A Beginner’s Guide to Cosplaying as Your Favorite Character

Nervous about cosplaying? Ease your worries with our beginner’s guide to your first cosplay! Here’s everything you need to know.

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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 their first look. If you’re thinking about cosplaying but feel bogged down by anxious thoughts, you need to combat this way of thinking—show off your cosplays with confidence!

To help you feel bolder and more assured, here are some tips and guidelines that I’ve learned from my own cosplaying antics. Ready to cosplay your favorite character? Here are the essential pieces of cosplay wisdom you’ll need.

Choosing a Character to Cosplay

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 characters who don’t wear suits of armor or have complicated, multi-layered outfits. 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.

And even if people don’t know the actual character, they’ll still appreciate the look!

Do You Have to Look Like Your Character?

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—really, you don’t even need to be the same gender. The features that make you unique will also make your cosplay look unique (and that’s the best part).

It may be slightly easier to cosplay as a character that has the same eye color or hair color as you, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because you can always make yourself look like the character.

Wigs, colored contacts, and makeup can bring any cosplay to life. When purchasing a wig, choose one that’s high-quality; otherwise, your wig will get tangled easily and won’t look as natural.

And while you don’t necessarily need colored contacts, they can add a nice finishing touch to your cosplay (especially if you’re cosplaying a red-eyed character like Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto).

And, of course, makeup is a great way to fake your character’s look. If you’re not sure how to approach your makeup, head to YouTube. Plenty of expert cosplayers have makeup tutorials for specific characters.

Should You Create Your Cosplay or Buy It?

There’s a huge debate between buying and making your own cosplay. Some say that buying a cosplay isn’t as valid as making one yourself; well, they’re wrong.

Whether you buy or create your cosplay, it still counts as cosplaying.

Yeah, creating a cosplay from scratch can be super satisfying, but it comes with plenty of its own challenges. You need to own a sewing machine, know how to sew, know how to find the right fabrics and patterns, etc.

Making armor is even more difficult in some ways, unless you compromise with something like craft foam to construct faux-metal:

Where to Buy Cosplay Outfits

If you aren’t very hands-on, there’s no shame in buying your entire costume online—or depending on who you want to cosplay, the outfit might even be available at a local Halloween store or party shop.

Sites like EZCosplay and Miccostumes offer pre-made outfits of characters from video games, anime, manga, superhero movies, and more. The costumes can be a bit pricey, but buying one will save you a lot of time.

And you’ll have more confidence! There’s nothing worse than making your own costume and feeling embarrassed while you wear it. 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

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 crowds of people inside make it exceptionally warm.

Cosplaying a scantily-clad character in the dead of winter isn’t smart, either. How can you show off your cosplay when you’re wearing a jacket the entire time?

Yeah, you’ll see cosplayers defying the odds as they cosplay Halo’s Master Chief during the summer or League of Legend’s Jinx during the winter… but although they look composed, they’re definitely feeling the temperature!

Ask the Experts for Advice

See a cosplay you really like? Whether you spot an awesome cosplay online or at a convention, it isn’t wrong to ask the person behind the costume for helpful tips on how they achieved what they did or tricks they used to improve their look.

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

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.

Practice Your Poses

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 anyone would actually want a photo of me—and while people were pulling their phones 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 which case you can pretend to shoot out webs. Quirky poses can really improve your cosplay game, and it’s fun!

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Japanese Anime & Manga Genres, Explained

We all know what fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and thriller mean. But anime and manga go beyond that, and there are all kinds of Japanese genre names that might perplex you.

Maybe you already understand what shonen and shoujo are all about. But what about isekai? What exactly does slice of life entail? What's the difference between ecchi and hentai? We've broken it down for you!

Understanding the Japanese genre names can be helpful when you want to find more anime to watch and manga to read. Download the printable PDF below and pin it on your wall so you always have a handy reference at hand:

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