How To Cosplay: For Beginners

How To Cosplay: For Beginners

When starting to cosplay, there is a lot to think about and it can be overwhelming, but this list has everything you'll need!

I'm sure you've seen plenty of people who are fans of video games, anime, cult classic TV shows and movies dress up as their favorite characters either on the internet or in person. That, is the art form better known as cosplay. While getting into cosplay can be overwhelming, here are some steps you can follow to get started!

1. Pick a Character

First, you need to pick a character. When choosing a character, do not hesitate to pick your favorite character because you don't have the same skin tone, body type, facial structure, eye/hair color, height/weight, or even sex or gender. Because cosplay is an art, there is a great deal of artistic license involved and the physical manifestation of these characters through you are an interpretation. Everyone's interpretation can be different depending on their individual physical appearance, and that is truly part of the beauty of cosplay. So, pick whoever you want to without fear!

2. Look for Reference Photos

After you have determined which character you would like to cosplay, search the internet for pictures of them in the outfit that you like best. These come in handy regardless of which "method" of putting together your cosplay that you choose. These methods will be addressed later in the list. Make sure that the pictures you choose have enough detail on them so that you can see things like their shoes and any accessories. Close-ups of their faces and hair are also useful.

3. What Do You Need?

When you have determined what outfit of theirs you want to cosplay, make a list of all the things that go into this cosplay so that you can see what it is you need to procur. Make sure you include all the details in this list as well. Shoes, hair, accessories, even socks are important to put on this list. Because cosplay is an art form, even the smallest of details can make a difference.

4. Research Methods/Decide Which Method Is For You

Once you see what you need to complete your outfit, think about your temporal and financial budget. Whichever way you decide to go, make sure you are planning your cosplay plenty of time in advance of when you want to wear it because good cosplays do not happen overnight. There are several main ways that you could go about putting your cosplay together, and they all have their own pros and cons. Depending on your experience with cosplay, and the skills you may or may not already have, some methods may be better than others to start with.

5. Homemade Cosplay

Homemade cosplay is when you make almost all parts of the cosplay from scratch. If you have experience with making your own clothes, this is probably a good option for you! You can save money if you already own a lot of the necessary equipment, and you will be able to save time making it since you know what you're doing, or at least have an idea of what you're doing. However, if you don't have experience with making your own clothes, but would like to try, more power to you! Be aware that things almost never come out how you think they should the first time, and this method probably requires the most time commitment out of any of these methods for cosplay. If you don't have a sewing machine, you will need to get one, but there are plenty of ways to find one that is affordable. In the event that you decide making clothes is not your forte, you can simply return or resell it. Craft and fabric stores are great places to start looking for materials, and YouTube always provides a plethora of advice and tutorials for anyone who may just be starting out with making their own cosplays.

6. Store Bought Cosplay

There is nothing wrong with store bought cosplay. Let me say it again. There is nothing wrong with store bought cosplay. There are some people in the cosplay communities that seem to think that homemade cosplay is the only real form of cosplay, but that simply isn't true. Not having certain skills or the amount of time it takes to make a cosplay from scratch should not be determining factors in whether you can cosplay or not. Plenty of people partake in store bought cosplay because they simply don't have the time in their lives to sit down and try to make their entire outfit from scratch. Store bought cosplay can be very convenient, but it can be expensive and it can take awhile. A lot of cosplay is made in China, so shipping can be anywhere from two to six weeks! Ordering with plenty of time is important so you don't need to spend an arm, a leg, and a piece of your soul on shipping alone. Researching, comparing, and reading reviews is extremely important to this method. If you're not careful, you could spend a decent amount of money and get something that looks worse than something you could have done yourself. For this method, I would recommend that you get the cosplay customized for your specific measurements, if it's offered with the company you're purchasing from. However, if you decide you don't want to, it's too expensive, or they simply don't offer that, then getting the size closest to your measurements should be fine. If this is the case, be prepared to have to make some slight alterations like for pant leg length or busts on dresses, and plan your time accordingly. One thing I have learned is that while most parts of a cosplay can be bought and found at good quality, comfortable and well fitting shoes are the hardest thing to come by. I would suggest looking into other methods aside from buying the shoes that the character wears exactly. My method for shoes fits better into the next method. Googling "[your character's name] cosplay" can turn up numerous results and websites that are dedicated to cosplay, but if you aren't sure where to start, eBay and Amazon often have plenty to offer.

