Friday, December 31, 2010

And Now, BLUE Diamonds!

There has been a flurry of activity lately on the silk screening process, and I'm really motivated to continue to push forward based on all of the progress. To that end, today I drew up some artwork for a screen that will let me de-bug the blue diamonds that will go on the main body suit.

I'm taking the same approach that seems to be working with the briefs diamonds. The artwork I just sent over to westar includes ten different samples of diamonds. Here's a peek.

Just like with the trunks diagram, I am following the same formula. The five samples at the top represent my original artwork, with the edges stroked in different amounts, and different colors. This will allow me to allow for seepage and still get a very accurate final product. The bottom 5 have the inner diamond enlarged by 10%, and then the same stroke weights applied.

The artwork for the blue diamonds was created directly from a scan of a fabric swatch, so I am feeling very confident about its accuracy.

For comparison, this image shows the difference between the blue diamonds and the red. The red are smaller, and more tightly packed. Pretty cool.

I sent my artwork off to westar just now, and hope that they will be able to burn the screen and get it out to me pretty quickly. I'm now under the gun to get the blue diamond screen all worked out, as I have committed to helping a friend with her She-Hulk costume that she hopes to have completed by mid February. We came up with the idea of silk screening the micro-diamond pattern onto the fabric she will be using as the body suit. We figured this way it would bring something new to the costume, and give it a little more visual diversity that you wouldn't normally get from straight up white milliskin.

FAQ - Superman Returns Costume Recipe

I get asked fairly frequently if I sell items from my blog or website. I do not. Well, Ok, sometimes I do, but I don’t make a habit of it. The truth is, the projects I am working on are for me. I’m not doing it for profit. Because I have so little free time, any I might find is dedicated to working on projects that I want to finish, not to building pieces for other fans and enthusiasts. I have been offered some decent money to sell things I show on my website, but always decline. I’m not in it for the money, and making something for someone else would simply take time away from making something for me.

With that said, I to tend to get asked a few of the same questions over and over again, so I thought it was about time to put together a recipe for how to build your own Superman Returns suit based on what is currently available.

For briefs, body suit chest emblem and cape, I recommend The Bronze Armory. They can be found here.

The body suit they sell is decent. It's not perfect, but it's VERY well made. Whomever their seamstress is, she/he does great work. A really well crafted suit. The colors are not quite perfect. The base blue is a bit off, and the diamonds are the wrong shade. The racing stripes do not quite match what is on screen, but they are still very nice. The diamond pattern is also not quite right. The inner diamonds tend to wander around within the outer diamonds, where on the screen used ones, their positions are fixed toward the top. The inks used for the printing are not the right type. With all that said, it's still a REALLY nice suit, and is the best one on the market that I am aware of. Please don't take my hyper-critical comments as dismissive criticism.

The briefs are sort of the same. The colors are off, and the diamond pattern is not quite right, but they are constructed very well, and are the best on the market. The cut is also a bit off. It looks as if they used a standard pattern for briefs, and didn't account for the low cut on the legs and low rise waist that was seen on the Routh suit.

The chest emblem is a direct descendent of the piece I own. It's the real deal, and it's very nice. For a while, they were selling a different chest emblem which was not right, but I think they have stopped selling those. Buy this chest emblem!

The belt is a fan sculpt, and is decent. It's not quite right in a number of ways, but it's the best one that is commercially available. A pal of mine named JBrown did a sculpt of his own which was more accurate, though he does not offer them.

For the cape, go to Ricky Broussard, of Ricky’s Custom Costumes. His ebay store seems to be closed right now, so contact him directly at I cannot confirm that this addy is current, nor if he is still producing capes.

Ricky is the ONLY person I know of that is producing a Superman Returns cape. As with the Bronze Armory stuff, there are a bunch of things great about it, and a few things that are not right. PLEASE keep in mind that my criticisms come from the perspective of someone who is attempting to recreate in EVERY excruciating detail the production made and screen used costumes. For the casual observer and costumer, and perhaps even the more sophisticated costumer, the pieces I describe here are absolutely wonderful, and even quite pricey.

