Making a Cosplay? 10 Books to Get You Started

Cosplay – or costume play – is a popular way to show your love for a television show, video game, comic book, or other franchise by dressing up as a favourite character. For newcomers, though, starting such a big project can seem intimidating. Where do you begin? Whether you’re a novice starting your first cosplay or a seasoned crafter looking to learn a new skill, the Library has resources to set you on your way. 


Sewing for Dummies by Janice Saunders Maresh

If you’ve never sewn before or want to brush up on your skills, Sewing for Dummies by Janice Saunders Maresh is a great place to start. This hands-on guide to sewing basics includes step-by-step instructions and illustrations, advice on selecting the right tools and materials, and beginner projects to help you test out techniques. Even experienced costumers can benefit from this book’s chapter on avoiding common sewing mistakes.


The Hero's Closet: Sewing for Cosplay and Costuming by Gillian Conahan

If you have a good handle on the sewing basics but need help transforming concept art into a finished costume, then Gillian Conahan’s The Hero's Closet: Sewing for Cosplay and Costuming is the book for you. Conahan provides advice on the entire cosplay creation process, from selecting and researching a character design to choosing patterns and making alterations. Her section on choosing the right fabric for your costume will help give your costume an authentic, high quality feel.


  A Beginner's Guide to Dyeing and Sewing by Clémentine Lubin

Some cosplays call for fabrics with gradients or patterns that can’t be found in store, but dyeing them at home can be easier than you think. A Beginner's Guide to Dyeing and Sewing by Clémentine Lubin provides step-by-step instructions and illustrations for 12 different dyeing techniques that can be done by hand or in the microwave or washing machine. She also gives advice on working with print fabrics and proper washing techniques to preserve your dye. A wide selection of sewing projects will help you practice both your sewing and dyeing skills at the same time.

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Cosplay is about a lot more than just sewing or roleplaying existing characters. Kristie Good’s Epic Cosplay Costumes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making and Sewing Your Own Costume Designs teaches you how to create your own original designs using sewing techniques as well as armour making with EVA foam and thermoplastics. Good covers the convention aspect of cosplay as well, with guidance on surviving costume competitions and posing for photos. If you’re not sold on it yet, you’ll also love this book’s comic book style design.

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The Kamui Cosplay books by Svetlana Quindt are some of my personal favourites for learning new techniques, particularly for designing, building, and painting armour. The Costume Making Guide: Creating Armor & Props for Cosplay is a great introduction to this side of cosplay, with instructions on working with EVA foam and Worbla to make full armour sets and props. For guides on specific cosplay builds or techniques, you can also check out her YouTube video tutorials.

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For more ways to make cosplay props and armour, I strongly recommend Make: Props and Costume Armor by master prop builder Shawn Thorsson. In addition to EVA foam armour, Thorsson covers techniques for molding and casting, sculpting, 3D printing, and painting components to create realistic props and accessories. This book is a useful guide for any budget – it even it even has a section on using the free Pepakura softare to build paper models that can be printed out and used with foam.

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Creating props and design elements with 3D printing is another great way to perfect your cosplay. Although this book expects you to have some prior knowledge of 3D printers and simple 3D modeling, Samuel N. Bernier’s Design for 3D Printing: Scanning, Creating, Editing, Remixing, and Making in Three Dimensions has everything you need to go from beginner to pro. With this book, you will discover how to remix other people’s models and design your own from scratch using free professional design tools.

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The popularity of resin casting for making gems and light-up crystals in cosplay makes Sherri Haab’s The Art of Resin Jewelry: Layering, Casting, and Mixed Media Techniques for Creating Vintage to Contemporary Designs another useful resource. This book focuses on jewelry making including bracelets, rings, and earrings, so you can also use its techniques to create that special ring or amulet your character wears.  For embedding lights into your resin gems, I also recommend Svetlana Quindt’s The Book of Cosplay Lights: Getting Started with LEDs.

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You can also use LEDs in props to create cool science-fiction gadgets or mystical wizard staves. John Baichtal’s LED Project Handbook includes ten different projects to help you learn how to connect circuits and write code to make pulsing lights and other effects. 

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Finally, no cosplay is complete without the right hairstyle or wig. Buying a high quality wig is a good start, but you also need to know how to style it. Wig Making and Styling: A Complete Guide for Theatre and Film by Martha Ruskai covers everything you need to know, from beginner techniques to cutting, dyeing, or even making your own wig from scratch. For advice on specific wigs or anime hairstyles, you can also check out online tutorials such as Arda Wigs Canada’s video series.

With all of these books at your fingertips, you’ll be well on your way to making an epic costume. 

If you don't have your own sewing machine or crafting tools, why not check out the Fabrication Studio at North York Central Library? They also offer free classes for beginners.

Go forth and cosplay!