Custom Creation – 1/4 Darth Vader Helmet – The Journey Begins…

Last year I saw a video on YouTube by Cosplay Chris. He took a Jakks Pacific Batman figure and totally re did it. It looked great when he was done and it really inspired me to go out and get that same figure and repeat his process. I did that and then I got hooked on getting these low cost but very nice Jakks Pacific Big Figs. I got a Boba Fett and re did that one. Then last year, I saw they were coming out with a new Darth Vader figure. They had previously made one in the Revenge of the Sith costume, but this new one was in the classic Empire Strikes Back look. To some people, they wouldn’t have even noticed the differences, but others do. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get the figure on Amazon during a flash sale for only $15 compared to the $30 regular price (which still isn’t bad).

Older, ROTS Vader


New ESB Figure


I got this figure with the full intentions of doing an entire repaint and upgrade. New cape, maybe alter the pose, ect. One thing I was thinking about was redoing the helmet. The helmet on the figure looks rather cartoony. The eyes look suprised and face is a little too flat and wide. I mean, it is definitely Darth Vader, but it just wasn’t the same as the real helmet. I know, you are going to say I’m just being super nit picky. You got this figure for cheap and it looks really nice. Yes, you are correct. But Jakks has done a great job with their Batman v Superman figures, that I think used facial scans of Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill to achieve a superb likeness. The Boba Fett i have looks great as do many other Star Wars Big Figs. But this Vader was a little off for my taste. So that’s where my journey begins. Making a brand new, movie accurate Darth Vader helmet in 1/4 scale. I figured it would probably cost maybe $50 from Shapeways and probably be worth it.

Jakks Figure                                                                                                                                      img_5531

My Modified Rubies Helmet


To achieve this goal, I set out to make the best 3D model of Vader’s helmet I could. I have been using Blender3D since 2004, and while that is a long time, it’s been a pretty off and on use, so I’m not really an expert. I still consult plenty of YouTube tutorials to aid my designing. I had tried in the past to make a Vader helmet, and while it definitely looked like Vader, much like the toy, it was off. It wasn’t as good as I wanted. To make things easier for myself this time, I took my full size Darth Vader helmet (a Rubies Deluxe helmet I heavily modified) and laid out some masking tape in a grid pattern. I did this on areas that had many curves and that were important to the shape of the helmet.

img_5480 img_5479

The reason for this was because I would be taking pictures of the front and side of the helmet to use as a background to make my 3D model. This allows me to get the shape and proportions right. Adding the grid in tape lets me know precisely where the vertice in Blender is between the two views. For example, I could be making my model looking at the front view and the vertices could be along the cheek, but in the side view, they are too high or low and not following the same line.

I did this for the dome as well. As I was making my models, the grid helped a lot. I was able to make it much quicker and more accurately than I had expected. Since this was in 3D, I made one side and mirrored it to complete the facemask. If you know about Vader’s helmet in the original trilogy, you know it wasn’t symmetrical. Not even close really (Revenge of the Sith was made to be symmetrical). So I tweaked one side to make it look more like it should. More and more tweaks were made as I checked and rechecked references. The dome was totally redone once and then heavily tweaked again. Finally I was done with the model. I felt very proud after this. After checking all the 3D Vader helmets I could see online, I think mine is one of the better looking, more accurate ones.

Old Vader Model, circa 2010


New Model work in progress



vader-render-13 vader-render-15

Now on to the easy part. Uploading my model to Shapeways to get printed. If you don’t know, Shapeways is a 3D printing service. You can upload a 3D object file and pick the material and size and they will print it and send it back. I have done this a few times with great results and I highly recommend them. But…I didn’t use them this time. After I upload the file the price came back as $180. $180! I could get a new Rubies full size helmet for $100 and spend the rest on parts to modify it. This was a little discouraging.

It was around this time I saw another video on YouTube from user DIY Perks. It was about a $150 3D printer. Now I’m thinking, I could get an entire 3D printer for $150 or just one printed helmet for $180. I did a little research on the printer from the video (Anet A8) and didn’t feel comfortable with it. The price was a little higher too and with shipping might be closer to $200. I did more research though and came across the Wanhao i3. From most things I saw, it was a pretty darn good little machine. Even better was there was another company that made a clone of it called the Monoprice Maker Select. After a little debating, I settled on that one. For just under $320, I got my self that printer. Now the fun begins.


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