TMNT's Leatherhead

Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
edited August 2022 in Costumes & Cosplay
From the first time I was 5 and saw the show Werewolf, I have loved anthropomorphic animals. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a series that my love has grown for as I have gotten older. What Jim Henson's studio was able to do with Ninja Turtle's designs was amazing. Not only did they bring them to life, but gave them individual looks, and personalities.

While it is a dream of mine to make my own TMNT costume of the caliber of the films, I know that is something that has been attempted by a lot of people. So I am going to make some attempts at some other characters from the TMNT lore and try to bring them to life how I imagine they would be put on a movie screen.

I have planned on making a Slash costume for over a decade, but after seeing the FuRay Planet Wilderness Hunter Crocker I have been compelled to bring the character Leatherhead to life.

This design character captures what I think Jim Henson studios would have put on screen if given the opportunity.

I am currently low on funds, but I have a lot of upholstery foam, foam floor mats, glue, paint, foam clay, mask latex (I hope it's not dried out) left over from when I was really making costumes in the 2010s. I plan on going to Retropalooza IX Oct 22-23, 2022 @ Arlington Convention Center.This character would be a nice blast from the past to enter into the cosplay contest and wear for Halloween.

My first creature costume was Aeon Calcos Lizardman from Soul Calibur 3. The struggles of creating the costume, and wearing it for several hours, have not escaped me.  

That Lizard man will work as beta of what I want to accomplish with this Leatherhead costume.
There are several things I want to fix that were problems with Aeon.

1. Aeons head was very heavy. It was cast in plastic resin and had wooden puppetry inside. The head had to be held up to my face with my right arm for hours. This was very uncomfortable.

Solution: make a lighter foam head using closed cell foam floor mats, and foam clay.
I will try to puppet the head with my jaw movement using this horse head mask as my inspiration.
I have to figure out how I will see out of it, and how big it will be.
The head will be proportion the head to make the body look big.

2. The bodysuit was built on a surfer wetsuit that I had to zip my self into from the front. While this gave the costume a seamless look, it was very hot. I compare it to wearing a dishwashing glove over your entire body. The carved upholstery foam coated in latex rubber would not allow my body head to leave the costume. This put me on the verge of heat stroke. The only way to cool down was to lower the mask and unzip the costume. That was very inconvenient and broke the illusion.

Solution: Make the costume 3 pieces. Head, torso, and legs that will all go on like a shirt and pants. The can just remove the top when things get too hot. I will also try not to cover the entire costume in latex. I will make sure that in areas no one can see to leave openings for air to escape the costume. The latex is old and in buckets. It may have dried up into a solid chunk. If I do not have liquid latex, I will make do with foam and paint.

3. My Aeon had eyes that could turn left and right. That will not be something I want to pursue with this costume. Moving eyes were only noticeable from up close and hardly worth the effort.

Solution: I will instead see if I can find a way to make the mask blink using string.

While I hope to capture a look similar to the Crocker, I will take artistic liberties to make the character my own.

Now that I have posted this here, I guess I have to follow through with it or risk disappointing everyone. I will do my best.
I will start with the mask and take it all from there.


  • Exciting stuff!  Your previous costume turned out great, so I can only imagine this one will be even more awesome.  Can't wait to see what you do!

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited August 2022
    Thank you Chris. I couldn't have done it without the Stan Winston School of character arts. I mean, I could have, but it wouldn't have looked as good. 

    The tutorials that helped me the most were Shannon Shea's Garage Monsters series, and Steve Wang's creature mask painting.

    I took the lessons Shannon gave about building a puppet out of foam, cotton balls, and latex then applied it to making a costume.

    If the TReX head lesson had been around at the time I would have sprayed glue over the foam to seal it before coating it with latex. I did not know that trick and the foam soaked in a gallons of liquid latex.  

    Another tutorial that really helped me was the first I ordered. That was Steve Wang's. The way he painted Gill man was an inspiration. The lessons on motteling made a huge difference in the realism of the costume.

