Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Packing for conventions

Convention season has started here in Finland. We are not yet sure which ones we are going to attend, but the great wheels are turning. In the meanwhile, waiting to see if our schedules’ match and how our bank accounts relate to travelling, I thought of revealing our strategy of packing for conventions. This post is based on the experiences of train and car travelling.

First thing is to see that you have everything ready before you start. We make a list of all the objects we need for the cosplay. Nothing will be left out and the direction is usually from top to bottom and from inside to outside. When you have all items checked and in front of you, you can start packing. Golden rule for packing is to put heavier things on the bottom and lighter ones on the top to avoid crushing effect and un-wanted wrinkles. On the bottom of your bag you can also stuff your civil clothes, they don't matter as much as your cosplay gear.

Always iron your clothes before packing! And have a proper sized bag or suitcase, not a back bag where you just stuff everything.

Things like jeans, t-shirts and tricot can be rolled. They don't wrinkle easily and rolling also saves space. If you have boots or shoes other than sandals, you can put the garment rolls inside them. I usually put the shoes in their own plastic bags to protect clothes from getting dirty and to make their positioning in the bag easier. Pack the things which don’t really need any folding attention, like bandages and socks to fill the gaps and to make a nice bed for the more meaningful items.

Dress shirts should be buttoned and folded like in stores. Press out any wrinkles and check the sleeves that they are neatly folded. Here is a one way of doing it. Items like jacket, suits and skirts can be folded and recommendable is to pack them in a garment bag or a plastic bag, possibly ones from dry cleaners or just any garbage bag. Avoid too many folds though. Lay the items in the top of everything else.

Accessories and other small props we usually pack inside characters own carriage, like pouches and just place them inside the bag to fill gaps or carry as they are, like a back bag. If they are delicate we put them inside paper towels and plastic.

Armour parts we carry in hand in a tote or a bag. They take space, but better to see the effort than to find them crushed in your luggage. For swords we have made a special bag that we can carry on our backs. Takes away some un-wanted attention. It's wise to cushion the sharp points and to wrap every item in a plastic, to avoid scratches and paintjob failures.

Wigs we carry on our heads, on wig heads, possibly inside a box well secured or neatly rolled or folded in a hair net and a plastic bag in the luggage. It really depends on the wig which of these is the best solution. Hats we carry in hand in their own carriage, if needed stuffed with newspapers and other reinforcements.

When you are done travelling, immediatilly un-pack your bags. Take few hangers with you just instead. Put the clothes on hangers and if they have wrinkles, place them in the bathroom after shower. The steam will flatten the garments a bit. If you have opportunity to iron your clothes, do it. Hairdryer works also in some extent.

Always take at least a sewing kit with you. We carry around a cosplay kit, where we pack our contact lenses, make-up, binding materials, small accessories possibly with spares, scissors, tapes, glues, small containers of paint... you get the point. Anything we could need to fix the costume if something happened.

And ALWAYS remember to pack your personal stuff. Taking care of your personal hygiene makes your cosplay experience much more pleasing... for others too. Remember to take regular painkillers, possibly your prescription drugs, sunblock (summer cons obviosly) and your ID with you. Carry your ID around all the time in case of something bad happens. Preferably do the packing in one sitting. It's more likely that you forget something (possibly important part of your costume, like... shirt?) if you pack some here and there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CasualtyCosplay cartoonized by laira87

Few posts ago I wrote about our collaboration with doujinshi artist laira87. It was probably two days after I put out the post when Laira contacted me. She granted us a permission to put her upcoming doujinshi cover here on our blog! The title of her new work is Soulstrip. For more information about publication and availability of the doujinshi and about the artist herself go to Laira's Deviantart profile.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Forged faces and features- Cosplay make-up

For us, make-up is a necessity. Even Yoki, who never wears any make-up is willing to powder, fade and blush if it's for the sake of cosplay. Once I even got her wear mascara, which she really, really hates. I'm not in any way professional make-up artist, but through try and error I have found ways that work well for us. There are lot of make-up tutorials in Youtube from basics to professionals. But because we get a lot of questions about our make-ups and body paints I thought that I'd make a post about it.

