This isn't actually a Captain America helmet, technically. This helmet belongs to "The Captain" or "Captain Nomad" or possibly US Agent. It's meant to resemble what Captain America's helmet might have looked like in Infinity War if Steve Rogers had worn the black costume he'd worn in the comics for a year in 1989 when he went through one of his occasional fugitive phases. But the technique is the same if you're trying to make a typical Captain America helmet or something similar.
This helmet was 3D printed in four parts, glued together, smoothed, and painted. This project costs around $50 for all the materials, but for that price you could likely make five of these. It takes about 15 hours, of which about 3 hours are hands-on time and most of which is just print time or drying time. It's an easy project accessible to any experience level that can definitely be accomplished over a few evenings or over a weekend.
- 200 g of Filament - $20 / kg
- Superglue - $3 / tube
- Wood filler - $6 / jar
- Spray paint - $5 / can
- Cork sheet / EVA foam / Cardboard - $2
- Hot glue (optional)
- Liquid shoe polish (optional)
- Silver paint (optional)
Hot glue gun (optional)
Step 1: Print the Helmet
This helmet was a pretty easy print. I printed it in four parts. For each I used a 0.3 mm layer height with a 0.6 mm nozzle at normal speeds and temperatures. I printed the upper back with support and the rest without. I included a brim to improve attachment and cleaned it off with my craft knife before gluing.
I also designed some simple wings and a star 0.6 mm thick to add some pizzazz. Cap's helmet in the films has evolved to include some great textures and line work, which I wanted to add a bit of. The costume I'm replicating from the comics had no adornment on the front, so I included a star instead of an "A" but painted it the same color as the rest of the helmet.
The print file I used was "captain america helmet" by Captnmazur, which is a remix of "Captain America Helmet" by SMARTDAGGER, which was a remix of "Captain America: First Avenger Helmet" by sunday. The fit is imperfect, but I gained an appreciation for the work that went into making this when I tried to model my own. It's hard!
Step 2: Glue the Segments
After printing and cleaning the edges well, I glued the four pieces together with cyanoacrylate (aka super glue). I found the best way to glue the seams precisely was to apply glue along about four inches of one of the seams and then line the edge up with its conjugate and hold them together for several seconds. Then I'd apply glue to the next few inches of the seam, align them, and hold. Wear gloves, since I hate the feeling of superglue on my skin. Be aware that the wood filler you'll add in the next step has adhesive and reinforcing properties, so even if the seams don't feel entirely reliable, they likely will after the wood filler is applied.
Step 3: Apply Wood Filler and Sand
Wood filler serves multiple roles: it fills and hides the seams, it helps fill and hide print lines, it provides a sandable exterior, and it acts as a great paint primer. It also adds a bit of strength to the helmet, particularly along the seems. Be aware that it's a bit powdery as you sand. You might want to wear a dust mask.
The three popular agents I've seen used for filling and smoothing 3D prints are XTC 3D, Bondo, and Wood filler. I've used XTC 3D, which is a thin, paint-on clear epoxy. I've never used Bondo, particularly because its fumes are supposed to be awful, and I do most of my work in-doors. This was the first time I'd used wood filler. I decided to try it after watching this video by Uncle Jessy. As he says in the video, it's really a dream. It was super easy to apply and spread. It offered plenty of working time, but also dried fast.
You can still see the print lines in my final product, but I didn't mind. I think it looks a bit like brushed metal under paint, but if you really want it to look flawless, print with a lower layer height, apply more filler, sand more, apply a second layer, and sand that. I think you'll have no problem completely hiding the layer lines.
Step 4: Glue in a Liner
A simple lining will help join the separate pieces and improve the fit. I used a sheet of 2 mm cork because I had it laying around, but EVA foam or cardboard would work fine.
Cut one piece of lining for the top and one for each side (not pictured). For the top piece, I cut wedges in each end to account for the internal curvature. I glued the lining with hot glue, although super glue, Elmer's, Barge cement, or even wood filler would work.
Step 5: Paint and Finish
I glued the star on with superglue and painted the helmet using a basic Rust-Oleum semi-gloss enamel spray paint. This applied great, although ever after drying overnight and blowing on it with a fan, the texture felt slightly tacky. This went away with a gentle sanding with 120 grit sand paper, which dulled the shine a bit and gave it a nice dry finish. I spray painted the wings using Rust-oleum Nickel, and then glued them on with superglue as well. This is how I'd recommend adding the "A" if preparing a standard Captain America helmet.
I think the wings and the star added some valuable texture to the helmet, and they were easy to design and apply. I'd suggest taking this technique further if you're interested by adding more panels and lines to replicate some of the features of the helmets in the MCU films.
Finally, I did a bit of subtle finishing work. I rubbed in a bit of liquid shoe polish -- especially on the silver wings -- and wiped it off, and I dry brushed a bit of silver paint along the edges to give the helmet a bit of subtle weathering. This isn't terribly noticeable, but I think it enhances the lived in believably of the piece and recommend it.