How to Keep the Ultimate Cosplay Journal

Cosplay by McCalls logo

The secret to any great cosplay is most probably going to be… a heck-of-a-lot of planning. Whether that’s a plan to ensure the structural integrity of your cosplay or just to keep you on track with your budget, it’s always worth making one before you dive head first into the awesome (yet stressful) world of cosplay creation!

If you’re serious about making cosplays, it’s worth picking up a notebook that you can dedicate specifically to your plans. It doesn’t have to be fancy – mine is just a simple lined book where I can turn my incoherent thoughts into some kind of plan of action. However, my plans are usually half-baked and just thrown onto the page in my desperation to start working, which often causes me to forget details and panic at the last minute. So, for my next cosplay I’ve put in a little more effort to create an organised format that will help me arrange my ideas, while still looking super cute!

Step 1 – Set out your basic design.

The first step to any great cosplay journal? LISTS! And the next? Pictures! Here I’ve laid out side-by-side boxes for a quick sketch (or printed picture) of your character on the left and a list of everything you will need from this picture on the right. I’ve kept the format of my plan pretty simple, using one page just to focus on the full costume including hair and makeup. I separated my costume into three basic sections of head, body, and feet so I could easily break down my cosplay into the essentials. On my other page I drew in a large section of the same box/list structure to accommodate any possible accessories. These were any items that I didn’t want to try and fit into my already cramped costume boxes or that I wasn’t totally sure on using yet, but still wanted to keep in mind. Below my accessories I added yet more checklist boxes, this time to help keep track of what I had completed in my task so far and what I still needed to keep in mind before the cosplay could be finished. What can I say? I’m a sucker for to-do lists.

Step 2 – Add in detail.

For this entry, I focused on Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled, because who doesn’t want to be an adventurous princess who can fight off enemies with her hair? I added a few watercolour flowers and lanterns to brighten any blank spaces while tying in themes of the movie, obviously this isn’t essential, but there’s never any harm in keeping your journal cute! On the right hand page, I also added a budget box, since I always try to keep my cosplays to a low budget, it’s good for me to have a big red reminder in front of me to stop my planning from getting too fanciful.

Step 3 – Add in your cosplay!

­­I prefer to sketch my costumes in so that I can simplify pieces as I go and start forming my plan from the start. For this entry, I drew the whole piece in watercolour pencils and later outlined with black fine liner once the page had dried. However, there are a few fiddly patterns on the actual material of the dress that I couldn’t add in this time, so I may print these out and add them in at a later stage for a more accurate picture.

I still find myself referring back to screenshots of the character while I’m crafting if my drawing isn’t very detailed, so it’s good to have both options at the ready. If you’re not as confident in your drawing skills (I didn’t quite trust myself to get a highly detailed tiara right first time!), then perhaps practice on a separate piece of paper first, and if that attempt happens to go right then just cut and stick that drawing into your journal.

I filled in the lists with all of the items I would need to combine to make the cosplay, putting a price next to the pieces I had already found to help me keep track of my budget. Then it was just a case of keeping up with my To Do and Completed checklists and actually making the cosplay! This one is still in the works for me, but I feel a lot more confident with starting it now that I have such a definitive and well organised plan; I’ve just got to be careful I don’t get addicted to making new journal entries instead of new cosplays!

I hope this brief guide was as helpful for you as it was for me! I fully intend to keep this structure of journaling for my future cosplays even if that means adapting the style as I go!

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is a blogger, amateur cosplayer, theatre lover, and hot chocolate enthusiast. She is currently pursuing her passion for writing through an undergraduate Creative Writing/Television course in Kingston, where she can pretend the adult world doesn't exist for at least two more years.