Cosplaying With Duct Tape

by Aaron Christensen

Cosplay can be a very addicting hobby and, like most hobbies, the more involved you get, the more expensive the hobby can become. Let’s face it – worbla isn’t cheap, fabric can tear and foam can be hard to shape, so keeping your cosplay attractive and cost-efficient can be a bit of a burden. If only there was something sturdy, inexpensive and easy to find that could be used to help bring your next cosplay project to life…

Why not try using duct tape?

“Huh? Duct tape?? But… It’s so boring! It’s just not practical! I’ll look like a fool!”

Let’s go ahead and put those rumors to rest right now, shall we?

Benefits of using duct tape

  • It’s inexpensive. While some prices may vary based on brand, a standard, silver roll of duct tape will generally only run you about $5 or $6 for 15 to 20 yards of tape. That’s between 66% to 75% less expensive than a yard of cosplay fabric, and a small 14” x 9” square of worbla might cost you more than five times that much. Heading to the store to pick up some duct tape certainly won’t break the bank.
  • It’s durable. “Mythbusters” had a whole episode about duct tape, in which they determined that it takes approximately 67.3 pounds of force to snap a single strand of duct tape. Imagine how strong an entire costume of duct tape would be! Don’t think you’ll need to go to the Cosplay First Aid station to repair that! Plus, did you know that duct tape, to a certain extent, is heat-resistant? You can’t say that about most other cosplay materials, now, can you?
  • It’s everywhere – and everything. Duct tape is not hard to find. You can get it at most local supermarkets and office supply chains or by shopping online at various different retailers. If you had the notion that duct tape only came in boring old silver, guess again. Duck Tape brand offers more than two dozen colors of tape on its website. On top of that, the site boasts nearly 100 different types of patterned duct tape, ranging from stripes and swirls to bacon and gummy bears, from mustaches and music notes to tigers and unicorns. Duck Tape also provides a handful of licensed products as well, so you can get creative by adorning your costume with official “Frozen” duct tape or even try creating a whole football uniform with NFL or NCAA rolls.
  • It’s… scented? Along with its standard rolls, Duck Tape brand currently provides six types of scented adhesive, including lemon, grape, tangerine and more! This could be exactly what you need to take your “Wreck-it Ralph” cosplay to the next level!

Examples of using duct tape

Perhaps the most obvious concern about using duct tape for cosplay is that it might make you look like an amateur – that you’d look out of place next to more experienced cosplayers with more traditional materials. Try telling that to the creative high school kids who have won thousands of dollars in scholarships through Duck Tape’s “Stuck at Prom” contest.

For more than 15 years, Duck Tape has held an annual contest to see which students can put together the best-looking, most creative prom outfits – and the results are incredible. (Check out the best duct tape outfits from 2016 here.) Cosplay is about creativity and innovation, and hardly anything says “unique” better than an entire costume hand-made with adhesive.

Some creators have taken their love for duct tape from the dance floor to the convention hall by constructing impressive pop culture cosplay. There are plenty of examples of duct tape costumes at conventions, but, for starters, check out these three duct tape outfits based on characters from “Yu-Gi-Oh!,” “Halo” and “Final Fantasy.”

What if you don’t want to make an entire costume that way? Duct tape can be used in smaller doses, as well, as seen here, where a cosplayer used duct tape to make the suspenders for her LeeLoo cosplay from “The Fifth Element.” Another cosplayer used colored duct tape to finish off their Captain America shield. If you’re not keen on physically wearing the duct tape, it can help you add the perfect prop to your costume, like handheld items, bandoliers or tiaras.


If this is your first time attempting to use duct tape with your cosplay and you don’t know exactly how to begin, tutorials abound on the internet and should be relatively easy to track down. Here are a few you can use to get started:

Local cosplayer Miss.Snikt gives the following tips when using duct tape for cosplay:

“When creating edges, fold the edge underneath to create a crisp line. Double up when possible – one layer can look flimsy. Also, if you are duct taping around a piece of clothing, it’s best to put plastic (like a grocery or garbage bag) on first so the duct tape will stick to the bag instead of the clothing. Otherwise, the clothing could pull away from the duct tape, allowing the tape to stick to itself.”

Another local cosplayer, Fireofairy, has used duct tape – along with electrical, athletic, hem and painter’s tape – on her cosplay for three general purposes. Here is her advice:

  • Using duct tape for making armor patterns:
    • “Cover the desired body part with plastic wrap and then tape over it. Once you have thoroughly taped the area, take a Sharpie and draw out the armor pattern. You may need a friend to help with applying the plastic wrap and tape, and with drawing the pattern. After the pattern is drawn, cut it off. I would suggest cutting it off at one of the seams in the pattern so you don’t unnecessarily complicate the pattern. After that, you have a pattern that is accurate to your body!”DuctTape1“Note: If you are planning on wearing something underneath the armor [undergarments, padding, etc.], wear that when you are making the pattern! If you don’t, you risk making a piece of armor that doesn’t fit properly.”
  • Using duct tape for structural stability inside props:
    • “I use duct tape to secure parts while constructing props. Oftentimes the duct tape is then covered and integrated within the prop. An example would be a great sword I made. I secured the dowel to the cardboard cutout of the blade with tape before covering the whole thing with insulation foam.”DuctTape2“I have also used duct tape or other tape styles, such as athletic tape, for texturing effects.”
  • Using duct tape for repairs:
    • “Of course, I have used duct tape for last-minute fixes to keep a fraying hem in place! Although, in that case, I usually prefer a less aggressive tape that is easier to remove, like athletic tape.”

The possibilities are endless

Cosplay is all about expressing your interests in a creative and fun way, and experimenting with new materials is a great way to expand your technique! If you’ve never tried using duct tape on your costumes before, why not give it a shot? Maybe the new hobby will stick!

Do you have any helpful tips about using duct tape with cosplay? What projects are you currently working on? Did this article give you any new ideas to try out? Let us know in the comments section below!