30 Things People Need To Know Before They Build Their First Cosplay

The world of cosplay is a weird one, but it’s also a welcoming one depending on where you start. It means a lot of different things for different people. For one person, cosplay might be the thing that allows them to express who they really are: they might not ever feel like themselves unless they’re embodying their favorite character. For another person, cosplay might be an avenue they use to learn a new skill or hone an existing skill, like sewing, painting, or even metalworking. For yet another person, cosplay is a way to get out of your shell and meet people who you might not have gotten a chance to meet and get close to. If you’re anything like me, chances are you’re interested in cosplay for any combination of those reasons, plus other reasons of your own that I haven’t touched upon.

If you’re a first-time cosplayer, you might have some questions about where to start. You might be lost about how to choose your cosplay character or even how to choose who you want to cosplay with. You might not know how to take care of yourself once your cosplay is done and you’re wearing it out in the world. You might not even really be too clear on what sets cosplay apart from just wearing a regular costume. As an amateur cosplayer who’s been doing this for a few years now, I’d like to think that I’ve gathered enough knowledge to be able to pass on a few words of wisdom on the subject of cosplay. In any case, here are 30 words of wisdom on the subject of cosplay if you’re not sure where to begin.

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30 You Need To Know What Cosplay Is In The First Place

What is cosplay? If you feel like you don’t know don’t be upset about it because it’s only recently become part of mainstream culture. Cosplay is the art form that lets a person embody whatever character they want. While there are definitely skills you need to hone to become a cosplayer, you don’t need to be a master seamstress or a world-class actor to be a cosplayer. You just need to have fun with it!

29 Know The Difference Between Cosplay And Halloween Costumes

Cosplay and Halloween costumes are really different. Halloween costumes can be made really well like cosplay is, but Halloween costumes are more about just wearing the costume, while cosplay is about embodying the character. On top of that, Cosplays are often made by hand, even if you commission them, while Halloween costumes are more likely to be mass produced. There’s a lot of overlap here because you can wear a cosplay to a Halloween celebration and a Halloween costume to a convention or cosplay event.

28 Ask Yourself Why You Want To Cosplay

Why do you want to cosplay? Maybe you feel like cosplay will help you get in better touch with your body and feel better about how you look. Maybe you’re just dying to learn how to sew or build props or something like that and you need the opportunity to learn. Maybe you just really like a character and want to be them for a day. Maybe cosplay is a way to build bonds with old or new friends. Regardless, any reason to cosplay is a valid one if it’s something you genuinely want to do.

27 Where Do You Want To Wear Your Cosplay?

Where are you taking your cosplay? Answering this question can save you a lot of trouble at your destination. For example, if you’re a person who’s going somewhere hot, maybe don’t bring a cosplay that’s covered in fur. If you’re going somewhere cold, that’s the time to leave your cute swimsuit cosplay at home. As much as you might want to ignore the weather or the type of event and just wear your cosplay, you’re still a human person and the elements will hurt you. Make sure you’re comfortable and you’ll have that much more fun.

26 Assess Your Skills: What Are You Good At?

What are you good at? Are you particularly good at sewing, knitting or embroidering? That’ll go a long way towards making the details of your cosplay really shine? Are you good at actually building things, painting, or sculpting? You might have a talent for building cosplay armor or elaborate props! Maybe you don’t have those skills, but you’re able to really become someone else without too much effort. That will help when you’re wearing your cosplay because you won’t just be wearing a cosplay, you’ll be a character. Figure out what you’re good at because that’ll help you build your cosplay.

25 Pick The Franchise You Want To Cosplay From

What’s your favorite franchise? Or rather, what are the franchises you like? Is there a movie, TV show, or anime that really speaks to you right now? Why do you like it so much? If there is, find a character in that franchise you feel like you can pull off. It doesn’t have to be your favorite or one that looks like you, either. It doesn’t even have to be a franchise you know all that much about. Get creative with it and have fun with it when you settle on a franchise you like.

