K/DA Akali: The Making Of
This month I debuted my K/DA Akali cosplay, featuring a wig, jacket, and accessories that glow in black light just like the music video! I've gotten a lot of questions about how I made her, especially the black light portions. I took lots of photos of this build, so I thought this would be the perfect time to put them to good use!
The jacket was easily my favorite thing to make. I started with a simple hoodie pattern I had made back in university, altering it to be a bit shorter than a traditional jacket. I then cut the pattern out of my four fabrics: a polyester/silk lining, interfacing, blue cotton, and purple-blue iridescent organza. I only used the interfacing for the bodice pieces of the jacket— the sleeves and hood need to be thinner to allow for movement. From there, I laid my three non-lining fabrics on top of one another and pinned em in place, before making marks on my fabric where I wanted to quilt on the diamonds! I used a simple straight stitch and a purple thread I found that glows in black light, sewing diamonds onto the sleeves, hood, and front and back jacket pieces. I did all my quilting before sewing any of the pieces together; it’s much easier to sew straight lines onto something flat rather than something with shape. Once the quilting was done, I cut out the dragon I had custom printed onto canvas, then used a small black embroidery stitch to tack it down to the jacket. I posted a photo so you can see what the inside of the jacket looks like after all that stitching! The thread shows up really well on white interfacing so hopefully that gives you an idea of how much sewing detail went into this thing.
I sewed the outer pieces of the jacket together, along with the lining pieces; then I created a gold trim from metallic spandex and a thick interfacing, and stitched those onto the bottom hem of the jacket and the sleeves. Once everything was all stitched together, I finished off the jacket by installing a chunky gold zipper in the front, and sewing was complete.
Next, it was time to make that jacket light up in black light! For this, I used both glow in the dark green paint and black light paints. The glow in the dark paint was used to do all the green detailing, that way the paint appears clear when the jacket is in daylight. I dry-brushed very thin layers of black light paint onto the dragon design on the back to make it glow under black light, while also using the paint to add a bit more dimension to the patch. I airbrushed some metallic gold paint onto some rectangular pieces of foam for the metal details on her sleeve, and with that my jacket was all done!
Then, it was on to her pants… shorts… shants? This was fairly simple, I just used an old legging pattern I had lying around and stitched up a quick pair of spandex pants. I used a strip of metallic gold spandex to sew down the pant leg inseam. Then, I cut one of the legs of my pants off, giving me shorts on one side and pants on the other. Using the saran-wrap-tape method, I created a quick pattern of my foot to sew onto the leg I had cut off, effectively making myself a pleather sock. And, viola, easy shants! I hemmed both the sock and the pants using the tissue paper method.
As for her tube top, I draped a simple crop top pattern on my dress form, cut it out of white spandex, and sewed it together. The top closes with a separating sipper in the back, and is lined with a piece of black pleather for the detailing on the top and bottom of her shirt. Since this white spandex didn’t already glow in black light, I painted on a few layer of black light paint.
The hat was a really fun piece to do, I started off with a simple black snapback I found on Amazon, taping off all the areas I wanted to remain black before I took my airbrush to it. Akali’s hat appears to be a sort of purple-blue-black, so I decided to match her jacket a bit better by using one of my blue metallic paints. It had little holographic glitters in it so it shifts in the light and is super sparkly! I applied some thin layers of this paint to the hat, followed by layers of gold for the detailing on her brim. On the underside, I used the same gold to paint on the stars. I made a simple pattern in photoshop, which I cut out to make a stencil, then went to town with my airbrush! You can download the stencil yourself here.
Once the base was all painted, I cut the KDA letters out of worbla and painted them with the same gold air brush paint. To make them glow under black light, I added a few layers of white black light paint to them, thin enough that it couldn’t be seen in regular light. I also made a little gold heart from foam and attached it to the mesh portion of the hat with some super glue. In this photo you can see how I loosely taped the letters on to the hat to make sure they were the right size before I glued them down permanently!
Let’s talk about THIS. WIG.
Because holy guacamole it took me forever.
The wig base I started with was a cheap one I found on Amazon, although I’ve purchased from this company before so I knew it was decent enough quality that I could work with it. I went with a red wig so I could darken it later, and because in her concept art her hair is a red/purple/brownish color. They also sell a brown one if you want to be more accurate to the music video than to her splash art. You can get it here.
