Painting Cosplay: Common Cosplay Mistakes

For many cosplays, the painting stage is when the build really starts to come to life. While shaping and sculpting your foam, thermoplastic, cardboard, or any other material you might be using creates the base shape of your piece, adding the color is a huge step toward completing your WIP. However, painting isn’t quite as straightforward a process as some cosplayers assume, and there are things that can go wrong if you don’t approach the process with some forethought. In this post, we’ll talk about the common mistakes cosplayers make while painting cosplay pieces and props and give you some tips for how to avoid them.

Cosplay Painting Mistakes to Avoid

  • Cosplay acrylic paintsUsing the wrong type of paint. When it comes to painting your cosplay or props, you have a few different paints to choose from, but not every paint works for every situation. Acrylics, which are sold in small squeeze bottles in a massive range of colors, are great for detail work and for hand painting small pieces with a brush. If you’re covering a larger area or multiple pieces, spray paint will be a much faster option for you. If you need to paint on fabric or you need a more flexible application, fabric paint might be the way to go. Be sure that the paint you choose is right for the material you’re working on.
  • Not sealing foam before painting. If you’re foamsmithing armor or props, this is probably the number one mistake you should avoid. Foam is a porous material that will soak up the paint that you apply to it if you don’t first seal its surface with a sealant. Painting on top of a sealant will keep your paint more true-to-color and opaque, not to mention give you a smoother surface to work on. However, choosing the right sealant for your material is incredibly important too. We recommend Plasti Dip for its flexibility, but check out the other potential sealants you can use like white glue, wood glue, Mod Podge, and more.


  • Not painting enough coats. If you want your colors to be bold, especially when using acrylics, you want to be sure that you leave yourself enough time to paint more than one coat. If you can see the foam, plastic, or other material through your paint, your cosplay might look unfinished, or at least not as impressive as it could be. To get the best color payoff, you may need to paint 2-3 coats for a really true color that stands out the way you want it to.
  • cosplay spray paint techniquePainting in the wrong conditions. There are a few conditions you want to be sure of in order to get the best paint job. For spray paint, you’ll need to be in a well-ventilated area, a spray booth, or at least wearing a respirator mask to protect you from the fumes. Spray painting in high humidity will lead to runs and imperfections in your paint, so do your best to spray when it’s not as humid. Watch your spray technique as well: be sure you’re holding the can at least 12 inches from the surface you’re painting and using even spray strokes. With acrylics or fabric paint, pay attention to the condition of your brushes and make sure they’re not leaving unwanted texture in your paint.
  • Forgetting to weather and detail. Weathering and detailing your paint brings realism to your cosplay, if you’re going for a realistic armor or weapon style, that is. While a more cartoony style may not need weathering, realistic armor and weapons get dirty and rusty and scratched and faded. By smudging some dark paint into the creases of your armor or highlighting the nicks in your foam blade with metallic paint, you can add details that really make your cosplay look like the real deal.

With a little practice and these tips in mind, you can work to become a better cosplay painter as you work on your next project!