Prop Projects,  Tutorials/Guids

Build: Kylo Ren Helmet – The Rise of Skywalker

If you read my first Kylo post on here, you’d know I was a little…heartbroken when Kylo smashed his helmet to pieces. But along came JJ Abrams (praise him!) with his magic red space glue, and put it back together like grandmas smashed vase. Thanks, JJ!

Before we get too into things, I’ll post a list of things I used in this project, for anyone that wants to follow along on their own helmet.

What you’ll need

  • A 3D printer – and my files
  • Various grades of sandpaper – I used 80 up to 3000
  • An airbrush
  • A Dremel – or other rotary tool
  • Glue Gun
  • Epoxy Glue – Optional
  • Filler of choice
  • XTC-3D – Optional
  • Masking Tape
  • Masking Fluid
  • Clear Resin
  • Red resin tint
  • EVA Foam
  • LED Strips
  • Wire
  • Soldering Iron
  • Power Source – I used a USB Power Bank
  • Primer
  • Matt Black – Can or Airbrush – Preference
  • Matt clear coat
  • Rustoleum Aged Iron – Textured paint
  • Alclad Gloss Black #305
  • Alclad Chrome #107
  • Some black fabric

I actually started this project (in relative terms) before the first trailer for TRoS was released – the day before to be exact. There were a few promotional pieces out, including some images of the new Kylo helmet. I already had the original helmet, so I figured modifying it wouldn’t be too difficult – and it wasn’t!

It took a few hours, but I did it, and I believe I was the first person on the interwebs to release the reforged helmet file.

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3560897

It wasn’t 100% accurate (Impossible really, at the time), and there was a lot of room for artistic license, but I was happy with the results.

I released the files, but never printed them at the time, as I was working on something else, but as 2020 approached, I wanted to finally crack on with Kylo MK2. Over the Xmas period (2019), I reworked the faceplate, for both variations of the helmet, and at-last, was finally ready to start…

Printing

As with most 3D printing projects, printing took a while. The main dome was split into 8 pieces for printing on my Wanhao i3 Plus. I started printing on 10th December 2019, and finished printing on the 17th January 2020.

There was obviously a gap for Christmas thrown in there, but most of the dome pieces were 12 hours plus prints, as were the nose covers. The faceplate was printed on my Elegoo Mars, split into 4 pieces. The parts only just fit, but they printed nicely – again 12-15 hours each. A little warping at seams meant I had some work to do, but ultimately, I saved a bunch of time in sanding and filling.

This is the first project I’ve done printing in PETG. Normally I use PLA, but I’ve been really enjoying working with PETG so far, and my printer doesn’t hate it either, which is a bonus!

Once everything was printed, I glued all of the pieces together. I also re-enforced the internal seams of the main dome using a 3D pen, which I picked up cheap from Amazon.

Once all the printing and initial gluing had been done, it was time to move onto the sanding and filling.

Sanding and Filling

I switched from PLA to PETG because it’s supposedly easier to sand. It still has that horrible scratchy feel to it when you first start, but generally speaking, I’d say it does sand a lot better. Due to the increased working temperatures, you can also use a Dremel or other power tools on PETG, without it melting and clogging up so much.

The first step was to attack everything (that wasn’t resin) with some 80 grit sandpaper. I sand until that scratchy feeling is mostly gone, and the layer lines start to dissipate and level out.

I then did what I like to call a Nuke fill. Using 3M spot putty, I covered pretty much the entire helmet in the stuff, and let it dry. I then sanded it back using some 120 grit sandpaper.

I turned my attention then to the faceplate. I had to fix some warping which occurred during the printing process, which mainly affected the middle seams. I started by temporarily clamping the faceplate to the helmet, to make sure the shape was correct. I then snapped the glue in the middle seam, which allowed the faceplate to bend a little, and correct it’s shape. I had re-enforced the seams with some epoxy from behind, so it stayed in one piece, but had just enough flex to it.

