The Bodger’s Guide to Cosplay

The Cosplay Weapons Chest!

This has been with me from the start. Made with foam sheets, cables and love. Painted with Games workshop paint and shimmer nail vanish for that alluring effect.
This has been with me from the start. Made with foam sheets, cables and love. Painted with Games workshop paint and shimmer nail vanish for that alluring effect

I have access to a sewing machine…  I think I used it once, maybe in textiles at school.  My gran may have actually given me one, but that’s not what I use to make a costume.

With Insert Coin 09 just around the corner and cash prizes to be won in Ready Up’s Cosplay Clash Competition, quick and easy costume ideas should be on the agenda and there’s only a few weeks left to come up with ideas, so I am here to help out with easy and fast tips to make video game costumes!  Without a sewing machine!

Yes a couple of stitches might be needed here and there, but glue and persistence is your friend and with my know-how, I will show you how to easily bodge your very own video game cosplay!

The first weapon in your cosplay arsenal: ‘Funky Foam’ Sheets.  These are thin sheets of foam which come in A3 and A4 size and are perfect for making armour and weapons. They are easy to cut up, can be bent into most shapes and are perfect to paint on. I’ve used this stuff many times. Used it to make my metal arm band and metal elbow pad for Final Fantasy VII’s Tifa Lockheart… not forgetting my Pinwheel weapon and leg and arm armour for Yuffie. Even my beloved Space Channel 5 Ulala Microphone is made from foam sheets and it has lasted me for three years, and counting.

Every piece of armour is made with foam sheets and painted up.
Every piece of Yuffie's FF7 armour is made with foam sheets and painted up

Next in the array of cosplay weaponry, the plasticine stuff that bakes hard in the oven: Fimo.  Perfect for making jewellery for costumes. Shape it into the shapes you want, put metal chains or earring fixings in it and then you whack it in the oven for 30mins. Or if you’re a guy… put spiky metal in fire.  Grr!  You can buy it in the colour you need, or buy plain white and paint it any colour.  I used this to make my earrings, brooch and cuff links on my Franziska Von Karma costume from the Phoenix Wright series.

Fimo covered in glitter nail vanish and stuck on with Bostick.
Blue Fimo covered in glitter nail vanish and stuck on with Bostick to make the detail on Franziska Von Karma's Outfit

Now, the most weapon like weapon in the cosplay chest of weapons yet: the Glue Gun. It glues together foam sheets like a dream, and at a pinch, can glue together criminals’ hands to stop them from lifting up and removing possessions.  Use it as a gap filler on foam armour projects and smooth with a finger dipped in water whilst the glue is still warm to push into cracks to hide misalignments of foam and anything else that needs to be filled. Do not use to gun a whole outfit together even if you plan to stitch it afterwards. It melts very easy when warmed up and will fall apart very… easily…

Just like the Needler from Halo, every weapons chest needs something purple, and the cosplay weapons chest has the purple stick of death, sorry – purple stick of Bostick. It’s really quick drying and sticks nearly everything thing together. Used on smaller areas it works best sticking material on material without leaving a gluey mess. It’s particularly recommended if gluing on materials containing Lycra as it will stretch along with the fabric. Don’t use on PVC as it melts the material but it is the best glue to have with you on the day if something breaks on you whilst in costume.

I have used purple Bostick for every outfit I have ever made… from sticking details on outfits, like gold ribbon on the Franziska Von Karma waistcoat to gluing on the pink stripes to my black trousers on my black and pink Ulala outfit. This works when you really can’t be bothered to sew even one little stitch…

And now for the super weapons: some Loctite superglue.  Use it to stick tiny details on – but only use a tiny amount as it runs fast and can glue your fingers together even faster.  Great if you want to appear like a thoughtful Phoenix Wright, less good if you need to hold Yuffie’s pinwheel (although useful if you need to hold Yuffie’s pinwheel really tight). I used this to glue my whole white Ulala costume together. I did put some stitches though it afterwards because the glue can get very hot when cosplaying.  As can I – sweat and superglue don’t always play well together.  Especially in a PVC outfit, the glue can melt, into your skin. Super glue is not the easiest to sew through but it can be done.

