Cosplay Must-Haves According to Pros Cowbutt Crunchies, SoloRoboto, & Amanda Haasby Kalai Chik,
From simple clothing to detailed and decadent costumes, cosplay can be a daunting affair. In the past decade, the increasing accessibility of technologies such as 3D printing have opened new doors for the cosplay toolkit. Tips, tricks, and materials that were once difficult to find are now a booming international business with large communities enabling and empowering cosplayers.
However, the lack of conventions and in-person gatherings have left many of us with time to spare and a creative itch to scratch. Popular cosplayers and artists such as Regan Cerato of Cowbutt Crunchies, Steven Meissner of SoloRoboto Industries, and Amanda Haas shared heir insights on how technology has advanced cosplay, what is essential to a cosplay toolkit, and how to break down costume designs.
Surprisingly, cosplay doesn't have to be as expensive as it may seem. For those on a budget, Steven Meissner says the means of creation, particularly 3D printing, are now much more affordable. “Odds are good that if you're reading this and don't have a 3D printer, you know somebody who does – and they'll happily print some stuff for you.” LEDs can now be “bought at the dollar store, and the computer-controlled, Bluetooth enabled, wi-fi accessible circuit boards for $15.”
As veterans in the cosplay space, all three artists have seen the tides change from the 2000s to now. Meissner spoke about his experience making his first two costumes, where all he could find were “a handful of posts on The Dented Helmet, and two threads on Cosplay.com about this crazy material called Wonderflex.” Now YouTube tutorials and eBooks have expanded the ability to scope out a cosplay project.
Regan Cerato, photo by Amiephotos
Amanda Haas identified business recognition of cosplay as “a legit community to market to” as the biggest change in recent years. New techniques involving “3D printing, LED work, and learning opportunities to understand harder skills like sculpting, molding, and casting” have also changed the game.
Of course, taking on any new hobby requires an essential toolkit to be able to start crafting. Regan Cerato told ANN that some of her favorite tools are the most convenient ones. “A clear ruler, tube turners, a silicone mat for thermoplastics and resin casting, a heat gun, and wonder clips are some of my favorite tools that I use every day! Other favorites that I have are Arda Wig's color sampler, a dress form, and a Cricut or similar cutting machine.”
Amanda Haas said if she were to start all over and return to the beginning of her career, she would focus on “foam-smithing tools...like heat guns and hot knives,” as well as “the biggest jug of contact cement.”
Steven Meissner advised on staying simple; only adding tools as you need them or until there's a reason to upgrade. “A cheap rotary tool is basically required. But I'd leave the power sander for much later, when I had big projects to use it on (larger armor pieces, for example).” Because he works mainly on props, he also recommends sanding files, a good set of diamond-coated nail files, and “at least one set of 'riffler files'” — it will save you “hundreds of hours” like it did for him in his first few years. In addition, cutting tools like “X-Acto knives with big rubber handles” in a color you can easily see them in — his are hot pink — will come in handy.
Lastly, the experts all weighed in on how they would break down a costume before getting started. They all agreed on focusing specifically on individual pieces and their functions first, then how they will stay on your body, and finally the order those pieces need to be made in. “Before beginning any work, I always suggest looking at each individual piece of the cosplay in isolation,” explained Cerato. “How does it move and flow? What material is it made of? Remember that you don't need to be limited to a single material for your entire outfit – it may be easier to use different ones for different parts.”
“One of my favorite cosplays I've created is Seraphim, which involved a lot of (literally) moving parts,” said Cerato. “I broke this cosplay down into several large components to tackle separately: the mechanical wings, the Worbla armor, the fabric hoop skirt, the bodice, and the electronic staff.” Because each piece required their specific techniques and materials, they could be worked on independently from one another.
Haas suggested working on the hardest piece first as it “gives you more time to work on it instead of rushing towards the end.” She highlighted functionality as crucial to cosplay since the pieces will be worn by someone. During a full day at a convention, it isn't realistic to walk around in spiked heels. Thus, she modified her Mortal Kombat 11 Kitana cosplay to have wedged boots.
Meissner explained how he would begin building one of the top cosplays on his bucket list: the Batman Beyond suit. “Most costumes have several distinct parts; in this case: the cowl, the armor, and the wings. I'd approach the design process...starting with the cowl since it's the smallest piece.” Then comes specific factors, such as “the flexibility of the mouth movement, and sculpting the upper cowl” to ensure both parts match in texture.
Again, with form comes functionality. “Moving onto the armor, people often think rigid, right? Movement is key for this costume specifically and since Batman doesn't really look armored in the show.” He suggests looking at fanart for inspiration. In this case, he turns to ones that showcase a sleek, mechanized look.
With all this expert advice in mind, now's the time to get started on your next cosplay project! Readers looking for more information and advice from pros can check out Humble Bundle's "Return of The Cosplay" Book Bundle. It is available for purchase until July 22.
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