Geek Crafts: How to Make a Simple Cardboard Shield (as Demonstrated by Link’s Hylian Shield)

In recent years, I’ve grown to appreciate costume-based occasions like Halloween more than I ever did when I was young. As a child, I found great satisfaction in dressing up, transforming into a character. As an “adult” (using the quotes because there is a fantastical childlike mentality about dressing up that makes me wince at the word), I have truly come to relish the journey as much as the destination. In this case, our journey is the building or creation of the costume (and its accessories).

For a charity event this past year, I had planned to dress up as Link from The Legend of Zelda, and I wanted to build a shield to act as an accessory for my costume. I’d seen some fantastic demos online that utilized materials like sculpting foam and plaster to create very convincing, fully 3-dimensional shields. While awesome, this seemed like a bit too much effort and money to sink into something that was being made for charity.

I needed to be able to make a shield quickly and easily, using only (or at least primarily) materials easily on hand. I wanted something that was clean and finished looking, while still taking only a night to construct. Something lightweight but also sturdy enough that it won’t tear apart at the seams.

Link and his Hylian Shield

Note: The painting and finishing reflects the design of the Hylian Shield from The Legend of Zelda, but of course the shield can be painted in any colors or designs that you see fit.

 

Materials:

  • Cardboard Box,  with its largest side measuring 30 inches by 40 inches. (I used the 30-inch width as the full height for my shield.)
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Utility Knife
  • Cutting Mat (or any flat cutting surface)
  • Glue Gun
  • Masking Tape
  • (Optional) Gaffer’s Tape (Masking tape can be used instead, but gaffer’s tape is ideal since it is cleaner, stronger, and thicker)
  • 2 Pieces Elastic, approximately 7 inches long and 1 inch wide
  • Assorted paint colors (I used a metallic silver, white, blue, red, and yellow)

 

Instructions:

  1. First, using the Sharpie marker, I sketched out a basic shield shape on the cardboard, which is represented by the solid line in photo below. You will want to make this shield outline just slightly larger than you want your actual shield face to be.

    Note: I eyeballed my shield outline while sketching; however, if you’re not comfortable with that, I would recommend using a piece of newspaper folded in half to cut out a symmetrical shield shape, and tracing this onto your cardboard.

  2. Next, I sketched a cutting line for my shield, which is the dotted line in photo below.

    Sketched Outlines

  3. Now it’s time to cut! Cut along the dotted line with the Utility Knife, running the blade through the cardboard twice and pressing all the way through.

    First Cut

  4. One you’ve finished cutting, draw a new dotted line within your solid black shield outline, about ½ inch below the solid line on all sides. This dotted line will serve as a scoring line, and the area within it represents the actual size of your shield face.

    Inner Margin score line

  5. Using the Utility knife, you want to carefully score the dotted line you just made, meaning that you will puncture the cardboard WITHOUT cutting all the way through it. The trick with scoring is to press the knife into the cardboard slowly and gently, making shallow cuts, without punching through the other side.

    Carefully...Scoring...the Inner Margin...

    Note: The point of scoring the board is to make it easier to fold later. Folding the cardboard over is what will give the shield a smooth, finished look around the edges. By doing this, you end up with clean, sharp cardboard folds without rough corrugated cardboard edges.

  6. Now that you’re a pro at scoring, it’s time to do the same thing once again, scoring on or around the solid black line you drew originally. (Mine wasn’t exactly on the black line, but was close.) Again, remember: don’t cut all the way through!
  7. Because we’ll need to be able to fold the cardboard over 3 times, we must score one additional outline. This one should fall about ½ inch below the edge of the cardboard (where you cut out the first dotted line). After this step, you should have 3 scored lines in total.
  8. In order to work your scored fold-lines, we’re going to make cuts at all the corners of the shield, from the edge of the shield to the dotted line, as shown below

    Short Cuts at each corner

  9. Once you’ve made these cuts, work your scored lines back and forth a bit, and work on gently folding them inwards. In the end, you should be able to form a triangle, with a small lip that can lie flush with the backside of your shield. This lip will end up being glued to the back of the shield, so in the next step, we’re going to cut off some excess cardboard to ensure that these don’t overlap.
  10. Next, the cuts at each point of the shield must be widened into notches. Fold the sides into triangles and see where the glue-flap lips of each side overlap. This gives you an indicator of how wide the notches have to be cut. Make sure not to cut too much or too little from any one side.

