Cosplay 101: 8 Tips and Tricks For Newbies


With Comic-Con just around the corner, have you thought about cosplaying your favorite character? Is the costume online just way too expensive to buy? Are you cosplaying on a budget? Need a little help getting started? Well cosplay newbie, worry no more. Here are 8 cosplay tips and tricks that will have you slaying Comic-Con.

1. Wig Out!

Wigs are your best friend when it comes to cosplaying. Unless you are playing a character with your same hair, chances are you will need a wig. The temptation to buy the cheapest wig is human nature. Resist this temptation with everything you’ve got. Cheap wigs will cost you more in the long run. Some tangle and shed so badly that you have no choice but to buy another wig the next time you wear that cosplay. Others give off a plastic, shiny look that makes hair look fake.

Don’t worry, you have options. You can buy from a reputable wig seller. Another option is to read reviews of wigs before buying to see what other people have to say. Places like Amazon even let consumers upload pictures, so you can see what the wig looks like on real people. Look to see what the quality of hair is. A $15 wig doesn’t mean it’s a “cheap” wig. It’s all about the quality.

Tips: Be wary of wigs with no reviews. Check return policies just in case the wig doesn’t turn out like you thought it would.

2. When In Doubt, Use Craft Foam

Wonder Woman armor made of craft foam.

Craft foam is a lifesaver when it comes to cosplaying. It can be used for making armor, masks, armbands, shields, props, and weapons. Craft foam can be found at any arts and craft store. It comes in sheets like construction paper, but it is thick and squishy like foam.

It is also easily layered for desired thickness. You can cut it into any design. It is also helpful with designing weapons and other props. It’s very lightweight. It can add details without making the weapon or prop too heavy to carry around.

Tricks: Once your craft foam has been cut and manipulated, you can paint it to look like pretty much anything.

3. You Don’t Need A Sewing Machine

For many costumes, you can find another piece of clothing that closely resembles one that you are cosplaying, but that will not always be the case. Sometimes you will have to buy fabric to make the item of clothing that you need. You might also find that you need to add fabric to pants, shirts, or shoes to closely match the character you are cosplaying.

If you do not have access to a sew machine, or don’t know how to use one, hand sewing saves the day. Learning a simple stitch to hand sew can really add to a cosplay. For example, if you are cosplaying a sailor scout from Sailor Moon, you might want to hand sew bows instead of buying them. It tends to be cheaper and you can make them whatever size you want.

You can find patterns online. Once you know a stitch and buy some fabric, you can find easy online tutorials.

Tips: Full outfits are hard to hand stitch, as it will take a while to do. Sticking to small tasks like adding detail or sewing bows might be best for your first cosplays.

4. Creativity Is Always Welcome

Cosplay tips
My Hero Academia group cosplay; cupnoodledoodles, weirdohope, candy lion.cos, macvance117 respectively.

When doing a cosplay, there is always room for creativity. There is no shame in changing aspects of the costume to reflect individuality. This is especially the case in gender-bending. Gender-bending is when you change the original gender of the character you are cosplaying.

You can create a female version of a male character or vice versa. As long as major details of the costume are intact, you have free range on how you want to create the look.

Tips: If you discover doing a full cosplay isn’t your style, then think about doing a casual cosplay. Casual cosplaying is when you wear an outfit that closely resembles the character. Since you aren’t able to cosplay at Disneyland, many people will casual cosplay their favorite Disney characters. This is known as “Disneybounding.”

5. Be Thrifty

Thrift stores are a great place to find cosplay items on a budget. Buying cosplay clothes at a department store can get really expensive really fast. For many cosplays, you are probably going to be looking for a shirt, pants (skirts), dresses, shoes, belts, and other accessories that go with your cosplay. Thrift stores are probably the cheapest place to get all of these items. Even if you don’t find exactly what you like, you can use fabric paint and craft foam to closer resemble the character.

Tips: Shoes for cosplays can be very expensive online. Take a look for some shoes you can customize at a thrift store!

6. Be Detail Oriented

Adding details is the best way of mastering a cosplay. The more details you have, the better. Details don’t necessarily have to be difficult. Makeup, accessories, and props are the best way to make a cosplay prop.

Makeup is essential for a lot of cosplays. Even if you don’t wear makeup in everyday life, wearing it for your costume can add tons of details. If the character you are cosplaying has red under their eyes, use a little red eyeshadow under your eyes for that detail. If the character has freckles, add a few freckles to your cheeks.  You can also improvise using makeup.

If the character you are portraying is green like Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, you don’t have to paint your whole face green if you don’t want to. You can improvise by using green eyeshadow and lipstick.

Cosplay tips
Cosplay makeup of Toga Himiko from My Hero Academia.

Accessories are great as well. If you cosplay Princess Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire, you are most likely going to need a crystal blue necklace. Even if people don’t immediately know who you are, the necklace can jog their memory. Think about this as you create your cosplay.

What details of your cosplay are jogging people’s memories? It’s important to think about this question even if you are cosplaying a popular character.

Tricks: Be dramatic with your make up. Cosplaying is like being on a stage. Don’t be afraid to play around with your makeup beforehand.

7. Leave Yourself Time

Whether you are cosplaying for the first time or for the 20th time, conventions have a way of sneaking up on you. Leave time before the con to make sure your whole cosplay is together. This is especially important if you are cosplaying someone with multiple accessories and clothing pieces. The worst feeling is putting on a cosplay an hour before the con and realizing that you forgot a piece of it.

Tips: Try your whole costume on before the convention. Once you have all the pieces, pack it up to ensure you won’t lose or forget anything.

8. Spread Love

Avatar: The Last Airbender group cosplay.

Cosplay is all about having fun and coming together. Cosplaying wouldn’t be half as fun if there was no one to see you in your costume. The last tip is to be accepting of everyone. No matter the cosplayers gender, race, age or weight, everyone deserves to have fun.

Cosplaying is about connecting with each other through the fandoms we love. Let’s make sure everyone feels included in this! And if you see a cosplay you love, tell the cosplayer you love it!

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