24 Pick Your Character: Do You Have A Favorite? Does It Need To Be Your Favorite?

Who’s your favorite character in the franchise you chose? It doesn’t have to be the most popular character or even the most popular franchise, by the way. It could be a character you feel like you can pull off, or it could be a character you feel will push your boundaries and expand your skill set. There’s no wrong reason to pick a character. Just make sure you actually want to cosplay the character and you’re not feeling pushed into choosing the character.

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23 Get Into Your Character: Can You Act And Do You Want To Act?

Can you act? You don’t have to act if you really don’t want to, but part of the fun of cosplay is acting like the character. You don’t even have to be that great of an actor, to be honest, you just need to be comfortable letting loose and not be too inhibited. While there aren’t any rules about cosplay, there is an unspoken one that everyone must follow. That rule is simple: if you’re cosplaying a character who is aimed at children and kids come up to you for whatever reason, don’t be mean to the kids. It says more about you than it does about anything else.

22 Be Honest With Yourself: Would You Feel Comfortable Wearing Your Character’s Outfit?

While every character has a certain appeal to everyone, some characters got their street cares because of their elaborate outfits. Some characters wear incredibly revealing costumes regardless of gender and if you’re trying to cosplay one of those characters, you need to figure out if you’re okay with that. It’s fine if you’re not, but you need to know that before starting your costume so you’re not freaking out during your event that you’re totally uncovered. Know yourself well enough to not put yourself through that.

21 Be Honest With Yourself: Can You Realistically Build The Cosplay?

Another thing worth considering before you make any moves to build anything is the question of whether your cosplay is within your skill set to build. You can always buy your cosplay, but if you’re trying to make it, you need to know if you can. Can you sew the fabric together? Do you have the vision to build your cosplay out of pieces? Can you build that sword or that chest plate? If you can’t, do you have the financial means to commission it?

20 Buying Cosplay vs. Making Cosplay

There’s nothing wrong with buying or making cosplay and no one should be looking down on anyone for how their cosplay was done. However, there are pros and cons for each and you need to know them before you make a decision on whether to build your cosplay or buy it. Buying your cosplay cuts out some of the stress and is a great way to get a cosplay that you might have had trouble building easily that’s custom-made for you. On the other hand, making your cosplay allows you to have more control over what you’re doing and lets you feel the accomplishment of making it yourself.

19 Know Your Deadline And Set Your Timeline

When do you need your cosplay done? Depending on when you need it done by, some cosplays might be out of the question. For example, if you have a cosplay idea for an event two weeks from now, maybe don’t try and build a set of armor from scratch, and definitely, don’t try to commission it on that short of a notice. However, if your event is months away, you have time to build something elaborate without rushing the process or the person you’re paying to make the cosplay. Set a firm timeline and stick to it!

18 Group Cosplay vs. Going Solo

There are a lot of benefits to group cosplay, but there are also a lot of pitfalls. Group cosplay allows you to have a community to cosplay with and gives you the opportunity to not just cosplay a character, but a vital piece in a larger cosplay squad. If you’re cosplaying a character that goes with a group of characters, your cosplay will look much more awesome next to your character’s compatriots. That being said, group cosplay can open you up to a lot of drama thanks to conflicting personalities and general infighting. Every cosplayer I know has some kind of horror story about that.

17 Set Your Budget And Stick To It

Don’t set your budget according to what you need to make the character. Rather, set your budget for what you can personally afford and choose your characters accordingly. For example, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck on a shoestring budget, maybe don’t try and build something you know will cost a lot of money. No cosplay, no matter how awesome it is, is worth you not being able to eat or keep a roof over your head.

16 Make A List Of What You’ll Need

Once you’ve gotten the big questions out of the way, you’re going to need to make a list of the things you’ll need. Look at pictures of your character and make a note of every element in every piece of what they’re wearing. If you feel like you’ll need to embellish something to make it more accurate, jot down the art supplies you’ll need for that. Once you have your list, you’re almost ready to get started.

