This is my personal method of how to start out a cosplay. Everyone’s is going to be a little different depending on personal preferences, skill level, and other factors.
MangoSirene has her Cosplay 101 videos here, which includes a video about getting started. I really enjoy her videos.
- Pick a character. Simple, but you have to take some things into consideration.
- How difficult or complicated is the outfit?
- Do you have the sewing ability or the ability to modify purchased clothing?
- Do you think this character’s costume will fit your budget?
2. Find references, preferably a lot of them. Google your character’s name along with keywords related to their outfit (i.e. “Tali’Zorah helmet” .) Many video games and anime will have some kind of reference material, or there will be fans who have provided them for art or cosplay purposes. Find detailed shots and don’t forget about finding references for props if you plan on making them. I really like to use Pinterest for this purpose, and for organizing ideas and tutorials on how to make certain elements of the costume. Alternatively (or additionally) you can make a folder on your computer and download your references.
3. Start to plan. Look through your references and identify the main parts of the costume, then smaller things such as accessories. Again, you can use Pinterest for this, but you may prefer a more organized method to keep everything straight. I like to use the website and app Cosplanner. It’s a really neat tool that allows you to break down your cosplay into different categories and you can include things like the amount of money you spend on each part. There are a lot of other apps out there so you can find what works best.I also saw a neat tip from XOMia about using Evernote to organize your cosplay.
4. Advanced planning – after breaking down your costume, start deciding how you’re going to accomplish each part. Tutorials from others’ can be really helpful here. Google, CosplayAmino, Cosplay.com, and Cosplay Tutorial are good sites to find tutorials.There are a few routes you can take when making your costume, and of course you can use all of them.
- Make it yourself. This will depend on your skill level. If it’s clothing, you’ll need to know how to sew. If it’s a prop, you’re going to have to figure out how to construct it.
- Buy and modify. Maybe your costume includes a bodysuit, but you don’t have the skill to sew it. That’s ok! You can buy a bodysuit online, then modify it to suit your needs.
- Buy a finished product. Some things are beyond your skills and you can’t find something you can modify. Or you just like something you found. That’s all ok!
If you’re going to make your costume or part of your costume, you’re going to need to know what materials you need.
Pattern – you don’t have to use a pattern but if you’re a beginner it can really help. There’s a lot of patterns out there that can even easily be modified to suit your costume. Look online too, some cosplayers may have a pattern available for your costume.If you’re more experienced, or just can’t find a pattern, you’ll have to make one. It’s not all as scary as it sounds. If you have a dress form (you can make your own with tutorials like this), you can use masking tape or duct tape to make a pattern straight on the form. You can then copy it to paper. Just remember to add seam allowances!Fabric – choose a fabric that has the right texture and weight to what article of clothing you’re making. If you’re a beginner, ask more experienced cosplayers in the cosplay communities. You can also look up other peoples’ cosplays to see what material they use.
I’m not a prop maker and I don’t know much about it, but I’ll take a stab at it with what I’ve seen online.Pattern – again, look up references. You can make a pattern from that, or check to see if any other cosplayers have made a pattern available. There are a lot of resources available to make a pattern.Pepakura is a cool one if you’re a beginner. You just have to have an already-made, already-unfolded file. You can look them up online, there are a lot available. Then you print it on cardstock, cut, and assemble it. From there you can either reinforce it with certain materials or use it to make a pattern.
- Materials – there’s lots of materials to choose from. Two big ones are EVA foam and thermoplastics (like Worbla.) EVA foam is cheap and readily available, you can find the floor mats at hardware stores and craft foam at craft stores. Thermoplastics are going to have to be bought online. Foam will probably require a heat gun, which can probably be bought at a hardware store, but you can find them online. Thermoplastics, as in the name, will need a heat gun to work with.
- Hardware stores should also have most of the materials you’ll need to work with foam and thermoplastics. They’ll have the things you need for painting too. Plasti Dip will be your best friend! It’s a rubberized coating and basically used to prime and seal foam and other materials. They have lots of colors, so you could use it for your paint too.
- You can also buy certain props, like I did with my Omniblade. Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to buy than to make.
5. Make up a “mock costume”, if you need to. Sometimes if you’re not sure if you can make something, try it out with cheaper materials before moving onto the more expensive stuff. I did this with my bodysuit for Tali. It made it a lot easier when I moved onto the real deal.
6. Make your costume!
- Take your time and take breaks if you need to. If you find something particularly frustrating, move on to something else and come back to it later.
- Make sure to periodically test your costume for fit and if it looks how you want it to.
- Look up sewing tutorials if you need to. Patterns can be confusing.
Those are the steps I go through when I start a cosplay! If I missed anything, or if you have any questions, go ahead and leave a comment. I hope this helps!