With the faceplate now the correct shape, I was able to apply some epoxy to the small gap, and let it cure. Seemed my epoxy was a little out of date though, as it never really fully cured, and remained semi soft, which caused some problems when sanding – you’ll find out more about that later…

The next step was to sand the seam back (once cured) and then apply some filler over the seams. I learned during this project that the spot putty is rubbish at seams, but not until a little later on in the project.

Moving back to the main dome, once I had given it a good sand with some 120 grit, it was ready for the next step.

The faceplate was also sanded with some 120 grit.

The front nose pieces had also been sanded with some 80 grit, and some 120 grit, ready for some XTC-3D. I used a very light coat over the main dome and the nose pieces. I use XTC as a general filler, a little like my initial nuke fill with the spot putty. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – XTC isn’t magic, and in my opinion, you should always use it along side sanding and not instead of – that’s not what it does!

Once cured, it was more of the same – sanding with 120 grit until smooth. Once It had been sanded, It was time for the first round of primer. I always ‘waste’ a ton of primer, but it’s quite cheap, and sort of essential in finding out what still needs work. The primer doesn’t lie!

After the first full round of filling and sanding, it wasn’t too bad. But there was still work to be done, so we more or less did it all again. Fill sand, fill sand. No more XTC though – it did it’s job.

The faceplate received a little more attention at this stage too. There were a few stubborn seams which didn’t want to disappear, no matter what I did. After consulting with twitter, I used some superglue and baking powder, which seemed to do the trick.

And after..

Following some more filling and sanding on the main dome, and nose pieces, I was ready for what would be the final pre-paint prime.

Not bad! A few bits still needed work, but it was probably 80% there at that point. It took a couple of hours on a Sunday morning to finish it up, along with a little bit of work with the Dremel to knock back some lumpy bits.

The final step was to re-carve the cracks into the helmet and nose piece, which had become lost a little during the sanding and filling.

I temporarily attached the faceplate to the main dome, so that I could draw on the cracks for the faceplate, which I still needed to cut.

Apart from a little more work with the Dremel to add some lost details back in, that was the main helmet pieces more or less done, and ready to go for the next stage.

The Cracks

The unique thing about this helmet is the cracks. The helmet was reforged in TRoS, using some king of glowing space epoxy. I thought that perhaps it was a visual effect, or that it was being enhanced in post (which it probably is), but some behind the scenes footage shows it glowing on set, and it looks more or less identical to what you see in the film.

Most people I’ve seen so far have used paint, and I looked into using some kind of glowing paint, but couldn’t find anything that really looked like it would work. I suspected it was back lit resin, but at first, I wasn’t sure how to get the resin where it needed to go without creating a huge mess. So first, I experimented with a 3D pen, using some transparent red PETG. It diffused the light ok, but it looked tatty, and would need a lot of work to get it to look clean on the outside.

So I went back to trying to figure out a way to use resin, as I knew it was my best option. A really random though then hit me one night as I was trying to sleep. So the next day, I ordered a couple of things from the interwebs, and waited.

My first test piece involved a little piece of test plastic which was from my first Kylo helmet. I drew some rough cuts on it, and then used the Dremel to carve them out. This piece was PLA though, so the Dremel really wasn’t happy, and it wanted to melt instead of cut.

This first test was encouraging, but I definitely needed to tweak it a little. So I used another test piece, which I printed for this purpose, and got to work. This time, I let the resin kick before pouring, which stopped the resin from running, and also stopped it leaking onto the outer surface.

Far left and right is the 3D pen idea. The middle four are resin.

The results from my second test were very encouraging, and I knew from this that it would work for the helmet.

Is it possible to learn this power?

Yes! Here’s how I did the resin cracks on the helmet:

Using my Dremel, I carefully carved out the cracks, making sure I left enough plastic there to stop it falling to pieces. I used a sharpie to mark a rough guide of where to keep, but found myself mostly ignoring those lines, and doing it by eye.

I used several different bits on my Dremel, trying not to make the cuts too wide. It’s slow work, and can be tedious, and honestly, a little boring. But the end result would be worth a few hours of tedious and slow work, as the effect is super cool!

