In this guide, I will show you how to make patterns for EVA foam digitally and by hand. I will feature several different ways to create patterns so that you can choose the best method for you and for your project.
What is a Pattern
A pattern for EVA foam is like a template or blueprint. It serves as your guide, showing you precisely how to cut and shape EVA foam sheets to craft a specific item. These patterns are the key to ensuring that your cut pieces come together seamlessly to form the desired final product.
As we delve into this guide, you’ll gain insights into the art of crafting with EVA foam patterns. We’ll explore how to create your own unique patterns, delve into the art of effectively using these templates, and provide guidance on finding pre-made patterns online.
How to Make a Pattern
Let’s start by taking a look at how to make your own patterns. I will cover how to make them manually as well as digitally.
But let’s first cover the necessity of reference material.
Reference images are very important even if you want to build something original.
Get as many reference images as you can from every possible angle.
If you are building something from a movie, anime, or game then get all the references of the object that you can. Try to get closeups of the object and images from every angle.
When you are planning on building an original project, it’s valuable to gather a substantial amount of reference materials related to something similar. Consider collecting images and information from objects that were prevalent during the same era or context as your unique design.
For instance, if you’re aiming to construct an original piece like a steampunk armor, study the armor and other items commonly found during the Victorian era during the industrialization. Use similar shapes and a similar design language to your collected reference images to design your original piece.
Some tips for collecting reference images:
- Take Screenshots. If the object is from a game then go into the game and take screenshots of the object from as many angles as you can. If the object is from a movie or anime then take screenshots of the movie.
- Visit the website “Artstation.com“. Artstation is a website for artists to share their work. You can often find official concept art of characters, weapons, or environments there.
- Get the official concept art book of the game or movie. Concept art is often a very good reference because it often shows characters, weapons, and other objects from multiple angles.
- Search for 3D models online. You can often find 3D models from third parties of characters, armor, or weapons. You can then open the 3D model in Blender 3D (a free 3D program), and take screenshots from every angle.
- Search on Pinterest for original ideas. Pinterest is great for inspiration. If you want to build something original but don´t quite know what exactly, then pay Pinterest a quick visit to get inspired.
- Use an image generation AI. You can also use an image AI like Midjourney or Dall-E and ask it to create some images for you. It can be a great starting point for an original design.
Once you have all of your reference images, you can either print them out or go digital with “PureRef,” a fantastic free tool.
Just grab it, start the program, and drop your images in. PureRef works its magic and creates a mood board for you. You can zoom in and out and move stuff around easily with your mouse.
It’s a real gem and I use it all the time!
How to Make a Pattern
There are a lot of ways to make your own pattern. In this book, I will only show the methods that I personally use and that I find the best and easiest to use.
In pattern-making, you’ve got two primary methods. You can either create them manually by hand or go digital using software.
Which method you choose is up to you and depends on the project.
How to Make a Pattern Digitally
I create digital patterns using either Pepakura Designer, Blender or a vector drawing program like Affinity Designer or Adobe Illustrator.
Pepakura Designer is free to use but you have to buy the software if you want to export your pattern. And you have to export your pattern to print it.
But the Pepakura community it enormous and a lot of people offer their patterns for free. Just visit the official Pepakura website under “www.tamasoft.co.jp/pepakura_designer/” and check out their massive gallery. Maybe you find what you are searching for.
If you choose to buy Pepakura then you will be able to import 3D models and “Unfold” them into a pattern for paper crafting. But if you remove the glue taps then you can also use the pattern for EVA foam crafting.
But Pepakura is not as easy as you might think. If you just import a highly detailed model into the program then you will end up with an unusable pattern. You have to simplify the 3D model first by reducing the polygon count.
But what are polygons?
A 3D model is made out of vertices which are simply points in a 3D space. These vertices are connected by lines and when at least three vertices are connected with each other then a plane, also known as face, is created. And that face can also be called a polygon.
For Pepakura we want a 3D model with a very low polygon count.
You can either get a so-called “Low Poly Model” online or you can get a regular 3D model and build a Low Poly version of that. This process is called “Retopology”.
I will not cover how to do Retopology in this article but there are a lot of useful tutorials online that show you how it is done in a free 3D modeling software called “Blender 3D”.
1. Import the 3D Model
Once you have your Low Poly model, simply import it into Pepakura and unfold it.
2. Disable Glue Taps
On the right you can see the pattern and on the left you can see the 3D model. Disable the option “Show Flaps” in the Menu “2D Layout” to remove the glue tabs.
3. Set the Page Size
You can set the page size for the pattern under “Settings” in the menu point “Page Settings”. Here you can choose the size of the paper. You can print your pattern on multiple smaller pieces of paper and glue them together later.
4. Mark the Seams
Under “3D Model” you can use the menu point “Edit Mode” to manually set the cut lines along which the 3D model will be “cut” to make the pattern. Play around with the cut lines until the pattern looks manageable.
You are looking for shapes that are easy to cut and are easy to assemble with EVA foam. Try to avoid many small pieces and difficult-to-cut shapes where possible.
5. Arrange the Pattern Pieces
You can arrange the different pieces of the pattern on the right side. The dotted lines are the outlines of your selected paper size. Arrange them as you wish but make sure that they don´t overlap anywhere.
6. Export the Pattern as PDF
Finally, you can export the pattern as a vector file, an image, or as a printable PDF. I personally, export my patterns as printable PDFs or print them directly from Pepakura.
But What if the Pattern is Still too Complex?
If the pattern has too many small parts then you can use a little trick.
- Simply print the pattern out and construct the model out of paper. Make sure to reenable the glue tabs under the option “Show Flaps” in the Menu “2D Layout” to remove the glue tabs.
- Then mark lines on the constructed model where you want to cut it. Draw marks across these lines. These marks are registration marks that will help you to assemble the model later on.
- Finally, cut along the marked lines and you will end up with a new pattern that is more manageable for EVA foam crafting.
If you can’t lay a part flat on the ground then you have to add another cut. I found that this process will often give much better and easier-to-assemble patterns than Pepakura can generate.
And with that, you have your first self-made pattern! Just glue it together and cut it out.
I learned this trick from Kamui Cosplay. Make sure to check them out, they are real pros and have a YouTube channel that is a pure goldmine for anything cosplay.
Blender 3D is a 3D modeling software that is completely free and can be downloaded right here.
With some creativity, Blender can be used to create patterns that are just as good as Pepakura. Pepakura is a little easier to use, though.
Just like with Pepakura, you want your 3D model to be a low poly model.
There are two options to create a pattern in Blender. One is the “Paper Model” add-on. This add-on will enable you to export a pattern of your 3D model directly from Blender. It works a lot like Pepakura.
The other one is using the UV-Unwrapping feature of Blender.
Using the Paper Model Add-On
1. Download the Paper Model Add-On
The Paper Model add-on can be downloaded directly in Blender. Open the “Add-ons” menu by going to “Edit” and then click on “Preferences”. On the left, select the “Add-ons” tab.
Then simply search for “Paper Model” and install the add-on.
2. Import or Create Your Model in Blender 3D.
Select all the objects in the new scene by pressing “A” and then hit “Delete” on your keyboard. This will remove all the objects in the scene and leave you with an empty space to work with.
To import a model into Blender, simply click on “File” and then on “Import”. Choose what kind of 3D file you want to import and then find the file on your PC.
Most 3D files will either be an OBJ file or a STL file. But you may also have an FBX file if the model is textured.
You can see what kind of file you have by looking at the file extension.
3. Triangulate the faces of your Model.
Before you can export the model with Paper Model you need to triangulate the faces. Basically, you break up any polygons into triangles to enable the add-on to export the model as a pattern.
To Triangulate your model you need to enter the Edit Mode. Select your Model by clicking on it and then click on the dropdown menu on the top left that says “Object Mode”.
Select “Edit Mode” from the drop-down. You are now in edit mode.
Now press “A” to select everything and then right-click. A menu should appear where your mouse pointer is.
Select “Triangulate Faces” in the Menu. The faces of your model should now be triangulated.
4. Mark the Seams
Next, we need to mark the seams where the model is going to be “cut”. This can be done in edit mode.
So enter the edit mode and then select the edge selection option which is located right of the edit mode dropdown menu.
Now hold shift and press on one of the lines on your model that you want to mark as a seam. The entire loop of the edge will be selected at once. You can also select individual edges by simply clicking on one line without holding down shift.
Once you have selected one seam, right-click and select the option “Mark Seam” to mark the selection as a seam. The line will appear red now, indicating that it is marked as a seam.
You can clear a selected seam by selecting the marked line and clicking on “Clear Seam” instead.
5. Export the Pattern
Now select the model and open the paper model window by clicking on the “paper” tab on the right side of the viewport next to the “Scene Collection” window.
Then press on “Export Paper Model”. A new window will open where you can choose the location to safe the file, the paper size to print the pattern on, and the format.
And just like that, you made your very own pattern with Blender.
Using UV-Unwrap in Blender
And finally, there is another method to make a pattern in Blender using UV-Unwrapping.
UV-Unwrapping is used to texture 3D Models. To create a 2D texture for a 3D model you need to unwrap the model first to a 2D image. This process is called UV-Unwrapping.
You probably already realize where I´m going with this. We can export the unwrapped 3D object as an image and print it out to use as a pattern for EVA foam crafting.
