Star Guardian Lux Wand
Welcome to my really long Star Guardian Lux wand write-up! First off – I’d like to begin by stating I worked on this project on and off for almost a year, I was constantly working on it and changing the design, so it’s gone through a lot of changes and growth through time. My raw kit is available for purchase here, so you can follow this write-up to complete your own wand! The first half of this article covers how I created the masters and evolved the kit to where it is now, the second half will show the process I took to actually finish the kit to make my fully complete wand.
If you’re interested in purchasing the kit, it can be found here.
Designing & Building the Wand
The great thing about League of Legends champions is that there are many different references for each character/skin. Some may find this to be annoying (Oh no! Which one should I do? Which one is accurate?) but in my opinion it’s a blessing because it gives you a variety of design options to pick and choose between for your costume. Here’s all three official designs I referenced for the costume and wand. I chose what I thought to be the best elements and put them together into one design. I always start every project by creating orthographic drawings in Illustrator to help me fully understand the form, inside and out.
The original plan was to add two LED strips and two acrylic pieces per wand head, meaning the wand head would be rather thick. Thankfully, the designs imply there’s a good amount of dimension to it, so it worked out in the end, however, I changed the design to only require one strip of LEDs per wand head, so that meant it was much easier to construct (it was an extremely tight fit before).
As always I like to begin by designing the prop in Illustrator! I have the template available on my web store (here). I can never express enough how important orthographic drawings are! You’re able to completely design the prop and understand all of its dimensions, without having to eye-ball or guesstimate anything.
The great part about using Illustrator for a project like this is that I can import it directly into Rhino and use those curves to create my model.
The wand head was designed as a casing, holding the stars inside with a lip on the inside. I didn’t have a 3D Printer back when I made this, so I ended up laser cutting the wings, upper arch, and the arch that connects the rod to the wand head. The star head (both casing and inner star) and the connector piece were sent to my friend to print for me.
Pictured above are the brooch (in two pieces), the base of the lower arch (without any details), and the wand head (in two pieces). I decided to have each set of stars printed separately so I could clean and mold them separately, would be easier. For the brooches, I figured having them separate would make it much easier to paint them, as well make the inner star multi-purpose (for the brooch and for the shoes). The wand star head, I knew the casing (outer star) would be a different material than the inner star, so it just made sense to do those separately too.
The wings and arches were cut into a bunch of layers of MDF wood of various sizes, to add up to the thickness that was determined in the Illustrator blueprint/3D model. The top layers’ edges were sanded down to emulate fillets, and then all the layers were glued together and sanded down to be level.
The picture on the right shows all the layers of MDF that I had as I was sanding the edges to bevel them before I glued everything together. The top left photo shows a test fitting of all the pieces together to see how it looks. It’s always really rewarding to see your piece come together! The bottom left photo shows how many layers were sandwiched to create the final thickness of the wing.
I had to do a lot of work smoothing everything out. A lot of filler, sanding, primer, and rinse and repeat… until I was finally happy enough with the form. The photo on the left shows the “bondo squish” I did on the wing with the star casing to make it as close to a perfect fit as I could. (And you can see my beautifully painted nail – painted with primer! The life of a prop maker, huh? No room for glamour.)
The bottom right photo shows the raised detail I did on the bottom connector piece in black – I actually felt pretty clever about how I made this detail! The beauty of molding and casting is that it doesn’t really matter what you make the “master” form out of (unless you’re working with platinum silicone – then there’s some more limitations), so I decided I would just pattern out the detailing, vector it out, and laser cut it out of electrical tape. This raised detail would then be transferred into the resin castings because silicone molds pick up EVERY detail.
Then of course came all the molding! YAY! They were all two part molds, except for the center star, which was a one part mold.
Top left photo shows the first stage of preparing a mold – creating the clay half that serves as form that shapes the first half of the silicone that you pour. I use monster clay for my mold halves because it’s easy to sculpt after heating and becomes firmer over time (but not to a solid state) which is easy to smooth the surface without worrying about it drying out like water based clays. The star casing was a really weird mold, as you can see in the bottom left photo, I had to create a two part within itself, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to remove the castings (or the master). On the right you can see the final result of all the molds before I carved out the pour and air spouts.
The best part about molding and casting is when you get your first plastic pulls – it’s so satisfying! The wand’s wings are symmetrical, which is why I only created one master wing and one mold, so it was extremely rewarding to see the full wand when I finally had a second wing cast out of resin.
Top right photo shows the first castings of the entire kit – before I realized how many improvements needed to be made before I could make my wand or even sell it as a kit! (So much effing work went into designing this prop and making it a kit I could sell to other cosplayers – I try to make sure it works for you guys!)
For example – the left photo shows a star that looks completely different from my final wand’s star; that’s because I originally wanted to use resin casted stars with mirror acrylic backing to give it a “magical” effect (check Instagram video below). Not only was it too heavy to carry, but second of all, the neck piece that supports the wand head could barely support all the weight. When I realized this, the first change that I made was casting the wings and arches out of FeatherLite (a resin filled with microfiller that reduces the weight – the density is so low that the castings will actually float in water) instead of SmoothCast 65D.
This is the Instagram video I posted which demonstrated all the effects that Michael programmed for my wand. I was extremely happy with how it looked, the problem was that it weighed too much, it was not functional. I’m always extremely strict about making sure my props have a high priority for comfort and function. Because of this issue I missed PAX Prime, giving me more time to work on the project and perfect it. I then decided to try vacuum forming the resin stars with PETG to create extremely light weight star forms that I could then dye and back light!
These gram scale photos demonstrate how much weight was reduced simply by switching to vacuum formed stars. At this point I was traveling to Japan and had already promised people kits therefore I vacuum formed a batch of stars to ship out to customers. A couple of people finished their costumes really quickly and they turned out wonderfully! I was so happy to be able to help them out with their projects. My Lux was on hiatus for a while because of Summoners Con and post-con vacation (I worked so hard for three months that I needed to take some time off). 2016 rolled around and I finally got back to working on the costume again. I did some dye tests of the PETG as well as some airbrush tests, and unfortunately I wasn’t happy with how it wasn’t turning out. I put so much effort into making the inner star have those beautiful facets, but the PETG just didn’t have the dimension that I loved with the resin. As unhappy as I was, I knew I couldn’t go back to the resin stars because of the weight. Frustrated, I went back to the drawing board to come up with a different technique for the stars and focused on completing other parts of the costume. Then something fantastic happened – I got a 3D Printer of my own! I began contemplating whether I should reprint the inner star form, with some thickness, to re-mold and re-cast out of resin (as a thin shell versus a solid chunk), but I was really worried about pressure casting something like that and wasn’t comfortable using so much silicone for something that might not work. That’s when I began looking at different types of filament and discovered there’s semi-transparent filament!
3mm eSUN PETG were used in transparent yellow for these prints. The left two photos demonstrate different tests that I ran, with thinner walls, and support extrusions (which I intended to act as reflectors for the light to add extra dimension) but those weren’t very successful. On the right I had my first successful print that I was happy with, the thickness of the star was a bit thicker, which gave it a solid yellow look when there is no light shining through. Top right photo shows some burns that happened in the PETG while printing – I still don’t understand why that happens to this day (I’m still learning about 3D printing).
Here’s a comparison of the wand with the resin star and the 3D printed star. The resin star looks really cool, but in my opinion the 3D printed star looks better for this costume. I honestly believe that the resin star contrasts the rest of the costume too much, whereas the 3D printed star matches the splash art a bit more and also looks better when the lights inside the wand aren’t on.
