When you step back and look at your cosplay workspace or supply closet, you might be surprised by just how many different types of materials you’ve accumulated over the years. Then somehow, with every new build, you probably find that there’s still something new you need to buy in order to make the character you’re making. While stocking up on basic supplies can be a great idea, it’s likely you’ll need to go shopping at least once (or twice, or more) for most cosplays you make. Depending on what you need and when you need it, however, you might have some trouble deciding where or who to buy from. In this cosplay survival guide, we’ll give you our list of the best places to buy cosplay supplies and materials plus how to make the most of what you already have at home.
Best Places to Shop for Cosplay Supplies and Materials
- Hardware stores: Hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are great sources for some of the raw materials you’ll need to make several different types of cosplays, sometimes at a lower price than you’d expect to pay at other retailers. To name a few examples, you can find a wide variety of insulation foam, PVC pipe, spray paint, EVA foam garage mats, wooden dowels, and more at your nearest hardware store. Because these stores tend to be huge and carry a wide range of inventory to suit the construction and home renovation projects most customers are shopping for, you can often find more options here in terms of the size and color of raw materials you want.
- Craft stores: Another top place to shop for cosplay materials are craft stores. First of all, craft stores are probably one of the best places to buy fabrics because you can see the true color and touch the texture of the materials before you buy to ensure you’re getting exactly what you want. Craft stores are also ideal for shopping for any sewing supplies or embellishments you might need, as well as other detailing and decorating supplies like paint, buttons, zippers, gems, glitter, craft foam sheets, and more. You can also often find useful base items to build onto at the craft store, like foam, wood, or plastic shapes or fake books made to be decorated.
- Big-box or general retailers: General retailers like Walmart or Target are also decent places to buy certain cosplay supplies. While they probably won’t have as wide of a selection as more specialized stores, you should be able to find good basics here, like sharpies, glues, paper, and other “household” products that you need for your cosplay. If you’re already swinging by one of these stores for some groceries or household needs, it can be super convenient to pick up the general supplies you need in the same trip.
- Online specialty shops: There are certain cosplay materials, like Worbla or CosBond, that you can only purchase online, so sometimes ordering supplies on the internet is the only option for your build. However, there are also specialty cosplay stores that sell exclusively cosplay materials online. These can be some of your best shopping options, especially if you’re looking for supplies that aren’t easily available in stores. Some examples of supplies you might want to look into purchasing online include foam tubing or specialized EVA foams, foam clay, thermoplastics, colored acrylic sheets, and more advanced cosplay materials like those.
- Amazon, etc.: Major online retailers like Amazon and Ebay can also be an option when you’re trying to track down something for your cosplay that can be hard to find on the shelves in stores. Particularly, these massive online retailers will often be useful for sourcing inexpensive clothing to use as a base for your cosplay (we bought our Bulbasaur dress and Kat jumpsuit on Amazon) as well as certain accessories, wigs, and cosmetics.
Getting Creative With What You Have
While sometimes a shopping trip or online order can’t be avoided for the cosplay you’re trying to make, sometimes a time or money crunch can put you into a situation where purchasing more supplies just isn’t the best option. In this case, sometimes getting creative with what you do have on hand can really save your build. Here are our top tips for shopping your own stash or finding ways to get by without shopping. First, keeping a list of the supplies you have (or at least staying aware of what you buy as well as you can) can help you remember what you’re stocked up on so you don’t go buying extras you don’t need. Meanwhile, looking for substitutes might help you get by without having to buy a new product (see our adhesive guide for help finding glue alternatives that work!). Finally, when all else fails, put your imagination to the test and use what household items you have to spare to finish your cosplay. Maybe some old cardboard boxes or plastic containers can actually come in handy, or look for pieces of old cosplays you can repurpose for a handy, sustainable solution.