Getting Started: How to Cosplay

What Is Cosplay?

The term “cosplay” was coined in 1984 by Nobuyuki Takahashi. It’s an amalgamation of the words costume and play; however, according to etymonline.com, the word is much older. 

Cosplay is a lifestyle and an artform — a multi-faceted one that includes acting, theatrics, fabricating, sewing skills, hair and make-up to list a few. 

Cosplayers spend many hours perfecting and creating their costumes and wigs, practicing the movements or speech patterns and becoming their own version of the character. Some even cosplay professionally and reenact battle skills or signature moves of the characters they transformed themselves into. 

Becoming the Character 

There are no limits to which character you can cosplay. Any fictional character is fair game. You can become Moana, Catwoman from The Batman or Soundwave, one of the Decepticons. It’s all about who your favorite characters are and how much time you would like to dedicate to creating your personal version of the character. 

For example, putting together items for cosplay as Velma from Scooby-Doo can be relatively easy. You need dark framed glasses, a large magnifying glass, brown wig in a bob haircut, an oversized orange sweater, a dark orange skirt, orange knee high socks and Mary Jane shoes. The sweater and skirt you can probably find at a thrift shop and all the other items can be bought new and fairly easily. Don’t be afraid to put your own spin on characters either. Imagine what Velma would wear on a ski trip to the Swiss Mountains and create a whole new look.

If you want to cosplay as Geralt of Rivia, you’re going to need to set aside a lot more time for creating the cosplay armor, cloak, boots, weapons and so on. He has a scar and yellow eyes, so you’ll need to practice make-up effects. His armor in the video game and the series is very elaborate, made of leather and metal with intricate medieval accents which can require a lot of time to create. So if you recreate his armor from the game exactly or create your very own, budget time for those medieval details. Check out our blog on how to create cosplay armor for tips and tricks. 

Think about how much time you have to dedicate to the costume, what your fabricating skill level is and what materials or tools you will need to invest in. Also, decide what ready-made items you can buy or thrift to modify. 

Cosplay Materials

New materials to fabricate custom gear include EVA foam, thermoplastics and dry foam clay. You can also use felt material, mesh, clays and resins. Study your character and make a list of the pieces you’ll need to make. EVA foam is a favorite because it’s available in several thicknesses and can be turned into almost anything: armor, tiaras, swords, boot covers, helmets and so on. 

Go thrifting! For very little money, you can find ready-made items to modify or alter for that perfect look. Found a great suit for the Joker but it’s not the right color? Try fabric dyes or fabric spray. Both are readily available at craft and hobby shops. 

a couple of cups with crafting tools next to a color coded costume sketch and a cutting mat

Cosplay Tools

You’ll need the right tools to fabricate your costume. Even if the garments are thrifted or store-bought, odds are you’ll want to alter them for that character-accurate or custom fit. A sewing machine, sharp scissors, rotary cutters, cutting mat, pins and an assortment of threads is good to have on hand for alterations. 

For costumes requiring foamsmithing, you’ll need tools like a heavy duty knife, utility knife, heat gun, rotary detail tools or carving routers, just to name a few.

Foamsmithing is a term used to describe creating costumes or objects out of foam sheets.There are numerous techniques to transform this craft supply item into a 3-dimensional wearable object. To start, you will need a sharp blade to cut the foam. Choose a blade that is appropriate for the thickness and density of the foam you are using. 

A fresh sharp blade is essential to smoothly cut the foam. There are many blades available on the market. You can read more about the many options here.

Larger objects, like a viking mace, can also be made using foam sheets by gluing them together in layers. Once dry, carve into the desired shape with carving tools, routers or electric sanding tools. 

Check Out All the Cosplay Tools We Offer

a few pieces of foam on a cutting mat with a couple of crafting tools

Embossing tools like the spoon tip stylus is great for creating impressions and indents in foam or soft plastic to create detailed effects like borders, battle dings or ornate designs like scroll-work or heraldry. 

Practice embossing on foam scraps to get the feel for the foam and each tool or embossing tip. Depending on the density of the foam, some will require more pressure than others. 

Cosplay Tool Tip

For a complex design, use the transfer technique. Print or draw your design on paper and then use an awl or a pounce wheel to transfer the design to the foam. Then, work the burnisher tip over the transferred lines to complete the design. 

See the Entire Assortment of Embossing Tools

When creating accents like headpieces, tiaras, arm cuffs or jeweled weaponry, tweezers are a helpful tool to have on hand. They’re especially helpful when adding small decorative elements like jewels or rivets precisely. 

Another tool great for detail work is the metal pick-up tool. The retractable prongs securely hold nailheads, beads or rhinestones, so glue or other adhesives can be added. The small object can then be put in its exact spot on the costume. 

Other tools, which you probably already own, that you may need are paint brushes, pencils and markers, safety pins and a hot glue gun or a variety of adhesives. 

Most importantly, have fun while creating and cosplaying! 

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