Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shae Vizla Costume Build

If you happen to follow the Sexy Star Wars Girls page on Facebook, you may have spotted this photo a couple of weeks ago:
Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim

That's the Lady Shawnon wearing her Shae Vizla costume at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.

Shae Vizla is a mercenary character that shows up in the trailers for the MMORPG Star Wars: the Old Republic.  You can see her being a supreme badass in this video:

So here's Shawnon being a supreme badass:
Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim

To see how the costume was made (and a bunch more pictures of my smokin'-hot girlfriend showing it off) read on...

It all started in 2013 when I attended a meetup for members of the Replica Prop Forum in San Rafael, CA.  While perusing the tables full of awesome that everyone had brought along, I spotted this large format printed image on one of the tables:

The guy who had set up the display was Darren Wright of DW Design Studios.  If you don't know who he is, check out his site: LINK.  He's got quite a portfolio of amazing Star Wars prop and costume builds behind him.

It turns out he'd been working on this particular costume for a while with no real deadline in mind.  I asked if he'd be comfortable with splitting the remaining work and making two costumes instead of one.  We worked out the details and in no time at all I'd started cranking out some parts for the helmet:
Shae Vizla Parts Sizing

I also made a few details for the belt buckle display:
Shae Vizla Belt Buckle

Those were quick and simple, but it was still some time before I was ready to start on a couple of the bigger pieces.  For example...

The Jetpack:

The jetpack started as a high-polygon 3D model which was drawn up by my friend Michael at Fierfek's Premium Pepakura Models. I had Lopez the Robot Whittler (my Carvewright CNC Machine) cut out for me.  Here's the full set of parts coming out of the machine:
Shae Jetpack Parts Carved Out

After snapping off the waste material, here's the main body assembled and primed:
Shae Jetpack Main Body Tacked Together

Some pieces were still better suited to 3D printing.  Here's the exhaust nozzles all printed up:
Jetpack Nozzles Printed

Here you can see them installed along with the bigger detail parts for the back:
Jetpack Prototype Assembled

After a bit of sanding and filling, the whole thing was looking pretty good:
jetpack prototype in primer

There were also these last two printed pieces (shown here in white) which would be molded and cast separately:
Last of the Printed Detail Parts

So that was all the machines could do for me on the jetpack:
Almost Done

After I'd smoothed everything out, I made it shiny and light red:
Jetpack Main Body Done

Then started the silicone rubber jacket mold:
Shae Visla Jetpack Print Coat

The mold ended up being four separate pieces.  There was a front, a back, and a couple of plugs to help shape the inside of the exhaust ports.  Here you can see me thickening up the back:
Thickening Jetpack Mold

Here it is with  a bit more silicone built up:
Jetpack Mold Thickened

Somewhere along the way I added these little silicone hemispheres to help the rubber jacket register into the fiberglass mothermold:
First Half of Jacket Mold Completed

Once the thickened silicone had cured, the next step was to lay up the fiberglass mothermold:
Mothermold First Half

When that was cured and trimmed, I flipped the whole thing over and prepped the other side for molding:
Ready for 2nd Half of Mold
The block of wood in the middle was added to make a hole in the silicone to act as a sort of pour spout so I could get resin into the mold.

After spraying on a mold release, here's the first batch of silicone poured on:
Print Coat Finished

Just like the other side, more silicone was laid on to thicken the mold:
Thickening Rubber Jacket

Then I added registration keys and laid up a fiberglass mothermold:
Shae Jetpack Mothermold Inner Side

The rubber inserts for the insides of the exhaust vents were poured over the next couple of days:
Shae Jetpack Molds Vent Openings

And then the mold was done:
Shae Jetpack Mothermold Outer Side

Here's the prototype after I'd pulled it out:
Shae Jetpack Mold Completed

And here's the first rotocast copy of the jetpack:
First Shae Jetpack Cast with Prototype

Piece of cake.