1. Mark the Seams
Mark the seams as explained in the previous section.
2. UV-Unwrap the Model.
Click on the tab “UV Editing” at the top bar in Blender right next to “Sculpting”. This will open a new window.
You will see your 3D model on the right and the UV editing window on the left.
Go into edit mode on the right window, just like before, and select your model’s faces by pressing “A” on the keyboard. You should see the faces in the UV editing window on the left.
Now click on “UV” in the top bar on the left window and then select the option “Unwrap” and then click on “Unwrap”.
The faces in the UV editing window should now change. This should look more like a finished pattern.
You can drag the individual parts in the UV editing window to sort them. Every part you select should be highlighted on the 3D model. You can use this information later on to make assembly easier.
3. Export the UV Layout
Finally, we will export the UV layout by clicking on the “UV” menu in the UV editing window on the left. Then select “Export UV Layout” at the very bottom.
The export window will appear prompting you to select a location to safe your UV layout. Here you can also specify the size of the image.
Now you can simply print the UV layout and use it as a pattern for your project.
4. Paint Some Registration Marks
This step is optional but it can be very helpful for assembling your pattern later on.
Registration marks are marks on your pattern that help you accurately align the individual pieces of your pattern during construction.
Press on the “Texture Paint” tab in the top menu bar right next to “UV Editing”.
The view on the left will change very slightly.
On the top menu bar in the texture paint window on the left, press the symbol of the two pieces of paper. This icon will open a window that lets you create a new texture image.
Choose the same width and height as the UV layout that you exported earlier.
Don´t forget to give the texture a name!
For the color select a pure white and then hit “OK” to create your new texture.
Now select the texture that you just created in the “Draw” menu on the far right.
The texture has now been assigned to the model and you can start painting.
You can paint directly on the 3D model by simply clicking on the model. Once you release the mouse button the image on the left will update.
Draw some registration marks along the seams. Draw the registration marks in regular intervals.
Once you drew all of the registration marks simply export the texture by clicking on “Image” in the left window in the lower menu bar at the top. Then select “Save As…” and choose a location to save the file.
Save the file as a PNG to ensure that the background is transparent!
5. Combine the Pattern and the Registration Marks
After you exported your texture, simply open the UV layout from earlier in a design program like Adobe Photoshop, Affinity, or Gimp (free).
Then import the texture with the registration marks and lay it on top of the pattern. You now have a pattern with registration marks.
Save the file and print it!
The only downside with this method is that you need to do some test printing to figure out the correct scale.
Vector Drawing Program
You can also use a vector drawing program such as Affinity Designer, Adobe Illustrator, or Inkscape to create patterns. This method is best used for swords, guns, and other objects that can be built by stacking layers of foam on top of each other.
What Program to Use?
I personally use Affinity Designer as it is almost as good as Adobe Illustrator but it’s not bound to a subscription service.
But if you are just starting out then I can highly recommend Inkscape.
All of these programs work similarly. They use vectors to draw lines and shapes.
You basically draw your own patterns with vectors. Don´t worry, sounds more complicated than it actually is.
Here is a great video from Kamui Cosplay that explains how to use a vector program to make a pattern for EVA foam.
1. Import Your Design
First, import a reference image from the object that you want to make. Its best to get an image where the object is shown directly from the front or the side.
2. Draw Your Design
Then use the “vector pen tool” to draw the outline of the object. Each vector program has a Vector Pen Tool or something similar.
The Vector pen works as follows:
If you click once when the tool is selected then a point is set. If you click somewhere else then a line is drawn between the two points.
If you click and hold the mouse button down then you can control the curvature of the line. If you press on the first point that you created then the loop will be closed and you start drawing the outline of the next layer.
You can correct any mistakes after you closed a loop by using the white pointer tool. Simply click on one of the lines or a point and then you can manipulate it again by dragging the handles of the point.
Once you have traced the outline of the object and all of the details, you simply have to sort all of the lines and export your pattern as PDF for printing.
How to Make a Pattern by Hand
Often it will be much easier to make a pattern by hand especially if you don´t know your way around 3D programs or design programs like Affinity Designer or Adobe Illustrator.
Luckily, any pattern that you can create digitally can also be created by hand.
Let´s start with method number one. Drawing on your body.
Draw on Your Body
This is another method I got from Kamui Cosplay.
This method is only viable for making armor patterns and it may require more than one person in some instances.
1. Cover Your Body in Cling Film
First, you cover parts of your body, for example, your arm, in two layers of cling film.
Cover more area than you actually need just to be sure.
2. Add a Layer of Duct Tape
Next, add a layer of duct tape and make sure that you only apply the duct tape directly on top of the cling film. The cling film will act as a protective layer between the duct tape and your skin.
