How to Create Custom Hats for Cosplay (with EVA foam)

how to make hats for cosplay

Hats are one of those parts of cosplay costumes that are intimidating to many beginners. Unless it’s a popular character, you’re not going to be able to find your hat in the store. Of course, you can find a similar hat and add details on top of it, but sometimes this just doesn’t do the trick.

Why do I use EVA foam (or craft foam) for cosplay hats? Frankly, it’s because I find EVA foam easier to use than the stiff fabrics that are traditionally used for hats. Foam is also bendable, unlike cardboard, and it’s relatively cheap compared to many other cosplay materials. You can even glue panels of fabric to your hat at the end if you don’t want a visible smooth foam base.

A messenger cap created with EVA foam

Part 1: How to use sewing patterns for foam cosplay hats

Most fabric hat patterns can also be used with EVA foam. So if you’re looking to make a hat for a costume, the patterns you find at a sewing shop are a useful and fairly cheap tool. This will not work with hat patterns that include ruffled or gathered fabric (such as bonnets), since EVA foam cannot mimic fabric in that way.

Why would you use EVA foam instead of fabric for a cosplay? EVA foam is simply easier to use when creating stiff garments (like hats) than fabric is. Of course, fabric does not behave the same way as foam material, so it depends on what kind of look you want for the final product. Overall, EVA foam will work excellent for stiff hats like cowboy hats or top hats, and EVA foam is great for creating hats that you want to stay in one shape (such as witch hats, visors, and messenger hats).

Supplies needed to make an EVA foam hat:

copy a sewing pattern
Copy a sewing pattern, but be sure to get rid of any seam allowance if your pattern includes it.
cut your pattern pieces from EVA foam
Cut out your pattern pieces from 2mm craft foam or EVA foam.
glueing with contact cement
When gluing your pieces with contact cement, start on one end and slowly push the pieces together until they line up on the other edge.
sanding and adding decorations
You can sand you seams with a Dremel to help smooth them out. Then add any decorations you want to include, such as a ‘button’ at the top of the cap.
  1. Copy the hat pattern and remove any seam allowance. Since we are not sewing the EVA foam together, we won’t need the extra material that you need when constructing hats with fabric. Some patterns will include a seam allowance and others will not so read the instructions of your particular pattern to know if there is any included. Make sure to also copy over any notches included on the sewing pattern so that you know how to line up the pieces of your hat.
  2. Cut the pattern out of your 2mm EVA foam (or craft foam). Use a sharp razor so that you get clean edges on your EVA foam pieces. This will make the next steps much easier.
  3. Glue the pieces together. To use contact cement, brush the glue onto both edges that you are connecting. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the contact cement gets tacky. Then start at one edge of the EVA foam pieces you are connecting and press them together.
  4. Sand the seams. Give your glue an hour or so to dry before sanding the seams and any areas that need to be smoothed out. 
  5. Paint your hat and add any details and decorations. If you want your hat to look like a fabric hat, you can glue the fabric to the surface of the hat. If you’re painting the hat, I recommend using flexible primer and acrylic paint since these are less likely to chip and crack as the EVA foam bends.

If you can’t find a sewing pattern that works for you, there are some places where you can find patterns specifically made for EVA foam. For example, Kamui Cosplay is well known for making downloadable EVA patterns, and she has a collection of hat patterns too. Be sure to adjust the patterns according to your own head size.

(simple hats) (picture with examples of a hat band)

Part 1: How to make a custom hat without a pattern

If your hat is unusual and you can’t find a pattern for it, you’re not completely out of luck. You can still create your own pattern. This works best for hats that you can build off of a band around your head and may take some experimenting before you get to the final hat.

In this example, I’ll be making a visor, but you can use the same idea to construct your own hat. I highly recommend making a mock-up of your hat first so that you can make sure the hat works as you expect it to.

an EVA foam visor

How to make a custom EVA foam hat:

  1. Measure the width of your head. If you will be wearing a wig with your hat, be sure to measure your head with the wig on since it can add an inch or two to the diameter.
  2. Draw a long rectangle with your measurements. This will be the band of the hat that you build everything else off of. Tape your piece into a circle and make sure it fits around your head. If you want something like a top hat, this can be several inches tall, but in most cases, this will only be 1-2 inches tall.
  3. Create your visor or brim. If your hat has a visor, lay your band down on a piece of paper and draw the shape of your visor. If your hat has a brim going all the way around, trace the circular shape of your band. Then measure an equal distance all the way around depending on how wide you want the brim to be. Most visors or brims will be 2-3 inches long.
  4. Create the shape of the top of your hat. For simple hats, this part is easy. If you’re trying to make something a little more complicated, try looking at the panels of a real hat to see how they go together. For the visor, I only had to cut out the panel at the front of the hat, then play around with the height until I was happy with it.
  5. Cut your pieces out in EVA foam (or craft foam). After you’re happy with the design, cut the pieces out of the foam.
  6. Glue your pieces together. Just like in part one, glue your piece together with contact cement. Make sure to wait until the glue is tacky before attaching the pieces together.
  7. Add velcro, elastic, or snaps. If you want to make the size of the hat adjustable, you can add velcro, elastic, or snaps to the back. Just be sure to adjust the size of the band before cutting it out of the EVA foam.
cutting out the pieces
Start with a long band that fits around your head. You can build the visor, brim, and top of the hat off of this base.
contact cement
Add marks to the center of the band and visor so you can line them up properly when gluing them together.
adding elastic
After you paint your hat, you can add elastic, velcro, snaps, or any other kind of attachment you want so the hat size will be adjustable.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been Cosplaying Since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years I've learned a lot of new skills that have helped me become better and making cosplay and looking good for the camera.

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