If your cosplay character calls for a more pop-art hairstyle, consider making a foam wig with cosplay tools. Because the hair cutout from foam is going to have to be thicker in width, it won’t look like real hair and more like anime hair. The wig will be a bit surreal which makes it fun and all the cooler for cosplay.
For this project you’ll need the following supplies:
- EVA foam - Get a few yards if your hairstyle is complicated. You’ll need a few layers of foam strips to make the hair look good. Use a dark color like black for dark-colored hair and gray or white for light-colored hair. The foam color is going to be the undertone of the final wig color.
- Buckram - One yard is more than enough. Get the milliner’s buckram that can be shaped and molded. This is for the frame to build the foam pieces on top of.
- Paint - Pick a paint that works well with your EVA foam. For highlights and shadows get colors that are a few tones lighter and darker, respectively, from your main hair color.
- Craft knife - Depending on the thickness of the foam you’ll be using you may need several. A regular craft knife is great for the thinner EVA and for detailing, whereas using a light-duty utility knife is better for cutting thicker EVA. For cutting strips in different widths, there’s a very nifty precision tool (the dual-blade strip cutter). It’s two parallel blades that make cutting foam strips quicker. There’s a bit of a learning curve with this tool if you’re not used to the medium or the craft knife.
- Adhesives - Select glues that work well and are recommended for your EVA foam. Don’t forget the recommended brushes or applicators too!
- Cutting mat - For this project, you’ll need to get a big one to protect your area.
- Head form - A foam one from the craft store will work just fine. Make sure the head form is your head size so that the wig fits you.
- Aluminum foil - You don’t need much, just enough to cover the foam head form.
- Decorative elements - Pick up any decorative elements that are part of your character’s hairstyle.
There are also a few optional tools you can get to make the project go a little easier, they’re not required, but they’ll help.
- Self-closing tweezers - These tools are tension based and stay closed until you open them. They’re a great help when you need to hold a piece down until the glue dries but want to continue to work on the project.
- Tracing wheels - If there are specific patterns or details about your character’s hair, use a tracing wheel to transfer the paper pattern onto the surface of the EVA foam, then cut it out.
- Stainless steel tweezers - Use these to apply small or delicate details to the hair like rhinestones, beads, flowers and more!
- Wire - If the hairstyle is large and needs a supporting frame, you’ll need to build a wire support. Select a thicker gauge that’s pliable but sturdy. To cut wire, you’ll need….
- Wire cutter pliers - Pliers are also great for shaping wire.
Once you have all the supplies gathered, make a plan. Identify which part of the wig you’ll start with, where to build up layers, or if needed, where to build the wire frame. Figure out how many hair strips you’ll need to cut and in what lengths and widths.
Does the character have a long ponytail? Make sure your strips are long enough and if you might need to double up. Is the character’s hair spiked? Plan to cut your outermost hair strips to a tapered point.
Pro Tip: The edge layer of the hair should be the last one applied, as it is the fully visible one. Therefore it should be clean, free of any glue marks, frays and unfinished, unpainted edges.
And now, the step-by-step!
Cover the head form with the aluminum foil completely. If the head form is a tad bit too small, you can build out the size by adding a few layers of aluminum foil. Measure and double-check against your own head measurement.
Mark the face features, eyes, ears and nose. Then cut the buckram to a size that will cover the top, back and sides of the head. To apply, wet the buckram and squeeze excess water, then lay on the form and shape so that it’s covering all the needed areas. Pin down as needed. Let the buckram dry so it’s solid again.
While the buckram dries, start cutting strips for the hair from your EVA foam. Cut one section at a time; bangs, sideburns, ponytails, etc.. keep each pile separate.
Paint the hair strips with the base color only. Make sure to get all sides of the foam, including the short-end edges. Let the paint dry completely.
Once the buckram is fully dry. Mark the hairline, paying attention to where any unique features land in perspective to the facial features. Don’t forget to outline the ear. Remove the buckram and test on your own head to make sure it fits and the hairline and airlines fall correctly.
Cut off the excess buckram by cutting along the hairline and outlining the ears. This is now your wig base. Bind the raw edges with bias tape. Place back on the head form. Pin down so it doesn't shift.
In this step, build out the wireframes and special features that need height or reinforced surfaces. For example, buns or ponytails on top or back of the head are going to need a short wire post to attach the ponytail to so that it’s on securely, especially if they are made from separate foam strip pieces.
Pro Tip: When attaching a wire to the buckram, use glue to secure it to the frame. Then cover it with another piece of buckram, sandwiching the wire ends between two layers of the netting and glue. For additional support, sew closed and in place with a double-ply thread.
If no supporting build-outs are needed, skip this step.
Start covering the buckram frame with the EVA foam strips, generally, it’s good to start in the center of the head and build out to the hairline, but your character’s hair may require a different starting point. If it looks like you may run out of the needed hair strips, pause to cut and paint more.
Once the hair is all glued in place, paint on the highlights and lowlights of the hair to give the wig a bit more dimension.
Pro Tip: Try the wig on in front of a mirror regularly through this step to see if you’re happy with the shape it’s taking.
In this last step, add your finishing accessories and details.
Good luck and have fun!