How to pick a cosplay!

So you finally want to cosplay and put on a costume for the first time? Or you’ve been cosplaying for a while and trying to decide which character to cosplay next? How do cosplayers actually decide who to cosplay next?

Whatever your situation may be, Senpai is here to help!

But before we begin, I want to address the potential elephant in the room…

Can you cosplay whoever you want?

Short answer: Mostly yes with some exceptions!

Long answer: Absolutely. If you see a character you want to cosplay as, you should definitely go for it! There is no rule saying you can’t cosplay a character. While it may seem you can’t do a character because of your real physical appearance, your race, gender, etc…the truth is none of that really matters. Cosplay is about having fun and expressing yourself creatively and artistically. So cosplay whichever character you desire.

With that said HOWEVER, there are some exceptions. You don’t want to cosplay anything considered offensive or hurtful (I don’t think I need to name anything specific). Also, lightening or darkening your skin for cosplay is a no-no as well. Other than that, you are free to cosplay whoever you want.

In this guide, I’ll give you 9 best ways on how to pick a cosplay. These methods will help you firmly decide on the right cosplay character for you.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

1. Pick the characters you genuinely like

I cosplayed Kaeya because I love his character!

When it comes to how to pick a cosplay, the first place you should definitely start is with characters you genuinely like and relate to. Is there a character that you’re in love with? Or is there a video game or Anime that you absolutely enjoy, and could see yourself cosplaying them?

I know for me, I picked Sora from Kingdom Hearts as my first cosplay (more on my first cosplay experience here). Because at the time, I really loved Kingdom Hearts and I thought Sora was a wonderful character to be as. Although my Sora cosplay was terrible, I didn’t care. I had a lot of fun cosplaying as him and others appreciated me as Sora, even if it was bad!

So if this is your first time cosplaying, then I highly recommend cosplaying a character you like. Some ideas for characters you would like:

  • Your favorite Anime, video game or comics
  • A character who has a similar personality to you
  • A character who has the same beliefs and values as you do

Alright, now that you have some characters in mind, here is another factor that comes into play, in terms of picking a character to cosplay…

2. Your budget!

The nice thing about Sports Anime cosplays is they’re budget-friendly!

Let’s continue with a factor that many people overlook, and that would be your bank account! I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you don’t have the money to pay for a cosplay, then unfortunately there’s not much you can do about it (other than save up).

Not to worry though. You don’t need to break your bank account in order to afford cosplay (link). There are many options to do cheaper cosplays, such as closet cosplays or budget-friendly cosplays under $50.

I talk more about this in my article about how much does cosplay cost (click here to see). But in general, you should expect to pay the following for cosplays (in USD):

So if you’re able to cosplay some of your favorite characters within your budget, then you’re good to go. That’s where most cosplayers start.

Are there other methods on how to pick your cosplay? Yes there are!

3. Cosplaying popular characters

Characters like Raiden Shogun are always popular cosplay ideas! Cosplayer: magicpocky. Photo taken by kystix.

One popular way (no pun intended) to pick a character to cosplay is by seeing which characters are red-hot at the moment.

While cosplaying popular characters may seem like clout chasing, there are many good and valid reasons to do so. Popular characters get the most engagement on social media, because it’s the cosplays that people enjoy seeing. On top of that, it’s generally easy to socialize at a convention when you’re cosplaying from a popular series.

So no, your cosplays don’t have necessarily have to be your most passionate character. If Raiden Shogun from Genshin Impact is the popular cosplay at the moment and you want to ride that cosplay hype train, then by all means, go for it!

By the way, if you want to know the most popular cosplay ideas at the moment, click here to see my list.

Alright, moving on…

4. Characters that look like you

They do say Roy Mustang looks like me. 🙂

Not surprisingly, a lot of us want to cosplay characters who look physically similar to us. In my own cosplay group, I get a lot of questions from cosplayers asking which characters look similar to them. It makes sense; people enjoy cosplaying characters that look like them and others appreciate the resemblance.

Using myself for example, I feel like a lot of people give my Roy Mustang cosplay so much love because I look like him!

So if you want to search a character that looks like you, here are some ways to find out:

  • Join a cosplay Facebook group and ask. All you have to do is ask which fictional characters look like you. You’re bound to get some interesting answers. 🙂
  • Search online for characters with the same attributes as you. For example, if you’re tall with brown hair, you can do a Google search such as “tall characters with brown hair.” You’ll get a lot of results and ideas this way! I want to emphasize that you don’t have to cosplay characters that look like you. In fact, the whole point of cosplaying is to role-play a different character, so don’t get too obsessed with finding characters with similar physical attributes as you!

