Your guide to adhesives for cosplaying

If you build costumes then at some time or another you have had to stick one thing to another thing.  The options for adhesives available to the cosplayer are very diverse, but it’s also important to know the best one for the job.

As cosplayers, a few of the materials we may work with will vary from plastics to cloths, foam, wood, and even metal.

The following list is a short compilation of things that stick stuff to other stuff. Always choose the right adhesive for the job. Reading the directions is very important, and proper safety equipment or well ventilated areas should be used as per directions.

(Star rating are on a scale of 1-5)

White Glue

An old friend to anyone who attended 2nd grade on.  White glue is exceptional with its versatility but doesn’t have the strongest bond and the dry time can be a bit slow when you are trying to assemble multiple parts of a costume. This glue also works well when diluted in water to form a paste for paper mache.

Uses: paper, wood, fabric, leather, and ceramics
Versatility ***
Bond ***
Drying speed * (can be assisted with hair dryer)

Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue

Another fantastic product, similar in ability to Elmer’s white glue but a bit thicker in consistency. I use it when working with fabrics that need to be bonded to a rough surface. It has also proven to be very good on foams and plastic. It is semi flexible when dry which is good for parts that may move or need a bit of give.

Uses: paper, wood, fabric, leather, and ceramics
Versatility ***
Bond ***
Drying speed ** (can be assisted with hair dryer)

E-6000 Adhesive

A primary glue for most of my cosplaying creations, this stuff is fantastic and is able to bond most every material that you may have to use in your creations. It bond both porous materials like cloth / leather,  and Non porous materials like fiberglass / Plexiglas / metals. It melts polystyrene (pink insulation foam), but I think it’s good with craft foam. Dry time is pretty quick by comparison to others. Sets up tacky in a few min with a full cure in 24 hours. The company rates the adhesion at an average of 30lbs on every material and as high as 97 pounds when bonding coated cloths.

Uses: paper, wood, fabric, leather, ceramics, metals, PVC, Plexiglas, glass
Versatility *****
Bond ****
Drying speed ***

Wood Glue

A must for any project using wood. This glue when fully cured is actually stronger than the wood its self.  Very easy to use, apply to both sides of the wood joint and clamp together.
Random Fact: Wood Glue is yellow because it contains saw dust to help form the bond with wood.

Uses:Wood (but thats kind of to be expected)
Versatility *
Bond *****
Drying speed **

Gorilla Glue

They claim this stuff to be the “Toughest Glue on Earth”…. and they may be right. Generally used on hard but non porous materials, this is a Polyurethane adhesives so its a bit different from the rest of ones listed here. Gorilla Glue reacts with moisture to cure – this is what causes the chemical reaction in polyurethane adhesives. Therefore, you need to apply a small amount of moisture to one surface. Then apply glue to the dry surface and clamp. For dense hardwoods, lightly dampen both surfaces prior to gluing. The directions are simple but be warned that as this glue cures it expands and foams a bit. Very versatile on the materials it can be used with, however its no good on things that will be damaged by water.

Uses: wood, ceramics, metals, PVC, Plexiglas, glass, brick
Versatility ***
Bond ****
Drying speed ***

Hot glue

**Don’t miss our Glue gun / Hot glue gun helper giveaway**

We know that pretty much every cosplayer works with hot glue at some point, and your hot glue gun should always be taken along with you to conventions for quick fixes, and so we want to give one lucky ready a Hot Glue Gun Helper kit, a large dual temp glue gun, and some glue sticks to go along with it. All you have to do is leave a comment (in the original contest post) saying what you most use hot glue for in your costumes! Contest ends at 12:01 AM on Saturday, March 12th. (Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, too!)

Hot glue is a staple of most DIY craft’s and hobbyists. Its a general strength adhesive with easy application (and only a low chance of self sustained injury) Low-temperature glue guns heat up to about 250 °F (121 °C) and are well suited when high temperatures are undesirable, such as gluing lace and cloth. High-temperature guns heat up to around 380 °F (193 °C) and produce a stronger bond. Always use proper safety when working with any heated equipment. Hot glue is great for paper, plastics, wood, craft foams, leather.

