Homemade Costume Tutorial: Star Wars C3po

I am so happy with the response to my R2D2 tutorial! It took forever to make but I am glad so many people have found it useful or even entertaining!

Today, I’ll be talking about R2D2’s partner in crime, C3PO. It was a match made in heaven, really. Sophie is so like R2D2 and Dallin really is a lot like C3PO. Once Dallin realized that the Star Wars universe expanded wider than just an Angry Bird app , he couldn’t get enough of the classic Star Wars movies. And after he had confirmed with me that he really would be C3PO for Halloween, he got to work perfecting his droid-walking and mannerisms. He took it quite seriously!

This costume was also perfect in another more symbolic way. Dallin is a cancer patient. He is currently in treatment for leukemia. Diagnosed at 3-1/2 years old and currently about to turn 6, Dallin has had a hard battle to fight, but he has done it bravely and with a smile on his face. The recognized color for childhood cancer awareness is gold (just like pink is for breast cancer). To do my part to spread awareness, I recently started the BE THE GOLD movement in hopes it will start a chain reaction that will eventually lead to  improvements in childhood cancer treatments and even lead to a cure.

The movement aims to make supporting of childhood cancer awareness popular, and even trendy, with the help of social media. You can learn more about the movement at the BE THE GOLD website and/or like us on the BE THE GOLD Facebook page. So, as you can see, gold is definitely important to our family!

Now back to the tutorial.  At the time of the making of this costume, Dallin was about 4ft tall and 55lbs. Big boy for still being 5 years old! I based my costume off of a quick tutorial I found online and made a few modifications. There are definitely things I would do differently next time, if I had to do it again, but all and all, it turned out pretty great.

(Left pic: Dallin understood that I was preparing a tutorial for his costume as I made it. He insisted I take a photo of this to include in the tutorial.

I only wish I would taken a picture of it after Dallin made the addition of the word “BEST” at the top.) :)

Materials Needed:
Gold metallic spray paint
Long brads
Plastic Styrene sheets*
Expanded Metal lathe (a.k.a. diamond lathe)
Metal cutters/shears
Duct tape
Old sneakers
Black thermal underwear/pajamas
Black gloves
Black socks
Old Tupperware lids
Corrugated plastic
C3PO latex mask
2 plastic take-out beverage lids
Industrial strength Velcro (Heavy duty sticky back Velcro)
Brown Marker

(* Found in fabric or craft stores as blank stencil making plastic. It is a thin translucent flexible plastic that comes in large, about half a poster board size, sheets)

Step 1.) Find your C3PO head.

Mask after being stuffed with grocery bags.

As with the R2D2 costume, finding this piece of the puzzle is essential. I did my best to try to work out a more homemade approach to the head, but after contemplating paper mache and cardboard models, I finally decided on finding a ready-made latex mask. I was able to find this used one on Ebay for $5 INCLUDING shipping! But I also found an Amazon store that carried them for a reasonable price.

This mask was well used and a little worn. I made sure to order it about a month before Halloween so it would get here in plenty of time. A few days later, when it arrived, I found it was squished really flat.

To remedy this, I stuffed it tight with plastic grocery bags and set it aside. Letting it sit there undisturbed and reshaped by the bags did wonders in restoring its rounder shape. By Halloween, it was almost perfect.

Step 2.) Make a paper pattern.

First draft of paper templates.

There was really no way around this step. Making this draft paper pattern included plenty of trail and error. I used leftover scrapbook paper and newspaper to figure out a paper template that would be form fitting. It took a few tries to get it close enough. I needed a front chest piece that would join to a back torso piece as well as a circle for the chest plate detail. I also made 2 upper arm (bicep) pieces (one for each arm) and 2 forearm pieces. Next, I made a front pelvis section and a joining backside piece. Lastly, I made 2 upper leg (thigh) pieces and 2 shin pieces. The easiest to cut, other than the circle detail, was the shin pieces. They were just plain rectangles. The rest of the pieces were more difficult with rounder areas that would help with the curvature of each body section.

Initial sketches

I had to make sure each section had a proper “seam allowance” where the Velcro would be fastening pieces together. I also had to make sure the edges of the torso pieces (near the shoulders and waist) had extra long tab pieces to account for the folding-over step in step #5.

Once I had all the shapes pretty much figured out, I drew the finished shapes onto poster board to make the final template. This step could be optional but I found it really made sure that the shapes were right.

Transferring the worked-out paper template to poster board.

Step 3.) Cutting the final pieces out of plastic styrene sheets.

A few of the final plastic pieces. Arm pieces on the left and pelvis pieces on the right.I did my best to be efficient with my cutting, making sure to budget out the areas carefully to minimize the amount of styrene I needed. The styrene was the most expensive, out-of-pocket material used in any of my Star Wars costumes. I HAD to be efficient to keep costs down. The plastic, though, was easy to cut with regular scissors.

Step 4.)  Making the torso under-pieces.

Cutting the lathe.
I referred to the template often to get the shape and size right.

For this I needed to cut the metal lathe to size (slightly smaller than the torso templates). Out of all the steps, out of all the costumes I made this Halloween, this had to be the most trying. It didn’t take the longest out of all the processes nor was it the most tedious, but it was sure unpleasant. It left my hands with blisters. I really didn’t like working with the stuff. It WAS free though. I was able to get a small scrap piece of the metal lathe for free from a local builder, so that was a win.

