Kylo Ren helmet from Disney Store mask (not Black Series mod)

Stachenscarfen

New Member
This is my Kylo Ren helmet based entirely on Disney Store's mask, i.e. it's not the popular fusion of the Black Series helmet and Disney's mask.

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Links:
DeviantArt (helmet and lightsaber)
RPF post on my modded Disney Store lightsaber

TL;DR
In short the mask has been made into a whole helmet with a fiberglass dome, the chrome "greeblies" have been improved with finer and "sharper" details, the opening for the visor has been sculpted to make it narrower and more accurate and everything has been repainted.

A quick search shows than no one on RPF has done this before, but if you know someone who has, I would like to know!

About the tutorial
It's long! Every little step required a lot of thought and planning, and doing some things differently or in a different order would have made things more difficult. So there were a lot of details I felt I had to include. However, I still can't cover every decision or insight here. I've learned a few things and some insights are specific to the project while others are more general about material use etc. So I'll be happy if this happens to be of use or inspiration to someone. Of course, I will happily answer any questions.

I've tried to highlight the most important parts in bold for faster reading.

Also, I might not describe every step in the exact chronological order. Some steps can be done independently of others, while some details had to be made in correlation and tried out along the way so they would fit together precisely in the end.

This has been a long-term project with a friend, so I will use "we" in the description even if some steps were done individually.

Important advice
1. Protect your lungs from fumes and dust! When sanding, a dust mask/filter mask works fine. Resins and bondo emit vapors and spray paints emit vapors and particles. So for these I suggest a respirator mask with a combined A2P2 filter. A=protection against vapors, P=particles. Higher number=higher protection.

2. Think carefully, plan several steps ahead and try out new methods and materials before using them on the real prop.

3. When modifying an existing plastic product, you should always sand any surfaces before applying glue, resin or paint to make it stick. Even if the plastic has a matte finish it might stick for a while, but when things eventually start to come off it's too late. It's an important note but I won't repeat it in the description because we did it all the time.

Terminology
The helmet is made up of a few main parts, so here is my terminology for them:
Helmet base: The base part of the helmet consisting of Disney's mask base, and later the added helmet dome.
Greeblies: The part around the eyes that is mainly chrome (or will be).
Inner and outer mouth plates: Go in the front of the helmet.

Materials and tools (the ones I can remember)
Materials:
Polyester bondo (body filler)
Epoxy putty (Apoxie sculpt or Milliput etc.)
Epoxy glue (2 component)
Contact glue
Newspapers and wallpaper glue (for papier-mâché)
Polyester resin (for boat hulls etc.) and fiberglass sheet
Spray bondo
Acrylic plastic 1,5 mm (for laser cutting)
EVA foam 2 mm and 3 mm
Stretchy black fabric
Foam rubber and velcro (for inside padding)

Paints:
Montana spray paints: primer, black paint ("GOLD" class) and matte varnish
Molotow liquid chrome marker
Liquitex high gloss varnish
Black acrylic paint, matte and glossy
Permanent silver marker

Tools:
Respirator mask - very important, see advice above
Dust mask/filter mask (when sanding)
Screwdrivers (for initial disassembly)
Masking tape
Sandpaper 150 and 400 grit
A set of small files
Various sculpting and spackling tools (toothpicks, plastic lids, popsicle sticks etc.)
Hasbro Black Series Kylo Ren helmet (yep, as a template for the helmet dome)
Cheap paintbrushes (for resin work)
Finer paintbrushes
Disposable nitrile gloves (resin might dissolve vinyl gloves)
Mixing-/measuring cups
Pieces of sponge
Laser cutter
Dremel style rotary tool - very useful for cutting or sanding small details with different accessories; a flexible extension shaft is highly recommended for easier handling



Process

Greeblies + helmet base
Unscrewed and disassembled the Disney Store mask. Getting ther greeblies off can be hard but not impossible.

Cut off part of the back of the helmet base, including the "ear flaps", with a rotary tool.

Sanded the holes in the greeblies from behind to get a thinner profile. Used the rotary tool with a spheric pin for this.

Sculpted the edges of the greeblies with epoxy putty to sharpen the edges between the chrome part and the black part.
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The forehead ribs on the greeblies and the corresponding part on the helmet base were kind of rounded in profile, so we sanded them and covered them in bondo with the parts mounted together, then removed the greeblies before the bondo hardened. Then we reattached the greeblies and sanded the surface. This process was repeated to make the ribs and helmet base blend together and get a flat surface.
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Cut the forehead ribs in half, shortened them a bit and glued them together to make them fit more tightly to the helmet base.
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The process of making the greeblies fit tightly on the base was an evolving process throughout the project and required a lot of work and fine tuning. E.g. backing the ribs with putty in the right places to make them sink deep enough but not too deeply, making them wide enough to not have gaps between the ribs and helmet base, but not making them too wide etc.

