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CCM Interview: The Dynamic Duo that is Kick FX Studios

Updated: May 2

Get ready to dive into the world of creativity and craftsmanship in this exclusive

CCM Interview with Kick FX Studios! Meet the dynamic duo, Kiara Tymec & Nick Pales, the brains and brawn behind this powerhouse studio. They're the ultimate tag team, wielding skills in 3D modeling, practical effects, and more.

Join us as we unravel the magic and mystery behind Kick FX Studios, where imagination meets craftsmanship in the most exhilarating way!

 Kiara Tymec and Nick Pales from Kick FX Studios

Q. Hello and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to get to know about your company and your team. Before we dive into the world of prop crafting and practical effects, could you both introduce yourselves and share a bit about how your passion for prop making and practical effects came to life? What sparked your journey into this fascinating world?

N: My passion for prop making and practical effects first came to life through my obsession with the video game Halo. I made my first suit of Halo armor out of cardboard in elementary school and have been making handmade props ever since. My love for practical effects began with movies like Star Wars and Alien vs Predator for their use of special effects makeup. To me, it is always way more realistic when films make things in real life, and their creature designs really inspired me.

K: My love for practical effects, props, cosplay and building things in general all stemmed from Iron Man 1. I watched that movie and fully processed it in 8th grade, and it quite literally changed the course of my entire life. I became obsessed with becoming an engineer, learning CAD, teaching myself how to solder and taking apart anything and everything that had electronics inside in an attempt to learn all I could. This became something that overtook my entire being and eventually in my senior year of high school, I finally pulled the trigger on building a suit. Now that I’m 5 suits in and a whole lot smarter, I’ve discovered that practical effects and the prop fabrication industry is where I belong.

Q. Kick FX Studios specializes in creating custom-made items for both film and cosplay. Could you share some of your favorite projects or products you've worked on that truly showcase your craftsmanship?

N: My favorite product that shows our craftsmanship is our Fire Gauntlet. This piece was designed to make it look like the wearer’s arm is on fire with flames extending to the elbow. We were able to pack a lot of detail in the digital sculpt of the fire and the roaring flame animation accents it perfectly. The 120 LEDs hold up well in convention lighting too, which is really exciting. We designed it to use a 20,000mAh power bank, so it will last the user through the entire convention with one charge.

K: My favorite project was our work on The Masked Singer - Nick was the one that got hired onto this project, but I was happy to help! A member of the costume team for the show messaged him on Instagram because of his work on his Ghost Rider mask. He was tasked with sculpting and printing the flame mane on Mustang’s head (it was a horse head mask with a LED fire mane). I was able to take a 3D scan of the horse head mask they sent us. Nick sculpted the flame mane on top of the 3D scan model, and we printed it over the course of a week in my printer farm. It was really cool to be able to do work for such a popular TV show!

Q. Practical effects add an unmatched authenticity to film and cosplay. What are some of the most challenging but rewarding practical effects you've brought to life, and what made them stand out?

K: My go-to answer for questions like this is always my Iron Man suit. My most recent suit, the Mark 6, contains a JARVIS that responds to my voice commands, fully motorized panels, sound effects and screen accurate lighting. It was a real pain trying to get everything wired up to the JARVIS system and figuring out how to make it wearable (considering there was basically a small computer inside of my back), and it still doesn't work exactly the way I want it to, but I’m crazy proud of the effect I was able to achieve and the level of effort I put into it. I spent 8am-3am days working nonstop on this suit for about a month, so a lot of heart went into it.

N: What stands out to me would be my Ghost Rider cosplay. Fire is such a difficult element to effectively bring to life in costume because it usually comes out looking cheesy and unrealistic. When I was coming up with how to approach the fire, I looked at statues of Ghost Rider and how the shape of the flames really matters to make it believable and look good. Seeing videos of animated neopixels online gave me the idea of sculpting the fire myself and 3D printing it in transparent PLA with neopixels behind it. With the help of Kiara, we brought the idea to life to create a unique and effective approach to one of cosplay’s most difficult elements.

Kiara Tymec and Nick Pales from Kick FX Studios

Q. Your combined skills range from 3D modeling to woodworking. Have you a project where you had to utilize multiple skills to create something extraordinary, and what was the end result?

N: For my Ghost Rider cosplay, the fire was 3D printed but the skull was actually EVA foam and foam clay. I wanted the skull to be flexible so you can get your head in it, and I was really wanting to try my hand at sculpting. For the eyes I used orange polarized sunglass lenses. The end result was really effective! Additionally, my Netflix Punisher vest utilized a lot of different skills. I created it using Ballistic Nylon wrapped around EVA foam for the armor plates. This cosplay utilized 3D modeling to create accurate templates, patternmaking, sewing skills, foam working skills, 3D printing skills for accurate buckles and clips, and painting skills to get the skull just right. When I was con crunching my Punisher War Machine suit, it really put my sanding, painting, and strapping skills to the test. This was my first suit of fully 3D printed armor, and it was way more work than I had anticipated. From this I learned that properly scaling armor as well as strapping it to your body is a skill in itself. The suit featured vinyl cut decals, stencils, and fake mud on the boots.

