Cosplay on a Budget: Makeup Starter Kit

Hokay peeps! Now that you kinda know what the heckie you’re doing with this makeup biz it’s time to put together a high quality starter kit on the cheap. I know choosing makeup can be kind of overwhelming and trying to figure out what’s worth your money can getcha feelin’ like this:

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but hopefully this guide will give you a good starting place! I’ll be including “splurge” items as well if you have some extra $$$ that you’re willing to burn on a high end product, but I’ll try to keep individual items on the cheap list under $20 USD.

Before we jump into the first category of brushes, I’ll preface this by saying you need:

blending sponges of some description (beauty blenders are nice but let’s be real here, they’re just a fancy sponge and you can get a pack of 20 for like $2 at Target)
a face/powder/blush brush
a foundation brush 
eye shading brush (look for something compact with densely packed bristles)
eye shadow blending brush (fluffier)
an eye liner/pencil brush
& a lip brush

to start. Having more eye shadow brushes is useful because you don’t have to wash them between uses at a con. If you’re into cream makeups then you’ll want a stippling brush or an additional foundation brush as well. Now onto the brands!

Cheap brushes:
Eco Tools (look for gift sets, also usually has BOGO 50% off deals)
Elf
Wet n’ Wild
Real Techniques (frequently on BOGO 50% off at Ulta)
Ulta’s house brand

Cheap face primers:
Elf Mineral Primer $6
Nyx Angel Veil Skin Perfecting Primer (dupe for Hourglass’ Mineral Veil!) $16
Nyx Pore Filler $14

Expensive face primers:
Too Faced Primed and Poreless Pure Primer $30
Becca Backlight Priming Filter $40
Too Faced Hangover Rx Replenishing Face Primer $32

Cheap eyeshadow primers:
Elf Eye Primer and Liner Sealer $3
Nyx Glitter Primer $6

Expensive eye shadow primers:
Urban Decay Eye Shadow Primer Potion $20
Too Faced Shadow Insurance Anti-Crease Eye Shadow Primer $20

Cheap foundations:
Elf Flawless Finish Foundation $6
Nyx Stay Matte But Not Flat (powder, but can be used wet or dry) $10

Expensive foundations:
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup $40
Too Faced Born This Way $39
Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Water Foundation $39

Cheap concealer:
Elf HD Lifting Concealer $3
Nyx Hi-Definition Photo Concealer Wands $5

Expensive concealer:
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer $28
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-hour Waterproof Concealer $25

Cheap blushes:
Elf Palettes are $6, singles are $3
Nyx HD Blush $7
Makeup Geek $10 for a pan; $15 for a compact
Wet n’ Wild $3
Makeup Revolution $5-15

Expensive blushes:
Too Faced Love Flush Blush $26
Urban Decay Afterglow 8 Hour Powder Blush $26
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush $28
NARS Blush $30

Cheap highlighters:
Elf Shimmering Facial Whip $1
Elf Baked Blush in Pinktastic $3
Nyx Illuminator $9
Wet n’ Wild Mega Glow Highlighting Powder $4
Makeup Revolution $5-15

Expensive highlighters:
Too Faced Candlelight Glow $30
Urban Decay 8 Hour Afterglow Powder Highlighter $30
Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kits $40
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed $38

Cheap contouring/bronzing products:
Nyx Wonder Stick $12
Elf Bronzers Blush/Bronzer Duos are $4, Palettes are $6
Wet n’ Wild Mega Glow Contouring Palette $5
Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer $15

Expensive contouring/bronzing products:
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer $30
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit $40

Cheap lipsticks:
Nyx (Round Case $4; Matte $6; Liquid Suede $7; Soft Matte Lip Cream $6)
Elf ($1-$8)
Colourpop ($5-$7)

Expensive lipsticks:
Too Faced La Creme $22
Urban Decay Vice $17
Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick $21

Cheap eyeliner:
ColourPop Creme Gel Liner $5
Elf Waterproof Eye Liner Pen $2

Expensive eyeliner:
Kat Von D Tattoo Liner $19 (SWEAR BY THIS)
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil $20

Cheap brow products:
Nyx’s Microbrow Pencil $10 is a perfect dupe for ABH’s Brow Wiz, save your $$

Cheap mascara: 
Nyx’s Doll Eye Mascara $10
Elf Volumizing and Defining Mascara $2

Expensive mascara: 
Tarte Lights Camera Splashes $21
Urban Decay Perversion Mascara $22
Too Faced Better than Sex $12 (travel size is cheaper per ounce than full size at $23!)

Cheap setting spray:
Elf Makeup Mist and Set $4
Nyx Setting Spray in Dewy Finish or Matte Finish $8

Expensive setting spray
Urban Decay All-Nighter Makeup Setting Spray $30

Last but not least, there’s eye shadow palettes, which is where I sink most of my money. What I recommend is getting a neutrals palette and supplementing it with other pops of color in single shades or building custom palettes for specific characters. With colorful palettes, I’ll buy them if I can use them for multiple characters or if there are really unique shades that aren’t permanent for the particular brand.

Cheap eye shadow palettes:
Make your own with Make Up Geek $6 for regular shades, $10 for foiled
Elf ($1-$20) – I recommend any of the Prism Shadow Sets, and their Naked dupes
Nyx ($6-$20) – I recommend the prismatic singles, the Go-To palettes, the Avant Pop! palettes, and the Ultimate palettes
Makeup Revolution ($7-$15) – Lots of Too Faced palette dupes as well as UD Naked; more selection in the UK/on their site.

Expensive eye shadow palettes:
Urban Decay Nakeds $54; Singles are $19 for regular, $21 for moondust, and 4-pan palettes are $10, the Spectrum Palette would be a PERFECT splurge for a colorful palette; it’s $39 at Sephora right now
Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palettes $49, and these would be tied with Tarte for a splurge on a neutrals palette. 9-pan palettes like PB&J or Natural Eyes are $36
Buxom Make your own 6-pan for $40 with free case @ Ulta; or get pre-made ones for the same price
Anastasia Beverly Hills Make your own 4-pan for $40 with free case @ Ulta; palettes are usually great too! (I am loving Modern Renaissance!)
Tarte now has single shadows and while I personally have yet to try them, they’re getting A’s on Temptalia’s site so I’d say they’re pretty good! Their eye shadow palettes usually have a blush and sometimes highlighter in them, and are mostly neutrals. Sales can get them down to around $25 but they retail as high as $45.

Please keep in mind these are just my personal recommendations so what works for me may not work for you if you have a different skin color/tone/type than me. I hope you all find this helpful and look forward to seeing you create some amazing looks on the cheap!

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Cosplay on a Budget: Wigs!

Wigs are another case of “invest your money wisely”; they’re easily one of the most expensive pieces for cosplay and they are the hardest items to get discounts on.

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gif by tumblr user appleshrapnel

When buying a wig, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • How many cosplays can you get out of this wig?
  • How much money are you willing to spend?

If you’re only planning on using a wig for one character one time/for one con, you’re better off trying to find something cheap (read: ebay) that will serve its purpose and then can be passed off to other friends or sold used online.

If you think you can get multiple uses out of the same wig (even if it’s for different variants of the same character), then it might be time to invest your money into a wig that can handle being worn a lot and restyled.

This Chibi in Bubblegum Pink from Arda-Wigs is used for the Princess Small Lady Serenity & Eternal Sailor Chibi Moon variants of Chibi-Usa, (along with any other versions of her that I decide to do in the future), and because I made the odangos removable, it’s also PrettyDeer’s Madoka wig! At $55 for the wig + extensions, this pans out to about $18 per costume, much cheaper than if I’d done two separate wigs for Madoka and Chibi-Moon.

The cheap route is usually ebay, but that’s not to say that there’s not high quality wigs on there. Look for things that are heat-resistant, and whatever you do, avoid anything with the phrase “party wig” in the listing title. There is a 99.9999999% chance that that is some cheap iparty stuff and will look like junk. Also, milanoo is the devil!! Stay far, far, FAR away!!

Other things to pay attention to on ebay are the seller’s feedback rating (don’t buy from anyone with less than 95%), and also important, how many people have bought from them (you’re better off buying from places that have a lot of people). Try to find wigs with free shipping, & if you can’t find a wig for your character specifically, try searching for another character that has the same hairstyle or “red bob cosplay wig” or whatever style/color combo you’re looking for. Finally, check the watermark of their photos – if it doesn’t match their store title, chances are the photos’ been stolen and the wig you get will be nothing like the picture.

For “investment wigs”, there are four main companies in the US that really cater to cosplayers:

Arda-Wigs

Epic Cosplay

The Five Wits

Amphigory

I’ve only ever purchased wigs from ebay, now defunct companies, amphigory, and Arda, so I can’t really speak to the other two companies listed. (Arda’s definitely my fav in terms of price, comfort, and quality). However, same dealio applies to saving money with these guys: sign up for their emails and follow them on social media to be alerted to sales, new products, contests, etc. Arda and Epic Cosplay have reward points systems, so making an account with them means $$$ off future purchases.

Go forth and create some beautiful wig projects on the cheap!!

Cosplay on a Budget: Saving Money on Makeup

Hello my peeps! Today I’ll be talking to you about how to stretch your sweet, sweet dollar bills on makeup!

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So the first & most obvious way to save is to just buy cheap makeup instead of shelling out the big bucks for higher-end brands. You can read about my fav cheap brands here.

I also recommend getting set up for rewards programs at your local beauty chains (the two major ones in the U.S. are Ulta Beauty and Sephora). Both are free and allow you to rack up points (1 per dollar spent, and look out for multiplier events that allow you to earn 2-5x points on certain purchases) that can be used for various things depending on the store.

The deets for Ulta‘s program are in the link. The most appealing part of Ulta to me is that their points are redeemable for $ off of your purchase, which means you can use them on that Urban Decay palette you’ve been eyeing that’s not available for discounts. Ulta also does a 21 days of beauty event where 2-3 high end products/day are usually on sale for 50% off, saving you buckets of money! Ulta also carries drugstore brands in addition to “prestige” brands, and has regular sales on drugstore products. They have a $3.50 off a $10 purchase coupon every week, in addition to ultra-rare 20% off anything coupons (typically these are no good on brands like Urban Decay).

The deets for Sephora‘s program are after the jump. Sephora does a semi-annual sale with 10-20% off total purchase for BI’s and VIB/VIB Rogue members, but usually their prices do not budge and they do not offer coupons. You redeem points for “gift sets” on their site, so I recommend saving up to the 500-point tier to get something really worthwhile.

 

Personally I find Ulta’s rewards program and overall shopping experience to be more worthwhile than Sephora, but you do you and decide which is best.

HSN & beauty.com also offer great deals but I don’t shop there as often.

Also, pay attention to the brands themselves. Most websites will offer you 10-25% off your first purchase if you sign up for their email newsletters, but watch out, as some like TooFaced will only let you apply these to permanent products (lame), and the codes usually expire after a month, so don’t sign up until you’re ready to buy. Online retailers of high end brands usually have sales when the seasons are changing, so keep your eyeballs peeled around those times of year. If a palette is limited-edition, it will usually go on sale (if it isn’t sold out — still salty about the Peach Palette, y’all) when the next batch of limited stuff is going up (e.g. the Gwen blush palette & all the lipsticks were half price at Ulta not that long ago because they’re trying to make room for the new Alice in Wonderland stuff).

Next, we’re gonna talk apps. Retailmenot is a wonderful website/app that will find coupon codes for online and in-store shopping and I will be recommending it HEAVILY in any cosplay-on-a-budget posts. It also works on a system where you can upvote codes if they work, and down vote if they don’t. Add your favorite brands and they’ll let you know when deals pop up in stores.

Ebates is another great website/app that helps you save money while shopping online. Basically, you activate a “shopping trip” via their website or browser app before you shop at any online retailer, and they’ll send you cash for a certain percentage back on your purchase. They will also sometimes do rebates for in-store purchases, but not always.

Finally, invest your money wisely! Compare price per ounce on full size vs. travel sized products across and within brands.

Buying this elf dupe for the Naked 3 for $10 seems like a good option but if you go through this palette more quickly than the more expensive one because the shadows aren’t as pigmented/there are fewer of them, then you would have been better off shelling out the $54 for the real deal the first time around because you’d be spending less money overall.

Travel sized versions of things are great for trying new products but keep in mind Ulta and Sephora will let you return literally anything if you do not 100% love it (usually for store credit, but better than nothing). Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray is $14.00 for 1 ounce, and $30 for the full-sized 4 ounce bottle. In the full size, you’re only paying $7.50 per ounce. Sometimes, the travel sized version is actually cheaper per ounce, so it always pays off to double check so you don’t get ripped off.

Another good way to invest your money is in palettes, whether it’s eyeshadow, blush, contour, or something else. Regular Urban Decay singles are $19.00/.05 ounces (so $3.80 per .01 oz) but in the Vice Ltd XX Reloaded ($56) the shadows are .03 ounces a piece for 20 shadows. You’re paying $2.80 per shadow (so $0.96 per .01 oz)  and even though you’re getting .02 oz less than you would in a single, you’re paying way less per .01 oz AND you get more colors to play with.

Stay frugal my peeps!

Cosplay on a Budget: Save Money on Fabric & Sewing Stuff

I live in a suburb outside of Boston, and even Boston doesn’t have a ton of independent fabric stores, so this post is largely going to be about Jo-Ann, but you should be able to apply the same concepts to other chain stores.

Sign up for their emails, sign up for their circulars, if you get the paper, great! They probably have an ad in that. Download the app for your smartphone, and before you go shopping, open their website in your browser & go to the coupons & deals page. ALSO: You can sign up for a student discount with a high school or college ID that gives you 10% off your entire purchase. If you’re a teacher, you get a discount too, woo! Grab the paper circular they have in the store when you walk in. You now have coupons from up to five sources, go you!

Now, say you want something really pricey, like casa satin or duponi silk. Wait until those items are /not/ on sale because coupons cannot stack on regular sale unless it’s the rare 20% off your total purchase of all merch, regardless of sale/non-sale status (& unless the fabrics are 60% off, in which case buy the thing!), then go into Jo-Ann’s armed with all of your coupons. You can use as many coupons as you have items but only one of the “x% off your total purchase of fabric/notions/whatever”. Usually those coupons are for 40-50% off the price, which means instead of 12.99/yd for casa chiffon, you’re paying $6.50.

miwako

Miwako would be so proud.

Muslin will also occasionally go on sale for something stupid cheap like $1/yd so if you have the cash to burn, just buy the bolt. Muslin can be used for mock ups (which means fewer trips back to the store if you mess up with your pretty fabric) and for lining your projects which will increase the lifespan of the garment. You’ll almost always need it so it’s not a waste, and future you will thank you.

Notions wall items & thread also goes on sale pretty frequently so keep your eyes peeled.

Jo-Ann’s usually does pattern sales every month, where for a weekend, all patterns from x brand will be $1/$5 if you buy 5/3 of them. Do not pay full price for patterns if you can wait. JoAnn’s has actually started to cater to cosplayers which means there are a lot of patterns that you can use for multiple projects/Franken-patterning. There’s also a ton of free patterns on the interwebs, and learning how to draft your own is a skill that is super duper useful.

Dressforms, sewing machines, and storage items will usually go on SUPER sale immediately after Christmas so if you can wait until then, do so. Good sales on these usually happen 2-3 times a year.

Also, Jo-Ann will usually match competitors’ coupons for the same item, but it depends on your particular stores’ policy.

Buying in-store is much better than online, because online you can ONLY get one coupon code per order, and you have to pay for shipping, boooo.

Finally I know their store title is “Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts” but– don’t buy crafty stuff from Jo-Ann/fabric-specific stores if you can help it because they’re usually more expensive than places like AC Moore or Michael’s that are “craft specific”. Do the same thing with craft stores that you did with Jo-Ann’s- download their app if they have it (retailmenot will also save you some $$), sign up for circulars/emails, etc. Compare prices before you shop, and also, check amazon, especially if you’re going to need to buy something in bulk. ALSO: with things that come in ounces, check the price per ounce. It’s usually cheaper to buy the larger size especially if you’ll use it again for another project (like resin).

Stay thrifty my peeps! ❤

Cosplay on a Budget: Wallet-friendly makeup brands

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MOON PRISM POWER… MAKE UP!

Without killing my wallet? Please?

I’m gonna preface this by saying that I am HEAVILY BIASED towards cruelty-free products, but I am not judging you if you buy stuff that isn’t. I’m just not gonna feature stuff in recommendations if it’s not cruelty free because I don’t use it/don’t pay attention to their brands so I can’t give you an accurate review!

Newsflash! You do not need crazy expensive makeup to look good! Good primer and setting spray will do wonders for even the cheapest of brands. Most of the time you just need to use more of the cheap stuff/reapply more frequently to get the same effect as someone using the expensive stuff. And expensive =/= high quality! And, as much as it pains me to say it, unless you’re doing a photoshoot, most of your makeup (read: eye shadow) won’t show up well in hall shots from Joe Schmoe at the con. Disappointing, I know, but it’s the truth.

Temptalia.com has a “dupe finder” that lets you compare products. So say you really like NARS Blush in “Orgasm” but are not in love with the $30 price tag; dump that into the dupe finder and it’ll spit out a bunch of products that are similar in color, finish, and lasting power, along with the savings between the two brands. This thing is a lifesaver, especially when it comes to finding something close to your dearly departed limited-edition what-have-you-product.

On to actual brands themselves:

Eyes lips face or elf has a ton of good makeup for like $1-8 cheap (read reviews to find out what’s worth the $$), and you can find it in most drugstores and target. They frequently dupe or try to dupe more expensive brands, so if you’re looking to try an expensive palette but aren’t sure you want to shell out the cash because of how the colors will look, check their website first. I particularly love their blushes, brushes (SO CHEAP), shimmering facial whip ($1 highlighter, cannot go wrong), all over color stick (I use it as a cream blush), lipsticks, color-correcting powder (I usually use this on top of primer and again over foundation if it’s too dark for my skin tone), and their makeup mist and set. I used to use their foundation, but they changed their formula and now their lightest shade oxidizes much darker on my skin, so no more cheap acne-fighting foundation for me.

NYX is a little bit pricier than elf and also very high quality (I’m also a total junkie). You can also find it in drugstores/Target, and they are also carried by Ulta Beauty. I love their HD blushes, highlighters (dupes for UD’s new summer ones & Too Faced’s candlelight glow, HOLLA), lipsticks/lip paints (hello tarte dupes!), micro brow pencil (Anastasia brow wiz dupe woot woot), false eyelashes, doll eye mascara & their water-proof it mascara coat, some of their eyeshadows (these are usually hit or miss), powder foundation (can go on wet or dry), finishing powder, pore filler primer, jumbo eye pencils (priming lids with “milk” is a fabulous way to get bright colors to really pop), the wonder pencil (can use to line lips, as a concealer, and highlighter), liquid liner, their wonder stick (contour & highlight), color-correcting concealer, and makeup setter.

