Genie – Using Worbla to Make a Steampunk Genie

Where did this tutorial disappear to, you ask? Well, when I had to redo the website it went away when I switched web hosts, but now I am happy to announce that it is back up! I worked on this single costume, day in and day out and documented my whole process as a tutorial for people who want to make similar things. The Steampunk Genie is made out of the great craft material, Worbla, which is quick becoming a staple in the Cosplay community.

The Genie Costume.
The Genie Costume.

Above you can see an image of the finished genie from my book, and you can read the chapter he’s featured in, The Journey of the Genie here!


Concept

In the story the Steampunk Thief steals a captive Genie, and begins to make reckless wishes which the Genie uses to try to kill everyone. Our Genie is a fire-spirit Djinn captured inside a metal shell or frame.

I created the Genie to look like the Djinn fire spirit is trapped within a metal casing, a sort of extension of the lamp which is itself a metal prison.

Genie Design Sketch.
Genie Design Sketch.

Background Info

Before my father passed away, he bought Worbla for us to make this Genie with. Worbla’s Finest Art is a thermoplastic craft supply used for modeling things. It can be softened by using heat and then molded to any shape you desire. As it cools it hardens and maintains that shape! If you want to see it in action, watch this video by Kamui cosplay which is what made me want to try it!

Scraps can be re-blended by heating them back together and rolling them out like bread dough, so there is almost no waste. These leftovers can also be molded just like putty.

Worbla sheets
Worbla sheets

Worbla has two sides. One side is rough, a bit like sandpaper. This is the side that you generally want to face outwards and use as your painting surface. The other side is shiny and smooth. This smooth side is the one that has the glue on it, and while both sides bond with one another when heated, the shiny side bonds better because of the glue.

I used a one-setting heat gun for this project.

Many Worbla tutorials will talk about how easy the thermoplastic is to use. This is entirely true. I was very worried about making mistakes, but once you know what heat to melt the Worbla at, then everything is super easy. For me, I found that once the Worbla starts to resemble a fruit roll-up in consistency, then it is ready to be molded!


Tools

Here is a list of some products I used for this Project:

  • Heat Gun
  • Glue Gun
  • Paintbrushes of Various Sizes
  • Worbla
  • Craft Foam
  • Metallic Paint
  • Speedball Mona Lisa Gold Leaf and Adhesive
  • Acrylic paints
  • Scissors
  • Wax Paper as a smooth non-stick surface for the Worbla
  • Marker for drawing shapes on the worbla
  • Gesso Primer
  • 3d Effects paint
  • Ceramic Baby Faces

This project took many days, and was one of the longest costume processes I have done.


TUTORIAL


Day One

On Day One I pulled out my craft foam and began to make patterns for the mask/helmet and the breastplate.

Genie mask in craft foam with baby faces for placement.
Genie mask in craft foam with baby faces for placement.

I cut the craft foam to the shape I wanted for the layered mask of the Genie. At first I was going to sandwich every piece of craft foam between Worbla, as in many tutorials, but when I realized how hard the thermoplastic hardens, I only used the sandwich method for the lowest part of the mask and the pectoral piece of the breastplate.

Having purchased some baby faces from Papercheries on Etsy to use on the costume, I used them as a basic sizing tool to know how big to make the horns.

Genie mask parts cut out of craft foam.
Genie mask parts cut out of craft foam.

These craft foam pattern pieces were then transferred to Worbla, cut out, heated and formed around a large soup pot to maintain a curve.


Day Two

On day two I began to add strips of Worbla to the surface for a raised etching effect. My design was hand drawn using permanent marker. I used Hot Glue to stick the baby faces on the horns.

Genie mask cut out of worbla and formed, designs drawn on in marker.
Genie mask cut out of worbla and formed, designs drawn on in marker.

After the baby faces were on, I also added a thin strip of worbla around them, to look like they were imbedded.


