My tools and materials
One of the basic investments for every starting cosplayer are tools and materials neede for creation of costumes. I decided to create a list of my tools and materials, that I prefer using, from the most used/basic to some of rather not well known, that can make the costume making easier.
DISCLAIMER: Each and every material’s and tool’s usage is dependant on the type of costume you’re making. Some costumes can be for example fully sewn and you wouldn’t need any foam or dremmel to create them, some can be a full armor with no fabric and you wouldn’t need a sewing machine to make them. The list of tools and materials is created to reflect the frequency, in which most of cosplayers use them in general.
The first category are the tools and materials, that are the most used and almost unthinkable when working on a costume:
From cutting fabric to cutting thinner foam or paper, scissors are the easiest way. I highly recommend buying different scissors for cutting fabric (which should be very sharp and strong) and other purpuoses.
I have fabric scissors, which are big and very sharp, very small manicure (or embroidery) scissors to cut off exces threads and small details and different basic cheaper scissors I use for cutting paper, thin foam and other stuff.
Exacto/breaking knife is the easiest and cheapest tool to cut foam (and sturdier materials) with.
Keep your knife always sharp - I use my sharpening stone after a few cuts to make straight and clean cuts on the foam.
Contact cement can be used to glue foam, fabric, leather and a lot of other materials on your costume. How to use it was already described in my article about how to make clean seams HERE.
Be careful by using contact cement - due to harmful fumes, you should use a respirator mask with chemical filters.
The contact cement can be diluted with a basic paint thinner, so the connection can be disconnected
I use Pattex Extreme contact glue.
Respirator is one of the most important pieces of your equipment. It is necessary to be use while spraypainting, dremelling, sanding, glueing, priming - basically by any circumstance, in which harmful fumes can be inhaled (look at packages of the products you are using for this information) or when dust can be inhaled (any type of sanding).
I use 3M respirator half-mask with chemical filters and anti-dust filters and covers of high quality. Filters have to be exchanged regularly if the breathing starts to feel harder and if the mask starts to be flumsy, even the mask itself. Be careful by choosing the mask, since there are different sizes!
And if you feel like wearing a mask looks weird or is borign, check out my tutorial how I created my postapo respirator mask HERE.
Another part of the equipment, which you should use anytime you risk any eye damage, especially when using power tools like dremel.
I use different types of transparent glasses, but this type I feel are the safest I own, because they cover almost the whole upper part of the face even from the sides and they have air holes included, so they don't get foggy.
I use them for marking where to cut foam or your fabric.
I use soft ballpoint pen or thin white marker for foam and for fabrics I use mostly a chalk marker, but sometimes also the pen.
Dremel with accessories is one of the basic investments in cosplay and the most important tool. It is used to put foam into desired shape and is an universal tool in a lot of other techniques.
I use battery powered Dremel Platinum 8220 with official accessories. It is a bigger investment, but in comparison with a lot of other dremel tools I've used, it is very reliable, high quality, working for over 2 years (in comparison to other tools' 2-5 months lifespan) and also the official Dremel accessory is more reliable than other companies'.
Accessory - Drum sandpaper + softer stone shapes
Read more about it HERE.
Hotglue is my second favourite glue after contact cement. It works very well with softer foams (lower density with bigger pores structure) and most of the fabrics (the rougher and more natural fabric, the better). It's not suitable for hotter enviroments and I always try to double reinforce any glued part (for example with sewing).
To achieve the best result, it is necessary to make the glue really hot and drippy. For glueing hot sensitive materials like styrene foam, I advice to use the hotglue by lower temperature not to burn through the material.
I use this basic hotglue gun and I buy hotglue sticks on e-bay. I don't recommend buying any other color than transparent due to different behaviour of the glue
Choosing the right sewing machine can be a hard choice, but for starters I recommend a pretty cheap sewing machine with few basic stitching programs.
My sewing machine is Brother BQ25, which is very basic, reliable and intuitive and I can recommend it for start.
