Monday, September 12, 2011

The Making of Darth Talon (Dragon*con 2011 version)

Maybe this is how she keeps those boobs up:
perpetual free fall!
About a year ago (maybe longer?) I decided to tackle Darth Talon as a costume. She’s super evil, she looks damn good jumping from a speeder bike, she sleeps with wangsty borderline Jedi Cade Skywalker…okay, well, she’s not perfect, but she is fierce and I love those freakin tattoos.  My friend Cord decided to do Talon’s hulking man-brute counterpart, Darth Stryfe, and we attempted to rope a bunch of other friends into doing the rest of the One Sith group. One guy, Sean, put together an impressive Maleval costume for Dragon*con, but everyone else decided to hold off until Celebration VI.

We'll get you eventually,  my pretties. 

For someone who doesn’t wear a whole lot of clothing, Talon’s costume is tricky. I divided it into the major components: 

1.       Bodypaint/tattoos
2.       Bikini and Armor
3.       Lightsaber
4.       Lekku

I got my Sith contacts from Coastal Contacts (the "Vader" style) and they fit great. Do note, if you order prescription contacts, you *will* need to provide your doctor's prescription. In the US, prescription contacts cannot be legally sold without proof of prescription! I found this out the hard way (ie, six days of telephone tag with my dr's office and coastal contacts). 

I used the Flagship Eclipse as my main resource for creating a (semi) accurate Talon costume - it's definitely a great place to get ideas, learn from other cosplayers, and find reference material! I've included a list of links at the bottom of this page.

I’ll give a quick really wordy explanation of how I did each part.

1.       Body paint/tattoos

To answer everyone's burning question: The body painting took 1 makeup artist, 2 design students, and one engineer about 7 hours to paint both me and Cord. Bless their patient hearts! Also, their paint-filled lungs.

This was the easy part for me, because I assigned the body paint to my sister, Lyssa, who is a terribly cunning and artsy design student. She did my body paint for Celebration V, and after spending three days meticulously hand painting me white, we both agreed that we’d much rather use an airbrush for Talon (and subsequently Stryfe). Our good friend and costuming mentor Charlie lent us his airbrush for our endeavors.

This is actually what I normally
look like in the mornings
We asked around a number of sources about the best paint to use. We wanted an alcohol based paint, which doesn’t come off if you sweat. At first it seemed like we’d have to go with Reel Creations or Skin Illustrator – both very nice brands, but both crazy expensive. I was trying to figure out how to justify dropping a bunch of money on airbrush paint while my student loans continue to loom over my head, but we lucked out! After talking to one of the True Dungeon makeup artists, we found a brand called Kustom Kolor Custom Body Art, which worked extremely well and was considerably more affordable. Victory!

So we ordered a lot of red and black Kustom, as well as a small cake of red Snazaroo (the paint I used for my white Twilek), and a translucent setting powder. The Snazaroo was for doing touch ups over the body paint (applied in a swirling motion with a Kabuki brush) and the setting powder was brushed over the whole paint job to help keep it clean and dry. Also good to have on hand – rubbing alcohol and wipes to take the paint off afterwards. (and extra people to help clean those hard to reach spots on your back) When I say it didn’t come off, I mean it did NOT come off. Not when I lay down on the ground, not when I hugged people, not when I showered...I was scrubbing for two days!
Am I preeeeetttyy yet? :D
No? Okay lemme add more red paint.

To create the tattoos, Lyssa created vectored versions of each tattoo, using - I kid you not - DarthHell’s VERY NOT SAFE FOR WORK artwork of Talon. (okay, here's *one* SFW picture) DarthHell kindly rendered us a series of reference shots, since it’s extremely hard to get a high res, clear picture of Talon’s tattoos (hell, it's about impossible to get a consistent picture of her tattoos), and they worked beautifully. Then, she lasercut them into templates on sheets of 0.05 Mylar.

After that, she airbrushed me with red Kustom, touched it up with the Snazaroo, and then verrry carefully airbrushed on the black tattoos (frequently with someone else holding the stencil down). Those were touched up with a fine tipped paint brush dipped in Kustom.

Please be sure to use the airbrush (as instructed) in a well-ventilated area… we did not, and let me tell you, there is nothing more disconcerting than sneezing red and black paint! Also, be very careful using alcohol-based paint around the eyes – we left a largeish gap during the airbrush process (see the earlier picture) and then hand painted that in with Snazaroo and black eyeliner.

Pictured: One Sith Lord,
possibly high on paint fumes
Edit: I forgot to mention – I actually did pick up a pair of red tights for my legs, so I could sit/move without worrying about the paint. Given how well the paint stayed on, that might not have been entirely necessary, but it gave me peace of mind!

