Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Quest to Make Latex Covered Foam Lekku - #3 covering them in Latex

Quick Links
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces

Ok, so we had a very wet summer - which means very humid. And it didn't get very warm till July here. It's Wisconsin you know.

And my kids were in summer stuff, so I spent lots of time running them around, which means I finally got around to putting the latex on my lekku in July.

To begin with I looked around a lot and chose to do the following:

1. Not to paint my lekku or my skin.
I know that most of you will use body paint, but I am a mom. And I take my kids to conventions and troops. I just don't have time or the patience right now. So I determined that a skin colored lekku was best for me. Remember the body paint doesn't breathe, you have to airbrush it on, and it doesn't come off easy. So, not for me right now.

If you want to paint your lekku, Pam - the Twi'lek goddess - has great suggestions as to brands. I think she prefers Reel Creations, but Custom Body Art has individual colors. And if you want your lekku to match your body paint, just mix the paint in with the latex. The latex will dry a TOTALLY different color then the paint you mixed. I would suggest testing it on a spare piece of foam and your skin to see if the color comes out ok. Let it dry for 24 hours to see it real color.

2. I decided to buy the nice quality latex used on faces. You don't have to do this. But I found a nice flesh tone bottle on sale and it worked great. I chose Ben Nye and I loved it! I got a 32 oz jug and used about half of it.

3. I hit a snag right away. I found that the first coat just soaked in! I decided to just tray one small area. I had to use so much latex, that was discouraging. I decided this was bad, it might take 6 coats and did some more research before proceeding. Less coats = lighter lekku and less pricey latex used. I found a muppet building forum that gave a great tip for sealing the foam so it wouldn't absorb so much latex. Spray it with industrial spray on adhesive. I used the brand 3M - 77 which is pricey. I sprayed two coats and let it dry between each one. The areas I then tested took a lot less latex. Problem solved!

4. I found a nice spot, put down some towels and got a few buckets to hold up my lekku, and went to work. I used old applesauce lunch cups my son loves. They worked great. And when done I poured the unused latex back into the bottle. The latex would dry in the applesauce cup and could be peeled off. And then I reused the cup. I poured small stream of liquid latex on the foam lekku and used either my fingers or a foam brush to "stipple" it on. Brushing it left streaks. So google the term stipple and go for it. Finger brushing works well too, but takes more time. I found the latex wanted to drip, so put it on then go over it and get all the drips. And if you miss a few, it will look great anyway.  See the drip below? Just smooth it out with your finger.

5. I let mine dry and on hot days, that took only an hour. I could do a few coats a day. But I found I couldn't do all sides of it at once this way. If I had attached it to my stand better, it would have been faster. Mine just didn't work well, the latex dripped too much and I didn't want to waste it that pricey liquid latex. So I coated the top part, let it dry then turned it and coated that. It did take longer. Oh, well.

 6. The latex looked awful after the first coat. I felt like I was still using a ton, and worried I wouldn't have enough to finish. It looked pock-marked with a slightly green tint, my foam was green, and it showed through.

7. Imagine my surprise when the second layer went on so easily, and took so little to put on. It dried so smoothly and look amazing! I only put three layers on areas that needed a bit more (to get rid of the green) and seams. Seams I went over quite a bit. But the rest got two. The areas below had two coats. The lighter parts here are just touch ups to go over areas that seemed too green. (my foam was green remember?)

8. Here is an important tip. In warm weather the latex dries quickly and gummed up a lot while putting on the coats. Take time when the liquid latex gets tacky to get a new brush, a new applesauce cup and to "roll' the drying latex off your hands. I did get gummed-up latex on my lekku and it wasn't pleasant to get off. And buy lots of foam brushes or just use your fingers.

9. Here you can see the transition. I had the first coat where I am pointing, and then the second to the left of it. Obviously you can see the seams on the top part are filled with liquid latex waiting to dry. Those did need more coats. Especially to fill in the gaps I left in the glue.

10. You do need to be outside or in a garage. The amount of latex you use and the fumes aren't the greatest. Mine weren't too bad because I was using facial latex. But I as still glad I was outside.

11. I wish I hadn't put down a towel. The latex dripped on the towel and ruined the towel. It dripped on my cement porch and was easily rubbed off. I wish I used painters plastic underneath rather than a towel.

12. However, the latex is sticky when dried. Dirt and lint and everything stick to it. A dusty garage isn't good for it. Once finished I found a trick - brush it with talcum powder. Wipe off excess and it doesn't stick to itself or anything else so badly. Wait to do this after you paint it.

13. My seams did show quite a bit. While I showed this to people and they all said it was fine, I didn't quite like it. I decided to make a leather wrap to hid it better. But no matter how many coats, those seam do show. See the seams below.

Here are the final results. Notice the latex darkened a bit with "curing" and are now a nice fleshy color. I just have to tan a bit to match them. Boo hoo, I have to go to the tanning booth this winter. That's not torture at all.

What are they like?

-They are lighter than my friend's Pam-bought ones.
-They cost about $59 to make. ($20 foam with coupon at JoAnn's, $32 latex, and $7 for spray glue)
-They are shiny and not dull! (not sure why my friend's seem dull compared to mine - paint used?)
-No need to stuff them; they hold their shape great. I might, and I mean might, use cardboard tubes made from cereal boxes to make tops a bit more rounder.
-The foam gave them a texture like real skin. That was awesome!
-I plan to buy a headdress off etsy for now, but I trooped in them with a leather strip wrapped around them and my head. It looked good and stayed on my head pretty well. But it didn't have ear flaps and wasn't as nice looking as the etsy ones.
- I put my hair into two little buns right where each lek hole is. That works fine right now and I don't need a hair cap. But a hair cap might be nice anyway.
- I can't hear very well. I probably will cut out the ear areas at some point. Once I find a headress I like.
- I didn't have a chin strap.

What I would change?
- They are boring. So I bought some face paint to maybe paint stripes on them, or dots, or diamonds or who knows?
- Seams show, so I made leather coverings. That worked good.
- I tried to sew the headdress on and that was an awful experience! I realized part way through it was't working and took out the stitches. The latex and thread stuck together horribly. I do not recommend sewing a headdress on!
- Not sure how to attach a headdress yet. I know the Pam/compatible ones stay on pretty good with velcro on back and double-stick tape. 
- I made the foam base too loose. (my bad) and had to cut darts into it and re-glue it tighter near the base of my neck. So it has to be hidden now.
- I made my lekku angle out too far apart in the back, well, at least I think so. They don't look like all the ones I see online (maybe because they are all Pam's model). I would place the lekku closer together if I do this again.

And lastly - due to how I made the foam base, it seems to sag down my back a bit. I have decided to sew in a comb onto the top (but not sew all the way through, just through foam). I will put a small ponytail on the top of my head for the comb to catch onto to hold it up a bit.

Or not. It really does look good without those changes.

2019 update- what did I change:
I painted blue dots on lower half of them for fun
I put circle rims from a mason jar lid (wide mouth) in them to hold upper parts of lekku open
I bought a cool headpiece off etsy - love it!
I ditched the leather covering and embraced the seams - who cares?
I got a wig cap that hold my hair in place and it also helps hold the lekku up. 

I love them!

I even added beads to hang off them - so many options.

Be kind, I forgot to take my eye make-up at that troop.

Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces