Tron Legacy Costume

As promised, this is the first post about our Halloween costume contest winners.  Ian and his dad, Robby, won with an awesome Tron Legacy costume (that’s better than the movie IMHO).  Wanna know how they did it?  Robby was kind enough to write up the following information to be shared on the site.  Take it away, Robby!

I purchased a small kit on ebay for our test.   Ours was 6′ blue EL wire (probably 2.3mm) and came with a 2AA inverter box for around $10.  These small inverters put out about 1v ac. and will run about 15′ of wire before dimming.  This kit was actually used to create the costumebot tron in our entry photo.

EL Wire is not bright or visible during daylight conditions.  It needs to be dusk or dark to notice the light.
LED’s would have been a better solution, but would have cost much more (or taken alot more time to build due to soldering).  The EL wire was a compromise for us.   We bought all of our wire and accessories from  thatscoolwire.com.  They have a lot of useful information on using, soldering, powering, etc all things EL Wire.   We used 2.6mm High Bright El Wire, 50′ wire ran about $50 using a discount code. The inverters, end caps, etc ran us another $50.

I originally purchased one inverter to run all 50′ of wire, (8 AA batteries) but it measured 90v ac.  I’m sure the amperage is low, but I didn’t want to risk arcing/sparking or fire, so I went with 3 small inverters for the suit, and 2 additional inverters, each for the disc and helmet.  I tested touching the two wires to see how bad of a shock it would be.  It’s a small tingle, that builds up after 2 or 3 seconds & feels uncomfortable.  It wasn’t bad at all, so I made my son touch the wires so he would know what it felt like, and be able to identify it, should his suit short out or shock him in any way.  He actually held the wires for quite some time claiming he thought the feeling was ‘cool’.  Odd, but at least he wasn’t hurt lol.  Even so, I wanted to fireproof the suit (google ‘fireproof clothing’ for a DiY borax solution) but it left a residue on the black outfit.  So instead, I sprayed the inside of the suit but I also carried a fire extinguisher (just in case).  He wore the suit on several occasions without any issue.  I was very careful not to risk getting caught in the rain.

Our goal was to build a Tron Legacy suit (Orange color like the Tron Character) within a reasonable budget.  This went much higher than I wanted to spend (around $150 total), but I think the end result was worth it.  If you want to go for realism, you’ll obviously spend much more.  Our solution was to make a pattern of the light traces, build the light traces, and then attach them to a one piece suit.  After that, the costume pleather patterns would be glued into place completing the ensemble.  I chose to use 2 EL wire strands together for the main runs (Chest, legs, & upper arms) for more brightness. Single strand was used for the lower arms and back.  On the upper chest front, the EL wire was looped back and forth a few more times.

I wanted to diffuse the light, because the examples I saw on youtube and from our test sample, the light was very thin and stark.  I’ve attached a photo of how we layered our light traces.  I work in the sign industry and many of the cloths used are readily available to me (and cheap).  The paper patterns were transferred to 13 oz scrim gloss banner material.  I chose this because it would be less flammable, heavy fabric, and the white gloss offered the most reflection of light.  The EL Wire traces were then glued to the patterns.  The various bends will cause problems with 2 wires taped together, so I started from one end, and worked my way down each trace, taping the 2 strands together and gluing as I went along.  Next was to attach some packing material (unknown, but hopefully the picture gives you an idea of what it was) using some 3m 777 spray adhesive.

Once done, I cut the patterns away so I could complete the final step of attaching the sail cloth.  The sail cloth was applied to the foam side using spray adhesive.  Then I cut it oversized around the trace so that I could wrap it around the backside of the trace, encapsulating the trace entirely.   It is important to note that because the lights are not visible during daylight, we wanted our light traces to still appear orange, so I printed orange color onto the sailcloth (But you can dye it). Because it is translucent, the color ends up lighter than intended. So the suit looks a bit light pinkish/orange during normal light conditions.

Everything else was pretty straight forward.  Glue the light traces to the suit while the person is wearing it (or on a mannequin).  Pattern, cut and glue your pleather panels onto the suit afterwards, block out the inner circles or ‘terminate’ traces (Gaps in traces blocked out by pleather) as needed, and you’re done.

A few tips:
The disc was made from a frisbee.  I cut out the center and then created/glued light traces onto it, mounting the inverter onto the underside.  A magnet taken from inside a defunct hard drive was used, and a metal plate glued into the back of the costume to allow easy attaching/removal of the disc.  I found this solution on youtube somewhere. Thanks to whoever came up with that idea.

Fabri-Tac permanent Adhesive is an awesome glue when working with fabric. It can get a bit messy, but it tacks up quickly. I can’t say enough about how great it worked for us and all of our gluing on this project.

The helmet and boots were separate, but needed to connect to the suit wiring.  The solution I came up with was to solder in 9v battery connectors so that the two could easily snap together/disconnect as needed. EL Wire runs on ac, so there is no positive or negative (Making soldering, connections, etc quicker).

The helmet was made from a cheap kids police play set.  I bent and glued acetate for the face shield, a window perforation film was applied to the inside prior, then it was masked and painted around edges.

Use caution when gluing the traces onto the suit.  Wrapping the EL Wire can constrict areas making the suit difficult to remove or put on.  We almost made it too tight, to where my son could barely get in and out of the costume and required my help.  If it is very tight then don’t forget to make it bathroom friendly.  For a boy, this task was fairly easy to accomplish.

Although the wire is a little stiff, he had no problems moving around, running, jumping, etc. once he got used to it. It helps to put light traces so they don’t interfere with the joints (Knees, elbows).  Because I wanted to keep connections to a minimum, and he had traces running down to his index finger, we glued the gloves to the suit.  I did leave a flap on the inside of the forearm for access, but we never needed to use it.

We chose to make muscles by cutting some foam padding and attaching them to the suit (covered with pleather later) and an undershirt/pants (old thermal underwear he had).

Be careful using superglue or superglue gel like many people do.  It will leave residue (from the fumes) on anything plastic. I ran into this problem with the disc and helmet, and wound up having to mask off the traces and paint black over all the white residue.

-Robby

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