Cosplay Preparation

Brandon Peck

You’ve decided to make your cosplay. That is a giant leap into the world of fandom. But where do you start? What are these costumes made of? How in the world do you shape that? Its all about preparing so that you don’t pull your hair out by the time you have finished. Figuring out the steps before hand will lessen the stress and help you make the costume you are proud of. If you don’t want to prepare, the costume making process is going to take much longer, cost you more money, and you just might give up because you don’t know what you are doing. So here are some tips for planning a cosplay.

1. Research your cosplay.

Just start by getting as many pictures of the character as possible. There could be different versions that you will choose from. You will constantly be looking at these pictures while planning and creating. These pictures can help you figure out how large or small certain aspects are. There aren’t a lot of websites that will describe the proportions of the character, not to mention you won’t be the same size. (Anyone can cosplay whoever they choose.) It’s not cheating by looking at other people’s cosplays. I look at their strengths and opportunities and what skill level that is required to implement into my own designs.

2. Get a notebook.

I use my sketchbook to draw my plans as well notes. This is a great way to keep to a plan. Yes there will be several drafts, but that is what brainstorming is all about. I give the cosplay a title, and divide into different sections of the body, materials, and cost. Draw the overall costume in what is pictured in your mind. I find putting that on paper helps get the fuzzies out of the way. What materials are you planning on using. Good place for the first part of note taking. Figuring out if you are using foam, cardboard, or worbla sends you in a direction. So many different types of fabrics with different looks. Go to a fabric store and take pictures of the fabrics to compare styles. (Do take a picture of the style number and upc, it helps the salesperson to locate it.)


As you go through different parts of the body, note which sections will take more time and skill level. This will help you to get the easy stuff done first, we don’t want to stress out in the beginning. Keep rereading your notes. More ideas will come to you. Redesigns will happen, so don’t start making the costume till you have a for sure plan. With the materials you plan on using, also research the price. If you can save some bucks, do so. It can get pretty pricey. Fabric and hobby stores have email newsletters with coupons, make sure you sign up for them. They have big sales throughout the year and if you have planned out the fabrics you need, the price you pay will be far less than buying on impulse. Do check out your local thrift store. They get random items in all the time that you can assimilate into a prop.

3. Marking tools.

Could be pencils, markers, or pens. Get a plethora of them in different sizes and colors. I use different colors to mark different depths on my templates when drawing them out. Also you need to draw them out. I use my compass for my circles and round curves. Sometimes pencils don’t show up when marking on foam so use a pen or marker. When marking fabric use something light that can come off easily like pencil or fabric chalk. Last thing we need is to show off our markings in the final costume form. Using different size rulers is perfect if you need to mark a small area and not have room for a three foot ruler. I have seen fellow cosplayers make a ruler out of foam to help adjust for the thickness of foam around curves of the body. (Yes it is different lengths when you add thickness.)

4. You will need more than a pair of scissors.

Cutting foam and worbla can dull cutting blades quickly. My fabric scissors only touch fabric. Anything else will dull them prematurely and they are pricey. Using an x-acto blade is better for detailing while a utility blade that breaks off the ends is perfect for thicker foam. Sharper blades avoid giving you rough cuts that you have to smooth out or hide later in the project. Speaking of smoothing, sandpaper. Get a variety of grits. Making your parts smooth give that winning finish. Sandpaper is needed if you use spackle to hide seams. Judges will call out seeing the seams between foam. To save time, rotary tools such as a dremel quicken the sanding with their attachments. They also have cutting and engraving attachments which are perfect for the small details. Please use a mask and eye protection when using a rotary tool. We don’t want to permanently cosplay Carl from “The Walking Dead.” The tool everyone should have. No questions asked. Is the heat gun. A hair dryer will not cut it when drying paint to to form foam and worbla.

Last and foremost. You need a cospace to work. (Yes we put cos in front of everything associated with cosplay, i.e. cospace, cosplay, cos cards, etc.) This can take up some room that others might be using at the same time. Having a dedicated spot can save you a headache caused by someone moving your stuff. Please use the outside when using chemicals or the rotary tool or spray painting. The space will get dirty making the family dinning table out of question. The cospace will also contain your storage for materials and tools. Make sure an outlet is nearby if using electrical equipment.

Preparation is a key to success. Having the tools you need with the right materials, will help you to design and make what you see in your mind, into the real world. Planning with show problems before hand, leading to less mistakes. Mistakes will always happen. Being able to be proud of what you created keeps you in the fandom. It’s what you love. We don’t need negativity trying to force out the positivity in our lives. Also your hair will thank you for not being pulled out.


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