Tusken Armor Paint

Female Tusken Raider Bib: Day Four

Tusken Raider Bib
What we are working on today.

I’m back with another costume update for my female Tusken Raider costume. The female Tuskens showed up in Star Wars Episode II. I’m making this costume for MARCon, happening May 9th-11th, 2014.

Last time, I completed the ‘bezel’ oval bits by using a Sculpey mold and Model Magic. Easy peasy. Today, I’m ready to attach the bezels and paint the armor plates on the lower ‘bib’.

Gluing Tusken Raider Bits
Gluing Tusken Raider Bits

I used some E600 to attach the Model Magic bezels to my armor plates. If you didn’t tune in last time, the armor plates are made up of just cardboard and paper mache. Believe it or not, these saltine crackers are going to be awesome female Tusken armor!

E600 was probably not necessary here, but I was foolish enough not to make extra bezels in case of an emergency at the con, so I really want these to stick. Forever.

Painting my saltine armor.
Painting my saltine armor.

I used Dazzling Metallics variety of DecoArt paints in Splendid Gold, Champagne Gold,
Worn Penny, and Rich Espresso. The first layer of paint is a mix of Worn Penny and Splendid Gold.

Female Tusken Armor
Painting pockmarked armor pieces.

As you can see at the top of the above photo, I got a little excited with painting and actually painted a couple of armor crackers before sticking on my bezel. Don’t do that! I should be okay, because it was just a thin layer of paint, but the bezels could come off if you are gluing them on top of paint. I quickly realized the dum-dum nature of this practice and stuck on my bezels before painting.

Tusken Armor Build
Gluing painted pieces to the cloth.

I added two coats of the Worn Penny/Splendid Gold mix. The second layer had decidedly more of the Worn Penny color. I’ve seen female Tusken armor that looked way too gold and didn’t like it, so I want to stay closer to a bronze color, here. When the two layers were dry, I started gluing the armor to a rectangular cloth that measured a few inches taller than all of my pieces. I used just Mod Podge to glue, with a piece of paper underneath the cloth so that it didn’t stick to the finish of my fine imported desk (that means it’s from Ikea).

Building Tusken Armor
Spacing the rectangles tuned out to be easy.

From my reference photos, I gathered that the space between the armor rectangles was exactly as wide as one of the armor pieces. Yay! That made things easy. I just used spare pieces to measure as I went. This is also how I measured and created the long, bottom piece. Haha, Longbottom.

Tusken Raider Paint
Finishing the paint job with more of a bronze color.

I don’t recommend this, but I got antsy to move things along. I should have finished painting all of my armor pieces before putting them on the muslin. But, instead, there I am at about 1 A.M., carefully trying to keep paint off of the muslin. All the best costuming happens after midnight, anyhoo.

Tusken Armor Paint
More painting on my female Tusken armor.

For the details, I added the Rich Espresso color to the pockmarks, and blended the Champagne Gold onto the edges. This gave my armor much more dimension. A mix of the Rich Espresso and Worn Penny will also create the illusion of shallow dents.

Now that I’ve got some paint down, it really feels like this costume is moving along! I’m really happy with the first of my dried and painted paper mache pieces. They totally look like armor and are super lightweight.

Back to Day 2 | Day 5 Coming Soon | Female Tusken Raider Build Index

Tusken Raider Helmet Build

Female Tusken Raider Mask – Day 2

Female Tusken Raider Helmet
This is the part we are working on today.

Previously, I created the shell for my female Tusken Raider mask by adding clay and bits of paper to Melissa, my Styrofoam mannequin.

Day Two

I let my first helmet layer dry overnight, then removed it from Melissa’s face. My clay wedges and newspaper bits worked great! I had the basic helmet shape that I needed to build upon.

I looked at my reference photos and figured that I would need more helmet shape on the sides. For these, I cut up a Disney flier that came in the mail. Save stiff paper like this, it really comes in handy to add structure to paper mache projects. This is the same material I used for the ‘bone’ parts on the upper bib.

