Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Gem Glow: Light Up Resin Cast Steven Universe Cosplay Gems


Believe in Steven

Steven Universe is Awesome.  And I needed more of it in my face.


But failing to have more of it than they can put out, I decided to try and learn something new by resin casting Gems, and trying to make them glow and see what I could do with different clear casting resins, pigments and silicone moulds.  And this is my first project being heavily lead by 3D printing.
Loads of new stuff!


Super Simple Designs, and no a Digital Kindergarten 
First step, designing the gems in a 3D modelling program.  This is not something I'm good at, but you know, simple geometric shapes that I'm going to put a lot of finishing work in before I make moulds is a great place to start.
I chose 3D printing not because sculpting them by hand doesn't work, but because this guarantees something totally even and perfect shaped, it's not required.

This program is SketchUp, and though not too powerful, is amazing for making nice shapes and simple stuff as a beginner for 3D printing.  I would suggest it to anyone as a place to start. Once your head around the idea of sketches being different from the model you're on your way.
Best thing about 3D printers?  The totally Sci-Fi sounds they make.
Gratuitous 3D printer shot!  I extracted each Gem, scaled them to what I thought would be appropriate for an average human, and then, you know, sliced and printed them.

I use the printers at my local makerspace, So Make It, who are all universally wonderful and taught me everything I know about 3D printing.  If you have a local makerspace, JOIN IT NOW.


Raw prints are not pretty things, they are covered in striations and terror and will have little holes all over them where the filament rebelled against the power of the LulzbotTaz.

It is very rare that on a home 3D printer you'll come out with a finished object or prop that you want to use straight.

3D Printers leave you with so much work to do!
 Now there's the long process of sanding the piece down, then building it up with car body filler, then filler spray and then finer spray paints, sanding it down again all under you're using 1200 grit sand paper, water and spraying it with thing varnish.

That's when you get an object you are happy to replicate that has that glass like surface you can then go on to mould making.

Locked in where it can never escape.
Now we make a mould.  Out of Silicone!

Proper mould preparation is KEY to making a silicone mould and I have been stung a few times recently.  For one, loads of different factors can make silicone just fail to set, just like that, and then you've wasted £30 of material and have a hell of a job cleaning off your master.  For the most part, just follow the instructions on the bottle, but here are some tips to help you out:
  • Allow your master/mould container to degass/settle for at least a day.  After you've put together your mould, varnished the surface a load, applied mould release spray (I use a PVA agent through an airbrush and sometimes Wax), leave it AT LEAST a day for it to settle, all those chemicals can interact poorly and inhibit the silicone.
  • It's called Room Temperature Silicone Rubber (RTV) for a reason.  Make sure the room you're doing the moulding is is at least 20°C or higher whislt you're working with the materials otherwise it may not cure.  As it turns out, if you work in colder temperatures, then try the next day to heat it, that doesn't work.
  • Take care with the tools you use.  Make sure to use fresh plastic cups and clean metal tools, wooden, cheap plastic or paper may have strange and bizarre chemicals in them that inhibit stuff, who knew?

A finished Silicone Mould, not knowing what's ahead of it.
Yay, now that's a silicone mould.  Wash that out a bit and get ready for your first casting.

So, now you mix resin!

I measured out the volume of each mould with water, then marked plastic cups with half that for the 1:1 ratio of the resin, and then noted down the weights each time so I didn't have to keep marking cups and can just work by weight.
Be sure to mix the resin together thoroughly, be sure to work at a decent temperature and be sure to remember that polyurethane pigment is SUPER STRONG and if you use too much you'll end up with something that is completely opaque or almost black.

The Rose Quartz mould takes almost twice the volume of Resin as Amethyst, the undercooked runt.
I had ... problems.

These are my first few pulls from Amethyst.  Disappointing right?
This was because I used the wrong sort of Silicone ... yes, there are loads of types of silicones.  And each of them hate something.
Turns out my silicone hated this type of Polyurethane.  For reference, this Polyurethane needed Addition Cure Silicone rather than Condensation Curse Silicone.  And that's why the moulds above are Yellow rather Pink, it's not a flavour issue ... well, kinda is.

No matter how much I smoosh them together they won't fuse.

Once out of working moulds, I had two wonderful solid gems!  

To get a really nice gloss surface I used you know, really nice gloss varnish.  It is actually Polyurethane Furniture Varnish I use that gives a great tough surface and adds to the glassy look of the gems.

This is the magic in side each gem
Very simple piece of electronics to live inside the glowing version of the Gems.
The single best piece of advice I can give about simple electric circuits like this; Get battery cases with built in ON/OFF switches!  That will save you 100% of your work.

Now, you can either set the little 'unit' in the resin as it sets OR drill a hole in the back after the fact and set it in with hot glue.  
For reference, I now chose drilling as I have not found a great way to position the electronics just immersed enough that it can still be accessed whilst deep enough that it glows nicely.


AND THERE WE HAVE IT!  GEM GLOW.

Lookit!

Lookit the Gems!  I loves them.

It's actually really hard to photograph glowing things properly.

Simply find the best way to attach them for you.  
For me I used Pros-Aide, as I have access to that thanks to all of my other prosthetics work, but any sort of Prosthetics glue will do, or Eyelash glue, or Tit Tape or even Superglue (if you're careful ... don't laugh).


Thanks for reading through this, if you have ANY questions don't hesitate to ask, I'm happy to help you out with any of your projects in the future.


And if you really want one of these gems for your Cosplay here's 15% off for making it the end of the article: BLOGREF01


-Vicki, Armoured Brownies