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How to paint craft foam to look like metal

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How to paint craft foam to look like metal
May 25, 2019 Family Restaurants 4 comments

  • 1

    Lay down newspaper or a garbage bag. This will ensure that the painting doesn't ruin your carpet/table/place of working.

  • 2

    Take the first sheet of craft foam and wrap it around your arm (or area of interest, in this tutorial the focus is on making gauntlets). Using a sharpie or pen, mark the height/length you want your piece of armor. You should end up with four marks (for height and width on both sides and top and bottom).

  • 3

    Cut out that piece. If you want to create layers on your armor (to create dimension), cut out strips lower than the the base layer and hot glue them on.

  • 4

    Choose one of two approaches to dealing with the base armor:
    • Take your armor and run your iron over it several times to make it warm and soft. Then mold the foam form around your arm (or place of interest) so that it takes that shape. You may have to iron it several times and mold it several times until it actually stays. Just be patient and take your time.
    • The other route would be to do the decoration/detailing of your armor now. Take your armor piece and, using a sharpie or pen, draw on the detailing you want to have on your armor. Then, proceed to taking your puffy paint and tracing it over the detailing you drew. The puffy paint usually takes about 4-5 hours to dry. When dry, you'll want to use the iron on your armor and mold it then.
  • 5

    Cover the armor. When the armor detailing is dry, use the school glue and a thicker paintbrush and just cover the entire piece in glue. Then let it dry. This is what will give the armor a metal look and not look so much like foam.

  • 6

    Use another paintbrush (or wash off the one you used for the glue) and paint the base color on the entire piece. You may want to double-coat but this is up to you. Wait for it to dry. Then, take another paintbrush and dip it in plain black paint. Brush off most of the paint onto a paper plate or paper towel until there is barely any paint left on the brush. Then go ahead and gently brush it over the entire piece, making it darker in certain places of dimension, such as where the layers meet or around the puffy paint detailing to make it look more raised off the foam.
    • When you're all done, if you want, take a really small and thin paintbrush and dip it in your original color base paint (like metallic gold) and go over only the puffy paint to make it look raised, as if the light is hitting it.
  • 7

    Add finishing touches. When all of the painting is dry and you're satisfied with the look, take two pieces of ribbon (any color, such as a shiny gold color to match the armor) and hot glue each piece to the inside of the gauntlet. Then tie it around your arm.

  • 8

    Bam! You're done! Or, if you want, you could hot glue the piece together and just slide it on your arm but I prefer tying/untying it.

  • Craft foam is one of the best resources for costuming and prop making. You can pretty much make anything out of it, from crowns and jewelled collars to armor to shaped sleeves and jackets - the possibilities are astounding. Who knew that thin porous sheets of plastic foam were going to be a costumer's best friend?


    Craft foam (also known as Foamies, Fun Foam, Kid Foam, etc) is usually found at craft stores like Michael's, Joann's, Hobby Lobby, and such. There are two sizes, a 2mm and a 6mm thick sheet in up to 12 X 18 inches. They come in lots of different colors, so it's easy to choose a color for your project. I generally use the 2mm sheets, but if I need a thicker section of foam, I'll either buy the 6mm sheets, or I'll glue several thin sheets on top of each other.

    Since craft foam is fairly forgiving, I usually just cut it out with a normal pair of scissors. There are times when I need precise edges, so I'll resort to my Exacto knife. It's also very easy to score craft foam (i.e. make indentions in the foam) by using a ball point pen, a dull knife, or my favorite tool - a seam ripper. If you need to make raised designs on the foam, you can use Tulip fabric paint, Gem-tac jewel glue, rope or cording, rhinestones for rivets, wire, beads...again, the possibilities are endless.


    Once you've cut everything out, you then need to glue it down. I personally use hot glue, but I hear that super glue also works very well. After it's all glued and secured, you can paint it! Now, there are differing methods on how to paint craft foam. Some say you have to seal it first by coating it with glue or a clear sealant, and some say just start painting. I'm of the mind that both of these methods work equally as well. I have done both, and I like to use each method for different purposes: Sealing foam for armor, and painting it straight on for smaller items. Each method requires several coats of paint regardless, so it all depends on how you want it to look.

    Shaping craft foam is quite easy, as well. In order to get it to keep a rounded shape, you have to heat it. I personally love my heat gun, but you can also use a stove top burner, a hair dryer on high heat, or you can iron the foam. (A little side note, you can also iron the foam to seal the surface without coating it in glue!) As long as the foam is hot, you can shape it into rounded or curved shapes. And you can use just about anything for shaping a rounded or curved surface - a glass bottle, a bowl, a ball of some sort, a snow globe, a wig head, a duct tape dummy (this is the best for shaping armor!), a mason jar; or you can just shape it with your hands. Make sure you leave it on the form or in the shape you want until the foam cools completely, or it won't hold the shape. You may even have to do this several times in order to get your perfect shape.

