One thing I'm not sure about with 3D printed stuff, is how is that judged or should it be judged for craftsmanship? What questions should a judge ask? Is it more or less work, etc?
This is a great question! When I first started getting into 3D printing it is something I thought about a lot.
How 3D Printing Fits In
Cosplay already is a huge amalgamation of skills. We’re here styling wigs (sometimes that alone is an understatement), doing makeup, sewing, crafting, working with electronics, engineering all sorts of structures and contraptions, we’re woodworking, painting both digitally and traditionally, modeling, writing skits and acting in them. Cosplay judges already have it rough! How do you compare a brilliantly sewn ballgown to a brilliantly crafted suit of armor when the skills, tools and techniques behind making them are so different?
In that craziness, I think 3D printing is able to fit right in. 3D modeling? Cosplayers have been using models for pepakura crafting. Machine precision? Vinyl cutting and laser cutting for cosplay are rare but not unheard of. Plastic pieces? Worbla, wonderflex, PETG … we’re no strangers to thermoplastics. And from there the filling, sanding, priming and painting is similar to just about any other armor or prop.
3D printing is tool that can help with the creation of costumes, and I think 3D printed props can be judged alongside others. However it is important to remember this is a tool and not a magical solution or an impossible skill.
Cheating at cosplay competitions isn’t something new. There have been cosplayers caught passing off commissioned/bought costumes as their own work and there are cosplayers who were called out for winning awards with commissioned costumes. Unfortunately, 3D printing offers new avenues for cheating:
- Props, accessories and other models are offered for free on a variety of sites and communities. There are also models for sale, models could be commissioned and even printed pieces could be sold as part of kits. How do you tell if someone modeled their own piece or if they downloaded it?
- Even though pieces can be downloaded, cosplayers may still add their own additions. At what point does it become their own work?
- How much value should be put into the initial modeling vs. finishing the object. How does painting a nerf gun compare to making a gun from scratch?
- If judges are uninformed about 3D printing, it will be easier to pass off someone else’s modeling work as your own.
What Should Judges Ask?
- Did you model it yourself or download a model?
Modeling it yourself is like drafting a sewing pattern or designing a pepakura file. Downloading is like using a commercial pattern or downloading the pep file and working from it.
- What program did you use or how did you construct it?
If they modeled it they should be able to tell you what program or programs they used in designing it. They may be able to give you examples of challenges they faced or how they solved some design problem. They may be able to show you modeling progress pictures.
- Did you modify a file? How much and why?
If they downloaded a model, they may still have made a significant contribution to it through modification. Similar to altering a sewing pattern. With modeling, their contribution could also be to solve problems: smoothing out a really choppy game rip or fixing an impossible object/broken geometry.
- Did you print it yourself or through a service?
Setting up a print is pretty quick and relatively easy, but there is still skill involved in problem solving errors and choosing the best settings. A comparison might be getting a wig that is already the right length for your style vs. getting a wig that is too long and needs to be cut before you can style. There is a little bit more knowledge and skill involved in cutting the wig to the right length first. If you are unsure about their answer try asking them about the printer they used, the print settings or the infill % used.
- What material did you choose and why?
There are different printing materials although ABS and PLA are the most common. Asking the cosplayer what material they printed with, and why, can give you information about their involvement in the printing side of things. PLA is the easier to use material and it smells a lot less, but it also is less heat resistant than ABS. ABS is more heat resistant, perfect if your prop will be sitting in the sun, but it smells terrible when printing and is more tempermental. Other materials include resins, wood filament (looks, smells and feels like wood), copper filament which is heavy and metallic, nylon and even carbon fiber!
- How did you prep your piece and paint it?
3D printing gets you a prop, but few pieces will be perfect right out of the printer. Home printers are usually fairly small and most prints will be in multiple pieces that have to be glued together. From there, there is filling, sanding, priming, sanding and painting once the base is smooth — much like making armor or props from other materials. Judge these finishing steps the same way you would other projects.
- Why did you choose 3D printing over another method?
Understanding why they went with 3D printing might help you with your overall assessment of their pieces.
What should cosplayers do to be prepared for judging?
- Document your progress so you can show the work put into it and provide it is your work. Take screenshots through the modeling process, take a picture of the print as it looks off the printer and show the settings you chose when setting up your print.
- Give credit where it is due. If you built off another person’s work or used another person’s model: tell the judges.
- Be willing to explain your process and what it means, your judges may have no knowledge of 3D printing. Remember, you have a short amount of time to “sell” them your costume as the best. Letting them know where you spent your time, what skills were used and what challenges you faced will help them understand what went into the costume you are wearing. Tell them you spent hours sculpting in mudbox and creatively sliced your piece to fit on a tiny printer the same way you would tell them you spent hours beading and made your own lace.
Is 3D printing More or Less Work?
The first thing I 3D printed for cosplay was my Rosalina brooch. I turned to 3D printing because I was having trouble getting crisp lines and a proper star shape. To do it, I drew a vector drawing in illustrator and brought that into a 3D program. Then through extruding, beveling and subtracting I was able to create the shapes I wanted. For me, it was easier to create the shape digitally but it also involved applying my vector skills/knowledge and learning 3d modeling skills/knowledge. It is hard to say if that is more or less work than using the same vector as a stencil to use with the worbla/foam. In this scenario it is a means to an end.
Another piece that I used in cosplay was my Lucoa horns. These were originally designed by diogok but I came up with a peg system to attach them to the hat and Kevin did the modeling for me. Downloading the file was definitely less work, even though we made modifications. In this scenario, 3D printing saved time and work by building off existing models and just having to paint the final piece.
So it largely depends on the work put into the piece compared to other methods. There are going to be things that are easier to do in 3D printing and there are going to be things that are easier with other materials. The best thing to do as a judge is asking questions to find out how involved the cosplayer was with their work. As a cosplayer, the best thing to do is explain how much work you put into a piece, what the challenges were, and why you chose to 3D print over other methods.
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