Houseki no Kuni wig with TranspArt

Ivorivet created this stunning wig for her Amethyst from Houseki no Kuni, achieving a glossy, crystalline look. She shared her process with us below!

Photo by Coffee_cat_cat

I just got back from Cosplay America in Raleigh, NC and I’m really excited to share how my Amethyst wig turned out! I watched Houseki no Kuni after seeing a bunch of lovely pictures of people cosplaying from it, and once I finished the show I started kicking around a few ideas of how I could make a wig that had a glass-like finish like the way the 3D models are rendered.

Using iridescent cellophane and other shiny materials for the gems’ wigs is not something that’s new, and I had the benefit of seeing how a lot of other people completed their wigs so I could see how things translated to real life. A couple of really lovely cosplayers I drew inspiration from before I started making my own wig are Kleiner Pixel, Schmemy Cosplay, Taaarte, and Sorairo Days.

A neat twist on the cellophane technique that I wanted to try out was to incorporate compound curves into the wig to make things look more organic. Cellophane is usually sold in rolls or flat sheets and is difficult to manipulate into curved shapes. My solution for that was to use a clear thermoplastic called TranspArt as a “carrier” for the cellophane, which provided enough support that I was able to glue the cellophane down into more organic shapes. An added bonus is that the TranspArt is shiny itself and really made the whole of the wig look super slick and glassy. I picked Amethyst’s wig to test out this technique on because she has a very round head and also a distinct stop at the end of her hairline because of the braid that’s wrapped around her head. I might try to adapt this to other gems in the future, but for this time around it was really nice knowing I had the braid to help disguise the ends of the TranspArt.

The materials that went into the wig are:

I also used the following tools for this project:

  • Heat gun
  • Metal baking sheet
  • Frog tape/painters tape
  • Got2B Freeze spray
  • Ice cubes
  • Sharpie marker
  • Nail polish remover/acetone
  • X-acto knife
  • Plastic Christmas ornament on a wig stand – this was to help stretch curves in the TranspArt, any other convex curve will do
  • Head cast – I did most of my styling on a slightly distorted resin head cast that I made a couple years ago. You absolutely do NOT need one to make a houseki wig, but I have a very deep curvature at the name of my neck that is not shaped like any of the wig heads I own (my chiropractor says this is a problem, yay!). Since I wanted the back of the wig to be as fitted as possible to the nape of my neck, I decided to use the head cast as a base since I already had it made. If I didn’t have it, I could have used a box cutter to modify a styrofoam wig head to the same effect.
  • Prepping the Base Wig

    The first step was to cut and style the base wig. The Dark Lavender color from Arda was pretty close to what I wanted but I was worried it might look a little dull, so I dyed the base wig and the wefts with a very dilute bath of RIT Dyemore in red to warm up the color a bit. I straightened the wig and wefts back out again using a blow dryer to direct heat down the lengths of the fibers as I brushed them out with a wig brush.

    To give myself a guide to determine where hair needed to stop (and later act as a backing where the braid would be sewn on), I used some purple craft felt to extend the cap of the wig. I put the wig on and then slid the felt between the wig and my head, marked with a sharpie where I wanted the felt to end, and used straight pins to hold it in place. After that I took the whole thing off my head, sewed the felt to the wig with a needle and thread, and then trimmed the excess felt off.

    The Grace was longer than I needed it to be but it was the only wig that was available in the color I wanted that wasn’t on backorder, haha. There was a lot of extra hair that needed to be cut off, but I found the added length made things easier when I was teasing out the wig. I sectioned the wig with alligator clips, started teasing the sections of hair, hitting them with some heat from a blow dryer to kink the fibers, brushing them out, teasing again, etc. until I got the volume I wanted. I did a blunt cut of the wig hair about 2 inches past the felt and then used thinning shears to feather the ends up until the ends of the sections were even with the felt. A lot of Got2B hairspray and blow drying later and I had the base style done!

    I knew that during this process I would have to handle and roll the wig around at a lot of different angles which would cause the styling I just did to fall out, so to reinforce the bottom edge of the wig I ran a bead of Pattex glue over the edges of the hair and squished it into the fibers/felt with my fingers. Tacky Glue would have also worked in this situation but the Pattex dries faster and I wanted an excuse to try it out.

    Adding the TranspArt

    The next step of the project was to create a TranspArt shell that would sit on the exterior of the wig. To figure out what shapes I had to cut out, I used strips of painters tape and stuck them to the vertical sections I had previously styled. The tape barely stuck to the hair, which was nice for removal but not so much for when I was creating the patterns. I had to use a couple of straight pins to hold the tape in place for some of the sections. This particular wig had 18 strips – I made sure to number them and also indicate which side was up.

    The nice thing about the painters tape is that it was super easy to stick onto the TranspArt sheet to determine the cutting layout. I gave myself a few millimeters of extra room around each template, but things ended up being pretty tight on a medium sheet (20″x30″). If you want to do a gem with longer hair than Amethyst, it would probably be a good idea to get a large sheet. Once I cut out all the TranspArt pieces, I was able to peel off the templates and stick them to my wall for storage and easy access for when I needed them again.