    My only regret was I did not use thinned rubber cement to apply the paint. I was worried about the health side effects of the thinner and my garage having bad air circulation. So I just used water thinned acrylic paint. It looked great but did not flex with the costume. All the areas that  rubbed the paint flacked off. 

    An alternative I wish I knew at the time was to tent the liquid latex with the acrylics and thin that down with water. Then the paint would bond and flex with the costume. I used that on my following costumes.

    I coated the body of the lizardman in a flexible gloss coat but that only helped a little.

    Live and learn.
  • Yo, big fan of TMNT myself, I can’t wait to how your Leatherhead comes out!!
  • I was about to take this clay off of my bust to make a template for my Leatherhead mask and starting thinking, "I have a lot of Dragon skin silicon.Maybe I could sculpt and cast this mask instead of making it out of foam?"

    I know the jaw articulation of silicon masks works well when close to the face. I don't know if it would work with a longer snot.

    Just to cover my bases, I think I will start with foam and if I can't get that to work I will sculpt and cast.
    The entire bottom jaw of my Lizardman is foam. Only the top was resin cast. So I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt that I can work in foam.

    The head sets the proportions for the entire costume so I have to get it right.

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited August 2022
    I'm making a cardboard template to base my EVA foam floor mat build on. I'm starting out with the bottom jaw.
    Tools; Pizza box, scissors, marker, box tape, tailor's ruler, and a marker.
    I added a part to the front to close up the jaw, and taped it all together. I cut out a space for my neck, so the jaw could fit past my head. I may cut the space in more so my head is farther into the mouth.

    Here is a test fit.

    I'm not sure how far away I want the jaw from my face.

    I may be able to mirror the jaw for the top of the head, but I want the jaw to look powerful. So the bottom jaw will be bigger than the top of the head. To avoid looking like another Lizardman, I may taper the snout some more.

    I mirrored the jaw template and this is what I got. I have to make the top slimmer. At the moment it's shaped closer to a JP Raptor head than an alligator.

    I can lower the top of the head to where I can see under fake eyes place on my fore area like the movie ninja turtles. 
    Or I can make my forehead the neck area, and look out of where the neck meets the base of the head? Then put the eyes up farther?
    I am leaning towards the yellow example, and looking out over the fake eyes. Once I add the hat, it should help hide a lot.

    I've left the snout the same width, but I made the top half of the head shorter than the jaw.
    I placed some glass eyes I had on top of the head to see how it would look. I like it. There is plenty of space for him head. The jaw will still open when I open my mouth, and I think there is enough space to add some mechanisms/puppetry for opening and closing eyes.
    I thought the glass eyes would only look good facing forward, but they look good from an angle too.

    I cut some foam spheres in half to see how they would look as eyes. I think they would be too big for what I am going for.

    Post edited by Jared Lee on
  • When I transfer this template to foam I will have to round out the flat areas. So I will be adding more foam to carve and sculpt foam clay. I slimmed down the cardboard template a few inches to compensate. My head will be covered by the mask when the mask is built, but at the moment the top of the mask is at my hairline. I shortened the snout and placed the eyes higher on the head. I think I will end up looking out of the mouth. Not only that, but I may taper the front of the jaw.

  • I am running low on time, but I have been making a little progress. I traced the cardboard template onto foam and glued that up.
     The sides of the mouth are all the same template, but flipped. So the bottom jaw does not fit into the top. That is something I have to fix. I am planning on hot glowing some more foam onto this to round out the sides before adding the foam clay. It should help me save on foam clay, so I don't run out. I doubt I would have enough time to fabricate an entire torso. So I am going to repaint my old Ganon torso. The Ganon had extended arm mechs.The gloves are from an unfinished Hammer Brother costume.

    I put the Ganon body on like a big coat that buckled in the front. There was armor over it, so no one saw the front. Leatherhead wears a vest and shows off his chest.  I have to close the front, and find a way to put this on from behind. After that I have to repaint it.
    Summary; I have to:
    1. Make the head.
    2. Adjust the front of the body, and make a way to put it on from behind.
    3. Make a tail, Maybe some feet.
    4. Repaint the body.
    5. Make a vest and hat.

    The convention is on the October 22nd. So I have to get to it.

