Cosplay Competition Rules and Guidelines

Welcome to the 2020 Colorado Anime Fest cosplay competition! Here are some basic tenets to maintain as safe and enjoyable an environment as possible for everyone at the convention.

Overall Guidelines

First things first, please read all the rules and guidelines completely. We’ve tried to answer as many questions as we could anticipate, either from previous cosplay experience, questions raised from previous COAF Cosplay competitions, or from interviewing the cosplay community at large. Chances are good that we will have addressed your particular issue, or at least pointed you in the right direction. If you are still unclear, though, please feel free to contact us and we will do what we can to help.

We Are Gathered Here Today…

Really, we’re all here because we love cosplay, so be kind and have fun. Almost every rule can be summed up by the following: Be considerate of others. Diva fits or inappropriate pressuring of the staff and/or judges will not be tolerated and may result in expulsion from the contest. If there is an issue such as bullying, harassment, unwanted physical contact, or any other inappropriate behavior, please bring it to the attention of security or the Cosplay area head. The COAF staff take your safety seriously and strive to offer our guests and attendees the best experience possible.

Who Can Enter, and How Do I Register?

The competition is open to all attendees of Colorado Anime Fest. You can register for the competition by clicking on the links below within each individual category. If there are any time slots still unoccupied, they will be made available at the convention itself. We have the traditional Beginner, Intermediate, Masters, and Skit categories, as well as a no pressure Novice division.

Once you have applied for the competition online, you will be contacted on a first come, first serve basis to pick your desired time slot for craftsmanship judging. Different divisions are allotted different amounts of judging time:

Novice: 7 minutes

Beginner/Intermediate: 10 minutes

Masters/Skit: 15 minutes, or lead judge’s discretion

Multiple entrants: lead judge’s discretion

Source Material

All competition pieces must come from Japanese source material, whether that be anime, manga, J-music (Visual Kei, etc.), or culture and mythology.

Planning Ahead

Be flexible. Things happen, and they are not always in our control. The best way to combat this is to come prepared:

  • Bring everything you need with you to the Green Room.
  • Have all weapons properly checked and banded before your judging time. If you have any particularly large props or weapons, you can check them in at Cosplay Daycare. Basically, we will have you sign a waiver and leave them in the back of the judging room on Saturday and pick them up when it becomes Green Room. Alas, as with all things in life, there is no 100% guarantee as to their safety, but the room will be occupied continuously by Cosplay staff, and it’s still safer than lugging an oversized claymore through the hallways.
  • Give yourself extra time to get to judging and Green Room. People will want to take your picture. Bask in it.

If you miss your time, we may be able to squeeze you in, but no guarantees. Likewise, it is your responsibility to arrive at Green Room with at least a half hour cushion to get you into you correct division and line order. If you arrive after the order is set, you might have to skip your turn on stage.

Any recorded music, effects, or dialogue must be approved and turned in before the convention (date TBD).

If you do have tech (sound or light) cues, you will be asked to make note of this on your application, and will be put in contact with our technician during the con. If you miss your meeting, this decreases your chances of your onstage experience going as smoothly as you might like.

Make sure to bring a handler if you need one!

If you are running late or need to step out of the contest altogether, please, please, PLEASE contact the Cosplay staff immediately. Details will be provided closer to the con. This allows us to open up judging slots, and is a courtesy to the judges and your fellow cosplayers. If you do not contact us, you may be placed on the waiting list in future years instead of being granted a judging time, no matter how early you register.

Covering the Basics

Consider a PG rating as a guide for crafting your hallway and mainstage cosplay. Please use your best judgement on what is appropriate for the con. If your clothing might elicit, “Mommy, what’s that?” from a five year old, you’re probably showing too much.

The same applies to any skit scripts and prerecorded aspects of your competition piece. Violent, suggestive, discriminatory, or otherwise inappropriate submissions will not be used. If there is a question as to the level of appropriateness, this will be determined by the cosplay area head and/or the board members. Their decision will be non-negotiable.

No nudity or lingerie cosplay, please.

Do feel free to modify a garment to make it wearable for the entire weekend. Likewise, it is absolutely acceptable to wear items that are a part of your faith or personal moral code. If you are competing, make sure to provide documentation for the judges to see what the original character looks like and what you changed. Such modifications will not detract from your final score, although ingenuity might give you a boost.

Likewise, weapons, particularly firearms, should be constructed to indicate that they are props. Any projectile weapons that can actually be fired and laser pointers are not permitted. Unstrung bows and other such modifications are allowed. As with clothing adaptations, you will not be marked down for these changes.

For all competitive divisions, fully store bought cosplays are not permitted. Depending on the category and level of difficulty, at least a portion of the costume must have been crafted by the creator:

  • Novice and Beginner: Street clothing may be used, but it must be altered at least 25% from its original state, or 25% of the entire piece must have been crafted from scratch.
  • Intermediate: At least 50% of street clothing must be significantly altered, or no more than 10% of unaltered street clothing is allowed.
  • Masters: No street clothing is permitted.
  • Skit: The degree of craftsmanship should adhere to the guidelines set for each category.
  • Groups: The level of the group is determined by the level of the most advanced member.

Exceptions to the rule: Some items, such as shoes, hose, wigs, hat bases, and so on may be purchased and worn as is. Modification of any or all of these is expected at Intermediate and required at Masters. Any exceptions at Masters level will be considered on a case by case basis.

