Thank you everybody for the feature and all the supportive comments! It really means a lot to me, thank you all!! :-D
This is my first ever experience cosplaying!
I really wanted to be Princess Mononoke for Halloween. I've never cosplayed before so I wasn't sure where to start. I thought I'd just buy the costume online, but after seeing the price (800RMB) and the cheap material the costume was made out of, I decided to make the costume myself, and share my experience of becoming San for other-would-be Princess Mononoke cosplayers.
Please have a look at my official portfolio at http://theageofwolves.tumblr.com
Personal deviantART account: http://the-dark-fang.deviantart.com
Step 1: Costume Components
For the mask, I opted to use paper mache and cover it with a layer of paper clay, following this amazing tutorial here: http://www.otakucrafts.com/2012/10/princess-mononoke-san-mask-tutorial/
Knife/Spear: I made a cardboard knife prototype, covered it with paper mache and painted it, again following this method by the same author as the mask tutorial: http://www.otakucrafts.com/2012/09/princess-mononoke-san-cosplay-mask-and-knife-progress/
Headband/armband: This was easy, I just used a black cotton strap I had lying in my scrap drawer, and affixed the paper mache circle left over from cutting the holes from the mask. As for the armbands, I just used some spare bra straps.
Necklace: I was lucky enough to find a cheap necklace in a shop that looked just like fangs, so I didn't need to make the fangs out of clay myself.
Dress: I hunted around online on Taobao (Chinese shopping site) for a suitable dress that would resemble San's blue one and I found one that had a skirt that tapered to a long point at the back but was shorter in the front. It wasn't exactly like San's dress but it would still work well.
Tunic: I got a cheap white tank top, cut off the bottom and slit the sides up to the arm seams, so it would fall open like San's tunic but wouldn't fall apart (pictures can explain this better than I can)
Shoes: This is something I could have improved on. I opted to wear brown leather boots since I'm a little on the small side and would like to appear taller. But these shoes look nothing like San's hide mocassins....
Fur cloak hood: Bought some fur online on Taobao, 75RMB for 50cm x 180cm, more than enough for me. :D
Step 2: Mask Part 1 - Form
1. First, get a pot lid that is around the same size of your face. This will be the mold for your paper mache. I removed the lid handle because I was worried the screw attaching the handle to the lid would make an indent in the mask. Cover it with clingfilm for easy removal
2. Paper mache! You can use white glue for this, but since (to my utter dismay) I couldn't find any white glue in the Chinese stationery shops, I made my own glue recipe, which is 1 part flour to 4 parts water, with a dash of salt to prevent mold. Stir the mixture throughly (to prevent lumps) in a pot and boil it over the stove. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes and pour into an airtight container. You can keep this in the fridge for up to a week.
I started with a white base layer to make it easier to paint over layer. This mask had about eight to nine layers of paper-mache. Let dry every two layers. I was impatient so I used a hairdryer to speed things up.
3. Extract the wet and fragile mask from the lid by pulling on the clingfilm, then remove the clingfilm and let dry completely. While this is going on, work on the ears (next step)
Step 3: Ears
Whilst the mask is drying, I made the ears. Please refer to the pictures on how I sculpted the ears.
1. Cut out a rough ear shape from card, cereal box card is fine. I used an old cake mix box. Leave a bit at the bottom for the base of the ear.
2. Cut a long, wide strip, and tape it to the card. Bend the strip over to the other side of the ear and tape it. Remember that bit you left at the bottom of the ear base? Tape it to the strip and you have the base of your ear.
3. Take another wide strip and tape it above the top of the last strip.
4. Now the curvature of the ear is taking shape, but it's very cylindrical. We're going to make a taper to the tip of the ear.
Take a shorter, but wide strip, and tape above the previous strip. Tape both ends to the ear base. Then rip the center of the strip and pull them together to make the taper. Tape firmly together.
5. Tip of the ear: Take a narrower strip, and tape the base to the exposed card at the tip of the ear. You should notice that the exposed card at the tip of the ear is in a diamond shape. (please refer to pictures) With your strip, make a fold in the middle of the diamond (in line with the very tip of the ear), trim the excess and tape down. You should have a nice tapering curve at the back of your ear. :-D
6. Mummify the whole thing in masking tape, paper-mache doesn't stick well to conventional clear plastic tape, which is what I used. (I could have used masking tape to hold the card pieces together, but I find masking tape very weak for holdings things under tension, so I prefer the using the plastic tape to hold things together and then covering it in masking tape.)
