Glue Breakdown

This is not a complete list of all the glues out there. Rather, these are the glues that I find are particularly useful for cosplay purposes.

Hot Glue—For costuming purposes, do not think of this as a glue; think of it as a wax. In other words, it makes a terrible substitution for products like Liquid Stitch. If the hot glue is being applied to a material whose melting point is below the glue’s temperature (like wig fibers!), then go ahead. Likewise if the material is porous enough for the melted ‘glue’ to lock into when it dries, or if you can trap the material (like feathers) with the melted glue as it dries.

Low-temp hot glue guns, then, don’t seem to make much sense, do they? They’re useful in case of extreme emergency at conventions because with the lower temperature, the chance of the melted glue locking into fibers is kind of decreased, so it works quite well as a temporary fix that potentially does little permanent damage to your costume. But it’s harder to carry a low-temp glue gun around than it is a needle and matching thread, isn’t it?

White glues (PVA-based)—Tacky glue is the most popular form of this type of glue. It bonds to many different surfaces, it dries clear, it can be used to make raised designs if you let it sit and become tacky, and as long as you check out the price per ounce ratios on the bottles on display, it is very affordable.

Tacky glue can also be used for other purposes, like creating a shiny finish or papier/fiber mache. But there’s a better glue for that, Tacky glue’s undiluted big sister, PVA.

PVA stands for polyvinyl acetate. You can use it to even out surfaces before sanding, it’s excellent for mache, and you can use it to create shiny finishes (and even mimic patent leather if you play your cards right).

It also smells. Even in a ventilated area, you have a pretty good chance of getting high and/or queasy if you aren’t wearing a mask of some sort.

Contact adhesives—you know how you usually don’t really read the directions when you use glue because it’s, well, glue? These are the glues where you need to read the directions. Unlike the other glues described above, contact adhesives work by putting the gunk on each side of the surfaces to be attached, let it become tacky, and then press together.

E6000 is one of the most popular forms of this type of glue because if you do it right, it sticks anything to pretty much anything else (except for Styrofoam.)

No only do these smell, but they often have that carcinogenic label. There are perfectly effective half-face respirators out there for $30.

Gorilla Glue—has some unique properties that set it apart. It is marketed as the go-to glue for Home Depot denizens, but I’ve found that it’s most useful and durable on repairing and modifying shoes. A major problem with Gorilla Glue is that it does expand if you don’t clamp it, but it can be sanded and, more importantly, it absorbs paint and stains.

Green glue—is a glue that doesn’t eat Styrofoam, making it perfect for larger props that require insulation foam (and it really is green).


About greyrondo

My name is greyrondo. I've been a cosplayer since Fall 2006, and I've noticed that the best conversations I have with cosplayers usually involve the question, 'so how DID you do that?' So after studying costuming and making a closet's worth of costumes, that's what I'd like to help answer. Drop in and stay awhile whether you're a cosplayer or just a curious spectator; one of my musings is bound to be what you're looking for. If you have a question or something to say, leave a comment or contact me! I don't bite, I promise. View all posts by greyrondo

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