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ARTICLE: Cosplay and Competitions

Cosplay competitions have changed radically since I started cosplaying almost 10 years ago. They have evolved from simple catwalk shows to full-on theatrical style performances, with the level of skill and craftsmanship rocketing as the community has grown.  Pre-judging, a.k.a five minute conversations with the judges, along with detailed progress books, have also become common place in the UK’s competition scene.

Along with the competitions found at many of our well known conventions, UK cosplayers now have the opportunity to enter the preliminaries for three international cosplay events:

Understandably, for some people heavy competition isn’t their scene. Don’t worry; there are plenty of opportunities to showcase your work on stage without the pressure. I recommend the costume parades at either London Comic con (formerly known as MCM expo) or Hyper Japan; these are also great events for people who have recently started out in the cosplay scene.

After many years of competing in, helping out at, and more recently judging cosplay competitions,  I’ve come up with some tips for this new age of international cosplay competition. Please note that most of these are drawn from my experiences and are meant as advice; this isn’t a full proof guide for winning competitions!

Since I got a little carried away with writing, i’ve split it down into two main sections. Please click on the links below:

What are the judges looking for? (includes tips for pre-judging)

3 Top tips for Performances

Remember It’s not the end of the world if you don’t win!

It’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of a competition, so there will be a chance that you won’t win even after all of the hard work and effort. Remember that cosplaying is a hobby! It’s for enjoyment and for making friends.

Please respect the judge’s opinions; it’s not an easy job to pick a winner as entrants often score so close. Don’t be afraid to ask the judges for constructive criticism, they’ll often be happy to give you some advice on how to improve your costume and performance skills for your next entry.

At the end of the day, remember you have a brand new costume to add to your collection. Plan a photo shoot and get some pictures to show off your hard work on Cosplay Island and Facebook.

I hope these short articles have offered you some useful advice. If you have any questions you can contact me through my website ( or my FB page (\cosplex)

I’d also like to thank Annette, for helping me edit my first article.

ARTICLE: 3 Top tips for Performances

1. Don’t forget about your Performance

With all the stress of trying to finish your costume on time, it’s not uncommon to forget about the performance aspect until the very last moment.

Performance can play a big part in the scoring, so check out the rules before entering.  Craftsmanship and Accuracy level are often very high amongst entrants, so a good performance can really differentiate your entry from the others. Consider what story you can tell on stage with your chosen character, and if any stage props can enhance your performance. Do you want your performance to have a comedic or dramatic style? It’s also important to consider your mobility in a cosplay; big costumes can look impressive, but if you can’t perform on stage you’re likely to lose out on points.

It’s wise to prepare a performance plan for the stage crew including: Stage layout for any large props, a lighting plan (if the stage set up allows) and notes on your audio (when to start your track). This will minimise any audio, lighting and stage mishaps during your performance.

2. Spend time on your audio

Clear, professional audio will also help your performance to stand out above the rest. I recommend using “Audacity” to edit sound tracks, which can be downloaded free from the internet.  Try to choose background music that compliments the theme and emotion of your performance.

It’s recommended to pre-record any voice work as microphones won’t always be available (or reliable). If your soundtrack requires voices, try to use the original character audio (Note that some competitions won’t allow this, check the rules) or record new voice work with a good quality microphone.  Try asking amongst your friends, you never know who has a hidden talent for voice acting!

3. Practise, Practise, Practise!

It’s vital to practice your performance, even if it’s a solo competition. Practise and listen to your audio over and over again until you know it off by heart. Remember that most of the audience will be watching you from far away, so it’s important to make your movements big and clear.

Get a few of your cosplay friends to watch the performance, as actions and movements that look good in your head may not necessarily work from the audience’s point of view.

Remember to also practise in costume and with your final props, particularly if they are heavy, or restrict your movement or sight.

ARTICLE: Cosplay and Competitions » Cosplex - December 5, 2012 - 10:45 pm

[...] 3 Top tips for Performances [...]

ARTICLE: What are the judges looking for?

Judges often use a set of criteria to score each costume; these are set by the competition organisers and can vary from event to event. Typically, they are: Accuracy, Craftsmanship and Performance. If you’re planning on entering a particular competition, try to find out its criteria and their weighting.

Accuracy – How accurate are your costume/armour/props to the original source? Be aware that your work will be compared to any reference photos you submitted (see my tip below).

Craftsmanship – How well is the costume put together? Is it neat, lined, hemmed? Are any props and armour well made, painted and finished?

Performance – Does it come across as well performed and executed? Does it have clear, well recorded audio? Do you work well with the entire stage and any stage props? Is it understandable to a general audience? Does it represent the original source well?

Try to Prepare for Pre-judging!

Pre-judging is the best way to score accuracy and craftsmanship points. You only have 5 minutes (depending on event) to talk to the judges, so make it count! Before you go in think carefully about what you want to tell the judges and try to talk about all parts of your costume equally (costume, armour, props).  Here are a few good questions to get you started:

  • Which piece are you most proud of?
  • Which section or technique did you find most complicated?
  • Was anything particularly time consuming or hand decorated?
  • Did you use a pattern or tutorial?
  • Why did you interpret the reference in the way you did?
  • How did you get the proportions right? Did you build it upon foam, use a petticoat or other structure?
  • Did you use any unusual/innovative/recycled materials?

Try to avoid these topics they don’t really add to conversation

  • The cost of any materials or fabric
  • Transportation issues
  • Specifically talking about any costume damage unless pointed out by the judges

Some events will expect you to produce a progress book. You can be as creative as you want with your progress book. Aim to include  progress photos, detailed descriptions, design sketches and fabric/material swatches. If your looking for an example of a progress book you can check out this post on the one I made for D.

If on the day you end up completely lost for words. Its not the end of the world, alot of pre-judging is done by eye and your costume will speak for itself.

Remember to Provide the right References

Unless you’re cosplaying a well-known character, it’s likely that the judges will have never seen the design before. They will be relying on the reference you provide as a guide for scoring accuracy points. On the few occasions where no reference has been provided, the judges often have no choice but to score the entrant a zero.

Aim to fit all of your references onto one or two A4 sheets of paper. Also if possible, try not to provide references with costume pieces, accessories or props you haven’t made, as the judges may interpret this negatively. If you have chosen to combine one or more character designs together for your costume, spend a few moments explaining this choice to the judges, just to make it clear.

ARTICLE: Cosplay and Competitions » Cosplex - December 5, 2012 - 10:34 pm

[...] What are the judges looking for? (includes tips for pre-judging) [...]

2013 Cosplay Plans!

It’s sad growing old! As a student I had all the time and no money to cosplay, now its the opposite!

Now fully recovered from the WCS antics, its time to put together next years costume plans! Only two firm options this year.

1. Lulu from FFX.

Always been a dream costume of mine. I’ve been itching to attack that trim with my embroidery machine.

2. Something original!

I’ve been inspired by two of my favourite cosplayers; Yaya Han and Lillyxandra. Its time for me to create something original!

I plan to post my progress up here, so keep watching.