Cosplay research is one of the most important steps in the cosplay process. It helps to form a game plan of how you will create props and garnets, what techniques you will need to learn, what materials you will need to buy. Ultimately, this research will give you a better understanding of how much time you will need to set aside in order to create your costume.
Even if you are not making your cosplay from scratch, taking the time to do cosplay research can also save you money if used to look up different prices of different shops to find the best deal.
Cosplay research is the first step needed to bring your cosplay idea into reality. Here are some tips to help you get started on your cosplay research journey.
1. Find Reference Photos
Ideally, you’ll want to find reference photos from various angles (front, side, back) to give a clear picture of how different elements are designed. For myself, a Google image search will suffice. Sometimes I’ll go back and watch the series my character is in and take screen captures from that episode.
I like to save my photos on my mobile phone, creating a photo album dedicated to that character’s reference photos. Saving the photos on my phone allows me to always have them on hand. A cosplay planning app that I also like to store my reference photos in is Cosplanner. This is a fantastic app where I can store my reference photos, as well as track my progress on my costume.
If you don’t have a smart phone or your own laptop, do not fret! Printing out my photos and keeping them in a physical folder works just as well. 🙂
There will be times were you won’t be able to find a sufficient amount of reference photos, whether that be because you are working off a piece of fan art or because there just genuinely aren’t any photos available at a particular angle. When this happens, don’t be afraid to take some creative liberties and interpret what your own design into your costume.
2. Break It Down
Reference photos make it easy to break your costume down into different elements. I typically start from the top of a character’s design and move down.
Below is an example of how I broke down the elements for my Heimerdinger cosplay.
3. To Buy or Make?
Once you’ve broken down your cosplay into its different elements, it’s time to decide whether you will make those pieces or buy them.
Buying? – Price check!
For some cosplays that contain more basic clothing items, it may be easier to simply buy that garment instead of making it from scratch.
For example, MC from Mystic Messenger wears a white sweater dress and black leggings in some of her photos. These are basic clothing items that can be found on Amazon, your local thrift store, or even your own closet! For myself, I opted to buy my sweater dress from Amazon and used a pair of black leggings I had in my own closet.
Another side to buying is perhaps you want to simply commission your cosplay for someone else to make! For many sports animes, there are a healthy amount of sellers out there who have all the jersey variations for a specific sports anime (I’m looking at you Haikyuu!).
Whether you are purchasing a full custom or a single element, try to look up prices at various stores to see which one will give you a best deal.
Helpful Places to Buy:
Basic Clothing (sweater dresses, leggings, skirts)
Making? – It’s all about technique!
Sometimes there will be elements that are not readily available to purchase. Thus, they will need to made! Whether your are making something from scratch or modifying an already existing garment and prop, researching different prop and sewing techniques can make this step less daunting.
A simple google search is a good place to start. Search simple keywords, such as “cosplay [prop/garment name] tutorial or “[prop/garment name] how to” and sift through the results. For myself, I like to sift through these results and find other keywords that I can look up to broaden my search.
For example, when I was looking for tutorials on “shoulder armor”, I found out the proper term was actually “pauldrons” through my initial searches. From there, I searched for pauldron tutorials to find even more research results.
Another helpful tip is to check if anyone has created your cosplay in the past, and learn from their techniques.
Other things to consider…
- What time period is your character from? What techniques did they use back then to create certain garments and props?
- Are there any other characters who have similar props/clothing to the character you want to cosplay as? If so, try searching cosplay tutorials for that character!
- This research process doesn’t have to happen over night. For some props, I’ll take a few days to absorb the information I have found before I deciding what technique I want to utilize.
Below are some helpful research resources…
Helpful Cosplay Research Sites:
- Cosplay Tutorial
- Evil Ted (Foam Armor/Props)
- Kamui Cosplay
- Arda Wigs (Wig Styling Techinques)
- So Sew Easy
- A google old google search can do wonders! 😉
Once you’ve decided on where you’ll be buying certain elements, and how you’ll be making others…it’s time to take action! I hope you found these tips helpful when conducting your own cosplay research. Do you have any research tips? I’d love to hear them!
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