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DIY Cosplay Photography Props

Updated on March 9, 2015

Cosplay-actors

Digitally edited for effect. You may see original by following link  CC BY-SA 2.0
Digitally edited for effect. You may see original by following link CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

One of the easiest types of props are walking staffs and spears. A tree branch, once peeled or stripped of its bark and left to dry can be painted with your color choice of spray paint or better yet painted with wood stain and clear gloss for a nicer effect. Adding some cowhide ropes to some portions like the middle where the hand would grab or almost at the top gives it a nicer feel and look.

A spear can be made from almost any kind of straight tubing and PVC is great for this. The spear tips are easily done with foam,paper or wood and by making a slit in the tube or PVC top end, they can easily be attached to the rest of the spear.

Tie the part where the tip meets the spear body with cow hide rope and go a few turns downwards away from the tip for a better look. Paint to finish in your favorite color but realistic paint schemes work best.

So far the easiest way that I have found to make spear and arrow points has been to draw the equal shapes on thick paper or project board, cut them out and glue the two halves together and coat them with resin.

After it dries, and it dries rather quickly, it becomes quite rigid and durable. A few more coast of resin and they could almost past for the real thing.


diy-cosplay-props

CC BY-SA 3.0
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

Ever wanted to be able to fabricate your own photographic props for special projects? In this article we will discuss several props that you can make at home on the cheap .

We are not talking about making reflective umbrellas or soft boxes or anything like that. The focus is on making props that you can use to photograph such as making a helmet, a sword, a cuirass or chest plate and shield.

I have always been looking for things that I could easily make, same some money, get the satisfaction of knowing that I did it and use them to photograph.

If I had to buy some of the props that I use in some shoots I would probably not make any money from the photographs.

With that said I have always been interested in doing photographic projects focusing on mythological creatures and some characters from the movies like The "Lord of The Rings Trilogy" and so on.

Papier mache, foam, adhesive tapes, spray paint and some plastic sheeting are common supplies that most people can get at most hardware stores.

Although you can always buy a prop that is and feels like the real thing, most of us find it hard to afford more than a few of these at a time.

So far the only piece that I have bought is a metal sword because I wanted it to be as realistic as possible since it was going to be the front center piece on a photo project featuring elves.

The rest were done by me in my spare time and with some of the supplies previously mentioned.

diy-cosplay-photography-props

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

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Lets say that you want to make a shield. Using a round shape like the lid for a plastic trash bin or other similar container and covering the top part of it with papier mache (which is nothing more than strips of newspaper dipped in a mixture of water and household flour) you can have a ready made shield worthy of being featured in a photo project that requires the use of one.

Once the papier mache mix dries, you can use spray paint ( they are usually called textured) that comes in a simulated metal scheme and looks like real metal once it dries. Several thin coats always work better than a heavy one and you avoid drips too. First paint the shield in black and after it dries apply the shield color.

CC BY 3.0
CC BY 3.0 | Source

OK now that you have made the shield how about making a sword. There are several tutorials available for all different types of swords but this one is rather easy and quite cheap. Although making one from wood will ensure that it last much longer, foam ones will do so long as you remember that they are for show only and treat them as such.

Basically you draw the shape of the sword that you want onto a piece of foam sheet , cut the shape out with a sharp tool like an Exacto knife, paint it and you are done.

The hilt can be made the same way or you can attach the blade to the hilt with some glue. I suggest making an incision into the bottom of the blade and insert a round stick which will then be inserted and glued into the wood hilt through a hole done with a drill bit.

The end or tip of the handle ( about 6 inches or so) in some garden tools like the one for a shovel work really well for use as a hilt.

CC BY-SA 2.0 Cut along the red lines for your arms and head to go through. Several sites including Ebay sell these at very modest prices.
CC BY-SA 2.0 Cut along the red lines for your arms and head to go through. Several sites including Ebay sell these at very modest prices. | Source
CC BY-SA 2.0 Cut along the red lines for your arms and head to go through. Several sites including Ebay sell these at very modest prices.
CC BY-SA 2.0 Cut along the red lines for your arms and head to go through. Several sites including Ebay sell these at very modest prices. | Source

The next thing should be the helmet and again, like the other pieces you need some foam or a papier mache mix. You will also need a round shape foundation where you will lay the papier mache strips unto. An inflated balloon the size of your head works well.

