There are tons of ways to make your own custom Iron Man helmet, depending on your resources including both time and money.
You can make one for display purposes or for use on Halloween or for Cosplay. The materials you choose and the time you spend will determine the overall quality of the helmet.
Electronics can be added to any home made unit, depending on your skill level. Opening and closing face plates should be part of the design prior to construction so you don’t have to cut it out later. Lighting and sounds can be added similarly.
Before beginning, you can also purchase an Iron Man helmet if you’re not into being creative. Models range from movie accurate to plastic masks meant for young children. Some actually light up or make sounds, depending on what you want to spend.
Let’s assume you’re into making one of these yourself- here are the three most popular methods of constructing your own helmet.
1. Papier Mache
A little glue, a little flour and some water will help you to make a rudimentary paste which can be layered onto a frame in strips of newspaper or magazine. It’s best to start with a picture of what you’d like your helmet to look like. This is a great time to add any customizations that Tony Stark left out.
Making a frame for the papier mache to cling to is easy- you can use just about anything to keep the shape until the mixture dries. In a pinch, a baseball cap covered with a piece of aluminum foil will serve as an excellent way of constructing your helmet. The cap keeps the head shape while the foil allows for a semi rigid base to work on.
Make your base, apply your papier mache and allow to dry. Once it’s dry you’ll be able to see any areas which are not smooth. Gently sand with 800 grit sandpaper to knock down any points which stick up- trim jagged pieces of papier mache with fingernail clippers. If there are divots, then fill them with a little more papier mache and allow to dry.
Once dry again, use a fine sandpaper (1000 grit works well) to smooth all the contours of the helmet. When you’re satisfied that the helmet looks good, simply paint in your preferred colors. For a really clean look, use blue or green painter’s tape to mask your lines off and top it all with a coat of clear spray paint.
2. Foam/ Vinyl
Following the same procedure as above, we will use a frame to hold our design firm. In this case, it’s best to use a mannequin head with a sheet of plastic wrap or tin foil on top- easily located online or in a local craft shop, the foam head will hold your design steady as you work.
First, you’ll need a hot glue gun and foam vinyl sheets in the colors of your choice. Place an old t shirt over the foam head or other base and use a marker to mark the middle of the rear of the Iron Man helmet. Make a similar mark on each side of the head as well. The front will be left alone because the faceplate will be cut out here.
The cuts will serve as a template to lay down the main color of the helmet in foam, leaving a slit in the middle and sides to allow the material to be shaped. Simply place the template you made over the foam, trace and cut.
Remember to leave plenty of overlap because we’ll be trimming things up later on to make it look extra awesome.
Using the hot glue gun, glue the cut out foam to the plastic or tin foil covering on the foam mannequin head. Make sure the edges touch in the back, but don’t trim off any excess yet. Do the same with the sides. If you need to (and you likely will), make additional small cuts to help with fitment.
Once the glue is dry and cool, do a test fit and use a marker to mark the approximate area where the eye slits will be cut. If everything fits well, remove and trim all the stray edges, gluing everything down perfectly.
From here there are two options- you can either cut eye slits and use the other foam color to make the mask, then glue on top. Then you’re done- go enjoy your new creation!
Or, and this is the recommended way for the cool factor alone, you can cut out the original color area in the shape of the faceplate, then use two small round velcro tabs to attach the faceplate to the helmet so you can remove it when you want to. Then you’re done- go enjoy your new creation!
3. 3D Printing
This is where the rubber meets the road- or, more likely, the plastic. 3D Printing, officially known as Additive Manufacturing, allows complex shapes to be made via the addition of small layers of plastic or another material such as metal.
People have printed Iron Man helmets for years now and you can even purchase them in part or full on many sites such as eBay. If you’re into 3D printing, you can purchase the plans and have a local printer make them up for you.
This can also be done with a home 3D printer, although it will be in many smaller pieces which must then be joined later on. However you do it, Additive Manufacturing will be the option that is most accurate. It’s also the most costly, so it pays to really do some research and decide if 3D printing an Iron Man helmet is for you.
So, there we have it- a pretty solid blueprint to build an Iron Man helmet Tony Stark would be proud of. There are options from rags to riches, so choose the one which is best for you. If you don’t feel like a DIY project, there are plenty of vendors who will offer replicas in every size from keychain to fully wearable.