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iPhone Halloween Costume

September 28th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Well, well.. with Halloween upon us, I thought I would kick off the AppleFriend blog with a fun, light project: a tutorial on how to build an iPhone Halloween costume. A research on the web shows that many people have attempted this project (check for yourself here), with various degrees of success, but I did not find any tutorial on how to do it.

iphone halloween costumeI suppose there are many ways to embark on this project: I could pull out the soldering torch, modify a 42 inch LCD that I would harness to a suit, build a Flash application to run on it, carry a car battery… or simply save myself the effort and shoplift one of those big-ass iPhone from an Apple store front window. I suspect such options may get myself broke, arrested, and may not be the most popular with my readers. So I’ll be a little more pragmatic and try to complete this project in the most cost, effort and time effective way as possible. So these are my rules:

  • I’d like to spend no more than $50 for the costume
  • I’d like to make it as realistic as a ‘wearable’ version can be
  • I’d like to build it using simple techniques and tools, so most of the readers can build it without the need for fancy/expensive tools.
  • I’d like to build it in no more than 10 hours of work…

So here it is. If you decide to embark on the project, try out different techniques, think of ways to improve mine, please feel free to share on this blog.

Day 1: Initial ‘Brainstorm’ & Shopping

Size matters

OK, I’m about 6-foot tall. The iPhone is about 4.5 inches tall. In order to be ‘inside an iPhone, I believe the right size for the iPhone would be about 4-foot tall. That would make my head, arms and legs stick out around the iphone, with the trunk ‘encased’ in it (see fig. 1 left)
Our first and foremost challenge is that a (4.5-inch tall) iPhone is about 7/16-inch thick. That means that if we respect the proportions, a 4-foot (that is 48 inches) tall iPhone will be… (48/4.5) x 7/16 = (let me actually use that calculator on the iPhone)… 4.67-inch thick. Dunno about you, but as far as I’m concerned, I ain’t gonna fit, ever. We simply may have to break our first rule and cheat on the proportions, thickness-wise. I decide to park this challenge for now, as it should not impact the building of the front, and most important part of the iPhone.

Design

The front screen will be static, but I’d like it to be retro-lit, i.e. lit from the inside, so we can see it in the dark street of Oregon on October 31st. I will pick the most recognizable iPhone home screen with all the square icons from the most popular iPhone applications: Safari, Messages, Contacts, Stocks, Weather, etc.

Materials

I’d like the iPhone to be sturdy enough so it will not break when I ‘wear’ it. I’m thinking wood for the back and the edges, and plexiglass for the front screen. For the lighting, I need to find a way to use bright little bulbs that can be powered with batteries. I’m definitely thinking high output/low voltage white LEDs. But as I said before, I’d like this project to be feasible by most people so if I could avoid getting into soldering, printed circuits or electronics in general, that would be best. A quick search on the web proves promising… Some LED christmas decorations that run on batteries exist at Walgreens but they seem a little pricey at $24 (that’s half of my budget right there). On eBay, there are quite a few stores that sells those strings of super bright LEDs that people stick under their cars and plug on their 12V car battery. They claim that they are extremely low consumption, so I’m thinking I could connect 8 AA batteries and be in business. Those strings come in various lengths with 24, 48 or 72 LEDs and they are very cheap, ranging from about $4 for the shortest to $10 for the longest, shipping included. There are some challenges to this option though… the LEDs on those strings seem to be within half an inch from each others, and I need them more distant so I can have one under each icon of the front screen of the iPhone, plus some behind the ATT sign, the signal strength icon, the time, the battery indicator, etc. I suppose I could cut the wire in between, and lengthen it, but that would require soldering which I’m trying to avoid as I mentioned before. Another hiccup is that those strings (at least at those very low prices) are all sold by stores in Hong Kong. I have had a perfectly fine experience buying from Hong Kong stores on eBay in the past but it takes easily 2 weeks, and sometimes 3, for the shipment to arrive to the US. That gets us a little too close to Halloween, and I’d like to complete this project with a bit of advance to give a chance to the readers to do the project themselves.

But enough thinking, let’s go shopping!

Shopping

There is a Home Depot very close to my house, so I’ll start there.I’m sure a Lowes would be equally adequate. My treasure hunt proves to be fast and successful. This is what I found:

4 x 2 ft sheet of plexiglass
4×2 ft sheet of plexiglass and 4×2 ft sheet of plywood
  • 4′ x 2′ piece of plexiglass (x1) – $19.79
  • 4′ x 2′ piece of plywood (x1) – $3.15
Cans of black and chrome spray paint
Cans of black and chrome spray paint
  • Can of chrome spray paint (x1) – $4.19
  • Can of gloss black spray paint (x1) – $0.97
Quarter round molding
Quarter round molding
  • 6′ of quarter round molding (x2) – $5.76
Adhesive foam pipe insulation
Adhesive foam pipe insulation
  • 6′ adhesive foam pipe insulation (x1) – $3.97
Battery operated holiday light decorations
Battery operated holiday light decorations
  • Holiday light decorations (x2) – $11.94

I am particularly pleased with this latest item: it is an 8.3-ft string of 20 LEDs that works on 3 AA batteries… and costs $5.97 only. If those are bright enough, they’ll be perfect for my retro-lit action.I got 2 of them. But I realize I’ve basically expended my whole budget: $49.77… and That is just for the front face. Mmhh… let me see where I could have saved. Maybe one set of lights will be enough, in which case I could return one and save $5.97. I could also cover the trim of the iphone (i.e. wrap the quarter round molding) with aluminum foil instead of spray painting it: that would save me an additional $4.19 for the can of chrome spray, furthering the savings to $10.16, and bringing down the expense to $39.61.

