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  • Writer's pictureAndy Salkeld

Competitive Innovations in Cosplay (Round 1)

Updated: Apr 26

Like most of the interesting and fun things in my life, this blog post is brought to you by my overly competitive nature and my drive to deliver things with maximum effort. Similarly, to many other great things that happen in my life, it starts at a pub!

This starts with a tangent and ends with something I am proud to have made, so please hold tight for a bit of a rollercoaster!

I saw the band Punk Rock Factory was touring in 2023 and that there was a showing in Leeds around October time, specifically Halloween weekend. PRF do a lot of covers and it felt like a great opportunity to get my (new) group of friends who enjoy fancy dress, music and dancing to go out together and combine all three. I mentioned this to the group (although still no confirmation on if this is happening) but as with everything the conversation drifted (careened...) towards Star Wars and the potential of a Star Wars cosplay party.

I do love that we made fancy dress cool again by calling it cosplay...

This conversation escalated quickly, as it often does, and before long I was explaining how I put maximum effort into these things when I have enough notice. Problem was, there's very few Jedi without a beard, or very few Sith without needing to look seriously buff (or seriously old). I ended up showing these unsuspecting friends of what I looked like when I grew a beard (and shaved my head) during the pandemic to prove that a facial haired character would not be an option. Maximum effort requires actual facial hair in my book.

So I wracked my brain to think of a character I could do.

Here's my thought process for these things.

  1. I want to stand out - Everyone either looks incredible or awful at these things, so I want to make sure I am on the incredible end of the spectrum.

  2. I want to put in maximum effort - I want to go above and beyond what is required or expected. Higher. Further. Faster. I wanted to do more!

  3. I wanted to be a niche character - Anyone can do a Vader or a Leia or a Han. These have been done loads. Don't ever settle for average. Do something different!

  4. I want to have something no one else does - Have a conversation starter. Have something that when people see it, they'll be enamoured with the effort or time you spend on it. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I love Star Wars, so I want to show people I love Star Wars.

  5. I wanted to be comfortable - You can make a really good looking but uncomfortable costume and whilst you'll achieve all of the above, you'll be miserable wearing it for the entire length of the party.

Specifically for this costume:

No beard - I can't grow one (unless a goatee) and wearing a fake beard will look awful and detract from all the above immediately leaving you in the 'awful' category.

Maximum effort and looking good come hand in hand. If you put in maximum effort your time spent will hopefully be rewarded. This was a given and just a standard I held myself accountable to throughout the following process.

Having something no one else has is tricky. Within the Star Wars universe, the obvious thing to have to stand out is a lightsaber. Clearly I would make sure I had authentic ones that were true to the character etc, but other people could do the same or could use the telescopic ones and so on. Whilst you'd stand out it would not be 'above and beyond' which is what I wanted to do.

But what if I had another 'prop'. Something no one else would have. Something only one character has and that has only appeared in 3-5s of screen time in arguably the worst recent live action Star Wars show. That would be pretty unique and definitely be absolute maximum effort; particularly if I made it myself!

And so I settled on the character of Cal Kestis who you'll be able to see in the screen captures below.

Cal Kestis is from the Jedi Fallen Order (and the book Battle Scars and soon to be Jedi Survivor) video games.

Ticks the 'no beard', 'niche' and 'comfortable' boxes immediately.

I'd need to colour my hair ginger, which is fine. I'd need to to pick some alternatives to the base clothes to suit my body shape. I'm definitely not as skinny as Cal is so some of the shaping wouldn't be perfect.

I could maximum effort by doing all the layers of clothing plus the poncho.

Importantly though.

Cal is a Jedi and has a lightsaber. In fact during the first game he ends with two! One from Jaro Tapal and his own.

Big tick!

But even more importantly.

He has BD-1.

A droid that rides on his back throughout the game and whilst mostly a plot/puzzle solving device, BD absolutely stole my heart and made me cry at "that" scene.