Day 3

On Day Three I worked on the breastplate. I found a circular piece of foam for the stomach-oven. I built and heated the Worbla around my plastic covered mannequin body-form to make the chest shape. Because I had extra baby faces, I added some to the chest as well.

Genie oven-chest made out of worbla with baby face close-up.
Genie oven-chest made out of worbla with baby face close-up.

After adding all the baby faces, I messaged my friend Trevor to ask him for advice. He said that the faces would look scarier with hair, and so I played around with that idea and texted him all sorts of pictures of my experiments:

Fancy baby faces.
Fancy baby faces.

Day Four

On Day Four I primed all of the pieces with Gesso. Gesso is a paint primer that is very good and comes highly recommended for any painting projects.

Worbla painted with Gesso primer.
Worbla painted with Gesso primer.

After the primer had dried, I used metallic paints to paint the entire surface of the pieces.

Genie pieces painted with metallic paint.
Genie pieces painted with metallic paint.

Day Five

On day five I began my gold leafing process.

Gold Leaf is a thin sheet of metal that you can cover any surface with after laying down a coat of adhesive. I use leafing for things I want to look metallic, because unlike spray-paint or metallic paint, you are actually covering the surface with metal, so the finished product looks much more authentic.

Leafing, unlike Worbla , has a steep learning curve. It took me around seven projects using leafing before I got the hang of it. Every sigh you heave, every adjustment you make to seating, sends the thin metal flakes EVERYWHERE. Sometimes the leafing sheets fold up or avoid the surface because of static.

My main tip for using leafing is to cover the entire surface of the piece with one coat of adhesive, wait for it to dry to the point of being clear and then add a second coat of adhesive. Once the second coat is dry, then you can add your leafing. I learned that this is a much better way to prevent mistakes where sometimes leaf won’t adhere to thin spots, or rough patches, which leaves a splotchy appearance. With two coats, I hardly every get splotches or missing leaf patches.

Genie being covered with gold leafing.
Genie being covered with gold leafing.

One thing about leafing is that it looks super shiny and metallic, and has no character to it. It often looks like cheap metal until you add your own distressing and antiquing.

I mix a rusty/burnt sienna metallic red acrylic with a flat black acrylic paint to get my aging color. I found that using straight black doesn’t look as realistic, and the adding of the burnt-sienna makes it look better.

Then I paint the entire surface of the piece, and using a wet cloth I wipe off all of the paint again, leaving it in the cracks and crevices, buffing where I want more metal and using a lighter touch where I want more antiquing.

Finished Genie mask.
Finished Genie mask.

Day Six

On Day Six I began to gold leaf the breastplate.

Adding grime to oven-chest.
Adding grime to oven-chest.

On the breastplate I also added a runny stream of black tinting solution to look like the oven had been working for a while.


Day Seven

On Day Seven I began working on the Genie’s Arms. I cut worbla into little pieces and after heating, wrapped them around a Swiffer Duster handle to give them shape. I then trimmed these pieces to use as finger pieces.

Forming worbla fingers around Swiffer handle.
Forming worbla fingers around Swiffer handle.

I also built braces for the Genie. I wrapped a large McDonald’s cup to get the round shape for the bracers. I also used a outdoor 3d effect paint for some raised effects on these pieces.

The back of the hand was formed over my own hand when the Worbla was heated, and my hand was in a thin glove.

Worbla bracers and glove piece.
Worbla bracers and glove piece.

Day Eight

After priming, painting and leafing the arm pieces, I got an old glove out of the closet. I used hot glue to glue the back-hand and the knuckle pieces to the glove. The fingers are then tipped with Tibetan dancing fingers that I got on ebay.

Finished Genie Glove.
Finished Genie Glove.

Day Nine

After some thought, I went back to my chest oven and added a valve and gauge out of some lids, gears and foam numbers. I didn’t get pictures of the process, but it was very much the same. You can see it in the final costume below!

The Genie Costume.
The Genie Costume.

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