The Easiest Sword Tutorial for Cosplay (step-by-step)

tutorial: simple sword for cosplay

The easiest way to create a sword is by using EVA foam. You can easily taper the edges of the foam and sand everything to create a nice smooth finish. For the hilt, use a shortened PVC pipe with an EVA foam crossguard to make an easy, simple design. 

If you’re a beginner, a sword is one of the best props to start with. You don’t need to worry about a lot of little pieces (unless you’re making a particularly intricate sword), and you don’t need to figure out how to form curves with foam. 

If you’ve never heard of EVA foam, feel free to check out my post going over the basics of this material. I’ll also try to make sure I explain all the basics as I go through this tutorial.

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Supplies needed:

Drawing the sword pattern

Draw  the sword pattern

The first thing you need to do is draw out the shape of your sword:

  1. Determine the length of your sword. If you’re unsure, a good approximation is the length of your arm.
  2. Use a ruler to draw two parallel lines that taper to a point at one end (the blade of the sword). I made my sword about 2 inches thick, but yours could be thicker if you’re creating a widesword, or thinner if you’re making some smaller (like a dagger).
  3. Add any blade designs to the pattern. I made a simple curved edge on the hilt end of the sword blade.
  4. Trace the PVC pipe (or cake dowel) at the top of your sword blade. This will be the base of your sword hilt.
  5. Determine the shape of your crossguard (the piece in between the hilt handle and the blade). In this example, I made it a long oval that curved toward the blade. Draw out the cross guard as you’ll see it from the top too (as if you were looking down at it from the top of the hilt.

I’m creating a fairly simple design for this example, but you can make your sword as intricate as you want. The basic steps will remain the same, you’ll just have to make some adjustments to the shape and intricacies of your blade and hilt.

After you’re happy with your sword pattern, cut the hilt from the blade of the sword. We’re going to be constructing these two parts separately and then gluing them together at the end. In part 1 below, we’ll make the blade and paint it. Then in part 2, I’ll go over how to create a simple hilt.

the sword blade

Part 1: the sword blade

Start by making the blade of the sword. This part is slightly more difficult, so let’s get it out of the way first. By the end of this section, you will have the blade constructed and painted, ready to attach to the hilt.

Supplies for the blade:

cut two blade pieces
When cutting the EVA foam, make sure to cut on the inside of the traced lines.

1. Cut two of the blade pieces out of EVA foam

Trace the paper pattern of your blade onto the EVA foam, and cut out two of them. When cutting, make sure to stay on the inside of the line you traced so that the sword ends up the same size as your original paper pattern.

You also want to cut the pieces out with a beveled edge (slanted). Rather than pushing the razor straight down into the foam, hold it at a 45º angle. This way, the edges will come to a point when you combine your two pieces of foam.

bevel the edges of the sword
Cut the edges of the sword on a 45º angle so that they will come to a point when glued together.

It’s okay if you don’t cut the edges perfectly (I didn’t either). We’ll make them smoother by sanding them down in a couple of steps. But the smoother the cuts you make in this step, the easier the next couple of steps will be.

Note: keep your razor as sharp as possible. Razor blades tend to get dull when cutting through the foam, so it’s best to keep a knife sharpener on hand and sharpen your blade after every few cuts.

attaching the dowel
Glue a small dowel to the middle of the blade.

2. Glue the dowel in the center of one piece

If you glue the EVA foam pieces together right now, you’ll end up with a pretty floppy sword. We are going to add a thin wooden dowel to the center of the sword to give it more structure. This dowl also creates a little bump in the center of the sword making it look a little more three-dimensional.

  1. Make sure your dowel is long enough for your sword. I needed to glue a few of the wooden dowels together so it would fit the length.
  2. Glue the dowel to the center of one sword piece. It should stop a few inches away from the tip of the sword. It’s okay if it pokes out of the hilt-end of the blade.
glueing the sword together.
Glue the edges of the the sword together, around the dowel. Don’t worry if it’s a little messy, we’ll fix that in the next step.

3. Glue the second EVA foam piece of the blade

Now you want to glue the second blade piece, making the edges meet at a point. It’s okay if it’s not 100% perfect (you can fix it when you sand the edges in the next step), but try to make it as close as possible.

Use the contact cement (or hot glue, or whatever strong adhesive you have on hand), and press the edges together. It might be better to work in one small section at a time. Make sure the foam pieces are holding together before moving on to the next section. 

Note: for contact cement, you want to apply it to both layers of EVA foam and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before pressing the pieces together (this usually gives you the best holding power). Hot glue and most other adhesives can be added to a single edge and pressed together immediately.

sanding the sword
Sand the edges of the sword so that you get smooth edges.

4. Sand the edges of the blade

When sanding EVA foam, always use a dust mask and wear safety goggles. This will prevent you from inhaling particles or getting any into your eyes.