However before I could really even conceive how this would be possible, it was met by a challenge. Oh those fateful words of "You can't do X" (or however it was phrased at the time!).

Someone challenges me to something, that's on them!

I am not someone to back down from a challenge. Particularly one I think I can win and even more so one that I think I can go even further beyond my limits with.

"If you come at the king, you best not miss" and all that.

I sit here now after completing the build and paint work still thinking to myself, how and why did I do this? The person who challenged me is still shocked that I even attempted it, but even more so that I delivered well in excess of expectations.

Proud Andy.

And so this is the story about how I made a BD-1 from a concept into an actual droid that rides around on my back. I will do a follow up on how I built the costume when I get the chance, but I wanted to at least cover the BD-1 build work as I find it fascinating and like showcasing something of which I am really proud.

Is Maximum Effort really only 70%?

My first port of call was finding a 3D print file for a life size BD-1. Luckily Cults3D exists and after a bit of search I found this file. Whilst it isn't a perfect replica and there are some nuances to build position (particularly relevant for how I wanted it positioned on my back!) it allowed me to do what I wanted.

The first problem was that the head was a single piece of almost solid resin and as a result was too large for my printer. Now going maximum effort for a costume is one thing. Buying an excessively large (probably over £500 if not more) 3D printer to support such maximum effort is another, especially given the cost of other bits involved.

I settled on just scaling BD-1 down slightly to fit my existing printer.

So my BD-1 is super cute at 70% life size.

Which is actually way more reasonable because BD-1 is already heavy at 70% size so I dread to think how heavy 100% BD-1 would be!

Whilst technically not maximum effort, this was acceptable to me as a compromise and only the massive Star Wars fans would notice (or care) and the vast majority of people would just be impressed that I made a droid and it's riding on my back!

It rides on my back!!!! (not sure I've emphasised that enough LOL)

Timing is Everything

After I knew what I was doing, I then needed to think about timings as this was going to be a long hobby project and I didn't know how close or far away this Star Wars party was. I remember discussing it with the host and saying I probably needed two months; one month for BD-1 and one month for my costume. Any extra time beyond that would allow me to tie it all together into a cohesive costume.

Please remember that I have never worked on something of this scale nor have I ever worked on a costume or clothing. I build and paint little models, not 2ft tall droids that ride on your back!

2 months was ambitious!

But I'm not exactly short of ambition or drive so...

We still don't have a date for this party. I'm the only person with a completed costume (and I'm currently thinking about doing a second one because I enjoyed doing this one so much!). I'm excited for this party whenever it happens. It'll be great fun and I believe I have achieved everything I set out at the start of this blog post.

I built all the print files at the start as per the image below.

And I kept a single floating file for any components that didn't print correctly or where I damaged them somehow. This would then be reprinted at the end to finalise any pieces I was missing.

I tried to start a print before I went to work each morning and then would clean it up on an evening when I finished work. There was nice files total including the 'catchup' errors file which meant a week and bit of raw print time. I was busy on a few weekends and there was other days where I knew I wouldn't be able to clean up properly so I called it two weeks of eight week budget.

The good thing about running the prints was that whilst one set of pieces was printing I could be building and painting those pieces that came before it.

And so a wonderful production line was born!

It's Coarse, and Rough, and Irritating, and it gets Everywhere

Star Wars is not a particularly clean universe.

Sure there are some Imperial facilities and Imperial outfits that look pristine, but as soon as you go to anywhere outside of these, everything just gets dirty.

Cal's adventures take him to Kashyyyk (jungle), Dathomir (desert), Zeffo (grassland), Bogano (ruins), Illum (ice) and more! Cal's clothes are not clean and neither is BD-1.

So as much as I thought it'd be a fairly simple paint job once printed, the work required was a lot more than anticipated.