Milani is another great, budget friendly brand with really cute packaging! I have not personally purchased anything from them yet but I’m planning on picking up some lip colors and blush with my next Walgreens run. I’ve heard literally nothing but good things about both so I’m excited to see how these work. They’re also very good at duping higher end brands.

ColourPop is a brand that’s popped up fairly recently, and they. are. all. the. rage. I’m planning on picking up some of their eyeshadow singles in the near-ish future along with some of their lipsticks. (Can you tell I have a lipstick problem yet?) EDIT: THEY ARE SO WORTH THE HYPE! Lipsticks are amazing, and while I don’t like the fact that their eyeshadow singles need you to use your fingers to get them on, they are so buttery I don’t even care that much.

Wet n’ Wild is another very cheap drugstore brand with some good dupes for high-end makeup. Personally I’ve only ever used their lipsticks, but I’m looking to add some of their other stuff to my collection soon. EDIT: Their brushes are pretty great!!

Ulta Beauty’s house brand is also pretty decent, but their products are usually hit-or-miss for me. I like their regular lipsticks, but not their liquid mattes, their primer is nice, mascara is great, brow pencil & gel are also good, but aside from that I haven’t really tried much from them (what I have tried I’ve received in grab bags for making an $x amount online purchase).

So those are some of my top picks for makeup on the cheap! Next time I’ll be talking about some of my favorite higher-end brands!

Do you have any great, cheap makeup faves? Comment below!

Cosplay on a Budget: Do you really NEED to make this?

One of the hardest parts about breaking into and keeping up with this hobby is the expense, so the cosplay on a budget series is here to help you do the thing without breaking the bank!

If you’re someone like me who likes to make their own costumes, the idea of buying clothing for a cosplay can feel like you’ve regressed back to the days of middle-school closet cosplay with no wigs and … yeah. But your first step in embarking on a new project should be asking yourself: do I really need to make this?

Things to consider:

  • Are you planning on competing with this costume?
    • If so, make it yourself unless you’re only being judged on performance!
  • Will you wear this costume more than once, or is this a one-time thing for friends that need a person for a group?
    • How much do you love your friend? (I’m just kidding– but do consider spending your hard earned cash on something you know you’re not going to wear again) Go with what’s cheaper if it’s just a one-off, no point in breaking the bank for a character you’re not 100% in love with.
  • Is it cheaper to make it or to buy/thrift/closet shop it?
    • Your call with what to do considering the above, but cheaper is usually better!
  • Will you be able to use the components of this (regardless of if it was made or bought) for other cosplays/purposes or be able to sell it once you’re done with it?
    • If the answer is no, really think hard about doing this character unless you REALLY love them!
  • Are you, like me, a complete and total nut with a need to MAKE ALL THE THINGS regardless of their simplicity, because you just gotta?

Making things yourself is all well and good, but if it’s something that isn’t going to provide much of a technical challenge and will be more expensive to make… perhaps consider buying it outright or portions of it, like I did with my Nozomi Tojo cosplay:

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I bought the blazer, shoes, and thigh-highs, grabbed the shirt out of my closet, and bought fabric for the skirts and bows from SparklePipsi on spoonflower for myself & my lovely Kotori – grand total for just me was around $100; but most ebay sellers list the blazer + blouse + bow + skirt combo for $50, and I would have had to have bought shoes, socks, and wig ($76) on top of that, so it was actually cheaper for me to make portions of this costume.

Had I chosen to make the blazer and blouse myself, this would have cost around $140 if I was being a good goober and lining things the way I should. 😉 But, I wasn’t competing with this and didn’t care about buying portions of it, because the components aside from the skirt can be used for other things, and I like Nozomi enough to wear this more than once. If/when I get sick of Love Live, I should be able to gift the skirt to someone who still likes it or sell it.

Stay thrifty my peeps!