Purchasing this filament was actually a bit of a gamble because I couldn’t find any solid references online about light diffusion with the filament – and that’s the property I was really hoping it would have. The semi-transparent filament by eSun is great for light diffusion – looks great to the human eye and captures well in photographs as well. My main goal with this wand was to make it look both good when the lights are on and off; I really didn’t want to rely on LEDs to make it look impressive, I wanted it to look natural in either state. My other goal was to make sure the final paint finish looked great in all three lighting scenarios: natural sunlight, indoor lighting, and at night.
The other awesome part about getting the 3D Printer was that I could print the pink parts of the rod to have the specific shape that it has in the concept art. I also printed the golden separators and designed some “screw” pieces to make the wand disassemble into three different parts for transportation. All of these parts were printed with 3mm eSUN ABS in pink.
Now we’re finally to the actual construction part of the wand!
All of the above was the research, trial, and error that went into this build. If you purchased, or are considering purchasing, my kit, read on from here to see the process I personally took to build my wand. WARNING: the method I used in particular isn’t a beginner’s build. There are other ways you can build it, but this is the way I did it. There’s a lot of sanding, drilling, and filling work to do. Please be aware of this if you decide on construction your wand this way. The kit has the option to be lit up, but it is more difficult when doing so – especially if you’re using Arduino.
First thing’s first, the 3D Printed yellow stars. There’s two options with these stars: you can either leave them as raw prints which are fine as is, or you can go the extra mile and sand them down to have a smoother surface finish. The top photo shows the texture the raw prints have, which is what 3D prints generally look like as a result of printing the slices of the 3D model layer by layer (other than SLA prints of course). I coated the stars with XTC3D, sanded them, and repeated that until I was happy with the surface finish. I think it took about three passes before I was fully satisfied with how smooth the surface was. I recommend leaving the star sanded, if you plan on clear coating your wand with a gloss that will bring back its color – so you can save yourself a step. I also recommend using the same method on the pink outer rods and the golden pieces between the pink and purple parts of the wand rod. These pieces look much better sanded than they look when they’re raw prints. I unfortunately don’t have a photo of this step, but it’s recommended that you go through and sand the seams on the upper arch, lower support, and the wings. If there are any minor imperfections (air bubbles) just fill them with bondo or whatever filler you might have.
I almost never trust adhesives alone to hold major pieces of props together, I’ve had too many cases of glues coming apart to trust them; because of this, I recommend using a screw to at least anchor the pieces to the star casing. I actually permanently mounted the lower support to the star casing with screws because that’s where all the support comes from the rod of the wand. If you plan on adding LED strips, you’ll want to carefully drill through one of the support “arms” (or bunny ears, I call the lower support of the wand head the bunny piece haha) to be able to run the wires through that and into the star casing. I used two 1″ screws to mount the two arms to the casing, the top left photo shows how I traced the piece onto the casing which allows me to drill matching holes onto the casing. If you’re using LED strips, make sure you have the wires running through the lower support before you permanently mount the support to the casing, otherwise you’ll have to remove it to add the strips. For all of these support screws, as well as the lower support, it’s recommended that they’re all on the same half of the casings. That way when everything is done, you just sandwich the other side of the casing on top of the first one, and walla! For the upper arch, I added some screws to the top of the casing, to act as anchors and guides for gluing the arch to the wand head way later after the wand has been painted. Patience is key! I also added some glues and two-part epoxy to help mount these screws in place, so they act as solid mounts. Again, this is because I like having physical hardware help hold things in place. When I flew with this wand to PAX, TSA threw my suitcase around everywhere and the two-part epoxy I used to glue everything together came loose, but the arch was still in place because of the screws – it just needed some touch up glue to help keep it sturdy during the con. The bottom two photos show that I also add some screws on the casing to mount the wings onto the wand head. These are also just mounts to help hold the wings in place. I make sure I like the placement of the wings at this stage so it’s easier to glue everything together later. Everything in the last photo is a test dry fitting without any glue used.
