Cheap Armour Builds

Cheap Armour Builds

For normies, they think armour cosplays are just cheap plastic or cardboard. But for those of you who has just started getting into cosplay, you quickly discover that it's anything but cheap.

Not long ago, I've posted a facebook status to ask who would like an articlue on building cheap armour. I must confess, that was more or less the equivilent of a clickbait. Basic armour builds does not actually cost that much. It's what we do on top of it that adds to the final price. Here are some examples of what I mean:


  • Electronics (lights, programmable boards)
  • Fabric (Leather, fur, silk)
  • Paints (Spray, quality)
  • Labour
  • Resin
  • Silicone for casting
  • Tools (sander, saws)
  • Acrylic
  • Tubing for details


and the list goes on.


Many people use worbla to strengthen their foam builds and that steeply increases the cost. Yes it will help your builds last longer and might look shinier but it is not necessary. It's for people who has spare cash and/or would like to go a step further. A similar finish can also be achieved without worbla. Personally, I only use worbla to strengthen hard wearing pieces like shins, boot covers and arm guards.


An alternative I've recently been trying out is resin coats. For £44, it's enough for me to cover 2 full sets of armour + more. As a comparason I will need two of the largest sheet of worbla to cover all of my armour and that would cost around £56.

As a breakdown for tranparancy, I have listed the materials needed for a bare minimum build for basic armour. By basic, I mean something like Iron Man, Baymax or anything that's head to toe in armour. All prices are taken on 31st of January 2017.


What you will need:

  • £10 x2 - Poly-Props Craft Foam 10mm (Can invest in a roll of 5mm to start with)
  • £12.86/£9.99 - Alpha Thixofix 500ml glue/Hot glue with 25 extra sticks of glue
  • £1 - Box cutter
  • £3.59 - Snap off blades 10 pack
  • £6.97 - 1L PVA Glue
  • £1 - Paintbrushes
  • £4.19 x2 - Hycote Grey Primer
  • £1.90 - pack of 10 Quick release buckles
  • £1.42 - 1m webbing strap to go with the buckles (you may need more)
  • £5.50 - pack of 100 A4 250 gsm card for templating
  • £??? - Paint (you can spend as much as you want. Spray paints are more expensive but gives smoother finish, acrylic paints tend to be cheaper but more time consuming to apply)


If you already own some of that, of course the total will be reduced.


Grand total: 58.43 + paints

Here are some tips that may or may not help:


Buying Equiptment and Materials:

High costs does not mean better quality. Do shop around. If you're using puzzle mats/garage mats, you'd be surprised how much you save if you were to scroll through the pages on Ebay. I used to think I was better off buying the one £19.99 because I thought the one for £10 was a worse quality. I could not be more wrong; they were exactly the same. Another thing is to work out what you actually get. It might sound stupid but I've lost count of the amount of times I proved people wrong by simply doing the maths was unbelivable. For eaxmple, someone I know were buying 8 puzzle mats for £12 and I was buying 6 for £10. My mats were ever so slightly bigger per piece and it worked out that 6 mats actually covered a larger area than the 8 mats. So not only did I save £2, I also had more mat.


Don't buy shit quality foam. I started off buying camping mats from Millets. It was extremely rough but it was crazy cheap especially when it's nearly always on offer. The quality was awful. It was rough and cost me a lot to smooth out my builds. The picture on the below shows the difference between the foam quality. Sometimes poundland yoga mats may seem attractive but just plan ahead of what you want to build. Poundland mats are cheap but also flimsy so you will need to reinforce it by adding multiple layers for it to hold a structure.


Colour of the foam matters too. Yes, you're going to seal it and paint over it. But have you thought a little ahead to the repairs stage? When you wear a foam armour out, you'll no doubt damage it. You can probably get away with not repainting things if your base foam is of a dark colour. For example, bright blue foam will stand out like a sore thumb if the paint chipped from a fallout power armour. Grey or black foam will be significantly less noticible.


Left - my first build with camping mats

Right - My more recent build with Poly-Props craft foam.



When you're templating your chosen design, like I always say, the amount of research you do is important. I found that it also helps to draw out your chosen design, even if it's extremely rough sketch. This lets me understand how each piece is broken down into simple and basic shapes.


If you're not onto the stage where you can template your own design, feel free to look for pepakura files online. This might be difficult to get the hang of but well worth looking into.


If you have the time, do draw out all your designs on card/paper before and have a "test fit" before cutting it out from foam as this will reduce your margin of error thus saving foam.



You only need just enough glue to cover the surface. Same goes with hot glue. Too many people use excess amout of glue leaving shitstains everywhere. See the [CLEANER SEAMS] article for more info. Excess glue stack up too. Being a litte more careful will save at least 3-4 glue sticks for the whole build. Also if you're purchasing your glue gun, make sure you read the reviews. Some glue guns like to pre-cum everywhere. This loses more glue than one may think.



When you're using PVA, you only need to apply thin layers. Thin enough so it does not drip when you leave it. 3 layers will do. 3 liters of PVA glue can seal about 4 outfits.



I would definitely not recommend skipping the primer layer. This will highlight any imprefections in the build and it's extremely easy to fill and sand gaps. This also creates a layer where the paint can stick on so it does not peal.

For paint, I persoanlly prefer using spray paint as it is a lot quicker to apply and gives a more even finish with minimum effort. I usually get Halfords spray paint over any others (like hycote) for the top layers. Hycote is fine for the primer layer but I don't have the balls for buying the cheaper paints for the top layers and risking shitty quality for the finish. Halfords being a big brand with a huge selection of car paints, I trust the quality of the paints would be good enough even though it's a little expensive.

Alternatively, I often use acrylic paint from Hobbycraft or The Range (which ever is closer as they have basically the same selection of paint). It just takes a little longer to paint your layers since if you try to do it too quickly, it will leave brush marks on top. This will significantly reduct your total price too. As a contrast, it would have cost me £28 to paint Championship Zed blue with spraypaint but only £3 for acrylic to hand paint.


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