The where what and how of cosplay – Part 2: Materials

Photo and editing by Sheena Wood ; Cosplay by Foam Fox Cosplay

Have you ever watched a cosplay tutorial and seen them use things you just haven’t the foggiest idea of where to get? A normal hardware store seems too mundane for the likes of resin, Plastidip and thermoplastic. And who really wants to walk around trying to explain to a shop assistant something you don’t even fully understand yourself? Well, I’ve got your back, so here’s a quick list of where to get what for which task:

Foam

Foam forms the base of most cosplays nowadays; from large-scale armours to small and intricate details that are added onto a garment. It’s definitely the least elusive bit of material of the lot, but it can get a bit costly. Coming in various thicknesses and densities for innumerable applications, craft foam is the one thing every cosplayer or crafter needs in their library of supplies!

There is also a material called Foam Clay that acts similarly to normal low-density clay like iClay, but dries to resemble the texture of foam. It has the very important bonus of being extremely flexible, just like foam, when dry, unlike normal play-dough/kid’s clay. This you can pick up locally from Coskraft, or import it from Lumin’s Workshop/Coscraft UK/Polyprops, SKS Props, etc.

Thermoplastic

If you’ve ever watched a cosplay construction tutorial online, then you’d know a bit about thermoplastics. It’s usually presented in a rigid sheet of oddly coloured plastic that magically becomes malleable at the touch of a heat gun. From keeping armour strong and in shape, to being made into intricate details added to bring depth t a cosplay, thermoplastics can be used for everything and anything.

Primers

Now that you have your foam, you need something to prep the surface so that it doesn’t just absorb all of that nice, luxurious paint you bought. That’s where primers come in! They range from standard wood glue to spray-able rubbers and sealants. A bad priming job can literally break a cosplay, so be sure to research the finish, and flexibility, of your chosen primer!

There are numerous videos on what primer/sealant does what, and how it reacts to stress, so if you’ve never worked with any of these please do your research. We don’t want all your hard work and funds to be wasted due to an poor choice is primer. That said, while I was doing my own research, I found a post that said that adding GAC 900 (fabric paint medium) to acrylic paint makes it more flexible. I haven’t tried it out myself, but I thought I’d share since that’s the name of this game.

Paints

Load up that Need For Speed: Underground soundtrack, because it’s time to give your sealed foam a good lick of paint… And maybe some flashing neon lights? Maybe later!

So you know how I said: “a bad prime job can make or break a cosplay”? Painting is the same, but different. You can have the most flexible, and beautifully crafted armour on the planet but if you make that paint look flat and lifeless? Oof, well, you’ve just wasted a whole lot of time and resources. Luckily, though, paint can be redone! So you have the potential to not only fix what you did, but bring old cosplays back to life with your new painting skills.

Sealants

You’ve successfully (re)painted your foam bits and pieces, they look beautiful under that fluorescent glow in your craft room, but now what? It’s time to release your inner Minato Uzukami, because it’s time to seal that paint behind a shiny (or matt) protective barrier!

Sealing any painted surface gives it that much needed protection against bumps, scrapes and general rough handling it will experience during cons and photoshoots. Not only that, but it gives you the opportunity to achieve the character accurate, or aesthetically pleasing, finish you’re striving for.

  • Paintable Varnish – Most popular/easy to find is Dala and Heritage, they have a wide selection that can be found in most stores like PNA/CNA
  • Aerosol Varnish and Lacquer – They’re easier to apply than their liquid counterparts, but you might not get as many uses out of a can; Rustoleum has a few good ones, while my budget go-to is Spray-on

It’s not a very extensive list since these will do the job quite well. But some people on the internet have suggested things like roof sealant as an alternative. I couldn’t easily find anything like that online, but I did find this topcoat paint and this polyurethane floor paint that sounds like they’d do the trick. I’d strongly suggest you try it on test pieces before covering the armour you just spent 100 hours making with it.

Resin

Sometimes a project requires you to go that extra mile, and be that little bit more fabulous, by having things like shiny crystal blades or a magnificent headdress that includes huge horns. This would mean that you’d have to cast some (or all) of your bits and pieces in a mould that you make from silicone. But where do you get all the goo?

If time isn’t on your side, and you really need to get that skull-looking gem on your cosplay, then be sure to grab yourself some thermoplastic pellets! These little guys can be heated up and sculpted like (scorching hot) clay into the shape that you require. Go check out the Thermoplastics section above to find out where to get it!

I think that about covers everything! It’s a lot of information, I know, but I hope this serves as your guide through the world of cosplay. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, or find me on social media and shoot me a message! I’m always more than happy to help.

I obviously don't know anything about games. I'm just here for the free food, and to push my feminist agenda.

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