I think it's best to go with the products you already know.
For cosplay purposes I use almost all the same stuff I have in my make-up purse crazy body paints not included. I have found a good foundation, which I use daily. For conventions and photoshoot I usually pair it with powder in hopes of making it last the whole day. Good foundation reduces shine. It also perfects your skin in photos reflecting light and making small errors less noticable. Powder should be used with care, even if it sounds great not having to worry about the foundation wearing off. Powder tends to react to flashlights harshly, eating away facial features and natural shadows. It's wise to test make-up at home with different lightings to see the results and to choose which products works out the best. Bronzers and blushes are helpful faking shapes on your face, but also defining them for photos if powder is used.

Eyes are dominant feature when anime or manga characters are under discussion. A lot of expressions starts from the eyes. They also give an unique look for the character and gives information about characters aligment and personality. It's natural to pick the focus from the eyes to cosplay through make-up. But I don't see why you couldn't alter distinctive eye make-up of the character to suit you. Seriously, I once tried on similar heavy eye-lining that Gaara from Naruto has and it looked plain horrible. I have seen many Gaara cosplayers, who can pull off the type of thick eye-lining he has, but it didn't honesly suit be the slightest. I don't know is it the shape of my eye and eyelids, but I couldn't see myself wearing that type of make-up without looking stupid. For me I think eye-liner with black eye-shadow would do the trick. To achieve the goal I think it's acceptable to cheat a little with the original design, because we are real people, not drawn to perfection.

Mascara is essential if you cosplay girls with flashy eyes, but not necessary with male characters. Deidara is an exception for me. Because he has heavy lining on his eyes it's rather normal to presume that he has dark lashes or he uses mascara. Personally I always use some type of mascara, because I have the lightest lashes. Brown one, if the character happens to be "natural" looking male. Akon is an exception from the other end. For him I tried to fade away all the hair sticking around my eye area. Instead I used a lot of faded eye-shadow to make the eyes pop in a different way.

Eye-shadow suits both men and female. It gives some depth to eyes, so photos generally look much better. Also slight alterations to shape of the eye is achievable. The best palette for natural and not too noticable result is one with browns, greys and possibly black for heavier shadows. Eye-liners work well with almost any type of eyes. Depending on the character, you need to choose do you go with liquid or pen type. Liquid eye-liner gives a sharp look, when pen type is a lot softer and it's easy to fade and blend.

Pairing with the eyes are the eyebrows. They usually are same colour as the characters hair. Eye-shadows and pens can be used to change the shade of your natural brow colour, but if it's drasticly different like burning red, I would use a lip liner. Of course you could purchase a liner specially created for eyebrows, but the range of colours might not be as wide as in lip liners. Lip liners are moister than eye-liners and have rich tone, so it should cover up your original brow colour easily. I recommend using powder to fix the lip liner on place. Otherwise you could accidentally smudge it all over your forehead.

Basic products can carry great lenghts.

Next to basic make-up we have a history with more masking body paints. We trust in Grimas products, which can be purchased in water- or oil-based. Usually you would think that the oil-based paints are better, but we can't make the difference between the two. Both have ups and downs. Luckily we haven’t done cosplays that require full body paint, because next to awkwardness while wearing full body paint, when you can’t regularly touch anything without messing up yourself and others, it takes time to apply it. Make sure you have a buddy with patient nature to help you out. And read the instructions. Even oil-based body paints need to be applied with moist sponge, thus speeding up the whole process.

Before wearing any type of body paints I recommend you care your skin with moisturiser well before, if it’s not a daily habit. Applying paint is easier and your skin can bear little better few days heavily concealed. It’s also wise to purchase body paints in two consistent. We have cake types next to few liquid ones. Liquid ones come in handy when there are sharp lines or patterning in the design you are aiming for. For applying body paints we use make-up sponges and normal paintbrushes. They have proved to be lot long lasting and in all ways better than make-up brushes in the same price group.

Body paints should always be fixed with transparent powder! It lasts way better and smoothes up some minor tone differences. And always have good products to wash away make-up despite the type of it.

Grimas has a website where you can find different types of make-up from theatrical to basic beauty. You can search for retailers near you after moving to your country's section, if you don't like to order through the online shop.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Breakfast, water and emergency chocolate bar

When your costume is finally ready it´s time to participate in an event. But before you rush in the middle of kitty caps, over-sized swords and flashlights you should prepare yourself. Usually events last the whole day (and the next day and so on) so you need to remember that even though you're cosplaying undead priest, your stomack doesn't cooperate with willpower only.