The Helmet:

Originally, Darren had someone else on board to make the helmet.  But as time marched inexorably toward the beginning of the convention, it started to look like that guy wasn't going to find time to get it done.  So we finally decided it'd be best if I just jumped on it.  Which of course means I put Lopez Dos Point Oh to work on it.  Here's the full set of parts he cranked out:
Shae Vizla Helmet Prototype Carving in Progress

Once again, after snapping off all of the waste, here's everything laid out on the bench:
Shae Vizla Helmet Parts Laid Out for Cleanup

And the complete model assembled:
Shae Vizla Helmet Parts Assembled Angle

After rough sanding, I saturated the finer details with cyanoacrylate adhesive to make them a bit sturdier.  Otherwise, any more sanding would've obliterated them:
Shae Vizla Helmet Rough Sanded

Size-wise, it looked about right.  Here it is next to a lifecast of Shawnon's head:
Shae Vizla Size Comparison

I couldn't get it to fit, but that's just because the MDF Prototype is 3/4" thick in places.  That, and the lifecast ears can't be pressed back out of the way.  Still, close enough:
Shae Vizla Test Fitting Front

With the rough sanding done, it was time once again to soak a lot of primer into the surface:
Shae Vizla Helmet Primed

Once that dried, I went to work filling in the seams:
Shae Vizla Helmet Bondo

And adding more primer:
Shae Vizla After Bondo

It came together pretty quick:
Shae Helmet Progress

When most of the smoothing was done, I added the 3D printed ear caps and scored in some additional seam lines:
Ear Caps Added

Somewhere along the way, I decided I really didn't like the way the seams were shaping up, so I filled them back in:
Re-doing Shae Helmet Seams

After sanding the whole thing smooth again I would just have to carve in new seams:
Filled Seams Sanded

The last part of the helmet to make was the detail section of the mouth.  I started with a rough cut shape in MDF:
Mouth Detail Rough Shape

Then I whittled it down with a sheetrock knife and a couple of files:
Carving Mouth Detail

Comparing the final shape to the reference images I had, I think I did okay:Comparison for Mouth Bits

At this point I shifted focus back to the seams on the rest of the helmet:
Shae Helmet Protoype Primed

Here's all of the seams carved in as well as the detail inserts for the mouth/nose area installed:
Shae Mouth Details Installed

Here's my friend Janna (who's head is about the same size as Shawnon's) trying it on for size:
Shae Helmet Test Fit
Looks about right.

Happy that I'd gotten the shape right, I started making the whole thing shiny:
Shae Helmet First Gloss Pass

Then it was mounted to a board and I set up a cardboard wall to catch any drips:
Shae Helmet Prepped for Molding

Then the print coat was poured on:
Shae Helmet Print Coat

And the mold was thickened:
Shae Helmet Mold Thickening

And thickened some more:
Shae Mold Thickened and Registration Keys

With the silicone built up, the next step was to build the fiberglass mothermold.  It began with making a clay parting wall:
Shae Helmet Mothermold Parting Wall

After laying up the glass on the first side, I peeled off the clay wall, applied a release agent, and laid up the second half:
Shae Helmet Mothermold Layup

Fiberglass Mothermold for Shae Helmet

When the fiberglass had cured, I drilled a series of bolt holes:
Drilling flanges

Then I trimmed off the hairy parts on the edges:
Trimming Mothermold Edges for Shae Helmet

Then it was time to remove the mothermold:
Removing Mothermold

Here's the mothermold after I'd ground down the edges:
Mothermold and Jacket Mold

With the mothermold removed, I went ahead and made a serpentine cut up the back side of the helmet:
Splitting Shae Helmet Jacket Mold

Then I pulled the prototype out of the mold:
Demolding Shae Helmet Prototype

After reassembling the mold, I rotocast the first copy in Onyx resin.  Here you can see it on the right:
First Cast of Shae Helmet

Good enough.