    Notch cuts

    Note: I found it made more geometric sense for the notch to angle out wider once it meets your second of 3 scores. This ensures that the sides meet closely on the width of your shield, but the glue-flaps on the back barely overlap.

    Angled Notch cuts

    When you have folded all of your sides and muscled them into submission, and cut notches into each point of the shield, you should have something that resembles this:

    Show that cardboard who is boss!

  11. Now its time to glue! Using a glue gun, liberally apply glueto the backside of your shield where the glue-flaps will lie when the scores are folded into triangles.

    Gluegun time!

    Do one side at a time and be patient! Stop and hold each side in place until the glue has cooled completely.

    Patience!

    I even went back and added additional glue to the seam where the glue-flap met the back surface.

    EXCESSIVE GLUE GUNNING!

    When you get to a corner where two sides meet, the glue-flaps will just barely overlap. Glue one on top of the other securely.

    Overlap your Flaps

    With 5 of 6 sides glued securely, your shield should resemble this:

    Hey that almost looks like a shield or somethin!

  12. To provide extra support, I applied masking tape to the backside scored edge.

    Don't worry, you'll paint over this.

    Now, my shield was looking like this:

    Nice and clean back side!

    Nice and clean front side!

  13. To clean up the corners, apply a square of Gaffer’s Tapeto cover any gaps between the cardboard edges.

    Cleaning up the corner gaps

    Much Better.

  14. Using scraps of cardboard, next cutfour small squares, about 3 inches by 3 inches. We are creating tabs for the shield’s back forearm straps.

    Cutting tabs

  15. Round out two adjacent corners of the squares with scissors. Next score the squares about a half inch in from one side.  Now foldthe scored line, creating a glue-flap for the tab.

    Scoring tabs

  16. Cutan X through the body of each tabs.

    X the tabs

  17. Place your tabs on the backside of your shield. Approximate their placement according to how large your forearm is. If this is for a child, for example, the tabs should be closer together to accommodate a shorter and thinner forearm.
  18. Gluethe tabs down by hot-gluing the glue-flaps to the backside of the shield. If you do not get any glue on the bodies of the tabs, you should be able to fold them back for greater carrying-flexibility.

    All flaps attached!

  19. Attach the 2 Elastic Bands to the tabs in order to form arm straps. Put one end of one piece of elastic through the X you cut in each of the tabs, paired vertically, with one piece of elastic running through the X’s on the left pair of tabs and one piece of elastic running through the right pair. Secure the elastic according to your level of craftiness – use a dab of hot glue to glue the elastic to itself, sew a couple of strong stitches to attach the elastic to itself, or even just tie the elastic to itself. The point is, you want to create an elastic band that runs between the two vertical tabs. Size accordingly to fit the wearer’s forearm.
    Now you have a basic cardboard shield! On to painting!
  20. I started with a base coat of Metallic Silver Acrylic Paint, covering the entire front surface of the shield. I also painted the sides of the shield, as well as the visible portions of the back.
  21. Once the paint had dried, I laid out Masking Tape to mark the locations of the designs on Link’s Hylian Shield. I then masked off the silver medallion shapes that the Hylian shield has at its six corners.

    Painting! Shiny Silver!


    Masked-off edges of corner medallions.

    Here is a detail to show how the corners of the shapes were folded for a clean angle:

    Neat corners

    Note: Be sure to press down smoothly on your masking tape to ensure adequate adhesion! This will prevent the blue paint from bleeding under your tape.

  22. Next, add two coats of blue paint to the middle of the shield. Allow them to dry in between coats.

    Two coats of blue

  23. Because I am painting lighter colors on top of blue, the next step involved painting a white base where the designs of the shield would go.

    White base coat for designs

    Note: I used internet references and eyeballed the designs. They’re not exact; I did not get caught up in exact symmetry here. If you would like or need an exact design, I would once again recommend using a sheet of newspaper folded in half to sketch symmetrical designs.

  24. Once the white base coat was dry, I applied coats of yellow and red paint to the designs as needed.
  25. Once all the paint is dry, all you need to do is remove the masking tape. The shield is now complete!

Here I am with my finished shield!

Ta Da!

So that’s what we’ve got, folks! Simple, cheap, iconic! I hope you enjoyed this craft. Please feel free to leave any questions below if you try this project, and I’ll answer what I can!

Do YOU have a geeky craft you’d like to see g33kwatch attempt? Contact us with suggestions and we’ll give it a try!

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Alison Von Dollen

As the resident artist of the group, Alison is well versed in the areas of drawing, painting, and building anything out of cardboard.

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