The fourth part: onto Tali from Mass Effect.
1) Using flowing silk paints with resist for an Elven Banner (Part One found here.)
2) Free-hand painting on stretchy fabric for Jareth the Goblin King (Part Two found here.)
3) Puffy paints to simulate embroidery on Peter, High King of Narnia (Part Three found here.)
and 4) Using graphite transfer paper as a stencil for Tali from Mass Effect.
(Photo by Minty and Minty)
Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, the quarian engineer and squadmate from the video game “Mass Effect”, wears a stretchy bodysuit with painted/printed and textured details.
Using a commercial nylon-spandex bodysuit and a duct-tape body double, I drafted a pattern for the swirly-purple and black-hexagon sections of this costume. Some of the purple fabric is appliqued to the bodysuit (the sashes/bandages), and some are separate accessories (the hood/vest and arm tubes). The black-hexagon fabric is appliqued to the suit.
I used a midweight nylon-spandex knit fabric for the purple (I bought white and hand-dyed it purple with acid dyes - different topic!) and a very heavy, slightly shinier black nylon-spandex knit for the black (sold as “moleskin” but I find retailers use that term indiscriminately).
So - both the purple and black are thicker knit fabrics and paints are therefore less likely to run on them (no need for a resist). But they are both dark, opaque fabrics so you can’t trace a paper template design beneath them.
I experimented with stencils, but I couldn’t get anything close to an accurate design for either the hexagons or swirls to work.
It’s not the most elegant solution, but in the end I printed out the designs on construction paper, put some graphite paper between the fabric and the paper template, and transferred the graphite by going over the paper design with ballpoint pens & pressure. Step by step:
1. Make a “tile-able” design.
This means that an image can be placed side by side with itself without visible seams - it flows from one edge to the next. You need this sort of repeatable image for floor tiles, printing fabric, etc. This is a good definition.
I don’t do this often enough to know how to do it without help every time. So I google for tileable image photoshop tutorials. Here are two:
Youtube video by Kelly Yu
As a base, I used the Tali swirl and hexagon patterns kindly made available by shyailu on Spoonflower. Since they are used by Spoonflower in printing, they are theoretically tileable - but not in the form they put on the website, so I needed to do a lot of photoshopping to get them tileable and the right scale and size for my project.
Then I printed a bunch of these on construction paper.
(I decided not to use Spoonflower because for this costume I didn’t like their fabric choices. I like the rich colours, subtle shine and heavy drape of thick nylon-spandex knit. Since I was dyeing the purple myself, I also wanted a nylon blend rather than polyester - but again, different topic!)
2. Transfer the design.
Graphite-based transfer paper is a bit cleaner than old-fashioned carbon paper (though still kinda messy) and is pretty cheap. When you put pressure on the top of this paper, it transfers graphite (in this case blue) to the surface below, so it creates a copy of what you’ve drawn or traced. Examples:
General Transfer Paper info on Art-is-fun.com
After securing the fabric, graphite paper and construction paper template with tape, I labouriously traced that swirl design over and over again, moving the paper over carefully each time to match up the design.
It was by no means perfect, and during the painting phase I ended up free-handing some of the seam-lines to make the swirls match up more nicely.
Since I needed to put a lot of pressure on the ballpoint pen to get the design to transfer, the paper templates did not last very long, and I had to keep switching out for new ones.
I did the same for the Hexagons, but didn’t take pictures. It was less exciting than the swirls anyway.
3. Paint the design.
After experimenting with both silver Sharpie markers and silver Fabric paint markers (DecoFabric - as always, Dharma Trading has good information about them too), I decided that the silver DecoFabric looked best on the purple, while the silver Sharpie looked best on the black. The fabric paint markers are a bit shinier and more opaque than the sharpie, and the swirls on the purple stand out more than the hexagons on the black.
Graphite can be washed off. But from this point on there is no turning back! I did screw up my first piece of hexagon fabric and had to redo the whole thing.
Here’s a test I did with the final hexagon design and silver Sharpie marker, wondering whether I should fill the hexagons in with silver paint. I decided against that.
The Sharpies lasted a bit longer and seemed to cover more smoothly on this black fabric, while the fabric paint markers were just eaten up by my purple fabric. You don’t want to know how many fabric paint markers I went through on this. I don’t want to know. It was dozens. I filled a plastic grocery bag with used-up fabric paint markers. In the end, this was not a cost-effective strategy!
Sharpie marker is quite permanent. The DecoFabric paint markers benefit from some heat-setting, so I brushed the graphite off, ironed the purple fabric and then washed it cold and line-dried it before working with it further.
Up close my fabric is obviously hand-drawn and imperfect. If I could do this again, I’d finally get around to learning to screen-print.
Anyway, the technique of graphite paper is pretty cool, and fabric markers are easy to use. But this took me FOREVER* and I used all the fabric paint markers in the city.
*In calmer moments, I will admit that once I began transferring the final design through to the end of painting, it took a full-time week.