Ricky's cape is heavy. It's made of what looks like a burgandy pleather or naugahide, lined with a cotton interior. The colors are actually really darn close. The inner lining is almost spot on to the brighter parts of the real deal capes, though he is missing the ombre. The outer skin is a good color, though it does not have the micro-diamond texture. The construction of the cape is also not right. Ricky sews his lining to the inside, and uses an under-arm strap system similar to the Reeve style Superman capes. It's VERY functional, but it's not accurae. There's also some kind of steel rod in the neck to keep the shape of the cape. Also inaccurate. After having dissected one of the real deal capes in person, and realizing how incredibly complicated it is, I have to give Ricky a great deal of credit for devising a creative solution to what is a very difficult look to reproduce.

For the boots, go to I found this place via a friend, and they were just starting to develop a Superman Returns boot. They had made great progress, but there were some details missing. I offered up ALL of the reference material that I had collected over the past few years, and gave them some pointers on how to make the boots better. They totally ran with it, and have produced a boot that exceeded my expectations. They're also working hard on a newer version that will include custom sculpted soles that look really amazing.I'm really impressed with the work they are doing, and I think this will be a huge asset to the small community of dedicated Superman Returns costume fans who are looking to put together a very respectable suit.

My only criticism of the boots they are producing is in the materials. They work with vinyl instead of leather. The good news is that this keeps the price WAY down, and makes them much easier to produce. Their boots do not include the micro S's or the inverse micro-diamond pattern that are found on the real deal boots. BUT, they do use two different types of textured vinyl to simulate the look. Again, to anyone but the most discerning collector, these will come across as very high end, well made boots. Which they are.

I think that about covers it. If you have any questions, or if something requires further explanation, please don't hesitate to ask.

Christopher Reeve Style Superman Costume
If you are looking for this suit, the BEST place to go is here. Hands down, they make the best, most accurate suit ever. A few years ago, fellow Superman enthusiast Chris King collaborated with this company to develop the best Superman replica, using a confirmed screen used suit as reference. Chris painstakingly took measurements and photos of everything, allowing them their replica what it is today. If you order, you'll need to ask for the "CKing Version" of the suit, which is not advertised on their website. It is expensive, but if you want total accuracy, this is the place to go. I own one of their suits, along with the Reeve accurate boots, and it's just great.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Biggest Black Undies EVER.

I have been working on my pattern for the briefs for the Superman Returns costume. I finished my first draft of the pattern just the other day, and today decided to sew up a test pair. Here is the fabric after it was cut from my pattern. I decided to use black simply because I had a ton of it sitting around.

And here they are with the main seams sewn up.

So far, NOT looking very stylish. There's a ton of extra fabric around the waist, because by design, this gets folded over a few times to house the elastic. I'll need to sew up the leg openings too. Overall, aside from being WAY too big, the shape is decent. I'll definitely need to do some modification of the pattern, but I'm definitely on the right track. As you can tell, I've been able to replicate the locations of the seams perfectly, so as far as the overall design asthetic goes, I'm on the right track. The seam that comes up the front of the crotch is a little too high, but that's easily corrected.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the progress, despite the fact that they look REALLY creepy.

Ink Wash Test

I was a little dismayed by my recent test with the fabric that I had screened with the speedball inks, so I wanted to do a little bit more. The thing about these inks is that they need to be set with heat. However, I purchased some fixative that was supposed to negate this need. However, when I washed a sample of the fabric, some of the ink faded. It wasn't like it washed clean out, but it was non-trivial.

Today, I took another sample of the fabric, and REALLY took the iron to it in an attempt to heat seal the inks. I was on the hottest setting just south of steam. No damage was done to the fabric. I then threw it in the washing machine.

The picture above shows the swatch after watching. It's actually NOT apparent from the photo, but there was only a TINY TINY TINY bit of color fading. Just a tiny bit. I'm very pleased with this, as it means the suit will be able to survive some cleanings. Great stuff.