7. Repeat steps for the second ear, but if you want to work on two ears at the same time, that's fine too.
One of my ears turned out way longer than the other, so I cut off the bottom of the longer ear to match the shorter ear and squished it into the bottom, taping it firmly.
8. Paper mache! You may notice unsightly bumps and hard edges on your ear as you layer the newspaper. To remedy this, I just used tissue to even out the bumps and ridges, then continued layering newspaper on top. Problem solved! I used two layers of newspaper with a final layer of copier paper.
Leave ears and mask to dry completely.
Step 4: Mask Part 2 - Details
We're going to apply a layer of paperclay to the mask, to give it rigidity and to add details.
1. Sketch the details of San's mask. I used a grid to help me. :-) Take note of where you eyes will be and adjust the proportions accordingly. My eyes will be looking out at the little triangles at the base of the mask "eyes". The mask's mouth will of course be where my mouth is.
2. With a very sharp, precise blade, carefully cut out the holes - the eyes, mouth, and the little triangles around the eyes. Cut straight through or you'll end up with beveled uneven edges you'll have to trim and sand down later.
Doing it slowly makes it a lot easier and you'll be less likely to slip. Perhaps an electric drill might also work for this task, but I didn't have one on me, so I just plunged my tiny paper-cutting knife into the outline and used a sawing motion to work the holes away.
Save the circles you cut out. We can use these for San's earrings and the ornament on her head.
3. Add a thin layer of paperclay to the mask. (I didn't want to add too thick of a layer because I didn't want to make the mask too heavy.) Smooth it into the mask and blend the edges. Use a generous amount of water to help you with this and smoothen out the surface.
4. Roll long, thin sausages of paperclay and affix it to the decorative details in the mask. Remember to use water to smoothen out the edges, and make sure the sausages are of even thickness. You don't want an overly thick mouth and thin eyes.
5. Leave to dry completely. Shouldn't take too long if you live in a dry climate like I do.
NOTE: While blending the clay edges, you might want to make sure your blended edges have extra clay. The edges of the details on my mask cracked slightly because whilst blending, I rubbed off a lot of clay. Of course you could just add more clay afterward when it's dry, but it wouldn't be as strong as it would be as a single uncracked layer of clay.
It may be tempting to start painting the ears first whilst the mask is drying, but since you'll be mixing paint colors for the mask, which share the same color with the ears, it's wise to wait and paint both at the same time.
Step 5: Ears and Mask - Painting
When the mask and ears are completely dry, you can paint them. I used acrylic paints to do so
1. Mix your paint colors for the base layer, the main color of San's mask. I mixed a 3 parts bright red, 1 part magenta, 1/2 part tan, 1/2 part yellow and a twinge of dark brown. The dark brown goes a long way, so I added a little at a time until I got the color I wanted. Of course, you can mix the colors any way you want, depending if you want a brightly colored mask or a slightly dull one like mine. Remember your paint proportions in case you need to mix some more later.
Use the same color to paint the ears.
2. The first layer of paint will look a little off. If you wanted a really worn-out looking mask, you can leave it like that and go straight to painting the yellow details. I wanted a more solid color, so I applied another layer and the color was much brightened. Do this to the ears as well.
3. Mix some yellow and tan for the decorative details. I first applied plain, unmixed yellow but I found that the color was very flat and thin. After adding some tan, it was precisely the shade I wanted. Don't worry about being a little messy, you can clean up the details later.
4. Use a smaller, finer brush and clean up the details with the red color you mixed earlier. If you ran out of paint or it's already dried up, mix some more (this is why you need to remember the proportions of paint colors you used.
5. Leave to dry. If you think your mask is too bright, you can apply a thin wash of dark brown over it when it's dry.
6. Paint the back of the ears, and the back and raw edges of the mask. Mix black with a bit of dark brown (this is so that the black doesn't look so flat) and paint the backs of the ears, the back of your mask and the raw edges around the mask, eye and mouth holes. (Please refer to photos.) A small, stiff brush is very helpful for this.
I suggest varnishing before the next step to protect the paint from scratches and scuffs. Originally, I used glossy varnish to seal in the mask (since glossy varnish was the only varnish I could find) but I hated how it made my mask look so unnatural and super shiny. I just applied a thin layer of paint over it and the mask was nice and matte again. :-)
BLOCKING THE EYE/MOUTH HOLES
Now we need to block out the eye and mouth holes. Right now, when you hold it up to your face, people can see your forehead through the huge eyeholes, and your lips through the mouth hole. If you like this effect, you may skip this step. If not, read on.
7. Get a black, translucent mesh-like material that you can see through when you hold it up to your eyes. Pantyhose or stockings work great for this.
