Lexus the lady gryphon (or how trial and error became my friends)

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Talk' started by Nightdweller, May 26, 2016.

  1. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Hi everyone, this is my first thread on here and I hope it's alright ^^

    To introduce myself and my work, I am quite an enthusiastic nerd for all things monsters and costumes. I always loved drawing creatures from my own imagination.
    When I was 8 years old, I invented what became the very symbol of my creative works: Lexus, a female gryphon from a galaxy far, far away :)D). She has gone through many changes throughout the years until I finally decided to stop and keep her design the way it was.

    lexusshadedright.png I have to admit I don't have any clean full-body pictures of her but I know my design quite well and I have a lot of concept scribbles laying around in my workspace as reference.

    Actually she's a bit more friendly than this :)

    lexy.png click for full size

    I have always admired and observed the works of the Stan Winston Studios, my favourite stuff being the animatronic dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park trilogy. But somehow it only occured to me when I was 18 to start building stuff myself. So I just gathered the little money I had and started buying supplies that ended up as a failure. Yeah our DIY stores in Switzerland SUCK! But also, it is my very first full-costume project, so I really had no idea what I was doing.
    Now, after more than three years of trial and error, I have gathered a lot of experience and still continue to learn every single day, thanks to the RPF and this forum. I am just starting to build something that really looks the way I have always imagined my character. AND THAT MAKES ME SO EXCITED!!!

    I will try to supply as many pictures of the early stages as possible.

    I don't have any pictures of the very first stage anymore. I have videos on youtube but they are old and lengthy and I've already thrown away EVERYTHING I built back then (plus they are embarrasing). But if you're still curious, here and here you go. (Yeah I have a WEIRD accent I know!)

    I got a dummy head and a balaclava to start off. I wrapped it in upholstery foam and wanted to carve all the features out of foam and glue them on. But I am a terrible failure in carving foam, so I put that aside.
    I then grabbed my supply of polycaprolactone, AKA friendly plastic or polymorph (a plastic that melts in hot water) that I had around to make the beak of the gryphon. I made a model out of cardboard and plaster to help the plastic hold its shape and then slapped the plastic onto it. After covering the plaster form with plastic, I ripped the plaster and cardboard off the inside to get the plastic alone. Putting the plastic on the form had left me with a lot of ugly fingerprints and thick plastic smears. So I took a lighter to melt the surface and dipped my fingers in liquid wax to prevent them from sticking to the plastic and help get the surface even. In retrospective I guess I should've just used water for my fingers.

    So I formed the upper and the lower beak without knowing if it would fit on the foam-wrapped balaclava. I really had no idea on how to securely attach the beak to the face. After messing around with some cuts in the foam I realized that my head base was so messed up that the mask would fall apart in no time. That was when I decided to throw away the balaclava-foam base and start all over. I kept the beak pieces of course, as polycaprolactone is almost endlessly re-usable.

    As a side project I started sewing a tail with a foam core that had a wire inside for posing and some cables running on the outside of the foam to add LED lights later on. I sewed the fake fur fabric together with an elastic strip at the seam because I was afraid to rip it apart when posing the tail (I still don't know if this was really necessary). Anyways, I ended up throwing that tail away as well because the fake fur we have in my country SUCKS! It's rough, the backing shows through and the hairs fall off extremely easily.
    This is when I started spending all the money I had on USA fabrics.'s luxury shag fake fur was my saviour. It is super soft, the backing cannot be seen and it has less hair loss.

    Then I wanted to try making a latex glove. I planned on casting the claws and her "lucario hand spike" in resin. I got a rubber glove, filled it with sand and started sculpting over it with air-drying clay. A catastrophic fail as the clay didn't want to stay on the glove, dried up very fast and the whole sculpt cracked apart. I still reassembled it as well as I could, built a molding box out of Lego, put it inside and poured a biodegradable, lightly flexible molding compound into it that was a powder that I had to mix with water. That way I got a mold for the upper half of the hand. I started brushing latex into it enthusiastically, more pouring than brushing (I really had no patience at this point). I got "something"... But it was only one half of one side and it ended up being way too thick because I had filled it up instead of creating a skin, lol! I also had no idea how I would sculpt a fitting underside because of my destroyed mold or how I would glue both sides together for the glove. It soon met the same fate as all the other things I had made until then -> my trusty trash can.

