If you attended the recent PAX East convention in Boston – or if you’ve been watching the buzz around the web – you’ve seen the amazing cosplay work of Dan Lewis. And if you haven’t seen it yet, prepare to be impressed. Dan is the creator of three stunningly detailed costumes from the video game Mass Effect 2. We caught up with him to ask him a few questions about his work.
Star: You’ve created three costumes from Mass Effect 2 – Shepard (in N7 armor), Tali’Zorah, and Mordin Solus. How did you choose these costumes to build?
Dan: When I started building the costumes, there was a distinct lack of exceptional Mass Effect costumes out there. I found these examples (1 2 3), and though they were inspiring I was sure I could do better, or at least as well. I was about halfway complete with the Tali costume when I found pictures of Holly Conrad’s Mass Effect cosplay troupe at Comic Con. This did raise the bar if I was to make a respectable costume compared to hers. Soon after, Evil FX revealed a Mass Effect costume with many new build techniques I was not aware of. I was able to use many of their techniques in my costumes.
I debuted my first two Mass Effect costumes at PAX Prime 2010 to a very positive response. At that convention I meet a costume maker who made a very impressive Mass Effect costume of a character I never though would be possible.
The majority of the challenging Mass Effect characters had been created as costumes at this point, except for Mordin – who happened to be one of my favorite characters. Mordin is a very difficult character to create an accurate costume for, due to his alien proportions I decided if I could make a mask that was wearable and looked decent, I would go ahead with the rest of the costume. The mask turned out quite well, so I found a volunteer to wear the costume and continued the build.
How did you get started making costumes? What sparked your interest?
I have been going to Anime/Comic Conventions for many years and always enjoyed the costumes. I had attempted a few costumes, but largely I had them commissioned as I did not know how to sew. I could sculpt, though, and using my sculpture skills to make parts for a costume seemed feasible to me. After finishing Mass Effect 2 and finding very few costumes for the series I decided to try it myself.
What was the hardest part of making these costumes?
Proportions. Making sure everything is the correct size to be wearable was difficult.
What part did you enjoy the most?
Painting a piece that you have toiled over is very fun.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
For sculpting I have been using Klean Klay and WED Clay. Though I have tried other kinds of clay that are superior to those, they are also significantly more expensive. For molds, I have used latex, silicone and Ultra Cal-30 cement, depending on the application. For casting I use latex, RTV rubber, fiberglass and urethane resin. For painting, I use spray cans of acrylic enamel, some latex enamels or air brush paints depending on the application. I also brush on Tamiya and Model Master brand paints for detailing. I also use EVA foam for armor parts that need to be flexible. I’ll use vacuum formed PET for visors and high impact urethane sheets for other plastic details and vacuum forming.
For electronics, I use a simple battery powered LED Christmas light string and EL Wire.
How about your least favorites?
Polyester resin used in fiberglass and body filler is VERY stinky so I don’t like using it, but it’s unavoidable because of how strong and cost effective it is. Spray paints also stink but are also very useful and cannot be avoided.
What’s next? Any other costumes that you’re planning to make?
Do you have any advice for any aspiring cosplay builders out there?
Sign up for prop builder and costume forums such as The RPF, 405th.com and Cosplay.com, and rather than posting your question, search the forum first as your question is likely already answered. Have a plan and make some blueprints. There are plenty of other costume makers out there who share their techniques, so don’t be afraid to apply a technique to a costume you are making based on one from a different costume.
And most importantly, don’t be discouraged if a piece looks bad. Start over and try different techniques and you will be successful eventually.
Oh, and Craigslist and pawn shops are a great place to get power tools you want to play with but don’t have a lot of money for.