Cosplay Crash Course: A Complete Guide to Designing Cosplay Wigs, Makeup and Accessories

Cosplay Crash Course: A Complete Guide to Designing Cosplay Wigs, Makeup and Accessories

by Mina Petrovic


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Cosplay lets you step out of your own skin and into someone else's shoes (or boots, or paws...). This beginner's guide helps you walk that walk with confidence in an awesome costume of your own creation.

True to the cosplay spirit of collaboration, Cosplay Crash Course shares favorite tricks and techniques from some of the community's most imaginative artists. Step by step, you'll learn how to turn ordinary fabrics, inexpensive toys, easy-to-manipulate thermoplastics, wigs and other humble materials into original costumes you'll wear with pride. Whether you're making fabulous feathers, metallic armor, wicked horns, lifelike claws or form-fitting boots, this book puts it all within your reach. You'll even learn awesome hair and makeup effects to complete the look.

Use this inside advice to fast-forward through years of trial and error; learn to select the best fabrics and adhesives and to make practical choices for comfort and wearability. Armed with the know-how in these pages and a spirit of adventure, who will you become?

Everything you need to dress your part!

   • 25+ step-by-step projects for creating authentic-looking props, costumes and accessories
   • Easy techniques and clever shortcuts from nine international cosplay artists
   • How to manipulate wigs, extensions and your own hair to create unique and expressive looks
   • Awesome makeup effects, from tattoos and zombie bites to tricks for making faces appear more feminine or masculine
   • Bonus tips for striking a pose and snapping dynamic, in-character photos

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440354793
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/18/2019
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 521,877
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)

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What is Cosplay?

Cosplay is a popular hobby that involves dressing up as characters from movies, TV shows, books, comics, video games, anime, manga and even original stories. Many people who cosplay also enjoy acting out scenes involving the characters. The cosplay community strives to be one of acceptance — a safe space for people of all ages, genders, races and body types.

There are many ways to put together a cosplay costume. You can buy a pre-made costume, combine regular clothes into a costume, or craft and build a costume from scratch. However you choose to cosplay, the most important thing to remember is to have fun!

Choosing a Character

Picking out the perfect character is the fun ?rst step of cosplay. In a sea of characters, we often choose the ones whose stories impress us the most. So what should you consider when making your decision? Here are a few helpful tips and ideas to keep in mind when you're deciding who to be.

What Are Your Motivations?

• Popularity or trendiness of a character

• Character's particular look (beautiful, scary, etc.)

• Desire to be a part of a cosplay group of friends

• Challenge of the character design

• Character looks like you physically

Put Your Own Spin On It

Cosplay is more than just a lookalike hobby; you are free to be creative with your own versions of existing characters, and even cosplay your own unique characters. In cosplay there are no boundaries regarding gender, color palettes or mixing topics together.

In addition, knowing and becoming your beloved character is another special essence of cosplay. Role playing with other fans of the character can be one of the most fun parts.

Plan Your Budget

Cosplay can be a pricey hobby, so plan your budget wisely. While it is possible to make costumes out of affordable or recycled materials, some details like shoes, wigs and makeup can be quite expensive. So when you are selecting a character, try to take your own looks into consideration. For example, if your hair is a similar length or color to your character, you may not need to purchase a wig. I recommend making a budget to see where you can afford to spend a little extra, then get creative and thrifty with different aspects of your designs.

Gathering References

References are important when researching a costume. Your references will show you every precise shape and detail of a character's appearance. Some great places to gather references are art books, footage and screen shots from film or television shows, official concept art, fan websites, official action figures, fan art from sites like DeviantArt and photos of other cosplayers who have dressed as the character.

Plan Ahead

The Internet is wonderful resource for finding costumes and materials to build them. If you are going to order some or all of your costume online, make sure to plan ahead so everything you need arrives before your next event.

Cosplay Tips and Tricks

The character you choose to cosplay may be outfitted with big and bold shapes or large costuming details. Be mindful when planning a costume with non-human features like big wings, extra limbs, horns, etc. Make sure these aspects of your costume are not too sharp or heavy so that you won't injure yourself or others.

You should also plan to create costumes with soft and lightweight materials. You want your outfit to be comfortable to wear for many hours. Before wearing the costume at a convention or event, stress-test everything to make sure any important parts will not fall off in a crowd.

Here are a few other tips and tricks you find useful when putting together your cosplay character ...

Lengthy Costumes Can Be Limiting

Plan accordingly for the event you're attending. Long capes, dresses and wigs don't go well with stairs and crowded areas.

Mobility Is Important

Plan to be able to move in your costume, especially if you will be on your feet for a while during a gathering.

Don't Forget the Pockets!

It can be useful if your costume has built-in pockets or bags.

Makeup Is Appropriate for Everyone

Fictional characters often have unique or colorful facial and body features that you must use makeup to re-create. Since cosplay is a form of performance art, makeup is completely appropriate for anyone who wishes to use it.

Consider the Season and Weather

Make sure to plan for summer or winter weather conditions before deciding on a costume design.

