Step-By-Step Cyborg Full Head Mask from EVA foam

This is a follow-up of sorts to my earlier post (cyborg 2) which has some other pictures of this mask being worn. I recently went through some old photo folders and found several pictures I’d taken during the build for this mask so I thought I’d do a quick tutorial on it. This was a quick build, it was the first time I’d used this thin EVA foam, and I did it mostly without any sort of plan, so it’s not perfect, but you should be able to see how I did it and improve on this for your own designs.

Materials list:

  • EVA foam (yoga mats, something like 5 or 10mm, or both)
  • OPTIONAL: I used some EVA floor mat panels along the front of the throat, since this is for Airsoft).
  • PVA glue
  • Hot melt glue
  • Strip of wide elastic (1″ or wider) long enough to wrap around the neck.
  • Tissue paper/news paper/ paper mache material of your choice
  • cardboard (any type)
  • mesh fabric
  • OPTIONAL: Steel mesh for the face protection if you’re making this for Airsoft
  • Silver Chrome rattlecan automotive paint
  • Spray primer
  • Spray clearcoat of your choice.
  • Black acrylic (or red and brown if you want to do something like the red one)
  • Old wires, tubes, pipes, cable tidies,

Tools list:

  • Sharp craft knife (A knife sharpener is really handy)
  • Scissors
  • Hot melt glue gun
  • Heat gun (or hairdryer might work for this)
  • needle and thread / sewing machine
  • OPTIONAL: Aviation Snips (or any other tool you have for cutting wire mesh)
  • Paintbrushes – something big and soft for doing washes
  • Water
  • Paint mixing something – For this a small jar or cup will work fine.

False Starts

Not all builds go to plan, but it’s not often I take photos of the things that go wrong, in this case I did, and here it is! This mask was intended to be the base of the face. I simply built a crude cardboard mask on top of a polystyrene head and covered it in PVA glue paper mache to give it some stability – however it came out far too flat and I realised that it wouldn’t look enough like the cyborg I was going for… you all know the one.

Let’s try that again.

This time I got several reference pictures of the T-800 skull and started again. The objective here was to make a solid base layer that I could simply glue the foam to. It didn’t need to be pretty, just needed to have the right sort of shape. Again, paper mache to bring it all together and form a solid surface (which would also come into play later when painting it). You can use anything you’re comfortable with, you can even use the EVA foam itself to make this, however I wanted to make a really sturdy base since this was for Airsoft, so I figured the cardboard base layer would serve a double purpose. Later on I ended up just putting a whole panel of mesh behind the whole face anyway, so this wasn’t really as necessary. However you do it, just make something vaguely skull shaped and you’re good to go!

A Mesh Hood to hold it all.

I made a simple hood from this mesh fabric (it’s the stuff you get in sportswear and things). I accidentally bought wayyyy too much of it for a project a while back and I discovered it makes a great base material for mask hoods since it’s really light, stretchy, and the holes mean it’s well ventilated. This is much better than the old cheap cotton mix fabric I’ve used before.

The hood was made by eye, I simply used scrap paper to rough out a paper pattern that fit over the dummy’s head, then shrank it a tiny bit, then used that to cut and sew the mesh fabric hood parts. This doesn’t have to be neat at all, it just has to have a vaguely hood shape, hole for the face… basically it’s vaguely head-shaped bag sewn to another bit of fabric that goes over the shoulders.

Around the throat I added a loop of wide elastic (you can see it in the pics below where I add the EVA foam to the hood, it’s the black band), this is to keep the hood pulled in around the neck without having to do any fancy sewing, and it gives it a bunch of flex for getting the thing on and off and holds it nicely in place. This needs to be loose enough that it’s not at all constricting around the wearer’s throat, and you only need to sew it in place in a few spots (because you want it to be able to flex).

Build the face.

Once the basic frame of the face was established, I simply cut out bits of EVA foam from a Yoga mat (about 5mm thick I think) and used hot melt glue to stick them to the framework. I used a heat gun to bend and shape them to curve them as smoothly as possible.

To do the panel lines and the teeth I simply used a VERY sharp craft knife (always essential when working with EVA foam or it snags and pulls) to cut about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through the foam, then gave it a few quick passes with the heat gun. This shrinks the surrounding foam a bit and opens up any cuts you have made in the surface.

Experiment on scrap foam to see how much heat you need to apply to get the effect you want. You’ll find that the thickness of the foam (and the exact type) will alter this a little bit, so it’s always best to test first.

Making it a full head.

When the face part is done, glue it securely to the hood. I just used hot melt glue (lots of it). At this point I also tuned it inside out and glued the steel mesh panel inside the whole face – the face is full of holes and made from relatively thin materials, so I wanted to make sure the wearer was fully protected. I did this with much swearing and hot  glue again.

After that I added a top part of EVA foam, carefully cut and shaped with the heat gun to form the top of the skull. I really wanted to get this as smooth and seamless as possible to make it look cool. There’s no reason you can’t do this is sections, the great thing about a cyborg is that adding panel lines in where you’ve butted up two EVA sections can easily be worked into the overall design.

Once the face was securely in place and the top of the skull was glued on I worked downwards and back from the face filling in the panel details. I just made these up, adding panels in where I thought they looked good. The only consideration where is that you want to aim for symmetry on the left and right sides of the head. A little bit of asymmetry is good too since there might be different panel lines and functional parts, but the overall shapes need to look similar – unless you’re going for a cyborg that’s all about asymmetry (like the borg!). You can clearly see here that I’ve left a lot of space between the sections of EVA foam, this is for ventilation and to allow the mask to move as it’s pulled on and off the actor’s face, and also these masks are usually worn by different people in different games, so I tried to make sure it had some give in the design. There’s no reason your mask can’t have smaller gaps (or no gaps), as long as you remember how it needs to go on and come off the person wearing it you can always build to those specifications. This one is intended to be simply pulled on, there’s no seams or openings other than the neck hole, so everything from the mid-point of the head down needs to be able to expand outwards enough to pass a head through it.

As I moved down the head, I glued on some wires and a cable tidy that looked a bit like the pipes coming from the T-800’s neck. Doesn’t matter what these are, anything you think fits with your cyborg style (or none at all). I glued them to the backs of the EVA panels, then when that was dry I glued the panels to the mesh hood, that way your wired and things are nicely sandwiched.

Make sure to leave the elastic strip around the neck enough clearance to expand nicely. Remember not to glue too much to it (I only glued things to/over it at the points where it’s sewn to the hood itself.) Along the front of the throat you’ll see some black panels, these are the much thicker EVA floor mat material. They’re there basically to protect the wearer’s throat for BB’s.

Painting and finishing.

Once the construction was done I gave the whole thing a good coat of primer, then a coat of the automotive Chrome rattlecan spray. Once that was good and dry I mixed up a very light wash of black acrylic and water and liberally spread it all over the mask and left it to move around on its own. You can see in the second picture below that effect. I added a tiny bit more using a thicker wash to the bits I wanted extra detail in, mostly the panel lines, and that was the painting done.

More painting

At this point, the customer decided they wanted it to be red because they already had the silver one I did before and this was the rival one, so they needed a way for the teams to identify them quickly. He suggested doing it red, like the flesh had just been exploded off.

For this I mixed up a red/brown blood-ish colour in a relatively thick wash and liberally coated everything in it. Left to dry it gets a really cool mottled look.

I then sprayed it with clearcoat and it was good to go. Total build time – I can’t remember, but I think it was only a day or so in total, excluding the drying time for the painting.