Here's a video tutorial how to use sewing machine for absolute beginners.
Not every job can be done by a sewing machine. Sometimes you'd have to sew by your hand and simple needle and thread would be necessary.
Here's a tutorial how to choose a needle for hand-sewing.
Here's a tutorial how to choose a thread for hand-sewing.
Don't forget to choose a thread of a matching color with the garment you're making (I use mostly brown and black, but it pays off to buy white, grey for silver, yellow for gold and dark blue for jeans for starters too).
Keep an eye especially on the toughness of the thread you're using. It is necessary to use a heavy duty (jeans) thread for projects like corsets or jeans.
Threads with artificial components can be cut down with a lighter or torch.
My most used stitch when handsewing is the backstitch, which you can learn here.
or zippers, buckles, buttons, magnets, holes
For any attachements of your armor, you'd need to find a way, that suits your needs. I use for most of my attachements velcros, that I buy in rolls of 25m. But you can find more about attachements in my tutorial here.
If you want to create armor and props for your project, the easiest way how to start is with foam. You create patterns, that you transfer on foam, and cut and glue the foam into the shape. More about patterns HERE.
I'm using foam from Poly-props. I use mostly CF65 foam, which is a high density, better quality foam, for most of my projects, sometimes I use CF100 for swords and more fragile projects and I also use Craftfoam for some of my projects too. Craftfoam is a cheaper variant, which is very decent foam for the price and I made my whole Apollyon armor using that foam. It's great for beginners and you can find it here. I recommend starting in 5mm thickness for most of the armor builds, 10mm or more for huge builds and 2-3mm thick foam for decorative features.
From my experience, I can also recommend this foam, which has also very good quality, but there is no entry-level foam in this shop.
My favourite primer/sealer, with which I started working since my Apollyon armor is Seal Prime Brush-on. I know a lot of people use white paper glue as a primer, but I had bad experience with it. I can recommend using the liquid rubber formulas like Seal Prime, Plasti-Dip or Alcor-Dip. Other sealing formulas are not perfect, the water-based sealers make the armor sticky a lot of times.
And why brush-on? Spray-on sealer seem like the easier way how to achieve a perfectly smooth surface, but you really have to make sure you're using them in the right temperature with the right nozzle (otherwise they spit drops or make weird chunks), they tend to get consumed pretty fast, you create more waste using them and you cannot apply them exactly without masking. You can achieve a smooth surface with brush-ons too, when you dilute them with rubber diluters like this and brush them on the foam with dense brushes.
Czech alternative to Seal prime is Alcor dip here.
Worbla is one of the most well-known cosplay materials these days and I think it pays off to get one sheet of the black one, which is from the worbla types the one, that is the most begineer friendly (it has smoother texture and it doesn't stick to itself that much, so you can disconnect the pieces if you are not satisfied with your work).
It's a little bit on the expensive side, but I use it just for certain parts of the costume like breastplate bowls, glove claws, or any other details, that I need to make firm and sturdy. and I mostly double the layer of worbla or sandwich 2mm foam in between. It is also a great material for sculpting smaller decorations.
You can buy it here if you are from CZ.
Fabrics cannot be put in one category just like that. I can just recommend a few fabric choices I tend to use across my projects and mention some of the fabric choices I think you should refrain from.
My favourite fabrics:
Leather - I use leather I buy from second hand stores (thrift stores), where you can give a new life to an otherwise unmoder/unattractive piece of garment, make a second use of the precious material and not spend a huge amount of money in the process.
Thin fake leather - This one is just a brown cotton type fabric with a glossy print on it I've used on so many of my projects and now I own this type of fabric in a cognac and dark brown shade. You can seethe dark one heavily on my Apollyon armor, where I've used it for all the straps and hems HERE, or both light and dark fabric used on garments of my Valkyrie project. I bought it in the store called FlexTex in Prague.