I traced my side pieces out in my journal and so that you could print this little pattern piece and trace it on paper. It should print at the right size:

Tusken Raider Helmet Pattern
Tusken Raider helmet side piece pattern

Here is the additional paper pieces glued to my helmet base:

Tusken Raider Helmet Tutorial
I added stiff paper to the dried helmet to extend the sides.

While these dried, I played around with a Sharpie to loosely sketch some landmarks on my base. I’ll paper mache over this bit, but it helped me to get familiar with all of the necessary lines and where everything is going to be, later.

Tusken Raider Helmet Build
The near-finished helmet base with loose sketches of detail.

Back to Day 1 | Female Tusken Raider Costume index


female tusken mask

Female Tusken Raider Bib Scratch Build

female tusken mask
Reference photo: female Tusken bib and mask.

Here are my photos, patterns, and tutorial on how I made my female Tusken Raider bib. See the rest of my female Tusken Raider costume photos and tutorials here.

Reference Photos

The bibs look like they fall right above the waist, and start just at the chin. My bib length is about 20″, but they can vary according to your height.

Looks like they should fall just above the waist.

Day One

The Half-Moon Piece

The first piece of the bib that I made was the ‘half moon’ bit that hangs at the end of what I’m calling the ‘upper bib’.

Tusken Raider Bib Part
That half-mooney bib part

Like the female Tusken Raider helmet, I planned on paper macheing my way to success on all of the armor plates. I decided that this weird shape was as good as any to start with, and it would be a fair experiment of the kind of texture that I could give my sculpture.

Female Tusken Raider Bib Part
I traced my rough idea of the shape onto cardboard.

This piece ended up being the basis for the size of the entire bib. The bottom line on my ‘half moon’ piece is the same width as the rectangular plates, 2 7/8″

Female Tusken Armor Texture
To create the basis for texture, I used newspaper bits.

I knew that I didn’t want this to be flat… the female Tuskens wear metal plates that have seen better days, and are marred with pockmarks and dirt. To create the basis for texture, I balled up bits of newspaper dipped in my paper mache mixture and put them on the surface.

My paper mache recipe is 1 part Mod Podge, 1 part flour, 4 parts water

Paper Mache Texture
A thin layer of paper mache to start…

Instead of using strips of paper mache, I cut a piece of blank newspaper and laid it gently over the face of the cardboard. I cut slits where needed so that I could neatly fold the paper over the edges. This prevented any kind of crisscross texture.

Tusken Raider Armor Build
Forming smooth texture on dried paper.

I added another careful layer of flat newspaper, then used the end of a paintbrush to push the paper in between my previously laid newspaper balls. I even stabbed at it to get a few pockmarks.

Tusken Raider Paper Mache
The dried half-moon piece, ready for paint.

This is the finished half-moon piece. I was really happy with how this turned out!

Starting the Bib

I started out the female Tusken Raider ‘lower’ bib with a lot of measurements. I have done a lot of quilting in my time, so I knew that if I didn’t measure each square just right, I’d end up with a mess. I couldn’t find any measurements online, so I scoped out the bib reference photos as well as I could. The 501st states that the bibs can vary in length, depending on your height.

The bottom of the armor bib has 18 rectangular pieces and one long rectangle at the bottom. I have seen some that have curved armor plates, but I went with simple square and rectangle shapes.

My rectangles measured as shown below:

Tusken Raider Pattern
My measurements for the female Tusken Raider metal plates.

To get the size of my squares, I measured from my chin to the bottom of my ribcage. I got 20″. From the reference photos, I estimated that the top, square plates looked to be about 3″ tall. I subtracted 3″ from 20″ to get 17″.

I then divided 17″ by 9 to get the height of the 8 remaining rectangle plates and the long rectangle at the bottom. It ended up being 1.888888″. I nodded like Mordecai and Rigby ‘Hmm. Hmm Hmm’ and soundly rounded up to 2″.

For my cardboard pieces that would be the base of the plates, I measured a little less for the height… I used  2 7/8″ instead of 3″ because I needed to allow for the extra thickness that the paper mache would add between plates.

Female Tusken Armor
I measured my armor pieces to fit about 20″, from my chin to waist.