Anyway, it is getting late, and I’ll continue tomorrow. I have spent  total of 2 hours on this project today, but most of it on thinking about it. If you were to follow these instructions, that would probably only take you an hour of shopping.

Day 2: Building the frame

Let the fun begins. I first need to round the corners of my 6 x 4 ft. plywood. Arghh! If only I could find my student compass. Oh well, one of these days when I need it the least I’ll stumble on it. So instead, I’ll print a 3.4-inch radius circle, cut it out, and use that as a template to trace my four rounded corners on the plywood.

Rounding the corners
Rounding the corners
Tracing the corners
Tracing the corners
Cutting the corners
Cutting the corners

I’ll then cut each of my two quarter round moldings into 2 pieces, so I end up with two 41.2 inches pieces (that’s 48 – 3.4 – 3.4), and two 17.2 inches (that’s 24 – 3.4 – 3.4). Let’s glue that to the edges of the plywood (see fig.2) and let it dry.

IMG_9744
Gluing the quarter rounds to the plywood
Gluing the quarter rounds
Gluing the quarter rounds

Next, I will build the corners of the iPhone. I’ve thought a lot about this one, as it is not as trivial as it sounds. Obviously the quarter round cannot be bent. Could I use clay… maybe, but I don’t know how clean of a job I could achieve. I could certainly machine four corners out of a 3/4 in thick disk of wood. I would use a router table to achieve that. Problem is that not everyone has a router table at home, and the cost of the router bit itself is $24, almost half of my budget. So scratch that. With a box cutter, I could take a slice of a foam pipe insulation, and bend it into shape. Worth a try… and it works surprisingly well! things to note though: make sure your blade is very sharp, as foam is not easy to cut cleanly (see my first attempt below)

What a dull blade does to foam
What a dull blade does to foam

So a sharp blade, a ruler, and a cutting mat would help. First, cut out a 5.5 inch piece of insulation with a scissors (technically, if the radius of the corner is 3.4in., you should cut a (2xπx3.4)/4=5.34in., but it is better to have a bit of excess), and then proceed to cut a little more than a quarter round (a third round?) along the length of the pipe insulation. If you are not dead precise, it’s okay, because you’ll find out in the next steps that the edge of the insulation will be pinched underneath the screen of the iPhone. Then peel off the plastic off the glued section, and carefully and firmly press the foam along the curve. I was initially skeptical regarding the strength of the adhesive, especially on plywood, but was pleasantly surprised that the bond is extremely strong. In fact, you cannot peel the foam off without tearing it.

Foam iPhone corner
Foam iPhone corner
iPhone wood frame with foam corners
iPhone wood frame with foam corners

Allright, let’s now work on the plexiglass. The sheet comes with a protective film that I will keep on until the last possible step. Plexiglass scratches fairly easily, and broken edges can be very sharp, so when you are going to cut it to the dimensions, make sure you wear gloves (I cut myself a little bit when I snapped off a piece. Cutting plexiglass to dimension is not hard but requires precision, patience, and a good surface to work on. After tracing the dimensions on the sheet, I used clamps to firmly press my guiding ruler into place so it would not slide away when I slide my blade along it. Make sure that your ruler is over the piece of the plexiglass you’re keeping, so if you mess up, you are only scratching the scrap piece. So slide the blade along the way several times to make sure you created a deep cut. Turn around the sheet and slide the box cutter along the same line. Take your time, be careful. be patient. You don’t want to be off: you’re working with half of your budget here :-p Once you’ve created a deep enough groove on both sides, keep the clamped ruler in place, put gloves and protective goggles on, and snap off the extra piece by bending it upward.

Cutting the plexiglass
Cutting the plexiglass

I have now cut the plexiglass to dimension. I do a quick check that it fits within the quarter rounds (although the corners still have to be rounded…):

Checking that the plexiglass fits inside the quarter rounds
Checking that the plexiglass fits inside the quarter rounds

… and it does. Leave the plexiglass in the frame for now as it will help as a guide to measure our corners. Note that the radius of the plexiglass corners will be smaller, since the plexiglass fits inside the frame created by the quarter rounds. Instead of being mathematical about it, I use the (finally located) compass, and for each corner, adjust the radius from the end of the quarter round to the corner of the plexiglass, as in the picture below:

Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler - step 1/4
Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler – step 1/4

Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler - step 2/4
Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler – step 2/4

Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler - step 3/4
Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler – step 3/4

Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler - step 4/4
Tracing the plexiglass corners with a compass without a ruler – step 4/4

… and I forgot to photograph the last step but I think you will get the point. I now have the center of my circle, and I can actually trace the quarter circle to cut. And cut I did. I used a little Dremmel drill with a cutting disk first, and then a polishing bit. Done in no time. I then sanded the sides a bit.

Sanding the plexiglass corners
Sanding the plexiglass corners

Note that, on the photo, my corner looks a little rough. It is the protective film that make it look so.

Finally, I checked to see if my screens fits snuggly inside my wood frame:

Checking if it fits
Checking if it fits

… and it does fit.

