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ColossalCon 2011 Live Blog – Cosplay for Beginners


This panel is run by five people, including Axelious, LuckyGrim, and two Sams.

Wigs are an excellent way to bump up your cosplay. Some good places for wigs (in order from ok to best quality):

1) some eBay site (didn’t catch the name)


3) Arda Wigs

Getting a custom color is a pain. Easiest way to do it is to get a silver white wig and then use sharpie (which takes forever). If you wash a wig wash it with mild Dove hand detergent which is the same stuff they use on animals in oil spills. Get hair conditioner for “sassy black ladies” which will get out any tangles. To store your wig you should put it in a clear ziploc bag and press it flat in the bag to get out most of the air and then store it out of sunlight. Build-a-Bear boxes are handy for carrying a styled wig and a wig head. Always wear a wig cap unless you’re bald. You need to bobby pin your hair to the wig cap and then put the wig on. This will prevent the wig from slowly falling off. The process only takes about 5 minutes.

AndSewingIsHalftheBattle apparently has a tutorial on braiding long hair to put under a wig cap.


Supposedly about 30% of the time planning the cosplay is spent deciding on what to wear underneath everything. Swimsuit bottoms are good to wear if you’re wearing a short skirt or something similar for a variety of reasons. For guys wearing skin tight clothes wear compression shorts.

For materials you’re not familiar with start with making something small. Also if you’re starting out go to Goodwill and modify the clothing since it’s much simpler than making something from scratch. “You have to start out somewhere.” – you put in your measurements and it’ll spit out how to make it. If you buy it from eBay make sure you get steel boning – plastic is prone to breaking and can hurt more. You can use a combination of spiral and solid steel boning. Spanx and shapewear can help you feel better about yourself if you don’t have the most flattering figure and it also helps the costume lay better. is where you can get steel boning.

Binding has a Dante open shirt binding where she uses ace bandages and puts latex over it and airbrushes muscles on it. Don’t use open shirt binding unless absolutely necessary since it can be dangerous. If you’re bustier you can use compression vests. Another tip is to put some vaseline on and then bind or else it will be fairly painful.


Ones to never use – shiny satin is a no no. Sign up for Jo-Ann mailing list. Hobby Lobby is great, Michael’s got caught stealing peoples’ credit card info so don’t go there. Home Depot is great for a lot of things. She buys Scotch Guard by the bucket and dips all her cosplays in them so they’re spill-proof. Try to avoid PVC vinyl and latex unless you’re really experienced. Industry people use stretch cotton and spray a sheen on it. For Wonder Woman she uses a high grade non sheen satin and lines it in muslin to make it really stiff.

For every different type of fabric you should change your needle and thread. Your sewing machine will only do so much. A lot depends on the needle and thread. Buy a Teflon foot for your sewing machine so it won’t stick on fabrics like the metal one can.

Hand sewing needles are usually not as sharp so stay away from shiny fabrics and high weave fabrics. Hand sewing works for a lot of things. There is no way to avoid hand sewing even on the most advanced costumes.

Snaps are your friends. You can make things removable and it just makes everything easier. As a judge, LuckyGrim says well done basics are more impressive than huge things with some things not done well.

Patterns are your friends. Don’t get Simplicity patterns since they use an odd measuring system. There’s a lot of free patterns online. McCall’s patterns are easy to use. Patterns will teach you the basics of sewing. Patterns are very helpful especially if you haven’t made it before. ┬áLuckyGrim says that she keeps a long list of formulas in her sewing room. This is somewhat counter to what I’ve heard about seamstresses where math is more or less irrelevant.

Pin everything. It’s easier to do everything right the first time than having to rip it apart and redo it.

Some good starting projects – vests, circle skirts. No two people sew the same. LuckyGrim says when she judges she can tell a lot about the costume based on stitching, type of thread, etc.

If you’re not a good seamstress don’t worry – just commission it. A good reliable site is Etsy.


Use foundation, even for guys. It’s important to start with a good base. It’s like a primer for your face, protects your pores, and evens out the tones. Buy makeup brushes since it’s more efficient than sponges. There are makeup tricks for making you look thinner or any other look. Look at the reference images to look at the makeup to make sure it’s not overdone. A way to get 5 o’clock shadow is to use something similar to steel wool and mix it in with foundation.

For special effects makeup make sure you know what’s in it and how to remove it. Get barrier spray especially for red dyes or else that area of skin will be red for a few days.


For Keyblades you can go one of two ways – if you’re going light you can use balsa wood. She then uses a hand drill to sand it down.

Another way is to use expanding foam and spray it over a cardboard structure. Then wrap it in plaster and sand it and paint them.

Another way is to use dowel rod or PVC pipe and use a variety of materials over it. Her favorite is Krylon spray paint. It sounds like they use spray paint without a respirator. I would NOT recommend this. I wear a respirator for pretty much everything since I value my lungs.

Never spray paint over foam. Paper mache it first. Flour, water, and newspaper. One way to get some shading on a super shiny finish is to use a rag and wipe a bit of black acrylic paint on it.

A popular material is paperclay – it goes a long way and is pretty much like paper mache.

A few techniques on armor:

Wonderflex. It’s expensive but it goes a long way. It usually gets purchased in bulk so it can be used to make a lot of things. Cut a practice piece out of foamie and then use it as a guide. Buy a heat gun to work with Wonderflex and heat it up until it gets floppy. It will cool hard and then you can just cut it out, sand it, bondo it, and then paint it.

Foamies also works and there is the famous Amethyst tutorial. Put elmer’s glue or gesso over it and then you can paint it.

Resin casting is excellent but is hard to work with and expensive.

One way to make pauldrons is to blow up a balloon, paper mache it, then use a product called friendly plastic and you can put it over it (can be purchased from

You can make your own vacuum former for $20 and it’s good for making armor.

Photography and Cosplay

Every person is different. What may look good for one person may not look good for another person.

Look in the mirror to practice your poses. If the character has a signature pose learn it and perfect it. However, don’t do the exact same pose every single time. Practice your facial poses. Don’t smile and make it look fake. A tip is to fake a laugh and by the time the picture is taken it’ll look more natural.

Hallway pictures usually are not edited so it may be prudent to wear makeup. The infamous “shine”.

It makes your face look bigger if you extend your neck and tilt your head slightly up. Make friends with photographers and you can pick up a lot of techniques.

If you’re larger turn to the side and bring your arms out a bit.

Play with different angles since posing for your body size is different for each person.

Final Remarks

Make the costume fit you.

Experiment. Try new things. Pick something different every time.

Youtube tutorials can be useful.

Someone out there is going to be better than you. Someone out there is going to be worse than you. Just be proud of what you did. No matter how bad it is as long as you’re proud of it that’s all that matters. Don’t mind the haters.

LuckyGrim’s group is on cosfu and they have reviews on conventions, hotels, and tutorials as well as other miscellaneous information.