K: I built a set of life-sized Sam Wilson Captain America wings for a friend that I had to construct a PVC and plastic sheeting structure for. This was then covered in sheets of EVA foam that I was able to make patterns for in Adobe Illustrator and send through my Cricut, while also burning in detail with a soldering iron. A jetpack to cover up the back section and plastic mount plate was also 3D modeled and printed! It was a seriously intense project that took a solid few months (not counting the long breaks I took in between). They ended up looking awesome. The wingspan is insane, and I think wearing almost 8 ft long wings speak for itself! I also built a miniaturized version of Droid Depot at Disney’s Galaxy's Edge. It was sculpted out of pink insulation foam with working conveyor belts that I 3D printed and designed to run off of motors. The droid pieces were 3D printed as well, and everything was hand painted. I used sand, mod podge and earth powders to weather and add texture.

Kiara Tymec from Kick FX Studios

Q. Cosplayers often rely on prop makers for their intricate accessories. How do you feel when you see your creations being used by cosplayers to bring their favorite characters to life?

N: It’s a really cool feeling seeing cosplayers wearing our creations! Each product has a piece of us in it, and having other people think the work you do is cool enough to put into their own costumes is awesome. It is a special thing to be able to contribute to the cosplay community, especially because this hobby shaped both of our careers.

K: It’s an honor that people appreciate our work enough to want to use it for cosplay! It makes me happy to reach people that we don’t know personally and to elevate their costumes. It is even more special when we are able to help make something custom for someone because it feels a lot more personal to us, we love making dream cosplays come to life.

Q. The cosplay community is known for its creativity and passion. Are there any cosplayers or cosplay projects that have particularly impressed or inspired you? What stood out about them?

K: I’ve always been inspired by KamuiCosplay! She was one of the first cosplayers I had ever seen on the internet when I started on my journey of building and making cosplay and props. She’s super innovative and her videos are extremely helpful for those who are starting out, and I really love her detail and finishing work! I also have to say my friends The Iron Idiots AKA Frankly Built, CTK Creations and Emily The Engineer always inspires me. They’re great friends, great people, and their passion for the hobby and skill in their craft always pushes me to improve my own.

N: Adam Savage has always inspired me growing up. I was always a huge fan of MythBusters, but Adam’s dedication to inspiring people to be curious is what makes him stand out. I met him at a convention and gifted him a MythBusters inspired infinity gauntlet that I designed, it was really cool!

Nick Pales from Kick FX Studios

Q. Cosplay conventions are a hub for creativity. Do you have any memorable convention experiences where you interacted with cosplayers who used your props, and how did it feel to see your work in action?

K: We’re a relatively new business (we started about 3 months ago actually!) so we haven’t really had the chance to go to a convention and see anyone using our props yet. We have however seen pictures of people’s finished cosplays with our products!

N: To add onto Kiara’s answer, the first interaction with a cosplayer using our props was seeing Nick Fox wear our fire gauntlet for his Human Torch cosplay! This was the first time seeing someone wear our creations, which made it a really cool moment.

Q. Do you have a favorite character or genre that you love to create props or costumes for? If so, what is it about that character or genre that appeals to you?

K: I specifically love sci-fi and fantasy solely for my love of robots and things that move/light up/make sounds/etc. Star Wars is awesome to me because it’s full of robotic elements and droids that I can just get lost in. I love a good challenge when it comes to building these sorts of things! Marvel has a lot of these same qualities too with a bit more of a magic and otherworldly element that adds a bit of flare and creative touch to it. What’s fun about Marvel movie props is that a lot of them are usually heavy on the CGI, which allows me the opportunity to try to make something that people deem “impossible” in real life actually real. I also love fantasy because a lot of the props and costumes have organic shapes which allows me to play with sculpting and different types of paint jobs from my usual style of metallic robots, it's a fun creative escape from my norm!

N: I am a huge Star Wars fan! All of the props and costumes in Star Wars are insanely inspiring. There is so much room for creativity within the universe. Additionally, I have always loved Halo and all of the weapons and armor in that franchise. The 405th costuming community were some of the first cosplayers I have ever met and interacted with. They created a wonderful community for getting started, all through a shared love for the Halo universe.

Q. As prop makers, you have the unique opportunity to bring fictional objects to life. Is there a prop from a movie, series, or game that you've always admired and would love to recreate one day?

N: Not specifically a prop, but one of my dream cosplays would probably be Darth Maul from The Clone Wars when he has insane-looking robot legs. This cosplay would require extensive body paint, prop making, and creature making because of the shape of the robot legs. Other props that I would love to create would be a life-sized Drop Pod from Halo 3: ODST, a life sized Bossk statue, and Kiara and I are currently working on building our own R2 unit.