I measured one cardboard piece, then used that as a pattern to quickly cut out the rest. I laid out a measuring tape and ruler to make sure I was on the right track.

Tusken Raider Armor Layout
My Tusken Raider armor layout, all cardboard pieces.

Here are all of my cardboard pieces laid out. I used a thick coated paper flier from a mailed flier to make the ‘bones’ in the middle of the bib’s second layer.

Day 2 – Paper Mache and Upper Bib Construction

Day 3 – Oval Bezels on Plates

Female Tusken Raider Build Index

Female Tusken Build

Female Tusken Raider Bib: Day Three

Female Tusken Masks
This is what we will be working on today.

Last time, I finished paper macheing my armor plate pieces and creating basic elements of the female Tusken Raider bib.

Today, I’ll be tackling some of the (only) details.

Armor Plate Bezels

To create the metal bezels on the face of each plate, I first traced one of my cardboard pieces into my notebook. Then, I sketched what looked like the right size bezel onto the tracing.

I wanted the bezels to be identical, so I thought that creating a mold would work best.

Tusken Raider Armor
I am not a robot, so I made a mold out of Sculpey for identical bezels.

I created a mold from white Sculpey by tracing my drawn oval with graphite pencil, then pressing a cube of Sculpey onto the oval. This transferred the exact oval size onto the Sculpey! I then carved out the oval to the depth that I thought looked good. I totally eyeballed it.

Tusken Raider Armor
My female tusken bezels made via mold. Apparently by ‘ain Blanken’

For the bezels, I decided that the Crayola Model Magic would work best. They sell it in ‘single packs’, so you don’t have to buy much. It is easy to mold and dries lightweight. I have muscle issues, so the last thing I wanted was to be weighed down by this armor bib. Making everything as lightweight as possible is a theme that you’ll notice in my work.

Bezel measurements are 1″ wide, 1/2″ tall, 3/8″ high

Female Tusken Build
Lots of bezels drying on my notebook.

I didn’t fire my Sculpey mold before using it to mass produce the bezels. I didn’t need to, because the Model Magic was so much softer than the Sculpey. I did wipe some oil on the mold before each impression, to keep the Model Magic from sticking. This made it a lot easier to remove the Model Magic from the mold after pressing.

So far, I’m loving the Model Magic to make simple costume elements. It can get damaged easily, but Tusken Raiders are grungy, anyhoo. My mold wasn’t perfect at first, but I was able to experiment with the Model Magic, and then dig my mold a little deeper.

Think my bezels will survive Marcon?

Right now, all of my armor plate pieces are sculpted and ready to be painted!

Female Tusken Build
All parts paper mache’d and ready for painting!

Back to Day 2 | Ahead to Day 4 | Female Tusken Raider Build Index

Female Tusken Bib Parts

Female Tusken Raider Armor Bib: Day Two

Day Two:

Upper Bib Pieces

On Day One of my female Tusken Raider bib build, I took measurements and made patterns for what I’m calling the ‘lower bib’. Today, I created the ‘bone’ and tubular pieces of the ‘upper’ bib:

Female Tusken Raider Armor
These ‘uns.

Last time, I cut the ‘bone’ pieces from a thick, coated paper flier I got in the mail. I wanted to avoid thick cardboard because these pieces needed to appear thinner than the others, and remain flexible. I really eyeballed these when I cut them out, but I’ll post measurements here.

Tusken Raider Armor Layout
The cut ‘bone’ pieces are dark blue, from a Disney Cruise Line flier I got in the mail. ;p

I coated these oval pieces in flat newsprint soaked in paper mache to create a nice, flat surface. I did this twice to make them a little firmer.

There are five ‘bone’ pieces on the upper bib. I cut rectangles, then rounded the edges. Here are the measurements for each ‘bone’ piece:

  • 4 1/4″
  • 4″
  • 3 1/2″
  • 3 1/4″
  • 2 3/4″
Female Tusken Bone Pieces
My ‘bone’ and tube pieces for the second bib.