Updated Diamond Pattern Screen Artwork.

I was posting over on the RPF tonight about my progress with the diamond fabric, and I happened to post these three pictures from my blog in succession:

When seen together like this, these pictures really reveal a lot about the diamonds, and how mine compare. I think overall, even if you set aside the seepage problems I am having with my fabric, I have the inner diamonds too small. This is especially true when compared to that extreme close up.

Since I've got a screen being burned by Westar right now, I updated my artwork for the screen to include five new samples that have a larger inner diamond. Here's a thumbnail of the new artwork I submitted. The new patches on the bottom are the revised artwork.

A Few Screen Printing Tests

I ran a number of tests today on some screen printed fabrics, just to answer a few questions I had.

First of all, one thing I need to determine is if the fabric I'm using can withstand the heat needed in order to cure plastisol inks. Westar tells me that they need to be blasted for 90 seconds at 300 degrees. I took some fabric swatches from both my plastisol test run and my speedball test, and threw it in the oven for 90 seconds. While I'm not sure if this accurately reproduces a curing environment, it's the best I have right now.

Based on a conversation I had with Westar, one of my concerns was that the temperatures would either melt the milliskin, or ruin it's stretch abilities. As far as I could tell, neither of those things happened.

Here are the two swatches after they had some time to cool down. Essentially, the fabric was unchanged. Also note from this photo that you can see how the diamonds print differently based on the inks. it's subtle, but the Plastisol inks tend to spread a little more than the speedball. Plastisol is on the right.

Here's a close up of a chunk of the Plastisol treated fabric. What's interesting about it is the way the fabric buckles. This happens after the printing is done. Initially, this dismayed me a lot, but now that I think about it, I don't think this will stop me from using the plastisol inks. The fabric only requires a tiny bit of stretch in order for it to lay flat, and I'm pretty sure I will be providing that once I put the suit on.

Interestingly, in the special features of the Superman Returns DVD, they talk about how each suit could only be worn for a short while before it was ruined. I think I understand why now. The plastisol inks tear when stretched too far, and they crack. I might end up making a couple different suits. One for display, one for wear, etc, each using different inks.

Another test I ran was in the washing machine. I wanted to see how well the Speedball inks held up in a delicate wash cycle. Here's the results.

I probably should have put a comparison picture together, but the punch-line is that the ink faded a bit. More than I would have liked. I'm not super happy with that.

Another test I ran was to see how hot I could iron the fabric without it melting. On my iron, I set it to the highest setting before steam, and it did not ruin the fabric. Speedball inks need the heat of an iron to cure them, so perhaps next time I will run a wash test on post-ironed fabric.

There were many interesting tidbits picked up from this round of testings. Overall, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't nail it on my first try, but that's OK. I've learned a lot, and will make a lot of changes on my next round of screen work.

Leg Pattern

An online pal of mine named Nick Fox recently completed work on a pattern for a Spider-man suit that is just stunning. I got to thinking about the seam lines for the Superman suit, and decided that I wanted to see if I could copy the pattern that was used for the bottom half of the Spidey suit.

I emailed Nick and asked him if I could use his graphics for reference. Here's what his look like:

Of course, Nick's is in color, doesn't have a water mark on it, and is way bigger. This pic is really just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

I imported that picture into adobe illustrator and traced around the lines I am interested in. Here are the final results:

Next step is to take this down to Kinko's and get it printed on one of their large scale printers. I will then use that as a pattern to build a pair of pants.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

RPF Challenge Coin

A silly little addition to the collection arrived today, a "Challenge Coin" for the RPF, the Replica Prop Forum. Nicely designed and made by a member overseas. For only ten bucks, it's sort of hard to beat.

Briefs Pattern Progress

For the briefs, I am attacking them from two angles. I plan on making one pattern from scratch, and another is going to be a modified version of the Kwik Sew pattern. I will see which one turns out the best.

Here is the start of my scratch built pattern. I took a pair of off the shelf briefs, cut them up and laid them flat. I traced around one side.

