10 Cosplay Tips for Beginners

– by Jennifer Ravensong

So you are thinking about cosplaying, but don’t know where to start or what to expect? Here are 10 tips that may help you on your journey!

1) Select a character 

Cosplay group West Coast Avengers at IMAX Sacramento to watch Avengers: Infinity War


The first thing you want to do when you decide to cosplay is to select a character or fandom. For some it’s a matter of thinking on a childhood favorite or character you love. Maybe you grew up worshipping the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers or adored My Little Pony. Some like to select a character that holds characteristics or attributes similar to themselves, like you are a botanist and totally relate to Poison Ivy. Maybe you want to select a character that represents what you wish to be. Say you love strength and justice so Wonder Woman seems like a fit. And others still may wish to select a character that is an exact opposite of their nature, like if you were a peace officer but want to play a villain like The Joker or The Punisher. Whatever you select, do what feels right and makes you happy.

One thing you should keep in mind here is that it shouldn’t matter your gender, race, physique or anything else. If you are “more to love” and want to play Superman, DO IT! If you are a female but want to be Bain or Sub Zero…just do it. Cosplay is not about being Hollywood accurate, it’s about playing…in costumes.

2) Decide how to pull it off

Once you have decided who you want to be you will need to come up with a plan on how to get your cosplay together. This can vary greatly depending on a few factors. Investment (both time and money), skill level and level of accuracy you wish to achieve. Maybe you want a Batman suit that looks like Michael Keaton just stepped out of it on set, that is going to be expensive and requires a lot of skill to make. That is something you will probably have to commission by a professional if you want it accurate.

If you plan on making the cosplay yourself, you will need to allot enough time and resources to make it happen. This is where making friends in the cosplay community will help you. Just joining online groups on social media can help you generate ideas, patterns, techniques and more. Heck, many are willing to help you or get together and build with you. It is a community after all.

Disco DC Group (Winnie Tong (Batman), The Dynamic Cosplay (WW & Superman), Jennifer Ravensong (Ivy) & Raquel Mendoza (Zatana) at Fanime 2015 by Winnie Tong Photography

If you decide to step away from accuracy a bit, you can also experiment with mashups and new versions of characters. Maybe you love Harley Quinn, but you love Steampunk too; put it together and make a steampunk Harley! Again, there are no rules here so just do what feels right to you. Before you go out and buy anything, I highly recommend putting together at least a basic budget and listing out all the components you will need. It’s easy to get carried away when working on cosplay so having a guide to help you before you start spending or buying is extremely helpful. For you and your wallet.

3) Gather your materials

This part of the process can take a while. Finding the right fabrics, patterns, props , materials etc, can take a lot of online hunting and footwork. My advice is to Google and see what others have already done and to ask other cosplayers. Oftentimes just asking someone will give you fabulous leads and ideas. Probably save you a ton of headaches and money as well.

4) Begin the build

Ok, so now you have all your items together and it’s time to start building/sewing/creating your cosplay. Take a deep breath, think things through and remember that it’s ok to ask for help. I like to start with Google or Instructables to get some guides on how to build the things I need. Sometimes you can find patterns that are exactly what you need but more often than not, you will need to create your own original pieces. Most store bought items are not good quality and are pricey anyway.

5) Become discouraged/overwhelmed

Here is the part that every cosplayer will tell you is true. You will reach a point somewhere in your build where you will hate what you are working on. Maybe things aren’t going right, or it’s not what you expected or you have to remake something. It’s ok, we have all been there and I assure you this is part of all creative processes. When you reach this point, take a step back, take a break and regroup. I don’t care if your break is 5 minutes or 5 months, do what you gotta do but don’t give up.

6) Look to others for help and inspiration

Shane Maus, Robert Reimers, Mecaela Rubio, Nikhil Naidu and Shaun Patrick at repping Fan Film Siren’s Song SacAnime 2017 by S Photography

When you are ready to tackle it again, present your hang-ups, problems or discouragement to others who cosplay. They will reassure you, provide you with solutions or maybe even come help you. Since we have all been there, most are eager to help you past this phase. And it’s all it is, just a phase.

7) Get reignited with the passion of your vision

Now that you are excited again, get back into the swing of things with a new vigor. Maybe even watch/read/listen to the fandom you are trying to portray. Sometimes planning what events or gatherings you want to go to or making plans to cosplay with others is all you need to light a fire under your ass. It will motivate you to get out there and cosplay!

8) Try it on/out, find all the shortcomings and work them out

Once you reach a point where you are almost done, it is really important to do a lot of try- ons and tests before you wear it out. When you cosplay, you are in a costume for fairly long periods of time and may be very active. Posing for photos and walking around at events can reveal weaknesses, flaws or uncomfortable parts of your costume. It’s way better to find out that your top will shift down or your armor will come unglued when you are at home than at the con. So jump around in it, walk around for a while, watch some Netflix in it; whatever you need to do to “battle test” it before you step out. Make adjustments, shift designs do what you gotta do until it’s comfortable and correct.

9) Wear it out. Shoots, Cons, Meetups; whatever.

Terry Morgan at the Zombie Club booth 2017

Now you have your cosplay, it looks great and you feel like the character you love. GET OUT THERE!!! No seriously, there are events, conventions, gatherings and photo shoot opportunities all the time, year round. Go online and find photographers or other cosplayers to collaborate with, and in the process you will make new friends.

Cosplaying with other people from your fandom is especially fun because you can recreate scenes. Even more fun is wearing your cosplay in front of muggles (aka normal people) in normal settings. Dressed like a Viking still after the con? Go to Wal-Mart for groceries. Want to hit that nice restaurant in downtown after a shoot? Go as Black Widow and Captain America. The reactions of others will likely fall into one of two categories 1) “Why are you dressed like that?” (to which you can reply “Dressed like what?” or 2) “WOW you look amazing!” Both are highly entertaining I assure you.


Group of cosplayers at Empire Comics, Free Comic Book Day 2018

Above all else, have fun, learn and enjoy what you are doing. Cosplay is an opportunity to share your love with others. Make new friends, do fun things..maybe even make some kids smile. Doing cosplay in a charitable setting such as hospital visits or for youth is one of the most rewarding things you can do. What is better than pretending to be a superhero? Actually being a superhero for someone who needs a smile.

So not matter what fandom, character type, body type, skill level or motivation, just have fun! Always be respectful of others and of their costumes and enjoy that nerdy love has led you down such a fun and entertaining path.


– Jennifer Ravensong

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