How do I learn to cosplay?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a supermodel or be an expert at sewing in order to cosplay. There are many resources available to not only help you get started with cosplaying and looking good on camera, but many businesses and services that can make the costume entirely for you if you wanted. Put simply, anyone can learn how to cosplay, as long as you follow the right steps.
In this article, I will answer the question “How do I learn to cosplay?” I’ll give you a step-by-step tutorial on how you can get started with this hobby, even if you have no experience with cosplay or any sewing skills. By the end of this post, you’ll have everything you need to get started with cosplay.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Everyone starts somewhere, so don’t worry
You might be intimidated when you see all those beautiful cosplayers, whether at a convention or on social media. But don’t worry, we all start somewhere. Looking good in cosplay photos does take some practice to get good at. But with a few techniques and knowledge at your disposal, you’ll be looking marvelous in no time. Some of these things include: practicing your poses based on your character, knowing which angles flatter you the most, using your hands to accentuate, using the right makeup for certain locations and surprisingly…just wearing a good cosplay.
What’s your budget?
Really?! The first priority of cosplay planning has nothing to do with the costume itself? Yes!
I feel that your budget by far will determine which character you will cosplay. We want to be realistic with the cosplays you can afford to do at the moment.
For example, while it’s great you want to do a Halo/Master Chief cosplay with full armor and LED lights, truth be told, that would cost a LOT of money to do. So if you’re a broke cosplayer, you probably don’t want to do an expensive cosplay like that if you don’t have the budget for it.
How much does a cosplay generally cost? I wrote an entire article about it; you can click here to read it. But to sum it up, there are 3 levels of cosplay prices:
- Low cost = under $100
- Mid-level cost = $100-$300
- High level cost = Over $300
So before you decide on a character, first determine how much money you have to spend on a costume. Obviously the more money you have, the more elaborate characters you can do. But no worries if you can’t; there are PLENTY of other characters that are budget-friendly and still look great, including closet cosplays.
Okay, with that out of the way…now we can…
Pick a character to cosplay
There are so many characters that you could cosplay… how to cosplay for beginners and how to choose?
Here are a few ideas on how to choose your first cosplay:
Which characters do you like? Are you into Avatar? Maybe you could cosplay as Katara or Korra! Are you into video games? Then you could do Tifa from Final Fantasy VII! Or do you love the comic book characters? Mary Jane Watson is a good first cosplay option.
Who do you most resemble? This is another way to figure out which character you should cosplay. Going for a character who looks a lot like you, not only makes things easier, but in terms of cosplay accuracy, it’s great as well. However, don’t feel like you need to only cosplay characters who look like you. After all, cosplaying is about fantasy. And part of that fantasy is about being able to do characters who are nothing like you!
Which characters are popular at the moment? Both beginner and experienced cosplayers choose characters who are popular. And why not? Not only will people at conventions have a better chance of recognizing you, but popular characters are great for social media, as those cosplays will get more attention. Yes, there is a stigma attached to doing popular characters; some see it as fame or clout chasing and not truly dressing up for the love of the fandom. But it’s really up to you, so don’t worry about it!
Some popular choices:
Start with the easiest one to cosplay
There’s no need to go all-out with cosplay armor or anything extremely difficult for the first time to cosplay. Start with something easy, such as a closet or casual cosplay.
For example, in the previous section I asked you to find some of your favorite characters in order to decide who to cosplay. Let’s say you chose Misty from Pokemon, La Signora from Genshin Impact and Hilda from Fire Emblem. I would say to do Misty first, as she is far easier to cosplay than the other two. You want to start with the easiest ones first.
There’s no need to go all out and have to do the fanciest cosplay on your first try.
People don’t talk about this much, but it’s not fair to compare yourself and expect to compete/cosplay/attend conventions as frequently as a professional cosplayer. Why?
Because unlike some people who learned how to cosplay with no money, for professional cosplayers, it’s their job – not only do they spend hours upon hours making costumes like non-professionals do, but they’re also constantly posting on social media, marketing their content, selling prints, consistently doing photoshoots and looking damn near perfect in every photo. Since it’s their job they’re pouring more hours than non-professionals!
It’s like trying a new hobby or sport for the first time. Yes, you won’t be perfect on your first try, but that’s okay. While it’s totally cool to be inspired by professional cosplayers, you don’t need to be as good as the professionals, especially when you’re just starting out. The most important thing is that you’re having fun and enjoying yourself when cosplaying.
Buy or make?
It’s quite the common misconception that you need to make your own costume in order to cosplays, and that’s not true. Using myself for example, I don’t make my costumes as well. Sewing is a very difficult skill to learn, and if you don’t want to learn how to do It, then that’s totally fine.
