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Cosplay Contest

Sakura-Con 2022 Cosplay Contest Official Rules

Cosplay Contest Judges for 2022

IMPORTANT:  Rules and Regulations HAVE CHANGED since those posted in 2020, so please be sure to thoroughly read this document.

See your favorite characters come to life on stage!  The Sakura-Con Cosplay Contest  is a competition showcase of costume construction and stage performance, open to Cosplayers of all levels of experience.  This is not a Popularity Contest or a Look-a-like Contest.  You may choose to sign up for Craftsmanship Only (Walk-on), Performance Only, or Performance AND Craftsmanship  (limit one entry per person).

Due to the popularity of this event, we have to be strict about submissions.  Sign ups are on a first-come- first-served basis, by category.  All submissions will be reviewed by the coordinator/Cosplay Staff in the order they are received. Those not completed fully and correctly will be rejected and have to re-apply.  Please take the time to thoroughly read the rules, look at all the examples provided, and ask any questions before sign-ups are open.

For any questions regarding the rules and sign-up details, please contact the Cosplay Coordinator* at cosplay@sakuracon.org

*Cosplay Coordinator and staff have the final say on rules. Failure to comply may result in disqualification.  SakuraCon and ANCEA are not responsible for any damage or loss to a prop or costume brought on-site..

General/All Entries Rules

  • All contestants must be registered attendees of Sakura-Con and possess a Sakura-Con Convention Badge.
  • All costumes and skits must adhere to the Sakura-Con policies. No live steel, no functioning or previously functioning projectile weapons, no indecent exposure, etc… please see Sakura-Con policies for a complete list.  Additional rules (listed below) also apply.
  • This is a SC-13/PG-13 event – please keep this in mind when planning your skit/or performing on stage. No cursing will be permitted, and any innuendo must have an equally obvious non-suggestive interpretation.  If you are unsure whether something is allowed or not, please email cosplay@sakuracon.org.
  • The use of makeup/bodypaint/bodysocks to darken your skin to the appearance of another human race will not be permitted.  This is grounds for immediate disqualification.  If you have questions, please reach out to the cosplayer coordinator.
  • Each contestant may only appear on stage in a single entry, whether this is a walk-on or performance entry.
  • Only contestants appearing on stage (including cosplayers and ninjas) are allowed to be in the green room/backstage during the show. Entries with very large or unwieldy costumes, or other special circumstances will be allowed to bring one (1) handler with them, but they must have it approved by the Cosplay Staff.   Handlers may only be utilized if you are physically incapable of using your hands/maneuvering your costume alone.  Bag-holders, Make-up Assistants, Moral-Support, etc, do not qualify. We will have a staff-monitored space to store your personal belongings if needed.
    A Parent/Guardian may accompany participants whose age requires them to be under this supervision according to SakuraCon policy.  Entrants must notify the coordinator of any handlers/guardians that will need to be present.
  • All sign-ups are Online Only — No Entries will be accepted for the show or wait-list at the convention.   Applications will be accepted from Noon Pacific Time, Sunday, February 6th, 2022, until 11:59PM Saturday, February 19th 2022.  If all slots fill before sign-ups close, entries received after hitting the entry cap will be placed on a waiting list.  If any confirmed entries drop, places will be offered to those on the waitlist in order of who signed up first.
  • You must have some kind of foot covering. Shoes or boots are required. This is a matter of safety. If your character does not usually wear shoes, the lack of accuracy will be forgiven; If you are adamant about the look, consider shoes that match your flesh-tone, or clear shoes.  This is non-negotiable.
  • Any substances that may cause damage or mess to the stage, equipment, or other entrants costumes are not permitted on stage, in the green room, or anywhere backstage.  This includes but is not limited to anything oily, greasy or that can stain; liquids, fire, smoke/smoke machines, dry ice, confetti/powder/small debris.  If it’s not listed here but you are unsure, please ask the cosplay coordinator.
  • Surprise the audience, but never surprise the staff/crew — Absolutely NO jumping on or off stage.  No acrobatics/flips/cartwheels will be allowed.  Any ‘surprise elements’ must be run by the cosplay coordinator for approval.   Violating this will result in disqualification from the competition, and participation in future SakuraCon cosplay contests.  When in doubt, ask.
  • At time of sign up, all contestants will be required to link to a file-share folder containing files/documentation related to your entry.  Google Drive is prefered, but DropBox or One Drive are also acceptable.  At the time of sign-up your folder MUST contain:
    1) Reference Images of your costume
        2) Progress Pictures of your costume so far (for craftsmanship entries)
        3) Any additional items as detailed in the rules below, depending on if you are a Walk-On, or Skit.

    Please see these Sample Folders in the rules below for clear examples of what you should submit, depending on your entry category.

    If your folder sharing does not work, you will be rejected and asked to re-submit. So please, have a friend test that your folder can be viewed by anyone with the link, before submission!  If we must request permission to view your folder, you will be rejected and asked to submit again.

  • All contestants are required to check in and/or be pre-judged at the convention on Friday, and attend tech rehearsal on Saturday Morning.  Specific times and locations will be announced as the convention approaches and the schedule is finalized. Failure to comply will result in an assumed drop-out, and disqualification.  
  • Although there will be awards in both Performance and Craftsmanship, *Best in Show* will be awarded to an entry that displays excellence in both their selected division of Craftsmanship AND in Stage Presence/Performance.   Although it’s not explicitly required, and a really good walk-on CAN win Best in Show, for your best chance at this award you should be entering in both craftsmanship AND performance. For differences between Performance and Walk On, see the detailed rules below. (Performances without craftsmanship will be eligible for performance awards only.)


For those entering in Craftsmanship, there will be (2) portions: the Prejudging portion and the Stage portion.  For Stage, you may choose to enter as a Walk-On, or Performance (more on each of those further down).  

Craftsmanship will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Execution – How well the costume is constructed and finished.

Fidelity* – How closely the costume resembles the source material and/or how well it interprets and reminds the judges of the design of the source material.  (adaptations made with intent/purpose and explained adequately to the judges will not count against you in this area).

Complexity – How wide the range of skills used in the project, and the difficulty level of those techniques.

Creativity –  Thoughtful use of materials, ingenuity, personalized embellishments, etc.

*Original Design entries will be evaluated on Thoughtfulness/Appeal of Design, rather than Fidelity.  More on Original Design entries below.

The Prejudging portion will take place on Friday of the convention during a time slot that you will sign up for after general sign-ups for the contest have closed (you will be notified through email when these will open).  During judging, contestants will display their costumes to a panel of judges, where they will have a chance to inspect the costumes and props from a close distance. Contestants will be evaluated one entry at a time, in a private room with the judges and cosplay coordinator or assistant coordinator present.

Costumes must be made by the contestant, or in the case of groups, by someone in your group.  You may model a costume for someone else, but the creator of the costume must be present for prejudging to answer questions about the costume build.   Commissioned costumes,  Mass-Produced or Second-hand Purchased costumes, or Costumes made from assembling purchased pieces (“Closet Cosplay”) are not eligible for Craftsmanship evaluation/awards.   These types of costumes are only permitted to participate in Performance entries, and will only qualify for Performance Awards.

  • Craftsmanship Entries may be entered as either Individual, or a group.
  • Individual entries will be judged on the quality and craftsmanship of a single costume (including props and accessories).
  • Group entries may have 2 to 6 cosplayers.  They will be judged based on the quality and craftsmanship of the group as a whole — the entire group will receive a single score.
  • All entries, Individual or Group, will register under ONE of the following categories.  Groups must enter under the category of their most experienced group member:
    • Novice: You have never won a cosplay contest award*, or have entered three (3) or fewer contests in the past. If you have made 15 or more costumes prior to this, regardless of competition experience, you should enter in Journeyman
    • Journeyman: You or anyone in your group has won an award* in Novice at any convention/Journeyman at an event smaller than SakuraCon, OR have participated in more than three (3) contests before, OR have made more than 15 costumes.
    • Masters: You or anyone in your group has won an award* in Journeyman or higher at any convention, OR a first-place Category award at a ComicCon (1st Place Needlework/tailoring, armor, etc) OR you have made  35 or more costumes. Anyone who does cosplay work professionally (such as commission work, selling pre-made costume accessories, or works for industry events/booths in costumes they make) MUST enter at Master Level.  This level is also open to anyone who would like to compete at this level.

      Please Note: These are guidelines.  Judges and staff reserve the right to adjust your category if they deem that you/your cosplay was entered at a level too far below the appropriate category according to your skills/experience.  Entrants will not be bumped to a lower category than the one they enter.

      * for the sake of this competition, Judges Awards / Honorable Mentions do not count towards Award Wins — Only Level (Novice/Journeyman/Masters) or Category (Needlework/Armor/Etc) are considered.