Just as Doom had the BFG – my weapons chest has its own acronymed weapon: PVA glue. Its main use… put it on foam card creations, then paint over them to make them solid, pretty and pretty much unbreakable. Also, mix the PVA with some sand to create rust.  It’s also another great way of hiding gaps by filling them with gluey, sandy lumps. Paint over with the paint from Games Workshop, using the chestnut ink on the sand covered parts and you have some nice rusty armour.

And every weapons chest needs some grenades, and mine are tiny paint tins from Games Workshop – they’re small pots of paint that cost around £2 a pot, but they’re worth every penny. They will paint on almost any surface without additional preparation. There’s a surprising amount of paint in those tiny little pots and they are the best paints for metal effects.  They can paint on shoes and paint on skin, but please, do a skin test before painting your arm tattoo.  Don’t just do it on the day of the Expo, in case you have an allergic reaction, and you spend a day in A&E instead.

Both the blue and silver headsets started off life the colour black.
Both the blue and silver Space Channel 5 headsets started off life the colour black

I’ve found Games Workshop paints are great for painting metal effects and using certain paints and inks can create realistic metals.  Games Workshop have a tendency to change stock colours and get rid of colours all together but if you want a clean metal effect then I recommend buying the colours Mythril silver and Chainmail.  But to have a dirty metal effect, you will again need Mythril Silver, but also Bolt Gun Metal, Black Ink and Chestnut Ink. Black Ink gives an oily dirty look to the metal and the Chestnut Ink is used for a rust colour.  You may not have realised, but finding exactly the right paints for the right metallic effects can be as addictive as Tetris. I dream the L shapes in bolt gun metal now.

With all the battles the Final Fantasy lot get into, their armour would not be squeeky clean.
With all the battles that Final Fantasy's Tifa gets into, her armour would not be squeaky clean

Plus, there’s always some other stuff left over in the crate after all the good weapons have been used.  Clear nail varnish can be used to varnish over anything plastic/patent like buttons, shoes and Fimo jewellery for a nice shiny effect. Also you can use sparkly nail vanish for a more magical effect. Plaster Material Tape is a life saving device, not only to help stick down plasters that refuse to stick when walking in 5 inch heels but also for those parts of a cosplay that refuse to obey your command. It sticks to anything, and can be painted on and is great for being able to reuse something again and again but just needs to have a colour change. Ooh. Cables.  Always useful for texture, and tying stuff together. You can find these anywhere. I have even cut down my television aerial from my ceiling to use for a cosplay. Perfect for edging and filling thin long gaps. Hide edges from sticking foam card together or use to create intricate details with thinner cables.

If you have all these things, and some imagination – then I’ll look forward to seeing your creations at Insert Coin!

Tifa Lockheart outfitUlala outfit

Franziska Von Karma outfit







6 responses to “The Bodger’s Guide to Cosplay”

  1. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Another Frantastic Blog. Great tips for home-made outfits. And well done on the pics at the end showing the full effect. Although, I still don’t think your designs would suit me. 😀

    Hopefully, anyone reading this and attending Insert Coin ’09 will turn up in brilliantly made outfits.

    Are here’s hoping for another blog after with pics.

  2. Lorna avatar

    Fab blog, Fran! I read this one several times over, marvelling at the sheer ingenuity and creativity involved – I had no idea. If someone said to me…make me this outfit, I wouldn’t even consider Fimo or cables or foam sheets…I’d just panic and have a meltdown.

    The results are stunning and the time involved must be considerable…hat off to you! I love that microphone btw.

    Did you learn all this stuff by trial and error or is it from a general community shared knowledge base?

  3. Fran avatar

    Pure trial and error! Ha ha ha!
    Foam sheets are used a lot in Cosplay but will just look like foam sheets stuck together without a good paint job. And thats the key to making good looking armour that doesn’t weight a ton.
    But the rest of what I said in the blog is me trying to think of ways to make outfits that look really good, but take no time at all.
    I’m glad you all liked the blog and I hope it helps in any future cosplay projects! 🙂

  4. Knikitta avatar

    Oooh, super fabby blog! I must of read it a gazillion times now, and I still do not know what to do for my first Cosplay outfit!

    Not for me to wear, unless it’s a Jabba Hut outfit.)

  5. Christen Friedberg avatar

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  6. Truman Laborin avatar

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