7. "Composite" Cosplay

This is my personal favorite cosplay method. I don't know if there was already a term for this or if this is really what it's called, but this method basically breaks the cosplay down into individual items rather than a whole unit, and looks for pre-made, usually less expensive items that may or may not require small amounts of modification. Remember that list you made before? That will be especially important here since you aren't buying everything at once like with store bought cosplay. With this method, you will need more time, but it can be less expensive than buying the entire thing and you may be able to make everything fit better without the wait. Plus, if you can find some of the things you need in store, or something close and you can modify it to fit your needs, you won't have to pay for shipping either. I find shoes are one thing that composite cosplay really helps with. Going to a discount shoe store, like Payless or something similar can help you find a cheap, basic shoe, that you can probably modify to fit what you need but will be comfortable and fit your foot properly. Remember, most convention days will be long and full of walking! If your shoes are uncomfortable, you will be miserable the entire day. Any number of stores like Target, Walmart, Burlington Coat Factory, Sears, or Goodwill can all offer things that may be of use to you or could at least get some of your cosplay tacked down. The only downside to this method is that for any particularly peculiar pieces of clothing, you will most likely need to order or to handcraft some of them. But for the most part, this method is solid in itself.

8. Wigs

Wigs are an important aspect of cosplay that can really make a difference in your cosplay's quality and ease to do again. Using your actual hair can be an option, but because hair grows and dye fades, when you want to do a specific cosplay again, it can be very difficult to use your own hair. You would need to keep it the same length and style and re-dye it as well if necessary. Not only can frequently re-dying your hair damage it, but that also gets expensive and time consuming. It is so much easier to buy a good quality wig and some gel or other hair product that you can use not only for that one cosplay, but maybe for others, and of course you can wear it if you just feel like it too. There are some companies on Amazon that offer pretty solid quality wigs for decent prices and some of them come cut and styled already, which is a time saver. However, if you don't mind going with a wig that you will probably have to both cut a little and style, Arda Wigs makes fantastic wigs and they are U.S. based so their shipping is considerably faster than many of the Chinese based companies on Amazon or eBay. There is also always the worry with online companies that the color won't be what you thought it was. WIth Arda, this is minimized because if you aren't sure about a certain color, you can order a color sample to see if it matches your expectations. Once you choose your wig and you have it, taking it out and trying it on to see how much you need to cut and style is important. Even if you don't order your wig from Arda, I would still recommend going to their website to watch some of their cutting and styling tutorial videos. Getting a foam head to put your wig on as you cut and style it is also helpful. When you store your wigs, make sure to flip them inside out so that damage caused by time and wear in minimized. Wig caps also greatly enhance the experience and ease of wearing a wig, so if your wig doesn't come with one, you should get one separately.

9. Contacts

Contacts are one of those "icing on the cake" sort of details. They won't make or break your cosplay usually, but they can make your cosplay stand out from others who may be cosplaying the same character you are at a convention. If you need prescription glasses, colored contacts can be a bit harder to get than if you don't need prescription lenses, but it is possible. Along with your usual contacts manufacturers who make colored contacts, Pinky Paradise is also a solid place to find colored contacts. Three great things about that particular website are that they don't require you to send your prescription first because they aren't a U.S. company, they use mostly brown-eyed, Asian models so you can see how the colors will look on darker colored eyes, and they offer a huge variety of colors and styles. You can find prescription and plano lenses on this website and they are constantly expanding their inventory to accommodate a wider variety of prescription lens users. If the character you are looking to cosplay for your first time around has a different color than white around their eyes, you might be looking into sclera lenses. Pinky Paradise also offers these, but they are considerably bigger and more difficult to deal with than normal sized contacts. Scleras are very cool and definitely would make you stand out, but they don't come in prescriptions from what I've seen and they also are very expensive. If that does not purturb you, then keep in mind if you're wearing them, because they cover your entire eye, they deprive your eyes of oxygen that they need. So, maximum recommended wearing time is about 4 hours. Make sure you give your eyes plenty of breathing time in between wears if you're planning to be at the convention all day the same day you're wearing them. In the event that you are uncomfortable with contacts or don't have the time or money for the, fear not! Glasses are totally acceptable to wear with your cosplay and you can just take them off for pictures if you want to. But, who knows, maybe your character looks good with glasses and people will want you to keep them on!