I started with a small carving piece (1mm or so). I gouged out the cracks until they were deep enough – the bit I was using only reached so far down before making the cracks too wide, so it was easy enough to tell when, if not by eye alone. I then drilled a series of holes along my chosen path, and used a small, pointed diamond bit to grind out the remaining plastic, leaving little bits connected where needed, so that the helmet stayed together.

Just under the half way point – around 5-6 hours with the Dremel..
Finished – Took 8-10 hours in total..

Once the cracks had been cut all the way through, I then did my best to clean them up a little. I used some 80 grit sandpaper cut into strips, and sort of flossed them between the gaps, trying to get rid of the small, melted blobs which clung onto the side.

Once I was happy, I gave the helmet a temporary black coat, and it was then ready for resin. I started off my sealing the outside of the helmet with some foil tape – this was to ensure that the resin didn’t leak out the other side, and to make sure we got nice clean lines. It also helped to hold the helmet together, as it was very fragile at this stage.

The resin would be poured from the inside, flowing outwards. The inside of the helmet would be a little messy as a result, but it didn’t really matter all that much, as by the time we were finished, it would all be hidden anyway.

I mixed small amounts of resin at a time, targeting small patches, splitting the pour into multiple pieces. I had to wait for the resin to start to kick before pouring too, to make sure that it stayed where it was needed, and didn’t run everywhere, though for some small areas, I poured whilst the resin was very runny, to ensure that it got where it needed to be. Overall, it worked pretty well, and I would always orient the helmet so that the patches I were doing were as close to flat as I could get. Due to the overall shape of the dome, this wasn’t always possible, but for the most part, things stayed more or less where I put them.

About half way through
Light reflecting off the tape

Once I had filled all of the cracks, I left the helmet for a couple of hours so that the resin could harden a little. I then removed the tape, to reveal the cracks. There was some clean-up to do – some air bubbles, and small patches that the resin didn’t quite reach – but overall, it was a success!

Some of the air bubbles which I later fixed

The helmet was super strong again, and had a nice weight to it, which was important. Before pouring the resin, the tape was more or less holding the helmet together!

I still had to grind out the remaining tabs that were left over, and also clean-up some of the resin, but it worked about as perfectly as I could hope!

Looks great even in full light, and has that slight pinky tone that it does in the film!

With the helmet done, I then moved onto the nose piece, which was done in the exact same way, as was the faceplate.

The faceplate was also done in the exact same way, just on a smaller scale..

That was all of the resin bits done!

Pre-Paint Assembly

Before painting the helmet, and installing the lights, it was time to start assembly. Before I did though, I wet sanded everything up to 1500 grit – with the faceplate going up to 3000 grit. At this point, only the faceplate and side pieces were attached. The two nose pieces would be attached after painting.

This was a pretty simple task – I used some epoxy along the top of the faceplate and secured everything with hot glue. I used hot glue also to secure the side pieces. The faceplate needed some gentle persuasion whilst gluing, and I ran into a slight problem, linking back to earlier in the post.

Remember those pesky seams? Well, they came back to haunt me a little. Due to the gentle persuasion required to attach the faceplate, the center seams cracked a little, and in one part, more or less fell straight out. With the faceplate well and truly secure, I decided that it would be safe to grind out the original filler from the cracks, remove all of the bad epoxy, and re-fill one final time with the car body filler I picked up. Overall, it was an hour or two of work, but definitely worth it. The gaps filled nicely, and I re-sanded the area back to 3000 grit. You’d have never known!

Old crap removed..
New filler
Quick blast of primer to confirm
Wet sanded back to 3000 grit
Test fit of all the pieces together for first time – Nose pieces loose.

With that last minute fix done, and the main assembly done, I could move onto installing the lights.

