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Cosplay Commissions: what to Expect, How to Prepare

#1 User is offline   Mykaios 

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 01:59 AM

So, I've been seeing a lot of tension between commissioners and those seeking commissioners lately. Either people have unrealistic budgets or the prices for a commission is "ridiculous" and I can't say how many times I've tried explaining material costs and labor cost, not to mention all the disrespect and rude comments flying back and forth from both sides and all that SO HERE IS A BLOG/FORUM POST ABOUT IT.

There are different reasons why people seek cosplay commissions - whether you have no artistic ability whatsoever, don't have the time, are lazy or would prefer something of higher quality than that of ebay and so on, there are things that one should know and to expect before seeking out another individual for a commissioned piece.

    First:


Have you tried looking online? I personally don't recommend buying from Ebay/China/Halloween stores, etc mainly due to the sizing, accuracy and quality that you get for the price. I mean, if you're not terribly picky and if you are on tight budget, then go for it. Moreso, if you cannot afford those prices, do not expect a commissioner to charge the same price or even less. Oftentimes, the costs of materials are higher than the price of what you can get a full costume from these places. Most commissioners will try their best to work around budgets and may go with cheaper materials, however, while you might be fine with cheaper materials and less details, in the end the costume reflects that person's work and abilities. Cheaper materials may work for your budget, but it might not work for the commission and what it entails. It may not sit or flow the way it is suppose to or look right. Some materials just can't be switched out either. For example, a bodysuit can't quite be made without stretchy fabrics, otherwise it won't hug your body correctly and it will be difficult to move around in, plus you run the risk of it being too tight or too loose.

    Commissioners 101:


A commissioner, specifically for cosplay, has taken the time, often at least two years to teach themselves the tricks and methods needed to sew and make cosplay items. It takes time to learn about the various fabric and materials available, It takes time to learn to use the sewing machine and its different functions as well as a serger and or embroidery machine. It takes time to learn to read a pattern, modify a pattern and draft one up from scratch. Of course, it also takes time to shop, cut and sew up a costume (or draft, build, paint props) from start to finish. For props, it takes time to learn how to use table and band saw, and lathes, and whatever else. It also requires access to a shop whether it's available at one's school, neighborhood or home. Running a shop is expensive. School tuition costs money, a shop like TechShop, has a monthly/yearly membership fee and classes are generally required on top of that to be cleared for access. Running one at home require upkeep and electricity costs.

    Material costs:


Fabric on average costs $10/yard. Something like broadcloth (usually used for quliting) is $3.99/yard. Special occassion/bridal fabrics can be anywhere from $3.99-$19.99/yard and pleathers and spandex can be $9.99-$21.99/yard. It really depends on where you shop and what's available to you. Not all of us are near Los Angeles or NYC to get the better fashion/fabric district deals (or selection, because NYC can be even more costly). Joann/Handcock fabrics doesn't have a wide variety as one might think. Shopping online often takes time, as one would have to order swatches (which also costs money) to make sure that that fabric would meet the needs of a project.

On top of fabric costs there are also other costs for a costume:
-thread
-ribbon,
-bias tape
-trim
-buttons
-zippers
-fasteners
-elastic
-dyes
-paints
-interfacing
-embroidery thread
-hot glue sticks
-hot glue gun
-beads
-lace
-rhinestones
-jewelry findings
-heat 'n bond,
-hem tape
-muslin
-leatherworking tools, etc.

For props and accessories:
-insulation foam,
-Worbla
-bondo
-fiberglass cloth
-fiberglass resin
-Cast 'n Craft or other resin
-resin pigments
-sand paper
-glues/bonding agents like epoxy
-craft foam
-foam board
-wood/metal
-plaster of Paris
-plaster strips
-silicone mold kits
-primer/paints
-acrylic/plastic sheeting
-pvc pieces
-Wonderflex
-LED lights
-plasti-seal
-duct tape (or duck tape)
-masking tape, painter's tape
-clay or crayola model magic

For wigs:
-the base wig (anywhere from $25-65),
-wefts, wefting needles
-wefting thread
-wig stand/foam head
-hair spray
-freezing spray
-spiking glue
-wig dyes or sharpie/copic marker
-leave-in conditioner
-wig shampoo and conditioner
-hair clips/bobby pins/hair ties or rubber bands, etc.

Material costs can, very well add up and they will also vary by design, what you want and the commissioner's approach. Here are a few breakdowns of material costs for various costumes:

**Princess Serenity:
*12 yards of satin @ $7.99/yard = $79.90
*12 yards of lining @ $5.99/yard = $71.88
*12 yards of chiffon @ $9.99/yard = $119.88
*3 yards organza for the bow @ $9.99 = $29.97
*2 spools of thread @ $2.79/each = $5.58
*Zipper = $2.99
*Trim/details: $50
Material costs: $360.20 + $25.21 tax = $385.41

**Brotherhood Ezio:
Undercoat (the longest)
*4 yards white fabric = $51.96
*2 yards red (around the waist front and back) = $25.98
*4 yard white lining = $23.96
Top coat (+ hood, shoulder layers and sleeves = the most layered)
*6 yards white = $77.94
*6 yards red lining = $35.94
Cape
*2 yards white = $25.98
*2 yard red lining = $11.98
Undershirt/tunic
*4 yards = $39.96
Just the fabric costs (no thread, trim, etc) : $293.70 + $20.56tax = $314.26

**Kyokou Sakura from Madoka Magica:
*4 yards of a dark red/maroonish fabric @7.99/yard = $31.96
http://www.joann.com...olors/prd26099/
*2 yards of white fabric @ 3.99/yard = $7.98
http://www.joann.com...olors/prd10006/
*2.5 yards of black fabric @ 3.99/yard = $9.98
same link
*2 yards of a pastel red fabric for the skirt @ 9.99/yard = $19.98
http://www.joann.com...ors/xprd757778/
*1 yard of grey spandex @ $12.99/yard = $12.99
*Bias tape/trim = $1.99
http://www.joann.com...olors/prd34706/
*Fabric paint = $3.99
http://www.joann.com...olors/prd11788/
Material cost: $88.57 + tax $6.20 = $94.77

**Blue Rose from Tiger and Bunny:
*2 yards of dark blue pleather @ $8.99/yard = $13.49
http://www.joann.com...ors/xprd757783/
*3 yards of light blue pleather @ $8.99/yard = $26.97
same link
*1 yard of gold pleather to make trim out of @ $14.99/yard = $14.99
http://www.joann.com...ors/xprd285503/
*3 yards of white spandex @ $16.99/yard = $50.97
http://www.joann.com...ors/xprd728523/
*Thread in blue, light blue, gold and white @ 2.79/each = $8.37
http://www.joann.com...ors/xprd840925/
*Zipper = $2.49
http://www.joann.com...olors/prd34300/
*Head piece materials = ~$50-75
Material costs: $192.28 + tax $13.50 = $205.78

Also keep in mind and different body types and sizes require different amounts of fabric and materials. The fabric requirement for a small person will not be the same for a bigger or taller person.

    Labor costs:


A lot of commissioners do this as their main source of income, if not their only source of income and most charge anywhere from minimum wage to $10/hour. So, by that logic I usually put it in the way as, you may have a normal part/full time job for your main source of income to pay rent and bills and you clock in and record every hour you work and get paid for every hour you work, same for us. You pay taxes and so do we. You buy groceries, so do we - etc. So charging a little more than minimum wage isn't unreasonable by any means as we aren't just greeting guests, taking orders, stocking shelves, whatever.

Labor generally breaks down like this:
Costumes:
*Researching for and purchasing materials
*Finding more references
*Drafting/modifying a pattern to your measurements
*Cutting out the fabric according to the pattern
*Sewing
*Making sure it fits on the dress form (or you, if you're local)
*Serger-ing and finalizing hems/seams
*Making adjustments as necessary
*Detailing: i.e. beading, painting, etc
*Digitizing embroidery patterns/files
-Embroidering
*Adding zippers, buttons, snaps, velcro, etc

Props/accessories:
*Drafting
*Sculpting
-Making molds
-Casting final forms in resin
*Cutting out the wood/metal/acrylic
*Sanding/shaping/embossing/engraving/etc
*Fiberglassing
*Priming
*Painting
*Sealing

Wigs:
*Washing
*Hand sewing in wefts
*Making dye
-Dying
*Cutting
*Styling/sculpting
**May also require accessories to be made

It's easier to set price points for things such as wigs as they can be treated much like regular salon services. Keep in mind though that wigs are not the same as your own head of hair. There are a lot less fibers/hairs to work with and usually extra has to be added in order for the base wig to style-able like normal hair. Some salons have wig services which are almost, always a lot more costly than normal hair styling services due to the nature of wigs. So, prices can be set according to length of the wig and or what type of service is needed: cutting, dying, styling/up do's/spiking.

Same with plushies. I've has someone compare a plushie commission to a costume commission before and I assure you that material costs and time are vastly different between the two. So, to compare the two and expect the same prices is rather unreasonable.

    Shipping:


Shipping will vary per item and destination. Wigs that do not require a custom box can fit in a flat rate priority mail padded envelope and be shipped for about $8 within the US. Something like a school uniform can fit in a medium flat rate box and be shipped for about $12. Full costumes and armor vary. International prices also vary and of course there is a price difference between the post office, UPS and FedEx and extra fees apply for services like tracking, signature confirmation and or insurance (and perhaps customs for non US deliveries).

    Timing;


Everyone works at a different pace. A partial costume or small piece can take 5-10 hours, full costumes start at around 20 hours and fully elaborate costumes and armor pieces can take 50+ hours. So the more detail and material, the more material costs, time and labor it will take.

After having read all of this, I hope that everyone is more well aware of what goes into making cosplay costumes and anything else that may be related. I also hope that people understand a little more about the material and labor costs and why commissioners charge what they charge and why the prices may seem "ridiculous."

Now, if you've read and understood all of this and are still wanting to have someone commission something for you, please do the following when seeking a commission, whether you are contacting someone directly or posting on a forum:

Deadlines: It's best that you look for a commission at least a month or two in advanced. Many commissioners are booked months in advanced and not everyone is available on the spot. Though if you are in need of something rather quickly, be prepared to pay rush fees and possibly for express shipping. I can't I suggest looking for something with a deadline of about a week or two.

Reference images: Not everyone knows what character or item you may be referring to as not everyone has seen or played every video game, anime, movie, etc, so high-res screen caps, or concept artwork is the best way to go. Figures are also handy.

Measurements: Earlier i mentioned that not everyone is the same size and that everyone requires a different amount of fabric and materials which makes a world of difference when determining material costs so more or less may be needed. I'm not sure why some people absolutely refuse to give measurements and expect us to give a quote. I mean, they are just quotes but I like to be as thorough as possible, to prevent any under/over charging for materials and it just makes things less messy.

BE RESPECTFUL. It really should go without saying, but some people just can't ever be happy and they have to be like that old lady who complains that their soup is too hot or cold or something. We are human beings just like you and we work hard. We can't answer emails within 30 seconds (though if you've asked a question and waited over two weeks, I'd start to worry). Things can be frustrating, but that doesn't mean you have to lash out at us. We might've made a mistake, some times things do come up and we may miss your deadline, progress or updates might not be as frequent as originally wanted but again, we're human. Understand that your commission is probably not the only commission we have nor is it the only thing we have going on in our lives (and to not expect this is rather selfish and ignorant imo). We have emergencies, bad days, school, maybe a job outside of commissioning, etc just like everyone else. Don't cuss at each other, don't yell at each other - proof read and think about your words before clicking "submit" or "send". Ask yourself, "Would I like it if someone treated me this way?"

    Etiquette:


These pointers were originally written by Methos of cosplayisland:

If you're going to a commissioner, chances are it's because you've been recommended them by a friend, or have seen some of their awesome work before and or they contacted you. So, common sense and courtesy should dictate that if you're purchasing something from these artists, and make no mistake, some of the stuff I've seen come out of commissioners online is definitely art, you should be professional and treat it like any other business transaction.

Don't constantly hound them asking for updates and progress pictures...
Chances are when they agreed to do a design for you, you spoke about a date when you would need the piece done by, and it was agreed on. They don't need you constantly messaging asking for updates every day, or every few days, as that sort of behavior is just piling on stress and turning what should be an enjoyable project for both of you, into a time where the commissioner feels that the customer is always watching over their shoulder. Moreso, do not do so and harass them and post countless questions on their threads/facebooks (including friends and family)/DeviantART/tumblr/Twitter/etc.

Entitlement is not the way to go... If you're going to any commissioner, then lots of other people are too. There might be people that have ordered pieces (way) before you, chances are there are, and the that person or studio are working on a dozen pieces at a time. This is to be expected, as I said above, messaging them constantly and asking for updates isn't going to help the situation, so just let them work and do their thing, and you'll have your project soon.

Be professional... and by this, I'm simply saying "don't be a douche bag" really, more than likely you've paid (or are going to have to) a deposit up front, for some hefty kit, it was probably a decent sum, and this is to be expected. Paying a deposit helps the commissioner get in the stock fabrics or other materials needed for the project, it makes sure they can work on your bits without having to wait for you to trickle in money to them so they can continue, and last of all it helps ensure that the commissioner won't be out of pocket if you randomly decide to change your mind or drop out of the deal before the final payment... These things are standard practice, and good common sense for any business. Do not expect a commissioner to start a project without a deposit and do not ask for updates on a project when you haven't even paid (trust me, it's happened more than once).

It just seems that a lot of commissioners are being taken for granted lately, with people bugging them constantly for updates, posting all over their FB pages demanding progress pictures and update reports, when this sort of behavior is just annoying them more and making them wish they hadn't taken on the project in the first place.

If you're planning a huge costume, and know you'll have to go to a commissioner for some pieces of it, why not plan in advance... give yourself, and the artist, plenty of time, 6, 9, 12 months or so, giving as much time as possible will lead to a stress free environment for both you and the artist, and it gives you both plenty of time to work out any design plans, discuss the project as it's ongoing, and solve any problems that arise while the designs and pieces are being put together.

The commissioners around the cosplay scene do some seriously fantastic work, and they seem to get a lot of stress for bringing these amazing creations to life, and then the cosplayer themselves gets the limelight.... don't forget the commissioners who worked so hard bringing your costume to life, show them courtesy, respect and use your common sense, that way everyone comes out ahead of the business
______________
If you have read all this and still can't comprehend commissions for whatever reason, then I suggest you purchase a basic sewing machine (which can be bought for less than $100) and learn yourself. Only then, will you truly understand the time and costs it takes.

I think I've covered everything... There's another great tid bit on artist and commission written by someone else here:
http://mattmunson.bl...creativity.html

There's also an ongoing discussion on cosplay.com with input from other commissioners here:
http://www.cosplay.c...ad.php?t=320820

Feel free to ask any questions, and spreading the word/reblogging would be super nice :)/>/>

This post has been edited by Mykaios: 24 May 2013 - 02:00 AM

Visit and like my cosplay page :)

#2 User is offline   Washu Takahashi 

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 09:47 AM

I agree with everything but "Don't constantly hound them asking for updates and progress pictures." I think the costumer has an absolute right to know how their work is going. Just because a date is agreed on, doesn't mean the commissioner is going to follow through. What if it's someone scamming you? You need to be proactive and ask about your piece and assure it's getting done on time and that it looks the way you wanted. If you can catch something you don't like in the bud, it's easier to correct than when the whole piece is done. That said, there's a difference between asking for a weekly update and bugging someone every other hour about their progress.
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#3 User is offline   Mykaios 

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 12:13 PM

View PostWashu Takahashi, on 24 May 2013 - 09:47 AM, said:

I agree with everything but "Don't constantly hound them asking for updates and progress pictures." I think the costumer has an absolute right to know how their work is going. Just because a date is agreed on, doesn't mean the commissioner is going to follow through. What if it's someone scamming you? You need to be proactive and ask about your piece and assure it's getting done on time and that it looks the way you wanted. If you can catch something you don't like in the bud, it's easier to correct than when the whole piece is done. That said, there's a difference between asking for a weekly update and bugging someone every other hour about their progress.


Don't constantly hound them asking for updates and progress pictures... Chances are when they agreed to do a design for you, you spoke about a date when you would need the piece done by, and it was agreed on. They don't need you constantly messaging asking for updates every day, or every few days, as that sort of behavior is just piling on stress and turning what should be an enjoyable project for both of you, into a time where the commissioner feels that the customer is always watching over their shoulder. Moreso, do not do so and harass them and post countless questions on their threads/facebooks (including friends and family)/DeviantART/tumblr/Twitter/etc.



I went into detail about that on how to go about that. What you don't want to do is ask every hour/day/every other day. A lot of cosplayers have a DA/cosplay.com/facebook account where they post updates. Ask them nicely and privately, and just because they don't have an update, doesn't often mean that they're behind or are a scammer. Again, don't email them every hour or day, don't post on every single account that they have (or their friends'/families because I'm pretty sure that's some sort of breach of privacy to some degree as well) - asking for an updated is one thing, constantly hounding them is another. And remember, most times commissioners are working on multiple projects at once. Generally, if someone constantly replies your emails, you *should* be okay. If they haven't replied in over two weeks, then I'd start to worry but sometimes it's the case where they're just too busy and sometimes instead of emailing individual people, everything gets posted on fb or something. Sometimes, something has come up where they're legitimately in the hospital (or a family member is) - you just never know. So, just be careful, be calm and respectful and all that jazz.

This post has been edited by Mykaios: 24 May 2013 - 12:16 PM

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#4 User is offline   Mykaios 

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 08:46 PM

An up to date version can be found on cosplay.com and tumblr.
Visit and like my cosplay page :)

#5 User is offline   anthony886 

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Posted 17 November 2013 - 12:09 AM

All I got to say is great post, I'm going on my 3rd year making props and am now learning how to use a sewing machine to one day take on commission jobs....beaides that I've built a workshop in my garage and have all the things I've made for me and my friends as a portfolio, lol lets just hope the people I start working with end up reading your post before placing an order with me :)
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