Monday, February 8, 2010

Cape Opacity Tests

After a blisteringly painful week or two without internet access (Damn those pesky neighbors for finally figuring out how to secure their wireless modem!!!) I am finally back with a few updates to the progress on the Superman Returns costume.
Not a whole lot to report, but definitely some interesting progress. I did a little poking around online to get some insight into how to best move forward with the cape. My main concern moving forward is about the thickness of the latex. As it stands, I had to go on pretty thick to get the opacity I wanted, though I think due to the way I did it, I ended up going much thicker than I needed. The end result is that the cape is pretty heavy, and doesn’t quite flow like the screen used one that I examined. My goal was to turn to the online community to see if I could get some tips on how to make the latex more opaque when it dries. The stuff I use from Burman Foam tends to dry a highly translucent light brown.

I think my prototype turned out really nicely, though there were a few shortcomings. I got some good advice from a gent named David Pea, who runs Universal Designs up in Canada. They happen to have a license to produce leather wear based on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Be sure to check out their website here.

David posted the following suggestions about materials when it comes to pouring up a cape:

The easiest and most effective way to do this is to tint a 5 gal pale of latex with 1 quart of indoor latex pant, satin base. Dump the whole quart into a 5 gal pale and mix.
The trick will be to find your red base color but I'd expect that you'd need to do a light misting of actual red color on your demolded cape once it's cast up. Latex is not like urethane when it comes to colors, even from a fiberglass mold you may get clouding and shades of your intended color which is why you may need to find a good base match...but then spray the cast cape at the end for the desired color.

A tip on casting it up....I wouldn't use balloon latex...stick with slip latex and stipple in a full coat (tinted as I suggested above) to ensure you dont trap any air-bubbles inside. Then, dump about half a gallon of your tinted latex onto the mold and use a roller to evenly 'paint' it over your stippled coat. Once set, repeat as often as you need for your desired latex thickness. On your last latex coat...try to thicken it to a paste and once you've coated the mold apply your wool backing and lightly press it down using a clean roller. It may take a few days to fully dry but when it does you'll be good to go.

Like I said above, once demolded you 'may' have to lightly mist spray the cape to your desired color unless you find the proper base color, or can mix it yourself but try the indoor latex satin paint trick. It works...

I hope this helps.

I took it to heart, and went down to the local Lowes in order to get my hands on some latex paint. I took a sample of the cape fabric with me, in order to use their fancy schmancy color match system. After a couple different tries, we gave up on that approach. I guess the color matching device was getting reflections off the fabric, or maybe light was passing through it. I’m not really sure what the problem was, but the end result was that I didn’t get the color I wanted. I went and perused the swatches they have in stock, and weirdly enough, I actually found one that was pretty close. It’s not perfect, but for an off the shelf color, it’s pretty close. It’s not quite red enough, and not quite blue enough, but if you did not know any better, you would say this was pretty close. I had them mix me up a small jug of it, just so I could experiment.

I came home and mixed up a little batch of the stuff, and did some experimenting. It actually turned out pretty good. The color definitely dilutes when I mix it into the latex, and the color it dries to is very different than the color the paint dries to. However, I believe that with a little patience and experimentation, I can get a really good color match. The fact that it also really adds to the opacity is really great, and is ultimately what I was after.

Meanwhile, I’m working yet another angle. A friend of mine has volunteered to help me develop the ultimate body suit. He has access to techniques and knowledge that are far beyond my resources, and he is already quite well versed in this angle of the hobby. So he and I have chosen to collaborate on it. My task is to find a good color match for the base. I went down to Jo-Ann’s in the hopes that I could find SOMETHING on the shelf that would come close. I found a couple of fabrics that looked decent when I was in the store, but when I got home, they turned out to be pretty far off. I think the plan will be to simply send my pal the swatch I have of the real suit, and let him take it from there.

Meanwhile, the experiments with the cape continue. Based on the advice of David Pea, I tried a stipple approach to the first coat. I’m not sure if David’s advice was given knowing that I am using a silicone mold, but since this is a technique I have not tried, I’m curious to see what the results will be.

I started by laying down one coat of stipple.

Let it fan dry, then went in and did another coat of stipple. The third coat was brushed on.

According to the interview I read, the screen used capes had three layers of latex. Boom. There you have it.

Next I brushed on a quick layer and embedded the fabric in it. That’s always the hard part, and it is even trickier when you are doing it on a large scale. As of this writing, I am still waiting for that fabric to dry.

In the mean time, and since I am on a roll, I decided to FINALLY do some patch work on a chest emblem I had poured up many moons ago. This one came together and had a solitary air bubble on the back side that needed patching. I poured up a little amount of urethane, and dripped it in. Voila!

That’s it for now. No updates on the boots, though I have some things cooking. Now that I have internet access back, I should probably get around to sending out my monthly “tickler” emails to a few of my sources and see what comes back. That’s all for now folks.

No comments: