Whether you're new to cosplay or you're a long time cosplayer, I'm pretty sure there are materials you love, and others you know less about. And there are materials you've even never tried, and that maybe intrigue you. Here's a list of 10 cosplay materials that I think are definitely worth checking out.
The awesome thing about cosplay (and costume making, a general) is the opportunity you have to work with all kinds of materials.
Over the years, I've tried a lot of things. Some that I adored and adopted for lots of projects. Others, which I don't use a lot (for all kinds of reasons), but are definitely worth trying. At least once.
Here is a list of 10 cosplay materials that I think are definitely worth checking out.
If you build props, you probably already know this is a must have. A flexible, light, inexpensive and super versatile material. I will not expand on the subject so much, if you don't know that mateial, go read my article EVA foam 101, to learn how to work with it.
What I really like about EVA foam is that it's not just about props. I use it a lot in costumes too. Especially the thin EVA foam, like 2mm. It holds its shape more than fabric, but it retains a suppleness that rigid stabilizers don't.
Plus, you can easily sew through. So you can cover pieces of foam with fabric, sew through it and everything. There are beautiful textures you can make this way.
A must try if you are building an armor, but also to create textures in layers.
I love worbla. If you don't know that one, it's a thermoformable material (i.e. you can heat it up and shape it). It comes in large, stiff sheets that you can cut with scissors (good ones) and shape with a heatgun. In addition, it sticks (and even merges) on itself. No need for adhesive to join worbla with worbla.
I mainly use this material to solidify elements.
But what I love the most is the fact that you can use the material all the way to the end. So I keep all my scraps because I can heat them, put them together, and then work the whole thing like a kind of stiff plasticine. It's awesome for adding details or making small (and solid) pieces.
My biggest drawback (except for the fact that it's pretty expensive) is that, as it forms at a temperature not that high, it's a material that does not support long sun exposures and intense summer temperatures. That doesn't mean your accessories will liquefy in the sun ... But if you forget a part in your car in the middle of summer, it will kinda sag and you will probably have to say goodbye to it.
A must try for the pleasure of working with a thermoformable material and to make details with the scraps.
If you love mascot or dream of cosplaying a Pokémon, you must try upholstery foam. I first used this in 2019 for the Yoshi cosplay that I made… And I fell in love. First of all, because it works in a way that is quite different from everything else. But also because it always does super funny stuff. What do you want, it puts me in a good mood to make a big oversized head.
Really, it's funny. But it's also really impressive. Because you can make huge shapes, that stays super light.
You can work it a bit like EVA foam, by assembling pieces that will create an “empty” volume. But you can also stack layers to sculpt the shape you want. Which will create a "full" volume.
In any case, it is generally preferable to cover your piece made out of upholstery foam (unlike EVA foam which can be simply painted). But your texture is super different. It makes big, soft things. Mega soft toys.
A must try to see how happy it'll make you.
Since I'm talking about making big improbable shapes, the window screen is also a must try.
But you have to be careful, you have 2 types of window screen: metal and fiberglass. I strongly recommend the fiberglass one. Much easier to handle, less chance of sticking tiny bits of metal in your hands, no chance of it rusting…
So why am I telling you about window screen? Because it's awseome. Believe me.
Imagine sewing pants, and your fabric is so stiff that your pants stand on their own. Cool, right? Well, your fully rigid fabric is the window screen (because yes, you can easily sew fiberglass window screen by machine).
... Okay, why would you make pants that stand up? I dunno, apparently you have some funny hobbies...
But for real, it's not so much for making pants, but all kinds of structures.
I'll give you a more likely example:
Say I want to make a big turban. If I make a real turban, and I do it really big, it will be very heavy, very hot, and it will require a lot of fabric (to make a lot of turns around the head).
On the other hand, if I make a window screen structure, I can cover it with 8 times less fabric. Less heavy and less hot. Here! You could do the same sort of thing with EVA foam… but it's gonna be so hot. Because EVA foam doesn't breathe…
You can also use it to cheat and make hat bases if you don't have buckram.
A must try to make structures to cover… which breathe.
There are two absolutely awesome things about metallic lycra. It's super stretch. And it's super shiny. It’s a great fabric for making super hero outfits (you know, those nice classic comic book versions). Or mermaid tails. Or whatever you want to give glamour look.
If you're at all comfortable with lycras and other knits, you shouldn't have too much trouble sewing this one. So, don't be afraid and take advantage of the beautiful textures.
But what's also cool about metallic lycra is that you can use it to cover foam. I was telling you about using EVA foam to create layered textures on a costume (like the Superman costume). To cover it up and keep the shape, you need a stretch fabric. And the EVA foam / stretch lycra combo, is just awesome.
Yes, you can use straight lycra. But metallic lycra will give you a texture you won't find elsewhere. Honestly, it's worth testing it.
A must try for the incredible colors and to add shiny in your life.
