“How do you level up your cosplay?”
When you see all those amazing and beautiful cosplayers on social media, you might be asking yourself, “How can I be as good as them?” And that’s totally understandable and desirable. While it definitely takes practice to look as fabulous as a cosplayer, there are a few things you can do level up your cosplay, so to say. That’s what this article is all about! Because let’s face it; not everyone look flawless or as good as the professionals on day 1. Even the pros like Kamui Cosplay had to start somewhere!
If you just want to cosplay for fun, then this post is not for you. And if you don’t care about looking top-notch in cosplay, that’s completely fine. Everyone has their own way of cosplaying. 🙂
But if you want to know how to make your cosplays look even more awesome and better, then this post is definitely for you. Here I will give 9 methods on how to level up your cosplay game.
Let’s get started!
1. Using good materials for your cosplay
Just like regular clothing, the type of material can really make your cosplay look really good or really bad. Put it simply, using higher quality materials for your costume will make it looks so much better. For example, Worbla is perfect for armored costumes because it’s sturdy and looks really good when finished!
While you can use any materials to make a costume, some materials are better than others. For instance, polyester doesn’t look good on costumes; it ends up looking awkwardly shiny and tacky. And while cardboard is a budget-friendly material, it’s hard to pull off making it look good.
Also, the biggest reason why a cosplay can turn out bad is because of the use of cheap materials.
Some of these materials include:
• Cardboard that’s not well-hidden
• Duct tape
• Plastic tape
• Garbage bag
Now I’m not saying that you can’t use these materials. In a pinch, they’re really good materials to save you money. But either you want to conceal these materials as much as you want, or only use them sparingly. Because either they are not too sturdy for costumes, or they just do not look aesthetically pleasing at all. Like who wants to see a costume bound together by a bunch of duct tape? Cardboard isn’t really good for looking like powerful armor. And garbage bags… let’s not get started there.
Here are some good cosplay materials to use:
- Spandex: very flexible, resistant to liquids such as water and it dries easily
- EVA Foam: Almost as good as Worbla for armor but much more affordable and certainly better than cardboard!
- Cotton: Cotton is just good for everything
I like this article about which materials are great for cosplay:
On the other hand, here are some not-so-great materials for cosplay:
•Satin – in general, satin is great for regular clothing. But it tends to look bad on cosplays. And it’s very difficult to use on cosplay. So try to stay away from using satin on your costumes if possible.
•Polyester – I know that polyester is great for keeping you warm in the winter! But it doesn’t look too good on cosplays because it’s so shiny and kind of bland-looking. That’s the kind of stuff that Halloween stores tend to use. So avoid polyester!
•Tablecloth – works great for keeping your dinner table clean. Not so good for looking great in cosplay!
So make sure you use the right materials for your cosplay!
2. Cosplay Makeup
For many cosplayers, makeup is integral to their overall look.
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, complement the lighting during photoshoots, 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.
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.
3. Finding the right cosplay photographer
Aside from being in-person, the only way for someone to see your cosplay is through photos, so you want to make sure you get the right photographers!
Notice how I said the right photographer and not necessarily the best photographer. I think it’s important to find a photographer who fits your style and makes you feel good and comfortable during a photoshoot. While doing your part in making your cosplay awesome is important, having a good photographer will make a huge difference on how to level up your cosplay.
So my suggestion is doing photoshoots with various photographers and finding one that fits the style you like and makes you look best. Choosing the right photographer for you is an easy way to how to level up your cosplay. That photographer doesn’t even need to be an expert; it could be a newbie photographer who knows how to get the best photos from you!
Here are some quick tips on improving your cosplay photoshoot:
- If possible, put on your costume at home and see how you look in the mirror. If you see something is off, now is the perfect time fix it up.
- Grooming (Be sure to do stuff like shave and cut your nails the day before so you’ll look as good/clean the next day)
- Any considerable of wig styling should be done now, so you don’t waste time doing so at the photoshoot.
- If you haven’t worn your cosplay for a while, be sure to iron it and clean it so it looks fresh and brand new.
- Download reference photos and practice posing – You don’t want to head into a photoshoot and hope you can “wing it.” Think of at least 3 different poses you can do for your photographer. I personally believe less than 5% of all the photos taking during a photoshoot will be excellent quality (e.g. if 100 photos are taken, fewer than 5 will be 10/10, or even 9/10). Therefore, doing different poses will increase your odds of landing that “perfect” photo!