    The next step was to tint the TranspArt to a slight purple shade so it would blend in with the wig. I made a very dilute dye bath with a mix of the red and purple RIT Dyemore and did test pieces until I figured out how to get the translucency and color that I wanted. To avoid over-dyeing the TranspArt I ended up dunking the pieces in one at a time for about 20 seconds per piece. To keep the pieces from getting mixed up, I made sure to re-label them with painters tape as soon as I had rinsed them off and dried them. I also dyed the larger scraps of TranspArt just in case I needed a backup piece. (Eventually I’d like to use the backup pieces to add TranspArt to the braid as well, but that’s another mini project.)

    To mold the TranspArt into the correct shape, I set up my work space with a metal baking sheet in front of me, a heat gun, a small bowl of ice cubes, and a plastic Christmas ornament on a wig stand. I followed these rough steps to form each TranspArt carrier to the correct shape:

    • Heat up the whole carrier until it is soft enough to be tugged into a relatively flat shape. It’s probably still a little wonky from the dye bath. Allow it to cool to the point where it’s no longer stretchable.
    • Heat up only the center of the carrier, trying to avoid the outer edges as much as possible. The goal is to make the center malleable while leaving the edges as cool as you can so they will stretch less.
    • Immediately stretch the center of the carrier over the Christmas ornament to start forming the compound curve.
    • Pin the top of the carrier to the wig head over the area where you want it to lie, and clip the bottom of the carrier to the end of your hair section. This will help it to form a curve in the general shape that you need. The carrier will be a little too large at this point and also the edges won’t be curved in too much – this is okay. Allow it to completely cool.
    • While the carrier is cooling from the last step, use a sharpie marker to trace the exact outline of the hair section onto the TranspArt to use as a cutting guide. You can use a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover/acetone to remove these marks at any time, so don’t be shy about where you mark things. It’s also a good time to write whatever number the piece is directly onto it so you can get rid of the painters tape labels.
    • Remove the carrier from the wig and cut the excess TranspArt off the edges of the carrier, following your guideline from the previous step.
    • To tuck the edges of the carrier in even more and really exaggerate the compound curve, use your heat gun to heat up a small length of the very edge of the carrier. A rough guideline to use is that you want to heat up about 2″ of the edge, going only 1/4″ of the way into the piece. This will make the edges flexible and able to be tucked in while preserving the overall shape of the carrier that you established in the previous steps.
    • While the edge of the carrier is flexible, hold the piece so the concave side is facing you and the heated edge of the carrier is pointing down. Press the heated edge against the baking sheet and gently roll the carrier towards you, using your thumbs to press into the curve to exaggerate it more. In the pictures below I’m only using one hand because the other is holding my camera, but it’s easier when you can use both of your thumbs.
    • When you’ve got the shape you want, you can either let it cool on its own, which is suuuuper slow and boring, or you can greatly speed up the process by running an ice cube along the edge a couple times. This will eventually create a cold pool of water that can be used to cool things as well.
    • Work your way around the edges of the piece, heating up small sections at a time and using the ice cubes/cold water to cool them. Try not to let the center of the carrier become too flexible – every so often hold the carrier up against the wig to make sure your overall shape hasn’t become distorted.
    • Once your carrier is molded into the right shape, pin it to the wig and keep it there. This will help you figure out how to trim the other carriers so that there isn’t too much overlap between them.
    • Here’s what my wig looked like once I had all the carriers molded into their correct shapes:

      At this point I used a sharpie marker to mark where I wanted all of the horizontal highlights to go. (For those of you who spent all of middle/high school drawing 90’s anime hair, NOW IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE.) With the carriers on the wig, I was able to create a continuous highlight strip all around the wig and know exactly where to place the cellophane for it later.

      Adding the Cellophane

      Having the carriers and painters tape templates available for me to draw on made it very easy to draw specific shapes and cut them out of cellophane for particular parts of the wig. I started out with the horizontal highlights and used two iridescent types of cellophane for them (see materials list above). Using the general marks I had made to indicate where the horizontal highlight would go on each carrier, I put painters tape over the outer surface/convex side of the carrier and drew a more detailed version of each highlight, then removed the painters tape and stuck it to my cutting mat. Then I placed my cellophane over the painters tape, and using a light cutting pressure, cut a matching shape out of the cellophane with an X-acto knife. I did this twice, cutting out a slightly larger piece the second time to help soften the edges of the highlight. The painters tape template was peeled off my cutting mat and discarded.

      To attach the cellophane highlights to the TranspArt carrier, I used Elmer’s spray adhesive and applied everything to the underside/concave side of the carrier. I first put down the small horizontal highlight, then the large one, using the sharpie marks as an indicator of where I should place things. I really like this technique because the sharpie marks and the cellophane go on opposite sides of the carrier, which allowed me to wipe off the sharpie marks later without touching the cellophane. It also helps to protect the cellophane from getting peeled off, since it was sandwiched between the wig and the carriers.