Nude mesh is an exceptional invention if you need to cheat. And you mainly have 2 ways to cheat.
The first option, with the stiffer version of this fabric : You can use it as a lining... it gives a little girdle effect and keeps everything in its place.
The other option, my favorite, is to keep empty space in place. Ok, say like that, it's not clear. So, let me explain:
Let's say I have a sweater to make, with openings in kinda weird place places. I can simply make the openings. But since the fabric is stretchy, once you put the sweater on, the holes are very likely to get larger, or even warped ... and that's not what we want. On the other hand, if, instead of just making openings, I put nude mesh in the "empty" sections, the shape of my opening will remain impeccable.
It also works for socks that go up to the thighs. In fact, instead of doing socks, I often make leggings where the section that should be bare skin is nude mesh. Two birds with one stone: Your upper thigh is a little more covered (for some of us, it's more comfortable psychologically). And the top of your socks holds well, in the right place, without making a a weird bulge (because, no matter what size you are, socks that go up the thighs are very likely to to do this horrible bulge...).
By the way, it exists in several shades of mesh flesh. Whether you have a "mild cheddar" complexion like me or are semi or very dark, you should be able to find something that's not so bad. Sadly, it's harder to find for exotic skin tones than it is for Caucasians, but it exist. Stretch the fabric over your skin to see the effect. It'll give you an idea of what it will look like. Sometimes it may look off on the rack, but it's not that bat on your skin.
A must try to have a little less the impression that your costume is full of holes.
Personally, I love leather. It's rich in textures, it works in all kinds of ways, it's sturdy but flexible. It can be super thin or super thick. It's so versatile!
And I love the fact that it gets even more beautiful when it gets older.
I use whole skins to make clothes (because I need big pieces), but I also buy a lot of scraps (because I like to upcycle and because it's cheaper).
You have 2 types of leather.
Vegetable tanned leather (not to be confused with vegan leather - which is not real leather) is the one more often used to make accessories. By wetting it, you can stretch it, mark it, transform it. And it hardened as it dries. So you will be able to make rather solid pieces.
Chemically tanned leather is the leather used to make furniture and clothing. It keeps its flexibility and a little more stretch. This leather is used more like fabric.
Both types are awesome and worth discovering. Someday I'm gonna talk to you about leather in more depth. I swear.
A must try for the pleasure of textures... to make accessories, clothes, all kinds of stuff.
Why am I talking about leather AND faux leather? Because, for me, it is not used for quite the same reasons.
Since the faux leather I use is rather thin, I mostly use it as an appliqué. I like the fact that I can use it raw edge (without doing any finishing) and the fact that I can find faux leather as much in natural hues as in a bunch of weird colors, and even with iridescent or metallic effects.
But if you want to make props of them, that also works. Since it's quite thin, it won't give the same look as real leather. A little technique to cheat? Lined your piece with thin EVA foam. It will give your leatherette more body and you'll get a more natural look.
The same goes for the clothes. Except that, instead of using EVA foam, I lined my leatherette with a fabric. That will give more or less body, depending on the thickness of the fabric underneath ... and I find the result to be more interesting than just the leatherette alone.
A must try to make appliques. Or if real leather is not an option for you (for budget or ethical reason).
I'm really not an expert in molding and resin. But it's still something to try. I did a few pieces, but to be honest, since I got a 3D printer, I make less.
Be careful, I'm not saying that 3D printing replaces molding and resin. It really depends on what you're doing. If you want, among other things, to make a piece in 32 copies, molding is definitely a faster option than 3D printing.
There really are a lot of products for making molds. And a bunch of different resins. Personally, I like silicone to make my molds. It's not too complicated to use, and the flexibility of the material makes demoulding quick and easy. As for the resin, I like things that set quite quickly (because I'm not a very patient...).
If you want to know more, I strongly suggest the Sial store (in Laval, Qc - but they sell online too).
That too, I will tell you more about it someday. I swear.
Amust try to make so pieces in many copies.
Cardboard is so underestimated… Really, you can make cool stuff out of it. And not just mock up and patterns. You can make full costumes. oh yes.
Okay, without necessarily getting into a full costume, it's worth testing the cardboard for props. I am in the process of making a helmet of Vah Medoh (from Breath of the Wild), pretty much all in cardboard (and even more, all in stuff from my recycle bin).
It's a material that costs next to nothing (or absolutely nothing if you dig in your recycling bin - like my project Vah Medoh ). It’s easy to work with. And after a few coats of varnish ... it's as weatherproof as a lot of other stuff.
I made some awesome cardboard belt buckles. And I can guarantee you that it doesn't look like cardboard at all.
A must try to rediscover the basics and appreciate simple materials.
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There are a bunch of other materials. Lots of super interesting fabrics to test, plastics, other thermoformable materials… the list goes on. Maybe that means there will be a part 2. Someday.
We'll talk to you soon.
Until then… Keep on crafting!