Now, I need for the plexiglass to rest flush with the quarter rounds. I find that clothesline pins could do the trick quite well but I have to raise them by 2 thicknesses of plexiglass. I use some scrap pieces:

Clothesline pins will do the trick

Clothesline pins will do the trick

Raising the clothesline pins with 2 layers of scrap plexiglass

Raising the clothesline pins with 2 layers of scrap plexiglass

Using the same white liquid glue I used for the quarter rounds, I glued all half-clothespins. Be a little stingy on the glue so it does not overflow and stick to the scrap plexiglass. I glued 16 clothespins all around. Let’s have it dry and call it a day. I spent a total of 3 hours today, bringing the total to 4 hours so far.

Day 3 – Drawing a giant, high-resolution vector iPhone in Illustrator

This phase took me a long full day, but will take you just a minute to download the result of my ‘labor’. First I looked and looked and looked online for high resolution images of iPhones, with high-resolution (at least 512 x 512 pixels) application icons. Apple offers medium resolution images of the iPhone under the media section of their website here. But blow that up to roughly 4 x 2 feet and you’ve got fat ugly pixels. I found some pretty high res icons of some applications on deviantART.com offered by YaroManzarek (Thank you! Great work!). I also used some vector shapes that I found on Mordy.com here (thank you! great work too! I wish I had found them earlier as I had redrawn most of the iPhone before I stumbled on their blog). Then I drew the rest of the iPhone using Illustrator. Anyway, we end up with a beautiful, scalable image of the screen of the iPhone, without the pixels (up to a certain point: the application icons are usually around 512×512 pixels, which is plenty fine for a print in 4x2ft). I even made sure that the Calendar application icon shows Saturday 31, day of Halloween (at least for 2009). You can see the difference between my vector file and what an iPhone screenshot would produce:

Portion of the high resolution vector image of the iPhone

Portion of the high resolution vector image of the iPhone

Portion of the low resolution screenshot image of the iPhone (simulated to scale)

Portion of the low resolution screenshot image of the iPhone (simulated to scale)

… and you can download the final result by clicking here or on the iPhone below (beware! it is a 17MB file. Why so big you may think considering it is an eps vector file… well the actual application icons are still bitmap images, and in fairly high resolution, and the screen contains 24 of them…)

High Resolution Vector iPhone Screen by AppleFriend

High Resolution Vector iPhone Screen by AppleFriend (click on it to download the vector file)

Day 4 – Creating the iPhone screen

So this is the plan. I am going to invert the image of the iPhone, and only print it in line art (no need to use up all the ink from my printer…)

Inverted, line art iPhone template

Inverted, line art iPhone template

I will print tiles of the iphone (12 to be exact) on US letter size paper. I am providing to you a PDF file of all 12 tiles. Make sure you have a recent version of Acrobat Reader so that you can view each layer and print them individually. In your printer settings, make sure that there is no resizing at all. If you have a borderless function, I think that’s fine, as long as dimensions are respected. You can download the PDF of the 12 tiles here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A few people have complained that they could only see the first tile: You must open this file with the latest version of Acrobat Reader (free from here). Once the file is open, make sure you show the layers on the left column of Acrobat. For that, go to View->Navigation Panel->Layers. Then, show the layers and print them one by one.

I will tape together carefully…

Taped tiles of the iPhone inverted template

Taped tiles of the iPhone inverted template

Full mosaic of the taped tiles of the iPhone inverted template

Full mosaic of the taped tiles of the iPhone inverted template

I will then peel off one side of the plexiglass (the top one), place it over my big iPhone line art template sheet, and tape the whole thing with masking tape so it does not move.

Template and plexiglass taped together after alignment

Template and plexiglass taped together after alignment

Okay, now that I have my inverted template showing through the plexiglass, I will be able to print full color tiles of the iPhone, and stick them together. This is where I’m going to go a little over budget folks. I’d like to use some clear full sheet labels. Avery makes those and I found a pack of 10 at Office Depot for $10. Ouch. Oh well, I think this will give the best result though. This is how I plan to do it: I will print each color components surrounded by some black.

UPDATE: By popular demand, please find here a US-letter sized PDF file with each tile. Open it with a recent version of Acrobat Reader, and make sure you show and print each tile (layer) sequentially. For that, go to View->Navigation Panel->Layers. Then, show the layers and print them one by one.

US letter sized clear label printed with inkjet printer

US letter sized clear label printed with inkjet printer

… cut them out…

Each application label is cut out, along with other screen components

Each application label is cut out, along with other screen components

…and tape them in place on the plexiglass surface, with the aid of the template underneath:

First icons affixed on the plexiglass surface

First icons affixed on the plexiglass surface

Labels have been applied...

Labels have been applied...

This is a bit for a precision task folks: make sure your hands and the plexiglass surface are clean and dust/grease free. When applying pressure to the labels, use the peeled back of the label as a protection between the label and your nail or finger as you may smear the ink if you do it in direct contact. Also, I had a hard time avoiding bubbles as my label material is actually very thin.

I will then fill the gaps with black acrylic paint ($3 at Michaels):

Applying black acrylic paint between the labels

Applying black acrylic paint between the labels

Black acrylic paint applied between the labels

Black acrylic paint applied between the labels

Detailing with a thinner paintbrush

Detailing with a thinner paintbrush

Be generous with the paint: you want as opaque of a black as you can

Be generous with the paint: you want as opaque of a black as you can

OK, enough for today. Day 4 steps took me about 3 hours, bringing the total to 7 hours so far. More to come tomorrow!

