How to Cosplay: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

how you can cosplay

If you’re a fan of anime, video games, or any other form of media, you’ve probably heard of cosplay. Cosplay, short for costume play, is a hobby where people dress up as their favorite characters from various forms of media. It’s a fun way to express your love for a character or series and connect with other fans.

But how do you get started with cosplay? It can seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Anyone can cosplay. All you need to do is choose a character to cosplay that you love and feel a connection to (this will make the cosplay experience more enjoyable, it doesn’t matter if you look like the character you’re cosplaying). Once you’ve chosen a character, it’s time to start planning your costume.

Choosing Your Character

To some of you, this step will be a no-brainer. You already know exactly who you want to cosplay as, since they are your absolute favorite character. But, if it’s not as clear a choice to you, consider some of these points.

Researching Characters: Before you choose a character, you can do a little “research.” By that, I mean take some time to watch the show, read the comic, or play the game that the character is from. This will help you get a better understanding of the character’s personality, backstory, and overall vibe.

You can also do some online research to learn more about the character. Look for fan forums, wikis, and other resources that can provide you with more information. This can help you choose a character that you are connected with, and it will plug you into the fandom of your chosen cosplay.

Matching Your Skills: When choosing a character, you also want to consider your skills and abilities. For example, if you’re not very good at sewing, you may want to avoid characters with complex costumes, or a character that’s popular enough that you can easily find a costume to buy. Similarly, if you’re not comfortable with makeup, you may want to choose a character that doesn’t require a lot of special effects.

On the other hand, if you’re skilled in a particular area, such as prop-making or wig styling, you may want to choose a character that allows you to show off those skills. This can help you create a more impressive and memorable cosplay.

Consider a group cosplay: If you’re nervous about cosplaying for the first time, you can also see if any of your friends (or family members) want to cosplay with you. You can coordinate your costumes and go as a pair or group so that you feel more comfortable.

labeling pieces of your costume
After finding reference images, list out all the pieces of the costume that you’ll need to buy or create.

Creating the Costume

You don’t always have to create your own costume. There are many places online where you can purchase pre-made costumes or commission custom costumes. This is absolutely still a valid form of cosplay, and the first 5 or so of my costumes were store bought.

However, if you want to take it a step up, you can also choose to make your costume yourself. When it comes to creating a cosplay costume, there are three main steps that you need to follow: designing the costume, gathering materials, and constructing the costume.

1. Designing the Costume

The first step in creating a cosplay costume is to design the costume. This involves researching the character you want to cosplay and deciding which version of the costume you want to create. You can find inspiration from the source material, such as comic books, movies, or video games, or from other cosplayers who have already created the costume.

Once you have decided on the design, you can create a sketch or find reference images to help guide you in creating the costume. It’s important to pay attention to the small details of the costume, such as the color, texture, and shape of each piece.

2. Gathering Materials

After you have designed the costume, the next step is to gather the materials you will need to create it. This can include fabric, thread, foam, glue, paint, and other materials depending on the complexity of the costume. 

You can also choose to purchase some of the basic pieces of the cosplay. For example, if the costume uses a plain white button-up shirt you can easily purchase this piece and sew the other pieces that have a more specific design.

To make it easier to keep track of the materials you need, you can create a list and check off each item as you gather it. You can also search online for tutorials or patterns that can help guide you in creating specific pieces of the costume.

3. Constructing the Costume

The final step is to construct the costume. This involves cutting the fabric to the correct size, sewing the pieces together, and adding any additional details such as buttons, zippers, or appliques. You can also create boot covers, props, and style your wig to match the character your portraying.

I highly recommend taking your time when constructing the costume to ensure that each piece is made to the best of your ability. I know a lot of people wait until the last minute with costumes, but a little bit of planning ahead can really improve the quality of your cosplay and help you feel the whole thing was more successful overall. You can also make adjustments as you go to ensure that the costume fits properly and looks as close to the original design as possible.

Overall, creating a cosplay costume can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these three steps, you can create a costume that is not only accurate to the source material but also showcases your creativity and skill as a cosplayer.

adding white to your inner eye
Before you do your eye makeup, add white makeup to the inner corner of your eye and create a gradient. When you add in the rest of you eye makeup, you eyes will look bigger and brighter.

Makeup and wig styling

When it comes to cosplay, makeup and styling are an great step to help you bring your character to life. You may already have excellent skills in this area (and are already better than me). But, if you’re a complete beginner at makeup or hair styling, here are some tips for getting the perfect look.

Cosplay Makeup: Makeup is the hidden detail of cosplay that can bring the whole costume together. It can transform your face and make you look more like your character. Learn more makeup tips for looking good in photographs.

Cosplay Hair Styling: Many anime and comic characters have really iconic hairstyles too. In most cases, you will want to get a wig to mimic these styles because real hair just doesn’t work with anime physics (and most people don’t have bright pink hair). It can be a little bit of a learning curve to style wigs that accurately match your character’s, but with the right tools and techniques, you can achieve the perfect look. Learn some quick beginner wig styling techniques.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different makeup and styling techniques to find what works best for you and your character.

Cosplay Acting

The final touch for cosplay is using acting to bring the character to life. While you don’t need to act in-character for the entire time you’re wearing a costume, it’s still a lot of fun to try to act as your character would act (within reason, of course. Don’t do anything dangerous just because your character would). Here are some tips to help you nail your cosplay acting.

Understanding Your Character: To act as your character, you need to understand them first. Research their backstory, personality, and mannerisms. Watch videos or read their dialogue to get a feel for their tone of voice and how they interact with others. Knowing your character inside and out will help you embody them more authentically.

Practicing Character Behavior: Once you have a good understanding of your character, it’s time to practice their behavior. Start by imitating their body language, such as how they stand, walk, or gesture. Pay attention to their facial expressions and how they convey emotion. Practice speaking in their tone of voice and using their catchphrases or signature lines.

It’s also helpful to practice interacting with others as your character. This can help you get a feel for how they would react in different situations and how they would interact with other characters.

Remember, cosplay acting is all about having fun and bringing your character to life. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. The more you practice, the more confident and comfortable you’ll become in your cosplay acting.

Cosplay Etiquette

When it comes to cosplay, it’s important to remember that everyone is there to have fun and enjoy themselves. This means we all must be respectful of others and follow some basic cosplay etiquette. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Respecting Others

  • Ask for Permission: Always ask for permission before taking a photo of someone in cosplay. Not everyone is comfortable having their photo taken, and it’s important to respect their wishes.
  • Be Mindful of Personal Space: Cosplay is not consent, so always ask before touching someone’s costume or props. It’s also important to be aware of personal space and not invade someone’s personal bubble without permission.
  • Avoid Offensive Language and Gestures: Cosplay is a diverse community, and it’s important to be respectful of everyone’s backgrounds and beliefs. Avoid using offensive language or gestures, even if you think it’s in character.

Photography Rules

  • Follow Event Rules: Always follow the rules of the event when it comes to photography. Some events may have specific areas for photos, or may not allow photography at all.
  • Be Considerate of Others: When taking photos, be mindful of other cosplayers and attendees. Don’t block walkways or impede the flow of traffic, and avoid taking photos of people while they are eating or drinking.
  • Respect the Cosplayer’s Wishes: If a cosplayer declines to have their photo taken, respect their wishes. Don’t pressure them or try to sneak a photo without their knowledge.

Following these basic cosplay etiquette guidelines will help ensure that everyone has a fun and enjoyable experience. Remember, cosplay is all about having fun and expressing yourself, so let’s make sure we do it in a respectful and considerate way.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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