Friday, July 26, 2013

Making Lady Ash and Necronomicon Costumes

As you know, I went a little crazy for Comic-Con this year and made Lady Ash and Necronomicon Costumes:

There are lots of great tutorials online for making Ash costumes, Necronomicon costumes, book costumes, and zombie hunter costumes. I drew from those while making ours. So, this is less of a how-to than it is a breakdown of what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I'd do differently next time. 

My costume started as a plain blue shirt from Kohl's. I ripped off the left sleeve with a seam ripper (I didn't want to be too neat and tidy - it needed to look like it was torn off by demons), and let it sit in a bowl of very strong tea overnight to stain it a bit: 

After it had dried somewhat (I never put it in the dryer because I didn't want it to look too fresh), I splashed it with a generous amount of red acrylic paint that I had mixed with a bit of brown and thinned with a generous amount of water. This gave the shirt a "blood-soaked" look. 
Once that paint had dried, I wet a paintbrush with undiluted red paint and splattered it again to give it a look of thick, fresh blood stains. I then did the same thing with brown paint to give it a look of dried blood stains. 

I made the gun holster out of strips of brown vinyl stitched to a fashion ring. (It's the same kind of ring that's used to add interest to swimsuits and women's shirts. They sell them in packs of two at JoAnn's Fabrics). 

I bought my sawed-off shotgun online from Rubie's Costume Company. Once it arrived, I measured a holster and stitched it together. 

Both the gun and the holster were dry-brushed with black and brown paint to give them an aged look. I dry brush by dipping my paintbrush in undiluted paint, brushing it against newspaper until it's almost dry and then brushing it against the gun and the holster. It really brought out some of the wood grain details on the gun. 

My skirt was a simple knit skirt pattern that I stitched before cutting the hem at a jagged angle and staining it with more red paint. I didn't tea-dye the skirt because it was already brown. 

My chainsaw started life as a jug of Target-brand orange juice. I ripped off the label and spray-painted it silver before painting it with a thin layer of red. Then, I dry-brushed it with black. The blade and details were cut off of a toy chainsaw with a heat knife and glued onto the jug with E-6000. I dry-brushed them, too before giving everything a healthy, sloppy coat of red mixed with just a touch of brown. 

The fake blood that I used on my face and arm is a mixture of peanut butter, Hershey's syrup, corn syrup and lots and lots of red food coloring with just a few drops of blue. It looked realistic, clotted just like real blood, and could be sculpted into fairly convincing "wounds."

After that, my female Ash costume was pretty much finished. Pete's costume took a little more work. My first attempt at a Necronomicon did not go well. I duct-taped two tri-fold boards (the type of board that's usually used for school projects) together and duct-taped another piece of cardboard over the front as a cover: 

This was a great idea until I sculpted the facial details on the front cover with cellu-clay: 
The book of the dead is bound in human flesh, and Cellu-clay was a great medium that gave the book cover a lumpy, skin-like look, but it was very heavy when it dried. It also shrank as it dried and curved the book cover away from the book, which was not a good effect. I'd use cellu-clay again if I was making a small book as a prop, but it wasn't good for this project. I started again, using a piece of foam core as the book cover. This was much lighter and sturdier. This time, I "sculpted" the facial features out of masking tape before covering them with a very thin layer of paper mache: 

I only filled in some of the smaller details around the eyes, nose, and mouth with the cellu-clay. The teeth are just triangles cut out of cardboard and stuck into the clay. Once everything had dried (about 24 hours), I gave it all a nice coat of gesso for texture before painting it brown and filling in the eyes, nose, and mouth with black. Then, I dry-brushed the whole thing with black paint, gave it some lighter brown highlights, and painted the teeth ivory (bright white just wouldn't do). I covered everything with a thick coat of Modge Podge to really make it shine. 

I kept the paper mache clear of the book's spine so that it would really open. On the inside, I glued a piece of ivory poster board (I started with white poster board and painted it ivory, as the fancy artist's poster board was quite expensive). It took a couple of attempts, but I finally sketched a fairly convincing demon on the "front page."

The Necronomicon is inked in blood, but I sketched the demon out of brown artist pastels. I used an awl to poke two small holes in the front cover and ran a bit of elastic through. I also used used an awl to poke two holes in the back cover through which I stitched a hook. The elastic attached to the hook to keep the book closed while Pete was walking around. 

The straps are brown duct tape, which looked like leather from a distance. I ran them through holes on the front and back covers. The book stayed on Pete's shoulders through two days of Comic-Con and only needed a little bit of duct tape repair by the end of the second day. 

And, that's how I made the Comic-Con costumes. I was really excited about this project, and it's given me some great ideas for Halloween this year. Amelia's already got some costume suggestions, and I'm looking forward to working with cardboard and paper mache again. 

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