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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35 thoughts on “How a cosplay n00b made a Hylian shield (a photo tutorial)

  1. I have just learned about cosplay in the last couple of years. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t really go to those conventions and dress up!!!
    GenCon is in Indy. I have been once. It was awesome.
    You did a great job.

  2. My goodness! You depicted the plight of shields in Skyward Sword so well. Just make sure you watch out for fire keese and red chuchus, or your sword will catch fire! And while that is cool to watch…
    Love your costume by the way! And I’m glad you were successful with finishing your costume! The only question now is: “Who will you be at your next convention?”

    • Haha, I’ll probably end up wearing this costume again for my next con (Anime Boston) in May!
      I have a confession to make, though: I really really want to make a One Piece costume. The problem is, all the girls of One Piece have very… revealing outfits. I might end up trying to make a female version of one of the male crewmembers (not unlike how I made a female Link costume 😛 ) so I can keep it classy!

      • AAAHHHH!!!!! ONE PIECE!! But, yeah, you are so right about most women wearing revealing outfits (especially the most popular women (but what do you expect of shōnen)). Your idea of going as a male is a great one. But you could always just go as Kokoro!!! Hahaha! I’m hilarious!

  3. Prop-geek here! This is an excellent writeup! You really made the right choice on not trying to bend your sheild. The trouble is, plywood, and also any glue joints resist holding a bend. To get a bend, you either need to use solid wood, or effectively build your own plywood by gluing together multiple sheets of wood veneer in an appropriately curved jig. The thin sheets bend easy, like paper. You lay them in to jig with glue between each layer and clamp the whole thing up to make the glue set strong. When the glue dries, your curve is locked in place. This is how things like skateboards are made.

    Steam bending or hot water bending would be done before gluing the border on, and again, only with solid wood. Dry bending really only works with dead-green wood; wood that was a tree within the last month. And as you point out, the process takes for-friggin’ ever.

    You can also carve something curved out of a large block of wood, or multiple sheets of wood glued together in cross-section to form a coarsly shaped curved sheild. But these techniques requires some crazier tools, makes plenty of mess, and forces you to buy more wood.

    So, to reiterate, you did a fine job, you made some wise choices along the way, and you did a wonderful job photographing and recounting your experience!

    • Wow, I see! I had a feeling that trying to bend the wood would be a lot of trouble. Thank you for the advice– I’m new to this whole prop-making deal, so all tips are appreciated. I’ll keep this in mind next time I try to make a shield! 😀

  4. Pingback: How a cosplay n00b made the Master Sword (a photo tutorial) | I think in comics.

  5. I’m impressed! The costume is great, as are the props. And despite what you said in an earlier post, you totally rock that blonde look.

    I really enjoyed reading this post, especially with the pictures of the shield-in-progress. You have a lot more making-stuff skills than you give yourself credit for.

    • Haha, thank you! Maybe I should go the way of the Japanese teenager and dye my hair 😉
      I’m learning! Really, my stuff-making skills come from online tutorials and trying to improvise with what I have. I feel like anyone with a bit of gumption can do what I did!

  6. Usually I do not like to incite addictions, but… yesterday I got the worst idea ever! We should play Tetris Arena online! Battling each other!

  7. Pingback: Who needs sleep when there are games to be played? | I think in comics.

  8. To be honest I don’t really make cosplays that much, but I had to design a shield for my English class and this helped soooo much! I had no clue what to do for the arm straps, and the bit about folding the paper in half then cutting to make it symmetrical is super smart! Thanks a bunch for making this and (hopefully) helping me to save my grade for this semester!

  9. i’ll never get it 😦 i dont good wood, or the machines and i just wanna cosplay link, cause of i like him and my lolitadress isnt ready yet. but it is harder than i thought. the clothes are ready but this? omg ._.

    • I’m not good with woodworking or power tools either. All this stuff is pretty new to me! With a little guidance and help, I’m sure you can do it. If not, there are plenty of prop Hylian shields and Master Swords online. Don’t lose hope; there’s always a way!

  10. Pingback: Make Your Own Hylian Shield « adafruit industries blog

  11. This is awesome. My shield is made of foam board, and my is flattish but sticking on detail on curved shields is pain in the rear! Thanks for giving me a solution to the shield handholds. I have less tools than you and my sword is balsa wood uses a stanley knife to cut through.

    • No problem! I’m glad my tutorial could help. And yeah, I know what you mean! You have to have some really professional tools to be able to make a curved shield. Maybe one day when I have my dream garage of power tools!

    • It was a hodge-podge of thrift shopping, clothes altering, and Googling cosplay tutorials! The tunic was made from a hideous dress I found in a Goodwill, as were the pants and boots. The leather pouches/belts were also pieced together from those 50 cent belts you can find while thrifting. It took a while, but it was worth it!

  12. i’m doing my shield using this as a guide, but mine will be made out of carboard (‘cuz it’s free ;A;) yours looks so cool, it inspired me to finally get on my first prop o/ i might do the sword too 🙂 thank you for sharing (з˘⌣˘ε)

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