I only drew out one side, then folded it along the center line and duplicated the one side over to the other side. That way, it will be a relatively perfect mirror. Here's the final piece after it has been cut out. The next step is to actually cut fabric and sew a pair up. Do not cross fingers in hopes of progress pics. ;)

Here's the start of the kwik sew pattern. At this point, all I have done is roughly cut them out from the larger sheets.

And here I have ironed the pattern pieces out.

Next step is to cut the pieces out and draw up a full, one piece pattern on my drafting paper. Remember, only two seams on these briefs. One that follows the butt-crack, and the other that runs perpendicular along the bottom of the crotch.

Staff of Ra Headpiece

I think 2010 was really a watershed year for the prop making cottage industry. I swear, SO many really high quality pieces were offered this year, and I happened to stumble onto a great many of them. Of all the prop replicas I acquired this year, I cannot think of one that was a genuine disappointment. Everything that comes to mind was a shining success.

And this piece is just the perfect way to wrap up the year.

This is a replica of the headpiece of the staff of Ra from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Duh.

In the 20+ years that this move has been out, this is EASILY the best and most accurate replica I have ever seen. I won't bore readers with the details, but the long story short is that this piece started out with questionable provenance, but ends up matching perfectly every reference picture available. It's also stunningly clean in its presentation, with the braided chain around the edge soldered on after casting, instead of being incorporated into the casting as most available replicas do it.

Huge thanks to RelicMaker who provided the finished product, and JediFyfe who sourced the master.

Plastisol Tests

With all the talk lately about diamonds and briefs, I thought it only fair to finally get around to posting the pictures I took a few days ago of the test screen printing I did using Plastisol inks. I actually think the jersey print ink that I selected is TOO thick, and will probably scale it back on the next round.

Here's a pic of the overall effort. All of those convolutions were introduced after the printing was done, and they did not go away once the ink cured.

Here's a close up of the diamonds. While the actual printing went really well, and I got really uniform coverage without any streaking, it's the size of the diamonds that bothers me.

For reference, I will post this picture again. This is from a suit that was on tour and on display at the NYC TRU.

Ignore the colors. The main thing to notice is that the thickness of the diamonds is all wrong. Well, not ALL wrong, but you get the point.

Brief(s) Musings

In tooling around with my artwork tonight, I got to thinking about the overall diamond pattern. For a BRIEF moment, I thought I had made a mistake in my artwork. I took a moment to re-walk myself through the design process, and fortunately was able to convince myself that I had gotten it right after all.

But for the sake of historical reference, I will document it here.

My pattern is based largely on two things. This photo:

And a scan I made of a belt loop that I had on hand.

The photo above is from the suit that was on display at Toys R Us in New York.

First of all, I am working under the assumption that there were MANY different suits out there, both on tour, screen used, and made for production. I beleive also that there are differences between them. I'm not sure if they are significant, but it's an assumption I have to make based on the variances I have found from one suit to the next.

In the picture above, I photoshopped one of the belt loops so that it aligned with the diamonds on the briefs. What this reveals to me is that the diamonds on the belt loop are different than the diamonds on the briefs.

I'm not sure if this was on purpose and by design, or if the belt they put on THIS suit was made from a different run of fabric where the diamonds were different. There's a million and one reasons that these are different, and I'm not sure which one is correct. What I am sure of is that they are different.

In Adobe Illustrator, I imported my scan of the belt loop that I had on hand, and sized the above drawing so that the diamonds on the belt loop matched. This meant that the diamonds on the briefs were now scaled 1:1 in illustrator, and it was based on that scaled photo that I did my diamond pattern.

For my suit, the diamonds on the belt loops will be the same pattern as the diamonds on the briefs. Even though that is not accurate to the suit pictured above, it's far too much trouble for me to be bothered matching such a minute detail that will simply never be noticed or appreciated by the casual viewer. And seeing as how I'm not even sure that it's screen accurate, it makes sense not to try to duplicate it.