I then cut 2 9″ pieces of 1/4″ wide plumbing tube. You can find this for cheap at the hardware store. I soaked strips of paper bag in paper mache for about a minute, then wrapped each tube. This is going to create a foundation for me to build on later. I’m setting these pieces aside for now.

Armor Plates

Back to the plates. Previously, I explained how I measured and cut all 19 of the armor bib plates.

Today, I cut pieces of newspaper that were about 3/4″ larger than each previously cut cardboard piece. I dipped the paper in paper mache solution, then carefully covered each cardboard piece, folding over the edges like a present. I did this twice, then added texture with the handle-end of a paintbrush.

Tusken Raider Armor Plate
Cardboard armor plate piece and cut newspaper to fit.

Next, I am going to make the bezel ovals that go on each armor plate piece. What do you think of my progress so far?

Back to Day 1On to Day 3… | Female Tusken Raider Build Index

Tusken Raider Paper Mache Helmet

Female Tusken Raider Helmet Scratch Build

Female Tusken Raider Helmet
This is the part we are working on today.

Here, I’m posting photos of my female Tusken Raider helmet, as well as instructions on how I made it. This tutorial is intended to help anyone who wants to tackle the helmet from scratch; I’ll continue adding photos as this progresses.  See the rest of my female Tusken Raider costume build here.

Female Tusken Raider Helmet

I started out with paper mache because I have a lot of experience in this medium. I knew that I could tackle the shape of the female Tusken Raider helmet, but if you’re not sure that paper mache is right for you, then you might want to go with the pre-made female Tusken Raider helmets.

Day One

Female Tusken Raider Helmet
My paper mache glue is a mix of both mod podge and flour.

I started with Melissa, my styrofoam mannequin head named after my sister, who lives out in Kansas. We like to set up Melissa for family events and pretend she’s there. Once again, Melissa is rearin’ and ready to help out with one of my projects.

If you don’t have a mannequin head, you can also use a balloon. Measure the circumference of your head just above your ears to see how big your helmet needs to be. Melissa is smaller than my own head, so I used wads of paper mache to create space between my layers and the head.

My paper mache mix is 1 part Mod Podge, 1 part flour, and 4 parts water.

I added wedges of modeling clay to the head to create the flat shape extending down at the ears. Note the white clay stuck to the head in the photo below.

Tusken Raider Paper Mache Helmet
I added paper wads and clay to made the helmet slightly larger than my mannequin head.

I added strips at the top of the head and down the ear line. This gave me the helmet shape right away. I slowly worked to add paper mache strips from the ear line up over the face and forehead, adding wads of wet newspaper to build the helmet slightly away from the styrofoam head. This ensures that  the helmet will be at least a couple of inches bigger than my own face, as the helmet appears in reference photos.

Use just a single layer of paper mache at this point, because too much paper is going to be too heavy, and will weight down between your supporting wads of newspaper. I recommend using phone book pages because they are very thin. Be patient at this point- you are creating a light shell to get the basic shape.

Day 2: Adding Side Panels | Female Tusken Raider Costume Index

Female Tusken Raider Costume

Female Tusken Raider Costume Scratch Build

The husband (I call him Mr. T) and I are finally headed back to MARCON! The Multiple Alternative Realities Convention occurs each year in Columbus, Ohio at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. It is shamefully little-known, as I consider it to be one of the best conventions out there! There will be an Iron Costumer event, dances, game shows, a masquerade, and even a Welcome to Night Vale panel.

The planning for this year’s MARCon coincided with a deep addiction to Tiny Death Star. Soon, I had a hankering to go as a Tusken Raider. I had originally planned on creating a male Tusken, but soon decided that the female Tusken Raider outfit was a challenge I couldn’t resist. Now, I’m creating a female Tusken Raider, and Mr. T will go as my gaffi-stick-wielding better half.

Reference Photos:

Female Tusken Raider Costume
Female Tusken Raider Costume
Female Tusken Raider Costume
Female Tusken Raider Costume

The Female Tusken Raiders appeared only in Episode II. Since I’m somewhat obsessed with creating and wearing non-sexy costumes, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to cover everything up. Nah, the real reason is that I just had to make that helmet and armor. There are some ready-made helmet and armor plate kits that you can buy, and that’s fine for with extra money and not a lot of time, but for me, it felt like a cop-out. I’ve got the time and ability to make it with my own hands, so I’m going to do just that.

