Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to make a Hylian Shield Pt. 1

One of my first major video game crushes was the very first Zelda, given to me by my parents for Christmas when I was 5. I absolutely fell in love with that game and played each sequel as they came out over the years, and to now see it be so popular is a delight. There is so much love and attention given to Zelda collectables, artwork and fandom in general. A friend of mine is similarly smitten by the Zelda series (in truth most of my friends have fond memories of playing a Zelda title), so I decided to make him a miniature Hylian Shield. As you do.

The shield itself is about 25cm tall (10") and 12mm thick, though naturally you can choose to just enlarge each element to suit the size you want to make it. This project is great as it requires only a few different elements, so if you haven't done anything like this before this is a pretty good place to start.

What you'll need

2.8mm Plyboard - You'll need around 1000mm x 250mm to make a shield of this size.

Epoxy Filler - The higher the quality, the better. I used around 100-120 grams in this project.

Buttons - These form the bold rivets located around the steel edge of the shield.

Water Based Paint - Because of the limited colour palette I only needed 9 colours. There are many brands to choose from but I use Citadel miniature paints as I've had a lot of experience with them and find them to be equal or better than any other product on the market.

Clear Gloss Lacquer - This is optional but will give the colour on the shield a much deeper hue with a reflective finish, in addition to protecting it. It also serves to divide the metal and decorative elements on the front of the shield, which in my view really adds depth and character.

Sandpaper - I used quite a bit, two squares each of 30cm square 120/240 grit.

Jigsaw and Rotary Tool - As they are both power tools ensure that you observe the correct safety wear.

Starting off

Note: If you want a curved shield backing you can, without too much trouble, set up a form, glue the sheets together and clamp to suit. If you want to have some real fun you can make your own steam box and steam bend your wood, which is great on larger projects, but if you haven't had much woodwork experience I wouldn't recommend it. In any case here is a good resource on bending methods if that's what you'd like to do. An easy way to approximate the curve you want is to use a deck of cards and, looking side on, you can simulate each layer and change it quickly and easily to suit. When it's as you like simply take a measurement and cut your layer of ply to suit.

First of all you need to trace and cut out the separate layers of the shield. For a shield this size I've used three layers of plywood, though for larger projects you can use more layers as you see fit. Where the curve in the shield is will depend on how large you cut each layer. 

When all the pieces are cut you can glue them together. Be sure that you clamp them together or put some weight on them as they dry to ensure uniformity of adhesion. For glue I used epoxy filler as it's strong, quick to dry and durable.

Once glued together use filler to smooth the steps between each layer, then sand. Repeat this until the finish is perfect (I used 3 layers). Try not to put too much on in a single layer; it's better to use multiple thin layers that are each sanded and shaped. Also make sure that each layer is left to cure fully before sanding and finishing.

Once the shield is smooth and shaped as you like it you can glue on the 'metal' detailing. Some of the pieces will need to bend to the shape of the shield, so you'll need to clamp them. Depending on the size of the shield you can use clothesline pegs (as I have), bulldog clips or builders clamps to do this. Be sure to leave it to dry overnight when doing this as the wood will naturally want to pull away, resulting in much cursing and stomping of feet.

Once all glued in place I decided to smooth off the joins to make it look like one solid edge, again using several layers of filler and a lot of sanding.

A thin undercoat layer will reveal the texture of the surface, and at this stage you can add/change detail as you please. I want the centre of the shield to have a ripple like texture when finished, so I used a rotary tool to roughen the surface.

You can use any number of different objects for the rivets. I found some great buttons that were perfectly sized for this project at my local sewing store, and simply smoothed off the back of each one and them glued them in place.

Now for the final details to be glued in place. Before undercoating again be sure to leave the shield to dry properly.

I applied 6 coats of undercoat, to ensure consistency and a final layer of smoothing (as consistent layers of paint fill small cracks/scratches).

After the 6 base coats I applied a single coat of Citadel black as it makes for a perfect painting surface, and is much flatter (less reflective) than other matt black paints that I've used.

I painted all the raised parts first (basically all the metallic elements) and then stippled 5 layers of blended blue, turquoise, and white to the face of the shield. Finally, I used two wash coats (seen still wet in the image below) of blue and black to give depth and consistency to the stippled layers.

Once dry it was ready for the crest. I used a fine black felt tip pen to draw the outline. I did it freehand as I like small differences in handmade items, but if you prefer you can use a stencil (I'd recommend it).