5. Good character designs

It’s totally fine if you just want to cosplay a character because their design is beautiful, just like Ayaka from Genshin Impact! Cosplayer: uchihagao333. Photo and background by 闪光. Assistance from 阿麦.

For example, I know a lot of my friends who cosplay from Genshin Impact, and they haven’t even played the game! You might be wondering why they would cosplay from a game they’ve never even played?

Well, they cosplay Genshin characters because they love the character designs! From the attractive astrologist who wears a big hat and leotard (Mona), to the girl who wear a beautiful kimono (Ayaka), almost every character in Genshin has some amazing clothing design? So who wouldn’t want to dress up like them?

If you see a character that has a beautiful design and you want to cosplay and dress up in that same clothing, then go for it! While it definitely helps if you’ve watched the series or played the game, it’s not a requirement in order to cosplay as them. 🙂

6. Casual cosplays

Diluc (Genshin Impact cosplay)
Casual Diluc! Cosplayer: wizardess_miseria.

If you’re new to cosplaying and rather not fully commit to a complete cosplay, then one option is to do a casual cosplay instead. To clarify, a casual cosplay is not the same as a closet cosplay. While closet cosplays are more budget-friendly, casual cosplays are more about dressing up as a character with minimal effort.

So if there’s a character you’d love to cosplay but either don’t want to or cannot do the full costume, then do a casual cosplay instead.

Some examples:

  • Deku from My Hero Academia. You can wear his signature green wig and wear a regular shirt and pants instead.
  • Sakura from Naruto. Pink wig with a pink dress.
  • Harley Quinn. Just wear regular clothes and wear her signature blonde streaked wig and her jacket.

Keep in mind that casual cosplays aren’t that easy to pull off. If you do it wrong, it can look really tacky and lazy! So I would only pick to do casual cosplays if you really can’t do a complete cosplay, for whatever reason.

Click here to check out my guide on how to do casual cosplays properly.

7. Challenging cosplays

The final product of a beautiful Dorothea cosplay (timeskip version) after months of crafting the costume to full accuracy. Cosplayer: silent_pr1ncess.

I wouldn’t recommend doing a challenging cosplay if it’s your first time cosplaying, especially if you have no prior sewing or crafting skills. But if you’re up for it, you can always find a character who looks difficult to cosplay.

You might be thinking, “Why the heck would I want to push myself?” In fact, there are a LOT of cosplayers who enjoy the challenge of making something elaborate. It does take a lot of work, as well as trial and error to complete something so extravagant. But the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a challenging cosplay project, and being able to show it off to the world at a convention…it’s a wonderful experience!

Here are some examples of potential challenging cosplays to get you excited:

  • Zelda from the Legend of Zelda (i.e. her dress)
  • Gundam Wing armor cosplay
  • Monster Hunter cosplay (think of all the armor and LED lights involved!)

8. Group cosplays

Mahou Dreamers Love Live! Cosplay Group
Mahou Dreamers Love Live! Cosplay Group.

When it comes to picking a cosplay, another thing you’ll want to consider is if you’ll be cosplaying with friends or with family members. While you can technically cosplay different characters from different series, it’s also a lot of fun to cosplay from the same series to complement each other! For example, if you and your friend are into Love Live!, why not one of you cosplay as Nico and the other as Honoka?

Some potential ideas for group cosplays:

  • Love Live!
  • My Hero Academia
  • Disney princesses
  • League of Legends
  • Genshin Impact

For a full list of group cosplay ideas, click here!

9. Whatever is on sale

I bought this Food Wars cosplay when someone offered it on Facebook. Why not? 🙂 Photo by ooc_photography.

If I see a good deal on Facebook or on a cosplay website for a particular cosplay, I will buy and cosplay them. Cosplay is all about experimenting, so why not? There have been so many characters I picked to cosplay, only cause I found a good deal online. I love to cosplay different characters and when there’s an opportunity to do so for cheap, I jump on it.

So if you see a cosplay on sale for like $20 USD and it’s the exact same size as you, go and buy it! You may enjoy cosplaying that character. That’s how I felt when I cosplayed Rei from Free!


To summarize, here 9 things you should know on how to pick a cosplay:

  1. Pick the characters you genuinely like
  2. Your budget!
  3. Cosplaying popular characters
  4. Characters that look like you
  5. Good character designs
  6. Casual cosplays
  7. Challenging cosplays
  8. Group cosplays
  9. Whatever is on sale

And there you have it; a complete guide on how to pick a cosplay! I hope this post has given you a lot of creative juice and ideas on your next cosplay project.

Which cosplays are you planning to do next? Let me know in the comments below!

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