How To Age Fabric For Cosplay

How To Age Fabric For Cosplay

Have you ever thought of wearing new but old clothes? This may sound confusing but if you are portraying someone who has been attacked by a zombie or someone who just survived armageddon, then distressing fabric may be the best next step for you to take.

Can I Spray Paint a New Shirt to Make It Look Old?

Can I Spray Paint a New Shirt to Make It Look Old

Here’s some good news! Did you know that you can basically use anything that would get that new shirt look old? Yes! That includes using acrylic paints that include your spray paint at home. You can play with different shades for as long as these resemble dirt or something vintage. I’d probably go for grey to black color-way or something from wood to mud colors.

Making these outfits look old means using regular fabrics or ready-to-wear clothes that are considered wearable by normal standards. These clothes should undergo distressing to make them look authentically old just like the outfit of the character chose.

This also means artificially making the clothes look worn off. The clothes should look like they have been worn daily and got exposed to the elements. Pants usually bear the force of the elements they are subjected to. They should have some interesting faded look or uneven texture. 

Are There Specific Fabrics For Distressing?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, you will be using fabrics that are actually wearable. So, that means, good and new fabric may undergo the process of distressing to create believable outfits. This has been the practice in many productions like theater, TV shows, and movies for quite some time.

This can be observed in the making of war and horror films and other film genres. Nowadays, it is quite common to see fashionable distressed clothing worn by regular people. 

What’s The Most Popular Distressed Clothing?

Did you know that denim is the most popular distressed fabric? That should answer your question about why distressed jeans never run out of fashion. It can naturally fade and be wornout through repeated wear and wash. This is the denim’ way of aging naturally.

Most people are willing to purchase already ready to wear expensively priced distressed jeans than wait for it to happen naturally. This has greatly changed the jeans industry as the worn ones took over the market and are priced almost double than regular jeans. 

Some will even resort to some DIY process that can help in fading their jeans in the right places. Adding pumice stones to the washer can be one. Using cold water and no brightener detergent can also aid in the distressing process.  Another is to sander or fill the areas of the jeans like the pocket tip until they achieve fray-looking jeans.

Remember that the purpose of distressing is to create an effect of a faded, wornout look. This means you need to be careful not to tear the fabric, especially in a distressed area. 

Why Do People Love Distressing Fabric?

Why Do People Love Distressing Fabric

Aside from using it for cosplay, did you know that people also love to wear distressed clothing? The love for distressed clothes has even come to the point where people labeled old-used jeans as antique and began to seek these authentic pairs. Since the demand is great, the jean industry started to market these styles of antique-looking jeans.

This has been a fad in the ’90s where manufacturers use potassium permanganate and bleach, together with digestive enzymes and pumice stones to create the effect. It doesn’t seem to run out of style even up to this day as many people still consider torn-out jeans to be a fashion must-wear.

Distressing Costumes For Different Characters

Distressing Costumes For Different Characters

Did you know that the outcome of an outfit will highly depend on your chosen character? This is because the character’s appearance will dictate how you are going to distress your costume.

This will include what his lifestyle is, his job, and even his current environment. Every story is different so if a character is adventurous, then his outfits would most likely be more distressed compared to those characters with office jobs. It will also look entirely different from those who have survived a zombie apocalypse.

Characters Surviving An Apocalypse

Is your character a survivor of some post-apocalyptic event or has been on the run from the undead? If so, you got to make a dusty-looking, grunge costume complete with sand, dirt, and even blood to make it look like it has been through a lot of dangerous experiences.

Constant exposure to the sun may mean having sun-bleached outfits complete with wrinkles like they have been wornout for days on end.

Adventurous Characters With Distressed Costumes

Did you know that there are many ways to weather costumes for adventurous characters? This will involve actively applying certain materials or chemicals onto heavier fabrics or lighter ones to achieve the effect you want. Remember to check the fabric or fibers of your outfit before treating it.

Since there are different types including cotton, denim, leather, to name a few, certain distressing techniques should be deliberated to get the result you want. This will include using the sand-paper technique to get the work done or spraying paints onto the fabric.

Important Cosplay Weathering Points To Remember

Did you know that distressing fabric can actually cause its structure shorter lifespan? The process of shredding and sanding may leave realistic damage effects. To lengthen your costumes’ existence, you need to be careful when distressing them or when you are creating bullet holes or applying impermeable dyes.