The helmet may be a nice addition but having a complementing breastplate or cuirass is awesome. There are several ways of doing this but for about $30 (torsos, shipping and paint) you can have a full size one or two; male and female. Many shops that sell cloth will also have half bodies hollow mannequin torsos and most fashion wholesale supply stores have then even cheaper too. Don't forget Ebay which from my experience is by far the cheapest place to find them.

They are hollow and can be easily cut apart. Once you have your torso, cut along the seams to separate both parts (back and front). The best tool for this is a sharp Exacto knife or better if you have a grinding or hacksaw tool.

Once you have separated the two halves make small holes on the sides of both parts (front and back) and string the two halves together with hide cord. Do the same for the over the shoulder portions.

Remember that once you have separated the two halves you should also cut the arms (for your arms to go through) and the neck (for your own neck and head to go through) that form part of most mannequin hollow torsos. Do all the cutting before you paint.

The best paints are spray pants that look like textured metals but first always apply a coat of black spray paint and let fully dry. For comfort it is best to glue some thin foam or cloth to the interior of the cuirass.

cosplay-props

CC BY-SA 2.0 Edited to comply with TOS.
CC BY-SA 2.0 Edited to comply with TOS. | Source
Shield made from an old waterboard.BTW; the backdrop was made from several tree branches nailed to a wood board and painted in a camo scheme.
Shield made from an old waterboard.BTW; the backdrop was made from several tree branches nailed to a wood board and painted in a camo scheme. | Source

Some DIY props

Click thumbnail to view full-size
crownhalf mannequin formhalf mannequin formArrow heads from spoonsHelmetHelmetChest piece made from half a mannequin form and crown made from bent wire, plastic gold leaves, glass beads and a peacock feather. Real swordBackdrop made from tree branches
crown
crown
half mannequin form
half mannequin form
half mannequin form
half mannequin form
Arrow heads from spoons
Arrow heads from spoons
Helmet
Helmet
Helmet
Helmet
Chest piece made from half a mannequin form and crown made from bent wire, plastic gold leaves, glass beads and a peacock feather. Real sword
Chest piece made from half a mannequin form and crown made from bent wire, plastic gold leaves, glass beads and a peacock feather. Real sword
Backdrop made from tree branches
Backdrop made from tree branches

Although papier mache, plastic sheeting and foam work really well, some prefer using fiberglass.

The good thing about fiberglass is that it results in a very sturdy and very durable mold.

Although it is a bit more expensive and the mold has to be sanded smooth, it is a viable alternative.

Another good thing about it is that it uses very flexible fiberglass cloth that can be arranged in many different configurations and sticks quickly to the shape.

One bad thing about using fiberglass is that some precautions have to be taken such as not getting any on your clothing or surfaces plus you have to work with it in a well ventilated environment as well as the need to use hand protection.

It will also stick to the surface of a mold thus basically rendering the mold as a one time use only unless you first apply a coating of a releasing agent such as Vaseline to the base mold surface plus you have to work quickly before the resin starts to cure.

A tip to make the fiberglass smoothly contour to most surfaces and help eliminate air pockets.

Wrap the finished product in wet (not soaked) sheets of newspaper, place the finished uncured product in a plastic bag (I prefer clear ones so that I can see the results as they develop).

Place the hose tip from a vacuum cleaner into the the bag, make a choke point at the end of the bag where the vacuum hose is and create a vacuum by extracting the air.

Hold for a few minutes and remove. The vacuum pressure will press the fiberglass cloth into the desired shape and desired contour and this in turn gets rid of most if not all air pockets.

The plastic bag should not adhere to the newspaper sheets much and the newspaper can just be left on the mold and painted over afterwards.

Cosplay Sword

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez

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