How to Start Making Cosplay Props – with Wayne’s Workshop
Lose yourself in the all-encompassing world of cosplay with this clear and comprehensive guide to making your own cosplay props and outfits. Each cosplay character has his or her own unique charm – and look. Do you want to recreate a Japanese anime character’s outfit or bring to life your favourite superhero’s body armour? Master cosplayer and prop maker Wayne, of Wayne’s Workshop, will show you all the tricks of his trade, from picking the right materials and tools to finding templates and applying a first-rate finish. His top-notch tutorial is full of cosplay tips for beginners to help you get going.
Pick the best cosplay prop making materials
An awesome cosplay costume begins with the right raw materials. Luckily, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel – just follow Wayne’s advice and try out these top three materials:
- EVA foam – this pliable, easy to work with foam has tremendous transforming qualities while remaining flexible when worn
- Thermoplastics – thermoplastics, especially Worbla, are flexible when warmed up with a heat gun, then harden out to form a firm, shield-like shell
- PLA – this biodegradable plastic can be used for 3D printing all sorts of cosplay props, from lightsabers to elf horns, helmets and even whole suits
Choose your cosplay tools
Kit out your toolbox with the most useful cosplay creation tools out there:
- Scalpel craft knife – ideal for cutting EVA foam. The sharper the knife, the cleaner the cut, saving you time on sanding later
- Dremel Multi-Tool – for shaping, carving, engraving and bevelling foam. A cordless tool or flexible shaft increases flexibility. Wayne prefers Dremel’s powerful 8220 model
- Heat gun – blasting foam and thermoplastics with heat makes them soft, pliable and easy to shape with your hands
- 3D printer – 3D printing is another exciting way to create cosplay props. You can design your own using 3D software, or download an .stl or .obj file online
Know which glue to go for
If you’re a cosplayer, you’re bound to use a lot of glue. Cosplay props and costumes are usually built up out of different parts and layers that are stuck together using an adhesive. The best glue options for making solid cosplay pieces are:
- Contact glue – this strong glue is the best adhesive for EVA foam, (faux) leather and other flexible materials. Apply a thin layer to both contact surfaces, leave to dry for a bit, then press together firmly and leave for a few minutes
- Hot glue gun – perfect for strengthening the inside seams after using contact glue, or repairing a costume or prop after using it
Know which accessory to use
Once you’ve glued your cosplay design together, it’s time to give it some dazzling details using your Multi-Tool. There’s a whole array of accessories to choose from. Shape it into submission using a coarse grit Sanding Band (60 grit) for rough shaping, a finer grit (120) to smooth edges and a Grinding Stone for a perfect finish. Or engrave lifelike features, like creases or patterns, into the surface of thermoplastics or leather with the Engraving Cutter (107). Get your accessory right and you can make your cosplay props stand out from the crowd.
Test your techniques
No matter how many YouTube videos of cosplay masters you’ve seen, successfully applying a new technique requires practice. So, before you touch tool to cosplay prop, have a try-out session first. Many cosplayers keep a box of scrap materials – EVA foam offcuts, leftover bits of thermoplastic or pieces of (faux) leather – especially for this purpose. Just test your new skill on a scrap piece, and keep at it until you get it right. After that it’s time to cut, carve or engrave your actual piece. By the way, did you know scrap bits of EVA foam are great for spreading out contact glue too?
Move with the tool – not against it
If you’re building a cosplay costume or prop out of EVA foam – perhaps a piece of foam armour, a cosplay helmet or a foam weapon – chances are you’ll be wanting to smooth some edges and clean up some lines with your Dremel. Before you start, here’s a simple yet significant step to take. Turn on the tool to check which way the accessory is spinning. (You will find an arrow on your Dremel to help you with this.) This is the direction in which you want to move the tool along the EVA foam. If you move it in the opposite direction, you may end up removing more material than you’d like or roughening up the foam.
Start on a low RPM setting, then turn it up
Every Dremel Multi-Tool has a variable speed setting, giving you full control over your actions as well as precision skills to get the details right. If you’re a cosplay beginner, the speed setting is your best friend: always start on the lowest RPM. Take the time to get to know your tool and cosplay making material before you turn up the RPM and get in there. This way you won’t remove too much EVA foam or damage your cosplay outfit. You’ll find out that some jobs are best done on a high speed, like polishing away excess glue – but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so always start slow.
Clean up your 3D printed cosplay piece
After 3D printing a PLA filament cosplay prop, you’ll want to smooth the layer lines that are still visible and/or prepare the prop for painting. Sanding is the most common way to clean up your 3D printed piece. Carefully rub the cosplay prop by hand with sandpaper, moving in a circular motion, until you reach the desired smoothness. Use different grits of sandpaper, moving from rough (120) to smooth (400), and finish with a spot of wet sanding to get blemish-free results. Now your cosplay piece is ready to be painted.
Use existing cosplay templates
Wondering how to make a cosplay costume out of foam or how to 3D print a robotic hand? Don’t worry, you can take advantage of the expertise of cosmakers – cosplayers who design and sell costume and prop templates. There’s an incredible amount of patterns out there already, from Japanese anime characters to movie heroes – and villains! Some can even be downloaded for free. Just do a Google search for cosplay templates, check out Etsy or let yourself be inspired by Facebook groups and online forums. You’ll also find 3D files on Wayne’s website, waynesworkshopcosplay.com.
Paint your cosplay piece
Paint will transform your homemade cosplay piece from plastic to fantastic – it’ll give armour a metallic look, make props look worn and add highlights or shadows. As a first step, prime EVA foam objects with a few layers of spray-on rubber; do this in a well-ventilated room and wear an organic vapour mask. Then paint it – not with regular automotive spray paint (it’ll crack on the flexible foam), but by airbrushing it instead. This works great on all materials and there are many colours to choose from. 3D prints can be painted right after sanding – it’s fine to use a regular spray paint.