Now some of these steps are mainly for those who plan on adding LEDs, so if that’s not your case then you can ignore everything involving the wiring/LED strips. The following step is one of the most important and crucial steps in the construction of this wand! Please don’t rush this step! (Left photo) It’s time to glue the 3D printed stars into the casings; I recommend using a high quality two-part epoxy (such as Loctite) because if the 3D printed stars come loose later, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. I gave the glue an excessive amount of time to fully cure because I was extremely paranoid that the stars might pop inside of the casing while I fly with this prop. Once the stars are securely glued, the epoxy fully cured, it’s time to add any extra diffuser you might have and the lighting! I’m always excessive with my props, so I added a translucent piece of acrylic into each one of the wand heads to add some extra diffusion – this is optional. You can also add paper or another light diffusing material for this step, but that’s optional because the 3D printed filament does a pretty good job of diffusing light as is. The LED strip should then be glued along the inner wall of the casing. I used hot glue for this because it doesn’t need any kind of hardcore glue and hot glue has some flex to it making it easier to assemble the two halves because it won’t come loose like it might if super glue was used.
The final step is to glue the second half of the casing onto the first one to create the full wand head (sans wings/arch of course). Make sure your lights work before you glue the two halves together, once they are glued together you won’t be able to go and fix anything inside, so make sure your connections are secure.
Once the two halves are glued, you’ll notice there’s probably a gap between the two halves; it’s recommended that you fill this with putty to completely seal it off. The resin is slightly translucent when lit up from the inside (this is solved later), but the gaps are huge light leaks. The top two photos demonstrate this issue, the left showing the gap, the right showing how the light leaks at the gaps. I used two-part putty to seal it off, waited for it to cure, and then sanded it down. I find it easier to start with putty and then adding bondo for the extra smoothing between the halves. This step is one of the reasons why I don’t glue the wings/arch to the casing until later, it’s much easier to smooth the seam without those pieces in the way. Once you’re happy with how smooth the seam is, you can start priming and sealing off the light leakage through the resin itself.
If you’re really picky like me, you’ll want to take this opportunity to do a bondo squish with the wing and casing. This step is pretty easy, just put some painter’s tape on the casing, then apply some bondo to the edge of the wing that touches the casing and squish it against the casing. After it’s fully cured, carefully remove it from the casing and carve/sand down the excess bondo. This way you get a perfect fit with the star. There’s minor shrinkage that occurs when casting the wings and casings, so this helps you get that perfect look.
Make sure you mask off the 3D printed star before you start priming, otherwise you’ll need to sand off the primer (unnecessary extra step), unless of course you want to paint the printed star – that’s fine too. I primed the wand with some Rustoleum flat red and then went over it with some flat black primer. If you want to make sure the light is completely sealed off, take the wand into a dark room and turn it on to check for any spots that you need to cover some more. If there are small leaks where the wings will go, don’t worry about it because you’ll be covering that up anyways.
The great thing about priming stuff is that minor imperfections are easier to spot! I’m very picky, so I went back and noticed some areas that looked rough on the wings after priming and filled them with spot putty and sanded it smooth. This isn’t absolutely necessary, just depends on how much work you want to put into the build. Time to paint! Because I don’t have a proper outdoor area to spray paint in, I always prefer airbrushing since I can do it indoors (with proper ventilation of course). My favorite type of metallic paints to use are the Alclad II Lacquer series.
Here are the sanded and primed rods as well as the golden rod decor. If you look at the base of the rods, you’ll see the rough 3D printing texture that I didn’t bother sanding (it won’t be visible later) and you can compare it to the smooth finish of the rest of the rid (which had XTC3D & sanding treatment). I personally believe it’s worth the extra effort to really smooth it out. I used a weird combination of paints for the gold portion of the wand: an aluminum base, followed by pale gold, and then a light coating of candy yellow. Pale gold was too unsaturated for my taste, so the candy yellow gave it that vibrant pop of color. Lux is super bright and cheerful after all, like the sun! I used the aluminum as a base before the gold because it would help make the shadows in the gold be a lighter shade.