    Once you've shaped your foam, you need to reinforce it, or it will be flimsy. One coat of glue and a layer of fabric on the back of your prop will be enough to set the shape. The bigger the surface area of the foam, the more layers of glue and fabric you will need to keep a rigid shape.


    In any event, just remember to be creative! You can make the most extraordinary things using the most ordinary materials (shameless plug for found items!).

    Craft Foam Armor

    This is the best tutorial I have found for making armor out of craft foam:

    However, I have made some nice little discoveries on my own, as every person will, while using this tutorial. I followed Penwiper's craft foam armor tutorial pretty much to a tee. The heat gun works wonders. Plus, it's all very lightweight and sturdy to boot, which makes it even better to wear! I formed my armor to my body using a body dummy (that I cheaply made of duct tape - see this tutorial: Clone Yourself a Fitting Assistant ). For the fabric backing on my Eirika armor, I used 2 layers of muslin to get a more rigid form and lots of Tacky glue to coat the inside. A few layers of fabric feel a lot better than just one in my opinion. For my Alicia costume, I used two layers of brown wool/cotton for the backing and added a strip inside on the waistline for more reinforcement and it's very rigid. Just remember, the larger the surface area, the more fabric you'll need for support.

    I did use the Rub-n-buff for the gold parts of each armor, but for the yellow armor for Eirika and the dark brown armor for Alicia, I used acrylic paint mixed with part of the glue/water mixture. This helps thin the paint out and still stay somewhat flexible when dry instead of cracking. When the glue dried, the paint color was left behind. I painted the color on in 2-3 coats after applying the 7-8 coats of water/glue, and then sealed it all with the Future Wax. I did experiment with different sealants and found Future Wax to be the best. Some people use Mod Podge, but it was really dull and it crinkled way too much to be effective. If you want a harder armor, consider polyurethaning the outside a few times instead of coating it with glue, then painting with a solid acrylic, then sealing (though I have not tried this with armor, I did make my Feena headgear solely out of foamies, then acrylic paint, then polyurethane, and they are pretty hard).


    Once I was finished painting and sealing Alicia's armor, I applied a brown shoe polish to all the brown armor pieces and buffed it to give it a slightly leathery/worn look. I did use silver Rub 'n Buff for some of the metallic details, but I found a nice silver metallic acrylic paint (mixed with the glue/water) that was easier to use. The Rub 'n Buff needed 2 or 3 coats painted on by brush and buffed after every application to be really opaque and even in color, but the acrylic was fine with 1 or 2 coats and no buffing necessary.

    Both sets of armor are actually quite hard and I have no worries about them tearing or breaking apart. All the armor pieces for Alicia are attached by buckles and straps, and Eirika's breastplate slides on via shoulder straps and the pauldrons are secured with wire hangers, which give them a raised appearance. So, again, be creative! I found out most of these details after trial and error, and after seeing what worked best and what didn't. Should you have any questions regarding your craft foam or foam armor needs, feel free to email me at [email protected] .

    When it comes to Doggie Cosplay the most important component is a A quick Google search will tell you when you paint craft foam you have.

    One of the biggest challenges when making foam armor is how to seal and paint it so it actually looks like armor and not “foam with paint thrown on it.”  Most of my armor is made out of foam and I have been complimented on how “metallic” it looks.  Here are a few examples:

    This is another excerpt from my upcoming Raiden: Metal Gear Rising armor tutorial that can apply to anyone trying to paint foam armor.

    Materials I used for this stage (Paid links):

    Foam Materials List

    In order to paint foam, it needs to be properly sealed or else paint will seep through the pores of the foam and will not be smooth. I have experimented with a few methods that I have researched through google and (user DocHolliday has a lot of good methods) and this has produced good results from me.


      1. I used a heat gun to pass over the foam until there is a slight glimmer/sparkle on the foam. You’ll know when you see it. I pass over the foam with the heat gun twice just to make sure the entire surface area is hit.

        Raw foam

      2. One the foam is cooled, I used a brush to coat the foam with 2 layers of Rosco’s Flexbond (Recommended by a user named “Full Metal Sam”) which is a sealant that I found more effective than sealing with PVA glue (white glue) or Mod Podge. When I used PVA and Mod Podge in the past, I used 8 layers with about an hour of drying between layers.