    The worst and most expensive failure of all was my try to cast my own "taxidermy" follow-me eyes. It looks so freggin' easy on youtube, I tell you. I got a can of crystal clear casting resin and a paint palette for the molds. First off, the paint palette molds were way too small. Lexus needed 6 centimeter diameter eyes (which is roughly 2.3 inches). Second, the resin bonded with the paint palette. Even though I used teflon mold release spray before casting. The guys from the USA didn't seem to have those problems. I soon found out that our paint palettes are made from another type of plastic.
    Yes, things started getting complicated right here and my frustration was HIGH!
    I got myself some round plastic ornaments that come in halves, sprayed my mold release into them and cast my resin. This is what I got:
    After this, I kept trying. I molded the ornaments in rigid spray foam, coated the inside with latex and cast the resin. Failure.
    I bought another can of resin from another supplier. I sculpted claws with polymer clay, made latex molds and cast them in resin. Failure, the resin never cured completely and the surface remained sticky for months.

    I finally gave up on resin because it was getting too expensive to put up with more failure, so I started searching for mask makers who sell resin follow-me eyes. I asked the professionals. They didn't provide eyes in the size I needed. I asked a hobbyist. He made me a pair of beautiful eyes but they were way too small for my mask. I searched taxidermy shops; everything was too small. A friend of mine suggested using so-called "watch glasses" (I think they belong to chemistry supplies), but as it is dangerous to have potentially breaking glass near my own eyes, he suggested that I should make a silicone mold. I had absolutely zero money for the DIY store's silicone and I didn't know any other place to get silicone from. More frustration.

    Then came the point where everything turned around.
    I went to an anime convention and met a guy in a wolf suit and asked him what the base of his head was made out of, because it wasn't as bulky as a foam base head.
    I know that sculpting the gryphon head and casting it in resin like professionals do would have saved me a lot of time and trouble, but I really had zero money for silicone and resin and after the curing failures I had absolutely no intent on ruining something that large and expensive.
    The guy told me he had used plastic canvas. I found this video on youtube
    You wouldn't believe it but it took me a LOAD of time and hunting until I finally found plastic canvas! I really HATE swiss DIY stores! I also ended up paying way too much for it. But nevermind. I finally had what I needed to start building the mask that I'm so proud of today.

    Image time!

    IMG-20140904-WA0004.jpg IMG-20140907-WA0003.jpeg Here's a video of me wearing it:

    This is my basic structure. I started giving shape to it with pieces of foam. The beak was wrapped in duct tape and coated with tinted latex:

    4.jpg 5.jpg Back view: 3.jpg Video:

    I noticed that the latex made both jaws stick together so I applied black acrylic paint. That helped. I also made the nose bridge skin out of foam, covered it with duct tape and coated it with latex. I made the nostrils out of cotton pads and latex a bit later. This was also painted gray with acrylics.
    I also wrapped the ears in duct tape and coated them with latex later to prevent potential ear-tugging children from ripping them apart.
    I had a bit of trouble with the side fans catching on stuff, so I removed them later on.

    THE EYES!!!

    Yes, I finally gave in and decided just to use the plastic ornaments as the eyes themselves. I painted one of the halves on the outside and glued a green LED into it from above. Then I attached the second half to it. I now have domed eyes with a follow-me effect and lights :) I'm so happy with them!
    I also made eyelids out of latex and cotton pads. I attached the cables as closely as possible to the head and put an interruptor inside the ear. I intend to do the same with the fans, so that I can turn LEDs and fans on and off individually by pushing the switch inside the corresponding ear.

    6.jpg 7.jpg 8.jpg Video of the 3D effect:

    When I got to this point, everything was awesome. I continued shaping the face with foam and inserting the see-through aida fabric (which I also had to search for like crazy) for my viewholes. I had to paint the fabric to make it match the color of the fur later. But I only had watercolors, so I coated it with acrylic glue after the paint was dry to make it water-resistant. Acrylic glue dries almost completely transparent, which is awesome. It is also a bit flexible.

    9.jpg I added eyebrow piercings made out of polycaprolactone painted with silver colour. I also added a scar out of thin EVA foam (fun foam) but I'm not sure if I will have to re-do it when I put the fur on the face.

    I kinda stopped taking photos at this point. This is where my journey with the lower beak began. At first I had it connected to the head by sewn-in elastics. That proved to make it very difficult to put the head on & take it off. Also, when I coated it in latex it resulted dripping onto the rest of the mask, making a mess and sticking to everything, resulting in damage to the foam and peeling the latex off itself again when I tried un-sticking it from the surroundings.

