Looking to create an epic knight cosplay costume? Or maybe a costume that looks a lot like the scales of a terrifying fire-breathing dragon? Creating cosplay armor goes deeper than skill. Often times it’s less how you are creating the armor, and more what are you creating the armor with. Whatever it is you’re striving to recreate in the form of Cosplay, it all begins with the material. So what are the best materials for cosplay armor? Let’s get started.
Set a Budget
As with any Cosplay project, the first thing you need to do is set a budget. How much are you willing to spend on materials? The type of material and what you’ll do with it depends pretty heavily on what this budget looks like, so don’t be afraid to be very specific and break down exactly what you’ll spend the money on when it comes to your cosplay. So instead of “$50 for mask” you’ll instead break it down into what the mask is made of and put together with. This will make it less likely that you’ll go over budget when it comes time to build and create your cosplay.
And while we’re on the subject of masks, do you wear glasses? If you do, consider adding a mask liner to your budget to help you see and get around safely.
The Different Types of Materials
Don’t let all the different types of material scare you away from Cosplay. If anything, it’s nice to have options. Each material can be good for different things and has pros as well as cons, so if you’re ready to dive in, let’s get started!
Craft Foam And/Or Eva Foam
Very similar in texture, both of these are sold in sheets, packs of sheets, or rolls. While this is a very cheap material in terms of ideal Cosplay armor building materials, it’s still worth looking into. It can be found in just about any craft section in the store, so hunting every store for hours won’t be an issue. You can conform this into *almost* every shape, but spherical shapes tend to be very difficult to do with this material. The material is very smooth on both sides, which is wonderful, but you’ll have to seal the material before painting it or it won’t stay. It’s perfectly acceptable to use wood glue or resin to seal off gaps within the armor, and in fact, resin can strengthen the flimsiness of the craft foam. However, keep in mind that the same end goal can also be achieved with a mix of fabric and glue, so whatever works for you will be fine.
The only real few difference that exists between Eva Foam and Craft foam, is that Eva Foam can be somewhat shaped with heat and it can be sanded. However, we don’t recommend it as you’ll have quite the mess on your hands. Eva Foam also tends to get really bulky but is still lighter in weight than other materials, so you’ll want to keep that in mind as well as the fact that Eva Foam can be difficult to cut. It takes quite a bit of expertise to cut sharp corners, (or any corners at all!) and you’ll find yourself constantly sharpening and changing boxcutter blades.
If you’ve never heard of or worked with WonderFlex, you’re in for a treat! Wonderflex is a thermoplastic that can be shaped upon contact with heat. It’s basically a thin plastic sheet with a layer of gauze-type fabric embedded into it that help when it comes to shaping.
WonderFlex cannot be found in a brick and mortar store. You’ll have to purchase it online, so if you’re in a pinch to make a costume and can’t wait for shipping, you’ll want to choose something else. The good thing about WonderFlex though, is that it comes in different sized sheets. Pretty much name the project and you can probably do it with WonderFlex.
Another cool thing about Wonderflex is that it sticks to things after being heated up and cooled. It can also stick to itself, so you’ll want to keep that in mind to avoid accidental fusing!
This can be a more expensive option, so if you’re going this route, make sure to do your research ahead of time. Also keep in mind that WonderFlex has difficulty making spherical shapes as well as Craft foam or Eva Foam, so considering other materials for the spherical aspects of a costume may be a wise plan.
Worbla is a lot like Wonderflex in many ways. Just like Wonderflex, Worbla is shaped by heat can cannot be purchased anywhere except the internet.
Worbla has one “glue” side and one “rough” side. The glue side is heat-activated, so when you’re ready to start shaping, you’ll need to know what you want to do before you actually begin.
Coolest thing about Worbla, though? It can do spherical shapes! Unlike most thermoplastics, Worbla will probably need extra support to avoid warping, but can accommodate many different shapes and styles. You can also melt back down cuts and spare pieces to mold other things.
Worbla does NOT have a smooth side, so if you wish to have a smooth surface, you’ll need to sand and paint it to achieve the desired look and feel.
Worbla can be cut with a pair of scissors, which is awesome because this isn’t typical in the world of Cosplay creations.
Perhaps the only two big downsides to Worbla is that it is more expensive than Wonderflex and regular craft foam, and it also tends to get heavy. This is especially true if you’re sandwiching craft foam in between the layers.
If you know what look you’re going for and think Worbla is your best option, go for it! Lightweight and fairly easy to shape, your costume will probably be a pretty big hit.
There are tons of different materials you can use when it comes to creating your ideal Cosplay armor. Rest assured, no matter what look you’re going for, it CAN be attained. It’s all a matter of how much you want to spend, how much work you put into it, and what material you end up using. Nobody says you have to make a costume look exactly like the character you’re aiming for, either. Some of the best Cosplay are costumes that are inspired by a specific character, but then the creator decided to take a little creative license and twist things up a little bit. So if you get started and make a little mistake because you’re not familiar with the material, don’t sweat it! Just incorporate it into the design. You don’t have to play by the rules for your costume to be a huge hit, so just determine to have a good time and make the most of it. Good luck!