From the moment I saw Kylo Rens helmet, I’ve been a little obsessed with it. So you can imagine my disappointment when he smashed it to pieces in The Last Jedi..
I had been thinking of making my own for a long time, originally planning to do the Black Series helmet mod. I knew that 3D printing a helmet was a possibility, but there were a few problems.
- I didn’t have a 3D printer
- All of the readily available files for the kylo helmet were less than good.
I didn’t want to potentially spend months on a project, only for the final helmet to not look right. But by chance, around the release time of Star Wars Battlefront II, I was browsing the Knights of Ren Facebook group, when I saw someone had posted some pics of Kylo, ripped from the game files. They were for obvious reasons keeping the exact source of the files secret, but after a little digging, I managed to find the forum that had them uploaded. I had to see what the helmet looked like, and how much detail was carried over. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Although low poly, it was a real good foundation to work from.
Modelling – 1 Month
This is after converting to quads. not too bad. A lot of detail was missing, but a lot of it was also there. Over the next few weeks, I set about remodelling the helmet, using the game file as a base to work off of, and adding in all of the details that weren’t there. I used pictures of the screen used helmet, and the anovos prototype helmet as my main reference for the remodel.
The final step was to do some sculpting on the helmet. This was to add the little scratches, dents, and the nasty looking blast/dent at front of the helmet. I knew that some of the details would get lost during the sanding process, but knowing where they are on the helmet meant that I could go in with a dremel with less guess work.
I used a custom brush, which was just a cloud texture for the scratches and dents. For the dent at the front of the helmet, I used a custom brush which I made by tracing the dent from a reference image, and then tweaking a few settings to get a height/bump map.
Whilst all of this was happening, I was researching 3D printers. The obvious choice was the CR-10. Not necessarily because of the build volume (I wouldn’t have printed the helmet in one piece, even If I had room to), but because it’s just a damn solid printer for the money. Unfortunately though, you had to buy it straight from China, and the horror stories of people using the shady companies that sell them put me off that. So instead, I settled for the Wanhao i3 Plus, which I picked up on Black Friday as an early Xmas gift. It’s a very solid printer, and after some tweaking/upgrades, will print out great results!
I modelled the Lightsaber whilst the parts for the helmet were printing out. After blocking out the basic shapes, I then went back to each section of the lightsaber, and refined it to create the final piece.
I used the Prop Shop lightsaber as my main reference for modelling, as it seems to be the most accurate. Some parts of the lightsaber went through multiple prints and tweaks before I was happy with them. This was due to some things not translating so well from screen to print. I learnt a lot from this project in that regard. I also had to simplify a few of the greeble details. This was so I could print them cleanly. It was a little less accurate, but I still think it came out great.
Printing – 22 days
It wasn’t until the start of February that I had everything ready to go. But printing finally began on the helmet. I used MeshMixer to split the model up into ~30+ pieces all in all. I could have printed larger parts, but I didn’t really want 12-16 hour prints, and instead opted for more manageable print times. Initially I spent a long time cutting join holes into the sides of each piece, so I could join them together easier. The holes ended up being too small though, and so I re-cut the second half of the helmet, removing the holes.
Sanding – 21 Days
Sanding sucks. We all know it. but, it is a necessary step, and no matter how long it took, I wasn’t going to stop until I had a smooth, seam free piece! I started out with some 80 grit paper, and attacked all of the pieces, using files when necessary to flatten areas down. After everything got a good sand with 80 grit, I moved up through the grits to 240. After this, I gave everything a coat of XTC-3D. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a brush on resin that cures pretty quickly, and self levels. It’s specificity designed to be used on 3D prints, to remove build lines etc…It’s not magic though, and in my opinion should be used alongside sanding, and not instead of as some seem to think. After this, I repeated sanding through the grits, and gave the pieces their first coat of Primer.
Not too bad! But there were still seam lines and other imperfections. The next step was to use some filler. I picked up some standard car body filler, and targeted specific areas of the helmet. I then repeated sanding until I was happy that I had smoothed out the areas that needed it.
Now that I was satisfied the majority of the sanding had been done, I went ahead and attached the faceplate to the main dome. I used a combination of superglue, and hot glue to tack it into place. When happy with the placement, I re-enforced the connections with epoxy putty on the inside of the helmet. You can see from the pic below that I had also done this with all of the individual connections on the main dome.
A final coat of XTC-3D was then put over the helmet. I then lightly sanded all the pieces with 120 grit – 240 grit paper. After I had done that, I then wet sanded all of the pieces, starting at 400 grit, all the way up to 3000 grit. The final result was a very smooth, scratch free finish that was ready for painting.
Painting – 10 Days
Painting is the part of the project you look forward to (well, I do anyway..), but rushing the previous steps means your paint job will be affected! I started off with the helmet. After priming, I sprayed a light coat of PlastiKote Stone over the helmet. This would give the helmet a little texture. Once that had fully dried, I sprayed the helmet with a standard satin black spray paint I picked up from Amazon.
The next step was to start working on those metal parts. This included the faceplate, and all of the lightsaber pieces. For the metal, I used Alclad II Black Base, Alclad II Chrome and Alclad Aqua Gloss to seal it all in. For the Lightsaber, I also included a layer of Alclad II Copper. I don’t have a “real” airbrush, just one of those cheapo ones that hook up to cans of compressed air. There was a little trial and error on this stage, but I made sure to do the error part of that on spare bits of plastic, before touching the helmet!