First step: Breakfast!
The most important meal of the d-day and maybe the only proper one. Two pieces of bread aren't enough so you have to add something extra like porridge, yoghurt and fruits. This combination will keep you functioning the next 3 to 5 hours. This is our experience, every person is different.

Second step: Water.
Because summer is often hot (that depends) and we cosplayers tend to drape ourselves on black PVC, multiple layers of clothes and most painful accessories, it is reasonable to drink water. It prevents headaches and dizzyness. You don't want to pass out, right?

After convention you can reward yourself with huge cup of hot chocolate! (Photo by Hiron 2008)

Third step: Emergency chocolate bar.
Cause everyone is hopefully having fun time you easily forget the passing time and eventually your blood sugar levels drops, like fangirls jaws, causing weakness. This is when you stuff your chocolate in your mouth and walk to the nearest market or foodplace. We are not fictional characters. Actually we need to eat and we need to go the bathroom, which tend to be quite difficult, especially for me.

Extra step: Your buddies.
When having a group around you it is highly advisable to check how they are performing. That their wigs are looking good and that they don't pass out while walking behind you. This came very clear to us when our friend and fellow cosplayer Karan was joining our trip to Animecon two thousand and something (Hiron edit: 2008). Casualty Cosplay doesn't carry chocolate around, we don't need to 'cause we mainly shut down our inner organs when we go to con. Karan however, was different. Her blood sugar dropped much faster than ours and it was our fault to let it happen. So next time Karan, I've have a chocolate bar for you, you like it or not.

So people, take good care of yourself and buddies. Weird things might happen.

- yoki out

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Collaboration with doujinshi artist laira87

This picture of us will be drawn as a doujinshi cover by laira87.

Last month we got a message one of a kind. Doujinshi artist, who has account on Deviantart under laira87 contacted us and asked a permission to use one of our cosplay pictures as an inspiration for a cover of her new project. I explored her work, discussed with Yoki about the matter and changed few messages with Laira. She was really nice person and quick on her moves! It didn't take long before she sent me a sketch, where Sasori and Deidara were drawn in the way we pose in our picture.

We granted the permission and now we are waiting for the cover to finished. So exiting! The funny thing is, that this particular photo is based on a drawing I, myself made years ago. So Laira is drawing a picture of our photo, which is based on a drawing. From Laira's Deviant profile you find more info about her and her work.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Akatsuki interviews uploaded

Today I went to Yoki's place with my wig and a bottle of fake blood. We had done the script ready a week earlier, so we didn't have to mind that. The editing was fast, thanks to Yoki's new computer. Zero crashes, zero grey hairs. Music, more precicely "Bad Ideas (distressed)" we got from by Kevin MacLeod and it's licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. At 11am we started to prepare for our photoshoot and and at 6pm we were ready and the outcome of the day was uploaded on Youtube. You can check here for Akatsuki interviews.

Obligatory "after" pic.

We were thinking of doing a series of interviews. First question came up years ago when we were cosplaying Sasori and Deidara the first time, but for some reason we didn't materialize it back then. The second one was just random idea we laughted about when we were drinking coffee and tea and playing cards. If you have ideas or you would like to ask something from Sasori and Deidara, leave a comment or send us a message on Youtube!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Preparing to wear a cosplay almost after three years!

Next weekend we are going to do something we haven't done in almost three years. Wear Sasori and Deidara! We have worn non-canon costumes, but not their official outfits for a long time. It's quite obvious that things have changed after the last time we had Akatsuki gear on... and they will change before the weekend, when we are going have the photoshoot. Our wigs are going to spend some quality time with me and my scissors. And loads of hair spray, I predict.

We tried the outerwear of the costumes, in other words the Akatsuki cloaks yesterday. We both squeaked how nostalgic it was and how long it's been since then. We were standing in Yoki's room staring ourselves from the mirror, tilting heads back and forth. Just staring. That... was... wierd. But still, quite exiting to breath life to those costumes again. We'll see what will happen.

First try out! Looks silly without definitive make-up.

If you ever think you are going to put on a cosplay again after some undefined time, store it well. I didn't have a clue where Deidara's head protector was, so I had to go trough every possible hideout after all the possible wardropes and shelves. And that was only at Yoki's place, where most of our costumes are kept. Gladly, I found it. It was at my place, in a shoe box companied by a rank badge from Matsumoto Rangiku. What a discovery!

Another thing that pops in my mind on this matter, is to write down all the names and colours of the make-up products you have used on a cosplay. I think tomorrow I'm going to hit the stores after work to find some pretty coloured nail polishes.

This, by the way is my first cosplay accessory ever. And still in a good shape.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Popping stuff , unhappy paintjob and the devilish cracking sound

We are taking heavy casualties! My snowtrooper costume took some damage on the battleground. Hiron wanted me to tell about it so I'm going to list the casualties here, right now:

After spending few moments on our yard
my kneepad holder said
while entering a car
the armor piece on the back of my hand said
I didn't notice as
my shoulder straps said
and when there were no glue or tape around
my visor said
and as I came back to the base
I saw that one of my details had said

Conclusion: glue doesn't like the cold

You move and your armor parts sometimes rub against each other. That is how you come up with unhappy paintjob. Most of the areas, which are lacking paint, are luckily in hard to see places like your abdomen and outsoles.

And finally the devilish cracking sound. The one you never wish to hear. Which happens to us way too often, maybe Hiron wants to tell us wath happened to her sword. "Your sword belongs to cloakroom, mine however is small enough to be carried with me", she said and look how that turned out.
Back to the point. I thought that the whole shoulderpeice was going apart when I heard the sound, but it was only one detail.

Ever thought where our name stems from.

-yoki out

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Snowtrooper: Second step

References are important when the goal is screen accurate costume. That’s why I made whole post about it. The second step is much vaster. It inncludes all the ground work and material selection.

Step two: Initialization

When you are pulling your costume from the ground, you need to start with choosing materials for the clothes and in our case for the armour. Again searching trough forums and other sites I found recommended materials for the uniform. We chose flannel for the coat and pouches and for the pants I used thick cotton. I used same stuff on my Bubblehead nurse costume, where it proved to be really nice quality and forgiving material. For the shoes I chose awning cloth for its durability and thickness. For attachments I used Velcro, rubber bands with different widths and plastic buckles. For the h
elmet shroud I had to buy white vinyl, with a nice tint of pink. Better material is on search.

For the armour I needed to dig deeper and the extra work was worth it. First we thought we would do the armour parts from fibreglass, but with that we would have needed a lot of help from our commissioner. In The Definitive How To: Snowtrooper I was introduced to vacuum forming, so I started to Google and eventually found many helpful sites from model builders homepages to How to- Youtube videos. I collected all the information together to form a plan suited for our project.

Our version of vacuum forming set-up

I draw patterns myself, so I didn’t have to go trough the horrible mission of finding close enough patterns to be later modified for the purpose. I used size 38 (UK 12) basic patterns for us both. I didn’t need to add any extra looseness, so the whole pattern process was really quick and effortless. I drew the coats little more form fitting than they are in the movie and designed some extra cuts for the upper part of the pants, which are hidden under the crotch piece.

The plan and structure for the shoes were born also quite fast. I’ve made few shoe covers and sandal-type shoes, but now we were building boots. I ended up using techniques I knew would work. I decided to construct the shoes over a “base shoe” using hot glue, cotton sheet and soft foam with the awning cloth.

More planning were put on the vacuum forming molds. They can be made almost from anything. I have seen people using metal, wood, plaster and ready-made objects. We needed a material which we could shape in home environment, so we didn’t even think of any other material instead of insulation foam. We had work with it before with props and small accessories. We knew what could be made out of it, how it would react to spray paints and wood filler, which we used to smooth out the surface and to prevent the foam from melting.

The molds were made of insulation foam, which was stacked and glued if needed. For some guidelines I took The Definitive how to Snowtrooper measurements, which I then scaled to suit us. I smartly though, that the measures are made for full-grown man and we don’t have quite the same frame. It was rather challenging to get the shapes and proportions right, but thanks to art classes it wasn’t over-powering. The only object, which I really fought with and almost lost my mind, was the chest armour. Not only was it the biggest part, it was also curvy and needed to sit on your shoulders beautifully coming down to your midriff and sides. It could not be “tried on” because it was huge, bulky piece of foam. Measurements and taking them multiple times were the only option I had. It took some patience and re-doing, but in the end it paid off.

After the mold issue was solved, the next step was to find the right plastic. I was really proud of myself when I, by myself actually found a company which could provide us with the material needed. Before I even got to look for the company, I had few alternatives in my hand. I somehow ended up with PETG-plastic, which was provided in clear sheets.

First frame and clear plastic sheet attached

When we were waiting for the plastic to arrive via mail, we commissioned the frames and the vacuum table from Esa. We had to bother him few times, because the first frame was too small for some armour parts. The second time was my fault and stupidity, but gladly he’s patient commissioner and didn’t think ill of me. So please think carefully of your working space, equipment and everything you might need before starting! You will save time later and don’t do ridiculous mistakes. And if you commission anything at all, make sure you have enough time for the order and the commissioner has enough time to carry trought your order.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Snowtrooper: First step

Snowtrooper is definitely the hardest costume I have ever done. Not only did I have to learn things I didn't even know existed, I also had to work long hours and bounce between three or four process steps at a time. Planning a schedule became day to day habit. I knew it was crucial to plan ahead, because there where things I needed to do before I could do something else. For example, I had to finish the abdomen piece of the armour before I could go out and find a right width of belt strap, so that I could sew the belt loops on the coat. If I happened to miss a step or I didn't have enough time to do it as planned or I didn't find the right materials, the progress stopped. It happened few times and I think Yoki didn’t find those moments pleasing. In addition, neither did I.

Also working with new materials got over-whelming time to time. Plastic and vacuum forming, or more precisely failing with them made me want to rip the hair out of my head. But it was only a passing feeling, along with numerous times I thought my veins would burst from high blood pressure. Like with everything not too familiar, mistakes are inevitable. It takes some effort to pull yourself up numerous times and keep pushing on. For me at least, but it really builds a character.

I thought I would open the process of making the costume. The information I include in this series of posts is quite costume based, but you can always adapt it.
I'll start with a step you always should do with care and patience. It pays off in the end, when you don't have to go and Google in the middle of chaulking, sewing or cutting off your finger. It's just plain frustrating.

1st Step: References

We were starting a costume based on movies and not on any movies, but on Star Wars. After some research and finding the right channels of information, it was really easy to stock up a nice collection of reference pictures. And there can never be too many references. More the merrier. The best source, which led to many other convenient sites were the 501st Legion’s homepage.

501st is a world-wide costuming organization which is specialised in the folk of the Dark Side. Dressed up as villains, they still have a good cause. Showing up in birthdays, weddings or game shops or being ordered in conventions doesn’t fill up their purses. All the profits are directed to charity work and fundraising. All the members of 501st are volunteers and constructs their costumes themselves. More information can be found at the homepage of 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist. I recommend you check the origin of the name, their mission and the testimonials and endorsements.

Thanks to well organized and helpful fandom it was really easy to find tons of reference pictures. I read throughout two forums, which I think were the most beneficial for me: Blizzard Force, a detachment specialised on cold climate troopers and Nordic Garrison, branch formed from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Reference pictures in use

As references we used costume exhibit photos provided by snortooperrefrence on Photobucket, screen captures from Star Wars: Empire strikes back from various sources and process pictures from people who have constructed the costume. The Definitive How To: Snowtrooper proved to live up to it’s name. They have step by step tutorial, designs for the armour and a whole much more on their sites reference pictures and links included.

For us it was natural to find different sources for the references. When you are making a costume based on animated character the process is little different, but alternatives still exist. You can strictly follow animated design or choose more detailed comic version, possibly both if you know how to combine then and if you can stand behind your decision. Digging up original art from the artist might also prove helpful. If the character is wearing something what is recognisably a piece of clothing like kimono, finding pictures from real ones isn’t a bad idea.

Me and protective gear made by Yoki - Mission: Find ref-pics

Always see the effort to search information about your costume! Many questions have already been answered and many costumers have been helped out. You can learn a lot without participating and find sites and tutorials just by reading and clicking. forums are a good source, but more specific help you can find on specialized sites. Not only references, but also recommendable materials and techniques are explained. You can also learn a lot from posts, where people ask for critique on their costumes. Usually the answers are really pin-pointed and possibly you haven’t even thought about some matters by yourself.