Sculpting the eye opening
While the proportions of the Disney mask is quite accurate, the eye opening is bigger, just as if a bigger hole has been cut out.

Therefore, we cut out the socket for the visor from the helmet base and glued it onto the greeblies part. This would be a base onto which we would sculpt the part that is "missing" from Disney's mask. However, the lower part of the socket was in the way of some details and eventually had to be removed, with the sculpted parts then being able to hold up itself.
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We sculpted the eye opening with epoxy putty in several steps. When sculpting with putty it's hard to make smooth and accurate surfaces right away, so sanding and additional bondo/putty is often necessary. So we would shape and sand each "layer" accurately before building on top of it, to have full control. Building it in one go would have made some surfaces hard to reach for sanding.
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Filled in scratches with a layer of spray bondo.
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Building the helmet dome
Used my Black Series helmet as a template to build a shell out of papier-mâché (strips of newspaper dipped in wallpaper glue). We protected the BS helmet with plastic wrap.

First did 4 layers of paper.

Shrunk the shell a bit by cutting out a ~3 cm wide wedge from the top of the head to the base of the neck and taped the edges together.

Then four more layers of paper. Using tape was a mistake because the glue didn't stick to the tape, which created air pockets that we had to remove later (see below).

Trimmed the edges of the shell. The last layer of paper wrapped around the edges to keep the layers together.

All the helmet's bumps and the 90° indents on the sides were added to the shell. (Would be hard to cut out later.) The surface would eventually be smoothed but if the whole shell is askew it can't be fixed later.

Glued the shell onto the helmet base and masked it inside and out (against resin).
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Reinforcing the dome
Next, we reinforced the shell with resin and fiberglass on the inside. It's good to go through the process in your head so you have all the necessary things at hand, know how to mix resin and hardener, won't spill chemicals etc. Some things to have at hand:
Respirator mask
Protective eyewear
Gloves (e.g. nitrile gloves) and mixing cups that won't be dissolved by the resin
Measuring cups
Popsicle sticks etc. for mixing
Pre-cut strips of fiberglass
Newspapers etc. for covering your workspace
Paper towels
Cheap paintbrushes

We brushed resin onto the shell, inside and outside. Then we laid fiberglass strips in place and soaked them with the brush. Some overlap is good. It's easiest to do one layer and let it harden, then go for another layer at a later time. We did 2 or 3 layers, with an extra layer of resin with no fiberglass. We left a 5 mm distance between the fiberglass and the edge of the shell to avoid having to trim any protruding fiberglass (I've heard bad things about fiberglass dust). There were still many sharp fibers sticking out (red marker) but the inside would be covered with foam anyway.
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To be continued...
 
Last edited:

Stachenscarfen

New Member
Part 2

Shaping the dome
Getting the dome smooth was basically about covering it in bondo, sanding it smooth, putting more bondo where it still wasn't smooth and repeating into infinity. I'm really happy Kylo's helmet doesn't have 100% straight lines everywhere.
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Some details were also made using epoxy putty (grey). It's important to get a distinct angle between the brim and the rest of the helmet, so it doesn't blend together. We also bondo-ed the inside of the brim to make the edge uniform in thickness.
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Like I mentioned, there were air pockets inside the papier-mâché shell, which created several "soft spots". In these spots we cut out an area with the rotary tool, removed the newspaper down to the fiberglass layer, then filled it with bondo or epoxy putty. Also, several times we sanded down to the newspaper layer. These spots got the same treatment, except in the forehead-to-back-neck-grooves, because it wouldn't be that exposed and the spray bondo would fill it in nicely.
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When the helmet had a nice shape, we used the rotary tool and small files to make all the little dents and scratches on the dome. We used references from the Anovos and Propshop helmets for this.
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Forehead crack
Covered the gap in the forehead with bondo and sculpted it with a toothpick before it hardened.
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Then sanding and smoothing the edges, and making adjustments with epoxy putty and the rotary tool.
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Little triangular piece under the ear flaps
This part was sculpted before the dome
, because the space would be too narrow to sculpt it with the dome in place. However, it was removed and then glued in place after the dome was finished. It evolved alongside the greeblies to make them fit together without gaps. For example, the greeblies could be fitted onto the helmet base while the putty was still soft and it would help sculpting the putty into the right shape.
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Back to fitting the greeblies on the base
And the work continued...