8. Cut a piece out, apply glue around the eyehole, lay the mesh down and trim off the excess. You only need to do this for the two eyes and mouth.
Visibility through the mask is quite good. You'll be able to see out of the two bottom triangular holes, and you still have peripheral vision through the blacked-out eye holes, too. I wouldn't suggest doing an obstacle course while wearing the mask though.
Your mask is finally done! :D We will attach the fur hood and cape later, once we are done with the knife (in the next step)
Step 6: Knife
Much of the technique for the knife comes from Otaku Crafts, http://www.otakucrafts.com/2012/09/princess-mononoke-san-cosplay-mask-and-knife-progress/
I cannot take credit for this. However I will still guide you on how I made the knife following the tutorial on the website.
1. Draw two isoceles triangles on card. I used a cereal box. If you're a perfectionist like me, you can use a protractor and set square to get the angles right. I didn't want it to be a huge knife so I made it slightly longer than the length of my hand.
2. Cut them out and score along the middle, tape them together.
3. Trace the base onto more card, and cut it out, leaving flaps to help fit the base inside the triangles.
4. For the handle, get the inside of a toilet roll, slit it lengthwise, and roll it into a more narrower shape. The diameter of your handle is up to you, go with what you prefer. Tape it securely.
5. Make a hole in the knife blade base, and push the handle through it. Notch the excess bit of the handle and fold and tape down. Please refer to the photos.
6. Roll up a small ball of newspaper and tape it to the bottom of the handle to close the gap.
7. Fit the knife base handle into the knife blade. Tape it securely.
8. Paper mache! I used two to three layers of paper mache with one layer of white paper.
9. Now to paint! First, make a template for the designs on San's knife. Fold a leftover piece of card in half, draw half of a boomerang-like shape on it, and cut out. Use the template to help you trace the designs on the knife.
10. Paint the blade white, the design red and the handle with black mixed with dark brown. (you don't really have to paint the handle if you're planning to cover it like I did later)
11. To clean up any messy painting around the details and achieving a clean edge, you can put the template on the design and paint around it. The photos show how I did it.
12. I didn't like the feel of the paper mache in my hand. My hands get sweaty and the sweat made it feel like the knife was sticky. So to add some comfort, I used a roll of foam grip from a badminton racket and wrapped it around the knife handle, To cover up the end of the foam grip, I wrapped hemp cord around it.
13. I wrapped and glued down two rounds of leather cord at the end of the handle where it meets the blade, to hide the paint lines and to make the knife look more finished.
Your knife is done! I suppose you could use the same technique to make a spear, perhaps with a broomstick or something for the handle, or one of those plastic handles from those foam Grim Reaper scythes they're selling down in Walmart in the Halloween section. I might get around to that later.
Step 7: Clothes/Accessories
These are entirely up to you. You don't have to look absolutely like San, free free to take liberties with your costume. If you are on a budget, you may also be limited by what materials you're able to find/borrow/buy/make, so I suggest keeping your eyes peeled for anything around the house you can use.
Get a white tank top, and cut off the bottom to the length that you like. I cut it to just above my navel, taking into account the length of my dress. Slit the sides, cutting off the seams to just below the hemmed sleeve. The tunic will be held together by this little bit of hemmed fabric. If you want, you can cut it all the way through and add cords to tie the tunic together exactly like San's, but I preferred this method.
I hunted around on Taobao until I found a suitable dress. I originally wanted to cut off the tapering back of the skirt but when I put it on, I decided that the tapering skirt might work. Plus, it was a nice dress I could wear again anyway. :) This dress cost about 30RMB in case anybody is wondering.
I loved the necklace Ashitaka gave San in the movie. I loved the colors and how iridescent it was. I have a beautiful labradorite stone that I thought would suit the necklace very well. Labradorite is a stone that looks cloudy and gray at first, but when you tilt it at a certain angle to the light - BOOM! Flashes of blues, greens and turquoise assault your eyes! It's an incredibly beautiful stone and a phenomenon that you have to experience yourself, a photo doesn't do it justice.
I wrapped some red suede-like cord around the stone tightly to hold it in place. I was a little scared of it falling, though (Labradorite isn't the hardest stone) so I um... cheated a little by affixing little bits of tape to the cord and stone. Crude, but I didn't want to risk my stone.
On my vacation to Malaysia, I saw this awesome necklace in a costume jewelry shop. It wasn't expensive, about 15MYR (30RMB). The fang beads were originally clumped together and moved around. I wanted them spread out like San's necklace so I used thin wire to hold the beads in place.