        Sealing Foam

      3. I let the sealant dry over night, and then I sprayed the pieces with 3 layers of Plastidip, waiting for each layer to dry for lat least 30 minutes before applying the next coat. You’ll know if you sealed the foam correctly here if you end up with a smooth application of Plastidip and no pores on the foam. Always remember to wear a good organic respirator as this stuff is toxic.
        Plastidip pieces
        Plastidip on torso

      4. After letting the last coast of Plastidip dry for at least 4 hours, I sprayed the piece with 2 layers of Bulldog Adhesion Promoter per the instructions on the label, and then automotive primer. The primer is important as it will make your color look much better.
      5. Once the primer has dried for the recommended time per the label, I applied my color coat. For Raiden, I used a Metallic Black.
      6. I sprayed both Bulldog Adhesion Promoter and a Clear Coat spray on the dry piece to give it some shine and an extra layer of protection.  The clear coat will give the paint the final pop so it looks shinny and metallic.

        Finished Torso

        Finished Forearm

        Finished Shoulder Bells

    So there you have it.  With the above tips, you can have a nice finish on your foam armor that will look nice and metallic.  Questions?  Feel free to comment below.

    "Craft foam Leather"

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    What strikes me the most about making armor out of foam is just how easy it is. Jared (my best friend, partner, husband, lover, costume designer) has long known this secret, but it’s only recently that I’ve figured it out.

    Jared and I were selling wigs at Anime Boston when this impossibly beautiful couple walked up to the table. They might have been turned away from a modeling agency because they were a tad short for runway, but no other reason would have kept from from our cultural ideal of beauty. They were tanned and muscular and gorgeous, soft and hard in all the right places. And wearing wonderful foam armor. When I could tear my brain away from thinking about just how fuckable both of these people were, I began to think about their armor. They were very enthusiastic, talking about their armors construction, and it got me thinking: Maybe I can do this.

    I love costumes, but I don’t make many because of my long standing feud with the sewing machine.

    I’m not very good at sewing. I can put together a pillow, sure, but anything more complex than sewing a square to another square makes me confused and frustrated. I once tried to sew a dress, and while the skirt came out fine the bodice had me in tears.


    What I am good at is constructing things. Glue, plastic, foam, cardboard – I can make these materials sit up and beg.  Looking up close at foam armor, I knew that this was something well in my skill set.

    I have a giant photoshoot coming up called Danger’s Untold. It’s an Alice in Wonderland setup, where a girl finds herself in a fantasy setting.

    I’ve rented armor in the past, but the problem with that is I only get to keep the armor for a short time. That, and I have to compromise my vision for what the rental place has available. So this time, I’m making my own. This way, the armor would look exactly the way I like it for the shoot, and I’d be able to reuse it for other shoots.

    I decided to start by constructing gauntlets. Why gauntlets?  Gauntlets are a small,  simple shape that would allow me to test the techniques without using a ton of materials.

    The first step in creating gauntlets is getting your materials. For me, that was craft foam, hot glue, spray paint, acyrilic paint, and a sealant.

    The next step is making a pattern, which is the step I was most tempted to skip. I mean, it’s my freakin’ arm, right? How complex could this be? I just make a tube, right? But I decided to make a pattern anyway, just to get the practice with it.

    I’m glad I did. There is a curve to the arm and the wrist that I wouldn’t have known about without the pattern.  I put saran wrap over my arm and taped the wrap. Then I drew the pattern of the gauntlet that I wanted, and cut the whole thing off my arm. Then I had a pattern for the gauntlet.

    I cut out the foam using the pattern as a guide. Then I shaped it into a curved shape by heating the foam and bending it into the right shape. It does not take much heat to shape foam. Waving it over a very low heat for a few seconds is plenty of time to heat it up enough to bend it. Lots of people do this with a heat gun. I did it with my stove on very low heat, waving the foam high above the fire. The foam does not need to go anywhere NEAR the flame. I cannot emphasize enough how little heat it takes to make foam bendable. Whatever you are thinking right now, it’s less that that. Don’t light yourself on fire, okay?

    Then I put the gauntlets into a wine glass to get the shape to hold. One of the most important things about getting foam to keep it’s shape is getting it to cool in the right shape. Otherwise it will just sort of flatten out.

    You don’t need to use wine glasses. I’m sure rubber bands, clamps, or other tools could do the same thing. I just happened to have these on hand. Also, it sort of looks awesome to have gauntlets sticking out of wine glasses.

    Then I glued a bottom and top ridge on to the gauntlet with strips of foam. For the style I like, I’ve found that lining the edges, and creating lots of overlapping pieces make the armor look more realistic.

    Foam getting sealed.

    After I got all the details glued into place, I used a sealant to get the foam ready for paint. Plasti dip is a great spraypaint sealant, but modge podge is also great when you want to get a thicker sealant into corners.

    Then I spray painted everything. Remember to spray paint outdoors and protect your surfaces with newspaper, plastic or cardboard. I have a giant piece of cardboard I spraypaint stuff on. After that, the foam is nice and shiny.

    Then we get dirty.