Day 5 – Creating the back light

This one is by far the component of the iPhone costume that is giving me the biggest headache: There is about 1/2 inch of interspace between the plywood board and the plexiglass screen, and getting those icons (and the text below) uniformly lit from a 3mm diameter LED is a tricky challenge. I consulted quite a few of my friends with this one, and even the most technically savvy appeared a bit at loss. Among others, I consulted with my brainy sister Anouk Azavant. Anouk works on various Earth Observation & Science programs for the European Space Agency and mingles on a daily basis with a few PhDs in optics, who had a few solutions to offer (more on that later).

Because I do not have much of an interspace, and because the beam of a LED is very much unidirectional, I decided to ‘harvest’ the LEDS from the christmas decorations, drill 3mm (1/8 inch) holes under each icon and text (40 in total) in the plywood, and insert LEDs in those holes from the back.

Drilling 1/8 inch holes in the plywood frame, under each icon and text

Drilling 1/8 inch holes in the plywood frame, under each icon and text

Disassembling the Christmas lights

Disassembling the Christmas lights

'Harvesting' LED's from a christmas decoration
‘Harvesting’ LED’s from a christmas decoration

I then soldered (yes, I know, I wish I could have avoided the soldering part…) them in parallel, connecting them with the green wire from the decorations

Soldering the LED's in parallel  - Connecting each (+) together and each (-) together

Soldering the LED's in parallel - Connecting each (+) together and each (-) together

Soldering the LED's re-using the wire from the Christmas decoration

Soldering the LED's re-using the wire from the Christmas decoration

Since I bought 2 Christmas decorations, I will re-connect two pairs of 20 LED’s separately, using both battery packs that came with the decorations. Below is a diagram of how things are connected:

LED Diagram

LED Diagram

Once everything is soldered, I turned over the frame and plugged in the batteries to check everything works:

Checking the LED's work

Checking the LED's work

I then placed the screen on the top of my frame, and what I suspected happened. The next photo will perfectly illustrate the biggest challenge – the diffraction (or lack thereof) issue – I was discussing above:

LEDs shining through the screen. The light is not uniform throughout the surface of the icons & text

LEDs shining through the screen. The light is not uniform throughout the surface of the icons & text

So I basically need to figure out how to spread out a tiny, 1/8 inch highly bright beam of light into a uniform 4×4 inch ‘light pad’. All this within 1/2 inch of depth. I’ll share with you some of the ideas that I considered:

- Instead of lighting the screen from the back, lighting the screen from the side: I would need far more LEDs, i.e. more power (batteries) to the rig. Besides, I do not know the refractive/reflecting properties of my plexiglass. Also, my plexiglass is clear (and not translucent), so I’m going to park that idea. One of the experts in optometry from Astrium Space indicates that this will most likely not work;

- Giving more depth between the back of the iPhone and the plexiglass: basically making a much thicker iPhone. That, I know, will work, but it will compromise the proportions of the iPhone, and will force me to rebuild my frame, which, frankly, I’m not too excited about. I’m also going to park this idea for now;

- Raising the LED’s so they are not encased in the wood: one may think that it will spread their beam on the sides: well, if you look at a lit LED from the side, you can barely notice that it is on, because the beam is so unidirectional. Therefore, I prefer to keep them encased in the wood to recess them a little further from the screen;

- Cover the inside of the plexiglass with a layer of translucent paper: Although I will do that at the end so we do not see the inside of the iPhone through the plexiglass screen, a quick test reveals that the translucent paper does not diffract the beam. With scotch tape, I tried  to raise the paper to various degrees but that did not help (see photo below);

Curved layers of translucent paper didn't help diffracting the light

Curved layers of translucent paper didn't help diffracting the light

- Inserting bubble wrap between LEDs and screen: a seemingly good idea suggested to me by Brooke, my neighbors’ 12 year-old daughter. Unfortunately, it does not really diffract anything.

- Placing a sheet of aluminum with a few pinholes half way between back and screen to try and create a circular aperture diffraction. That is one technique suggested by one of my sister’s colleagues at Astrium Space. Although a great idea, it did not produce the desired effect: not enough light source, too narrow depth of field I suppose.

- Tossing the LEDs and replacing them with LED Backlight matrices. Way too expensive if I am to stay within my limited budget, and requires way too much power (24W each). Those would look fab though.

-Inserting a translucent liquid inside the iPhone. OK, this one seems like I’ve lost my mind. I love it though, and I must credit my father for suggesting it. Very ‘out of the box’ thinking. So I tried it: took a little Ziploc® bag, filled it with mostly water, mixed a little bit of milk, closed it, and placed it in between of the LED and the screen. And it worked VERY well! But how unpractical! And even if I place the smallest bag behind each application icon & text, I suppose my rig could get heavy… and potentially leaky!

- Inserting a cushioning foam sheet: you know, the ones they use as an alternative to bubble wrap to ship breakable item. I found a thin sheet in an old box, and well, well!! Not bad. Not bad at all in fact. It’s probably very cheap, it’s light, and although it does not diffract quite as much as my milk/water cocktail above, it diffracts better than anything else I’ve tried so far, without absorbing too many lumens from my LED. In fact, I’d also like to try a polyethylene plank foam. You know, the stuff they use to lock very heavy object (such as a plasma screen) inside a corrugated cardboard box:

Polyethylene Plank Foam

Polyethylene Plank Foam

I think a trip to the hardware store tomorrow is in order. Until then, good night. I spent 2 hours on the project today, bringing the total to 9 hours. I think I’m about to bust my 10 hour-limit…

Day 6 – ‘Chroming’ the frame and shaping the back

Today, I’ll take a little break from my diffraction ‘research’ and chrome the frame of the iPhone. Simple, fast, and gratifying. Since I’m going to play with paint, I’ll cover the LEDs with masking tape first:

