Zenaide sits down with Golgari fanatic TarmoKat to discuss all things makeup, wigs and facepaint for Cosplay of the Multiverse.

Do you have a Magic: the Gathering aesthetic? Does the color of your sleeves coincide with your deck box and mana colors? Perhaps you always play the same tribe and have the perfect dice to match the mood? So far in my column we’ve touched on fur, fog machines, and armor. Cosplaying challenges one to acquire and hone many skills in order to portray the character, and how your face appears can greatly impact the overall aesthetic.

Today, I’m leveling up your focus to the top—your head—exploring makeup, face and body paint, wigs, and headpieces. Once we’ve covered some basics, we’ll dig deeper with cosplayer TarmoKat to better understand the underlying principles she follows to achieve the Golgari aesthetic.

Basics of Makeup

Makeup is a great tool for cosplayers; it not only helps tune your face to the character but will also help absorb light for better photographs. There are all sorts of cosplay makeup tricks that can help achieve effects as diverse as villainous high cheekbones, hiding your real eyebrows to apply different ones, or even giving yourself large anime-style eyes. I could do an entire article on just eyeshadow looks and eyeliner shapes, but I don’t know how many of you would make it through that. Trust me when I say there’s a video out there for what you’re looking for!

Whether you are a regular wearer of makeup or not, I highly recommend seeking makeup advice for each cosplay, especially if you don’t have the confidence to experiment on your own. There are many easily available resources, both online and off. For instance, a first port of call might be to ask advice from someone you know who regularly wears makeup for basic tips. For something more advanced, YouTube is full of video tutorials and product reviews—you can easily narrow down your search for your specific face shape, skintone, or the specific makeup effect you desire to achieve.

My favorite resource is going to a beauty counter at a mall, or scheduling a consultation with a makeup artist to give me professional suggestions—the bonus here being that they can demo how they would develop your desired look with the products on hand! It’s nice to purchase the products used knowing you can replicate the same look. Once you have some basic knowledge, there’s only one thing to do: practice, play, and experiment!

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed by Eric Deschamps

Basics of Face Paint

Face paint is a fabulous method to fashion yourself into another being altogether, especially when bold lines and non-neutral colors are called for. There are a few different types of paints with different bases like water, powder, or alcohol. The most popular among cosplayers is water activated paint. It’s recommended to test the paint on a small area of skin to make sure you don’t have a reaction before applying all over the face or body. Before applying paint, just like makeup, it’s recommended to exfoliate (wash your face) and moisturize with a light lotion as a priming step for your canvas.

With facepaint you can apply makeup techniques like contouring and highlighting to help your face take shape. If you know anything about art you may already be familiar with some of these concepts; the same applies to your face! Highlighting is using the angles which light would naturally hit the face to bring out higher points, often the bridge of the nose, on top of the cheekbones and browbones. On the other side contouring gives depth and helps accent hard angles like the sides of the nose, under the cheekbones and jawline. When you are turning your face bright green like a goblin knowing the placement of these tricks will help your face have expressions rather than be a green blob.

Basics of Wigs

When looking for a wig the first thing you should know is strips of hair are called wefts. The more wefts, the more hair, and often the more hair, the higher the cost. Second, there are two main types of wigs, both of which you can wear a wig cap underneath to help everything stay in place. Standard wigs are often capless, meaning the wefts are sewn together to form the shape around the head, and the hair is teased at the crown to hide the frame of the wig. These are more often budget friendly and what most are familiar with finding at Halloween stores. A lace front or full lace wig is where the hairs are individually tied to lace which makes them appear lifting out away from the head like natural growth from the scalp. These lace fronts also help make the hairline almost invisible. Because the lace is more fragile, these tend to be more expensive than standard wigs but work much better for certain characters—think Goku/Gohan from Dragon Ball.

If you are looking to get wigs there are several popular sites like Arda Wigs and Epic Cosplay that I’d recommend. Sometimes you can find them elsewhere, but I recommend reading through the reviews to help determine the quality. Many wigs will identify how many wefts can be found on the piece, as well as the length of the hair. Look out for this information; I’d be hesitant to make a purchase without seeing it!

After you have a wig, you can either wear it as-is, or go the next step: styling the wig. Wig styling is very similar to styling real hair except if you get a cheap synthetic wig you’re more limited— heat tools like curling irons and straighteners will melt the fibers! Techniques which still work great on almost all wigs are teasing, backcombing, using lots of hair spray, and even giving it your own twist using trimming shears.


Aesthetics in cosplay can be portrayed in material choice, color palette, props, and other life like textures and add-ons. TarmoKat has done many Magic cosplays in the Golgari aesthetic, starting with my personal favorite Deathrite Shaman, which she was wearing when I first met her in person at Gen Con 2018. We will focus on two of her more recent Golgari cosplays to identify important cranial costume decisions she made to fully get in to character.