There are many cosplayers (including the professional ones) that don’t make their cosplays; they buy them! There are so many reasons why it’s smart and effective to buy your own cosplay and sew one yourself. So you don’t have to worry about being a fraud or fake if you can’t make your own cosplays. Buying cosplays is totally normal! The only situation where you can’t buy a cosplay is for a masquerade. In that scenario, all costumes must be made by yourself.
With that said, the pride and joy of cosplaying is making a costume with your own hands and wearing it for a photoshoot or to a convention. There is no prouder feeling!
Where to wear your cosplay
In terms of where to wear your cosplay, there are main places. Let’s go through them:
- At an Anime or comic convention. This is by far the best place to wear your cosplay! Not only do you get to meet a bunch of other cosplayers at a convention, but you get to share your own cosplay with others. It’s why cosplayers flock to conventions all the time, for the fun and social opportunities. The only real downside is you got to make sure your cosplay is done or ready to go before the convention date! But if you do need to figure out how to get your costume finished in a hurry, click here to read my con crunch guide.
- Your own home. There are many cosplayers who make a following by just posting a bunch of cosplay photos from home! It’s great because you have your own schedule and you can also setup your home to take great photos. Taking pictures at home can also enable you to do more casual cosplays. If you want to learn more about how to cosplay at home, click here to read my article about that.
- During a photoshoot. And of course, you can wear your cosplay at a photoshoot you can setup with a photographer. Here, you can get the best quality photos with a photographer who know what they’re doing. But you can also do your part in getting the best photos as well. Click here if you want to read my cosplayer photoshoot guide.
How to improve your cosplays and look better
When you first learn how to cosplay, you don’t need to worry too much about looking perfect. After all, having fun is by far more important. But at a certain point, improving your cosplays will be fun for you in a way to challenge yourself. Once you get to that point, here are a couple of ways to improve your cosplay look:
- Attention to detail. Put simply, if you try a little harder and do a few simple and easy things to look far more accurate, not only will your costume NOT be a bad cosplay, it’ll be an awesome one instead! The best taste test I would say is look in the mirror with your costumer on and ask, “Would I ask for a photo of my costume if I saw myself at a convention?” If the answer is yes, then you’re good to go!
Sure, you can technically cosplay L from Death Note by wearing by having black hair, a white t-shirt and light blue jeans, but it doesn’t mean it’ll be good. If you do a few simple things to spice up your L cosplay such as: wearing the eyeliner to accentuate his eyebrows, styling and gelling your hair to look like his, and carrying around a lollipop, you’ll look MUCH better!
- Cosplay makeup. Cosplay makeup brings the finishing touches to your look, and your character to life. Just like prop making, sewing, or photo editing; cosplay makeup is an important part of the process that comes with practice and experimenting. Remember to give yourself plenty of time, use reference photos, and plan ahead! Whether you’re going to a con or self-shooting in your backyard, your cosplay makeup skills can be an important part of your costume.
Having cosplay makeup will make your overall presentation look so much better in photos and in person! It can do things such as hide blemishes, accentuate your jawline (a good thing) and of course make you look pretty! I have an entire guide on how to do cosplay makeup from start to finish. But if you’re not comfortable wearing makeup, then don’t worry about this step.
How to budget for more cosplays
So if you were to always buy new cosplays all the time, it would get expensive real fast! So instead of doing that, here are a few ways to get yourself some new cosplays without breaking the bank:
- Buy used cosplays from buy/sell/trade groups. The first and foremost advice for cosplay on a budget – you don’t have to buy or commission a brand new cosplay all the time; save money by purchasing cosplays from cosplayers who are selling theirs! Join a local Facebook sales group and buy second-hand cosplays from another cosplayer.
In most major cities, there are Buy/Sell/Trade (BST) groups on Facebook for this purpose. Either cosplayers are looking to sell their old costumes to make money for a new one, or they’re looking to buy used cosplays for cheap. These are usually cheaper than buying it new and you can resell them if your cosplays are collecting dust in the closet!
- Sell your old cosplays. Sell your old cosplays after you’ve finished shooting with them or don’t plan on wearing them. Or trade them between friends. Unless you enjoy collecting cosplay (or are just a pathological hoarder), why not give older cosplays new homes and let someone else get some more wear out of them? I have an entire guide on selling used cosplays if you want to learn how to do this!
- Your closet has valuable materials! Go through your closet one day; you’ll be surprised to see how much of your clothing can be used for a new cosplay! That leotard that’s been sitting in your clothing basket for months could be used for a magical girl cosplay.
That white dress shirt would work for a lot of fancy cosplays!
So what you do is go through your closet one day; you’ll be surprised to see how much of your clothing can be used for a new cosplay! That leotard that’s been sitting in your clothing basket for months could be used for a magical girl cosplay. That white dress shirt would work for a lot of fancy cosplays. If you want some closet cosplay ideas, click here to check out my article about it.
And there you have it! I hope I have answered your question, “How do I learn to cosplay?”
If you have any more inquiries or suggestions, leave them in the comments below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!