Lighting

So the lighting for this was simple in a sense, but also (for me at-least) a little complicated. I looked into many different methods to light the helmet, including EL wire and side glowing fibre optics. Though both of these options would have worked, they were expensive, and not very bright, so I would have had to trace the cracks more or less perfectly for them to light up, and it would have quickly become a mess inside. So the solution was to use LEDs, and to light the general area around the cracks, but also keep everything hidden from the outside.

To do this, I had the idea of making a foam insert which would house the lights, and to use foam spacers inside the helmet, to suspend the insert roughly 10mm all the way round. This would give the lights a little breathing room, and let the light spread more evenly.

I started off with a rough 3D model, which I made in Blender, using my original model as reference. I offset the model roughly 10mm from the internal shell of the helmet.

I then transferred the file to Pepakura Designer, and printed it as a paper template. After cutting the parts out, I assembled it with some tape, and test fit it inside the helmet, making further adjustments as needed.

Once happy with the general shape, I re-cut the paper template,and transferred it onto foam. Foamsmithing is an art form, and something which I have little practice with…so it was kinda an ugly mess – but I didn’t need it to look nice, I just needed it to do it’s job.

Good enough! I considered skinning the inside of the helmet, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered!

Before fully committing to the idea, I had to test if it worked. So I placed some temporary spacers inside the helmet, and taped a strip of light across the insert.

Initial test was a success! So I moved onto the next stage, which was installing the lights onto the insert.

I cut my lights into smaller strips, placing them roughly where the cracks were. First I loosely taped them into place and did a test fit to make sure they avoided the foam spacers inside the helmet. It was a good fit, so I attached them permanently with the sticky strips on the back – later I insulated everything with hot glue.

I expected wiring these all up to be a little more of a pain than it was. It was actually super simple, and surprisingly relaxing. I first planned my route, using some tape to form connections. The lights had to form one continuous loop, with a start and end point.

I then went ahead and soldered all of the connection points prior to wiring.

With my tape as a guide, I then moved onto wiring it all up. I did all of the positive wires first, and then did the negative. It took 3-4 hours in total.

I then temporarily soldered on the USB connection, and plugged it in – it worked!!

With it working, I could test fit it into the helmet, and make sure everything lined up properly. For the most part, it was all pretty much perfect, but for a small area which wasn’t quite receiving light – this was an easy fix to make, requiring a little adjustment in one of the LED strips positions.

The next step was to make a few adjustments where needed, and then seal everything in. I also had to add some separate LEDs to the faceplate, and the nose piece. I left wiring points for them, so it would be easy to do.

I moved a few of the strips around, and added some additional lights in some areas that needed it. This lit up the remaining darker spots, and also removed some of the obvious hot spotting from the lights which were aligned a little too well to their cracks. A few adjustments needed to be made to the circuit to fit the new strips in, but it was a simple task.

Once I was happy with the lighting for the main dome, I could move onto adding the lights for the cracks on the faceplate. I wasn’t entirely sure what the best way of doing this was, and it took me a few hours of blankly staring at the helmet to actually figure out a good way of doing it.

I started by gluing some foam spacers either side of the cracks from the inside. This would form a small channel, and essentially trap the light – or that was the idea at-least.

I had to make sure that they wouldn’t be seen from the outside, and also still allow enough room for the visor to be installed later. I then fit the insert, and cut some 4mm foam flaps which would rest over the top of the spacers, and also hold the LEDs. These foam flaps were hot glued onto the foam insert. I attached the LEDs to the flaps, trying to offset them slightly from the cracks, trying to avoid hot spots. Once attached, I then wired them up to the existing circuit.

I then placed it back inside to make sure it all fit nice and snug, and switched it on.

Due to the faceplate being resin, the LEDs were bright enough to kinda make it glow. Paint however, stops that – I tested! Pretty good. Kinda annoying that the light doesn’t quite reach the very last part of the crack, but there’s not much I could do, whilst maintaining the clean look from the outside.

That was the faceplate lights more or less done, and the final part of the lighting was the nose piece, which I did after painting was done. The nose piece was probably the easiest of them all. I started by marking out the area to cut out on the under piece.

I then cut the section out using my Dremel.