Protecting the LEDs with masking tape

Protecting the LEDs with masking tape

I’m going to be a little picky here, and sand and prime the frame before spraying the chrome paint.Call me over-zealous, but I’ve never used chrome paint, so I do not know how well it applies on wood, or if wood absorbs it or not. You could probably skip the priming step, but since I have latex primer laying around, I’ll use it:

Priming the frame before spraying the chrome paint

Priming the frame before spraying the chrome paint

Two dry layers of primer later, I will finally spray the chrome. Patience is a virtue that usually escapes me, but since I have spent a sizable amount of time on this project already, I’m going to be careful here: I’d rather spray very little paint, let it dry, and repeat the process multiple times, to avoid the droplets that form when you spray too much paint at a time on the same spot. I’ll even sand again between 2 layers as I notice some rough spots. First time I use chrome paint, and I must say I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.

Chrome paint on the edge of the iPhone

Chrome paint on the edge of the iPhone

Chrome paint: 3 or 4 layers later

Chrome paint: 3 or 4 layers later

While this is drying, let me start on the back of the iPhone. I realize I’m running out of time: Halloween is in less than a week, so I’d better crank it up. I’m enrolling the help of my father (Charles) who’s in town, visiting from France. He’s a fine craftsman, always willing to help, and I learnt to build and fix things from him as a child. We’ll do the back of the iPhone from a 4 x 2 ft piece of 2 in. thick styrofoam: It’s light, cheap ($6 at HomeDepot).

4 x 2 ft styrofoam board

4 x 2 ft styrofoam board

First, Charles cut the piece to dimension by using the front of the iPhone as a guide

Using the iPhone as a guide to cut the styrofoam board to dimension

Using the iPhone as a guide to cut the styrofoam board to dimension

Tracing the contour of the iPhone

Tracing the contour of the iPhone

He then cut the board using a hand saw:

First cut using a hand saw

First cut using a hand saw

And the corners using a steak knife:

Rounding the corners with a steak knife

Rounding the corners with a steak knife

Sanded the corners…

Sanding the corners

Sanding the corners

Charles then traced guides with a marker to help him guide the kitchen knife’s blade when cutting out a bevel. The rectangle he traced is about 6 inches from the edges of the board.

Tracing the level guides (1/2)

Tracing the level guides (1/2)

He then traced a line about 1/2 inch from the top of the edge as shown below:
Tracing the level guides (2/2)

Tracing the level guides (2/2)

With those guides traced, he used a 8-inch kitchen knife to cut out a bevel:
Cutting out a bevel (1/2)

Cutting out a bevel (1/2)

Cutting out a bevel (2/2)

Cutting out a bevel (2/2)

He then used a sheet of sandpaper wrapped around a wood scrap to make the edges round:

Sanding the edges to make them round (1/2)

Sanding the edges to make them round (1/2)

Considering the coarse nature of the styrofoam board, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome:
Sanding the edges to make them round (2/2)

Sanding the edges to make them round (2/2)

He then used lightweight spackle ($5 at Home Depot for a small can) to fill in the holes and smoothen the texture of the surface:
Lightweight spackle was used to even the surface

Lightweight spackle was used to even the surface

Spreading lightweight spackle to smoothen the surface

Spreading lightweight spackle to smoothen the surface

Let it dry, and then sanded to obtain a smooth surface. Using the same acrylic black paint I used to deepen the black on the inside surface of the screen, Charles painted the back of the iPhone and let it dry. Please note that any oil based paint will melt the Styrofoam! So make sure you use water/acrylic based paint. I ended up not using the can of black spray paint I bought earlier.
Back of the iPhone painted in black

Back of the iPhone painted in black

In the meantime, I have created and sized the illustrations for the back of the iPhone: the little camera hole, the Apple logo, and the iPhone/16GB inscription. You can download the Illustrator file by clicking on the images below: The first one is a scaled vector file of the back. The second one includes the camera, Apple logo and iPhone/16GB inscriptions to be cut out and glued on the back of the iPhone. They fit on a US letter size print.
iPhone Back

iPhone Back

iPhone-Back-US-Letter-AppleFriend

iPhone-Back-US-Letter-AppleFriend

OK, enough for today. I need to finish this project tomorrow… We’re getting close… Good night for now!

Day 6 – Finishing the back, placing the light diffusing foam

After printing the outline of the Apple logo, I glued aluminum foil to it to give the shiny look. I tried first spraying chrome paint on the paper but I had to spray so much paint to make it look shiny that the paint eventually lumped a bit. Believe it or not, gluing the camera hole, the Apple logo, and the iPhone / 16GB text on the back of the iPhone was more of a challenge than I expected. You cannot use a glue that will melt the styrofoam! My recommendation on this one is to cover the back of your items with double face sticky tape. Here is the result:

The back of the iPhone

The back of the iPhone

So now that the back is done, let me go back to the front piece. I decided to use a polyethylene foam board to diffract the light. $5 at Michaels (have you noticed how I have conveniently stopped tracking my expenses… Although I’m way below $100, I believe I have busted my original $50 limit).

