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  • Philip Odango / Canvas Cosplay

A Former Judge's Tips for Competing in the Crown Championships of Cosplay

The road to the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay is coming to an end, as cosplay champions from all over the world converge in Chicago this March 2019 to compete for the title and glory of Crown Champion of Cosplay. I am honored to have been invited to participate on the judging panel for the 2018 C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay in addition to judging Comic Con Africa, New York Comic Con and Vienna Comic Con. As a former judge for the finals AND medal winner (2nd in Needlework in New York Comic Con 2016 and 2nd in FX at C2E2 2017), I'd like to offer up some suggestions to help contestants through the pre-judging and on-stage portion of the contest. (DISCLAIMER: These suggestions are mine alone, and do not reflect the viewpoints of ReedPop or other judges past or present. It's just me!)


Needlework – Cosplay constructed primarily through sewing, stitching, embroidery, etc.

Armor – Cosplay constructed primarily by molding and shaping its outer layers using acrylic, EVA foam, Worbla, Wonderflex, cardboard, etc.

FX – Cosplay that primarily features animatronics, optical effects, mechanical effects, special effects makeup, prosthetics, etc.


Research the Judges

If you're selected to compete, research the judges and what areas of craftsmanship they have experience in -- sewing, armor building, propsmithing, leatherwork, jewelry-making, metallurgy, electronics, programming, makeup, design, painting, etc. Research their socials, websites, LinkedIn, credits. This will help you determine which areas of your cosplay may be of interest to them.

The 2018 Judges of the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay

Prepare Two Build Books

What is a build book? It is your documentation of your cosplay's work in progress containing examples of you working on your craft, It can include photos, fabric swatches, print-out of your Arduino code/sketches, etc. Basically, proof that YOU did the work. Prepare to be asked questions about your code. Include photo of you in cosplay on the first page along with your cosplay name and character, and include reference photos of the character design you are creating.

  • Book 1: Professional Looking Book: This is the book you present to the judges. Don't be sloppy. Put it in a binder, or even better -- design the book to thematically pair with your cosplay. This is not required, but this demonstrates a bit more effort on your part as a competitor to create a cohesive memorable presence.

  • Book 2: Leave Behind Book for the Judges: This is the copy you leave behind with the judges. This is a pared down version of Book 1 that they can reference during deliberation, and most likely you won't get this back. So, don't make it too precious, but make it informative. Yes, we read it.


No matter how "simple" you think your cosplay is, get a handler. Buy them a badge, make sure you feed and water them. You will be in costume and on your feet for 10+ hours. They will be essential during the pre-judging as well.


Does the stage have a ramp or carpet? FIND OUT. Have your handler ready.


Bring snacks and water, headache medicine, safety pins, power banks, cable/zip ties, EXTRA BATTERIES for your electronics, whatever you need to survive the grueling day. Remember, the judges are grueling along with you on the other side of the curtain.


You have 5 minutes tops in most cases. Do not waste time. There will be a monitor with a stopwatch. The following tips will help you get through it successfully. These are MY recommendations not a generalization for all judges, but this helps move things along.


Introduce yourself and hand over Book 1.

If you have a prop in hand, start with the prop first, then hand it to the judges to inspect. KEEP TALKING even if the judges aren't looking at you -- they are listening. After the judges inspect the prop, have your Handler take it and put aside, and move on.

Start with what you DID NOT MAKE. Identify them, move on.

If you mostly sewn pieces, especially if you have a large gown cosplay, start from the inside out, from the bottom. Judges will inspect your seams, known as "flipping" to inspect sewing quality. The key here is to KEEP TALKING. They will circle you, lift up panels, and will ask questions when they need to, and will eventually end up at eye level and above.

  • Shoes

  • Undergarments (if you've made them)

  • Hoop/structure pieces

  • Skirt layers

  • Outer layers

  • Train

  • Bodice/Corset/Structured pieces

  • Tops

  • Gloves

  • Neckline/Jewelry

  • Wig

  • Accessories


  • Pieces with high difficulty of technique

  • Handmade pieces, including embroidery, jewelry

  • Tiniest attention to detail and precision

  • Supreme finish and polish, choice of fabrics, seam finishes

  • Knowledge of why you chose those particular materials

If you are competing in armor, we're looking for polish, polish, polish.

  • State the variety of materials used: foam, leather, thermoplastic, etc etc

  • Cleanest seams on earth

  • Strapping/attachments - how are pieces attached

  • Surface prep and finishing

  • Painting skill quality and sealing

  • Structural integrity

  • Undersides of foam - don't have glue strings, please

  • VELCRO hook and loop fasteners should NOT be visible -- AT ALL

  • If you are "lifted"/stilts -- can you even walk without support?

  • If you have 3D printed elements -- be clear if you've modeled the units yourself, you bought it, hand someone else print it and you finished it. etc. Whatever the case -- be honest.

