One of the challenges of cosplay–depending on the character you’re portraying–is creating certain accessories. If you’re cosplaying a character like, say, Batgirl, the main headache is more than likely her utility belt. You can absolutely buy a belt, but if you’re like me and you want to make multiple pieces to your cosplay, this will be a useful tutorial on how to make a simple belt for cosplay.
This tutorial can be used for many characters who have a belt in their ensemble, so it’s definitely a useful one to keep in your back pocket as you craft. I’ve used this method for both my Batgirl utility belt (which is show in this tutorial), and for my Midnight belt, and it can be modified to adapted to suit your skill level and crafting preferences.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 36 x 60-inch Craft Foam Roll (here’s the one I purchased)
- 6mm Craft Foam Sheet(s)
- Craft Knife or Box Cutter (with brand new blade)
- Sewing Clips OR Binder Clips
- 1/4-yard of Vinyl or Faux Leather Fabric OR Spray Paint in the Color of Your Belt
- PlastiDip (if you use spray paint for any part of your belt)
- Spray Paint in Required Colors for Your Belt
- Clear Coat Spray Paint
- Hot Glue Gun with Glue Sticks
- Gel Super Glue OR E6000 Glue
- Contact Cement
- Poster Board OR Cardstock
- Tape measure
- Acrylic Paint
- Mod Podge
- Rub n’ Buff
- Adornments like studs or gems
- Dremel Handheld Drill (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
- Foam Core Board
- Straight Pins
Start by measuring the area where you want to wear our belt, and determine how tall you want your belt to be. Mark down these measurements. These will be the length and width measurements for the base of your belt. In my case, I wanted my utility belt to sit just under my natural waistline, so my length was 44 inches. I already had some of the pieces I’d be adding around the belt cut out–namely, the capsule shapes–so to accommodate those the width of my belt was 1 1/2 inches.
Once you have these measurements, it’s time to grab reference images and templates for all of the shapes to your belt. Break down all of the components to your belt so you know exactly what you’ll need to create or what you can purchase separately (i.e. studs or gems). In the case of Batgirl’s utility belt, the main components that I needed to create besides the belt base were the buckle (bat-shaped), and her cylindrical capsules that go around the belt.
Once you’ve gotten each component broken down, now it’s time to create templates. I cropped and resized template images in Microsoft Word because it’s the easiest for me to use, but feel free to use whatever image editing software you are comfortable with. Try different sizes until you have the right one for your belt. Print off, cut out the shape, and transfer over to poster board. Cut out the shapes from poster board and now you have easy-to-trace templates to use on your craft foam. You can skip the poster board part of this step if you want, but it makes it so much easier to trace.
Take your roll of craft foam and unroll it onto a safe cutting surface. I recommend this large roll because you have plenty of material to work with, but it’s rather thin foam. Here is how I combat that: take your yardstick and draw the length and width you measured out earlier, then repeat and draw a second belt base. You will adhere these two pieces together later for a sturdier belt base. Once these are drawn, take your craft knife or box cutter (make sure the blade is new!) and cut these pieces out, using your yardstick as a guide.
Pro Tip!Draw vertical marks every few inches going down the length of the foam so that you can perfectly line up our marks.
Trace your other components out of the 6mm foam sheet, and cut out carefully.
Note: It’s a good idea to trace out multiple versions of the same shape just in case one does not turn out to your liking.
If you have a Dremel, take that out and use a light sanding head to smooth out edges of your foam pieces. While it’s not required, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as even cutting is difficult on craft foam.
Time to prime your belt adornments! If you’re using spray paint (which is what I did for my Batgirl belt), prime the foam pieces with PlastiDip. Use white if you’re going to paint over top with light colors, and black if you’re using dark colors or black.
An easy way to paint these pieces and prevent them from sticking to a surface is to take straight pins and foam core board, stick the pins all the way through the board, and then gently pin the foam pieces in place.
Once your pieces are primed, let dry completely before you move on to the next step.
If you’ve never used PlastiDip, this tutorial by Kamui Cosplay is excellent for beginners.
Now it’s time to add your paint! Following a similar procedure as the previous step, apply your paint layer(s) and allow to fully dry. Once fully dry, apply a sealing coat/clear coat.
As your paint is drying in between coats, start constructing your belt base. Take your two foam belt base pieces you cut out in Step 3 and your contact cement. Apply a thin, even layer of contact cement to one side of each belt base piece. Allow to dry (takes around 15 minutes).
Just be careful when you stick these pieces together because it’s completely permanent, and can’t be re-positioned.
Fire up our hot glue gun, take your vinyl fabric and lay it out with wrong side up, and grab your sewing clips/binder clips. The wrong side on the fabric is the backside of it, not the nice colored side of it. You will more than likely have to cut down the fabric a bit, but make sure you have enough material to cover the foam base a little over halfway down (for overlap), and about 1-inch to 1 1/2 inch on the ends.
Place the foam belt base on the wrong side of the fabric, and fold over one side over top of the foam belt base. Clip into place. In small sections, glue down the fabric. When that side has been completed, repeat on the other side. Fold over the end pieces to the inside and glue those down. The base is done!
Alternative Step 7:
If you decided to just spray paint the foam base belt, go ahead and follow the painting steps. The thing you’ll have to be wary of is to make sure that your belt base pieces line up evenly. Using vinyl fabric makes it easier to hide those mistakes if they occur.
When everything is all dry, lightly mark where all of the adornments will go, and line up the buckle. Depending on how big the buckle is, make sure you allow at least 1-inch of space on the back of the buckle to glue one end of the belt base permanently, and the other end to apply Velcro as a closure.
When you’re happy with the placement of the belt pieces, adhere these to the belt base using your super glue or E6000.
A couple of caveats to these two options: E6000 is a powerful glue that pretty much sticks anything to anything, but it takes about 2-3 days for it to fully cure. Super glue is fast and effective, but it will slightly warp your vinyl fabric. I used both on my Batgirl belt and both worked out nicely, but I would recommend E6000 over super glue if you have a few days for it to cure.
Cut an appropriately-sized piece of Velcro to fit your belt base and belt buckle. Glue one side to the belt base, and the other side to the back of the belt buckle. Once dry, test it out nd make sure everything lines up and sits where you like it. After that, then…
I hope I explained the process properly because this method has definitely helped me make some pretty cool belts. It’s how I make my original Batgirl utility belt, and I adapted the method to create my Midnight belt and the new utility belt.
What’s also great is that this method can be adapted for cosplayers of any size, skill level, and used for most characters! And it’s a great way to start sharpening your foamsmithing skills.
What do you think of this tutorial? Was it helpful? Let me know in the comments below! And if ou want more cosplaying tips, I have a whole series called The Beginner’s Guide to Cosplay! You can learn how to make gems out of hot glue, and get some cosplay makeup tips.
Life was meant to be lived nerdily, so what are you waiting for?