My mind-meld with the Tuskens began as many of my projects do- with paper mache! Paper Mache is my answer to most construction problems. I’ve created everything from giant mascot heads to huge fruit on stakes. If it’s solid and weird, I can mache it.

I took photos of each step of my female Tusken Raider build, so I’ve separated this post into various costume parts to post my progress.

Female Tusken Raider Costume Tutorials:

Helmet – In progress [ See construction photos ]

Tusken Raider Helmet Build
Progress: Still paper macheing

 Armor Bib- In progress [ See construction photos ]

Tusken Raider Armor Layout
My Tusken Raider armor layout, all cardboard pieces.
  • Skirt- In progress [ See construction photos ]
  • Shawl- In progress [ See construction photos ]
  • Wrappings- In progress [ See construction photos ]
Zhaan Costume - Farscape Cosplay

My Zhaan Costume

Zhaan Costume - Farscape Cosplay
Zhaan Costume – Farscape Cosplay

MARCON, the Multiple Alternative Realities Convention, takes place each spring in Columbus, Ohio. For Marcon 45 in 2010, my sisters and I decided to go as characters from one of our favorite sci-fi shows, Farscape. I would be Zotoh Zhaan!

When I thought about the construction of this costume, the design sounded simple. A blue robe, scarf, and some blue skin, right? Wrong. Like all of my projects, I had to make things complicated.


zhaan costume dress
Zhaan costume dress in the making.

We went on a Farscape trip to JoAnne’s Fabrics to pick out what we needed for our costumes. I ended up getting the blue fabric, silver ribboning for the braided belt, muslin for the scarf, gray dye for the scarf, blue thread, blue glass beads for the necklace, two skeins of grey yarn all at around 20 bucks.

Nyah! The fabric was damaged at the end of the bolt, and I got the end-of-the-bolt discount. It was a sale day, and I had a coupon. I am very proud of this.

Zhaan Farscape Costume
Angel costume for Zhaan!

Anyway, the dress took just minutes to sew. Or it would have if I didn’t spread the sewing time out into days. There are just a few stitches here, and I got it all done on three yards of fabric.

Grey Headscarf

Dip Dye Zhaan Scarf
Dip Dye Zhaan Scarf

I crumple-dyed a strip of plain muslin for the headscarf. I put together a tutorial on dip dying as a result. This is a really easy way to make prop scarves!

Zhaan’s Silver Belt

Braided Zhaan silver belt.
Braided Zhaan silver belt.

The belt is just a few silver cords braided together, then stitched at the end to secure. Too easy!

Long Gray Scarf

My completed Zhaan costume.
My completed Zhaan costume.

Zhaan is all about long, elegant layers. Sometimes, she wears a very long grey knit scarf. The only way for me to go about this one was to actually stitch a scarf myself. I used a treble crochet stitch to make it as fast as possible, but with this thing being taller than me, it still took a long while. This was an ongoing project that took up any time that I wasn’t working on the rest of the costume. Rest in front of the TV? No.  Make Zhaan scarf!

Ethereal Space Necklace

The necklace is inspired by the one that I saw in this photo of Zhaan:

zhaan necklace
Zhaan costume necklace inspiration.

Very spacey, this necklace required some large blue glass beads that I just happened to be hoarding in my jewelry kit. I bought a spool of craft wire and just loosely threaded the beads, then twisted the wire at the end of each bead to prevent them from slipping around.

Zhaan Makeup

Zhaan Costume Makeup Detail
Detail of Zhaan costume makeup by Rain Blanken

This was the real doozy. When I signed up to be Zhaan, I thought it wasn’t too big a deal to paint just my neck, face, and hands blue. She is a fan of lots of skin coverage, so no problem, right? Wrong. I’m used to doing full-face makeup on other people, not myself. Painting myself blue in the hotel room bathroom while my sisters, their boyfriends, and my husband also got dressed… it was more than I’d bargained for.

