint work. Although cutting your foam and assembling the pieces together does contribute to details, it will be the paint that would determine if it looks real or not. As you know, even when you have armor with a good shape but is oddly colored, you won’t be able to achieve that realistic look.

How Can I Add Detail To My Armor?

To make it more real, you can add details using gems, fabric, and even glitter. These materials are easy to find and are widely available both online and at your local craft shops. These are also not difficult to attach as most of these accents can be glued directly onto the foam.

To get more ideas on where you can attach these extra details, you can look at other cosplayer costumes. You can also visit forums where cosplayers and other enthusiasts share their ideas. You don’t really need to copy it but you can always get tips on how to make your armor look more real.

Can I Buy Armor Online?

Yes, ready-made armor can be found online. If you don’t have enough time to make one, then this could probably be a good solution especially when a con is drawing near. However, sizes are not also guaranteed and it may not look the same in person compared to the picture posted on an online costume shopping site.

Shipping costs also vary and would incur extras. More extra costs are expected once it does not fit you because you will have to return it to the merchant. Buying online can be a good option but nothing beats making your own armor.

What Are Other Armor Ideas?

Don’t limit yourself to making a knight armor. There are tons of other armor ideas as the world of cosplay has endless possibilities and options to offer. Although knight armor is the most common, you can also make sci-fi and fantasy-inspired costume armors.

There are a lot of characters using these armor and it wouldn’t be that difficult to find patterns to start making this craft. Other medieval-inspired armor ideas are also building up online so you will have more options to choose from. Otherwise, make something original!



Are you looking forward to the next con? I bet you are with that knight armor costume ready to wear. Among the many aims of being a cosplay is to portray a character excellently by copying its look. Aside from that, you can make it more realistic the moment you start to portray their movements. So, when you want your armor to look realistic, you also need to practice how to act like a real knight to be able to carry out the cosplay perfectly.

It’s all about being creative and expressing yourself that makes cosplay more socially inclined especially for those who want to share a part of themselves with people who also have the same interests. Get going to that next con and have fun! Don’t forget to take a lot of photos and share them with us online.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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