3. Paint the Pattern
Then, paint the general shape of your armor piece directly on the duct tape. A permanent marker works best for this.
Most pieces of armor will be symmetrical so you often only have to draw one side of the armor. Later, you can simply flip the pattern over to get the other side of the armor. This saves you time and ensures that the EVA foam parts for the armor will be more accurate.
Draw some additional lines along the general shape of your armor design. Try to think where you have to cut in order to make each piece lay flat on a surface.
4. Cut the Pattern
Finally, draw some registration marks along the cutting lines to make it easier to assemble later on.
Carefully cut the pattern from your body with some scissors.
Then cut along the lines that you drew on earlier. And with that, you have your pattern.
Use Transparent Paper
This is one of my personal favorite methods of making patterns for EVA foam but it is only suitable for some projects. I especially like to use it for original work but it also works for replicas.
I use transparent sketch paper for this but you can use any transparent paper that you can find.
1. Sketch Your Design
First, you have to sketch your design. You can lay the transparent paper on some lined paper or on a crafting mat. This way you can use the lines as a guide when sketching.
Try to sketch your design loosely and don´t try to make the sketch too accurate just now. It’s only meant as a loose sketch that should establish the general shape and some rough details.
2. Clean up the Sketch
Next, we will clean up the drawing by simply laying another piece of transparent paper over the first one. Now we can trace our initial sketch and define the shapes and details more.
If the object, that you are building, is symmetrical then you can only draw one half of the object. That is all you need to make your pattern.
In the following section, I will show you how to use the patterns that you just created.
How to Use a Pattern
Using patterns is quite easy. All you have to do is transfer the pattern to a piece of EVA Foam, cut it out, and glue it together.
There are a few nuisances, however, that will make that whole process much easier.
Let´s first have a look at how to transfer a pattern to EVA foam.
How to Transfer a Pattern to EVA Foam
The best method to transfer your pattern is using a simple graphite pen.
Start by painting the back side of the paper with the graphite pen. Make sure that you cover the whole area with the pencil. Then flip the paper around and place it on a piece of EVA Foam.
Next, use a ballpoint pen and trace the lines that you want to transfer to the EVA foam.
The pressure of the ballpoint pen will transfer some of the graphite to the EVA foam. Now you can retrace the graphite lines on the EVA foam with a ballpoint pen or a white marker and finally cut the shape out.
Alternatively, you can also cut your patterns out and place them on an EVA foam sheet. Then you can either hold the pattern down by hand while you trace its shape or you can pin it down with some needles or some nails.
It is important to mention that you will see the holes of the needles later on.
A lot of the time a pattern can be mirrored. For example, a helmet can often be mirrored down the middle.
Whenever this is the case, you can simply cut the pattern so that you end up with only one half of the pattern.
Then trace the shape of the pattern on EVA foam and simply flip the pattern around. Now trace the flipped pattern and you will end up with two mirrored shapes that can be assembled to the final prop.
How to Transfer Circles
Some patterns might contain circles or long curved lines that can be challenging to transfer to foam accurately.
A circle can be easily transferred by simply marking the center of the circle on the EVA foam by punching through the pattern with a pen. Now, we can use a compass tool to draw the circle.
Just set the compass tool to the right size using the pattern as a reference and then draw the circle on the EVA foam using the marking as the center point of the circle.
Where to Get Patterns
If you don’t want to make your own patterns or you need a solid foundation for your first project, then you can simply get patterns online.
Here are some of my favorite websites for free and paid patterns:
- Etsy (Etsy.com). Etsy is a giant marketplace for all kinds of things, including EVA foam patterns for cosplay. But most of them aren´t free.
- Kamui Cosplay (kamuicosplay.com). Kamui cosplay is a fantastic resource for anything cosplay and EVA foam. They are quite active on YouTube and have some amazing tutorials on there. They also sell patterns on their website.
- Punished Props (punishedprops.com). Punished props is another fantastic resource for prop making and EVA foam crafting. They have a very helpful YouTube channel and they also sell patterns on their website.
- Evil Ted (eviltedsmith.com). Evil Ted is also a great resource for learning how to craft with EVA foam and they also sell patterns on their website.
- SKS Props (sksprops.com). SKS Props sells quite a lot of very specific and general-purpose patterns on their website.
- Willow Creative (willowcreative.com). Willow Creative has quite a lot of patterns on their website. They also sell some bare-bones prebuild parts made out of EVA foam.
- Pretzl Cosplay (joycedesign.nl). They have a lot of patterns on their side for quite reasonable prices.
- Craft Cosplay (craftcosplay.com). Craft Cosplay sells a lot of patterns mostly of superhero props and masks on their side.