Friendly Plastic is a form of low-melting-point plastic pellets that you can use at home to create plastic items. The plastic can be re-melted as often as needed, so it is good for situations where you might need to ‘erase’ mistakes and re-work ideas. It is also very strong, so it makes good costume props and armor. However, it does melt at relatively low temperatures, so leaving it in a hot car for several hours can mean the loss of your item. You can embed other items (such as gemstones) into the plastic, and it also holds paint fairly well. Here is a simple walkthrough on how you can use Friendly Plastic to create costume armor, such as what I used for my Gourry Gabriev costume at A-Kon.

 

Step 1: Pattern

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For my armor, I created a pattern out of paper, then traced it, using a Sharpie marker, onto some wire mesh. The wire mesh is useful for holding the overall shape of the armor as you work with it.

 

Step 2: Adding plastic

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When working with the plastic, I filled a bowl about 2/3rds of the way with water, then added a layer of plastic pellets to the bottom. I heated the bowl for 4 minutes, then used a spoon to scoop out some plastic and mold it to the wire mesh forming the base of my armor. If you have one, you can also try filling an electric frying pan about 1/2 full of water, turning it on to one of the lowest settings, and adding pellets as you need them, again scooping them out with a spoon as they get hot enough and turn clear. You can tell that the plastic is soft by the color – white is hard, clear is soft. I liked working with very, very hot plastic, as you can form thinner layers of it that way, but it also hurts your fingers more.

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After completely coating the armor part, the plastic ends up giving the piece a ‘scaled’ appearance – this is due to the plastic cooling as you put it on the mesh, and so not bonding to the new plastic you are adding later. Don’t worry, we will deal with this soon.

 

Step 3: Smoothing

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To smooth out the ‘scales’ on my armor, I used a heat gun – something a bit like a hair dryer, but it puts out more heat. You can find these at most craft or hobby stores, as well as at Wal-Mart, near the glitter and calligraphy section. I heated up a small section of the plastic, then used my fingers to smooth the ‘scales’ together, forming a single part. As I approached a smooth piece, I would heat up a small, mostly smooth section, then use an acryllic roller (found at craft stores, in the clay section) to roll out lumps. You can fill in dents by heating the dent, putting in some fresh, cool pellets, then heating them up to clear and smoothing them into the part. This is a long, drawn out process, but in the end can give quite good results.

To embed items – use a heat gun to heat up the area of plastic where you wish to embed your gem, hook, or other item. After the plastic is clear, gently push the item into the plastic as far as you wish it to go. As the plastic cools, smooth it around and/or over the item. Add more plastic on top of the item if needed by microwaving the bowl of water with pellets, putting the heated globs over the item. Use the heat gun to re-warm the old plastic, then merge the new and old plastic together, much like you did to smooth the ‘scales’ of the armor previously in this step.

 

Step 4: Primer

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After completely smoothing the plastic, I painted a primer coat of flat gray on it. I then waited 24 hours for it to dry completely, lightly sanded it to remove any small imperfections, and put a second primer coat on. After another 24 hours, I was ready to paint the primary color of the part.

 

Step 5: Primary color

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Using an airbrush in an outdoor painting booth, I put several coats of my primary color onto the interior and exterior of the armor.

 

Step 6: Border

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Since my armor needed a secondary color as a border completely around the outside, I used masking tape and a plastic bag to protect the primary color, then airbrushed the border color around the outside.

 

Step 7: Final paint

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Finally, after the armor was completely dry, I put several coats of Satin Acrylic Sealent (found in the painting section of most craft stores) to help protect the paint from chipping or rubbing away as I wore it.