Tanks and Belt Bits:

I forgot to mention, I made a mold for the tank thing that fits on top of the jetpack.  Here's the prototype being pulled from the mold:
Demolding Cylinder Prototype

For the belt parts, I started with a pretty detailed 3D model drafted up by my friends at
Shae Belt Parts

Then I had Jarvis print them out:
Shae Belt Parts Printed

Those guys do good work:
Belt Parts

After a tiny bit of cleanup, they were almost ready to mold:
Belt Widgets Smoothing

The mold was a simple block mold, so all I had to do was build a watertight box:
Shae Belt Details Boxed for Molding

Then fill it with silicone:
Shae Belt Part Mold Poured

Here's the prototypes removed:
Shae Belt Parts Mold

The belt canister took a bit more work, but by then I was in a rush and the only picture I took was this snapshot of the pieces on the 3D printer:
Belt Canister Parts Printed


The gauntlets were another composite construction that started with the main parts being carved out by Lopez:
Gauntlet Parts Carved

It took a couple of tries before I was convinced that I'd gotten the sizing right:
Newer Better Gaunt Prototype Carved

The upper detail part was 3D printed:
Gauntlet Detail Test Fit

When I was certain they were going to fit, I spent a bit more time smoothing out the carved parts:
Shae Vizla Smoothing Continues

Then I finished up the cleanup work on the gauntlet prototype:
Gauntlet Top Smoothing

Once everything was smooth, I gave it all a coat of my standard lightish red glossy prototype color:
Shae Parts in Lightish Red

The upper part of the gauntlet came out pretty good.
Shae Gaunt in Lightish Red

Satisfied that the prototype was nice and smooth, the gauntlet parts were glued together into one piece and molded in much the same way as the helmet:
Shae Gauntlet Print Coat

Once the rotocast parts were popped out of the molds, they just needed a bit of cleanup and trimming around the edges before I split them apart again.  Here's the first pair:
First Pair of Shae Gauntlets

Here's my friend Jen trying them on:
Shae Gaunts Test Fit

Not bad at all:
Shae Gaunts Test Fit 2

Since I was trying to minimize the amount of time I'd have to spend in the prototyping and molding stage, I decided to use the same base gauntlet for both sides.  The only problem was the tiny little rocket launchers on the outer side of each one.  There was one on the right side of the right gauntlet and on the left side of the left gauntlet.  Clearly this would need a solution.

I started by printing out a pair of launcher rails and tiny rockets:
Printed Shae Vizla Rockets and Rails

The scale was just about right:
Rocket and Rail on Gauntlet

Then they got a bit of sanding to eliminate the build lines:
Rockets and Rails Cleaned Up

Then I took another casting of the gauntlet and sprayed it with a bit of mold release.  Once that had set up, I took a couple of rectangular pieces of sheet styrene, gooped them up with a bunch of bondo, and stuck them in place:
Missile Bases Fitted

Once the bondo had cured, I popped the parts off of the gauntlet and they looked like so:
Contoured Backside
After a bit of sanding and trimming around the edge to neaten them up, these guys were ready to mold, making a pair of bases that would register perfectly onto either side of the gauntlet.  Neat.

The last thing for the gaunlte build was the little status display that fitted to the inside of the left forearm.  Once again, this was a couple of 3D printed parts:
Shae Forearm Display Parts
The blue bit at the bottom is just a scrap of clear blue acrylic that I cut out to fit into the  window.

