Cosplay – Nova

Formerly known as ‘Master Skin Nova’, now called ‘Elite Agent’ from Heroes of the Storm (2015); it was something that took me two years to build. I started building Elite Agent in mid of 2018 and was able to complete this masterpiece in July 2020. When it came to BlizzCon, I wanted to do something that looked outstanding in the cover poster. The idea was to do something that stood out in the faded halls of the convention and caught the audience’s eye. This also gave me exposure to working on armors and experiment with light installations.

cosplay

Worbla was not a smooth texture to work with, therefore my preference was working with an EVA foam which was considerably easier to work with. As this was my first time working with EVA foam, I knew I had to face my obstacles while working with it. This was a hard nut to crack. However, with the procedural approach I took, it became very easy to work with the material. To make myself more comfortable with this type of material, I first took the step of working on something small – the armor.

1.    Working on the rifle – A guide for beginners:

A laser cutter was needed to work on this project, mainly the rifle. Again, I had a Full Spectrum Laser, which I was to use for the first time. I got a hands-on experience while working for Nova’s rifle. To visualize the actual rifle and clear the picture in my mind, I crafted a very detailed blueprint. With the help of that, I was able to find out about the thickness of each layer of foam to comprehensively understand the right shape and be able to work on that. Some regions also had to be left vacant for the LED circuit. I also had to create the machine in a way that it was divisible into three parts to make its transportation convenient.

With the addition of a few layers, the rifle seemed to look complete. Space was also left in the middle for the circuit operation. Just as any other machine would work, individual spaces for parts of the gun could also be visibly seen. To ensure the stability of the gun when held, I used high-powered Neodym magnets to keep all the parts attached.

2.    Getting through the rifle’s parts:

Working with the rifle parts was not at all easy. Laser cutting was done for the whole machine and then the parts were assembled just like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. To give it a 3D look, animated LEDs were also structured inside the gun.

3.    Painting the rifle and giving it a dynamic colour:

You might be thinking that the job is done once the rifle parts have been assembled and the whole machine is brought together. But hey, you are forgetting that the rifle needs to be painted as it is BlizzCon (an annual gaming convention) we are talking about! To be precise, what is a gaming event if it does not have all the colors and aesthetics wanted by the audience? Hence, to ensure that the rifle was sufficiently colored, I used up paints and acrylics to give it a final and neat look. Hmm, take a look, doesn’t the rifle look amazing?

Dynamic colors

4.    The main step – Nova’s body armour:

Moving on to the main step, creating Nova’s armor – the most challenging yet the most exciting and fun part of the whole Nova journey. It was very difficult and tiring to plan the whole image and patterns on the PC as the armor was very complicated. However, some work had to be done to ensure that no problems arise later on. This was a very time-consuming activity, to say the least, but it proved to be very helpful later on.

Working with the gun was mostly simple work as the structure is usually flat, but when it came to the armor, there were a lot of bends needed. Moreover, reshaping also had to be done, which also brought about changes in the measurement of the pieces. After the pauldrons were done, I again used up the LED strips which were placed inside. My next attempt was to cut and draw traditionally for the remaining parts as it was a good option.

· Taking measurements for the foam:

To take accurate measurements for the foam, I wrapped my abdomen in kitchen foil and duct tape. When they were fixed on the body, I cut the whole thing out and traced it on the foam. One of the perks of using foam as a raw material for armor is that it is user-friendly and the patterns or the design on foam can be cut very easily. It was very easy to cut and shape the foam with heat as a low-thickness foam was used.


Once the small details were added, the next task was painting. Just as is the case with Nova’s costume, I also added a round hollow at the back of my costume which became the center for LED circuits.

5.    Shin armor:

measurements

Taking measurements for the shin armor as you can imagine wasn’t an easy feat. This was because the foil wouldn’t stay in one place obviously and each time a trial measurement was taken, it would differ. The design was also uneven to begin with, hence making it a daunting task. To keep things under control, I again took the help of a paper. With that, I made a rough design, cut it out and taped it to match it with the foam and get a perfect shape for it.

The foam was very flexible and could be easily stretched while the red acrylics (used for lightning) were very stiff and wouldn’t stay in one place. Therefore, to keep the shape intact, I used up wiring on the foam. For this very purpose, digital RGB LED strips were placed inside the foam to make it stay in one place. The foam was later covered with packing material to give it a good shape. After placing an acrylic on it, it was finally covered with an orange foil on top.

The LED wires were then fused until a plug was used to connect them to the power source.

6.    Bracer:

Getting done with the body and shin armor wasn’t enough. True, it meant that most of the job is done, but what was remaining after that was the bracer which would complete the final look. For the bracer same steps were repeated as was the case with the shin armor: taking arm length, cutting the design, taping it, and then matching it perfectly to the foam.

7.    Building the final circuit:

The completion of armor parts implied that the mechanism to power the LED circuit should be accounted for. Several plugs were used to connect the LED strips of the armor with the final circuit. Moreover, several switches can also be used to control the lights. These switches can play the role of on/off and for switching between animations.

final circuit

It is better if the armor parts are controlled by one source. That saves you from the frustration of hiding many batteries inside the costume. Only one thing which could not be avoided was the wiring; it had to be strung up together inside the costume.

8.    The most interesting part – the bodysuit:

Coming down to the most interesting part – I’m now talking about the bodysuit. Using the example of a basic superhero costume (muscles, shins etc.), I crafted a design for Nova’s top bodysuit. The next task was to search for a fabric painting company. A sample of first test print was done to make sure that the colors were right. The bodysuit template file was sent to the company and in a matter of few days, the print came out. This was a wonderful feeling, to see a dream come into reality! All the hard work, tiring efforts and sleepless nights for two years had finally paid off!

There were slight differences in the measurement of the bodysuit with my body and it seemed to be loose from a few places, rather than fitting tightly. To solve this issue, the bodysuit was sent for fitting and once it came back after 2-3 days, it was fitting perfectly!

Body Suit

9.    Closer to the end – The ponytail and helmet:

Once the bodysuit was done, doing Nova’s ponytail was a real challenge. To visualize the ponytail, it wasn’t suitable to use the computer. Hence, it is better to take help from a 3D artist who provides a 360-degree view of the front and back style of the ponytail. The helmet must also be considered. Nova’s helmet has a detachable front piece and there is a proper attachment for the ponytail. This must be accounted for in the 3D model to get a clear picture when you are doing it in real.

For the helmet, you’ll be needing a transparent visor. The acrylic that you will be pasting on the visor should be of a dark color. As for the visor, you can 3D print it (an expert may be needed for that). Once the visor is available, the next step is to paste the acrylic on the visor. This requires a lot of hard work and will be very time consuming. Therefore it is suggested to have 2 to 3 people alongside to make the task appear relatively easy and save up on your time rather than spending hours doing it.

The acrylic needs to be heated up in the oven so that it gets pasted evenly over the visor. It will take a few seconds to cool down before completely settling. The next bit was doing the ponytail. The ponytail in the game lights up from top to bottom with each ring. Around 25-30 rings would suffice for the ponytail, each having different diameters. For enhancing their light effect, LED strips would be placed on them. As you can perceive, ring after ring would light up as is seen in the game.

3D model

That’s all folks, you’re done:

Well, that was about it. You are officially done creating your own Nova costume (exciting, isn’t it?). To be honest, you can customize it according to your needs and preferences but make sure to stay true to the original Nova form. Creating a Nova cosplay, as indicated in the steps above, can be a very daunting task. But of course, it will amount to something very rewarding for you and you can use the costume throughout your lifetime.