The other important part to appreciate is that BD-1 has a lot of crisp and clear lines of colouring, particularly around the red metallics. I do not have a steady hand at all and free-handing a straight line would be a challenge I'm not willing to accept as it could ruin all the other hard work I put in.

I therefore needed a way do this and settled on using red, metallic vinyl (another product I've never used before!)

Another problem occurred when I started working with the resin. Sometimes there were breaks and fractures. I figured rather than reprinting each piece and I would use these natural sources of damage to represent actual combat / battle damage that BD-1 might have sustained. This way I could save on resin and also have something that looked more battle hardened.

As for the painting scheme, this is broadly the steps I followed. All were done using an airbrush until I got the weathering:

  1. Prime in Vallejo Air Black Primer

  2. Coat in Vallejo Air Gunmetal (done to give a more realistic undertone to the material as most droids are just repainted over their core emtallics)

  3. Coat in Vallejo Air Dead White x3 (done enough times to get a consistent white across the surface)

  4. Coat in Vallejo Matt Varnish (locking in the base coat of white)

  5. Add any Red Vinyl markings

At this point you will have a clean looking droid similar to the pieces shown to the right.

It just looks too clean!

Droids take oil baths and walk on the coarse, rough, irritating sand that gets everywhere. They are not this perfect.

Around the stand out metallics on the legs and some of the panels I applied a thinned Games Workshop Nuln Oil wash to add some contrast around the edges.

Likewise after washing I also did some highlights to make certain components pop.

Here you can see the beginnings of the weathering on the same pieces once combined into the legs and torso.

Weathering was done with a black paint around the print damage, the a dry brush of brown, the under colour Vallejo Gunmetal, and then a couple of other metallics.

Following this I dry brushed the Vallejo Gunmetal all other to create the effect of natural paint chipping on the edges. This was then amplified and then sponge brushing the same colour all over to create the effects of weathering.

You'll see in the small image of the head below how I used some of the printing damage to appear like it's blaster damage or something. I tried to follow natural contours to show how it could have been a beam traced along the metal or a molten filing that rolled across the surface.

After all this I sponge weathered a Green, Brown and Tan colour across most surfaces to show various damage and colour left from some of the planets present in Jedi Fallen Order. I also used various streaking grime and rust grime effects to really pull the look together and to make BD-1 look like he's been through some rough patches.

After about three weeks I was ready to put BD-1 and all the components together. I was beyond excited. Most painting and hobby project can be completed in a day or so. This was the culmination of almost a month of effort and I was so excited to see it come to fruition.

The build was relatively complicated to get the hips and knees to be in the correct position. I needed to mark them in between much of the work They were not easy components to work and required significant sanding and filing to ensure they went together. I used superglue and then in some cases sealed the borders between parts with greenstuff to create and additional join.

I was meant to be going to the cinema one night with some friends (and I did!) but I finished work early just so I could finish making BD-1, take these photos and send them to the host of the party!

I was so pleased with myself!

I still am!

I made a droid. It doesn't look rubbish. In fact I might actually say that it looks good!

To say I put maximum effort in, tried to teach myself new techniques and learned how to use new tools and crafts on the fly just to make this work, I think It's come out incredibly well..

You'll notice there are some electrical wires on his leg joints. Those were added from outside of the kit to finish the aesthetic.

My word.

I'm still so proud of this little achievement of mine.

MFVB (There was going to be a music reference in here somewhere...)

And then the heartache set in.

I needed some way to attach this to my back and have it not lose grip whilst I moved around.

How the hell am I meant to do that?!

And it not look absolute shit.





I had never even heard of industrial strength Velcro until I started down this path. I had built BD-1 to potentially sit on a Perspex plate or something that I'd somehow hang over my shoulder or attach to an armour piece of the costume, but I hadn't really thought about it much more.

I bought a cute little foraging pouch that I thought I might be able to fit BD-1 inside but then he turned out massive so that wouldn't work. It's not part of Cal's belt pouches so it works nicely and wasn't wasted money.