Be sure to keep the structural seams intact so there’s something holding the entire fabric even when you’re already distressing. For permanent weathering, use inorganic materials like dust, gravel, plaster, earth, or even lemon juice to create stains. This will not create mold or attract insects while in storage, unlike corn starch, flour, corn meal, and spices splattered or smothered onto a bright white shirt.

Applying Dirt for Outfit Effects

Applying Dirt for Outfit Effects

Having dirt on clothes means it is well-used. To create the dirt stain, you can use the real thing: dirt. Convert the outfit as a rag and use it to clean your windows, tables, even your kitchen floor. You can also rub dirt directly into the fabric. If it is white, the stain will look nice and realistic. 

Light-colored fabric will have a realistic look when you use a more controlled technique of toning its brightness first by tea-dyeing. To do this, you need a pan with water. Bring water to a boil. Add enough concentrated instant coffee and tea mix until you obtained the desired color. Let if simmer for a few minutes and cool a bit.

Place the tea dye on a spray bottle, and lightly spritz on areas of the fabric where you want the dirt effects to appear. Spray more on areas you want the stain to appear darker. This technique will create a permanent stain but can eventually fade as your fabric undergoes multiple washing. Hang your outfit to dry. 

Putting Stains on Your Cosplay Outfit

Putting Stains on Your Cosplay Outfit

If your outfit calls for blood stains and mud splatter effects, a combination of paint and dye will do the job. This is a permanent way of creating effects on your costume. For a super used look, use a concentrated brown fabric dye in your spray bottle.

This will be your base mud splatter which you can spritz on your costume. To create a color variation or shadows of light and dark effects, use alcohol-based paint and ink. 

To create splotches of grime, lightly spritz your costume using spray paint. Use a toothbrush or stiff paintbrush to create controlled splatter effects. Do this by dipping the brush on the fabric paint or acrylic. Flick paint droplets on the cloth by scraping your fingers on the bristles. 

A soaked-in stains look can be achieved when you use water with fabric dye and acrylic paint. Drip the cloth for complete soak-in effects. Dripping will have general staining effects on your costume. For soak-in effects in particular areas, use a brush to paint the distinct spots.

Dry the costume thoroughly. This was done for the Litzibitz Trost costume and got a fabulous result. 

Captain John Hart’s costume has a red jacket with a stained white shirt underneath. To create the shirt, you can use a white shirt and tea dye it. Add thinned acrylic paint to complete that dirty effect. Use clear spray paint to seal the materials into the fabric. If you need a thicker dirt effect, add light layers of dust and seal with clear paint, let dry and repeat the process until you reach the desired result. 

Using Fabric Paint for Temporary Dirt Effects

Using Fabric Paint for Temporary Dirt Effects

Photoshoots or film scenes may require only temporary dirt effects on the costume. To create the same effect without compromising the quality of your work, use spices. Coarse flour and ground cinnamon can create a great dust/dirty effect. For rust stains, use paprika.

Don’t forget ground mustard and cornmeal if you need a coarser material for effects. Apply them dry, not wet, and let them sit on the fabric. Do not rub in as they will be difficult to remove. 

Wear and Tear Look

Wear and Tear Look

Have you tried loading comments to read cosplayer ideas? If you did, you will learn that friction can create natural-looking wear and tear effect. This is normally found on hems, elbows knees, and areas where there is frequent contact with the surface. To make your costume age faster, you need dye remover or bleach solution.

Take precaution in using bleach though, as it can break fabric when repeatedly used. If you want to age your fabric before turning it into a costume, you can do so by running it through several bleach cycles to achieve the faded look. 

Did you know that fabric that is heavier may need controlled distressing? This can be applied to pieces of denim or canvas. Use sandpaper for surface sanding. You can also use other tools like metal filer, cheese grater, wire brush, or leather rougher. Be careful when using a leather rougher as they can be abrasive.

A hole on a piece of fabric can be better done by roughing the surface of the area by sanding. Do not cut the hole with scissors as it won’t make realistic results. Ripped jeans that look natural should have loose threads and rough edges. Cutting with scissors may stretch and fray the hole into a size bigger than what you need. 

