You’ve done it. You’ve decided you want to become a character from one of your favorite games, movies, anime, comic, or whatever kind of fandom you enjoy most. Or maybe you just have friends that already cosplay, but really would like to do a big group and they’ve asked you to be part of it. You’ve never cosplayed before, or have only done a quick “closet cosplay” but nothing quite as serious as you’d like.
But where do you start?
I’m here to give a rundown of the very basics of starting cosplay, and how to lay out a plan and get crafting. Cosplay is an amazing hobby with such a wide variety of people involved and a wonderful community. There is no right or wrong way to cosplay, and the suggestions I’m giving are meant only to help guide lost noobies and provide some ideas that even veterans could use. If you’ve got more ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Though the focus of this series will be for those who plan to create the costume themselves, many of the same principles apply to buying a costume as well. Remember, there’s no shame in buying something if it’s available and accessible!
Today I’ll be going over the very first step: Lots and lots of research!
When beginning to even consider a cosplay I might make, I spend hours scouring the internet for reference images, concept art, 3d models, and other resources I can use to get a better idea of the character. If it’s a cosplay that has been done before by others, I’ll look through as many pictures I can find. It’s extremely helpful to see how someone else has already tackled the character’s design, and see what changes they have made. It helps me build a better picture in my mind of how I want to do things.
For example, I did a cosplay of Snow Bunny Nidalee from League of Legends. This is just a color-shifted skin of the base version of Nidalee, and I was able to search through hundreds of cosplays of Nidalee in her various forms.
I followed a slightly altered style for the top because I loved the way Lightning Cosplay did her top for Leopard Nidalee. This design choice also allowed me to avoid doing the more accurate but less flattering “tube top” style.
This research process can become more difficult if you’re cosplaying a more obscure character. It’s possible that when you search “<character> cosplay”, you get no useful results. This is where you need to think slightly outside the box and start searching for similar designs that may have already been cosplayed. For my Conqueror’s Siegebreaker Battlegear set from World of Warcraft, searches turned up nothing. As far as I could find, nobody had created this armor set for cosplay. Instead I began searching for just Warcraft warrior costumes, and did a lot of research seeing how people had tackled cosplaying this particular class and style.
One picture that I found really helped guide my style choices, a warrior in Onslaught Armor from Blizzcon 2013 done by ShaylynB on DeviantArt. Her costume is not only incredibly accurate, but the cracks and scratches really made it convincing. I did a lot of battle damage on my own warrior as a result of seeing how fantastic this costume was.
Once you’ve got a solid reference of the character and a good idea of how you want things to look, you should move to the building research. You’ve got the what selected and solved, now you need to solve the how.
There is a truly massive amount of cosplay tutorials available. It can be a bit daunting to figure out where to start. There will be tutorials for every part of the costume you’ll be working on, and you just need to start somewhere. If you’d like to start with the wig for an insane anime hairstyle, searching “anime wig styling tutorial” would be a good start. The main key for research here is to know what you’re looking for enough to be able to search for it. Maybe a more specific term doesn’t turn up any results, but if you go more general or go for something similar you should always be able to find something useful.
For a more general wealth of knowledge, there are a few people in the community that have been incredibly helpful on my journey through cosplay and they cover a wide variety of topics.
Kamui Cosplay is the one responsible for giving me the confidence to tackle cosplay.
Her Youtube tutorials were some of the first information regarding how to make cosplay that I had seen. She continues even to this day to produce amazing tutorials, and her cosplay books are some of the most informative and amazingly useful resources I have found.
At time of publish, some of her books are included in a Humble Bundle for just $15. There’s a truly massive number of books in here from many different authors and it’s a great deal. This bundle ends on May 30th!
There are many prominent cosplay tutorial makers now, and I’ll share just a few with links to their information. This is by no means a complete list, but a very good starting point.
Punished Props – Website
Lightning Cosplay – Website
Evil Ted – Youtube
Once you’ve read through all the tutorials and fully researched your character, your possible methods, and anything else you might’ve needed, you can get to the next stage: planning! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on any of my social media accounts:
Or stop by on Twitch! I frequently stream my own cosplay work and I am always happy to answer questions.
Good luck, and happy crafting!