The ribs on the greeblies don't stand out very much from the corresponding ribs on the helmet base along the forehead, but as they continue to the side, they stand out a bit more. So we used putty to give the ribs a proper thickness, both on the helmet base and greeblies.
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Making the rough surface on the dome and mouth plate
This step required a lot of testing before applying it to the helmet and even then it felt unpredictable and experimental.

What we did was to cover the surface in a thick layer of spray bondo, then dab with a sponge before it hardened. The surface would smooth out again if we stopped too early, and working too long would turn the bondo into sticky threads. The working time was about 10 seconds so we had to nail that window. It was also difficult to recreate the same look on the bumpiness in every test.

In the end, the spray bondo got sticky and small bits of sponge came off onto the helmet, which we could pick out. The surface didn't look perfect and I'm not exactly sure how we solved it, but I think we gave it a thin extra layer of spray bondo to smooth it out a bit.
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The mouth plate was sanded and got some sharper details with putty before spraying it.
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To be continued...
 

Stachenscarfen

New Member
Part 3

Painting the helmet base and mouth plates
Here we used Montana spray paints. We used their universal primer, GOLD paint and matte varnish (GOLD is the classification, not the color). We made tests with matte and semi-gloss varnish but the semi-gloss was too glossy.
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Whichever spray paints you use, I think it can take some practice to get accustomed to using the paints and their properties. For example avoiding getting a sandy surface texture, which easily happens if you let the paint dry for a few seconds and add another layer which doesn't fuse with the underlying layer but instead makes a layer of individual droplets. Also, I've found that Montana GOLD can easily be scratched for a long time after hardening, even after varnish is applied. It was a long time ago, but the paint is fully cured now and we have been careful when handling the helmet. I don't remember the exact procedure but I think it's good to let the helmet rest in room temperature a few days between applying primer, paint and varnish, to give the layers time to cure.

We took care to follow the instructions on the spray can (waiting 2 minutes between coats etc.) Between painting and varnishing, we added weathering in the bumps and scratches with a permanent silver marker, so it would be sealed by the varnish.
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Unfortunately, we experienced an issue warned by Montana on their website: lifting paint. Montana's Tech sprays & effects brochure says "For 4th coat or more, wait 24 hours before applying to avoid the risk of lifting paint." Because of the helmet's geometry we sprayed it many times from different angles to cover all details and surfaces, meaning that the paint got generally quite thick, even if we only applied three coats (with a few minutes between). What happened was that after painting and varnishing, we noticed the paint detached and rose up from the grooves on the helmet dome. It was still flexible, so it didn't crack and could be depressed again into the grooves. But it cured eventually and running a fingernail through the grooves would crack the paint. It's barely visible but still an annoyance that it's not a solid paint job. So resting time between coats is recommended!

Since the helmet would be painted all over, it was a bit difficult to handle. We used a cardboard stand so the helmet wouldn't touch any surface when curing. We also mounted a steel wire so the helmet could be held upside down suspended mid-air so we could spray the whole helmet including the inside of the brim. Otherwise, if an area is hard to reach you might not spray directly on the surface and get unwanted spray dust on it, or you might spray too much to make sure it's covered, which gives the risk of lifting paint.

You might not spray directly on areas that won't be visible, but they will still get covered in spray dust, even deep in the dome. So it's recommended to mask all those areas. It's not a big deal to have dust in non-visible areas but it can start to flake, which can be annoying.

The inner mouth plate was sanded and both mouth plates were primed, painted and varnished.
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Fitting the side flanges
Made a cardboard template. Scanned, made a vector file for laser cutting. Laser cut in acrylic plastic. Sanded it and glued a plastic sheet (plastic lid or such) behind the grooves.
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Primed, painted, varnished like above.
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Adjusted the helmet base a bit to make sure the helmet base, greeblies and side flanges fit together neatly.
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Glued it onto the helmet base with epoxy glue. (It's not bent in any way.) Filled in gaps and reinforced with epoxy putty. Also used putty to thicken the edge. Painted the putty with acrylic paint (with a brush). We made a mixture of glossy and matte paints to get the right glossiness (but it's still more matte than the other paint).
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I'm not sure why we didn't attach this before painting the helmet but maybe because we thought it would be hard to spray paint it all the way into the corner if it was already attached.

Painting and finishing the greeblies
After attaching the side flanges we used some putty to make the greeblies sit tighter to the flanges.
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We made the chrome effect with Molotow liquid chrome, which comes in the form of a marker. One 4 mm marker was enough for doing some tests to get familiar with it, and painting the greeblies.

Molotow's chrome has a good chrome effect, much better than most chrome sprays it seems, but it has some properties making it a bit more difficult to handle. It's quite thick and remains quite soft after hardening, so it's easy to make dents in it, and it's not very rub resistant. The paint cures quite fast, and then it won't fuse with new paint so drawing on top of it or right next to it will create visible sections. So it's good to plan ahead how to cover an area. Also, I've heard the paint can't be masked; it's too thick and sticky so if the chrome overlaps onto masking tape it will ruin the paint when you pull off the tape.

