Hip armor is a fairly common detail in anime and game character designs. It’s one of the easier types of armor to make since you can easily create mock-ups with paper to test out your design. Sometimes the hardest thing is figuring out how to attach it to the costume since the armor seems to almost float on the hips in many character designs.
If this is your first time using EVA foam or attempting armor for a cosplay, the hip plates are a great place to start. Hip plates and arm bracers are among the easiest ways to get some basic practice with cosplay armor before going for the more complicated pieces, like chest plates and helmets.
This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
- Paper and pencil
- 4-6mm EVA foam
- Sharp razor
- Contact cement
- Sandpaper or a rotary sanding tool (such as a Dremel)
- Flexible paint
1. Make a mockup of your design using paper
Start by using paper, pencil, and scotch tape to make a mockup of your hip armor. Hip plates usually don’t require complicated curves in their construction. It’s usually pretty simple to create the basic design using printer paper, and then translate that to your EVA foam.
I do not recommend skipping this step or going straight to the foam. It can take some time to finesse the right shape around your hips and make sure that the length works without impeding your ability to walk and move.
As long as the left and right sides of your hip plates will look the same, you really only have to make a paper mockup of one side. You can flip the pattern pieces to create a mirror image for the other side.
When layering the hip plate design, allow the lower layers to bump up and curve against the upper layers to create some negative space between them. This is the key to keeping the hip plates from looking flat and lifeless.
2. Cut the pieces out of EVA foam
Now that you have created your pattern, it’s time to cut it out of EVA foam. I usually prefer to use 4mm foam, but you can also use slightly thicker EVA foam if you want to make armor that looks a little more solid. But just keep in mind that the thicker the EVA foam the more difficult it is to work with.
Trace onto the sheet of EVA foam with a sharpie, then cut on the inside of the line you made. Make sure to use a sharp razor so that you can get clean edges. But don’t worry, if the sides of the foam look a little ragged, you can sand them to make them look nicer.
3. Glue the hip pieces together
When gluing EVA foam, the best kind of adhesive to use is contact cement. This will help retain the flexibility of the foam material, and it won’t melt in the heat. To use contact cement, you want to apply it to both surfaces. Then wait 5 minutes for the glue to get tacky before pressing the pieces together.
- Glue the top band hip plate together along the edge.
- Then take the next layer hip plate and determine where along the back you want to attach it. Remember, you don’t want to attach it in a straight line, since that will make the final hip plates too flat.
- Add adhesive to the corners, and press the pieces together.
- Repeat with any additional layers (if you have more than two)
Check as you’re going to make sure the hip armor looks as you intend it to. There should be a small gap between each layer.
4. Sand and heat-form your hip plates
After everything is put together, it’s time to do a little bit of cleanup and fine-tuning. The first thing to do is sand all of the edges and seams. You can correct any mistakes you made while cutting the foam out and make all the edges smooth and nice looking. (If you want this process to go a lot faster, I recommend using a Dremel instead of regular sandpaper)
After sanding, take the time to give your hip armor a little bit of shape. Heat the foam with a heatgun on both sides until it relaxes. Then hold it in a curved shape (or against your hip) until the foam cools down. At this point, the foam should retain its shape, and stay in a three-dimensional curve.
Safety tip: When sanding and heating EVA foam wear a dust mask and goggles to prevent yourself from inhaling the dust particles and fumes. You should also stay in a well-ventilated area. Avoid sanding or heating EVA foam around any pets.
5. Prime and paint the hip plates (and add any desired details)
Give your armor 1-2 layers of primer to help seal the hip plates before painting. Don’t forget to paint in between your plate layers, and anywhere else that will be visible when you are wearing your costume.
Since the hip armor will probably end up bending and moving a bit while you’re walking around, I recommend using primer and paint that are flexible when they dry. This will prevent any cracks and chips in the paint. For primer, I recommend Cosflex or Flexbond. There are a lot more choices for flexible paint, but the ones I’ve tried are Liquitex and Plaidfx.
You can, of course, embellish the hip plates with any kind of added design, engraving, or painted pattern that you want. The hip plates I’m making are just a simple example. If you need to create armor that matches a specific character design, you’ll need to deviate from this tutorial at least a little.
- Learn more about how to make your armor look metallic
- Learn more about how to make your armor look like leather
6. How to attach hip plates to your costume
After your hip plates are done, you need to be able to wear them and attach them to your costume. There are any number of ways you can achieve this, depending on the look you’re going for.
The easiest way to wear hip plates is by attaching them to a belt. You can either make a simple belt using EVA foam or use one that you already have. Put on the belt and mark where you want the hip plates to sit, then glue them in place. Alternatively, you can use velcro to make the hip plates removable, so you can put the belt on, and then place the hip armor.
If you want to create hip plates that seem to float on the costume without the need for a belt (as you’ll see in some game designs), then I recommend velcroing them directly to the costume. (make sure to get velcro that can adhere to fabric)
This can be a little bit tricky because without the proper support to the fabric of the costume, it will end up drooping under the weight of the hip armor. It will work better with heavy-weight and sturdy fabrics, and it will be challenging to get the hip plates to sit right on high-stretch fabrics.
Some things you can do to help make the waist sturdy enough for your hip armor include:
- Adding extra interfacing, or stiff interfacing to the waistband
- Sewing a wire along the inside waist of the costume
- Adding a belt to the inside of your costume (velcro the costume to the belt inside, then the hip plates to the costume outside)