Varaform: Lessons Learned
Now that the Female Worgen Death Knight head is complete and I’ve had a chance to wear her around, I want to take a moment to compile my thoughts and give my overall opinion of Varaform.
First off I want to again thank CosplaySupplies for approaching me with this project and for providing me with the Varaform to build it with! It’s been a great experience working with them to make my tutorial.
Now let me talk about wearing the finished head. The final weight of the head is 1 lb 12 oz. It’s very lightweight and comfortable. There is a *ton* of airflow through this mask, a large part of that is because of the big open snarly mask, but there is a remarkable amount of airflow through the Varaform. My husband and I did tests, were we covered the open areas of the mask as well as held up a personal neck fan to the face. Anyone who has worn a fursuit will tell you that fans are a Godsent, airflow right through fur and will cool you off very quickly. I could feel the air flowing through the fur and the varaform parts of the face, even when the personal neck fan was held a foot away from the head. That right there is what I feel is the number one advantage of this material. It was the first thing that popped in my head when I first heard of the material, and I couldn’t be happier that it works so well for that.
Next I need to acknowledge that this what my very first time working with this material. While I did my best learning how to work with it, I know there is still plenty to figure out about this material. I don’t have all the answers, I’m positive there are better techniques that can be used to work with Varaform that I haven’t figured out yet. The head has some flaws as a result, there’s some crookedness, and asymmetry, but instead of becoming frustrated and giving up, I decided to embrace those flaws as a feature and make her a Death Knight. A battle hardened warrior raised from the dead would not have a perfect face. In fact I may just go back and add some facial scarring or add some damage to her ear to further that idea. The lesson that I want to pass on from that is to never underestimate the value of finishing a project. There are critical lessons to be learned in those final steps of actually finishing a piece that you don’t learn anytime else. It’ll always come out better than you think it will.
So I talked about the advantages, that being the weight and the airflow, those are two big ones as comfort while wearing a cosplay greatly enhances the experience for everyone involved. Now let's talk about the material’s shortcomings. Personally I found Varaform to be very tricky to work with, my learning curve with it was difficult to overcome. I actually built two headforms out of varaform, I decided the first one I built wasn’t good enough to use. There are times when it is better to start over than finish, I decided I wasn’t far enough in and that finishing my first failed headbase would be more headache than to take the lessons learned and forming a new base. I’m glad that I was more or less obligated to make it work, else I probably would have given up. I’m glad because I am happy with the results I got, and I see a ton of potential in the material, it just took a long while to ‘click’ with me. I still feel that I can find a better way to form it, so if you decide to give this material a try, don’t get frustrated, work through your personal learning curve and I think this will be a rewarding material for you
When I was ask to directly compare Varaform to a resin base: It's lighter, more flexible and much more breathable than resin. It's cheaper to fabricate with varaform. The advantage of resin is that while it's more expensive to set up (the clay, the silicone mold etc) you can easily make many copies. Resin is also a better material for making a moving jaw, varaform has too much give to make it effective.
One big mistake I made on this build was the lips. One feature about varaform is that it is slightly flexible, it has a springy quality to it. I can squeeze and compress the head slightly and it will pop right back. In my opinion, this is a pro to the material because it’ll absorb the shock if dropped instead of cracking or breaking. But you can see how it would be a problem to sculpt with apoxie sculpt- which sets completely rigid. I already have a crack in the back part of the lip because the understructure flexed and the thin part of the lip had too much stress on it. I didn’t even think about that until after the lips had cured. It was an ‘oh crap’ moment for sure. The Apoxie sculpt technique is a good technique to use with a resin base head where the understructure is solid, but it’s a bad idea for any slightly flexible base, like a Varaform one. Learn from my mistake! It would have been far better to make lips similar to how I did the gums (and exactly how I did on Hogger) with the cotton ball and neoprene. Additionally, the Apoxie sculpt was one of the heaviest parts of this build, so I imagine the head would be around 1 lbs if I had chosen neoprene instead.
So I really hope that you all enjoyed watching this build! And I hope you were able to learn something from it as well. If you do decide to give Varaform a try, please let Cosplay Supplies know that you heard about it from me, it will help more opportunities like this come up in the future!