Stencil for Zhaan makeup
Stencil for Zhaan makeup

To create all of the beautiful flecks of golden-white on Zhaan’s face, I had to create some stencils. It would simply take way too long to individually apply all of these flecks in the hotel room. The stencils were fairly time-consuming.

I used a piece of a folder, because I was too cheap to go buy a piece of acetate or some such material that made more sense. I cut a piece that would fit on my forehead, with those notches on the sides to let it bend. I penciled on all of the spots, then painstakingly cut them all out with a pair of nail scissors. Same for the nose and cheek pieces.

For painting yourself blue, use a large sponge and blend well. Paint beyond your collar and use a powder finish to make it last. I gave Zhaan’s eyebrows a little more flair so that they would show up in photos, but I might not do that next time, they look a bit crazy.

Bald cap for Zhaan costume
Me in a bald cap for Zhaan costume.

Bald Cap

Zhaan is bald as a baby, and I was doing this costume full-blast. I wasn’t going to shave my head, but I did invest in a bald cap. Unfortunately, my hair was almost down to my butt at the time, so I had to also wear a ponytail that I could hide with the dyed headscarf covering my neck.

Zhaan also has weird ears, so I tried to emulate this with some putty. They sort of worked, but the makeup on top didn’t exactly blend with my skin.

My friend, Jason, is a prop-whiz, and he actually handmade Farscape communicators for everyone in our group! He let us keep them all as a gift, he is so awesome!

Farscape communicator by Jason Bundy
Farscape communicator by Jason Bundy

I wore my communicator on the silver belt at my waist. Here is our group photo:

Farscape Cosplay Group
Our Farscape Cosplay Group At MARCON 45, 2010. Clockwise from left: Some guy that jumped in the photo as John Crichton, Emily Blanken as Aeryn Sun, Adam De Felice as Ka D’argo, Jason Bundy as John Crichton, Rain Blanken as Zotoh Zhaan, and Sarah Blanken as Chiana.



What a group! We were too busy running around like lunatics to officially enter the masquerade, but we won hallway costume awards from the roaming judges. We all made it into the final round of judging onstage, and then it was just between me and one other competitor…. a 6 year old girl dressed up like Kiki’s Delivery Service. Zhaan would never ham it up against a child, so I just put my hands together as in prayer, and bowed reverently to her. I didn’t win, but I felt like that’s exactly what Zhaan would have done!

Zhaan Farscape Cosplay
Zhaan Farscape Cosplay by Rain Blanken

I still wear my Farscape communicator sometimes on my jacket. No one really gets what it is, but I know! It’s a much better memento than an old bald cap.

If you are planning to be Zhaan for your next cosplay, please feel free to ask any questions you have about my adventures in being Zhaan for a day. This was an incredibly fun group project for my sisters and I to do together!

Cape Hood

Make a Cape: Hood Instruction Clarification

One of my most popular tutorials here on About.com is my Cape Tutorial. This is a design that I created myself, so I’m ultimately responsible when someone sends me an email that says ‘what the what?’

The most questions I get are on the construction of the hood. I get so many emails on this, because the construction of the hood has been ultra-simplified. It is just one stitch to attach the hood to the cape, and another stitch to close the top of the hood. Bam. But this image seems to cause a lot of confusion:

Make a Cape
Make a Cape: Hood Instruction Clarification

I feel like stars and glitter assist in every explanation, but I also eat mayo with a spoon, so maybe I’m off on this one.

Recently, one of my youngest readers asked me on Facebook about the hood construction, so I went ahead and sketched her up some additional instructions that I’ll share with you here:

Cape Hood
Cape Hood

In the first panel, the hood has been sewn to the top of the cape. Next, touch the corners of the hood together to make the hood shape, then stitch along the top of the edges that you’ve just put together.

I hope that this sketch helps to clarify those hood instructions! If not, feel free to ask me on Facebook, and I’ll come up with another sketch, lickity-split! I might even draw a dinosaur on there with your requests, like they do for me at Domino’s.

(Need help? Ask Rain on Facebook.)

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