A report of the tips and tricks from the props and armor panel at NYCC 2017.
Whether you’re new to cosplay or a grizzled old veteran, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new. I dropped in to New York Comic Con’s Cosplay Armor & Props panel to find out what some of the best cosplayers in the industry are doing today. All-star cosplayers Lua Stardust, Joanna Mari, Hooked on Phoenix, Becka Noel, Spectra and Dhareza Cosplayza led an insightful and fun discussion. I learned some of their favorite tips and tricks for building, painting, and storing cosplay, as well their preferred materials and tools for the job.
Building a body dummy
Becka – Wrap yourself in saran wrap so your skin can breathe, have a partner duct tape you. After an hour and sweating profusely, you have a nice second skin you can cut off and stuff with newspaper to use as a mannequin.
Joanna – I do the exact same thing. Make sure you have a partner to cut you out of there, otherwise it’s not a good time.
Lua – A bra underneath is really helpful to maintaining breast shape.
Becka – Anytime you’re making a pattern of your own body, you really want to use tight clothing to ensure the shape is accurate to your body.
Dhareza – Cardstock and craft paper is a great method to draw patterns on yourself and see what they’ll look like beforehand.
Spectra – I think this is a good method as well. My roommates aren’t confident of me using duct tape and scissors on myself. My personal preference is card stock over duct tape.
Hooked – I prefer duct tape, but be careful, I’ve lost several articles of clothing with this method.
Dhareza put together an informative and hilarious video on the construction phase of building a body dummy and some great tips & tricks
Spectra – I love working with Eva Foam. My roommates hate it because it’s everywhere in my apartment. I’ve been using Eva Foam for so long, that I’m used to it and comfortable with it, which is why I use it over Worbla.
Becka – I love working with Worbla because it’s a very forgiving material. You can use 100% of the material, there’s no waste. You can use all of the scraps to create little details. It has an adhesive that’s worked into the material so you don’t have to use glue with it. One of the things that’s really nice about it is the longevity. In five years my armor will look the same as it does now, whereas Eva Foam won’t last as long or hold up as well. I also find Worbla more form fitting to the female form.
Dhareza – The same tools you use when working with Worbla are used when working with Eva Foam, but the effect the tools have on the material is very different.
Joanna – One of the biggest reasons I love Worbla is it’s so versatile. My Wonder Woman breastplate was molded over a mannequin and I took a lot of tools to it to get the right shape. The scraps can be used to create almost anything. With Eva Foam scraps you can’t do that.
Lua – I used Worbla to make a little shop of horrors plant. There’s a ton of small details like teeth, vines, and leaves and it was made almost entirely from Worbla scraps.
Joanna – I like to prime my Worbla before painting, it helps the paint to adhere and gives it a better surface. I’m a big fan of decard paint, it has a great texture and color to it.
Lua – For painting my props I use a lot of basic acrylic paint. I want it to look basic and messy, not metallic.
Dhareza – Spectra How did you get the pieces to stay on?
Spectra – A lot of pieces had straps to keep them in place. The entire armor is actually waterproof. I used a combination of hot glue and elastics sewed to vinyl to attach the straps.
Dhareza – There’s a lot of techniques to keep your armor pieces on you. Some people glue the pieces onto spandex suits, but that can be really messy. I’m a big fan of using buckles and rivets to secure my armor pieces with Chicago screws.
Becka – The first costume I made with Worbla I glued elastic bands to the back of Worbla to keep the pieces on me. After that, I started to punch a hole in my armor, put the elastic through the hole, glue it to the back of the Worbla and then glue another piece of Worbla over that so it’s fully adhered.
Joanna – It’s a fabric, po-fur. It’s from a store called fabric empire. The easiest way to attach it was hot glue. I made this two years ago and it takes a lot of tugging to get it off. There are probably other ways of attaching it, but I found this method really easy to use.
Last step before you get to comic con
Joanna – Step one is trying it on. I’ve made a costume before and didn’t try it on before arriving and when I did everything broke apart. I needed a lot of help getting it back together. So now I always ensure everything looks good and fits properly before the day of the con.
Q&A with the audience
For a person who wants to get into cosplay, what site would you recommend going to for supplies?
Hooked – Cosplaysupplies.com
Lua – Amazon and a general hardware store.
Spectra – T&T Cosplay supplies
Becka – If you’re based in or around New York area, that’s a place called Manhattan wardrobe supply. They just opened a new cosplay section in their store, they sell tons of supplies and I’m working with them to get classes going for using Eva Foam and Worbla.
What do you use for primers with armor before painting?
Joanna – Several different options depending on the material. A lot of people use plasteda with Eva Foam.
Becka – With Worbla you’re looking for something that’s very flexible. Anything that has a rubber coating. Mod podge and flex-bond are both great and you can use layers and wet sand it with sandpaper. Sandpaper will give it a glass smooth surface. For Eva Foam I like flexi-paint. It’s a non-toxic rubber paint and it’s amazing since you can use it indoors.
How do you transport your cosplay to conventions?
Joanna – I use hard-shell suitcases. You don’t want your armor to break in your suitcase and without a good suitcase, it will. I wrap all my armor in bubble wrap to give it an extra layer of protection.
Becka – I try to make my armor in multiple pieces so I can easily break it down and store it in my luggage.
Dhareza – I like to make a big chest piece and store all my other pieces inside of it for protection. A lot of cosplayers will print out a letter to TSA explaining what’s in their bags so it doesn’t get broken and people aren’t alarmed by it.
Sometimes as a beginner it’s hard to know where to start for learning a particular skill set that you’re interested in. What do you recommend as a resource?
Collective response – Youtube