More Briefs Artwork

I only have a tiny update right now, but any progress is good progress.

On the heels of submitting my test patterns for screen burning, I went ahead and finalized the full artwork for the briefs. Though my pattern for the briefs is not yet complete, I was able to figure out what the total area will be that I need to screen print in order to do it right. Based on those measurements, I expanded my artwork to cover that full area.

The only remaining task is to figure out the stroke weight of the diamonds. This is what I will learn from my sample screen. Once determined, it will be a simple matter to update the adobe illustrator file with the proper stroke weight. I will then submit the artwork for screen burning, and I will be ready to produce the fabric.

New Diamond Artwork For Silk Screen

I'm happy to report that I've been getting a lot of attention lately from the pics I posted the other day on the red silk screened trunks material. A few folks have even written in requesting some printed fabric of their own, which is both very flattering and gratifying.

With that in mind, I've sort of notched up the effort to get the diamond pattern all squared away, as I not only need to get it done for my Superman suit, but now see ALL kinds of applications for it should I get it right.

To that end, I put together some new artwork to send off to my friends at Westar Solutions for burning onto a silk screen. I like to have the professionals do it as I know they will do a great job, and there is no margin for error. While I could probably do it cheaper myself, I'm confident that the results would not be as crisp and perfect.

From my previous attempts at silk screening, I learned that the results you get are based on a great many factors. The thing that I really noticed a difference on was the way the ink passed through the screen. For example, when I use speedball inks on my existing screen, the final results tend to look exactly like the shapes in the screen. However, when I use the plastisol inks, it tends to seep out a bit more, making the diamonds on the briefs thicker than the diamonds on the screen. It's as if someone stroked the edges with a little bit of ink, making the shapes a bit thicker. Hard to explain if you're not a user of Adobe Illustrator.

Here's the artwork that I'm getting burned:

This is my basic diamond pattern, but with a number of different stroke widths on each diamond. With this, I'll be able to experiment with different inks and find the one that best suits my needs. After that, it will be a simple matter to modify my final artwork, get a new screen burned, and then go to town.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Superman Returns Costume Details Discovered

A recent e-mail dialog with online buddy and fellow superman enthusiast Brian M. revealed a number of really startling discoveries about the Returns suit. Well, they were startling for me. Brian obviously already knew all about them.

It still surprises me how after studying this suit for a few years now, there are still surprises to be had.

Brian made a trip out to the Madame Toussaude's Wax Museum in NYC a while back, where they were proudly displaying a Superman Returns replica. Being the good samaritan he is, he took a number of good pictures, including of parts that were not readily visible. Below is a selection of those pictures, and some comments on why they are so interesting.

Let's start with a big one. What this picture shows is the seam on the trunks. There is only ONE seam on the trunks, and it goes right down the back side, through the crotch, and up into the front. I had always wondered why there was that little seam visible in front, on the lower part of the crotch. Now I know. There are no side seams. I originally thought the trunks were constructed like traditional speedo type things. One seam on either side, and another at the bottom of the crotch. I was wrong.

This is a closeup picture of the trunks that Brian took of the suit on display at Comicon in 2010. Wish I had been there. I like this picture because it shows the seamwork on the trunks, and also shows how thick the ink is. You can also tell that the diamonds are lighter colored than the fabric they sit on.

This picture shows something I had long suspected, but could not tell with absolutel certainty. The collar uses the same diamond pattern as the briefs, NOT the body suit. It's also on its side, which is interesting.

This picture is just pure gold, and I'm SOO happy that Brian shared it with me. It shows a couple of really interesting things. First, there are NO side seams on the torso. I always figured they just shifted the seams from the side toward the back, but here you can see they eliminated them altogether. This means that the torso is just one big piece of fabric, with the only seam being at the back, on the zipper. That makes construction a lot easier, but makes silk screening the diamond pattern a little more difficult. It means the screen will have to be big enough to cover the area for the entire torso.

But what's even better is that you can see the racing stripes on the back. That's amazing. Heck, I didn't even know there WERE stripes on the back until I saw this picture.