    You might think that it’s far better to have a shining new piece of armor than a weathered, dirty look. After all, don’t we all want to be gleaming? But with foam, weathering is what takes the armor from looking like spray painted foam to armor. Your foam warriors are far better if they are experienced than if they are newly minted. With other materials, you might be able to get away with gleaming suits of armor, but you are working with foam here!

    Weathered gauntlet on the left, clean gauntlet on the right.

    Jared told me once about how young cowboys in the wild west would beat the living crap out of their hats. You see, having a nice new hat marked them as a brand new cowboy – inexperienced. No one wants to take a chance on the new kid – you just don’t believe in them. So they had to wail on their hats like they were owed money. That’s how you have to treat your armor. You need to make it look worn so it will be believable.

    I weathered my gauntlets by taking black paint mixing it with a little water and washing them over the gauntlet. I let that sit for 30 seconds. Then I wiped that away with a cloth. (The cloth you do this with will be ruined forever. So. Keep that in mind.) The I took special care to get black paint into the edges and creases, where dirt would be hard to clean. This left the paint in the deepest recesses.

    Weathering is my favorite part of the process. It give the armor more weight and age. It’s the incredibly satisfying finishing touch to the process. It helps to imagine all the battles your armor has gone through when you are adding grit to your beautiful armor.

    Making foam armor is incredibly satisfying. It doesn’t take that long, so you can see your results quickly, and you can make a costume piece that fits you perfectly. It’s not the most realistic of methods – foam armor doesn’t move right to look like metal, but it’s perfect for still photography. (Tomorrow I’ll have a post where I show you what the armor looks like after some studio photos and a round of photoshop)

    I’ve already crafted a bodice in gold, four gauntlets and a shoulder piece, a breastplate and belt in silver. I hope there are lots of fantasy photoshoots in my future, so that I get the chance to craft even more.

    Gallery of Armor: Click on any photo below to make it larger.

    Like this:



    WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: EVA foam armor: The Basics

    Ok so, i'm working on a Solaire cosplay (from DarkSouls) And i'm almost done i just need some tips on how to ''clean'' it a bit make it look smooth and get rid of.

    painting foam?

    After you've glued your EVA foam pieces together, and before you paint them, you need to give them some kind of primer coat. One reason is that if you try to paint directly on the surface of the foam your paint will soak in somewhat, creating a rough uneven surface, so you need to seal the cells of the foam with something first.

    Also, foam is not an extremely strong material and without some kind of sturdy finish it's more likely to tear at points of pressure when you're wearing it. This second reason is really more of a factor when you're making foam armor or weapons that are going to see some action, but it's still a good idea to seal your foam so your costume will be more likely to last a long time.

    A great priming material that accomplishes both these goals and still leaves your foam with it's natural flexibility, is Plastidip. Plastidip is a liquid plastic material that comes in both spray and paint-on varieties, and is usually used to rubberize the handles of tools and other things. You can get it at any hardware store in a few different colors. It's a fairly nasty smelling material, so make sure you use it in a ventilated area.

    I think the most effective way to apply Plastidip to foam is to paint on a few layers, then add a top coat or two of spray to smooth out the brush strokes. The best tool for painting on the Plastidip is actually not a paintbrush but just a few scraps of couch foam cut into small wedges, or even makeup sponges. Paintbrushes will just get ruined, plus they'll leave too many brush strokes and sometimes drop bristles. Also, make sure you're wearing a pair of gloves because this can get a bit messy.

    Before you start working on your actual piece try spreading some Plastidip on a scrap piece of foam to get the hang of applying it. Try to spread as even a coat as you can, not leaving too many blobs or streaks, though some of this will even out as it dries. Test pieces like this are also useful to have later when you want to test paint colors.

    Spread layers of Plastidip on your piece, getting all the surfaces and edges of the foam, except the underside where you want to attach straps.

    With a relatively large piece like this, by the time I was done putting a coat on the second piece the first piece would usually be dry enough to take a second coat.

    I painted three coats on each shoulder, but if you really wanted it give your piece extra stability you could add as many as 10 coats.

    Once my painted coats were dry, I added two spray coats of Plastidip on top. The spray Plastidip is a bit tricky to work with, you have to work quickly to get an even coat because it dries fairly fast, and can start to build up a speckled texture. But when you get it right, it gives a nice smooth finish.

    Plastidip has a really cool look all by itself, so if you were creating a black costume piece, especially something that that was supposed to look like rubber, you could even just stop here or add a sealer without any painting. In fact, I liked the look of my plastidipped shoulders so much that I almost just left them the way they were. But painting is fun to, so it really depends on your design.

    how to paint craft foam to look like metal

    Tutorial on how to create faux leather armor from chidlren's craft foam. cheap foam into realistic looking stressed leather for your next cosplay creation. Iron. Shoe Polish + applicators. Tin foil. Paint – Black. Paint brushes.

    how to paint craft foam to look like metal
    Written by Kigakinos
    • Vudotaxe

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