Fashion Tape and Sock Glue

Double-sided fashion tape is a must-have to help clothes stick tightly to the skin. Roll-on body adhesive (also known as sock glue) is also helpful to keep knee socks in place. You can ?nd both online or at your local drugstore.

Make Sure You Can Move!

Fictional characters often have unrealistic costumes that would not move well in real life. It is up to you to make changes that will help you move freely and allow the costume to ?t as comfortably as possible.



Undergarments in Cosplay

To get started, let's go over some options for what to wear under the costume itself. Undergarments can provide comfort as well as a more effective transformation. However, adding layers under your costume can also make you feel too warm, so plan accordingly and stay hydrated.

Pantyhose/Sheer Tights

For smooth and shiny legs, pantyhose make all the difference. If your character has socks, especially thigh-high or over-the-knee, I recommend sewing them onto the pantyhose fabric to keep them from rolling down.

Dance Belt

A dance belt is a specialized undergarment commonly worn by male ballet dancers to support the groin area. When wearing a skintight costume, this is something to consider for personal comfort.

Body Shapers

Body shapers under your costume are an option and can drastically transform your look. Try combining shapers with corsets or shoulder pads for new looks and shapes. However, you should not feel it is mandatory to alter your body shape for cosplay. Your body is beautiful as it is and you should dress however you feel most comfortable and confident! If you have respiratory or other health issues, please prioritize your health and avoid obstructive costumes.

Fabric Basics

Fabric is one of the most important aspects of a cosplay costume. The main divide among fabrics is between natural and synthetic. Natural fabrics are more expensive, but they help your skin breathe and feel comfortable. Synthetic fabrics often look and feel natural, but they can cause you to overheat. Here are a few fabric options commonly used in cosplay.

Lining Fabric

Lining fabric is inexpensive and ideal for inside a costume or for filling in large areas like the underside of a ball gown. Lining fabric is not recommended as a main material because it's too shiny and prone to ripping.


Elastane fabric is often used for skintight costumes due to its flexibility, but it can be tricky to sew on account of its thinness. Lycra and Spandex are both common brands of elastane.

Wool Felt

Wool felt can be precisely and easily cut, glued and sewn. It is an easy fabric to work with, but it is thick and not breathable.

Cotton Fabric

Regular cotton fabric is just rigid enough for tailored costumes with a sharp design. It can sometimes contain elastane to give it some stretch.

Quick Fixes for Frayed Synthetic Fabric

Problem: Frayed Edge

Synthetic fabric can sometimes fray or fall apart where you cut it.

Quick Fix 1: Nail Polish

Apply transparent nail polish to seal the edges.

Quick Fix 2: Seared Edge

Burn the edges with a match to sear them into a smooth edge.

Specialty Fabrics

Tulle (fine net or mesh fabric common in wedding gowns and veils), organdy (a lightweight, sheer, stiff fabric used on the inside of garments to stiffen them, such as collars and cuffs), faux leather and pillow stuffing are all useful fabrics to achieve unique visual effects for cosplay. You can find these fabrics online, at craft or fabric stores, and even at furniture or upholstery stores. Remember, if your skin reacts badly to certain fabrics, avoid using them in costumes.

Types of Glue

There are many different types of glue that can be used on a variety of materials. Always make sure to work in a ventilated area or with a mask on for safety. Here are some common glues used for affixing costumes and props.

Glue Gun

The most universally used tool in cosplay is probably the hot glue gun. Melted plastic can be affixed to many materials. It can also be used to sculpt shapes and pieces of a costume.

Super Glue

Super glue is a must-have for emergency fixes at a convention. It can even help in styling wigs. Just remember not to touch it directly.

Contact Cement

Contact cement is a multipurpose neoprene rubber adhesive great for connecting nonporous surfaces. It's strong and permanent, but you must let it set ?rst.

Wallpaper Paste

Wallpaper paste can be used to create a lightweight glue mixture perfect for papier-mâché props.

Wood Glue

Wood glue can be used for patching surfaces, styling wigs and creating smooth surfaces on your props and costumes.

Sock Glue

Sock glue is a roll-on body adhesive that's great for getting socks to stick to your clothes and skin. It's also washable.

Spirit Gum

Spirit gum is an adhesive used to stick on wigs, moustaches and other fake body hair.

Glue Remover

For strong glue like spirt gum, it's important to have a glue remover or solvent on hand that is gentle on the skin.

Double-Sided Tape

Double-sided tape can help hold your wig or mask (and even your clothing) in place.

Face Lift Tape

Face lift tape is used to lift or modify the face before putting on a wig.

Lash Glue

Lash adhesive is great for affixing eyelashes, gluing down wig sideburns, wigs and other details to the skin.


Thermoplastic is a type of plastic that becomes soft when heated and hard when cooled down. Thermoplastic materials are great for shaping and sculpting costume elements such as armor and other props.

Types of Thermoplastics

Here are a few of types of thermoplastics commonly used in cosplay. Paper clay, while not technically a plastic, can be molded similarly to EVA foam.

Thermoplastic Pellets

Boiling thermoplastic pellets in water makes them easy to sculpt. Once they are dry, you have a solid plastic shape.