I took my completed poster board torso templates (front and back) and did my best to follow each piece as I cut around the lathe. I couldn’t get any marker to show up on the lathe so I had to just eye ball it as I went, double checking I wasn’t getting too small by frequently comparing it to the template.

Step 5.) Covering the metal lathe with duct tape.

Duct taped EVERYTHING.

This step was pretty easy. I just started laying out pieces of duct tape all over, every which way, to completely and totally cover the lathe. I left no area uncovered and even did a double layer of tape on the edges.

Completed torso pieces, back and front.

If I had to do it over, I would try to find a different, less hard-to-cut material… maybe cardboard or just a double layer of the plastic styrene instead of the metal lathe. It did turn out nicely but, boy, I wouldn’t want to do THAT again.

Lastly, I did a preliminary fitting to make sure everything fit correctly. I used scotch tape pieces as temporary fasteners.

I used scotch tape to temporarily hold the pieces in place to check the fit.
Left: comparison between long & standard sized brads. Right: Folded over plastic and brad fasteners.

Once I was satisfied the torso pieces were a good fit, I covered them with the pre-cut plastic styrene torso pieces. I only used brads to fasten the plastic styrene to the torso form at the waist edges (where the back and front meet) and at the shoulder edges (again, where the front and back meet). I just folded over the extra long tabs I left from step #1. I made sure to use long brads rather than the standard size (see pic). The shorter brads would not have gone through all the layers. I used the end of a seam-ripper to CAREFULLY poke a “pilot hole” through all the layers, making sure to miss the metal lathe underneath. After securing the brads in place, I covered the brad prongs with more duct tape, folding over any prongs that stuck out.Step 6.) Cover the torso pieces in plastic styrene sheeting.

Step 8.) Make the front torso detail.Step 7.) Making the back torso detail.

I  used corrugated plastic to make a rectangle shape that fit on the back of the torso and then made 5 smaller rectangles to make the details (see pic). I used E6000 to glue them down and then used more long brads to secure the completed detail in place.

Left: Old Tupperware lids from the thrift store. Right: Close up of completed and painted front detail.

Step 9.) Adding Velcro to plastic pieces and adding leg detail.I used two Tupperware lids (found at my local thrift store), one slightly smaller than the other, to make the circle detail on the front torso. I just put one on top of the other and fastened them to the front torso with more long brads.

I used industrial strength Velcro to fasten the leg and arm pieces to Dallin’s body as well as fasten the completed torso pieces together. (Originally, I painted the torso pieces first but the Velcro adhesive wouldn’t stick very well. I waited to paint the rest of the pieces until AFTER adding the Velcro. The Velcro stuck super strongly to the unpainted plastic.)  Next, I added the knee detail. I used disposable beverage take-out lids and added them to the side of the knees with more Velcro.

Step 10.) Painting everything!

I left the grocery bags in the mask while painting. I used a bent hanger and ice cream pail to prop it up.

Step 11.) Making the hands.Once all the pieces are complete, I used bright metallic spray paint to paint everything, including a small scrap piece to be used later (step #11). I was able to find a used pair of sneakers at the thrift store for $1 and painted those up too.

With the small scrap piece of painted plastic styrene from step #10, I cut 10 small finger pieces (two per finger) and  2 larger palm pieces. I glued these down to the back of a pair of black gloves. This was probably the second easiest part of the whole costume.

Final details on the front torso drawn with a brown sharpie marker.

To add the final touches, I added a few C3PO-esque lines to the front torso with a brown sharpie marker. This was super fast and easy. In fact, I had forgotten this step until right before we headed out the door to go Trick or Treating. It took all but a couple of minutes to complete.Step 12.) Adding the final Torso details.

Step 13.) Proper under clothing and putting on suit.

Dallin wore black thermal underwear/pajamas over another layer of tight fitting pajamas and black socks. It was super cold out that Halloween, so if it was any warmer, we would have skipped the extra layer. Once dressed in all black, I started Velcro-ing on all his pieces. (The pieces Velcro to themselves and/or to each other and NOT to the black thermal underwear.) It was a quick getup in get into. For Trick or Treating, Dallin only wore his mask at the doorsteps, taking it off to walk from house to house.

(Left pic: I took a picture before making the hands, so the gloves are still blank here.)

Like the R2D2 costume, this costume was not super hard to make but did have lots of steps. As for the time it took to make, I worked on this and several more Star Wars costumes over the course of about 3 weeks, off and on. If I only made and worked on this costume, it probably would have taken about 5 days. I haven’t factored a total cost for someone without any existing materials or tools. For me, using materials and tools I already had plus doing my best buying used for what I didn’t have, my total for the entire thing was  $21.50.

Here are some bonus pictures of the finished product:

I hope you all enjoy this tutorial. If you haven’t already, please give us a like on Facebook. Also, if you have a chance, please consider visiting the BE THE GOLD Facebook page and giving a like there as well. I would so appreciate it!To see more photos of the completed C3PO costume as well as the rest of the Star Wars costume family.

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