I’ve seen Alclad chrome look a lot shinier in other peoples projects, but I was still satisfied with the finish I got. I think I may have got a slightly better result with a more sophisticated airbrush.
Now that I had all of the metal parts painted, it was time for the last paint layer for the lightsaber. I used some Vellejo black gloss acrylic paint, and gave the lightsaber a good coat. There was a little trial and error getting the acrylic to go through the airbrush well, but using Vellejo airbrush thinner instead of water actually worked well.
I also tried to paint a burnt metal affect on the cross guard. I planned for the traditional look of the red/purple/blue, but I’d not used the Alclad Hot Metal paints before, and didn’t really get how they worked. They are transparent paints, and don’t lay over each other. They need the base to be a solid chrome color, but due to me having sprayed a little copper, and some black on it, they didn’t go down as expected. Again, back to my airbrush being crap, I also have little to no control over how much paint actually comes out, so it wasn’t possible to spray nice clean lines of color. I wonder if using a paint brush is an option for this? I will experiment more with these paints in the future.
But for the most part, that was the painting done!
Finishing – Helmet
After getting the painting done, there were a few things left to do in regards to the helmet. I had to attach the nose pieces, install the visor, and do some weathering.
I started with some weathering. Looking at some screenshots from The Last Jedi, the metal pieces were a lot dirtier than they were in The Force Awakens. Towards the front of the faceplate, it looked to have some charring. There are also areas of the faceplate which are black. I started by masking the metal areas, leaving just the black parts, and spraying a good coat of Vallejo flat black acrylic. I then removed the tape, and honestly it looked real dumb at first. I then went back in with my airbrush, using the little control I have over how much paint comes out to spray a very fine mist of black, blending the metal parts with the black parts. I was careful not to go too mad with the black, but it was just acrylic, so I knew it would come off easily. Once it had dried, I used some 2000 grit wet and dry sandpaper, and made it slightly damp. I then very lightly rubbed the black parts, to try and give it a more natural look, blending it back into the metal, but also trying not to sand straight through the chrome layer. I then repeated the same steps again, spraying black, and then sanding away excess.
The next step was to attach the nose pieces. This was pretty simple. I had a connector on the front of the nose piece (you can see the hole in the above pic). I plugged it into place, and then used hot glue to secure it into place. Pretty simple!
For the visor, I created a frame for the visor in Blender, and then printed it out.
I cut a small piece of 3mm aluminium tube, and placed it in the middle of the visor, to give it a little rigidity. I then stretched some black fabric over the visor, and clamped it tight. I used super glue to glue the fabric into place, and then trimmed off the excess. I don’t really have any pictures of this stage unfortunately..
I then cut out some foam pieces, and glued them to the front of the visor. These pieces would attach to the helmet. I sealed the foam with some PVA, and then put some painted a couple of coats of black acrylic. You can just about see the foam from the pic below. There is one piece at the top, and one piece at the bottom. Once glued in, they hold the visor in it’s place.
The final step for the helmet was to do a small amount of dry brushing, and a little bit of a black wash in places. I used a black wash of flat black acrylic over the side pieces, wiping away excess paint. I repeated this a few times until I had the desired look. From reference images, the side pieces are a little duller than the other black parts of the helmet, and I was just trying to take away some/most of the shine.
Dry brushing was simple. I used some Humbrol silver I had lying around, and dry brushed a few of the edges. It’s quite subtle, but I know it’s there, and it just adds that little bit extra.
And that was the helmet finished!
Finishing – Lightsaber
There were a few things to do to finish the lightsaber. I had to weather it, and add the red and blue cable.
To weather the lightsaber, I used the Prop Shop piece as my reference. I really liked the paint job on that saber, and wanted to achieve something along those lines. The lightsaber had several layers of paint. Base black, chrome, copper and flat black. To achieve the result I was after, all I had to do was sand through the layers.
I used various high grits of wet and dry sand paper for this. The process was a pretty simple one. Make the sandpaper a little damp, and gently rub over pieces of the lightsaber, to remove layers of paint. I had to be careful, as sanding too hard would take all of the paint off, which I actually did do a little in some places. In some parts I wanted to only show copper, and other parts, I wanted both copper and chrome to show through. This method, I feel, gave a pretty authentic look of wear and tear.
The blue cable which runs down the hole at the front of the saber, I got from an ethernet cable I had lying around. I superglued the two pieces of wire together, and then glued them into place. The red cable was difficult to source. I spent hours trying to find a red translucent electrical cable, but If I did find one, it was either too fat or too thin. But by chance, I ran across a steel skipping rope. It was the exact diameter I was after, and has the translucent red sleeve! For ~£5 I got a 3M skipping rope, which was more than enough, and better than those selling 30 cm of the stuff on etsy for the same price!
The wire clips I had made earlier in the project. I got some 5mm aluminium tubing, and drilled a 3mm hole through the middle. I filed the back flat and did my best to shape them. But they were really small and piddly, and it was a pain in the ass to be honest.
A final step was a little bit of a wash. The reference I had for the saber showed some dark blue and purple on the back of the saber. it was quite subtle, so I used some acrylic paints, to add that affect. In the pics of the finished piece, it pics the color up a lot more than in real life. It is a lot more subtle than the pictures would have you believe.
And that was it, the project was complete!
I had a lot of fun on this project, and learnt a lot about 3d printing with props. I also feel like I’ve discovered something I genuinely love to do, and am excited to push on with more projects in the future. I don’t know what my next project will be, but if it turns out half aswell as this one did, I’ll be happy!
3D files are now out!