Any commissioned aspects of a cosplay must be noted. Allowance of such pieces is up to the judges’ discretion.

Any cosplay that has won a craftsmanship award at any level may not be competed.

The creator and the cosplayer do not necessarily have to be the same individual. In some instances, the finished product is worn by a model. If this is the case, any and all awards will be given to whomever built the cosplay.

Any cosplayer found to be violating these rules will be removed from the contest and banned from future competition.

The final decisions from judging and otherwise are at the discretion of the Cosplay area head, lieutenant, and the COAF board members. Additionally, these rules are subject to change for the benefit of Colorado Anime Fest, the convention space, and attendees of the con.

Once again, as a reminder, and for the good of COAF and our entire community, most of Colorado and surrounding areas is a tight knit cosplay family, and overall a very friendly one. Really, everyone knows everyone else, and by extension, most people’s cosplay experience and personal style are also well known. It is a wonderful thing in that it allows us to see how cosplayers grow in skill, confidence, and artistry over time. This is exciting! The flip side, of course, is that it is very difficult to falsify information, because there is almost always someone to call the bluff, and getting banned from one con can easily mean getting banned from all of them. Please don’t be tempted. As we mentioned before, play fair, have fun. Love your cosplay experience and the wonderful people around you.

Portfolio = Panic

Many cosplayers, especially those in higher divisions, have noticed that more and more conventions are requiring that cosplayers are required to present a portfolio as part of their competition requirement. Naturally, this had made a lot of people nervous. In truth, by the time most cosplayers reach mid to upper intermediate level, they have sketches, concept art, fabric swatches, and progress photographs from most of their previous cosplays.

These are the makings of a simple portfolio, and really, this is it at its most basic. A simple three ring binder with plastic protector sheets or a photo album from your local craft store is an easy way to arrange them. Add pictures of you and your friends enjoying your completed works. Over time, you can include descriptions, a table of contents, awards won, a resume, scrapbooking papers, or pretty much anything else to reflect your growth as a cosplayer. That’s it!

Divisions and Applications


For who have either never competed or don’t feel ready to enter in another category, this is a no-pressure zone. There will be no actual judging in this category, just get up and show your creation to three enthusiastic fellow cosplayers who have been exactly where you are now, then strut you stuff on stage and get an otaku goodie bag. Welcome to our world!


If you are new to cosplay or have only competed a few times, this is your division. Craftsmanship is not expected to be perfect. Rather, the judges will be looking for how you have translated a character from paper or screen to your own person. Remember, everyone in Masters was once in the Beginner category. Enjoy the process!


This is the category for those who have several competitions under their belt or those who have won a craftsmanship award in the Beginner division. A higher degree of skill is required in this category as judges start to take fine details, fabric choices, and more advanced techniques under consideration. A portfolio is recommended.


This is the place for the most seasoned and decorated cosplayers. Competitors in Masters are those whose work is considered to be professional or near-professional quality. All aspects are considered, including seams, linings, underpieces, structure, and props, many of which are not noticeable unless closely inspected. A portfolio is required, and a cosplay resume (which may be included as part of the portfolio) is recommended. At this level, the tiniest detail can make a sizeable difference in judging.


Just like the name says. This is a blend of both performance and craftsmanship, and the group may be at any of the aforementioned skill levels. Standard craftsmanship judging will occur as per the other categories, but the performance aspect will be much more heavily weighted. As with Masters, a portfolio is required for the Skit category. Skits may be up to four minutes long. Copies of the script and audio recording must be submitted before the convention (date TBD).

Hey, I know that guy!

Cosplay is contagious (insert evil world domination giggle here), and some of our staff have fallen victim to its sway. Yes, folks, the COAF Cosplay competition is open to staff as well! Go ahead and apply, the earlier the better, and send an email to so we can get your judging time squared away. You are eligible for any of the awards, so bring your A game.

Cosplay is also contagious within our own families, and several of us have offspring who will be diving into the competition pool this year. While it’s true that we would probably judge them a little more critically (“Really? You used hot glue? I TOLD you Barge Cement was better, but do you listen?”), in order to avoid even a hint of nepotism they will not be eligible for any of the division or craftsmanship awards, or Best in Show. They can, however, win Audience Favorite.

Wait… what?

There are times when the judges decide that an individual should be bumped up to higher category. This is most definitely a compliment on your work! Your craftsmanship is ready to be considered at a higher level and you will be competing in a way that shows everyone in their best light. In general, competitors should enter in the last category in which they were placed, or a level up if they have won a craftsmanship award in that division.

Again, we will try to accommodate as many competitors as possible and will make every effort to work with peoples’ schedules. We arrange entries on a first come, first serve basis. Provided that not all craftsmanship times have already been filled, any last online applications will be accepted up until (date TBD) so that they can be processed prior to the start of the con. We’ll open up any available slots on (date TBD) during cosplay check in, again on a first come, first serve basis. If time allows, there may also be a few available slots for walk-ons without a judging component. These individuals are not eligible for any craftsmanship awards or Best in Show.

We hope that we have answered your questions and set your minds at ease. If not, please drop us a line and we will do what we can to help you.

Overlord of the Cosplay Empire
Christina  =^..^=

See you at Colorado Anime Fest!