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How to estimate the cost of a cosplay commission?

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Mengshu

Co-Founder

Last week, we went through the basics of the commissioning process. Today we're going to go through how to do a very rough, back-of-the-envelope estimate for your custom cosplay costume or cosplay prop commission.

This guide is by no means a way to replace a quote from your commissioner. It's meant to help you understand what goes into the cost of your costume, and see if your budget is remotely feasible. Many commissioners are also very willing to work with various budget, so when in doubt, go reach out!

Overview: 2 common methods used

Method 1) 2-3-2 Method

This method estimates the cost based on a factor of 2 or 3 applied to material cost depending on if the commissioner has made something similar before. This method is really simple because you only need to estimate the cost of the materials. But if your costume calls for cheap materials and a lot of labor, or expensive materials and low labor, this method won't give good results.

ProsCons
This method is super simple and gives a super quick estimate.It's not great when your materials are either super cheap or super expensive. Only some commissioners use this method.

Method 2) Materials + Wages Method

This method estimates the cost based on total material and an hourly wage. This method is used by the majority of commissioners in some way or form. They may not put out a standard rate per hour given the uniqueness of each cosplay commission, but are generally using this structure when building your quote.

This method will give you results that are as good as your inputs. In other words, you'd have to make good estimates on material costs and the labor time required (which can be hard to estimate, even for commissioners).

In this post, we will give you all the tools you need to estimate the various components and get a range for the rough costs of any cosplay commission project.

ProsCons
Used by many commissioners. More accurate than 2-3-2 methodResults highly dependent on inputs. Labor time for projects can be hard to estimate

2-3-2 Method

The 2-3-2 method standards for double or triple your material cost, then adding adding in 20% for the overhead costs. Let's take a look at each step.

Step 1: Calculate Material Cost

Estimate the total cost of materials needed for your costume. Scroll down to see how to do this. We also have some more detailed posts later to help you figure out what fabrics are needed and how much is needed.

Step 2: Double or Triple

Has the commissioner made this costume or something similar before? If the answer is yes, double the material cost. If the answer is no, triple the material cost to account for extra time needed for research, design and prototyping.

Step 3: Add 20% for overhead

Lastly, add 20% to the number you calculated in step 2 to estimate for equipment wear and tear, overhead, project time runovers, and any travels needed.

ExampleTotal
Step 1Material$100
Step 2Brand New Creation: $100 * 3$300
Step 3Overhead: $300 + ($300 * 20%)$360

Material + Wage Method

Step 1: Calculate Material Cost

This step is the same as the method above. Estimate the total cost of materials needed for your costume. Scroll down to see how to do this. We also have some more detailed posts later to help you figure out what fabrics are needed and how much is needed.

Step 2: Estimate Hours

Estimate the number of hours needed for your project in these categories.

Research, design, prototype, final assembly. We have more details below on how to do this. More detailed guide to follow as well on a later date.

Step 3: Estimate Wage

Hourly wages generally fall between 20-50/hour. The more experienced the maker, the higher the rate. The more complicated your project is, the higher the hourly rate.

Example
Step 1Material$100
Step 2Research + Prototype (3h), Sewing (10h)13 hours
Step 3Simple project + low experience levelassume ~ $20/hour
Total$100 + (13 * $20)$360

Material Cost Estimates

For the purpose of today post, we'll be look at how to estimate fabric costs for costumes. If you want to commission a prop/armor or wig, the numbers won't be helpful but the way to think about the process will be quite similar.

In order to estimate fabric costs, there are 3 pieces of information you need:

  1. How much fabric do you need?
  2. What fabric do you need?
  3. How much is the fabric?

How much fabric is needed?

Here are some rough rules-of-thumb for fabric usage in a "lego" format. Piece together the costume you need by its parts, and check the fabric usage below.

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These fabric usages are for wide fabric (~55 inches) based on misses size 8-12 . If you need more fabric, please consider multiplying by a factor of 1.5x.

Ballgown (3 layer skirt)
Blouse2 yards each2 yards
3 x Circle Skirt5 yards each15 yards
Total:17 yards
Naruto Tracksuit (no lining)
Blouse2 yards
Pants3 yards
Total:5 yards

What fabrics?

For your costume, you probably have some thoughts on what fabric you might need for the statement pieces. You'll probably need velvet for a royal cape or fur for Game of Thrones. But what about the white fabric for the sailor scout costume, or the white uniform top for Girls und Panzer?

Here is a guide to help you think through what fabrics you'll need for each part of your costume.

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Fabric Costs

You generally have a couple of options in terms of fabric to craft a similar look for your cosplay. Which means, if you have a smaller budget, this is a good place to shave some costs. Your commissioner will generally give you a few plans at various prices to choose from and get your approval on fabric choices before beginning any work.

The following graphic will give you a sense of rough fabric costs. If low cost is important to you, then the "econ" column is the place to go. If you want to get a better final effect, then check out the "lux" column. Mix and match is always great as well to get the most bang for your buck.

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Estimating Labor Time

This part is hard, not just because you haven't done it before but because humans are not great at estimate project progress. Just like even the best engineers can't predict when they'll finish building a bridge, even the most seasoned commissioners won't be able to say exactly how many hours it'll take for a project. The more complicated your cosplay project is, the less accurate the estimate with be.

Having said that, below is one way to think about estimating project time.

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Shipping

Lastly, don't forget to estimate the cost of shipping, including any packaging.

For shipping, always get tracking, insurance, and signature. These costumes are costly and you need extra assurance that you're covered in case anything goes wrong.

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Example: Full Commission Cost Breakdown

Now you have all the tools you need to start estimating (and maybe saving up) for your next custom costume commission.

Finally, we are excited to share the full cost breakdown of a real costume commission done by one of the talented commissioners featured on our website, Adaria Designs. She's an award winning cosplayer and commissioner. Adaria creates the most gorgeous cosplays with intricate detailing, embroidery, and more!

For this costume commission, Adaria Designs worked on a costume of Mew Ichigo from the Tokyo Mew Mew series. The full costume set included a corseted blouse, bubble skirt, sleeves, necklace, gloves, garter, and custom-painted boots.

Adaria breaks down the raw material cost including fabrics, notions, and the boots. Note the difference in fabric requirement for each piece and visual details. The majority of time was spent on perfecting the details and assembly of the costume pieces. And lastly, shipping included packaging, tracking, and insurance so that the costume could arrive safely!

Huge thanks to Adaria Designs for sharing this with us.

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Summary: Infographic

Want to save this information for future use or share with fellow cosplayers or commissioner friends?

Check out this infographic below that summarizes how to estimate commissioning costs!

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Want to learn more about commissions? Check out our other Commissions 101 posts!

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Mengshu is a co-founder of Coscove. Growing up in Canada, Mengshu loved theatre, dance, and all things photography. She did photoshoots in costume before even learning what cosplay was! Find her on Coscove: coscove.com/mengshus

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