They say silver paint generally gets a better shine when painted on a black surface. However, we didn't want to add extra layers to avoid scraping off paint when pushing the ribs into the helmet base. That's also why we avoided putting chrome in areas that wouldn't be seen, beacuse the paint is so thick. Not sure if it made a difference but it worked well this way. And since the chrome can't be masked we would still have to paint black on the greeblies afterwards to fix the edge between the black and chrome.
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The ribs would have some larger scratches; instead of painting over the chrome we left the scratches un-chromed to give a recessed effect.

Varnishing can ruin the chrome effect but we found that Liquitex high gloss varnish does a good job. But you still need be careful and not touch the chrome too much.

After chrome and varnishing we brushed on some black acrylic. We tried to match the helmet's bumpiness on the ribs around the eyes because they're "supposed" to be the same part as the helmet base. Weathering on the chrome was done with black acrylic.

Some of the holes in the greeblies are supposed to be half-filled with black. At this point we backed the holes with cut-out bits from leftovers of the Disney mask, as they are slightly curved and of appropriate thickness.
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Drilled some air holes. Not sure if they do much since there is fabric in front of them but we might install fans at some point that either draw air from these holes or just circulate air inside the helmet.
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We backed the greeblies with a stretchy fabric, I think it's cotton spandex. We tried to find the blackest, least reflective and least textured fabric. In some holes the fabric has to align with the helmet base, so instead in those places we glued fabric to pieces of 3 mm EVA foam (again, made sure to fit underneath the greeblies) and glued them onto the helmet base. We used a glue that wasn't too fluid and only pressed lightly so the glue wouldn't bleed through the fabric.
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Assembling the helmet
The idea was to glue the greeblies onto the helmet base but in the end they snap so tightly onto the base we felt that was enough, you just might have to occasionally push in the ribs a mm or so in a few places. And the little rods on the mouth plates can just be stuck into the corresponding holes on the base and fit with fricition.

Inside and visor
Covered the inside of the helmet with 2 mm EVA foam to make it look nicer and cover up the fiberglass. We used contact glue for this. The rectangles on the side were for mounting a circuit board and battery for a voice changer (we use the Velleman MK171) but the speaker came too close to the microphone so the feedback loop was unavoidable. Instead, we will use a separate microphone headset and the circuitry, battery and speaker will be in a box on the chest.

The inside was padded with foam rubber. Instead of an even layer, we had to try out pads in different positions and thicknesses until the helmet wouldn't wobble on the head. The pads attach with velcro, which is glued with contact glue onto the pads and EVA foam respectively.
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We kept the visor because we haven't found any good see-through fabric yet, and it also gives more visibility than fabric.

The curve of the visor doesn't match the curve of the eye opening anymore, so we bridged the gap with 3 mm EVA foam covered in black fabric, which was glued onto the visor. (The visor is upside down in the picture.) We also cut off part of the visor's rim so it wouldn't collide with the wearer's forehead. The protruding foam sort of grabs the inside of the helmet at the top and bottom, but two foam cubes were also glued in place to sort of wrap around two rods from the original mask to keep the visor in place.
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The Disney mask comes with a rubber nose rest which is simply threaded onto an existing rod in the helmet.

Epilogue
That's it for the helmet!

We also did a display stand of lasercut acrylic and a clear plastic tube. The helmet rests on an appropriately sized wire spool.

Looking back, I wonder if it was worth spending all this time on one prop. I'm very satisfied, apart from a few details, but it feels like the kind of project that you have to do well, or not at all. Smoothing the helmet, sculpting all the details and making everything fit together couldn't be done half-well, so it's not like we could have stopped halfway through and say "this is good enough". It's a prop with many details and specific proportions, so in the near future I will probably take on a project where lower efforts can still produce acceptable results.

It's hard to estimate the time we spent on this. We worked on it only on weekends and school breaks every now and then, and there were periods when we didn't work on it very much but I would say it was our main project for a total of four years. (In which time we also planned a bit on sewing the costume and worked a bit on the lightsaber.)

What consumed the most time was shaping the greeblies and the dome, so perhaps attaching Disney's mouth plates to a Black Series helmet might be more worth your time, but I think this method gave a better result overall.

(I just realised we could probably have attached the Black Series' dome on the Disney mask instead of making a new one, which might have saved us a lot of time. I don't remember if we considered that during the project.)

Oh well, if you made it this far and still have questions, I will be happy to answer them.
 

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