This prop was part of a Worbla sponsored build.
Although Flynn carries several shields (ToV is, after all, a JRPG with equippable items!), I wanted to make the most iconic design and the one that, IMO, looked the best with the Commandant uniform I would be wearing. The promotional materials and merchandise often contradicted each other in terms of the costume and prop design, so I decided I’d work only from the game model. I took countless screen captures and FINALLY got the perfect angle showing the entire front design! The back was trickier to capture, but simpler in design, so at least I could extrapolate from partial shots. These are the main images I used as references:
Materials: Due to a spine injury, I have rigid medical restrictions on the amount of weight I can carry, so I needed to make the shield as lightweight as possible. I still wanted it to have the appearance of something solid, so I designed a layered structure that would use thin plastics over a bulkier but lightweight core to give the appearance of weight without the physical mass.
From the back of the shield to the front, the layers are as follows:
- Worbla’s Black Art
- 12mm EVA foam
- 20mil PETG
- Worbla’s Pearly Art (applique)
Also used in construction:
- 20mm half-round EVA foam dowel (trim)
- 2mm EVA foam sheets (edging)
- plastic handle (recycled from a computer box)
- adhesive automotive wrap vinyl
- leather scrap
- wood putty
- acrylic paint
- spray paint
- Barge toluene-free contact cement
To begin construction, I needed a scale template of the shield. Using screen captures from the game, I mocked up the shield’s outline in Adobe Photoshop, filled it with a grid (to help line up the pieces for assembly), and printed it at 1:1 scale. I then assembled the pieces like a puzzle and taped them together to make a traceable paper pattern. (One page jammed in the printer, so I traced the mirrored edge and flipped it to fill in the gap.)
I used the paper template to trace the shield outline onto large sheets of EVA foam and PETG plastic (pictured). With corrugated cardboard layered underneath to protect my work surface, I cut the shield shape out of each material.
Next, I flipped over my template and sketched out the pattern that would be cut out of Worbla’s Black Art for the back of the shield. Since the shield is curved, but EVA foam is flexible, I wanted a thermoplastic sandwich on both sides of the foam to help it hold its shape. There is a large red area on the back of the shield in the game art, so I decided to use Worbla for that section to support the curve.
Once I had the full back panel design sketched out, I reproduced it on some plain posterboard to make another cutting template. The design has a lot of curves, so I traced plates, cans, and other household items to make the circles neat and symmetrical. I traced the posterboard template onto a sheet of Worbla’s Black Art, then cut it out.
Since I wanted to adhere the Worbla directly to the foam, I didn’t want to coat the entire foam surface in paint that might peel off under stress. I traced the Worbla piece onto the back side of the foam, then painted only the area that would show around it.
Choosing a paint color was a bit tricky. The game sprite is composed of solid-color polygons, but flat color looks a little odd in real life. Since I was using metallic gold accents on the main part of the costume, I wanted the shield to match visually, but I still wanted to preserve the bold ochre tone of the shield trim. After testing several color combinations, I settled on a base of Americana acrylic paint in Antique Gold (first coat pictured) to give a strong yellow undertone, then added a layer of Delta Ceramcoat Gleams in Metallic 14K Gold to add a metallic surface sheen that would match the other costume elements.
To cover the rough cut edge of the EVA foam, I cut 2mm craft foam into 12mm wide strips, glued them around the perimeter, and painted them to match. I filled in gaps between the foam pieces with a small amount of wood putty.
In the game art, the front of the shield is a rich metallic blue, and for that I wanted something with more color depth than ordinary paint. I ordered a variety of samples of automotive wrap vinyl and finally settled on VViViD+ V203 Matte Metallic Blue (Ghost). I laid out the PETG piece I’d cut using my shield template, cut around it with a couple inches’ overlap at the edge, then applied the adhesive vinyl to one side of the plastic sheet. Then I trimmed the excess vinyl and used Barge contact cement to glue the PETG sheet to the front side of the EVA foam.
I painted several 20mm half-round EVA foam dowels with the same ochre/gold combination as the back of the shield, then shaped them around the edge of the vinyl-covered PETG sheet and glued them down with Barge cement.
Now it was time to give the shield its curve. Using a heat gun on low setting (to avoid damage to the vinyl), I warmed the EVA foam back and the PETG front and gently bent the shield down the middle. To brace the material as it cooled and set, I wedged the edges between many pounds of canned goods so it could not flatten out. I left it there for a couple of days to train the material into a permanent curve.
I took the piece of Worbla’s Black Art on an outdoor field trip and painted it with two coats of Rustoleum Painter’s Touch UltraCover in Satin Claret Wine. Once it was dry, I cut out two small rectangles and inserted a thin plastic handle (which I scavenged from the cardboard box my laptop came in) to serve as the hand grip for carrying the shield.
I coated the handle base, the back of the Worbla piece, and the back of the now-curved shield in Barge contact cement, then glued everything down. (Reminder: Use chemical adhesives in a well-ventilated area!) Bending the EVA foam before applying the back piece ensured that the foam would remain compressed beneath the Worbla, further reinforcing the curved shape. I also used a little heat on the middle part of the Worbla to thermally set the shape.
Now it was time to cut the applique for the front of the shield. Because of the complex curves, I decided to try laser cutting the design. (It could also be cut using a Cricut or Silhouette machine, a CNC cutter, or just cut out by hand with scissors. Use what you have available.)
While I had cut other varieties of Worbla with my Glowforge Pro, I had never cut Worbla’s Pearly Art, so I first made a test strip, cutting the same design at seven different settings to see what speed and power level would work best. Ultimately, I settled on a cut speed of 395 at full power. This cut the plastic cleanly with minimal slagging of edges (though there is a tendency at any power level for the melted edges to fuse back together, so some pieces require a bit of punching out).
I generated a vector outline of the shield decoration using Adobe Photoshop (a lot of manual tracing and pixel cleanup) and Adobe Illustrator (to convert the shape to a vector format). Since the design is too large to cut on the Glowforge’s 12” x 20” bed, I had to use the Pro passthrough slot, which allows continuous cutting of longer materials using an automated photo-registration system.
This is where I encountered a novel problem: Worbla’s Pearly Art is white and somewhat glossy, so it reflected light in such a way that the Glowforge’s onboard camera could not “see” the previous cut lines to register the next phase of cuts. This meant I had to manually calibrate each set of cuts, which was a bit nerve-wracking and resulted in some imperfect transitions. However, the material is forgiving enough that I could trim and smooth those edges in such a way that the transition lines are almost invisible in the final product.
Most of the cuts went smoothly, however, and the end result looked much cleaner than if I had attempted to cut all those intricate curves out by hand! I don’t know if it ultimately saved much time, considering how long it took to generate the vector outline, but this method was certainly kinder to my fingers.
To attach the applique to the front of the shield, I again used Barge contact cement, since my tests had shown that the Worbla would not adhere firmly to the vinyl on its own. To apply the cement to the small applique shapes, I used a fine chisel-tip paintbrush. (Note: Barge cement will not fully come out of paintbrush bristles no matter how much solvent you use. Do not use your good paintbrushes for this.)
After the applique, I did a few spot touch-ups with wood putty and paint to fill in any gaps that had appeared around the foam seams.
The final step was attaching an arm strap to the back of the shield. No strap is visible in the game art, but one is necessary for wearing the shield on my arm, so I wanted to incorporate it into the design as seamlessly as possible. I had a remnant of leather belt flat that turned out to be the exact width of the rectangular sections of the red Worbla design on the back of the shield, so I lined it up and attached it with more Barge cement.
The finished shield is 28” x 20” and weighs in at just two pounds – well within my weight limit!