Craft Foam Finishing
This tutorial is about showing you how to achieve a nice "finish" on pieces made from craft foam.
I have tested a lot of different methods and found this one to be the easiest and will give you the most durable paint job. This is the finishing method I've used on Odin - which is a cosplay I have worn during a full convention day at Anime North and danced on stage during my Masquerade performance, and the paint job was still perfect after all this.
What is Flexbond you ask ???
It's a product from Rosco... It's a glue that is mostly used for fabric (but that has so many more applications)... it's sold in special craft stores. I've never seen Flexbond at Omer Desserres (Quebec equivalent of Micheal's or Jo'Anns). To get this product in Quebec you have to go to Les Décorateurs de Montréal which is a store specialized in doing business with professional prop makers. If you're having a hard time figuring out where you can find this product in your area - have a look at the Rosco website.
There's not much to say here - but that I usually work with spray paint (in spray cans). I favor the Krylon brand, as it never let me down on any of my project and they have a very nice metallic paints selection.
This is something you can't overlook with my finishing method. Make sure you get a matte paint ... but get the correct kind of varnish (gloss, matte, satin), depending on the effect you're trying to achieve. I also use Krylon brand varnishes as I've always found what I wanted and it's what I have locally.
My finishing method is pretty simple... here it is:
Step 1 - Flexbond
This step is very important, not because the paint will damage the craft foam. I can confirm that the paint will NOT eat the foam (you CAN paint craft foam with Krylon spray paint - though it's not something that will be very durable). Why is this step so important? - it is because you want your foam piece to be smooth. Craft foam is a porous material and it is something that will show through your paint if you don't use something to smooth it out.
Using flexbond to do this has another advantage - since flexbond is a glue... it's going to make the bond between the foam and the paint very strong.
How many coats of flexbond should you be doing ??? It's up to you.The purpose is to smooth out the foam... I usually stop at 2, but in some cases only 1 coat will be enough. More coats at this point is just a waste of flexbond.
Also, a quick note on the brush. I find that depending on the brush you're using, the finish will be different. So for smoothing out the foam (and also for the final coat) - I use a plastic bristle brush (paintbrush with black plastic bristles). This is the kind of brush that gave me the best result.
Step 2 - Paint
Nothing much to say here - paint your piece.
I usually do all my colors WITHOUT putting flexbond between them.
Step 3 - Flexbond
Why more flexbond ??? I don't know, it's something I've tried and it proved to be more durable than without this final coat of flexbond. So because it works for me, I'm always doing it.
The purpose of this coat of flexbond is to seal the paint in. Since I'm putting this coat of flexbond over the paint... any effect in the paint will be lost (remember, I told you to pick up matte paint at the beginning : P). Anyhow - just a random tip - I've found that gloss paint is cracking when you're applying a matte paint coat over it. It's something I found out when working on Obi-Wan... don't ask me why though :)
Final Step - Varnish
This step is very important for 2 reasons. The first is that it will give your paint job the effect you really want. For armor that should be shinning, I'd recommend a gloss varnish... for something that should be matte, then matte varnish.
The second reason is that you'll find that Flexbond remains a little bit sticky even when completely cured. So putting a coat of varnish over the final coat of Flexbond will get rid of that stickiness... giving your craft foam piece a very nice finish.
Well that's the secret finishing method from FullMetalSam - it's something I've been sharing in Private Messages on forums when asked and everyone who tried it have had wonderful results. So enjoy - and let me know if it helped you (guestbook or PM : P)