Here's the whole thing fitted together:
Shae Forearm Display Assembled

Here's the last few molds I made for the project:
Shae Detail Molds

The Vacuformed Armor:

While I was making my parts, Darren was diligently plugging away making all of his parts.  Somewhere along the way, he shipped me a big box of awesome:
Shae Vizla Armor Parts

After a bit of time with the shears taking off the excess plastic around the edges, I had Shawnon try everything on with the assistance of a bit of masking tape:

She hates this photos:

Since she was away at school for most of the build, I had to make a duct tape body double of her for most of the test fittings:
Shae Vizla Armor Parts Trimmed and Fitted

Darren also made these composite rubber and resin pieces for the upper arms:

And finally, the rubber belts:

Trimming and Painting:

With all of the prototyping, molding, and vacforming done, it was time to start making the parts into a whole.  I started by cutting out the face hole on the helmet and trimming off all of the flashing around the neck:

Shae Helmet Trimmed

For the visor, I fitted in a gold tinted motorcycle helmet faceshield:
Shae Helmet Visor

Visibility was great:
Shae Helmet Test Fit

But since it wasn't a great fit, I had to trim off a lot of excess:
Shae Vizla Visor Cut Out

With that done, all of the parts were given a coat of primer:
Shae Helmet in Primer

For the base color, I settled on Dupli-Color Dark Shadow Grey Metallic:
Shae Helmet in Base Metallic Color

For the red details, I tried a couple of different options:
Color Testing
The one I ended up choosing was the Duplicolor Metalcast red anodizing spray on the right:

Somewhere around this stage, my friend Sarah stopped by to tinker in the shop and I set her to work masking off the Shae parts so the red bits could be sprayed on:
Sarah Masking Shae Helmet

She did a great job:
Shae Helmet Painted

Here's how the backpack came out;
Shae Pack Painted

The next step in the paintjob was to add a blackwash to help the details pop a bit better:
Shae Pack Weathering

After a bit of drybrushing, the parts really came to life:
Shae Parts Painted

Here's the chest with the detailing done:
Shae Vizla Chest

Minutes after the paint had dried, it was time to pack everything up and get it all down to Anaheim for Star Wars Celebration.  Here's a snapshot of my hotel room once I'd unpacked:
Hotel Room Helmet Lineup
That's the Shae helmet right there in the middle.

The next day, the Lady Shawnon flew into town and we got her all kitted out:
Shae Together for the first Time

Then it was time to head out to the convention:
Shae and Mara

The first time out, she was escorted by three Sith Acolytes:
Old Republic Hitting the Lobby

I made those costumes as well.  Here I'm the one standing to Shae's left:
Shae and the Acolytes Outside

We got out for quite a bit and ran into all sorts of other costumed characters:
Shae and some Cosplayers

And had a bit of fun with the local police:
Anaheim PD and the Sith

On the last day of the convention, Shawnon decided to break out the Shae suit again.  Here she is with her cousin Kristen while we were waiting for the elevator in the hotel:
Shae and Kristin

Once again, we had a lot of fun hanging out at the convention:

On the way back to the hotel, we were stopped by a photographer who had a whole studio lighting setup off to one side of the convention entrance.  You can see his portfolio at

He managed to get some really great shots of Shawnon in the Shae costume and my friend Jesse in one of the Sith Acolytes.  Here's a few of my favorites:
Shae Vizla and Sith Acolyte at Celebration Anaheim

Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim

This is one of the more iconic poses:
Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim

Shae Vizla and Sith Acolyte at Celebration Anaheim

This one does a great job of showing off some of the details on the front:
Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim

Then there's the backside: 
Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim
That's a nice backside!

At the end of the weekend, it was time to wedge the whole suit into a storage bin:
Shae Armor Packed

And there it will stay.  Until next time...
Shae Vizla at Celebration Anaheim

Sooner or later I'll get around to upgrading the undersuit that goes with this costume and get a whole new photoshoot lined up.  So stay tuned...


  1. Been waiting for the write-up on this one. Great work, as always.

  2. Your site is awesome! I love your appreciation for details and thank you for sharing your build experience on your site :)

    Have you discussed your rotocasting process in a previous post?

  3. Just amazing...
    just great of you to share so much.
    I'm a woodworker and really appreciate all of the effort that you've put in..

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this!
    I'm working on a mold of a Jango helmet I made for my son, and you have taken all of the guesswork out of the process. I've gotten to where I just leave your blog open in a firefox tab. XD