Thick fake leather - This type of fake leather has a brushed look and can be aquired in different colors. It's meant for furniture mainly, it's very thick and sturdy with a felt-like underside. I've used the red, cognac and burgundy color in my Megari cosplay heavily, but I still use the fabric for some minor details in other costumes. I've bought it in Patchworkobchod.
Taffete and velvet - These fabrics can be found in different looks and qualities in all fabric stores, but they are my go to fabrics if I want to search for something elegant and not very expensive. I've used color changing black-red taffete on my Sith cosplay, purple taffete on my Ravenborn LeBlanc dress and I make a lot of details with velvet like some of the accessories for my Demon Hunter. I've used velvet also on my Anna Valerious jacket, Headhunter Caitlyn skirt, or Vayne's coat's lining.
Fabrics I don't recommend:
A lot of begineer cosplayers tend to buy the cheapest fabrics available and a lot of times you can see people wearing whole costumes made from polyester satin fabric, which is one of the cheapest fabrics in stores available. Satin is generally overused and it is not the easiest fabric to sew from. See some articles about it here or here.
Heatgun is one of the basic tools needed for crafting. It is used for sealing the structure of the foam before using a primer, it can be used to form the foam little when heated up and you can't really work with worbla without a heatgun. It can be also used for some cool effects if you decide to do casting.
I own a very basic heatgun similar to this one and it serves me well.
If you want to paint foam or fabrics, you'd always need to use colors, that are flexible and cannot be washed away.
My favourite colors are:
Akryl Terzia - I use these matte colors for mixing or as base colors for my foam and worbla builds.
Artemiss - Cheap and very flexible colors from CZ. I use their gold, silver and pearlescent color very much on my foam and worbla builds, they can be aquired in glossy form too, which is rather rare. Use code GERMIA for 25 % off!
Pébeo acrylic colors - I use them on my foam and worbla builds, very pigmented, flexible, but not super flexible.
Lumiére metallic colors - The most flexible colors I've ever tried with very attractive shades and rough metallic look that I use on both foam and worbla builds.
Tamyia modelling kit acrylics - I use the on foam, worbla and 3D prints, but mostly airbrushed or sponged on. I use them a lot for highlights and special effects, very pigmented.
Createx airbrush colors - I use them for airbrushing on all materials.
Škoda Motip spray colors - I use them on my 3D printed props.
Contact cement and hotglue can be insuciffient for some projects, so I will advice to widen your glue repertoire like this:
Superglue - is needed mostly for on-place repairs, but can be used to glue for example really smooth fake leather, or smaller broken 3D printed parts or plastic.
Epoxy glue - 2-part epoxy glue is one of the stronger bonds, it can be used for glueing plastic, metal, wood and some heavily stressed materials.
Basic makeup kit is something very individual and I pack a different set of makeup for different costumes. But it is something to invest in, that can elevate a cosplay to another level.
I can recommend:
Thinning scissors for natural look
Got2b glued gel for fixing hair in shapes
Got2b hairspray for fixing the hairstyle
Mastix glue for fixing the lacefront wigto your forehead
Leave-in conditioner spray or fabricsoftener mix with water for better untangling
Hair net to fix the hair under the wig
Hairpins to fix the wig to your hair.
It pays off to have some basic tools on hand like hammer, rubber hammer, inch tape, ruler, smaller anvil, hole puncher, small torch or lighter, screw-driver with different bits, tweezers and shears.
- ADVANCED FOAM MANUFACTURING
- ADVANCED SEWING
- 3D PRINTING
- ADVANCED PAINTING
- Airbrush kit - kompressor, aribrush gun, hose
- Worbla, Foamclay sculpting
- Polymer clay scuplting
- Monster clay scuplting and casting
- tutorial HERE
- ADVANCED WIGWORK
- SFX MAKEUP
- Styrene foam prop bases, Papermache, ...
I recommend building a small repair kit, wher you'd carry some of the tools and materials needed for small and fast repairs of costume when necessary.