This is a great shot of the back of the arm, which shows how the strip snakes its way around the arm.

This picture is swiped from that french website that I linked to in a previous post. It is interesting not only because it shows the seam on the shoulder again, but also shows the placement of the velcro that was used to keep the cape in place.

Second photo from the french site, clearly showing the seam on the shoulder. I did not know there was a seam there.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Batarangs! Tiny Ones!

A recent addition to my prop collection are these really nice mini-batarangs as seen in Batman Beings. These were hand sculpted by a talented enthusiast, and made available by the same chap who sold me the cape that went with my halloween costume.

Based on the screen captures I have seen, these are much more accurate than the DC Direct set that is commercially available.

Columbus Marathon Display

This is not at all prop related, nor is it movie related, but it is a project, and it was on the workbench!

Right before I left for a week in NY, I threw this together. I have actually had an empty shadow box hanging on my kitchen wall for like a year now. Go figure. I just never quite found the right things to put in it. Then, as I was cleaning up some stuff, I realized that the perfect contents would be my bib and medal from the Columbus Half Marathon that I ran earlier this year.

Here it is! I think it's a pretty interesting conversation piece, and is definitely one of the neater accomplishments in my life. The marathon, not the shadow box. Sheesh.

On A Roll With The Screen Printing

After my success with my most recent attempts to screen print on a tiny swatch of fabric, I decided it was time to spread my wings and try for something a little bigger. The goal of tonight's outing was to use the area of the entire screen, and see if I could get a good qualilty print onto my fabric.

As before, it started with me cutting out a length of fabric, ironing it, and taping it down to some butcher paper that was attached to a chunk of MDF.

I must confess at this point I once again owe a debt of gratitude to my online buddy Laamberry for her expertise in screen printing. I had asked her for some tips on getting the ink to flow properly through the screen, without any streaks or blank areas. The advice she gave me was basically to do multiple passes with the squeegee, from multiple directions. I always figured that you wanted to get it done with one pass, but hey, what do I know. I figured I would give her advice a try, and see how it went.

To skip ahead to the punchline, it worked amazingly well.

Here's a pic of the full sized piece of material. You can see where the edges are for the diamond pattern. That's the size of the pattern on the screen.

And here's a closeup of the diamonds. You can see that the ink went on evenly, and really well. I'm really quite stunned and impressed by the results.

So once again, another REALLY great test of the screen printing techniques and materials. As of now, I am feeling very confident about my ability to print the pattern properly on the material.

The verdict is still out on whether or not that fixer stuff is going to make the ink stay on the fabric. I'll need to wait a few days for it to fully cure before I can make that assessment. I think it might also be worth experimenting with the traditional ironing technique, on the off chance that I can find a temperature that is hot enough to fix the ink, but not so hot that it melts the milliskin.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Successful Screen Print Test

I am a very sick man. No, I mean, I actually have the flu right now. It's no fun. No fun at all. I'm a total mess. BUT, I somehow managed to find the energy and motivation to do a test today using my new speedball ink and fixer. Last time I did some printing, I did it in my kitchen. While this granted me some freedom as far as mess-making goes, it was extremely limiting in the move-around-room arena. This time, I decided to do it in my dining room, where I fortunately have no table. Yes, the bachelor lifestyle has its advantages.

I threw down a bunch of butcher paper to prevent mess, and also put some butcher paper over a big sheet of MDF, to ensure it would not get trashed by the process.

I cut out a small sample of the milliskin fabric I have targeted as the briefs fabric, ironed it, and taped it to the paper.

I then mixed up a little batch of ink with the fixer. I globbed the ink onto the screen and did three things. The red ink you see in the center of the board is the first stroke I did with the squeegee. I believe this is called the "Flood" stroke. Or pass. As you can see, not a lot of ink passed through it, but a bunch of it got stuck up in the screen.

I then moved the screen over, and did another pass on the paper, just to see if the ink was flowing. It looks much better.