    To this day I haven't found any scissor or blade good enough to cleanly cut latex :(

    Anyways, I cut the lower beak's elastics off of the head and made a simple adjustable velcro strap system with elastics. I can now remove the jaw to slide the mask on and then attach it again with the straps and pull them tight.

    I can say that I'm very pleased with the movement of the jaw now.

    As you can see, I closed the upper skull with some more plastic canvas. I secured the space around the fan with a tongue spatula, nuts, zip ties and foam. Now nothing should be able to push into it and stop the fan. I also installed a second fan inside the upper beak. Fresh air gets pulled in there, hot air gets blown out on top of the head. And the inner foam construction behind the beak protects my eyes from the airflow.

    I am currently re-doing the latex coating of the jaw. I also added teeth to the head. I still have to sculpt some for the jaw. They are made of polycaprolactone and painted with one coat of cream white acrylic. They still need a few coats.

    20160526_124925.jpg I lined the inside of the mask with 3mm craft foam for more comfort
    20160526_125035.jpg This is the jaw hanging around with 3 coats of plasti-dip and 2 coats of latex on the duct tape wrapped foam core.

    20160526_124937.jpg 20160526_125011.jpg 20160526_125015.jpg 20160526_125022.jpg

    This is my work so far. I have also started making the feet:

    12417905_882278301889768_841815916991852074_n.jpg 12524024_882278345223097_5173876016604439220_n.jpg

    And I sculpted a finger:

    20160526_125728.jpg As you can see, I already tried molding it. I did it with oogoo but it was a mess. I'm planning on getting the right stuff soon. One question, though: I want to "slush" cast the claw in latex. Can I even use silicone as a mold? I've read that some people prefer plaster molds. I'm just not very confident of making a two-part plaster mold. The problem is cleanup. Last time I did this, I accidentally damaged the mold surface while scraping the last bits of clay off. The cast showed a lot of scraping marks. It's oil based clay I'm using, by the way...

    Aaaand I made an articulated PVC structure for the wings! I'll have to make a new post for the pictures because I can't post more than 20.

    Well, this is how far I've gotten :)

    I hope you enjoyed it! Any suggestions and tips are highly welcomed!





















    Last edited: May 26, 2016
    City90pet, HAL1138, Isubomo and 3 others like this.
  2. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Here are the pictures of my wing frame. I already have both sides. They still need a bit of adjustment but they work perfectly :)
    They will be attached to my elbows by a string tied to an armor piece and open, close and flap with my movements. And if I don't want them to move with me anymore, I'll just take the armor piece off.
    20160526_131458.jpg 20160526_131510.jpg 20160526_131524.jpg 20160526_131535.jpg

    Thanks for looking :D




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  3. Wreav

    Wreav Community Staff

    Very nice, I expect great things from you in the near future!
  4. LunaticNic

    LunaticNic Hunter

    Nice work on the movable beak and the light-up eyes!
    I'm excited to see what you have in mind for the rest of the build.
  5. Isubomo

    Isubomo Hunter

    Wow, Kheira, this is an awesome awesome project you're undertaking!!! Love how everything is coming together... I have no doubt that when and if you do start your Predator, it would be sooo epic!!! Can't wait for more!!!
  6. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Wow guys, thanks for your nice words :) hearing good feedback really keeps me going.
    I am currently adding a few more latex layers to the jaw. I'm afraid it might get a bit too fat and heavy. That already happened to me once, I had to tear the latex off and shave the foam down a bit. I hope I won't have to do it all again, it's time consuming and I want to finish her teeth and make some gums out of foam already. I'll post more pictures when there's something new to see :)

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  7. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Started sculpting a tongue. I had one done and cast in latex but it was about 1/5 the size of this one, lol. Sorry for the flashlight photos, it was dark when I took them.

    IMG-20160601-WA0000.jpeg IMG-20160601-WA0004.jpeg IMG-20160601-WA0007.jpeg IMG-20160601-WA0009.jpeg




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  8. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    *sigh* okay now that I painted the beak to prevent the latex from sticking to stuff, I realized that It has gotten way too heavy. AGAIN. If I weigh it in my hands, it even appears to be heavier than the head itself. this is bad. really really bad.

    I am unsure as how to continue; if I should tear all the latex work off once again, shave a bit more foam off and try again or if I should start with another jaw, but that would mean having to buy new materials for the straps again and all of the movement adjustment pain. I. don't. wannaaaaaaa. q485uWm.jpg

    I have used quite a share of hot glue, yeah I really exaggerated, so I don't know if maybe that's the main issue...
    Maybe if I wrap the foam in duct tape with less small strips I'll need less latex to cover the seams -> less layers + less weight...