      The spray adhesive is initially very tacky but gets less so after it dries for about 24 hours, so it’s best to apply the cellophane to the carrier as soon as you hit it with the adhesive and smooth it out as much as you can to get rid of wrinkles and air bubbles.

      To make the vertical highlights, I used a metallic purple mylar and a slightly more opaque non-iridescent cellophane. My large painters tape templates were looking pretty haggard at this point, but I was still able to use them as a cutting guide for these. I sketched a couple of large vertical swoops on them, placed the cellophane/mylar on top, and cut some strips out. Unlike with the horizontal highlights where I went one carrier at a time, I found that with these vertical highlights it was easier to work with 3-4 carriers at a time so I didn’t have to move the large cellophane/mylar sheets that I had to tape down on top of the cutting templates.

      I then used the Elmer’s spray adhesive to attach the highlights to the concave side of the carriers, pretty much the same as before.

      Making the Braid and Assembling the Wig

      Initially when I planned to make this wig, I wanted to make little eye-shaped TranspArt bits to go over each section of braid, but I ran out of time before the con. (This has never happened to me before, ever. Not at ALL.) Instead what I ended up doing was cutting several strips of the iridescent and dark purple cellophane and incorporating them into each third of the braid, which gave it enough of a shiny look to blend in with the TranspArt portion of the wig. I also got super lucky and had JUST enough hair in Arda’s long wefts to wrap around the wig and have the braid end exactly where I wanted it to. I used Pattex glue and a little bit of hot glue on the backside of the braid ends to create a smooth taper on both ends.

      To make it easier to sew the braid down to the wig, I decided to give myself a felt backing similar to what I had done before. I cut a few strips of felt that were slightly smaller in width than the braid, pinned them around the wig head where I wanted to place the braid, and tacked them together with hot glue. I removed the felt from around the wig, and attached the braid to the felt using more hot glue.

      Next came attaching everything to the base wig! I removed all the carriers from the wig and kept them stored in the correct order by pinning them to a second wig head. Then I took one at a time and pinned it back on the base wig, pulled the wig off the wig head, sewed the top end of the carrier to the wig, then put the wig back on the wig head to make sure it was sewn in the correct place before moving onto the next carrier. Once all the carriers were attached to the top of the wig, I did the same thing for the bottom edge of the carriers, making sure my thread actually went through the felt at the bottom edge of the wig to form a TranspArt/wig hair/felt sandwich. Attaching the braid went the same way – I strategically pinned it down on the wig head, carefully removed the wig and braid from the wig head with the pins still in place, and sewed through both layers of felt as I worked my way around the periphery of the wig.

      At this point, it was ready to wear!

      Care and Maintenance

      For those of you who followed my Instagram stories over the weekend of Cosplay America, you’ll already know this wig survived a near disaster. For those who didn’t, the lesson learned is do not put pressure on these wigs (e.g. stuffing them in a cramped bag) and allow them to sit in a hot environment for a long period of time. Because of traffic around Chicago, it took me two hours to drive to the airport, it was 95° F outside, and I don’t have air conditioning in my car. I wanted to be able to grab my luggage and sprint immediately to the airport so I had stuffed the wig into my carry-on bag ahead of time. (To be fair, I kept the wig on the wig head, wrapped it up in its own bag for protection, and then packed it in my carry-on… but unfortunately it was a little too full of other stuff.) This put enough pressure on the TranspArt that combined with the high temperatures during the drive that it caused the TranspArt to slump and get somewhat reformed to the squished shape it was in my bag. I almost screamed when I took it out at the con and saw what had happened. 🙁

      Fortunately, I was able to use the hotel’s blow dryer to heat the TranspArt up enough to reform it into the correct shape, and everything turned out okay. So if your wig gets damaged in transport, it is possible to fix things with a blow dryer, but it’s best to take proper precautions so you don’t have to fix anything at all!

      I did notice that by the end of the weekend, the styling I had done on my base wig was falling out because the hairspray was starting to break down. I’m probably going to have to snip through the threads that are attaching the braid and the bottoms of the carriers, so I can lift up the carriers to get at the wig hair underneath and do some touch ups. I’ll edit this post with any further tips I have about maintaining this type of wig, but I have a feeling this type of maintenance is something I’m going to have to do each time the wig gets worn and transported over long distances.

      Anyway, I hope this write-up had helped given you some ideas of your own about how to make a Houseki no Kuni wig! I would love to see any pictures you have of your own wig if this helped you out in any way, so please drop me a line on Instagram/Tumblr/Twitter. Thanks so much for reading!


      (photo taken by my fiance who when I asked how he wanted to be credited for the photo made the :I face and shrugged)

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      Thanks again to Ivorivet for sharing this tutorial with us!