The first iteration of this wig was a complete disaster, so after about four hours I scrapped it completely and started over. My new game plan was to use aluminum foil as a base for the spikes: it’s lightweight and can be shaped very easily. I took a bamboo skewer and formed the basic shapes of the hair spikes using foil, getting roughly the form I wanted before even touching wig hair. Next, I destroyed a ponytail clip and two other red wigs, sacrificing them to the cause, so that I had a ton of loose wig hair. I took sections of this hair and tied them with rubber bands, then stuck my bamboo skewers into them. Using hot glue, I tacked down most of the hair to the tin foil base to hold it down, then used hair spray and a high heat on my hairdryer to start forming the hair into a big ol’ spike.
I proceeded to repeat this process five times, until I had enough spikes to make a gigantic anime ponytail.
Next was attaching these spikes together, which was done by very… uh… gracefully gluing them together at their wood skewer base. Once they were somewhat held where I wanted them to be, I used some strips of Thibra (Worbla’s ugly cousin, if you will) to create a sort of plastic base around the ponytail. Now, I had a ridiculously heavy ponytail and needed some way to keep it on my head.
I grabbed a headband from the store and used some more strips of Thibra to add a back to it, effectively creating a sort of medieval harness. This back Thibra piece was where I would ultimately attach the ponytail. To keep the headband in place on the rest of the wig, I actually glued them together. I stretched the wig cap over the headband and kept it in place with lots and lots of industrial hot glue, that way the wig itself wouldn’t go sliding off my head. I cut a hole in the wig cap where the ponytail was going to be installed, and then using my galaxy brain, realized this thing was going to need a TON of support to keep it attached to the harness.
So I screwed it into place. With four screws. The wig is still incredibly heavy. Secure as heck, but heavy. It needs about 14 bobby pins to stay on my head, and is an absolute killer on my neck. But it looks cool as hell, so I’m satisfied. I painted a strip of foam with my blue metallic air brush paint to match the rest of my costume and glued it around the base of the ponytail. This covers up the Thibra holding the ponytail together and acts as a hair elastic like she has in her concept art!
I did some gradient dying using brown and purple sharpie dyes. It’s subtle, but it darkened the wig and deepened the color enough that it’s got a bit more dimension. To get it glowing in black light, I first thinned out some pink paint and did a few layers of spray dye to get a nice even coat of paint. I took a mix of pink, red, and purple black light paints and dry brushed them through the fibers of the wig to then get some more solid, vibrant layers. You can’t tell it’s there in daylight, since it blends into the color of the wig pretty well, but it lights up really well under the lights!
Akali’s accessories were pretty standard. I purchased a pair of gold triangle earrings on Amazon, along with a black choker and a black quilted belt pouch. I made some simple heart-shaped buckles using worbla, painted them with gold airbrush paint and black light paints, and attached them to the belt poush and a strip of white fabric. I plan to replace the belt with a leather one soon!
I bought some plain black shoes on Amazon and cut some strips of foam, painted them white, and glued them on to create the detail lines. I added some black light paint, dripped some glow in the dark paints onto their surface, and then using the same method as her jacket made some gold foam rectangles for the front. Easy peasy!
For the details on her mask, I took a screencap from the music video in order to get the Oni teeth patter, then used a vinyl cutter to cut out some heat transfer white vinyl. I then hand painted white black light paint over the vinyl once it was ironed on to make it glow!
I got the original patterns of her knife and Kama by taking a screenshot of the concept art by RIOT Zeronis I posted above, brought the weapons into Adobe Illustrator, and then made the image the size I wanted to work with. I printed them on paper and taped the tiles together, then cut it all out. The weapons are made from a foam base, which I dremeled to get a more pointed shape, and then covered in Black Worbla.
I used a few layers of Plastidip to prime them, then painted them with some coats of gold spray paint and airbrush paint. The diamond on her Kama is a piece of foam that I taped up and used metallic air brush paints to create the white/blue pattern. I wrapped the handles of the weapons in some white cotton fabric scraps I had lying around just like I would wrap the hilt of a sword. I plan to do some more detail work on these weapons soon to give them a bit more dimension, especially her Kama. I’ll post an updated blog post once they’re fixed up!
That’s about it! Hopefully this write-up helps those of you curious about my crafting process, and maybe it’ll be of some use to anyone making their own Akali costume!