    I'm not happy right now.
  9. LunaticNic

    LunaticNic Hunter

    Sorry if I missed it, but how does the weight become an issue? Does it just stay open?
  10. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Well yes I fear that it will hinder the mouth to close properly. There will be extra weight added with the teeth and the big block of latex that the tongue will be. The head build is pretty lightweight so far and that beak could ruin it for me. I just find it ridiculous to have a jaw that is heavier than the head with all the electronics and stuff (n)
  11. LunaticNic

    LunaticNic Hunter

    Hmm ...only thin I can think of that might be a try is for you make a textured latex sheet that you could put in the corner of the mouth on each side, paint it red or something so it looks like a fleshy membrane. If it's attached to the top and bottom of the beak it would be flexible enough to stretch open, and then pull it's self back into the original position.

    Just a thought.
  12. Isubomo

    Isubomo Hunter

    Sorry if I missed it as well, but is the lower beak solid? Like, what is it made of (apart from the latex of course)? Also, is the tongue, like pure, solid latex?
  13. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    LunaticNic, that sounds like a good idea! But does Latex have enough stretch for this? I never tried making sheets.

    Isubomo, the beak is made out of plastic canvas, foam to give shape (with a truckload of hot glue because I was angry), duct tape, 3 layers of Plastidip, 4 layers of latex and 1 layer of black acrylic paint. Yes I was intending to cast the tongue in full latex but now that you ask... I'm thinking... I want it to be squishy... should I slush cast a latex skin and stuff it with foam flakes?

    LunaticNic likes this.
  14. Isubomo

    Isubomo Hunter

    Nic does have a great idea, if it's a thin sheet of about, say, 2-3mm, it will stretch nicely. I found out the hard way, that the thicker the latex, the less stretchier it gets. You might also want to give Silicone a go? It has way more stretch, but it is a bit harder to use than latex.

    Wow, that's a beak-ful! (sorry for the pun! ;P) sounds to me like with all those stuff the beak is made of, that's what's giving the weight issue. Looking at your tongue sculpt, there's definitely talent there! Have you ever worked with resin or expanding before? The reason i'm asking is because, I might have some suggestions..I'm by no means an expert, but knowing what I've learned so far from these guys here, this is how I will tackle it :)

    1) I would sculpt the beak in clay, cast it in silicone, put some rigid backing on the silicone, and then pour resin. Resin beak, hollow, rigid and light, depending on how thick you slush it around. A little bit on the expensive side because of the mats, but you can re-use that mould over and over again, and the detail you'll get from the sculpt alone (depending on how detailed you make it out to be), will be so, so worth it...

    2) Would still sculpt it, and mould it in silicone, but instead of resin, expanding foam. Flexible or rigid, really up to you, then apply 1-2 layers of latex, unless your foam is already self skinning. Would probably be lighter by a bit than the resin, but not as strong in the long run and not as detailed. (Latex tends to soften fine lines when applied after)

    3) The Pepakura way. I mean, just using paper/cardboard or even foam to shape/make your beak (try to make it hollow?) then just apply plastidip or primer/bondo depending on your base material..

    Latex is a bitch as it gets thicker, and all those layers will add up in weight. We had a member try and make dreads made of pure latex and suffice to say, it didn't turn out as well as everyone hoped. Nearly pulled all his hairs out. :( Even a 4-5mm thick latex takes atleast 3-4 days to dry on its own... so maybe lexus' tongue made of pure latex isn't really the best option..with your idea having the beak just a latex skin and then stuffing it with foam flakes, i'm thinking it might be too squishy?

    Again, no expert! :p I guess that's just how I would do it, but it's all up to you at the end of the day, it's your Lexus, it's your baby :D
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  15. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Hey Isubomo, thanks for all the suggestions. You really have some great ideas! (y)

    First, I think I'll drop the idea with the membrane, as I have just started destroying that big fat latex beak. (But dinosaur mouth membranes are awesome, anyways.)

    To answer your question if I have ever worked with resin before, I tried casting resin in latex and plastic molds. I failed at everything involving resin, so I'm hesitant to give it a go again unless I can get all the chemical data together that I need to avoid more failure. That includes silicone, which is hell too expensive for messy experiments like those were, lol.