Forex is a brand of white rigid PVC foam sheets used mostly for armor. You can shape it by heating it with a heat gun, but it is not recommended for small details. The heart example shown here is the maximum detail level for Forex.


Worbla is a popular brand of thermoplastic used for cosplay. It is a thin sheet of plastic that comes in a roll. It is nontoxic and available in lots of different colors. It can be used to trace shapes to form armor and props, and the leftover bits can be molded together by hand and reused for small details. Worbla is self-adhesive and can be easily applied by hand after warming it up with a heat gun. On the downside, it is a bit pricey and can have sharp edges if not handled properly.

EVA Foam

EVA foam comes in various colors and thicknesses and can be found in the form of garage flooring, yoga mats, and home insulation sheets. This foam is a lightweight and budget-friendly option for easy props and armors. It works best with contact cement. The most common thicknesses used in cosplay are 10mm, 5mm and 2mm. Thin EVA foam can be heated to transfer shapes and is cut easily with scissors. Thicker EVA foam can be shaped with a scalpel and then sanded into smooth shapes. You will usually get the smoothest finish by using a heat gun.

Paper Clay/Foam Clay

Similar to Play-Doh, paper clay is lightweight, flexible and easy to sculpt. It dries firm after just a few minutes, so it should be stored in air-tight plastic bags. You can get the clay in bulk and dye it yourself by mixing it with acrylic paints. Most types of paper clay do not work well with water. Shapes cannot be pushed together into a larger form; they must be glued.


Magic Ball

This illuminated magic ball is perfect for topping off a staff or weapon, or incorporating inside of armor.


clear plastic craft sphere, red acrylic paint and paintbrush, red transparent fabric, clip-on bicycle light (or any small battery-powered light)

1 Use a brush to roughly apply red acrylic paint inside the plastic ball shape. Let it dry.

2 Wrap a small battery-operated light in transparent fabric and turn it on. Here the fabric color is red, the same as the paint.

3 Stuff the fabric and light inside the ball and close it. Now you can build this glowing orb as a prop inside a magical staff, affix it to a piece of armor or a big weapon, or pretend it's a magic crystal ball. The possibilities are endless!


Metallic Glove

Many armored characters need to have armored fingers as well. Here is a comfortable and long-lasting solution for armored fingers that can move freely and grip things with ease.


thin black fabric gloves, piece of card stock, scissors, thin EVA foam (black), white gel pen, silver acrylic paint, paintbrush, glue gun or other fabric adhesive

1 Trace your gloved hand on the card stock. Sketch out the shapes where you want the "metal" pieces to go, such as the knuckles and back of the hand.

2 Cut out the shapes and trace them onto black EVA foam using a white gel pen. Black foam is best for armor, but you can use any color foam you wish.

3 With a dry brush, make rough strokes of silver acrylic paint. Taper out the paint so that most of the color is layered in the middle of each piece.

4 While wearing the glove, glue the armor pieces onto your fingers and hand. If you are using a glue gun, it's best to use a mannequin or model hand to avoid burning yourself.

Your armored hand is ready for battle!


Metallic Fabric Coating

One of the most common ways to create cosplay armor is with paint. But cosplayers in Japan developed an alternative technique using a shiny metallic stretchy fabric. This is a long-lasting and effective way to make your costume look as if it is made out of metal.


EVA foam, stretchy metallic fabric, contact cement, scissors

1 Prepare your armor base out of EVA foam. Here I made two identical pieces of cosplay armor to coat with fabric. The base was constructed out of thick EVA foam. Decorative shapes cut from thin EVA foam were glued on top of the base with contact cement.

2 Select your fabric. Fabrics that will work for this technique include shiny vinyl fabrics, faux leather or cotton fabric that contains elastane. It is good for the fabric to be a bit stretchy so it falls inside all crevices. It is also important for the fabric not to soak in the glue.

3 I selected a shiny vinyl to cover the EVA base. Cut a piece of fabric that exceeds the size of your base. Apply a thin, even layer of contact cement over the entire surface of the EVA foam base, as well as the underside of the fabric. If you miss any part of the surface you may get air pockets, so make sure the glue coats both surfaces completely. Wait until the glue is dry to the touch before moving on to the next steps. (This could be a few minutes or longer, depending on the brand of contact cement you are using.)

4 When the glue is dry (not tacky), carefully adhere the vinyl over the foam little by little. Work slowly to ensure that every part of the surface is covered. Press down so that the details show through.

5 Continue adhering the vinyl to the EVA foam. It is important to avoid letting fabric wrinkles and air bubbles catch in the glue. Once you move past them, they become almost impossible to remove.

6 When the vinyl has been completely adhered, cut off the extra fabric with a pair of scissors. The end product is a long-lasting, smooth metallic finish that won't chip or crumble over time.


Excerpted from "Cosplay Crash Course"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Mina Petrovic.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, 5,
Meet the Crew!, 6,
1 Getting Started, 10,
2 Sewing and Crafting, 16,
3 Makeup and Wigs, 66,
4 Promoting Your Cosplay, 96,
Gallery, 112,
About the Author, 127,

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