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Beginner’s Cosplay Guide #7 – Primed & Painted

Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more.

GeekOut Media’s Cosplay Guide #7: Primed & Painted

It’s fair to say that a costume often can be done with just fabrics, in which case you probably won’t need to know about this bit. However, part of the joy of cosplay, to me, is the creative process behind making a good prop. Don’t forget to check out last week’s articles, where we spoke about props and some hints ‘n tips for how to make them. Today, however, let’s get our props primed and painted.

When you have a prop, consider a few points:

  • What colours are the prop?
  • What material is the prop mostly made out of?
  • Will I need to make my prop more waterproof?
  • How shiny is the prop?

All of these questions will need to be answered, mostly by you looking at what the prop is and determining the qualities you want.

A great example is that of a sword. They vary greatly in size, but one property they (nearly) always have is how shiny they are. You may have a sword like Tessaiga, which requires a silver-y blade and a dull golden handle. Alternatively, you may be making a bow and arrow set akin to Ashe from League of Legends, to which you may not need to make it so shiny.

Next, you’ll need to determine the shapes of your props and how colours will affect those shapes. Will a single base colour do it, or do you need to bring out some highlights? How exactly will you paint the prop?

A Primer on Priming a Prop

Primers are effectively the first layer you’ll use. Now, you may potentially have to use a sealer as well as a primer, depending on what type of material you’re painting. It’s always important to double check what material you’re using and to see if other people suggest sealing or priming it, but be warned, you’ll definitely not want to miss this step out.

For arguments sake, we’ll refer to the Tessaiga I made, which wasn’t great but it ended up looking about right. It was made entirely out of foam, which made it super lightweight. However, many paints would eat away at the foam. The first thing I needed to do, before priming, is to seal the foam, as foam has lots of pores. I took some Gesso and ran a generous amount of it over the blade, making it go from flakey and foamy, to a smooth solid white shape. Gesso is typically used on canvas,

Next up, I primed it and painted it. The primer was a base colour, which was effectively a silver colour. I would use this and paint over it several times, which made the colour darker and darker. Every time a layer of paint is applied, I’d have to wait for 10-15 minutes or sometimes more, for each side. This meant it was a tedious process, but it was doable in the day. As there was no intricate details to worry about, it was just a case of brushing on the paint.

Equipment & Paint Types

When it comes to detail, you’ll need different sizes of paint brushes. You can get a set of them relatively cheap from any hobby shop, but a cheap paint brush really won’t last you all that long. If you have extra money to hand, then do invest in a good paint brush set (and make sure you discuss this with your local hobby shop. They’ll always be glad to point you in the direction of a good set of brushes). You may also want a roller brush for extra large pieces.

Other than this, you may want to look into spray paints. Brushing over a piece doesn’t leave the same sort of texture as a spray can, so you may want to invest in spray acrylic paints. When you brush acrylic paint, you’ve got to be careful that you keep doing the strokes in the same directions. This keeps the consistency smooth and professional looking. With a spray can, you keep the consistency, so long as you spray in a lengthy motion.

You’ll want to have something to protect whatever surface you’re working on, which you can get huge plastic sheets for only a couple of quid. Furthermore, you’re probably going to want a bowl or a cup filled with water, so you can wash off anything you need to. This is about all you’ll need, other than a lot of time and a lot of patience. You’ll need to do many layers, then consider glossing the finished product. A great, cheap gloss is watered down PVA glue, so you may want to consider that option; else, there are many great products for glossing.

Join us again next week for more Cosplay hints ‘n tips, but share your tips for priming and painting in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. Next week, we’ll be looking at posing for cosplay photographers!

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