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A Beginner’s Guide to Cosplaying as Your Favorite Character

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Cosplaying for the first time is intimidating. Insecurities race through your mind as you think to yourself, “My cosplay won’t look as good as everyone else’s” or “What if no one recognizes my character?”

All new cosplayers experience these thoughts when preparing to flaunt their look. If it’s your first time cosplaying, you need to combat this way of thinking and attend a convention with confidence.

Ready to cosplay your favorite character? This guide will give you the essential cosplay wisdom you need.

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Choosing a Character

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The difficulty of your cosplay depends on the character you choose. For example, cosplaying as Ness from Earthbound is fairly easy—just wear a striped t-shirt, blue shorts, a red cap, and grab a baseball bat. On the other hand, cosplaying as Big Daddy from Bioshock is a lot harder, but I’ve seen it done.

If you’re not too crafty (like myself) you’ll have an easier time cosplaying as a character that doesn’t wear a suit of armor or have a complicated outfit. Simple is better for your first cosplay experience.

Don’t worry about the popularity of your character either. No matter how obscure your character is, I promise that at least one geek in the crowd will know exactly who you’re representing.

Do You Have to Look Like Your Character?

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Cosplaying is one of those nerdy things that you shouldn’t be ashamed of no matter how ridiculous you look. You don’t have to even slightly resemble your character in order to cosplay as them—heck, you don’t even need to be the same gender. The features that make you unique make your cosplay look unique as well (and that’s the best part).

While it’s slightly easier to cosplay as a character that has the same eye color or hair color as you, that still doesn’t matter when you can make yourself look like the character. Wigs, colored contacts, and makeup can really bring your cosplay to life.

When you purchase a wig, try to choose one that’s high-quality. Otherwise, your wig will get tangled easily and won’t look as natural. You don’t necessarily need colored contacts, but they can add a nice finishing touch to your cosplay (especially if you’re cosplaying a red-eyed character like Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto).

You can also use makeup as a way to fake your character’s look. If you’re not sure how to approach your makeup, head to YouTube. Plenty of expert cosplayers film makeup tutorials for specific characters.

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Should You Create Your Cosplay or Buy It?

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There’s always a huge debate between buying and making your own cosplay. Some say that buying a cosplay isn’t as valid as making it yourself, and that’s completely false. Whether you choose to buy or create your cosplay, it still counts as cosplaying.

Creating a cosplay from scratch has some challenging aspects. You need to own a sewing machine, know how to sew, find the right fabrics, and patterns. Making armor has some hurdles as well, but it’s still doable. Cosplayers often use craft foam to construct faux-metal:

If you have some artistic skills and the motivation to learn how to sew or make armor, go for it.

Otherwise, you could opt to buy your entire costume online (or even at a Halloween store). Sites like EZCosplay and Miccostumes offer pre-made cosplays of characters from video games, anime, manga, superhero movies, and more. The costumes are a bit pricey, but buying one saves you a lot of time.

You can even create a cosplay out of both bought materials and custom-made materials. Don’t go fancy with the materials you buy—head to your nearest thrift shop and see if you can put together a makeshift outfit. The clothes might need some modification, and that’s where your craftiness comes in.

Keep the Weather in Mind

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When you make your final decision about a character, always consider the weather during the time of the convention. If you choose to cosplay the Ice Climbers at a summer convention, you’ll instantly regret it.

Nothing’s worse than standing in a crowded, hot environment when you’re wearing heavy layers. The air conditioning inside the convention center usually doesn’t help—the parade of people inside make it exceptionally warm. Cosplaying a scantily-clad character in the dead of winter isn’t ideal either. How can you show off your cosplay when you’re wearing a jacket the entire time?

Cosplayers still manage to defy the odds by cosplaying as Halo’s Master Chief during the summer or as League of Legend’s Jinx during the winter. Although they look composed, they’re definitely feeling the temperature.

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Ask the Experts for Advice

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See a cosplay you really like? Whether you spot an awesome cosplay online or at a convention, it’s always helpful to ask the person behind the costume for helpful tips on how they did what they did or how they improved.

Maybe you can’t find the right sewing pattern or have trouble designing armor. An experienced cosplayer can give you some valuable advice and help you move forward. Each cosplayer has their own tips and tricks, so it doesn’t hurt to ask around.

Pack Extra Makeup

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When you’re at a convention all day, your eye shadow will begin to fade and your mascara will start running. Make sure to pack a small bag with extra makeup.

You don’t have to lug your entire makeup studio with you, but you’ll likely need essential items like foundation, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, and so on. If your friends notice your makeup fading, head to the bathroom and do some touchups.

Strike a Pose

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When you finally get the chance to show off all your hard work, someone will want to take a picture of you. The first time I ever cosplayed at a convention, I went as Frisk from Undertale. Since I didn’t think my cosplay turned out that great, I really didn’t expect that people would actually want a photo of me. As soon as people pulled their phone out, I just stood there and smiled like a dork until they took my picture.

I’ve since learned my lesson. When you cosplay, you must become your character. Cosplaying as Deadpool? Pose like a smart aleck. Maybe you decide to go as Spiderman—in that case, you can pretend to shoot out a web. Quirky poses can really improve your cosplay game.

Cosplay With Confidence

Anime and comic conventions are judgement-free zones. It’s a place where you can finally let your nerd flag fly. Everyone else is in the same boat as you!

Do you love art as much as you love cosplaying? If so, you should consider selling your art at a convention. Check out this article on everything you need to know about preparing to sell at Artist Alley.

Emma Roth
Emma is a staff writer at WhatNerd. In addition to being an avid writer and tech geek, she's a fan of games, anime, manga, and more. She's based in Connecticut.
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