And then whilst searching the internet, I came across the idea of industrial strength Velcro.

This saved me from a nightmare.

All the effort I'd put in and it might have been for naught.

So thank you Velcro!

I attached pads to BD-1's feet and then a slim band along the top and bottom of his chest (he was modelled so these would be in line!). This gives six points of contact at varying vertices across my shoulder blade.

I have thought about attaching a final band around BD-1's neck and one of the belt straps just for an additional layer of support in case all other connections fail. Given the time and effort I don't want BD-1 to just drop and fall and it all be wasted.

This was where BD-1's manufacturing process ended and I started to work on the actual costume. Remember, this is just a prop, I still have to make a full costume to go with my little droid friend!!

I would tease about showing you the completed look in the next blog post, but frankly, I am too happy with how it turned out and how it is very Cal-like. Below are two very badly taken photos of a very unphotogenic person showing the end result and how BD-1 actually peers over my shoulder (see above images of Cal Kestis. I think I nailed it!) and how BD-1 sits on my shoulder (again, I think I nailed it).

This host of the party agreed that this was truly maximum effort.

That's enough of a compliment for me to know that my goal was achieved.


With any good project we need to reflect back on whether we achieved the goals we set out or not and what we can learn for the next time.

  1. I want to stand out - Everyone either looks incredible or awful at these things, so I want to make sure I am on the incredible end of the spectrum.

Yes. No one will have a droid. No one will have 3 layers of clothing including a set of armour and a poncho. No one will have all the small details done to the same degree. I will stand out. Tick. Achieved.

  1. I want to put in maximum effort - I want to go above and beyond what is required or expected. Higher. Further. Faster. I wanted to do more!

Yes. I basically dialled down all my other social engagements and hobbies for almost two months to do this. I made a droid from nothing. I made and weathered clothing. This was an insane amount of work. I put in maximum effort and I am pleased with the results! Tick. Achieved.

  1. I wanted to be a niche character - Anyone can do a Vader or a Leia or a Han. These have been done loads. Don't ever settle for average. Do something different!

Yes. Cal Kestis has appeared in one (soon to be two) games and one novel (which I really should read!). Niche enough for me yet I think you can instantly tell the character and cosplay are from the Star Wars universe. Tick. Achieved.

  1. I want to have something no one else does - Have a conversation starter. Have something that when people see it, they'll be enamoured with the effort or time you spend on it. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I love Star Wars, so I want to show people I love Star Wars.

Yes. I have a droid. No one else will have a droid. Someone might come as one, but no one will have one riding on their shoulder! No one else will have a poncho (although there's talk of making ponchos for more people to join in). I have created a costume for life. I can wear it with pride knowing that it shows my love of Star Wars for all to see. If I ever make it to Galaxy's Edge then I will wear this costume with pride as I walk round the park. If I go to Star Wars Celebration, I'll wear it with pride knowing I put in a lot of effort! Tick. Achieved.

  1. I wanted to be comfortable - You can make a really good looking but uncomfortable costume and whilst you'll achieve all of the above, you'll be miserable wearing it for the entire length of the party.

Yes. The worst part is that BD-1 pulls the armour plate back and slightly cuts off my breathing. I don't know how long I'll wear BD-1 at the party, but I'll definitely wear it enough for a lot of pictures to be taken. The rest of it is really comfy and I can easily wear all night without question.

Finally, did I achieve this in the timescales I set? I said 8-9 weeks till I would be ready to go to a Star Wars party. I think I would have been comfortable going to a party at week 7 although it wouldn't be perfect (it still isn't, I still need to weather the water bottle a bit). I also hadn't figured out how I would be ginger, but I've got that sorted now too! So I'd say completing it within timescale was pretty good.

I'm really pleased with how BD-1 turned out.

I put in maximum effort and I was rewarded with a maximum effort product.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch and I'll try to respond.

Andy Salkeld

just another guy

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