15 Take Your Measurements

Take accurate measurements of yourself, or more accurately, have someone else do it for you. Make sure you do this on a day where you’ve eaten a lot and/or are a bit bloated, then add an extra inch or two. You might not feel great hearing those numbers if they’re bigger than what you expect, but doing that will help give you a little leeway in your cosplay. It’ll fit the same, but you’ll have room to eat and stay hydrated during your event without worrying that your cosplay will break.

14 Sewing From Scratch vs. Building From Existing Pieces

There are two schools of thought when it comes to building cosplay. Some people draft their own garments and make them out of fabric, while others will find the existing pieces they need and build them out of that. A good rule of thumb is to look at the specific item you need. If you can get something similar or a more basic version of it at your local thrift store or shopping mall, do that. If the piece is impossible to find, build the garment from scratch. Also, existing pieces might be cheaper, in the long run, depending on what you’re doing.

13 When To Make It And When To Buy It

When is it worth buying a piece over making it? A good rule of thumb here is to ask yourself how you want the piece to look. If you’re going for total screen accuracy and have the budget to buy it, do it! However, if you’re looking to get creative and for the accomplishment of having built it and it being unique to you, make it! Full disclosure: I once built a prop that I could have easily bought out of scrap felt, leftover paint, and discarded cardboard, including a crumpled up paper towel roll, just to see if I could do it. It wasn’t as screen accurate as the other women wearing the cosplay, but it was mine, it looked on par with the store-bought ones, and people were super impressed when I told them how I built it.

12 Fun With Wigs: How To Choose Your Wig

Wigs can be kind of a drag, especially if you’re like me and have really thick hair, but they add a lot to your cosplay. They run the gamut price-wise from ridiculously cheap to incredibly overpriced. However, there are a lot of tutorials out there that can help you make a cheap wig great or an expensive one even better than it started. When choosing your wig, try to get yourself to a store where you can look and feel them in person, but if that’s not an option for you, do some research on where to find good wigs. A good example of a great wig site is Arda Wigs, but you can also find good wigs on sites like eBay and Amazon.

11 Fun With Wigs: Care And Long-Term Maintenance

The thing about wigs is that they’re a major investment in your cosplaying future, no matter how much you spend on them. You can use a single wig for multiple cosplays so it’s important to take care of them. I can’t tell you how other people do it, but I actually developed a rudimentary filing system for my wigs. Every wig went into a labeled gallon zip lock bag sprayed down with coconut oil after being gently washed and combed through with a mix of coconut and a few drops of citrus oil, and those all went into a box that could be easily accessed. I’d seen many a cosplayer totally ruin expensive wigs by not taking care of them and with my system, I haven’t had a ruined wig in years.

10 Contact Lenses: Are They For You?

I love using contact lenses for cosplay because they add another layer of the character immersion for me. However, I know that they aren’t for everyone. I get my colored contact lenses through my eye doctor because I actually need them to see and actually use colored contacts in daily life instead of clear ones. That’s because if I already have trouble seeing, I don’t want to go searching for clear things in clear contact lens solution. However, you can get them online if that works best for you. That being said, while I know contact lenses work for me, they don’t work for everyone. If you feel like you can rock them without worrying about them, go for it! However, if you can’t for whatever reason, that’s totally fine too!

9 Should You Wear Circle Lenses?

Circle lenses, for the uninitiated, are contact lenses designed to make your eyes look bigger than they are. With the circle lenses and the right makeup and contouring, your eyes could appear nearly double in size. Many cosplayers use them, especially for more fantastical cosplays. However, they might not be FDA approved where you live. Full disclosure: I live in the United States, where they aren’t approved yet, and I had to actually explain to my eye doctor what they were. Also, not all sites are created equal, which is why you want to find the right place to buy them. I can’t tell you whether to get them or not, but trust your gut on this one. You don’t need them for your cosplay to look amazing!