Most people just make the fangs and beads out of clay, string them and use them to fasten the cloak together. I was planning to do this until I found the necklace, which I think suits my bony collarbones better than if wore huge, heavy clay fangs around my neck. O_o
I used old bra staps for the armbands. The great thing about this is that they have buckles, so I can tighten and loosen the straps as I please, and they're non-slip so I don't have to deal with falling armbands.
For the headband, I got a wide black cotton cord, affixed the paper mache circle (left over from cutting the holes from the mask) to it using wire, then painting the edges black. This shall be tied around my head.
This step might go a lot more easier for most of you reading this, because I don't have my ears pierced so it's not like I can simply affix earring attachments on the paper mache circles (left from cutting the mask), put them in my ears and call it a day. I tried looking for clip-ons and magnetic earrings around, but to no avail. I could have bought them online but complications with recharging my Taobao account prevented me from doing so. So I did something very crude instead. I used strong double-sided tape and stuck them to my ears. *guilty look*
Hey, but it works and I can jump around without them falling off! Plus they are a lot more comfortable than magnetic earrings, since those things make my ears hurt like crazy afterwards...
(NB: In my photoshoot later I completely forgot about the earrings. Whoops!)
I went down to Wal-Mart and bought a pair of brown leather shoes for 90RMB. They're furred on the inside and keep my feet really warm. :) They don't look very San-like, but I didn't know how to make San's shoes properly and I was running out of time.
Step 8: Fur Cloak and Cape
I bought my fur online on Taobao, 75RMB for 50cm x 180 cm, here: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a1z10.1.w4004-2621074704.4.D0eddC&id=18638727574, which was enough material for me.
It was an excellent deal, because as soon as the package arrived and I opened it up, I was pleased to find that the fur was super soft, none of that platisticky feeling in cheaper furs, DIDN'T SHED AT ALL, and that the backing was completely hidden by mounds and mounds of soft thick fur. Excellent quality fur for such a price (seems like the seller noticed how great a deal it was, the price has gone up by 10RMB. :-( )
This fur is white with a slight cream tinge, with dark brown tips. The pile is about 5cm. I opted for this instead of plain white fur because I wanted to look like I was wearing an actual pelt, and also after reading some tips online about flash photography washing out white fur. The dark brown tips give a wonderful effect when the fur is bunched up. It almost looks like a sleeping animal. :-)
1. This is really easy. Draw a rough cloak shape on your fur. I didn't want the cloak to be very long, so I only had it down to my waist. Make sure to leave enough fur to attach to your dress later.
2. Cut out with a sharp blade. To make the tail, get two long scraps of fur and stitch or glue them back to back. (I glued them because I was feeling lazy, hehe. :-) ) Sew to the bottom of the cloak. You're done! :D
1. Draw a mirrored hood shape on the back of the fur. I got the hood shape from this tutorial: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=387511.0
2. Use a very sharp blade to cut through the fur. Gently pull off any loose fur hanging from the edges.
3. Fold the hood fur-side in, make sure the fur is tucked in the seams, pin in place and sew. I don't have a sewing machine, so I doubled up some thread and stitched the hood together with small back-stitches. It held up very well!
4. Get a comb and use it to tease out the trapped fur.
ATTACHING THE HOOD TO THE MASK
1. Check how you want to attach your hood to your mask in front of a mirror and how many holes you will need to make in the mask.
2. Make little holes in the mask with your knife. Insert the tip of the blade into the mask and twist it, boring a hole. Do this all around the mask. Don't worry about the white bits, you can always paint over them.
3. If you have a curved needle, use it! If not, a normal needle will suffice, but do be careful not to stab yourself in the next step. The fur is very thick and slippery. Double thread your needle with strong thread.
4. Stitch the hood to your mask using the holes you made earlier. You can see how I did it in the photographs.
5. Check the fit in front of the mirror again. I ended up not using the holes at the sides of my mask, so I just painted over them. If the holes really bother you, you can cover them with more paper clay and repaint them.
6. Position the ears on your hood and make a tiny mark in the fur. Stitch the ears to the hood. Since it's just cardboard with a thin layer of paper mache, a needle can go through it relatively easily. A curved needle would have been really useful for this, though... I ended up jabbing myself several times...
Your mask is done! Bandage up any jabbed fingers and rejoice!
Step 9: Adjusting the Costume
I used large safety pins to hold up the cape. Since I made it a shorter length it wasn't very heavy at all and I could comfortably walk and run around wearing it. I didn't have proper face paint handy so I just used non-toxic acrylic paints, probably not the best idea but it worked for me. I suggest using something like lipstick instead for your face paint.
Hope you enjoy this tutorial! This is my first time cosplaying, so comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated!