Monday, May 27, 2013

Making my Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guardsmen Costumes

Space Marines are huge.  In the game mythology their armor is power assisted, which allows them to move their several tons of mass with all the grace and fluidity of a dancer.

While building the Space Marine costumes, I didn't have access to any of the technology of the 41st millennium.  As a result, I had to settle for making them not weigh tons.  I also had to have people follow them around to make sure they wouldn't trip or fall over or bump their heads while walking through doorways.

Since I didn't like the idea of having the finest warriors of the Imperium of Man being shepherded around by a handful of people in jeans and t-shirts, I needed another option.  The other option: have each of them accompanied by a small retinue of Imperial Guardsmen from the Cadian Regiments.

Here's a shot of the finished Guardsmen with one of my Space Marines:
IG with Space Marine 5

For more pictuers and details of the build process, read on...


Just like the Halo Marines I built in 2011, this project started with Pepakura build.  The digital models were pulled from the Space Marine video game.  Here's all of the pieces built:
Imperial Guard Armor Pep 

Once all of the paper models were made, each of the parts was then coated with polyester resin to make them more rigid:
Imperial Guard Helmet Pep Glassed
After reinforcing the inside with a couple of layers of urethane casting resin, the Bondo smoothing begins:
Imperial Guard Helmet Pep with Bondo

Test fit with beginning of sculpted detail on helmet:
IG Helmet and Chest Test 

The complete helmet model also included goggles and a facemask.  In order to maximize options, I figured I might as well make the facemask too:
IG Helmet with Facemask

I also tested a couple of pairs of goggles to see if they would fit with the helmet:
IG Helmet Glossy Front

The first few pairs didn't really work out.

After reinforcing the chest and back pieces, I mounted them to a piece of MDF and then it was time to throw them on the vacforming table.  Here's the first pull of the chest formed in black .040" ABS sheet:
IG Chest Test Fit

And the back: IG Back Test Fit

With the helmet smoothed out and shiny, it was time to mold.  It just so happens that this was the same time as the sculpt for the Halo EVA helmet was ready to mold, so that's the huge helmet on the right: IG and EVA Helmets Ready to Mold

The mold was made in much the same way as the rest of my helmet molds, starting with a silicone RTV jacket mold: IG Helmet Jacket Mold

Then finishing with a 2-part fiberglass mothermold to keep everything straight: IG Helmet Mold Finished

The shoulder plates had started really bothering me at this point.  Here's a shot of the reinforced vacforming bucks:
IG Shoulder Forms

The original plan was to make them quick, easy shells vacformed in ABS and trimmed to fit.  Unfortunately, they just looked cheap and flimsy.  The solution was to add some thickness to give the illusion that they were actually built out of some sort of metal plate.

This was accomplished by making a form for a border piece to attach along the edges.  Here's what the improved shoulder forms looked like:
IG Shoulder Forms
The form on the left is used to shape an inside border that makes the shoulder plate look like it's almost an inch thick. 

Shin Guards and Kneepads 

The shin guards are pretty simple shapes, so I couldn't think of a reason to go through the trouble of building forming bucks.  Instead, I decided to form them out of foamed PVC sheet.  I started by building a rounded form and a paper template:
IG Shin Template and Form

Then I cut pieces of foamed PVC (also called "Sintra") to the same shape as the templateThen, one at a time, the pieces were placed in a toaster oven until they were warm enough to shape by draping them over the form:
IG Shins Forming

NOTE: heating up plastics in an oven like this will release every kind of poisonous vapor imaginable.  It'll make you naseous, give you nostril cancer, and it probably kills baby kittens.  If you decide to do this, wear a respirator, work in a well-ventilated area, and stay away from unwitting innocent bystanders.

Once the parts had cooled, they stayed in whatever shape they were bent to.  This was repeated until I had several pairs:
IG Shins Formed and Painted
I also made 8" squares which were bent over the same form to make the back side.

Here's a pair all put together with a pair of black combat boots:
IG Shinguards

Soft Parts 

The soft parts were fairly simple at first.  I started with a set of tan BDU Trousers and a tan BDU blouse that look like this in the catalogs:
Fatigue (BDU) Pants Khaki Fatigues Pants Size 5XL
Pants were completely unaltered.  The shirt needed some work.  It started with the removal of all of the pockets.  Then the buttons.  Then the strip of button holes and the cover flap from the left side of the shirt were cut off and attached to the new front panel.  

Here's a pair all fitted up after the alterations:
IG Fatigues

My first impulse was to paint the hard parts with Rustoleum Army green.  Once the paint dried, I realized it was WRONG:
Space Marine Home Stretch 5

The much better option was Krylon Ultra-Flat Olive: IG Test Fit

Sorry, that picture is wrong.  The only proper expression for Imperial Guard cannon fodder is some sort of abject fear: IG Fear

Since the parts still looked way too clean, the next step was to do a quick blackwash as well as stencil on some unit identification markings:
Weathered and Stenciled

Remember the facemask?  I almost didn't.  Here's a shot of it with a bit more bodywork done:
Facemask Beginning

After molding and casting and painting, it came out like so:
Cadian Guardsman Helmet with Hostile Environment Mask

IG Helmet Front

Somewhere along the way  I started stocking up web gear and pouches for these guys:
IG Web Gear
The canteen is an old US-issue cold weather canteen.  The pouch on the right is a new MOLLE ammo pouch.

I also sculpted out these little emblems to add to the gear:
IG EmblemsThe winged skulls were designed to glue on over the "US" on the canteen pouch.

So here's the whole rig without the chest armor and the helmet: 
IG Fatigues and Web Gear
And here's what it looks like with all of the parts put together (including a lasgun prop from a talented fellow maker by the name of Matsuo):
IG in the Field

We had a bit of fun screwing around with the camera:
IG Huddled

IG Kneeling

The goofy action shots were fun:
IG Angry

But the best part was taking them out with the Space Marines:
IG with Space Marine 2

IG with Space Marine 3

IG with Space Marine 4

IG with Space Marine

Now that I've had them out and about a couple of times, I've come up with lots of improvements and alterations I'd like to make.

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  1. So awesome. Love the "abject fear" shot.

  2. Would there be anyway of getting a download link for the Pepakura files?

  3. This is awesome! But it would be Perfect with a knee pads for the guards ;d

    1. There's always something. The kneepad has been on my to-do list for a while. I'm sure I'll get around to it one of these days.

  4. Do you have a link to the pep files?

    1. No. But you can probably still find them on the Obscurus Crusade forum.

  5. Hi, awesome work, I was wondering if I could commission a chest and back armor and shin guards, please contact me on with information and what your finished products look like

    Thank you


  6. Hello Is it possible to buy everything you knew?

  7. Hey, I was wondering how much it would cost to do a commission of a full suit. Hit me up at