8 Props: What’s Allowed At Your Event?

When building props, a good thing to remember is what’s allowed at your event. Many conventions have strict rules about what’s allowed because they don’t want people swinging real swords or hammers around because people can get seriously hurt. Going beyond that, some conventions have rules about the materials used to build props. For example, I was a regular at a convention that wouldn’t let you use any kind of wood or even heavy plastic and would confiscate your prop if it had those materials in it. Save yourself some trouble and look up your event’s rules before starting your props. It’s better to not have the prop than to depend on it and then have it taken away.

7 Body Paint: How To Not Stain Everything You Touch

Body paint is great when you’re dealing with a character that has a skin tone that is different from the human rainbow of skin colors. While there are a few ways to seal body paint, this is the tutorial I used when I started experimenting with the stuff. You want your paint to be water based so it’s easier to come off when you’re done. If you’re on a budget, you can use hairspray, but you really want something specially made to keep paint on. When you wear body paint, you need to be aware of the etiquette. For example, if you’re covered in body paint, maybe don’t sit on fabric furniture that you can stain. On top of that, don’t ever use body paint to cheat your skin color, especially if you’re going darker than your own skin tone. Body paint can be great, but blackface is not.

6 Makeup: Where To Start

If you’re worried about makeup while in cosplay, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If your character doesn’t have some sort of major striking feature and has a regular face, your regular makeup routine will work just fine. However, if you’re looking for specific ways to up your makeup game, there are a ton of tutorials on YouTube and online that are totally worth checking out. Additionally, you can use makeup to cover any tattoos you have. You can use foundation and all that, even the drugstore brands, but there are some specially made products at affordable prices specifically for covering visible tattoos.

5 Take Care Of Yourself At Your Event: Drink Water!

Now that you’re all done with your cosplay, it’s time to go to your event and have fun with everyone gushing over how awesome your cosplay is. That being said, don’t neglect yourself at your event. It can be really easy to forget to eat during your event because you’re so excited to be there, but try to remember if you can. Hopefully, you heeded my advice and decided to give yourself a couple of inches on your cosplay so you don’t have to worry about the outfit looking different once you’ve eaten. More than that, though, stay hydrated! I can’t tell you how much better you’ll feel when you’re not dehydrated. You’ll be less irritable during your event and you’ll have more fun!

4 Cosplay Is Not Consent: You Can Say No To Having Your Picture Taken

No matter how awesome your cosplay is, nobody has the right to take pictures of you without their consent. You don’t need a reason to say no to someone doing this either, but the would-be photographers around you need to respect it. This works both ways as well: don’t take pictures of people who haven’t said you can. Also, just because you’re in cosplay doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the rules of basic decency and common courtesy. Anything you wouldn’t do in regular clothes, don’t do in cosplay. Many a cosplayer has gotten called out and canceled for forgetting this, so don’t let that be you.

3 Social Media: Expanding Your Reach

If you want to make cosplay a more regular thing and want to start building a following around yourself or to your cosplay community, the best thing you can learn is patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any cosplayer’s career. Don’t expect miracles on day 1 and make sure to post at least semi-regularly and the followers will eventually start coming. Also, make sure to engage with your followers whenever they engage with you and encourage them to get involved with what you’re doing.

2 Can You Make Cosplay A Career?

The age-old question: is cosplaying a viable career choice? I can tell you that people definitely do it and can make it work, but I can also tell you that the odds of making a cosplay career happen are slim. That being said, I know several cosplayers who have a major social media presence and are well on their way to cosplay fame. My advice to you would be to carve out your niche. Are you a conventionally attractive woman who does skimpier cosplays? That could be your niche. Are you a person who likes to post the step by step process of how you make your outfits? You can do that too! There’s no wrong way to make cosplay a big part of your life.

1 Have Fun!

Finally, just have fun! Cosplay isn’t worth doing for you if you don’t have fun with it. It can be kind of a stressful hobby and if you’re not careful, it can be really draining on the wallet as well. However, if you manage your time and finances well, cosplay can be a hobby you can really take joy from. More than that, you can use cosplay to bolster your social media presence and even make some money out of it! As a cosplayer myself, I’m still learning and would never make it seem like I know everything, but hopefully, you learned something new to make your cosplay game that much stronger!

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