First, I will coat the plywood board with aluminum foil (shiny side up). A previous quick test showed it does make a difference in maximizing light output:

Coating the plywood with aluminum foil

Coating the plywood with aluminum foil

I then poked a hole with a nail where the LEDs are to allow for the light to go through:

Letting light shine through the aluminum foil

Letting light shine through the aluminum foil

I then cut out rectangles of polyethylene from my board, and encased them in aluminum foil. Don’t know if it will make a difference in maximizing the light output, but doesn’t cost a thing to do. Besides, glue will hold better on aluminum when I place those in position:

Cutting rectangle of polyethylene foam to icons dimensions

Cutting rectangles of polyethylene foam to icons dimensions

Finally, I placed the rectangle in position above each LED and below each icons or text. I used a few drops of white glue on the edge of the aluminum foil, so you can easily position and adjust. It’s not the best glue for this material, but it will be plenty strength when dry, considering how light the foam is:

Gluing the diffracting foam

Gluing the diffracting foam

A quick test with the lights on provide a decent result (although I must say the photo does not give it justice… the diffraction is better than that in real life):

Lights on under the polyethylene foam

Lights on under the polyethylene foam

So what’s left: I will attach the plexiglass screen with double face sticky tape (on the clothesline pins), create a black fabric bellows to hide the sides when I wear the front of the iPhone in front of me, and the styrofoam back of the iPhone in my back. And that’s for tomorrow… Good night!

Day 7 – Halloween Day!

Well, talk about reaching the 11th hour…

First, let me tape the wires behind the iPhone so nothing hangs loose. I find that packing tape works well:

Taping the wires

Taping the wires

Now I need to screw 2 hooks on the back so I can attach a string to those and carry the thing over my shoulder, strapping it to my belt in my back:

Drilling 2 holes, 1 foor apart

Drilling 2 holes, 1 foor apart

Attaching the hooks:

Attaching the hooks (inside)

Attaching the hooks (inside)

Attaching the hooks (outside)

Attaching the hooks (outside)

Those are very sturdy, so we should not have any issue here. Now, I need to attach the front plexiglass screen. I will use double side sticky tape on each clothesline pins:

Using double side sticky tape to affix the plexiglass screen

Using double side sticky tape to affix the plexiglass screen

After positioning the screen, I get a bad vibe: I don’t think the sticky tape is going to be strong enough to hold it. Maybe I should have put more clothesline pins. Maybe I should have used a more padded double face sticky tape… It’s too late at this stage, so I’ll use very small nails with flat heads, and hammer them in the clothesline pins as in the photo below. They’re barely noticeable, and now I’m confident the screen will stay in place.

Using flat head nails to better secure the screen

Using flat head nails to better secure the screen

Now, I’m going to place double face sticky tape on the edges of the styrofoam back (not the bottom though):

Double face sticky tape on the inside of the styrofoam back

Double face sticky tape on the inside of the styrofoam back

Now, I’ll insert the anchors on the back of the iPhone. Styrofoam is not an easy material to attach stuff to. On a scrap piece, I tried several types of screws, and the thread easily tears through when you lightly pull. I ended up using those drywall screws that have a very wide thread. That seems to work:

Using drywall screws to attach the strings to the back of the iPhone

Using drywall screws to attach the strings to the back of the iPhone

OK, I now have anchors on the inside of both the front and the back of the iPhone. I now want to hide the sides with black fabric. Think accordion bellows here. Don’t ask me why, but I have in my house a piece of stretchy black fabric that will do the trick (no pun intended). I asked my wife Wendy how much she paid for it (Wendy is a fine seamstress and collects patterns and piles of fabric). She vaguely remembers buying that piece a while ago. It was on sale, and she swears she didn’t pay more than 5 bucks for it. Add that to our tab. Although you could buy a piece in the right dimensions at the store, ours is not, so she pulls out her sewing machine and stitch it into a 2x10ft rectangle. We cut a hole in the middle for my head:

10x2 ft. piece of black fabric

10x2 ft. piece of black fabric

I then applied the fabric on the double side sticky tape. First on the styrofoam back, and then on the front of the screen (I enrolled some help to have the back held above the front while I applied the fabric on the tape. The tape, although not strong enough to hold my screen as mentioned above, is plenty strong to hold the fabric.

Applying the fabric on the double face sticky tape

Applying the fabric on the double face sticky tape

I realize (at this late hour) that I was a little sloppy on the details of my anchors, and forgot to snap photos of the anchors and rope. The intent is to use a thin rope, attach it to each anchor, run it above my shoulder, and attach the ropes to the front of my trousers belt (for the back of the iPhone) and the back of my trousers belt (for the front of the iPhone).

Well, it’s almost sunset on Halloween day, and I’m ready for the part I have been looking forward the LEAST! Actually wearing the iPhone costume. I was asked in some comments if I did an iPhone costume for my children: I would have much preferred to downsize my model and have them wear it instead, but they had no interest whatsoever in wearing a stupid phone costume. Much more interested in being Tinker Bell or a green Power Ranger. I certainly can’t blame them. So it’s time to wear this thing. I also had to enroll help to get into it. 2 friendly helpers stood on a chair, one holding the front, the other holding the back. I slipped in from the open bottom, attached and adjusted the ropes myself (a little tricky since I could not see my hands). Once the desired height was achieved for both the front and the back, Wendy cut two slits on each side for my arms, I finally peeled off the protective film from the front screen (wow! it looks so shiny and so much better!) and voila!

Regis wearing his iPhone costume

Regis wearing his iPhone costume

Back of the iPhone

Back of the iPhone

The photos above show the front and back a little crooked. I adjusted them after and wish we had re-taken the photos… Oh well, you get the picture.

