How a cosplay n00b made a Hylian shield (a photo tutorial)

A while back, I made a Master Sword. A really crappy one, but a sword nonetheless.

And recently, with PAX East coming up, I decided I needed a shield to match.  A nice, classic, Hylian Shield.

The only problem is– and I am literally copying and pasting what I said when I made the Master Sword–

That’s right.

I’m a beginner. 

As a result, my Hylian Shield is nowhere near professional level. I actually messed up quite a few times. But a couple people at PAX asked me how I made it, so I decided, why not? Maybe my amateur skills can help cosplayers in the future.

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I was actually planning to make my shield out of foamboard– the same foamboard I used for my Master Sword— but realized that it wouldn’t work. I mean, it would work, but it wouldn’t be durable. Cons are brutal and have a tendency to totally beat up cosplay props.

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Reality is cruel.

Anyway, I chose to make my shield out of wood instead! Nothing crazy– just some standard, thin plywood you can nab at any hardware store. I won’t be fighting real battles with this thing, but it should be able to take a day of running around a convention center.

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I drew half a shield on a giant piece of paper, folded in half. Cutting it out this way will ensure that your shield is properly symmetrical!

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See how the Hylian Shield has that nice silver border? After cutting the shield shape out, I hand-copied the border shape onto my stencil and cut that out as well. Keep it folded when you do so that the border is also symmetrical!

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Using this stencil, I drew two shapes on my plywood: One for the shield, and one for the border. Now, on to the power tools!

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I learned how to use a jig saw in middle school tech class, but not everyone does. If you do end up using a jig saw, be safe about it! Heck, back when I made my Master Sword, my dad was too scared to let me use the jig saw.

So, I started cutting out the shapes.

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I did it pretty slowly. The whole cutting process took me about two hours– partly because I’m a n00b, partly because I was terrified of cutting myself, and mostly because I didn’t want to mess it up. I didn’t want to screw up the shape, and rushing it would do just that!

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I’m not a big fan of splinters, so I sanded down the edges.

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I grabbed some wood glue that I found lying around the house.

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And I pasted the shield border on top of the shield body. I left the glue to set overnight. Although I was supposed to clamp the wood down while it dried, I only had one clamp. My solution: stick a heavy object on top of the shield instead.

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Now, my shield looked a little like this:

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My skills have limitations, though. At this point, I realized that my shield looked a little 2-D. Real shields have a nice curve to them, so it fits a little better on the arm. I wanted a curved shield. How do I get a curved shield?

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(For those who do want to try to bend their plywood, steam-bending looked the simplest! It especially wouldn’t work for me, though, since my wood glue isn’t waterproof.)

I know my limits. I was simply going to have to deal with a flat shield.

My shield needed a little embellishment, though. I went outside and found this decaying pole.

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Using an ordinary handsaw, I hacked off some little wooden medallions of grossness. They were wet from being outside, so I used a hairdryer to dry them out and then sanded them down.

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Using the wood glue, I pasted them on!

(In all honesty, though, you’ll probably be better off going to a craft store and buying some little wooden circles. Save yourself the trouble!)

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It’s painting time! Using some silver spray paint, I painted the border. I then used some really cheap acrylic paint to color the center blue.

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On some thin cardboard (not corrugated) I cut out the triforce and those border shapes around the triforce and painted them yellow and silver, respectively. Using wood glue, I pasted them on as well.

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The Hylian crest was going to be a tad trickier, though. I ended up drawing myself a stencil by hand. It may be easier to just print out a picture from the internet, though!

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And anyway, my stencil didn’t work too well. I couldn’t find a good way to tape all the little wings and corners properly, so trying to paint it was a messy ordeal. In the end, I had to carefully smooth my stencil work painting by hand.

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But you know, after re-painting the edges of the crest, I thought it looked pretty ok.

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The back of the shield was still looking a little wooden, though.

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I mixed myself some paint and painted the back gray.

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Now, all I needed was a way to carry the shield around! I took an old leather belt that I thrifted and cut it in half.

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Using some wood glue, I pasted the straps to the back of my shield. I didn’t glue them down completely flat, since I needed room for my arm to slip in. Once again, my lack of clamps led me to more unconventional methods of holding things in place:

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I used wood glue, but I don’t recommend it! The straps started coming off after two days of convention-going. There are special glues designed for adhering wood to leather, which may perform better.

At the time, I didn’t realize this. All I knew was: hey, this actually seems to work!

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And so, the shield is finished!

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To see it in action, have a photo my friend snapped of me and another Link at PAX East! I know my costume ain’t too great, and there are still some things I need to fix up, but I really did try my best with it!

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I’m the Link on the right!

This isn’t the most beautiful, impressive, or professional Hylian shield. But I think that, for my limited skill, it got the job done. To the aspiring Link cosplayers: I hope this helped, even if just a little! And remember, Link is a very popular character to cosplay. There are tons of tutorials online, from the casual youtube to the hardcore This is a shield you can replicate at varying levels of detail and difficulty, so find a technique that you’ll be able to pull off!

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