Once I had cut the hole, cleaned it up, and made some adjustments, I hot glued some 4mm foam strips along the inside edge, and then attached a piece of foam. This gave the lights a little breathing room, and just like in the helmet.

I then cut my LEDs into the required lengths, and roughly arranged them on the desk. I allowed myself some wiggle room with the cables, making them purposely longer than needed, so I could install the lights exactly where I wanted them once wired.

I soldered all of the connection points, and then wired the circuit. Once done, I installed the lights onto the foam. The extra length to the cable made this quite easy to do.

I temporarily attached the USB cable to test that it was all working.

Success! I then placed the cover piece over the top, and roughly aligned it to make sure everything was lit well.

It was always going to be difficult to light the entire thing evenly whilst keeping everything hidden from the outside, so I’m pretty happy with how this looks.

Painting

The best stage! Painting is where all of the hard work sanding and filling really shines! Painting for this helmet was relatively simple – nothing too complicated at-all. Mostly just solid colours. The most tedious part was masking the faceplate, which was especially annoying as my tape kept coming unstuck!

I started by masking off the chrome section of the faceplate. Once I’d done that, I used masking fluid to mask off all of the cracks. This protected them from the paint, and meant that I could simply peel or rub it off, and the cracks would appear again unharmed, and free from paint.

Masking fluid is bright purple when wet, but dried almost clear on the red resin..

Once I had checked, double checked, triple checked, and then double triple checked (???) that all of the cracks had been covered, I went ahead and gave the helmet a good coat of grey primer. You might wonder why I masked off the faceplate for the primer – basically, from my own experience, Alclad Gloss Black goes onto bare plastic much better, and you get a much higher shine.

I did the primer in the evening, and let it fully dry overnight. Next step was the textured layer. There is a great deal of inconsistency in the finish of Kylo’s helmet. Sometimes it’s smooth and shiny, other times it’s dull and rough. For TRoS, it seems to be the latter, so that’s the finish I went with.

I used Rustoleum Aged Iron paint – which is textured – to get the desired effect. I gave it a good coat, but by no means a heavy one. It does sort of blast out of the can at quite the speed and pressure, so it’s coverage is actually very good.

I left the textured layer for a couple of hours, until I could touch it without being tacky. I then applied a matt black coat over the top, and once again, let that dry for a couple of hours before touching it. Although spray paints generally require 24 hours to fully dry, you can handle them after a few hours.

I used the front nose piece as a test to see whether the paint was dry enough to peel the masking fluid off. The paint should flake off, and not peel. When I did the nose piece however, it was still a little too tacky for my liking, and although the masking fluid pealed off without any major issues, I decided to leave the helmet for the night to fully cure before pealing off the masking fluid.

Once the masking fluid was removed, I used some fine wire wool to gently rub around the cracks, to remove the loose paint and flakes. Some flakes required some tweezers to gently encourage them to leave, but overall, it cleaned up nicely. There were a few small bits which I touched up with some black acrylic before clear coating.

After clear coat..

An unexpected benefit of adding the clear coat was that any remaining flakes from the masking fluid lifted away from the surface, which made finding and removing them super simple.

The other benefit of adding the clear coat was that it cleaned up the resin a little, and gave it a nice and clean, uniform finish.

With the black parts painted, it was time to move onto the faceplate (yay!).

I started by clearing off all of the old tape, and then cleaning up any paint bleed – I did this by gently rubbing some 3000 grit paper over the affected areas.

Tape removed

The next step was to mask up the black sections which we’d just painted. For the helmet, I simple placed a plastic bag over it, and taped around the edges.

With everything masked up, I was ready to paint the chrome. I started with Alclad Gloss Black as a base coat – I applied multiple wet coats. I then gave it a short period of time to settle (10-15 minutes) and then applied the Alclad Chrome in a couple of light coats.

