Advice and Tips For Beginner Cosplayers

After the last post I did about cosplay, I wanted to make a more comprehensive list for first-time and beginner cosplayers. I am a beginner cosplayer myself, but I wanted to share my knowledge for everyone.

Some general tips for cosplay at conventions –

  • Start working on your costume as soon as you can. You may feel like you have a lot of time, but it’s no fun to be still working on it the night before the con.
  • Book your hotel early! The closer to con time, the more expensive it will be.
  • Drink water! Whether it’s hot or not, it’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re in costume.
  • Make sure to have an emergency sewing kit. A lot of cons have a place you can fix your stuff at, but it’s good to have a kit with you or at your hotel room.
  • Put pockets where you can in your costume!
  • Make sure your prop weapons follow con guidelines. It would suck to make a cool prop and not be allowed to have it.
  • Take breaks and sit down if you need to.
  • Mind your cosplay in crowded areas, both for you and other people.
  • Use your manners and expect others to do the same.

Alright, onto the more detailed things!

Planning
Planning is a pretty big step, if you ask me. It really helps a lot to have your details ironed out (heh, sewing pun.) I’ve found it not only saves time but also effort into certain things. Like they say – measure twice, cut once. Speaking of that, also good advice!A budget is also good to have, even if you don’t follow it to a T. It’s good to keep track of how much you’re spending. If you are on a budget, there are good websites that can help you, such as Cosplaying on a Budget. There are great cosplay apps out there to help you plan. A popular one is Cosplanner, which I use.

2 things I want to especially mention in the planning department. Keep them in mind.

  1. Don’t limit yourself to characters of your same gender, race, height, or weight. Anyone can cosplay and don’t let people shame you for it! There really aren’t any rules when it comes to cosplay.
  2. Your first costumes aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s ok. It’s a learning experience. People will not be as critical as you think and if they are tell them to kindly piss off.

Coupons are your friend!
A lot of stores provide them, so why not use them? Joann’s Fabric has an app with coupons. Craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s also have apps and coupons. Hobby Lobby always has a 40% off one item coupon on their website.

Patterns
If you’re a beginner to cosplay, or sewing in general, it’s good to find patterns to use. There are a ton of patterns at Walmart, Joann’s, and other stores. There are even cosplay/costume patterns there.Of course, there’s not gonna be a pattern for everything. One thing I suggest is buying or making a dress form. They’re pretty easy to make using Duct Tape. From there, you can use making tape or duct tape to make your own pattern right on the form and transfer it to paper. Just remember to add seam allowances!

Fabric
There are a lot of places to buy fabric. I suggest going to a fabric store, but if you’re on a budget or making a very simple cosplay, Walmart has fabric too.I go to Joann’s for fabric, but there’s also places like Surplus City. There are online websites for fabric such as fabric.comonlinefabricstore.net, and Spoonflower. Spoonflower is a little different than other fabric stores because it sells custom fabric from individual designers. Because of this, it’s pretty pricey.

Buy Extra Fabric
This is a big one! If you can, always buy extra. You never know if you need to redo a piece or patch something up.

Online Cosplay Communities
There are online communities for cosplay that you can join to share your costumes, discuss materials, construction techniques, etc. Cosplay.com is a big one. I also like the website and app CosplayAmino.

Wigs
Wigs are honestly a priority of mine, but they’re not for everyone. My go to is Arda. Arda also has a Canadian website which is also good if you live in the UK because supposedly shipping is a lot cheaper. They have a ton of colors and styles. Arda’s Classic Fiber wigs are heat resistant up to 425*F and they have a Silky Fiber line which is for good for wigs that require less styling and maintenance. They also sell wig accessories, hair products, and makeup.

I have also heard good things about EpicCosplay, which has a very similar price point to Arda. Their wigs are also heat resistant, up to 410*F. I have not bought from them yet, but I intend to try a wig out for a future cosplay. They have a nice Wig Guide to help with choosing the right wig for your cosplay. Both websites have tutorials for styling wigs.If wigs aren’t super important to you, you can always look on websites such as ebay and Amazon.

Makeup
Makeup isn’t a must for cosplay, but it can help bring a look together. I usually do pretty light and simple makeup unless a costume requires more. If you’re doing a photoshoot, especially a professional one, I definitely recommend makeup. It doesn’t have to be a whole face, but some foundation or powder to cut down on shine and reflection works wonders. Research cosplay makeup and photograph makeup to get more info. XOMia has a basic makeup guide for cosplay.

Props
Props range in difficulty. You can make simple props in cardboard to elaborate pieces with EVA foam and Thermoplastic. There are many routes you can take to make props.

A neat program for prop making is Pepakura. Pepakura is a free Japanese paper craft program that is pretty easy to use, at least for already made files. For free, you can use the Viewer to view and print designs, and the Designer to scale designs. You cannot save or export designs in Designer without paying for the key though. Using Pepakura Viewer is easy because you just load in the already-made, already-“unfolded” files and print it. Then you cut out the pieces and assemble. From there, you can reinforce your prop with fiberglass and other things. Designing things is a different story, but luckily there are a lot of Pepakura files out there for you to use. I used this to make the pattern for my helmet for Tali. There’s a lot more I could explain about this program but you’d probably learn more from looking it up yourself.

EVA foam is a cheap and readily available material for prop making. You can heat and bend the foam to hold a shape but it will only bend so far. It is good for making prop armor and weapons. Interlocking floor mats and craft foam are two forms of EVA foam in different thicknesses. You can buy the floor mats at hardware stores and craft foam at a variety of department and craft stores. You can also buy EVA foam by the roll online on Amazon and other places in a variety of thicknesses to suit your needs.

Thermoplastics, such as Worbla, are more expensive but more versatile. When heated, it can be shaped into much more complex shapes than EVA foam and doesn’t require a lot of special equipment, like vacuum forming does. You can use Worbla and other thermoplastics in conjunction with EVA foam and other things.

I follow several prop makers on youtube, including Kamui Cosplay and Evil Ted Smith. Ted does more in depth tutorials but I also enjoy Svetlana and Benni from Kamui.

 

That’s what I have for you! Go ahead and leave me a comment on what you think. If you have any questions, go ahead and ask!

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