Here’s a shot of all the pieces painted before I did any gloss clear coat. I kept one of my brooches with me to make sure the colors on the wand complimented the colors of the brooch. For the brooch I didn’t want to make the inner star solid gold, but I also didn’t want it to be a solid yellow, so I went for a dull, golden yellow. I also brought my arm band with me so I could try to make the wand/brooch gold color match the vinyl as well as I could. I used a basic spray paint for the pink rod.
The wings were one of my favorite things to paint on the wand. When I first painted them solid white, they looked extremely flat and boring to me, which led me to experimenting with some effects and discovered that adding a very subtle stroke of light grey along all the edges/creases helped the wings pop with life and dimension! Here’s something important to note! I personally wanted to have different clear coat finishes for different parts of the wand head; I wanted the wings to be matte and the rest of the wand head to be glossy. If this is something you’re interested in as well, be sure to clear coat the pieces before you assemble everything.
Here’s a look at all the pieces before I started gluing everything together. I find that painting everything separately really makes the process faster and easier because there’s no risk of ripping off paint when you remove masking tape from areas. It’s also generally easier to paint/clear coat individual pieces, instead of trying to reach all the tiny nooks and crannies. Not pictured is the purple center rod piece because I painted that separately at a later point.
Now it’s time for assembly, gluing all the pieces together! I used the same two-part epoxy as I did earlier to glue all the pieces together, giving each piece plenty of time to properly cure (don’t want anything coming loose when you’re at a convention!) The glue held on very well for the most part, except for the upper arch which came loose because of TSA during my flight to PAX.
This side of the wand is completely finished and glued together! Gluing the other side today and its almost done! No more light leaking due to billions of layers of paint Lol #LeagueOfLegends #leagueoflegendscosplay #lolcosplay #cosplaywip #cosplay #riotgames #starguardianlux #wip #arduino #esun #smoothon #3dprint #ziggsbomb #vensyprops A video posted by 💣 Vensy 💣 (@vensyprops) on
Here’s a shot of the wand head assembled with a simple light test. I didn’t have any cool programmed light effects at this point on my Arduino other than the basic demo.
Various shots of the wand lit up different colors while the Adafruit Neopixel default test code was running! Even though the 3D printed star is yellow, it still handles colors decently well!
Unfortunately I don’t have many photos documenting the center of the wand or the electronics. I don’t specialize in electronics/programming, so I don’t feel too comfortable explaining that process, sorry! These are the two photos that I do have though, the battery that I used to power the wand (it doesn’t last very long unfortunately) and the casing that I printed to hold the Arduino Mini and 5V booster. The final circuit was a catastrophe of wires everywhere.
I also don’t have photos of how I attached the center rod to the supports (sorry! I’ll try to update this later with some photos of that) but I basically glued one end in permanently and screwed in the other side, just in case I needed to take out the electronics casing for re-programming or repairs. Again, the electronics portion of this made it WAY harder.
If you don’t plan on traveling, it might be better to just permanently glue the support pieces together with the outer supports, because I find that those support pieces can be somewhat fragile (I had to make them that small and have the hole going through the center for wiring).
And here’s a photo of the final wand with my costume!
I hope this article helped explain the process I took to design and build this prop. Hopefully this helps out with anybody who purchases my kit as well, I know I took a rather extensive route with finishing my wand, but that’s just what I do!
Here are some photos of other cosplayers who have used my wand and/or accessory kits for their costumes! Thanks for letting me share! If you want to add your own Star Guardian Lux costume to this gallery, please let me know on Twitter and I’ll be sure to add you to the gallery right away!
As always if you have any questions about the article feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter and I’ll be more than happy to answer anything you might be curious about! Thank you for reading!
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