Do you ever see a really impressive cosplay and think, "Wow, how did they even make that?" While there are a million different ways a cosplayer might approach or carry out a build, we're willing to bet that most of the best cosplays you've seen have one thing in common: they probably took about as long to research and plan as they did to actually build. The prep work that goes into a cosplay is sometimes the difference between a decent cosplay and one that turns out exactly the way you want it to. If you're skipping the research step and getting right to the building, you're probably missing out on some really helpful information that could make your life a lot easier down the road. In this post, we'll explain how the right kind of research can make your cosplay an ultimate success and why it's so important to do the legwork up front.
The Main Types of Cosplay Research You Should Be Doing
We like to think of three main types of cosplay research when heading into a cosplay: character reference, build tutorials, and material and supple recommendations. Here's what you can learn from each of these types of research.
- Character reference: By looking up as much character reference as you can, you get a better idea of what your character looks like and wears, meaning you can make more accurate and detailed cosplay. As you first start to plan your cosplay, we suggest doing your character reference research before anything else so you can get an idea of the true scope of your build. Save or print out as many pictures of your character in the outfit/form you've chosen to make, paying special attention to any images that show the character from different angles. There's nothing more frustrating than only knowing what the front of your character looks like.
Be sure to check for resources like 3D models, screen grabs from cut scenes, or original costume designs to get the full picture. Then, you can use your reference images to start making a list of all of the items you need to make, the details they'll require, and how much time and money will go into your project. Some media companies, game designers, etc. even put out official character references or cosplay guides for cosplayers to use, like the example from Borderlands 3 above. These types of resources often show 360 views of characters that aren't available anywhere else.
Check out this video for a lot of helpful ideas of places to look for reference images.
- Build tutorials: Next, we recommend looking up build tutorials, or at the very least, cosplay photos online to see if/how other creators have made the same thing you're trying to make. While we're not suggesting that you plagiarize original designs, most cosplayers share their process and finished cosplays knowing that those posts might help other creators in their own builds, so feel free to take inspiration. Watching a build tutorial or reading about someone else's cosplay can give you helpful tips for making your own, or, on the other hand, it can show you how NOT to approach a certain type of build as well. If your particular character hasn't been made or shown off by other cosplayers, we'd still suggest looking up tutorials for similar characters. If you want to make a dress with LEDs in it, for example, looking at a tutorial for Tiana instead of Cinderella can still give you some helpful ideas and advice for making your own.
- Materials and supply recommendations: Finally, we always recommend doing some research of any of the materials or supplies you'll be using to make your cosplay, especially if they're things you've never used before. You can avoid a lot of costly mistakes by simply reading the instructions on a product or visiting the manufacturer's website before you go buck wild with something you're not sure how to use. By reading up on any new materials, you can learn the right techniques and situations for using what you have. For example, any new adhesive you might be using may come with certain compatibility requirements, so make sure you check that it's not going to melt or warp your cosplay.
Why You Need to Do Your Research
Especially with the need to avoid con crunch and make time for all the different cosplays you want to create, this much research might seem like overkill. While the more cosplay you make, the less you may need to research certain builds or types of builds, it's important to remember that every cosplay is different. Sometimes, when you're making cosplay, you're creating things that don't even exist in real life, and to make that happen, its can take some real strategy and creativity. To avoid wasting time on something that's not going to work or making mistakes that cost you time and resources, we'd always suggest doing your research before you start to build anything. That way, you have a clear road map of where you're trying to go and how you're going to get there, usually with some tips from someone who's done it before. Research helps you build bigger and better cosplay, so don't skip out!