Weathering your cosplay

Or how to give more life to your costume

Have you ever finished a costume and said to yourself, “I don’t know what it is. But, it seems there's something missing…”. You know, when you feel like your outfit doesn't have as much life as you would like? Maybe the answer is to do a patina. Or add some weathering.
“What? Patina, weathering? What are you talking about?»
Patina, or weathering, is the alteration of an object under the effect of time. It can happen naturally or artificially. In other words...

Weathering a piece of clothing or a prop is when you wear it out or get it dirty prematurely to make it look too new.

It gives life to it. That way, your costume screams less "I'm straight from the factory (in your case – and mine – from the workshop) and I'm still fresh and innocent". If the hat is Indiana Jones was top clean and without any scratches, it would lack authenticity, right? Well, it's the same for your hat.
Personally, I don't add patina to ALL the costumes I make. In some cases, we want it to stay nice and clean. It's the case for Sailor Moon. it's ok that she stays spotless, right?

Sailor Moon

But, some costumes really need a good smudging to get them looking accurate. This is the case for the cosplay of Hagrid.


And in the case of some costumes, that doesn't necessarily mean getting them dirty or aging them...

Yes. Ok. That's supposed to be the definition. But ultimately, it used to bring life to your outfit. And to bring out shapes and details.

Sometimes it can simply be a question of adding lights and shadows. Like for Mini Groot.



It doesn't matter if you really want to age your costume thoroughly, or just want to add a bit more texture in certain corners... adding some color is a must.

A good rule of thumb is: darker in the cavity, and lighter on the surface. Simple as that. Because crease collect dirt. And the corners that stick out wear out faster.

On a prop, it's usually quite easy to imagine (the reliefs are obvious to see). But, on a garment, it can sometimes seem more complex. But basically, it's not that complicated... On a garment, the cavity would crease in the fabric. But also, below the arms, under the breasts, behind the knees. Do you see the idea? Think about where you sweat the most, that's where a piece of clothing gets the most dirty.

And then, the lighter ends, where friction makes the material pale, it's your knees, your elbows, etc. But also the edge of a collar or cuffs...

patine - couleur


I mainly use acrylic paint*. It's a cheap paint, which mixes well and dilutes very easily with water.

Depending on the material you are working on, there are different techniques to try.

You can dilute the paint so that it slips more easily into the cracks, or that it penetrates your fabric well.

Or you can work with an almost dry brush and sweep over the raised areas.

Remember…always test. Try different types of brushes, sponges, cloths to wipe. Experiment with different ways to apply the paint: sweeping, patting, rubbing harder or lightly touching your surface. Try different colors.

There isn't really a magic recipe. Have fun.

patine - couleur

The dye

Particularly interesting on fabrics, dyeing makes it possible to give more subtle nuances than painting. The downside of dyeing is that it is rather messy. Make sure you cover your workspace really well.

You can apply the dye with a sponge or a brush. You can even put it in a spray bottle to spray it on your fabric.

But the important thing to remember is to dilute it and work in layers. Better to come back several times than to put too much at once, right?

patine - couleur


If you want to go further in your patina, add texture and physically damage your material, it's a great way to give your character even more... character.

Earlier, I talked about wearing the fabric (on the knees, elbows), it can be done with paint, but you can go further by literally wearing out your material.

Also think about the usefulness of the garment, the prop, or even the piece of armor.

A shield probably stopped a few hits. While old pants may have holes in the knees...

patine - texture

Hand tools

Scissors, cheese grater, hammer, file, sandpaper… all tools are good to damage your material. It always depends on what effect you want to give.

Just a small tip though, please don't just snip your fabric a few times if you want to give a ripped effect. It'll look kinda sad… work it with a grater or coarse sandpaper to refine the job a bit. You'll see, it's a bit long, but it's worth it.

Another super important detail, set up on a surface that you can damage (like an old wooden board). You really don't want to grate your kitchen table, right?

patine - texture

The sandblaster

If you're a bit lazy and/or in a hurry, you can definitely use a sandblaster. I particularly like my ribbon sandblaster*. It'll get through fabric like butter!

Just be careful not to go straight through.

patine - texture

How do I decide if my costume needs weathering?

As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, not ALL costumes absolutely need to be weathered. So how do you make your decision?

The drawn characters


I have noticed that manga, anime and cartoonish characters in general need less patina to get the look I want. This is mainly due to the fact that a cartoon often has a more simple look.

Asterix for exemple, no matter how much he rolls around in mud, his outfit remains strangely impeccable. Always

So if your outfit is super clean, it can be okay. It might match your character's style.

Personally, I still like to add some textures (you know me, I like textures). But I will not do it by dirtying the costume, but rather in the choice of fabrics, in the work with layers, etc.

Live action characters


Movie or TV characters live action are usually going to need a little more work. Quite simply, because the original is rarely clean.

A good trick is to think about the character in question, and its background. This will give you some ideas for the patina.

If I go back to the hat of Indiana Jones, the dude has a very particular attachment to his hat. He has always worn it. The hat wasn't even new when he got it. So quite a bit of wear and tear, right?

With the same idea, for the costume of Spartacus (from the series Spartacus – Blood and Sand) I was making a gladiator outfit. A gladiator's outfit is usually a mix of pieces salvaged from lots of places (and former fighters)... There's nothing new there. In addition, the odds that a gladiator quietly cleans his outfit between 2 matches (do we call that matches?) are pretty much 0%. So it was full on patina on this project.

On the other hand, if you make a dress for Amidala, you won't get her dress so dirty. We can assume that she has access to new materials and that there is a whole team for the maintenance of her wardrobe.

3D characters

Jason Savini

Video game characters, often in 3D, fall somewhat between the two categories. Here, it'll depend on the type of game, the theme, the atmosphere...

The Inklings of Splatoon, generally have a nice clean outfit… even if the concept of the game is to butter yourself with paint as much as possible. We are closer to the cartoon look.

In a completely different style, the character of Jason, of Friday the 13th – the game, would definitely lack authenticity if it was all clean. I think we can agree on that.

You're the boss!

Afterwards, you make the costume. You are going to wear it. So… you're the boss.

Do what you want! Try stuff. Test some technics. Above all, have fun.

Talk again soon.
In the meantime... Keep on crafting!



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