Cosplay Competition Rules and Guidelines

Welcome to the 2017 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 thing’s 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 our first COAF cosplay competition, 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, 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 COAF. 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 Novice and After Hours divisions.

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-rock, or culture and mythology.

But never fear! There are some terrific characters out there who are not of any of these origins, but we still adore them and would absolutely love to give them the stage time they deserve. That is why this year we are introducing the West-of-Center Halftime Extravaganza! This informal contest will be the perfect opportunity to show of those pieces that just can’t quite make it in under the standard rules. Keep checking the COAF Facebook page for details to become a part of this one of a kind contest where fun, frivolity, and imagination are rewarded.


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.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to judging and green room.
  • If you miss your time, we may be able to squeeze you in, but no guarantees.
  • Any recorded music, effects, or dialogue must be approved and turned in by 10:00 AM on Saturday, March 25.
  • 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.


Covering the Basics

Consider a PG rating as a guide for crafting your hallway and mainstage cosplay. We will allow PG-13 for the After Hours division, but please use your best judgement on what is appropriate for the majority of 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, 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, not even in After Hours.

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.

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.

Exceptions: 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 are not necessarily 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 con.

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 COAF, the convention space, and attendees of the con.


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.

We will soon be adding a written tutorial to the COAF Facebook page on how to assemble your portfolio, but 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!

COAF 2017 Novice class application form



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!

COAF 2017 Beginner class application form



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.

COAF 2017 Intermediate class application form



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.

COAF 2017 Masters class application form



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 no later than March 20, 2017.

COAF 2017 Skit application form


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 11:59 PM (Mountain) on Wednesday, March 22 so that they can be processed prior to the start of the con. We’ll open up any available slots on March 24 during cosplay check in, again on a first-come, first-served basis. There will 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.

See you at Colorado Anime Fest!