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022
    I'm making ok progress, but I would like to speed things up. I have to base coat this a color once I get all the new foam added. I usually brush on a few layers of black latex, but that takes a while.
    I was wondering if I could use a flexible spray paint, or rubber to speed things up? Like black plasti-dip, or vinyl paint?
  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022
    Made some adjustments.

    I made some progress on the head. I only have 600 grams of foam clay. I don't want to run out of foam clay, so I am blocking out as much of the head as I can. I think this is good enough. I may make some teeth out of polymer clay next. Then I can stick them into the head while the foam clay is still soft.
    I wanted the jaw to move when I open my mouth. I hot glued some rubber bands on the inside of the mouth. It is not working. The mouth just shakes a little. Not much movement. 

    I asked my brother if I should add some brow movement. He responded, "Alligators don't really emote. They float around and eat stuff." So I'm not adding brow movement. I could add moving eyelids. I'm not sure how the mechanics would work.

     I tried to adjust the front of the body, and to make a way to put it on from behind. I really don't want to cut the back of the costume. It has a strong latex skin that I would hate to cut. So I took the buckle away from the front of the chest and replaced with velcro. I also cut away some of the chest area. I decided to separate the torso into two sections. A jacket section consisting of the arms, back, and chest. 

    Then a poncho that is the belly, love handles, and crotch.  This fastens in the back with the claps. I'm going to use a wood burning to cut some alligator skin patterns onto the belly.
     When everything is painted, I hope it all blends in together. Once I make the vest, it should also help hide the parts.

    I am going to spray this sucker with black plasti-dip, or flex seal. I have to save on latex, and time.
    Post edited by Jared Lee on
  • Looks like it's all coming together. 

    I like that you are able to repurpose an older costume to help save some time!

    PlastiDip should be a good option for basing things out, I know some cosplayers use it for foam armor, though I've never tried it myself.  Hope it works out!

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022
    I added some texture and spikes to the body. I used a wood burning tool to burn detail into the foam. Mostly the lines, and a few dots. Added some black puff paint, and hot glue for texture. It's going to wear a vest. So I didn't cover the entire back in spikes.

     Chris, after spraying the foam with the plasti-dip it just changed color. I wanted to make sure that I had a base color to work with. I know spray plasti-dip flexes, and pray paint doesn't. Likewise, I will check it's flexibility in the morning. Right now it's drying outside overnight. Surprisingly, plasti-dip is cheaper than the 3M Foam Fast 74 adhesive, orange suggested in the T-REx lesson. If I am lucky, it may work just as good as a foam seller?

    I'm making some knee-high feet to wear as shoes. I hope these turn out good.
    The base is a camping mat. I traced a slipper size onto the foam and drew out what I want the foot to look like. 

    Keeping track of my supplies is tricky.  I plan on going over the foam with some latex mixed with paint. That should get the colors right. I have a gallon, plus a bucket of monster makers latex. It's 10 years old, so I've got to check and see if it's still liquid or a block of rubber. I have 9 days left. I hope it's still good.

    Update: Sigh... Well, my 5 gallons of latex from 2014 was all bad. I opened it up, and it had a brown layer of latex on the top. Then I poked the skin, and it had tan water. It all smelled foul. Like a mix of sour milk, and feet.

    I have 2 16 oz of latex on the way. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

    Post edited by Jared Lee on
  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022
    Plasti-dip is not a replacement for 3M Foam Fast 74 adhesive, orange when it comes to sealing upholstery foam. I tried it, and all it does was color the foam. I just wanted to make sure people got that information.

    So teeth got sculpted out of super sculpey and painted them. I also used some craft foam, hot glue, and pipe insulation to make this tale. 
    This is closed cell foam, so I can seal this with plasti-dip. Once it is painted, it should all come together.

    This is closed cell foam, so I can seal this with plasti-dip.