I had a few issues whilst spraying, which seems to be a common theme with my airbrush setup for unknown reasons. The Alclad sprayed great, but the black was a little spluttery for some reason, and wasn’t going on as wet as it usually does. (I later realised that my pressure was a little too low – I don’t think my pressure gauge is accurate)

At first I wasn’t too happy with the result – it didn’t seem to have the punch or crispness I expected based on my last time using Alclad Chrome. (A few months before on the GoT wands project) But after leaving it for a couple of hours and coming back to it, it was much sharper, and I was actually super happy with the finish!

I left it overnight, and then removed the tape the following morning.

Following morning with the tape removed

I resisted the urge to get it finished, and left the Alclad for another day, just to be safe, as I really didn’t want anything rubbing off, or scratching.

After allowing the Alclad to sit for a day or so, I moved onto the final major bit of painting, which was adding the black sections to the faceplate.

Masking around the little sections that needed to painted black was a little bit of a pain, just because it was honestly a little challenging, due to the shapes of the chrome pieces, and due to my tape constantly coming unstuck a little!

But I got to the “good enough” stage and grabbed my airbrush. I sprayed a light but even coat of Vallejo Model Air Black, and gave it 30 or so minutes to dry before removing the tape.

Left the tape on to paint that little section black by hand

I ended up getting this super nice, and natural looking bleed around the chrome pieces, which fits references of the original Kylo helmet. I was super happy with how this little bit of painting came out – and with that done, painting was complete! (But for a few touch ups by hand)

Miscellaneous and Final Assembly

There were a few more bits to add to the helmet before the final assembly, and declaring this piece done. I still had to install the foam insert, and wire the nose piece to it. There were some fabric panels to attach to the inside of the faceplate, which blocks the holes. I had the visor to install, aswell as some touch up painting, and some light weathering to the main dome.

First job was to fix some of the messy bits left over from masking, and touch some of those bits up. I used a small brush and some black acrylic, being careful not to get any on the chrome. It wipes off easy enough anyway, but it can sometimes stick to Alclad a little too well, so better safe than sorry..

Much better!

Next, I installed the fabric inserts for the faceplate. I made a simple shape in Blender, using the faceplate model as reference. I then transferred that to Pepakura Designer, and printed on paper. I cut the shapes out on foam, and then used some PVA glue to attach the black fabric. Once dry, I trimmed the excess fabric.

I gave them a slight bit of weathering before I installed them, but it’s barely noticeable. I attached the foam pieces with some hot glue.

The final big job left was to get the foam insert installed. Before I could do that however, I had to attach the nose piece lights to the main circuit, and attach the USB cable. This was a pretty simple job, as I left everything ready to go. I started by removing the USB cable, which was temporary at the time, and attached some new longer cables, which connected to the nose piece.

Outgoing cables connect the nose piece to the main circuit

The USB cable was then attached to the other side of the faceplate, with the other open connection I’d left.

I then plugged it in, and prayed to the old gods and the new that it all worked!

Success!!

I then used some hot glue to attach the front nose piece. With the soldering all done, and the circuit working (thank the maker!), I could finally install the foam insert into the helmet, and see it all working together for the first time! I have to admit – the first time I turned it on, I was underwhelmed.

Turns out, it wasn’t seated properly, and so not everything was aligned correctly, so I had to make a few adjustments to the insert before it sat correct, but eventually, everything lined up, and it looked so much sharper!

All that was left to do then was install the visor, and a few extra bits of foam to seal everything up.

Admittedly, it’s not the most pretty or exciting thing to look at, but I’m honestly really happy with how the inside looks; It’s tidy – that’s the main thing!

I then did a little light weathering over the main dome and nose pieces to finish things off, with some black washes and a slightly off black wash to give a slight variation in colour. I also did some light edge wear with some silver on a few pieces – but again, it’s subtle. The faceplate was left alone – as I didn’t want to dull the crispness of it at-all.

And with those last few steps – Kylo Ren was…Done!!!

Finished Result

I’ve had a great time working on this project, and as always, have learned a lot. To see the rest of the studio images, you can click here: https://imgur.com/a/aDUwphN

That’s all for now!