So here I went on Oct 31st 2009, up the streets of Westlake in Lake Oswego, OR, holding my darling 3-year old daughter’s (Tinker Bell) hand, trick or treating. This neighborhood goes crazy for Halloween. To give you an idea, our neighbors counted 450 kids knocking on their door. The response to the iPhone costume, I must say, was fantastic. The fun thing is that everybody asked me to touch on the buttons, and people seemed to notice even small details like the date on the calendar icon, the Halloween application icon… Lots of people asked me details about how I built it, how long it took (I lied… I said 10 hours ;-) I’ve never heard the word “duuuuuude!” so many times in my life ;-) I initially felt sorry about stealing the show from my little Audrey, but then realized that she seemed to enjoy all the attention that her daddy attracted. I think my costume got her a few more candy too.

  1. Fanny Azavant
    October 20th, 2009 at 07:14 | #1

    C’est très drole!!!j’ai pa compris ce qu’il y a marqué mé j’ai compris avec les photos.
    Si c’est toi qui a fait tous sa : T’est vraiment fortiche!!!
    A+ FaFanne

  2. October 29th, 2009 at 21:59 | #2

    Must be the cold weather :-) You need more stylish clothes right :-) Good luck with your project mate….Looks really good….. Ionel & Teresa

  3. Stephen
    October 29th, 2009 at 22:33 | #3

    Fantastic Regis, what a fun project!

  4. Elle Mac Pherson
    October 29th, 2009 at 23:35 | #4

    Hi, this is a great idea. See you soon

  5. manuel
    October 30th, 2009 at 00:41 | #5

    When can I expect instructions for my Nokia? ;-)

  6. October 30th, 2009 at 01:39 | #6

    WOW!! What a feat!!
    I made Halloween gift box Shoes, Pumpkin Onesies and Apple (shaped) Books, just need to add the lights now!! Will check back with you for help on my shoe lighting and the complex engineering bits!
    Super Job!!! and HAPPY HALLLOWEEN!!!

  7. October 30th, 2009 at 02:15 | #7

    Qu’est-ce que c’est, un i-phone ? En tous cas, sûr ça doit faire peur de te voir là-dedans ! Tu ferais mieux de te remettre à la musique, tiens…
    http://www.papaestfatigue.com/J%27en%20veux%20plus.htm
    Bises Olivier

  8. Paul
    October 30th, 2009 at 02:24 | #8

    Regis…..what can I say, besides I am not surprised ;-)
    I know you can do it in less then 10hrs….and it will be perfect. One suggestion I could add is whoever is going to wear it, could also have his/here iPhone and play the startup tune, if someone switch “the iPhone costume” on or off …. hahahahahah

    -Paul

  9. Olivier Germain
    October 30th, 2009 at 03:24 | #9

    Bonjour,

    awesome project so far, and scarily time consuming, i can’t wait to see the end result, make sure you do not drop the rig when you try it on for the first time…
    Just a quick question – isn’t Halloween supposed to be about scary things ? How is an iPhone scary ? Unless you count possible world domination and replacement of Microsoft as the dominant market player as scary…
    Cheers.

  10. Gena Smoot
    October 30th, 2009 at 06:29 | #10

    This is priceless! Thank you so much for sharing… a bit late though, I could have had Ronnie working on this… he loves projects!
    Reallly, you’ve outdone yourself…. Can’t wait to see you in it!
    What are your kids going to be? iPods?

  11. October 30th, 2009 at 07:03 | #11

    Very cool. Hope you get your lights working in time.

  12. Jodi
    October 30th, 2009 at 07:22 | #12

    WOW! You DO have a lot of time on your hands ;) This takes the halloween costume prize hands down, let’s hope the kids get equally cool costumes!

  13. Ian Fetterley
    October 30th, 2009 at 08:28 | #13

    Very impressive – well documented with a clear set of goals and requirements. MAKE magazine might be interested as well – send something to them as well – this is exactly the sort of thing they publish. Isn’t life interesting – even post SLB?

  14. Peter
    October 30th, 2009 at 08:52 | #14

    Hi Regis (from sunny but cold Santa Fe)

    I think you are on to something here – If Apple’s agency is watching, you could become an instant celebrity tv ad icon (but Im not sure I would want to).

    Anyway, nice job & glad to see the big garage is going to creative & artistic use.

    A beintot,

    Peter

  15. Olivier Germain
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:03 | #15

    Also, for the light diffusion, you can have added JellO to your water and milk mixture and probably get the same results without the fear of leaks. On the other hand, the weight would have still been there, but it could double as a reserve of water bombs if you are into this sort of things.

  16. Bill
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:18 | #16

    Amazing!!

    We need some pictures of the final product with you wearing it.

    Next year you will need to get a big-screen LED display, hack into an iPhone, reroute the video signal, integrate a touch screen sensor back into the iPhone and voila – a fully functioning iPhone costume.

  17. Alvin
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:50 | #17

    Awesome! Can’t wait to see the final results.

    On the LED diffusion, file the leds flat and sand them for greater diffusion. You can also dremel a concave surface in the end of the leds. Try also using polyethylene tubing (ice maker tubing) to make caps for the leds and plug the tops. http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/decobox/default.asp?page=3 Another trick would be using El Tape or El wire instead of LEDs for a more muted light source.

    Good luck with it!

  18. Joy
    October 30th, 2009 at 10:41 | #18

    Big R-
    I am retired and don’t have that much time to spend on making a costume! However, it is absolutely wonderful and your attention to detail is superb.

    Me? I just want to use a phone to call people!

    Love to all.

