From Stick Figures to Your First Armour Set

How to design: From stick figures to your first armour set

To make great armour, you need just one thing: Your imagination. You may have different resources and abilities to others, but if you’re here, then I know that you have the same passions as everyone who walks through my doors…... Seriously, it really is that simple & if like me, you’ve watched a mountain of movies, read a stack of books, or stood, mouth open at museums….

That spark is in all of us 🙂

Honestly, it makes no difference whether you’re a RenFaire lover… or part of the SCA, or you’re a Larper or passionate Cosplayer, the one thing we all have in common is a “lit up” imagination and the ability to create something unique…… (Maybe you just don’t know it yet 😉)

I get asked all the time… “What if I struggle with drawing a stick person”? and believe it or not, that was actually a challenge for me too!!!! I’m just stubborn as a goat and refused to accept that being a natural illustrator was the only way!!! That’s why I’m so passionate about teaching & sharing my experience, so others can discover “their way” – because anyone can do this …. As long as the “Passion” is there!

Step by step…. It all starts with the stroke of a pen or pencil, and before you know it, you’ll have crafted your very first piece of kit... And remember, we never stop learning….  I remind myself daily that “everything is a lesson”.

Step 1: Get inspired

Would you believe Inspiration can hit you when you least expect it?

Yup… It can happen anytime, and this is something I really want everyone to understand…

You just need to open your eyes & the world around you is enough to get inspired. When that inspiration happens, grab a pencil, or your phone…. It’s those random things that grab you that could prove invaluable later down the line.

Remember, keep hold of those resources, print out any of those patterns or historical designs you’ve found, and file them away safe… Believe it or not, there is potential in them.

A simple sketch can become a project very quickly and you’d learn in my class how some of my own pieces have been inspired by all sorts of bits I’ve happened across on my travels. (Just have a camera phone at the ready!!)

What I’d really like to get across is that, believe it or not, every person’s design starts in roughly the same place – makes no difference whether it’s leather armour, costume, or a simple accessory… The penny will drop, and you’ll find that one stray vision that transforms a plain piece of armour into something truly special. That’s where I started, and I think you’ll find… probably where you’re starting, too.

Remember the old adage “Less is More”? For me, this is almost gospel  A design can be amazing and simple. Keep in mind… “Design” is the foundation that makes things work… Detail, the “noise”, is the tinsel on the tree  So keep that balance right!!

Deep Breaths…. Relax…. And let the pencil play on the paper, there is no right or wrong.

Step 2: Build your foundation

Now… At this point, you may have the seed of an idea forming, maybe a few printouts or references, a sketch in the back of a notebook, all of this is a great start.

So… Before you take that idea and make it a workable design, I think you’ll find it helpful to have a range of different bits and pieces in a portfolio of sorts – a catalogue of sketches, printouts, and photocopies from books…. This is your “Muse”.

Keep this growing… Your resource library will continue to grow over the years, giving you a huge selection of ideas all in one place and if you find yourself getting stuck, Pinterest is a good place to find masses of inspiring armour pieces, just avoid disappearing down that rabbit hole of distraction for too long!!!

Step 3: Understand your preferences

A real tough one that I’ve broached many a time… We all have our “own” way of communicating our ideas… Not everyone who designs enjoys drawing the details on paper (me included!!) BUT! The great news is that as long as you can understand it and know your own “whys”, you’ll always be able to communicate that message  (in YOUR way).

Play with different approaches…. This is something I’ll discuss in future blogs.

Step 4: See the potential

What I really hope you’re getting from this is that, while you’re exploring the world and taking inspiration all around you… Be it from architecture, nature, even existing costume & armour designs you’ve found online, open your eyes and notice the potential in the patterns that leap out at you… Think more laterally!!

Sketch those patterns, play with those shapes…. Twist them this way and that…. Maybe Imagine those designs on a belt, bag, or body piece…  Just Play 

Genuinely… There is potential in everything that catches your attention, what you do with those ideas is totally up to you…

The only limit to your potential is the limit you place on yourself.

So hopefully… That’s at the very least tweaked your imagination 🙂


Alex Agricola
Black Raven Armoury 


COMING UP NEXT – “Thinking Ahead – The Path to Less Mistakes”

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
― Albert Einstein



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