  • MOBILITY - show the judges you can move. If you're a combat character, demonstrate action poses. If you're constricted in your mobility, then something's not right. Cos-PLAY, not Cos-STAND or Cos-WOBBLE. Yes this is not grading performance -- it's basic mobility.


BIG NOTE: If it's suppose whizz, move, rotate, light up, smoke, etc on STAGE -- we want to see it happen during judging, period. Fix it.

FX Category is the most vague because it spans a whole range from makeup prosthetic to application FX, to pneumatic or mechanical wings, to lighting/smoke/sound FX to animatronics to programming. and all things ba-be-do-beep and beyond.

Electronic/Mechanical/Pneumatic Parts

  • Show work in progress photos

  • Show sketch/code if you've programmed yourself. BE HONEST if you just pulled the code from elsewhere.

  • Show the power source

  • Keep your wires neat instead of a bird's nest

  • If you invented or innovated something new - POINT IT OUT

If you're showcasing makeup

  • Prosthetic: Show sculpting, mold making, application and painting

  • Explain what body paints/makeup used

  • Sealant quality

  • SHOW OFF the best areas

  • MAKE SURE THAT THE RUBBED AREAS don't have exposed/unpainted skin

If you're showcasing hair (natural, wig, or beard, etc)

  • Explain what you did to achieve the hair, especially if you built a structure, or sewed the wefts

  • Quality of wig application, especially if lace-front

  • If you dyed or styled your hair/wig - say it


  • Showcase what YOU'RE most proud of!

  • Be honest with what YOU created and did not create -- it's totally fine, I assure you

  • TAKE A DEEP BREATH before entering the judging room

  • DON"T TELL THE JUDGES WHAT IS BROKEN/YOU'RE NOT PROUD OF -- if the judges don't bring it up, don't bring it up. They might have already noticed, but spend your time on WHAT DOES WORK

  • If your cosplay meets ALL THREE CATEGORIES: NEEDLEWORK/ARMOR/FX: SHOW IT OFF. The more explicit and direct you demonstrate that you have executions that include all 3 that are polished, the more likely you'd be considered a top contender. This is not a hard and fast rule - but just like the Avatar, demonstrate why YOU ARE THE CHAMPION

  • Rehearse rehearse rehearse -- anticipate what the judges may ask you. Twirl, jump up and down, move up and down stairs. REHEARSE.


  • Don't just hit your stage marks -- BE YOUR CHARACTER, IE COSPLAY. You're not being graded for performance, but remember that the audiences are watching you and you're being live-streamed and recorded -- give them a show!

  • Show off your props, your gowns -- TWIRL, make it look effortless


  • Have your Handler ready to help you ON-STAGE and OFF-Stage with water bottle and fan

  • TAKE YOUR TIME -- DON'T RUSH OFF THE STAGE! SHOW OFF! (But don't take forever either)


  • Big sigh of relief -- you did it! It's out of your hands now


  • Celebrate each other's craftsmanship -- LEARN SOMETHING NEW!

  • Take selfies with other contestants! Especially if they're from other parts of the world!

Meanwhile -- the judges WILL deliberate. IT IS INTENSE. It can be argumentative. They're deciding the Champions. At this point, everyone deserves something. BUT THERE CAN ONLY BE THE CHAMPIONS, and only ONE CROWN CHAMPION OF COSPLAY. (It's a lot of work being a judge... having flashbacks...).

ReedPop's Quest for the Crown is a fun way to network, meet other competitive craftsmanship cosplayers, and make new friends worldwide! Yes, at the of the end of the day, your ability to execute to the best of your ability will be judged against others, but you've made it this far, and that is an achievement! But make it a memorable fun time and have FUN! Best of luck to 2019! --- And WATCH THE CARPET.



Baze Mabus cosplay by me: Photo by Maze Studio; Custom Wig by Hero Hair

Gul'Dan cosplay by me, photo by Steve Prue

Other photos by ReedPOP


Philip Odango, also known as Canvas Cosplay, is a professional teaching artist, maker and cosplayer with 15 years of experience in entertainment, and serves as an official Brand Ambassador for SINGER™ Sewing Company. He is a two-time ReedPop Crown Championships of Cosplay winner for needlework and special effects, and has served as a craftsmanship judge for C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay, New York Comic Con, Vienna Comic Con and Comic Con Africa. His costume designs has been profiled by Marvel, Disney, The New York Times, Good Morning America, SyFy Channel, The Chicago Tribune and Forbes Magazine. In addition to his day job as a theatre educator, he has served as a Kryolan Make-Up™ artist, sewing consultant for IKEA, event director and producer, prop fabricator for the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and author of three books on cosplay professional development. He continues to teach classes, panels and workshops at conventions, universities and makerspaces worldwide.

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