Now that the screen had some ink in it, I globbed on some more ink, which will basically act to push the ink that's already on the screen through it.

Here's what the final results were:

Here's how the fabric looked:

And here's a nice close up of the fabric:

I am REALLY pleased with this, even though it's not perfect. This was just an experiment, and I certainly learned a lot from it.

Now, I'm waiting for the ink to cure, which should take a full four days to be COMPLETELY cured, though it is currently dry to the touch after six hours.

The diamonds came out REALLY nicely and evenly, and the ink seems to have penetrated the fabric quite well. Really good stuff. I'm stoked.

Ink and Fixer Arrives

Self explanatory.

Big whup.

Cape Fabric Dying.

A long time ago, I ordered the twill I wanted from some online store, but it's been sitting in my closet ever since. I guess I got distracted by Halloween and Batman. Go figure.

But this past week, I took another run at the fabric. The first step is dying it. The stuff I ordered, while the right width and feel, is the wrong color. I decided to give the old "washing machine method" a try with this stuff, since I don't really want to spend an hour agitating a trash can filled with hot, red water.

After three or four dunks in the wash, with a bunch of bottles of Scarlet Rit, I'm getting very close to the color I want. It's not perfect, but it's really darn close. I need it to be a little deeper, and a little richer. But I think I'm just going to go with it as is, as it's pretty darn nice.

Hard to tell the color from this photo, but you can see the difference between the post-dye fabric and the untreated stuff.

More Screen Printing Supplies Ordered

After the debacle with my previous attempt at screen printing, I decided to switch gears a little. I was not happy with the inks that I used on my first trial, as I realized their limitations. Not only did they crack and peel upon stretching, but the heat treating of them turned out to be far too problematic for my liking.

I was discussing screen printing with an online buddy of mine named Laamberry, who recently completed a run of Scott Pilgrim themed t-shirts. During the course of our discussion, I asked a few questions about inks used, and she recommended a brand named "Speedball".

I did a little research on them, and they seemed like good inks, but they had the same problem that my existing inks have: they need to be heat cured. However, these seemed a little more friendly, as you only need to iron them, instead of heat blast them for 90 seconds at 300 degrees, or whatever it was that the Plastisol inks require.

In my research, I found a site called, which looks like a one stop-shopping kind of place for all things screen printing. After a little digging around, I stumbled upon something called Versatex Fixer!!!! According to the spec sheet, this eliminates the need for heat fixing of inks. PERFECT. This sounds like exactly the type of stuff I am looking for. This should eliminate a few of the trouble spots in my screening process.

I have ordered a small kit of the burgandy ink, and the fixer. For reference, I will add these products to my Links Page.

First Screen Print Test, Disaster

The last time I did any silk screening was back in Jr. High. It was one of those arts and crafts class. You know, they had the section where you could make a chess board or a jewelry box, then there was another section where you could make a candlestick or a napkin holder, then another section where you did silk screening.

I don't know if it was just that technology was a little more primitive back then, or maybe my school just sucked, but they didn't have the UV dissolving emulsion that is used today to get really stunning results that are crisp and beautiful. We had to cut into a sheet of emulsion with an exacto to make our design, then you would burn that emulsion onto a screen. Hopefully, the error prone process would go smoothly and your screen would turn out good.

I earned my A by doing a copy of the inside artwork to a Hanoi Rocks album cover. I tried to find the original artwork I used online, but no luck. Use your imagination.

Anyway, flash forward more than 25 years, and here I am trying to silk screen some diamonds on a pair of briefs for my superman costume. My, how things have changed.

In previous posts, I showed the screen that I purchased from a company online, and how awesome it was. Very happy with the screen. I'm just brand new to the materials and techniques. Cue the "pending disaster" music now, if you please.

A couple of things to note about the inks and fabric I am using. First of all, milliskin is a synthetic fabric. No cotton. No organic stuff in it. All man made. This means that if you iron it at high temperatures, it will melt. Like plastic. Cuz it pretty much is plastic.

Second, the ink I'm using requires high temperatures in order to cure it.