K: Like Nick said, we are working on building our own R2 unit, which we affectionately call Sadie! It’s a R2-S8, so we shortened it to how the last part sounds as a nickname. We have a lot of droid builder friends and we’ve always wanted to make a droid of our own, so with a little bit of a shove, we recently committed to building one. It will be a slow process with no hard deadlines so we can have fun with it and learn a ton along the way! I would also love to learn screen printing and sewing. My favorite Spider-Man is Andrew Garfield and his TASM2 suit is absolutely beautiful. It would be super cool to learn how to make something like that from scratch, along with the web shooters and little props that are featured throughout his movies.

Q. Balancing creative work with personal life can be challenging. What do you both do to unwind and find inspiration outside of your craft, and how does it influence your work?

K: I’m always watching Tv shows and movies. I love exploring different genres and things I wouldn’t usually watch since it allows me to branch out and gain a new appreciation for different applications of art. I get pretty sucked into different worlds and it’s easy for me to find inspiration in most things I watch because I’ll see something cool on screen and immediately want to start building it. I also love playing Minecraft because of its endless gameplay and opportunities to be creative. It’s a great escape that I use to relax when I have free time. Separately, I enjoy working out because it makes me feel like less of a hermit and I can work to build my dream superhero body outside of building superhero suits!

N: I have been doing Muay Thai for two years now and it is a great stress reliever. Going to the gym as much as I can also help give your brain a break from intense creative work. It is really easy to get burnt out, and sometimes you just need to shut your brain off for a bit and do something else. I love getting lost in movies and TV shows (specifically anything Star Wars).

Kick FX Studios Ghost Rider

Q. Creating props and costumes sounds like a lot of fun, but every creator encounters unique challenges. Do you have a humorous or unexpected 'oops' moment from one of your crafting adventures?

K: For me, I haven’t ever had a humorous “oops” moment, moreso multiple “my life is over” moments. I don’t mean for that to sound so intense! I just feel like most of my oops moments have been major dilemmas that were much more of a yikes than an oops. Con crunch can be a pretty serious killer, and it's struck me full force on numerous occasions. I had one incident where I wore one of my Iron Man suits to a convention in LA (for reference, I live in Chicago) and I had not done a single test wear in it. It was literally shattering and falling off my body while I wore it to a convention, and I could barely waddle to walk. There were also screws stabbing into different parts of my body, and I had forgotten my contacts to top it all off, so I couldn’t see much at all. I had a ton of moments like this in other suits I had built during a con crunch, but that was one of the most traumatic ones to date, I think.

N: My humorous “oops” moment was when I was con crunching my first foam suit of armor for Halo Outpost Discovery. I was building Emile’s armor which has a helmet with a fishbowl-like visor. I was working on creating my own vacuum former for the visor. When it came time to actually heat up the plastic and form the thing, my heat source was not hot enough and I ruined the only plastic sheet I had for it. So, for the convention, I ended up making the visor out of foam and deciding that it was not important to see. Who needs eyes anyways?

Q. For aspiring cosplayers and prop makers, what advice would you offer to help them embark on their creative journeys and achieve the level of craftsmanship you've reached?

K: Don’t be afraid to start! Being afraid of messing up will only hold you back from learning and improving. Your first build may not be the best, but that just means your second can only be better, and the builds after that will keep blowing the previous one out of the water. I struggle a lot with this still, but with failure comes a learning experience you can only grow from. I suggest watching a lot of YouTube videos, reading forums like the RPF, Adafruit and Arduino, and asking for help from experienced people! There are plenty of resources out there for people to learn from, you just have to have the willingness to seek them out and take yourself on a crafting adventure. And don’t forget to do test fits!!!

N: My advice would be that there really are no wrong answers to cosplay and building things. There is a certain balance between finding the information you need online and coming up with creative solutions on your own. A lot of what we do for personal projects is just creative problem solving. We don’t always know that something is going to work out when we attempt it and there aren’t always answers online. It is sometimes scary to attempt things, but don’t be afraid to be the first one to do something. Dare to be different!

Q. Finally, what exciting projects or plans does Kick FX Studios have in the pipeline that you'd like to share with our readers? Any sneak peeks or teasers for what's coming next?

K: We have recently opened up a custom commission form where we accept custom requests for props and builds! I’m excited about what might come our way with that and what kind of creative problem solving we’ll get to do to bring them to life. It’s fun to not know what’s coming in all the time because it mixes it up a bit and we get to play with different kinds of effects!

N: In addition to our superpower line that we are developing (fire powers, lightning, earth, ice), we are doing some DND inspired props! We also have plans to branch into film and theater props!

Q. Kiara and Nick, it's been an absolute pleasure exploring the world of prop crafting and practical effects with you both. Before we conclude, could you please share with our readers where they can discover more about Kick FX Studios online, and if you have any final words or messages you'd like to convey?

You can check us out on our Instagram, @kickfxstudios, and on our website,! We also each have our own Instagram's and websites where we post a lot about our own individual projects.

You can find Kiara on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube @kiaras_workshop, and on her website, You can find Nick on Instagram and TikTok @nikoangelo_art, and on his website!

Thank you so much for having us! It really is an honor to be featured since building our business and finding our place in the cosplay community has been a dream come true for both of us.

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