Burn or singe edges using flame to create a nice bullet look effect or torn hems. This can however damage the material more and will not make it brittle. You can apply this method if you are using organic materials like silk, wool, cotton, and linen.

Synthetic materials like nylon tend to liquefy and should not be subjected to singeing. Heat test your fabric before applying this method to make sure you will have the costume in one piece rather than a pile of burned ones.

Non-Fabric Bits Style

Non-Fabric Bits Style

Nonfabric bits refer to the elements that are still part of costumes yet are not made of fabric. These may include metal pieces with a surface texture like buckles of your belt or buttons of your coat. It can also mean accessories like swords or knives and even plastic pieces. 

For metals pieces, you can age them by using acrylic paint or shoe polish. Buff with cloth and remove excess material. For a tarnished look or accumulated grime effect, let some paint remain on the surface of the accessories. Knives can be aged by also doing the same method of brushing with acrylic paint on the surface.

Plastic pieces that have smooth surfaces can be treated to an aged look by distressing the surface first. Use a wire brush or sandpaper to roughen the surface and apply a small amount of paint. Use a wadded paper towel or dry brush to create texture on the surface of the plastic.

You should also try painting the surface of your accessories first. Do the scraping after the paint has been thoroughly dried. Use sanding paper to distress the surface. For additional effects, make scratches or paint chips using metallic paint.

Creating Surface Scratches

Creating Surface Scratches

Surface scratches will make your accessories look like they are battle-worn and some dry dust has damaged them badly. Damage metal effects can be made by using sandpaper to scrape the surface of your props. Use super-fine line metallic silver paint that can effectively create an easy scratch effect.

Use a toothpick or a 000 paintbrush to apply your lines thinly. The surface texture should be applied on large pieces of props like the armor. This will help in making it look worn out. 

To do this, apply paint on the surface of the pieces. While wet, add the dry media you want the pieces to project. Sprinkle your dirt, ground rust, fuller’s earth, or make-up powder. Let it dry well and seal with spray paint in clear matte. This can create the surface texture needed to make particular effects on your costume.

A helmet can be painted with matte acrylic paint and dusted with powder pigments just like the armor. This will create a dirty and rusty effect on the helmet. 

FAQ on How to Age Fabric for Cosplay

FAQ on How to Age Fabric for Cosplay

How Do You Make Fabric Look Weathered?

To make a fabric look very worn out, you can spill some instant coffee powder onto it. Then, you use some clear matte spray paint to polish it a bit but don’t wash it off.

The weathered look is actually to show how you’ve survived an ordeal like a war or a blazing fire so you can put anything on it until it looks like it has been really worn out. You can even apply real dirt stains onto your fabric to make it more realistic.

How Do You Add Weathering To Cosplay?

You can add weathering effects to your cosplay armor or fabric by sanding. Using sand-paper will really help to create that effect. You can sand fabric with a light layer gently while you can use a wire brush to create this effect on synthetic fabrics with heavy layers especially denim.

How Do You Weather Black Fabric Cosplay?

You can create this effect when you spray on the fabric and expose it to sunlight. Then, you can start bleaching it using bleach and water mixture. You can put the mixture into a spray bottle but make sure you are wearing gloves.

After applying and drying it, you can add more weathering effects by putting some terracotta-colored eyeshadow or by using some charcoal sticks.

How Do You Make Clothes Look Old And Worn?

How Do You Make Clothes Look Old And Worn

Among the most effective tips to make clothes vintage or beat-up is by creating rips and tears, including holes on the whole thing. You can also apply real dirt or brown mud after tearing some of its portions. You can also use some organic materials including charcoal sticks to draw stains onto it.

Do I Need Acrylic Paint To Make A “Dirty” Costume?

A dirty costume doesn’t mean it has to be literally dirty. It’s all about the looks and the effects. It doesn’t matter if you paint it using brown acrylic or spray paint to create those effects as long as you achieved what you are working on.

Moreover, a dirty costume look is actually created to project the idea of the character wearing the costume surviving a lot of battles or life’s daily grind. Take note that your costume doesn’t need to smell bad just to complete this look.

Which Spray Bottle Would I Use?

Usually, buying paint for a paint job wouldn’t require you to transfer paint into bottles. This is because most paints are already appropriately packaged and specified according to their intended use.

So, if you are wondering which is the perfect bottle to use, check first which look you are trying to create to be able to decide on this one. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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