If you’re like me, you have a blade with somewhat messy edges. Let’s sand those down to make them smooth and create a better edge to the sword blade. You can use regular old sandpaper for this if you want, but it will go much faster if you use a rotary sanding tool instead. I recommend a Dremel Lite (it’s what I used) and it makes the sanding take only 15 minutes. But, make sure to practice on some scrap pieces of foam before using this on your blade. 

Sand all the way around the sides of your blade making the edges even and pointed. When you’re finished, make sure to brush away the dust from the surface of the blade.

paint the sword
Paint the sword using any metallic paint of your choice.

5. Prime and paint

Now that your blade is completely constructed, all that’s left is to paint it.

  1. Start by adding 3-4 layers of primer (I recommend Cosflex). This will help to smooth out the surface of the blade and help the paint adhere better. Make sure to use a smooth paintbrush to avoid adding texture. Always allow your primer and paint to dry completely between layers.
  2. Choose a metallic paint and add 2-3 layers. For this sword, I used Sargent Art liquid metal and liked the effect, but there are many different brands of metallic paint you can try. There are also spray-on metallic paints if you want to avoid brush strokes completely, or you can use an airbrush if that’s something you are familiar with.

You may want to add a finishing clear layer of varnish to prevent the paint from chipping. Unfortunately, this will dull the natural shine of most metallic paints, so it’s not a completely necessary step. If you’re worried about the paint rubbing off or chipping, you can add a layer of varnish, then add another layer of metallic paint on top of that. This way, you’ll get the shine from the paint, but it won’t be very noticeable if the paint starts to chip away.

the sword hilt

Part 2: the hilt

Now that your blade is finished and the paint is drying, let’s get started on the hilt. If you’re making a simple, cylindrical hilt, this part is fairly simple. All you need to do is attach a crossguard and pommel to a cylinder, and then paint it.

Supplies for this section:

the PVC pipe
Adjust the length of the PVC pipe so that it works for your hilt (or buy one that’s pre-cut)

1. Use a PVC pipe (or cake trowel!) as the core for the hilt

If you have a long PVC pipe, make sure to cut it to the appropriate length for your hilt. Make a mark, and use a saw to cut through the plastic pipe. Somewhere around six inches is usually good, but it depends on your sword design.

If you’re like me and are a little afraid to use a saw (I can be very clumsy sometimes), you can usually find shorter PVC pipes in pre-measured lengths. I used a cake trowel because it’s already the length and width that I was looking for.

Otherwise, if you go to a Home Depot (and probably most other hardware stores too), you can ask one of the employees to cut the PVC pipe for you when you purchase it.

cut a hole in the crossguard
Cut out the crossguard and cut a hole in the middle for your cylinder.

2. Cut out the crossguard

The next piece you need is the crossguard. For this, you’ll need the crossguard shape, and you’ll need to cut a hole in the middle for the cylindrical hilt.

  1. Trace your pattern piece onto EVA foam and cut out the crossguard. Make sure to use a sharp razor to avoid jagged edges as much as possible.
  2. Once you have your piece, trace your pipe on the center of the crossguard and cut out the hole. Test the pipe to make sure it fits and cut the hole slightly bigger if you need to.
  3. Sand the edges of the crossguard if needed. Just like with the sword blade, use sandpaper or a Dremel to smooth out the edges and make them look nice. Always use a dust mask and safety goggles when sanding EVA foam.
  4. Glue the crossguard to the base of the cylinder PVC pipe. I used hot glue, but whatever adhesive you have will work.
attach the pommel to the other end
Attach the pommel to the other end.

3. Create a pommel

The other piece you need for the hilt is a pommel. I used paper clay to form a cone at the end of the hilt. This kind of clay will harden in about 24-48 hours. You can also use just about any kind of random item you have on hand: A large marble, a resin gemstone, a styrofoam ball, or whatever you want. Once you’ve made your pommel, glue it to the other end of your cylinder to create your final hilt.

paint the hilt

4. Prime and paint

Now, all that’s left to do is paint your hilt. I’m just painting the whole hilt black, but you can use gold, silver, or create intricate designs. You could even make a leather wrap for the grip of the hilt or add gemstones onto the pommel.

  1. First, add 2-3 layers of primer to your hilt. If the primer you’re using keeps dripping off the pipe, and not sticking properly, try taking a piece of sandpaper and rubbing it against the surface of the tube. This will add some micro-scratches to the surface, giving the primer the tiny bumps that it needs to adhere.
  2. Next, paint the hilt. I used acrylic paints since they are typically the cheapest and the most readily available. Generally, 2-3 layers of paint are enough.
sanding the pipe to prime it
If the primer will not stick to the plastic pipe (as in the left picture), lightly sand it to create micro scratches on the surface.

Glue the hilt and the blade together

You have your blade and you have your hilt, all you have to do is glue the two pieces together. I used hot glue, but, of course, whatever adhesive you have available will work just fine. Maybe avoid contact cement for this part since it tends to leave a yellowish residue.

And there you have it. Your first sword is finished and ready to travel with you to your next convention.

the finished sword
Simply glue the hilt and sword together and you’re done.

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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