Cosplay 101: How to Build a Prop Gun

Cosplay is more than spandex bodysuits, wigs, and killer make-up. It’s also swords, guns, and mayhem…all made out of materials that can be taken out onto the convention floor without actually causing bodily harm. For many, the prop completes the costume. It brings everything full circle, and makes them feel powerful as everyone “oohs” and “ahhs” at their beautiful piece of work.

Blog post and photos by Taylor Boswell

Today I will be explaining step by step how I made my “Ferocious Kitten” gun from the video game “Borderlands 2” for my Gaige the Mechromancer cosplay! Hopefully you’ll be able to take this guide and make some amazing props yourself.

STEP 1: FIND REFERENCE PICTURES OF YOUR DESIRED GUN

This is pretty easy-all you really need to do is Google image search guns from a video game, television show, or movie. It’s even better if you can get shots from multiple angles so you won’t miss any pieces of the gun. When making my gun I used this picture I found on Google as my main reference. I was unable to find pictures of the gun from different angles, but this worked just fine for me.

Photo from Google.com

Photo from Google.com

STEP 2: DRAW AND CUT OUT THE BASIC SHAPE OF YOUR GUN

Basically for the part you need to imagine the gun without any of the added stuff. You need to look at the basic outline and then draw that onto your material. In order to save money and lessen the risk of wasting precious materials, I draw my shape out on a piece of paper and then draw it onto the board. For this project, I used a foam core board (this is the same stuff your science fair boards were made out of) and you can get it at most art stores. Sometimes you can find it at places like Target or Walmart, but they tend to have smaller pieces, and I like purchasing bigger pieces just to be safe. The width of my board was ½ inch and I used two pieces to get the thickness I wanted.

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STEP 3: BEGIN BUILDING ALL OF THE ADDED STUFF ON TOP OF YOUR BASIC FORM

This is a tedious, but fun, process. (Really, though, you’re going to spend many hours leaning over some craft foam and scissors, so get your Tylenol ready and start snipping!) You’re going to need your researched picture up on you computer, phone, tablet, etc. at ALL TIMES for this. Whatever you see, you’re going to cut out of craft foam and then glue onto the basic form. Some parts were made out of ¼ inch foam core board for larger pieces, but for the most part I stuck to lots of craft foam. You don’t have to use the thickest craft foam out there, actually I suggest using the more flimsier one (the kind you get in a pack of 50 for a couple of dollars) because they’re much easier to cut with scissors. During this time I only use wood glue because it offers the best adhesiveness with no fear of coming apart like hot glue. To create a rounded top for my gun I used air dry clay. After adding this you need to let it dry for a night before you do anything else because if not, it won’t stick to the foam the way it is supposed to. It will also become crusty to the point where you need to rip it off.

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STEP 4: PRIMING TIME

After you’ve added your craft foam pieces to your main form you need to prime your in-progress prop! Priming just helps create a smoother surface for you to paint on. The paint will also adhere better to the material this way. Be sure that you give the primer enough time to dry! Typically what I do in this situation is prime one side, let it dry overnight, then the next morning prime the next side. It was ready for paint by the time I got home from my classes! I suggest using a black primer, so you can be sure that every part of the gun received an even coating of it.

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STEP 5: PAINT, PAINT, PAINT!!!

Once again this step also takes a while, so gather up all the patience in your body and settle down on your floor (or bed if you think you can paint without getting paint everywhere…I can’t). For this particular piece, I used a lot of purple and pink acrylic paint, and from there I tried to create different shades and hues by mixing them with white and black. Other colors I used included red, white, silver and orange for other random pieces on the gun. I only did one coat of paint, because that’s all I needed since I primed the gun before I began the painting process.

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STEP 6: GET OUT THERE AND LOOK LIKE A BADASS

After allowing all of your paint to dry you are done! It’s now time to get out there and show the world how talented you are with your big, honkin’ gun.

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Disclaimer: Do not try and kill bad guys and/or loader bots with your gun because no matter how cool and realistic it looks, it is not real and you will not win.

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