10. Make-up

Make-up, especially in the cosplay world, is gender neutral. Make-up is appropriate whether you have a male body or a female body and whether you are cosplaying a male or female bodied character. Particuarly if you're interested in taking pictures, make-up really helps put a finishing touch on your cosplay. Most of the make-up used in cosplay is pretty simple, but can get extravagant in the event that your character does not look human. For human-looking characters, you basically just want to cover all the flaws on your face and even out your skin tone. If you are cosplaying a character that does not have the same sex body that you do, you will probably also need certain degrees of contouring in different areas depending on which body you have and which body you are trying to emulate.The eye make-up can also differ depending on what character you are cosplaying. Watch some tutorials to get some ideas on the best ways for you to get the style of eyes you want. For non-human characters or characters that require large amounts of movie make-up, this may require body paint and lots of it. There are various ways to get body paint to stick to your skin effectively and to set so that it doesn't rub off on anyone or anything during the day. Hairspray or baby powder can be effective methods for this. If you need to make it stick to your skin better, watch some tutorials for different methods and see which one works best with your skin type. When you get back after a long convention day, always make sure you wash your face very well because you will be wearing a lot of make-up for a few days and if your skin isn't used to that, it could mean break outs and ironically, more make-up!

11. Photos

When you go to conventions in cosplay, you will most likely be asked by random people for pictures! If you are uncomfortable with taking pictures, it is totally ok to turn them down. If you are ok with pictures, having a pose or a couple in mind when people ask you for pictures will make taking them much easier for you, and you will also look and feel better if you look like your character's personality too.

12. Props

Props are one thing that can help enormously with picture poses if you are at a loss for what to do. Making or buying props can also be expensive and time consuming, so make sure you also account for how much time this will require if your character has a prop that you want to bring. Some props are simple while others can be much larger and more difficult. There are a plethora of tutorials all over the internet on how to make whatever prop you want if you need help, especially when it comes to armor or weapons. Be sure that when you're planning on bringing a weapon prop or something that is rather large, that you make it according to the convention's weapon policy and that it will pass peace bonding when you get there. It would be terrible to spend a lot of money and time on a prop that came out beatifully only to have it confiscated by the peace bonding security table because it didn't pass their regulations.

13. Cos-testing

Cos-testing is when you wear your entire cosplay somewhere for awhile-accessories, props and all-before the convention so that you can find anything that needs to be fixed, things that are not working as well as you had thought they would, and spot anything that has the potential to go wrong at the convention. This is the time to adjust anything, because it will be much harder or maybe impossible to do so while at the convention. Cos-testing is not necessary, but it is recommended and can give you added peace of mind while at the convention or getting ready to go in the morning when you know you've worn it altogether once and you know how it looks already.

14. Convention Time!

Now that your cosplay is complete, have fun showing it off at the next convention you attend! Have fun, make new friends, and be safe! Remember! The Golden Rule of Cosplay is as follows: Cosplay is NOT consent! That means even if someone is wearing something revealing or they are cosplaying a character with a proclivity for certain behaviors, do not touch them without asking, do not verbally or sexually harass them. This may be a convention, but that is still a crime. Do not ruin the fun for anyone by being the creepy person at a convention who thinks it's ok to follow or chase, hug, or otherwise touch cosplayers without their permission. We are all real people, we are not the characters that you see us as. Please respect us as such. If you are the person who is being harassed by someone, please tell convention staff about it as soon as you possibly can. That being said, have fun parading around and showing off your hard work all weekend at the con!

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

Popular Right Now

To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.


So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?



Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The 2020 Election: The Democratic Party Part 1

We all have the duty of becoming politically conscious in order to wisely act on the crucial decision that lies ahead of us in the very near future. In this unbiased, multi-part series you'll be able to get a brief look into both the 2020 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.


The race for the 2020 presidential election is on the rise as 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans have been officially confirmed as potential candidates. Ranging from California to New York, we may recognize "big names" such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, however, it's important to get to know all the candidates in order to have a clear idea as to who you want to be leading the country for the next four years.

*Due to the high number of Democratic candidates, they will all be highlighted over the course of three articles throughout the coming weeks.

1. Joe Biden

Campaign Site

Serving as the Vice President alongside Barack Obama and former senator of Delaware, Joe Biden has already ran for president twice, making the 2020 election his third and what he considers, final time. Biden hopes to strengthen the middle class by raising the minimum wage to a more livable standard. He also hopes to restrict the purchase of guns through background checks as well as being in support of a ban on assault weapons.

2. Bernie Sanders

Campaign Site

Having served on both the House of Representatives and The Senate, Bernie Sanders has caught the attention of many Americans due to his push for universal healthcare with the idea that "All Americans are entitled to go to the doctor when they're sick and not go bankrupt after staying in the hospital." As well as making public secondary-education schools tuition-free in a mission to help lower student debt. Sanders believes in the threat of climate change as his campaign includes the future of passing a Green New Deal to move from fossil fuels to sustainable energy as well as ban fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure. Bernie Sanders additionally believes in abolishing the death penalty, reforming the police system, and ending the discrimination of applicants based on criminal history

3. Beto O'Rourke

Campaign Site

Beto O'Rourke has represented Texas in the House of Representatives from 2013 - 2019. He has a noteworthy platform towards business which includes increasing federal funding towards the Manufacturing Extension Partnership that would aid in creating competitiveness with America's small- and medium-sized manufacturers against global markets. O'Rourke also believes in the idea of increasing voter numbers no matter what the political party may be as well as help ex-convicts regain their right to vote after serving their sentences. In doing so, he plans to create more outreach to the younger generations by ensuring pre-voter registration for all 16 and 17 year olds. Moreover, Beto pushes for a change in creating new term limits for the US House, Senate, and Supreme Court.

4. Kamala Harris

Campaign Site

Kamila is a lawyer and has served as the junior US senator and Attorney General of California. While she is new to the presidential election process, Harris aims to increase teacher pay with the "largest federal investment in teacher pay in U.S. history with a $13,500 raise." Moreover, using her specialization in legal matters regarding sexual assault, Kamila hopes to protect Planned Parenthood as well as women's reproductive rights. Harris states that as President, she will eliminate the wage gap between men and women as well as racial disparities involving maternal health care. Harris additionally hopes in protecting LGBTQ+ rights by not only passing an Equality Act to fight against discrimination in schools, work, and public, but appoint an Attorney General with the purpose of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals.

5. Elizabeth Warren

Campaign Site

Growing up in rural Oklahoma in a low-income home and eventually serving as a US senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is described as a progressive candidate who's campaign is working towards "universal childcare, student loan debt relief, and down payments on a Green New Deal and Medicare for All." Warren hopes to build the middle class up and defend unionized jobs by allowing 40% of board members to be elected through employees. Moreover, Warren is in favor of strengthening the military as well has bringing troops home from overseas, as well as banning private prisons and decriminalizing marijuana. She additionally has stated to end Washington corruption by banning lobbying along with preventing Senators and Congressman from trading stocks whilst in office.

6. Cory Booker

Campaign Site

Attending Stanford and later graduating from Yale Law School, Cory Booker became the first African-American U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Booker's main concern is to end gun violence, ban assault weapons, and bring his battle to the attention of the NRA to create "liberty for all." His 14-part plan includes creating a more extensive process to obtain a gun, one of which would including an FBI-issued background check as well as requiring "micro-stamping" on all guns to ensure the ability to trace back the source of ammunition used in crimes. Moreover, Americans seeking a gun license would have to apply for a 5-year license after which would require renewal. Booker has also proposed the idea of providing newborns with savings accounts that would accumulate until they reached 18. He states that this plan would help settle the gap between the classes by offering lower-income households a nest-egg averaging at about $46,000. He also aims to make contraceptives employer-covered and repeal the punishment for an abortion outside of incest, rape, or for the woman's health.

7. Kirsten Gillibrand

Campaign Site

From New York, Kristin Gillibrand became a US Senator in 2009, becoming the youngest person in the Senate at the time. Her 2020 platform includes creating universal healthcare for all that would cover both mental and reproductive health in addition to it's regular standards. Her stance on Medicare For All also stands for reducing the price of prescription drugs as well as aiding in the process of overcoming addiction. Gillibrand also aims to introduce postal banking which would allow those without checking accounts have the opportunity to take out small loans through their local post office. Moreover, she believes in not only the legalization of both medical and recreation marijuana, but in erasing all past convictions from it. Kristin Gillibrand stands with strengthening the middle class by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, creating paid medical and parental leave for all Americans, and fighting for the right to form unions and protect worker's rights.

8. Amy Klobuchar

Campaign Site

Amy Klobuchar is a lawyer and politician who currently serves as a US Senator from Minnesota. Klobuchar's campaign fights for providing every household in America with high-speed internet by the year 2020 along with aiding farmers by increasing their access to loan programs as well as raising farm bankruptcy debt levels. Moreover, she hopes to better the education system by increasing teacher pay and putting more money towards public schools. As well as increasing the federal Pell Grant and tuition-free one to two year community and technical colleges. Amy Klobucher believes in re-instated the DREAM Act to grant citizenship for foreigners who immigrated to America as minors. She supports immigration reform as well as ending the cruel separation and treatment of families on the lines of the border and creating a refined pathway to gain citizenship.

Related Content

Facebook Comments