    The jaw on the mask can move when my mouth opens.
    It had rubber bands hot glued on the side to pull the moth back into position. I took those out and used springs instead.
    There was fabric on the side of the mouth hinging the mouth. That was taken out, and I used bent wire to function as pivot points.
    Post edited by Jared Lee on
  • Time is slim, but I am still making progress.  I will continue with the tail.
    The hot glue texture was not enough for me.SO I burned some line details in. It's thin foam, so I had to be careful.
    Here is a picture of the top.

    Here is the bottom of it.

    After this, it got sprayed with a gray primer. Then some black plasti-dip. The plasti-dip ran out, so I finished with black flex seal. Now it is outside airing out.

    The vest got started. It is not sewn, but I looked at some patterns and cut out some fabric in that shape. Next, I used baby pins to hold it together. When I get time, I will sew it. The costume's arms were used to make sure everything fit. It didn't, so I took another piece of fabric and extended the back of the vest.

    My latex arrived in the mail. It is not much, but I hope I can make the most of it. Just 2 16oz containers. The upholstery foam was sealed with some spray glue.

    The next step was to brush on some latex. I mixed water latex, and paint. The latex is clear, but the paint is black, and brown. Dark brown should be a good back color. I hope I can get my air brush to work, but I will take this as far as I can with brushes first.
    This is what it looked like after the first coat of latex.

    I am giving it some time to dry. I rushed my lizard man's latex phase and only the outer layer dried. I don't want to make that same mistake.
    To conclude this update, I used the foam clay. I heard it compared to a marshmallow, and that is accurate. I mixed equal parts black and white clay and kneaded it together to turn it gray. The results speak for themselves.

    In a previous post, I listed some cons of my Lizardman costume. One was the head was resin and heavy. This foam is light, so that problem is solved. It just takes time to dry. With Lizardman I sculpted in oil clay, made a silicon mold, and cast in resin. All of my costumes have been one offs. So just fabricating us good enough.

    I used some rubber nibs for details, but most of them have smoothed out. When this fully dries, I will burn some details into it. I'm not a fan of all the dust rotary tools leave. A hole to add the teeth may be cut in. We will see.

    Air holes were added. I will back them with black sheer fabric. These will help me see, and add ventilation.

  • So sorry to hear about your latex going bad.  I'm in the same boat there... I have a few gallons in my shop that I need to throw out.   Very frustrating when materials have a shelf life!

    Glad the plastidip is working out for you.  Looks like everything is coming together nicely.  Lot of progress!

    I'm sure the lighter head in this costume will be a lot nicer to wear.  Resin can add so much weight.

  • For sure, losing resources is a pain.
    I am happy I can wear the head no problem. Now I can just focus on performance.

    Details were into the head. Some foam was added to the back of the mask. Pleather was hot glued onto the bottom of the to hide the neck. Now, no skin should show when I have the mask on.

    I primed it gray an hour ago. Now I have to wait for it to cure, and the smell to go away, so I can paint it.
    There was a box put into the mouth to keep it open.

    I'm surprised how big this head ended up being. It's comparable to an actual alligator head.

    It is difficult finding the correct hat for this costume. I do not know what the official name for a hat like this is so I could not search for one online. When I read Leatherhead's wiki, it just said, "Beat-up old hat". 

    I stopped by Hobby Lobby and got a foam hat. Then I hot glued more foam onto the top and bottom of it's brim to extend it. Next, I used a heat gun to reshape the brim. "Black hot glue). A nail was raked over the hat to give it a leather texture.
    The hat was then sprayed with 3 coats red vinyl / fabric paint. Then one of glossy clear plasti-dip.

    The results were good. The heat was completely sealed and red. Next, I used black shoe polish to weather the hat. It toned the red down a lot.

    It may get another pass with the shoe polish, but I am liking this.

  • Today is my last day to work on this costume before I wear it to the convention. I am going to spend the day painting the costume, adding details, and troubleshooting.

    Here are some feet I made yesterday. They are pretty much foam slippers. The tone nails are carved and belt sanded from some thick foam mats I contact cemented together. The upholstery foam is around half an inch. I was able to burn detail into it, but the burnt parts are weak now. I have to reinforce it from the inside. The latex should give it some strength.

  • Awesome, have fun showing it off at the convention!  Even if you can't get all the small details down, the bigger forms are already quite impressive!