If you want a complete guide on how to navigate a photoshoot as a cosplayer, check out this guide.
4. 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!
I’ve debated in the past about whether cosplay needs to be accurate or not. Doing an original cosplay is one thing and that’s totally fine and awesome. But if you were trying to make your costume look as accurate to the character and you’re way off target, then it’s considered a bad cosplay.
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!
5. Making sure the cosplay is the right size for YOU
This is another quick and easy way on how to level up your cosplay.
Again, just like with regular clothing and fashion, how the clothing fits on you is very important. If the costume is too big or too small, it’s not going to look good on you. On top of that, almost all cosplay stores will NOT accept a refund or exchange if you order the wrong size. So make sure you get the right size by measuring yourself and recording your body statistics!
As mentioned before, if you’re going to buy a costume, I would purchase one from a reputable store. While eBay and Taobao can save you tons of money, you can also end up with a wig or costume that’s really bad quality. Go with the websites I listed here, and you’re more likely to end up with an awesome costume!
6. Learning from the best
One of the best ways on how to level up your cosplay; simply observe how the professionals and popular cosplayers do it. Just like with any hobby or sport, if you want to be better, you have to learn from others that are currently better than you at it. So the next time you’re scrolling through social media or watching cosplay music videos, slow down and observe your favorite cosplayers:
- How are they posing? Are they leaning a certain way to accentuate their best features?
- Look at their costume. What makes it stand out and make it look nice? (e.g. embroidery, prop, something original they added)
- Watch cosplay tutorials and see how they sewed or crafted their cosplay
7. Your cosplay wig is important
The cosplay wig is definitely one of the most important items of your cosplay. Essentially, it could make or break your overall presentation. If a wig isn’t properly styled or fitted, it’ll drag down your cosplay. There are a lot of ways to make your wigs look amazing; click here to check out my guide if you want to learn all the tricks.
But the two easiest things you can with your wigs to improve your cosplay. The first is to make sure all your real hair is hidden inside the wig. If you have your real hair showing with a wig on, it makes your cosplay look less professional. So use that wig cap to hold that hair inside.
The second is to simply have some sort of styling done on the wig. Even if your character has a plain and flat hairstyle, you don’t want your wig to look like it came out of the product bag. Add some hairspray and gel to give a better look!
8. Giving yourself time to prepare
What?! Time management can really level up your cosplay?
By giving yourself more time to prepare your cosplay, whether that’s making the costume or putting it on during a con, you’ll definitely have a better chance of looking better.
Having plenty of time to perfectly put on your costume, wig and makeup, you’ll be looking real good.
On the flip side; one time I had to rush getting my cosplay on because we had an issue finding the photographer. Because I didn’t have time to prepare, oh boy it showed in the photos!
So even small things like this can make a HUGE difference with how your cosplay looks.
9. Adding props and accessories to your cosplay
In terms of how to level up your cosplay game; simply adding more accessories and props will make you look better!
For example, when I first obtained my Marth cosplay, it was decent on its own. But when I commissioned his legendary sword and added it with me to conventions, it made my cosplay stand out a lot more!
So if your character carries a weapon or a cool-looking accessory, you should consider making that on top of your cosplay. It’ll definitely improve your look!
Bonus: Just have fun with it!
You can’t spell cosplay without play!
At the end of the day, cosplay is meant to be fun. So while all these things on how to level up your cosplay are great, you definitely got to enjoy doing this too.
If you’re looking nervous and tense in your cosplay, it’ll definitely show in the photos.
I remember watching a video of a (formerly) famous cosplayer saying the moment she posed for a photo and felt exhausted, that was the day she decided to stop cosplaying professionally. Without the enjoyment, then it’s all pointless. So don’t forget that we cosplay to have fun.
To summarize, here are the 9 ways on how to level up your cosplay:
- Using good materials for your cosplay
- Cosplay Makeup
- Finding the right cosplay photographer
- Attention to detail
- Making sure the cosplay is the right size for YOU
- Learning from the best
- Your cosplay wig is important
- Giving yourself time to prepare
- Adding props and accessories to your cosplay
- Bonus: Just have fun with it!
And there you have it; 9 methods on how to level up your cosplay!
Are you always looking up to your game when it comes to cosplay? Let me know 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!