How to Begin the Basic Planning of Your Cosplay Costume

Planning a Cosplay Costume

You’ve decided that you want to try cosplaying. You might have seen photos of cosplayers online or in person at conventions, or your friends have convinced you to join them in doing a group. Either way it seems like a fun thing to do. So, then what comes next in your quest for a cosplay costume and where do you start?

The Beginning

Let’s start at the beginning. What is cosplay? It’s essentially a mashup of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. In other words, it means you dress up as a fictional character and pretend to be them. It can be from a movie, video game, anime, book, comic…. any character you choose. You can take this as seriously or as casually as you like. Some cosplayers try to be as true to the character as possible and will go all out. They will wear colored contacts, speak with an accent, dye their hair or wear a wig, and try to actually emulate that character as much as possible. Others approach it from a more easy-going direction and just enjoy wearing the clothes that person wears but not putting on the persona.

If you’re trying to figure out what to cosplay, there are a few ways to determine what you should choose. Do you have a favorite movie/tv show/comic book/video game? Is there a particular character that you really like or admire, or even see part of yourself in? Is there a character who is the complete opposite of you, and you want to challenge yourself by seeing if you can emulate them? Is there a character that happens to look like you? Any of these are a good reason to choose a character to cosplay.

Once you’ve decided on a character to cosplay, you can finally start planning your cosplay costume.


The first thing you need is pictures of your character wearing the outfit you want as your cosplay costume. This is known as your reference photo. It is usually easy to find a reference through an online search engine, or grabbing a screenshot from the show or video game. You can collect the pictures in a physical or electronic folder or start a board on sites like Pinterest.

You can never have too many reference photos. If possible you want to find reference photos for every angle you can. Front and side views of the costume are the easiest, but sometimes it can be difficult to find photos of the back of a costume. If other cosplayers have done this costume, you can see what they did, and you may be able to contact them if you have a question about how they made it.

Another good reference source is to look at toys. Have they made an action figure of your character? If so, look for some photos of it. refence photos of an action figure will quite often help determine what the back of a character look like.

Planning Your Cosplay Costume

Cosplanner is a site used by many cosplayers to help them plan out their cosplay. It give you a place to store your refence materials and helps you chart your progress. It is a fantastic tool that helps you track all aspects of your cosplay costuming. From beginning and end dates to parts you need to purchase. You can save progress phots and even track where you plan to wear the cosplay.

Another option that can be used on its own or in addition to the app is a physical planner. Here you can keep sketches of your costume, pin fabric samples, create a checklist, store craft and fabric store coupons, and so much more. It really comes down to possibly trying a few different methods and seeing what works best for you and how serious you want to take cosplay.

These are all things you need to consider before you start bringing your costume together. It can take however long you want it to, it just depends on how intricate or simple your costume is. Stay tuned to learn about how to start making your cosplay and more!

Now you just need to Put it All Together.

Click here for Other Cosplay 101 articles

To see where you want to cosplay next
be sure to check out our Cosplay Convention List!

Cosplay Convention List 2023

Original Article posted on in 2016 by Tori Ann

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