See where I'm going with this?

The product sheet for this ink tells me that you have to heat cure it at 300 degrees for 3 minutes. Or something like that. In a professional environment, you have a conveyer belt oven thingie that takes the fabric in, and gently rolls it under the heat lamps for the prescribed amount of time.

These units cost a few grand each, and are no fun.

I read online that a "poor mans" method is to buy a heat gun, and just go to town with it.

Exhibit A. Heat gun.

That's pretty much the definition of problem number 1. Problem number 2 is one of technique. Turns out, it's actually NOT super easy to get ink to flow smoothly through the screen. You need to flood the screen, then run your squeegee over it at a certain angle with a certain amount of pressure. Too many variables, thankyouverymuch!!! Not being one to think ahead, I decided to do my first test on a big area of fabric. I couldn't find my red fabric, so I just plunked down some blue fabric. Truth be told, this is the shade of blue that I'm not going to use in the final suit, so it's really no loss to use it for testing out the screen printing.

here's the results of my first test.

It may not actually look TOO terribly bad, but it is. The ink went on VERY unevenly, with some of the little diamonds recieving too little ink, and others getting too much. Some were perfect, but not a lot.

Then it was time to heat gun the bad boy. Lets just say, that too is a very error prone process. It's really hard to figure out which parts have been "baked" properly, which parts need more, and which parts have been over cooked. Total pain in the rear, to be clear about it. So after waving the heat gun over the thing for about 20 minutes, I realized how bored and I was, and how impossible it would be to do large chunks of fabric in this method.

Even worse, once the fabric was all cooked, it was only then that I learned the ink is not going to work very well with the stretchy stuff. If you stretch the fabric out more than just a little bit, the ink cracks and pops off. No good.

So in essence, a total failure.

To make matters EVEN worse, when cleaning off the screen, I did not realize that you're not supposed to scrub the downward facing side. Damage was done.

Tragedy indeed, but fear not. Since I'm writing this blog post a few weeks after the event in question, I have learned that the screen I had made is the wrong size anyway. So this is a great learning experience for me, and a way for my silk screen supplier to get even more money out of me.

Everybody wins.

Bad Latex

I include this post here really just as reference for myself. This is some latex I purchased online that does NOT suit my purposes.

I'm sure it's perfectly good latex, it just doesn't behave the way I want it to. It's a little too thin, and it pulls back from the silicone mold too easily. No good.

That is all.

Another Rubber Disappointment

Part of being insane about details is that it often leads to a steady stream of disappointment. Witness my quest to find the source material used for the outer skin of the Superman Returns cape.

I have been scouring the internet and brick/mortar retailers for more than a year now, and haven't found what I'm looking for. Lately, some friends pointed me in the direction of a company in India, which looked like it might have something of interest.

However, when the samples arrived, it was all wrong.

The pyramids are about four times too big, and there's that weird flat space in between each shape.

No big deal really, as I wasn't expecting miracles. Still, it would be great to find that stuff some day. Not NECESSARY, but would just make life a little easier and less worrisome for me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fight Club Soap!

I got an unexpected addition to my prop collection just the other day when this arrived via the mail:

Pretty neat! This is still wrapped in plastic, which explains the odd shine to it as seen in the photo.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Multipass Build and Tutorial Complete!

After YEARS AND YEARS of sitting on the project workbench, I have FINALLY finished a complete build up of the Fifth Element MultiPass!

UPDATE: If you are interested in a kit of this prop, I have a few available. Please email me at jablonskyexpress _at_ yahoo _dot_ com.

Check it:

Here is the online tutorial where I document every single step involved in the build up of this kit.

I think I actually started this project sometime around 2003. Don't get me wrong, I haven't been working on it steadily since then! It was definitly birthed in fits and starts. I did a run of pass kits earlier in the year, and just now finally got around to doing a build up of my own. It's been a long road, but I'm very happy with the results. I'm quite confident in saying that it is the best, most accurate multipass available to the collector today. I have seen a few others out there, but they don't come close. Yay!