ZBexx and TarmoKat at Gen Con 2018


TarmoKat at SCGCon Winter 2018

If you went to one of the last MTG events to be held before COVID-19’s impact began, Magic Fest Reno 2020—or saw coverage online—you may have seen the marvel of Meren of Clan Nel Toth cosplayed by Tarmokat, also known as Kat.

Photography by AntTree Studio at Magic Fest Reno 2020

To solidify the sense of the Golgari Swarm, Kat shares that she has “always been into a life/death aesthetic, with a preference to life.” Her love for Green and Black can’t be emphasized enough, as she was even sorting cards for her Meren EDH deck during our phone interview. Because she tends to pick characters with a lot of hair and makeup (as we will see later on with Vraska), Kat mentions Meren was nice because she “could focus on the details of the outfit rather than worry about hair and makeup.”

The details worn in her hair are real bones! Kat recommends good quality animal bones for Golgari cosplay: fox, coyote, and fish bones using femurs, pelvis bones and atlas bones. She describes her look as, “walking around haunted by the souls of thousands of coyotes and foxes.” Another fun Golgari trick is evident on the lower part of her costume: seashells were broken to make the circular shape on the belt, a tip recommended to her by cosplayer Christine Sprankle.

Photography by AntTree Studio at Magic Fest Reno 2020

In comparison to Meren, Vraska has a lot more going on up top. And with all that going on, it’s a undertaking to even attempt cosplaying in the first place. In fact, in the beginning Kat said to herself, “No way I’m gonna cosplay her. I wrote her off, even though I love her, there’s no way I can do it.” But then, she saw Magali Villeneuve’s artwork of Vraska for Guilds of Ravnica and was sold on the idea.

Truthfully, Kat doesn’t love the makeup part of cosplay and expressed to me more than once it’s far from her favorite part of cosplay. The said, I think she does it fantastically! Applying Vraska’s make-up took her some practice. The first time took around two and half hours, but now she achieve the look in around thirty minutes.

Kat as Vraska, Golgari Queen at SCG Con Winter 2018

Initially Kat applied the face paint she was using with a beauty blender, but different grays came out looking blue, which left her frustrated, especially after seeing photos at SCG Con. At this event she also covered her eyebrows with paint and didn’t like how it looked. Cosplay is a process like anything else, and practice makes perfect. Now, Kat doesn’t cover them, as her own eyebrows look close to the correct color. After this event, she also switched to water activated paint. When she applied paint with a sponge she found it looked streaky, but got a tip from fellow cosplayer Vanessa Leigh Cos to use a foundation brush instead!

Tip from TarmoKat’s Makeup Artist consultation: To achieve a snakeskin look for gorgon/merfolk characters, use a stencil! After creating the pattern you require, hold it at the desired angle and placement, then blot eyeshadow or paint on top. Voila!

The most transformative part of Vraska is undoubtedly the snake headpiece Tarmokat designed. She describes going into making it blindly after scouring the internet for gorgon cosplay references but not finding much at all. Luckily, her first attempt—well thought out over a few weeks of brainstorming and planning—was successful.

Kat had some main needs for the headpiece; she didn’t want it to be too rigid or hard, and crucially didn’t it want to be too heavy. She ended up buying a lace front wig for the base and purchased a snakeskin print on a stretch fabric. The stretch allowed her to easily mount the fabric to the wig base, and cover the ears to start giving the gorgon look. “All of the artwork is seamless and I agonized over that,” Kat commented about hiding her very human ears. When she wears the headpiece, she uses spirit gum or eyelash glue on the ear covering to secure it in place, followed by makeup to blend the wig into a seamless transition.

Next, she created the snakes. Keeping them light weight, she chose green ½” craft foam for her main material. She cut strips and rolled them into snakes, hand stitched them all closed, then wrapped the snakes in the same snakeskin fabric mounted to the wig base. Inside the foam snakes she inserted 18” steel wire to help give them shape, and followed up by connecting the snakes to the wig base with a combination of stitching and gluing, pinning them first to get a good idea of how she wanted them arrayed.

One of TarmoKat’s favorite parts about wearing Vraska is choosing her expressions with her snake hair. Still to this day, because of the wire inside, she can mold the snakes and make them change shape. Sometimes she opts for a more sultry feminine look curled around her face; other times they’re flaring out angrily.

What Goglari character is next? Kat says she is discovering new cards to cosplay everyday. She loves female characters with complex histories, and gray characters in particular: a healthy balance good moments and bad moments. If you see something Kat should cosplay let her know by contacting her on Twitter.

Kat as Vraska, Relic Seeker before SCG Con Summer 2019.

When we think about cosplay the clothing, armor, and weapons spring to mind first. But what comes to mind when we think of specific characters? It’s arguably the hair and makeup. Hair and makeup are extremely important identifying elements that truly transform your everyday human into a Planeswalker, creature, or gorgon from Magic: the Gathering. I hope today’s piece has helped you get some ideas for how to create your own exciting cosplays!

Zenaide “ZBexx” Beckham is an Oregon-based cosplayer, gamer, and MTG judge. Her favorite format is Legacy, because just like performing in dance or cosplay she gets to Show and Tell.

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