    What I know now that I didn't know back then:

    - Use a sulphur-free clay for the sculpt
    - Use condensation silicone
    - Use keys like your life depends on it
    - Mother mold can be made out of plaster or fibreglass + MORE KEYS & screw that stuff together for the best fit
    - Use Epoxy resin, not urethane
    - Use Fibreglass for reinforcement

    What I still don't know is what kind of mold release to use. I saw Alphatech use PVA on his Topknot predator stuff. I got a teflon mold release spray, is that one good?
    Am I missing something important?

    Well I guess I'll have to come to terms with silicone and resin soon enough, if I want to make a predator...

    Expanding foam is not easy to find in my country, except for the rigid stuff they use to glue door frames to the wall. And that stuff is so messy that I'm not sure if I want to touch it again (had enough frustration with that already)

    I really like the idea you have of sculpting the beak in clay and casting it in resin. That would be the perfect way to do it. But that would be a big hurdle because I have no experience and a tight budget. Also, if I made the jaw that way I would feel bad for not making the whole head that way :p like, the jaw would have beautiful detail while the skull would look like "meh"... But yeah, I plan on building my next animal mask exactly like you described. Professionals do it like that and it definitely helps get the shape and size right!

    Oh dear the dread story sounds awful :/ I once wanted to make some latex claw finger caps for my hubby, I even applied one coat after the other, blowdrying it between coats. It still never set inside. *sigh*

    Why would the tongue be too squishy? I'm not sure how to imagine what your thoughts on this were :) I think if I fill it very tightly it will be alright, like those star wars plushies that aren't really cuddly at all because they're so over-stuffed, lol!

    Anyways, I've just started skinning the fat latex jaw with a layer of worbla just to get the shape. I will pull the worbla off of the beak after putting some glue over the seam and then narrow the shape of the sides a little. 20160602_170640[1].jpg 20160602_170631[1].jpg
    And yeah I will need to go to the DIY store and get new supplies to redo the strapping system. Hopefully I can find some D- rings or very small plug buckles. The other DIY store I went to had neither.

    Thanks for all your nice thoughts and suggestions! I really appreciate them!! :lol:




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  16. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Ok I just pulled the worbla shape off of the beak. Yeah it got a little stuck on the pointy bits and got some tears. The seam that I had closed with glue also had to be re-opened to get the beak out. I'm gluing it together again with acrylic glue to bridge the seam. 20160602_214332.jpg
    I will need to reinforce it from the inside, perhaps some sheet foam will do. Or another piece of worbla but I think foam is more lightweight?

    Somehow the latex beak seems to have some holes where the latex got pooled and never cured. I just discovered that little leak there. 14648970218651444172806.jpg
    Meh. Going to toss it anyways.

    It's my first time working with worbla and it's fun! :D


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  17. LunaticNic

    LunaticNic Hunter

    As far as the tongue goes I might even suggest to see if you can get some of the foam we use to make dreads. If you make a mold for it, I believe it should be light weight, and have a more accurate squishyness to it lol.
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  18. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Hey LunaticNic, that sounds like a good idea. What type of foam do I need to watch out for?

    I'm currently closing gaps between the upper teeth and the sheet foam gums with acrylic glue, which also adds a nice wet shine to it all. 20160602_223616.jpg

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  19. LunaticNic

    LunaticNic Hunter

    As far as I recall that would be Smooth-On's FOAM-iT 8 ... not sure if you are able to get any though where you are at :/
  20. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Thanks mate, yeah smooth-on products are restricted to being sold to the industry, except for the few things that the few cosplay suppliers offer. But perhaps I can read the data sheet and find something similar. I have found a nice supplier of industrial grade materials (not from smooth on but good stuff for boat building), so maybe they have something fitting. I can phone them and ask.

    Thanks for the help, mate :)

  21. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Hooray, I got an update! (sorry for the audio!)

    The worbla jaw is super lightweight and it fits my chin like a glove. This makes adjustment so much easier :) can't wait to reinforce it with PVA!

    20160607_153121[1].jpg 20160607_153113[1].jpg


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  22. HAL1138

    HAL1138 Blooded

    Very exciting build!!!! I'm in love with the eyes. (y)
  23. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Thanks pal! :) I am really excited about the eyes. Eyes make the character :D
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  24. Jmen

    Jmen Hunter

    I am already want to hunt a gryphon! i need a new trophy))) :p
    great build, love it! (y)
  25. Nightdweller

    Nightdweller Blooded

    Omg, you are right! I should make a gryphon skull trophy! :D
    Thank you so much ^_^ I am currently coating the beak with PVA, so nothing new to show right now. But soon :3
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