  19. October 30th, 2009 at 11:25 | #19

    Woaaa Chaudaaaassseee!!! (private joke…)

    Hello from the Big Apple (no pun intended)

    This is absolutely incredible! So well documented, photographed, written.. you should do this for a living. Not the iPhone part, but the “showing how it’s made” part. Awesome, you’re a natural!
    Can’t wait to see the final product. I agree that you should send this to Apple, they’ve probably never seen such a strong devotee!

    Guillaume

  20. Chris Laska
    October 30th, 2009 at 12:06 | #20

    Whoa! this is a big project, hopefully we will see the end result tomorrow! I gave you a digg, this will spread fast!

  21. Guillaume Lahitette
    October 30th, 2009 at 15:29 | #21

    Aupa Regis!

    This is so absolutely you! Fantastic project idea and spotless execution so far and, undoubtedly, till D-day… ie manana if I’m counting right!

    Few random questions come to mind.

    Are you also making mini iPhones for your “pitchounes” and a 5 ft for “madame”???

    How do you plan to manage your kids screaming: “C’mon Daddy, stop answering all the neighbors questions, let’s go to the next house.”?

    What’s your target price when you start mass-production in China in about….2 weeks?

    Have fun!

    Adichats,
    Guillaume

  22. fred loudet
    October 31st, 2009 at 03:05 | #22

    Wow! haha joli petite musaraigne epileptique!

    Well, indeed, I agree with all those comments, very well done, precise, clear, whether it is the iphone itself or the step by step explanation (c’est vrai que t’as du temps mon salaud!).

    So what is it you’re gonna wear under the costume, if you wear anything.. would be actually the scary part for halloween.

    And by the way, I agree with your cousin I think, I was amazed you could get a domain name like this, t’as du coucher ou je ne sais quoi pour l’avoir.

    Aller, Bises!

    Fred.

  23. Mathieu Le Treut
    October 31st, 2009 at 12:38 | #23

    Salut beau frere

    Bravo c’est top

  24. Alice Le Treut
    October 31st, 2009 at 12:50 | #24

    salut redge avec THE FAMILY Le Treut on a ete impressionné de ton talent, et je ne savais pas que tu étais aussi précis tu es :” THE REDGEO I-PHONE STAR “

  25. November 4th, 2009 at 14:33 | #25

    Not bad! I especially like the quality of the icons!

    Before I had my iPhone my son asked me to make him a cell phone costume: http://bienc.com/bbcostume

    I must say, my project took much less time :)

  26. November 16th, 2009 at 09:40 | #26

    Bien,

    Thank you for the comment. Your son’s costume is great! Very cute too!

  27. wiezy333
    April 5th, 2010 at 10:09 | #27

    WOW, that costume is completely amazing! Way to go on creating the iPhone vector art! I downloaded the file…but the bitmap images are linked and are missing….could you embed the images and re-post? Thanks so much….awesome work!

  28. albert
    July 15th, 2010 at 05:44 | #28

    hey man i really like the iphone and i was looking all over to find something like this its awesome and i am trying to recreate something like this but what i really need it the high res pictures and when i download the pictures here some icons are missing and illustrator tells me that the links are broken is there anyway you can send it to me i really really need them

    thank you,

  29. arun
    July 26th, 2010 at 07:32 | #29

    AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME

  30. jon Spivak
    August 24th, 2010 at 01:34 | #30

    how can I get one from you?

  31. Egal;)
    September 1st, 2010 at 14:18 | #31

    hi.
    very nice costume like it very much.
    i hope you can help me with a problem. every time i open the vector file with illustrator i get the message that moste of the icons are not found. how can i fix that problem? when i opend with photoshop to test it the icons are all there but not high res.

    sorry for my english.

  32. September 15th, 2010 at 05:44 | #32

    great blog thank you

  33. Chris
    October 5th, 2010 at 06:03 | #33

    Hey Regis, thanks for this awesome tutorial. I have one question, how do you get the .ai file to print on to multiple pages?

    Cheers

    Chris

  34. Sam
    October 18th, 2010 at 15:40 | #34

    Hi there – trying to print out the images, but having trouble. Any pointers to where I can find and print the various apps icons? I can open the 17MB file, but don’t know how to print each of the various pieces – it only selects the top left each time – is there a setting in Adobe that needs to be changed to print the “full” image (which I think will need several 8.5×11 sheets)??

    Thanks!
    Sam

  35. October 18th, 2010 at 21:46 | #35

    Hi Chris: I have updated the post and provided the file in US letter format, with layers. Thanks for the feedback! Please make sure to share your results once you are done. Kind regards, Regis

  36. October 18th, 2010 at 21:48 | #36

    Hi! I updated my post and you should be able to find all icons in US-Letter format layers. The file can be opened with Acrobat Reader. Regards, Regis

  37. October 18th, 2010 at 21:49 | #37

    Hi! Do you want me to build one for you?

  38. October 18th, 2010 at 21:50 | #38

    Hi! I have updated my post, and the issue should be fixed. Let me know. Regards, Regis

  39. October 18th, 2010 at 21:52 | #39

    Sorry for the (very) late reply. I re-uploaded the file and the issue should be fixed. Let me know. Kind regards, Regis

  40. October 19th, 2010 at 13:48 | #40

    Hi, Thanks for the kind email. I just tested the file and it seems to work (no broken link to images). Can you please try again and let me know? Thx, Regis

  41. Chris
    October 19th, 2010 at 19:30 | #41

    @regis

    Thanks!

  42. November 10th, 2011 at 16:46 | #42

    I would like to buy one of these, could you make me one? Please send me a e-mail and let me know
    Thanks
    Seth

  1. October 11th, 2009 at 05:57 | #1
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