  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022
    Tapered the arm openings to be smaller. I cut a triangle out and glued it closed.

    I just finished it all. Spent all day painting.

    My air compress burned out on me after I put the base coat of white on the face. Had to paint it with washes. I sealed the head in plasti-dip afterward, and it changed all the colors. So I had to go over it again to make the green pop some more. Now the plasti-dip is pealing. Oh, well it, I guess it adds character.

    Now the hard part is going to get some sleep and getting to the convention in time.

    Post edited by Jared Lee on
  • I finished the costume and wore it to the convention. I dressed up in the parking lot out of the trunk of the SUV my brother and I drove in. The event was at 3:00pm. I started dressing up at 2:20pm. I did not get to take the costume for a test run. We were not even out of the parking lot and the tail fall off. It would fall off every few steps. I was having second thoughts about even making it to the contest if I couldn't even walk without the tail falling off.  My brother was able to do something back there to keep the tail on. 
    Then one of the toes broke off while I was walking. My brother had some superglue and put it back into place. So my brother was an MVP for this event. I managed to get 2nd place I could not defeat the power, and historical accuracy of an awesome Marie Antonie costume. 
    I still have a good time. The costume had me sweating a lot, but I wouldn't really call it hot. I was like wearing a heavy coat, with a trash bag over it. I could open the mouth to get more air to my face, so I never felt claustrophobic or anything. 

    My only concern was having the tail fall off, and my butt showing. In the end, that did not happen. The hat flopped out of place. I should have used push pins to keep it down since the had is foam. 

    I will take more pictures when I suit up for Halloween. 

  • @Jared Lee Another one in the bag. First my compliments on tenacity but more so on your ability to make your own processes to make the unforeseen issues resolve. Great build!!
  • Jared LeeJared Lee ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022
    Thank you! On Halloween my brother is going to dress up in the costume and take a walk around where he works. So I will make sure to take some more pictures of him while in the costume. He is 3 inches taller, and 100 pounds lighter than I am. It will be interesting seeing how the suit fits him.
  • The costume turned out great, and congrats on getting second place! 

    Glad you had your brother there!  With big and complex costumes it's great to have a handler to help with moving around, repairs, and getting in and out of the costume.  

    Sorry to hear about the tail falling off.  That type of issue is pretty common when a costume first goes out into the wild.  Always handy to travel with an emergency repair kit containing things like zip ties, safety pins, glues, duct tape, monofilament, a sewing kit, etc.  Some events even have cosplay medics (either wandering or at a booth) that can help.

    I look forward to seeing that new batch of photos!

  • Thank you, every one! I have some more photos. My brother is in the costume. He is 2 inches taller, and about 100 pounds lighter than I am. So it fits much different on him.

    I wish we could have thought of some better poses, and used some prop weapons. Even with the orange tip at the end of the barrel, walking around with a toy gun does not sound like the safest thing in the world. If I had more time, I could have made a big foam knife.
  • Poses always elude me. I am such a bad poser, I started calling my shots School picture day. But, that said, when you are wearing an awesome croc outfit, it is hard to look bad.
  • Thank you Darrell.
  • Here is a live stream of me having fun with the mask and video from the convention.
  • You had me cracking up in the first 15 seconds but when another con visitor started doing the same bombastic DJing on his own live stream, I knew you had to to be smiling.
  • Pictures do a good job showing the costume. I think this showed the character well.
  • @Jared Lee can you advise on where you picked up your manequin bodies and if you like the ones you bought. I am still waffling about making the full body lifecast double or just buying the display model. I mainly need sturdy enough to wear my full oufits so I can plan, design and adjust on the fly not on the flat.
  • @Darrell Green I got my first mannequin from Amazon, September 21, 2013 for $117.99. It is full-bodied and plastic.
    The other is a bust for sewing.  I can't remember when I got it.

    As long as I stick to my measurements, things turn out fine. It just needs to hold things up right, and I'm good. The full body mannequin is 6 feet tall. I am much bigger than the mannequin , and a tad taller. So things fit loose on it. They still come in handy, and break down well.
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