foam armor painting tutorial [pic heavy]

how to make this


look like THIS


While there are many different techniques for painting foam cosplay pieces, this is the method I use for metal armor that works really well for me. So I have typed out exactly what I do in hopes that it will maybe help someone.

I specifically used this technique for foam Iron Man armor, but it can be used for most metal props.

warning: very pic and text heavy



 •craft foam

                aka foamies! the thin, neon- colored kind will do, it depends on your project. you can get a big pack of these at almost every craft store for under $10.


mod podge gloss

              try a micheal’s or joann’s. you can either get the spray-can kind or get the brush on kind in a tub. both are around $8. I haven’t even finished my bottle yet. this tutorial describes the brush-on method but I have personally used the spray can for many things and I prefer it!



paint brush (the kind with bristles)

                one you won’t mind getting all messed up with glue. don’t use a foam brush for mod podge, it’ll just get stuck and messy.


plasti-dip spray

                any color will do, you’ll be painting over it. Americans can get this at Home Depot for about $6, don’t buy it for any higher than that. International people will unfortunately have to search harder and pay a bit more.



primer spray (kind of optional)

spray paint

                whatever color your project needs! if you’re doing something iron man, I recommend using auto-paint. If you are using auto-paint, you HAVE to use plasti-dip otherwise the paint will eat the foam and ruin it. The auto-paint I used for Iron Man is Dupli-Color Perfect Match in Dark Cherry Metallic, it’s pretty accurate and costs about $5 a can.



gloss spray

                it’s like $5 at the Auto-Zone and it’s magic



gas mask

                you NEED this. this is the item you don’t want to skimp on. don’t get a flimsy cheap one, invest in one with filters. you are spraying plastic here, you do NOT want that shit in your lungs.

plastic/work gloves

black/dark brown and silver paint for battle damage (optional)


First, make your foam prop/armor. Have it all glued and heat-formed and whatever you need to do to it before painting.


Time to seal the foam. This is the most important step of painting foam. Without it being sealed, the paint will soak in and not look vibrant. Pretty gross. So we’re going to seal it properly.

If you have the spray-on Mod Podge, simply spray a few light layers all over your foam. It should make your foam almost looks slightly sparkly when it’s in direct sunlight. After a few layers of spraying, you can skip right to the Plasti-Dip step.

If you have the tub of brush-on Mod Podge, start here. Take your mod podge, your brush, and a glass of water. I usually do this outside when it is really sunny and hot because it’s easier to dry. Dip your brush into the mod podge, then dip it in the water, basically making a half-mod podge, half-water concoction. Then brush it on your foam piece so that your foam is basically soaked in this stuff. We do NOT want brush strokes here- literally make it as watery as possible. It should look like really white water. It might drip everywhere; this is why we do this outside.

Let it dry and soak into the foam, and do about 3-5 layers of this. Use a little brush to move the water around equally on detailed parts, don’t let it build up and dry.

(You can brush the mod podge on straight, but the brush strokes build up, because the mod podge is very thick when not diluted. If you don’t like brush strokes, use my method.)


After this is all dried, it’s time for plasti-dip. PUT ON YOUR DAMN GAS MASK AND WEAR GLOVES. Go outside on your lawn and set your armor piece up so you can paint it easily. Close your doors and windows to your house and make sure there are no kids around. This stuff is dangerous when inhaled and it reeks.

Shake the can well, and start spraying. It’s better to do a lot of light layers rather than one thick layer. If you spray too much of this stuff on, it’ll start to glob up any details you may have on your armor piece. HOWEVER, spraying it on thick in areas where there is a unsightly seam is a good way to cover it up.

Keep spraying on layers of this stuff until your piece is fully covered and even (make sure to get the edges!). Once it is dry, your foam piece will have a rigid layer of plastic on it. VERY COOL.


Get out the primer and spray 1-2 layers. This is optional, really, but it helps the paint adhere to your armor easier, and it helps you see where you’re painting.


Once that is dry, get out your (auto) paint. Shake well, and spray 3-4 light layers onto your piece.  If you are using auto-paint, you might notice that some parts are drying a bit flat and kind of foggy. That’s okay! Sometimes it is humidity, and sometimes that’s what auto-paint does.  That is why we have the gloss!



Gloss is magical stuff, especially on auto-paint. Spray 2-3 layers of gloss onto your piece and the auto-paint will instantly look shiny and sparkly and beautiful. It’s kind of like magic.


OPTIONAL: Not all metal stays shiny and sparkly forever, right? Battle damage is a great way to make your armor look badass~ (and cover up any mistakes you made). Rub black or a dark color paint into corners to simulate dirt and age, and put silver on edges so it looks like paint scraped off.


There you go! Foam cosplay armor that looks remarkably like metal and has fumes that will make your parents and roommates hate you.


A lot of credit goes to IndieFilmGeek and STEALTH from the RPF for being one of the first people (I think) to come up with the Plasti-Dip Method. Foam Cosplayers everywhere are forever grateful.


I hope this helps people and feel free to message me if you have any questions! :)

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