So you’ve decided you want to create a cosplay. You’re excited, you’re ready, and you know you need to pick a character. But with so many shows, movies, and characters out there, how do you pick just one? Well, for me, it helps to narrow it down some. Start out by thinking of all the characters you’re most interested in right now. Which ones would you most love to recreate? Whether it’s because you love the character, the show, the design, etc — you need to love that character.
Chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time and money on this cosplay, and if you don’t love the character, you’re more likely to get discouraged and want to give it up. You don’t want to spend all that time, effort, and money on something you don’t really like.
Another aspect to consider is the difficulty of the cosplay. If it’s your first ever cosplay, a full set of ultra-detailed armor might not be the best decision. You need to take into account your own skill level, budget, and time frame, and be sure you pick a cosplay that fits into that. Whether that means only creating the most iconic aspects of a character; picking a different, more simplistic outfit for that character; or choosing an altogether different character, you want to make sure that, whatever cosplay you make, it’s doable.
Once you’ve decided on your character, it’s time to start gathering references. You’ll need to find some full body shots, preferably from lots of different angles, as well as some close ups of details. For a lot of movies and shows, it can be difficult to find high quality images of a particular character, especially from the back, so you might be looking for a while. Searching for that character on Google Images, or Pinterest, will usually yield good results.
Something else that can be helpful is to find other cosplayers who have made the same costume, and use their cosplays as references for your own build. Additionally, you could reach out to cosplayers to see if they have any good reference images for that character.
I like to made Pinterest boards, or digital photo folders, for my different cosplans (cosplay-plans), to help keep it all in one place. I actually have tons of Pinterest boards for lots of different cosplays, some of which I’ll probably never make, but it’s nice to have all your reference photos in one place.
After gathering all your references, you can start breaking down the cosplay. What are different parts made out of? What materials or skills would you need to make different parts? Would EVA foam or Worbla work better for this certain part? Does the fabric look more like cotton or satin (there’s a pretty big difference between the two, so that might be an easier one to figure out)?
For a more beginner-level cosplayer, it can be hard at first to determine what materials you might want to use, but with time and practice comes experience, and you’ll soon be able to pick out materials and techniques much more easily. I know I did!
When you’ve kind figured out what supplies you’ll need, I would highly recommend making two lists. One being a list of all the different components you need to make, and another being the actual shopping list of supplies. I’ve found both of these to be really helpful to keep track of what I’ve done, what I still need to do, and how much money I’m spending. If you want, you can use the free cosplay-planner worksheet I created, to help you keep track of all these important things.
Once you kind of have a rough idea of the different things you’ll need to make, and what they should be made out of, it can be a good idea to make a budget. Find out how much different materials would cost, how much of it you would need, where you can find better deals, etc.
I’ve found that making a budget helps me stay on top of the costs better, and keep track of exactly what it is I need to still buy. If you happen to go over your expected budget — don’t worry! A lot of the time I do go over my own budgets, because I need to remake something, or ended up needing more than expected, or simply because it cost more than anticipated. And that’s alright!
For cosplays, the cost can vary drastically, and a budget simply helps you estimate how much you’ll be spending. Though do at least try to stay within it, especially if money is tight.
Once you have your budget, you’ll need to go out and actually buy the materials. Some cosplayers like to spread out their purchases, like first getting all the stuff for the armor, and finishing that before moving on to buying fabric, etc. Others buy all the materials they’ll need all at once. I think I’m somewhere in the middle — buying lots of materials at once, but also buying some of them more spread out, since a lot of the time I underestimate how much stuff I’ll need.
When buying materials, if you’re trying to save money, thrift stores can be a great place to look. Also look for discounted items and coupons, or things you might already have at home. These can be great ways to save money, since cosplaying can get expensive. (If you’re interested in more ways to save money in cosplay, check out my Cosplay on a Budget ebook.)
So, let’s say you’ve bought all your materials. Your budget is planned out, you have your references assembled — so now what? Where do you start? Well, it depends. If you’re on a tight schedule, it might be best to work on the parts that you absolutely need to make the costume wearable. Maybe finish the outfit and wig before tackling the sword, in case you run out of time to make it.
You might want to make the part you’re most excited about first, then move on to the rest of it. Or you might want to do it the other way around — work on the least enjoyable thing first, to get it out of the way so you can get to the parts you’re most excited about.
I tend to do a mix of all of them — and I could definitely manage my time better. I personally think all of us feel that way.
Still, practice makes perfect, and if you’re having trouble with your cosplay, don’t worry! I have compete confidence in you. So go right ahead, and start on your cosplay! No better time than the present, especially when it comes to bringing your favorite character to life.
Want to learn more about planning a cosplay? Check out my online cosplay class on the subject!