2.       Bikini and Armor

Ahhh…the fun part.

I commissioned my dear darling leatherworker Ribbons and Rivets (who also made Cord's magnificent Stryfe armor) to make Talon’s top for me – he’s got considerably more experience making women’s tops out of leather and I was not taking any chances with wardrobe malfunctions! Talon's bikini does *not* have straps - an oversight that I absolutely loathe. I refuse to believe the highly advanced technology of "bra straps" does not exist in the Star Wars universe.  

The rest of the armor was pretty straight forward – she has two rectangles of armor on each arm and leg (which, according to the CRLs, are metal…) so I cut out the appropriate sizes in pre-dyed black leather and some sheet aluminum, dremeled the edges of the metal like crazy, and then riveted the leather, metal, and a leather strap with Velcro on it all together. I attached the Velcro with rubber cement, and while that actually held up for the whole day, the pre-dyed leather doesn’t soak up the rubber cement as well as regular leather, so by the end of the evening the straps were starting to come apart slightly. Next time I’ll try a few different adhesives and test drive them before hand. (or, just rivet the Velcro down!)

The gloves and knee high stockings that go under the armor were ordered online, and the boots I already had in my closet. They’re pretty comfortable and I can pose in them without falling over, which were pretty major requirements for me! (also they make me look ever so slightly taller)

Talon does/doesn’t have a small half- headpiece, depending on which image you look at. I opted to use it, because it helps hide the seam/runaway hair in the back. The head piece was cut from pre-dyed leather and velcroed onto the lekku – I also made small black ear cones for the head piece. 

Edit: It should probably go without saying that her costume is pretty intensely uncomfortable -- the top is basically corseted on and puts a lot of pressure on  your chest, the armor pieces have to be pretty tight to stay on...  I have scars from this costume! And not the emotional kind! 

3.       Lightsaber

I was really tempted to try and make my own lightsaber, but ultimately didn’t have time for it, so I ordered the “Dark Initiate” saber from Ultrasabers (great lightsabers at affordable prices that will hold up to you ), and then customized the hilt using sculpting clay. This didn’t work too great. The clay shrinks and becomes very brittle when dry, so I ended up having to constantly re-glue pieces back on. Also, due to the large number of lightsaber battles I partook of, the hilt got pretty chipped and beaten up by the end of the con. I’m going to try something more rubbery next time, I think.

4.       Lekku

I also reeeeally wanted to make my own lekku. I have a pair that I bought from Twilek Pam, which look amazing, but Talon’s lekku are actually quite long, and I wanted them to be more mobile, in case we tried any acrobatic poses, haha. I started on a pair using a long process of rubberizing stuffed cloth lekku, but the challenge of attaching them to my head was a bit much, and I decided it’d be better to go with the safe bet and use Pam’s. I spray painted them red and then added the tattoos using black latex enamel paint (and a really lousy paint brush)

As a side note, I tried wearing the lekku with a swim cap to keep my hair covered, and nearly passed out from brain squeezing/dehydration?/whatever. The whole thing was so tight on my head that we had to slit the lekku up the back to give my poor head some room. My suggestion would be to try wearing the lekku around a bit beforehand to make sure they’re comfortable!

We tried disguising the forehead seam with some red latex paint, which worked so-so. That'll definitely be another area to work on for my next run of this costume. (That, and petition the Darth Talon artists to add a) bikini straps and b) a full coverage headpiece. You guys sure don't make it easy for the costumers!)

*someone pointed out I completely failed to post a picture of the finished outfit....durrr!*

I hope this write up helps! Please feel free to email me if you have any questions :)


Body Paint:





References and Information


  1. A lot of labor, and the results showed it was worth it. Magnificent job!

  2. Excellent costume! Very detailed!

    Next time you want to add to something plastic with clay to change its shape, I highly suggest molding sculpy directly onto the plastic piece. To harden it you obviously you can't bake the sculpy without melting the plastic, so instead boil the whole thing to harden it. Elina and I did so while altering some biker goggles to be catwoman goggles (see FB page Violet Jade Grey). It'll take about three times longer to boil than bake, but it was totally non-destructive to the plastic, stayed stuck to it, and didn't shrink/deform while it hardened.

  3. Loved seeing this costume at the con. (I was the random Merc who walked up while Em was helping you with the whole "too tight lekku" thing. *chuckle*) I still maintain definitely one of the best Talon costumes I've ever seen. And now I'm seriously tempted to try that paint companies Fuschia shade for my twi'lek. ^-^