Once outlined the crest is filled with two layers of black.

Then two layers of patchy crimson.

Then, to highlight and define the crest, two layers of blood red (the final blended with a little white).

Finally, a thick coat of clear lacquer is applied to the face of the shield and then oven baked for an hour on low heat. This gives the crest and blue background a lot of depth and colour and, in my humble opinion, looks fantastic. If you haven't worked with paint/wood/lacquer much before I wouldn't recommend this method, you're much better to paint on several thin layers of lacquer and let them dry normally. If you do want to oven bake the finish be sure you keep a close eye on it, place the shield on baking paper, keep the temperature low, turn on an exhaust/ceiling fan, open the windows and keep the oven door open 1/4 for ventilation. You can very, very easily make the paint blister or set fire to something so be careful and keep a close eye on it.

The finished product, showing off its glossy finish.

In part two I'll show you how I made the back of the shield, added detail (a leather strap and handle) and the hardwood stand I made to display the shield.


Thanks for reading! If you found this tutorial interesting, fun or something else entirely I recommend that you check out my other tutorials, like the Westeros Map (Game of Thrones) that I made recently or my Steampunk Nerf Guns


  1. Can't I, like, pay you to make this for me.

    1. Hi Lucy, it took rather a long time to make so in short, yes, I'm always happy to make custom items for those interested. That said the cost wouldn't be much in materials, it's the time that would determine how much it costs. If you're still interested let me know. Cheers!

  2. This is an awesome piece if work. I really would like to try to make this for myself. I am a bit hesitant because I've never worked with a project like this. I also thought about making it a full sized replica. Would you recommend this project to someone who really has no experience.

    1. Hey Ocarina Man,

      You could most certainly do it, though as you haven't had much experience it would be likely much more time consuming. That said this isn't too hard a project, just be sure to take your time to ensure you get quality results. If you make on yourself please send some photos across, would love to see it!

  3. Thanks for the reply Leeroy. I think I'm going to attempt it. Now, do you have any pointers for making a full sized replica? How did you go about tracing and cutting out the detailed parts of the shield, any tips? I think that will be the most difficult part for me. I wish there were a stencil or something I could trace, but I imagine that would be difficult with a full sized replica.

    1. You're welcome. For a full sized one I'd recommend using ply to build it up and then shaping/sanding the ply. At real life size the texture is easily achieved through smoothing just the wood layers, plus it makes for a much stronger surface than filler (the one I made is decoration, not to be used in cosplay or anything like that). You can find outlines of the shield online, then go and get them enlarged and printing or draw your own version that approximates the original. Best of luck!

  4. Well, I picked up some of the supplies and am getting ready to jump into the project. I picked up a 24x24 printout stencil of the shield for cutting out the mold. I'm realizing now that I probably should have had atleast 2 or 3 smaller stencils printed out as well, to help me cut out the buildup pieces of the shield. I also picked up the two 2x4 pieces of plywood, the sandpaper, and wood filler. I'm not sure if I will use the filler of not, since you think it would be better just building it up with plywood. I'm just guessing the building it up with plywood route would be a lot more sanding? The purpose of this shield for me is purely decoration, so I'm looking for the easier route in the building of this shield since I'm a novice. I'm nervous about the first stage of getting the right sizes of the cutouts and the metal pieces that surround the shield. Also, the buildup stage will be completely new to me and I want to make sure I do it properly since it will be the foundation if the whole project. Do you have and last tips or pointers for this first step in the project? Also, what type of glue did you use? I have some gorilla glue,but I'm not sure if it is recommended for this build. Sorry for all of the questions and everything, just excited about this project and want to try to get it right.

  5. Hello, I know it's been a while since the last comments were posted here, but I thought the Hylian Shield made here looked amazing. So I was wondering if it would be possible to request a Hylian Shield like this one?

    If so, how much would it cost? Thanks.

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the kind comments!

      You can most certainly have your own, though it depends on what exactly you want. If you could email me care of we'll sort out the specs and price there.


  6. I thought this idea was really cool I was wondering if you could give me life size measurements so I can make one for my friends B-day. send in email to or reply here if you want to work something out

    1. I made by eye, so there aren't any definite measurements. I'd recommend finding a picture online, getting it printed at your local printing shop to the right side and then cutting the shape out to use as a template. If you make one yourself send some photos across, would love to see how it turns out. Good luck!

  7. your blog is about zelda shield is informative and excellent. i want to buy zelda shield