Uses: paper, wood, fabric, leather, ceramics, PVC, Plexiglas
Versatility ***
Bond ** 1/2
Drying speed *****

Spray adhesive

Spray adhesives can be a great friend to the cosplayer, but choosing the right one is critical. 3M makes several different types and each one is designed for a very specific application. Super 77 is a very good general adhesive. I use it when I an joining large sections of foam to shape in to shoulders.  This adhesive doesn’t effect cutting the foam with any tool from hot knife to Exacto knife. Because this is an aerosol based adhesive make sure to use only in a well ventilated area, and only when large amounts of coverage is needed.  This falls in to the category of use the right tool for the job.

#77 is a general strength and use adhesive
#78 is desgined for bonding Polystyrene foam
#80 is desgined for rubber and vinyl
#90 is a High strength industrial adhesive

Uses: varies based on which adhesive is chosen
Versatility **
Bond *** to *****
Drying speed ****

Super glue

A great friend to any cosplayers emergency kit. Superglue can save a costume from an unexpected tear to the horrible suprise of damage from transportation and shipping. Super glue is not a friend on skin, so make sure to take extra care when using to prevent the gluing of fingers to things they should not be attached to.  Works on almost every substance that could show up in a costume but you may run a risk or damage to some foams. The only downside is the fact that you can only purchase it in very small amounts.
Uses: Leather, cork, paper, cardboard, wood, chipboard, fabric, metal, ceramic, rubber, Plexiglass, polycarbonate, polystyrene and PVC
Versatility *****
Bond ***
Drying speed *****

2 part Epoxy

My personal favorite adhesive, this stuff can stick anything to anything else and it will stay till the world ends.  Although a bit tougher to use than all the others listed here due to the need to mix the two parts, it proves it self over and over then faced with dissimilar materials.

Caution: This stuff does not care how nice your rug is, how old your kitchen table is, or how clean your floor is…. it will stick and is very hard to clean up. Also avoid large amount on your project due to the fact this does undergo an exothermic reaction (Gets Hot) when its curing.

Now if your still interested in this fantastic product and I hope you are, a timer is needed to ensure you mix it well enough and apply it before time runs out.  I use paper bowls and Popsicle sticks to mix with. When mixed it has a consistency and color very close to honey.  The “Set” time is how long you have to work with it before it hardens.
5 min – 15 min epoxy is great for general hobby work and can even be used on foam.

Uses: Bonding metal, glass, ceramic, wood, many rigid plastics, china, tile, fiberglass, concrete and stone
Versatility ****
Bond *****
Drying speed (based on type chosen)

I hope this tutorial has helped shed some light on the various choices that are available in the adhesives section of your local stores.  Always use the right tool for the job, and always use proper safety equipment and don’t forget common sense.

Happy crafting and see you in front of the cameras and on stage.


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12 thoughts on “Your guide to adhesives for cosplaying

  1. Enjoyed “Your guide to adhesives…”well done, straight forward and informative. Not that it really belongs as an item to mention in this guide…..but curious if you have you ever worked with the heat activated material called WONDERFLEX that is available in 43″x55” size sheets? With exposure to 160- 180 F degrees of heat (industrial hot air gun, real hot water etc), a built in adhesive within the WONDERFLEX becomes activated. Bonds well to other things and especially to itself.

  2. You bring up a great crafting material, and you’re right, it doesn’t quite fit inside of the post on adhesives. I have used this material extensively in quite a few of my creations and it is truly a wonderful thing.
    You can expect a post in the very near future with tips and input from http://www.kamuicosplay.com/ on her use and and work with Wonderflex.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I was wondering between low and hi temp glue guns for my foam build. and this helped a lot in answering that :). Super 77 seems hold very well…maybe this is better for small detailed parts…

  4. Just as a heads up… epoxy has a tendency to erm… melt carpets. Learnt this the hard way (A5 section now missing in my living room carpet) and the fumes take aaaaaages to clear.

  5. Hi there, thanks for the guide it’s brilliant!

    Does anyone happen to know an alternative to E6000 that is readily available in the UK? I need to bond metal (tin) to craft foam. Thanks :D

  6. I know this is an old post, but just in case someone is watching the thread, I wondered if you or other commenters could comment on rubber cement, liquid nails, or goop.

    • Rubber cement is great for glueing pieces of foam together (EVA foam), and we use it all the time. Liquid nails tends to be pretty hard to work with in our experience and doesn’t have much use in the cosplay world (at least from what we could tell), and I don’t believe we’ve ever tried goop!

  7. I am attempting to glue sport tape and regular bandage wrap on a latex mask. Whats the best adhesive to use to make sure the wrappings stay in place.

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