  • Costumes and props must be at least 75% made (not modified) by the entrant.  Found parts or props are allowed, though they must not comprise more than 25% of the costume, and must be disclosed at time of judging. (eg: shoes that were painted or covered, tights or simple gloves, a purchased undershirt or pants that were modified in some way, are all types of items that may be permitted, as long as 75% of your total costume is hand-made by you.) — if you’re unsure, ask the coordinator.
  • All costumes must be derived from an existing fandom/published piece of media.  Completely Original Characters such as your own DnD character, Fan-based Original Character’s (Like “Sailor Earth”), a character from an original story you/your friends created, your Fursona, etc, will not be permitted in this competition. 
    • Derivative Work/Fanart re-designs and avatar characters compiled for the player character from MMO/Console Games are all permitted, with appropriate reference art.  If you are not able to provide one, cohesive reference image for your Avatar costume, it qualifies as a Mash Up, and belongs in Original Design.
    • Costumes made based on non-canon designs (fan art) that were NOT designed by you, DO NOT belong in Original Design.  However, you must be able to source the artist (Sakizou, Hannah Alexander, Zach Fisher, Sunset Dragon, No Flutter, etc) and must provide proof of digital or hard copy publication, *by* the artist.  Examples include: links to or screen-captures of the artwork published on the artists own platform (Patreon, Deviantart, their own website, etc) where their name (and possibly other works) can be seen, or a photo of the work in print (such as from a book).  If the exact image you are using cannot be found in their own publishings (some are print-exclusives that you may not have personally obtained), you must be able to show a clear relationship between the artists works, and the image you’re using as your source (it’s pretty easy to see that it was the same artist, for example, when you place two Sakizou illustrations side-by-side, due to distinct art style)  “I found this on tumblr/pixv/pinterest/art-share account” is NOT an acceptable source.
    • Designs commissioned explicitly/exclusively for you/not publicly available must include proof of the exchange with the artist, and/or a link/screen-capture of where their other work can be found.
    • Designs created by you or someone in your group, or drawn by a friend from your description, must be entered under Original Design.  In this case, you must provide your concept art and/or your inspirational materials – for example, if you are doing a mash-up design of Mario in the style of Borderlands, but have not created a completed image, you would include images of Mario from his original source(s), as well as images from Borderlands.    Historical mashups may include pictures of the character from canon, as well as examples of the types of garments you drew inspiration from. One canon image with no additional references will not be accepted.
  • Entrants may also not enter a costume which fits any of the following:
    • Has been entered in any previous year of the Sakura-Con cosplay contest.
    • Has won an award in Masters or Best in Show at any major convention:
      • Top awards from single-day events will be permitted as long as additional work has been done on the costume since.
      • Novice and Journeyman award winners from other conventions may be entered, ONLY at a level above the award received. Example: a Best Novice award winning costume must be entered in Journeyman.
      • Solo award winning costumes may be allowed if they are being entered as part of a group, or performance with no craft evaluation.
    • Has won/placed in a main Category Award at a convention where costumes are divided by Skillset rather than Experience Level (ex: Best Armor, Best Needlework, etc., as usually seen in ComicCon contests)
    • Costumes made by someone else — with the exception that you may model for someone else, if the maker of the costume is present for the craftsmanship judging.
  • At the time of craftsmanship pre-judging, entrants must provide the following items to present to the judges:
    • At least 2 color reference image of each costume.  We recommend that if there is only 1, it be a full-body shot.  Exceptions will be made where only one image exists, or the image exists only in Black and White (i.e. an artbook illustration, promotional art, individual art piece, or manga page illustration with no canonical colors).
    • At least 10 color progress pictures of each costume.

These items must be submitted into your shared folder in a sub-folder named ‘Judging Materials’ on your shared drive by the Monday before the convention, so that they can be downloaded by the staff.  Those not submitted by the deadline must be brought to your judging session in printed form.  Failure to provide these materials will result in a score of “0” under Fidelity (for lack of reference) and/or Execution (for lack of progress images) depending on what is missing.  *Presenting your materials on your phone, personal tablet, or other device will not be acceptable.*

The Stage portion will take place on Saturday, at an exact time TBD. During the show, entrants will either present as a Walk On or Performance

Stage Presentation

All entries will participate in the show portion of the contest as either a Walk-On or Performance 

Walk-Ons are short presentations of your costume on stage, and usually consist of simple moves, and periodically stopping to pose for pictures.  Expressly for showing off the costume, Walk-Ons are for Craftsmanship entries ONLY.  If you are not having your costume judged for craftsmanship, you must be signed up as a Performance, and do more than walk/pose on the stage.

  • Limited to no more than 40 seconds for individuals, and 60 seconds for groups.
  • Does not tell a story or typically contain dialogue, but can showcase the character’s personality.
  • All walk-ons MUST be Craftsmanship Entries. All persons who appear on stage during a walk-on must have had their costume judged for craftsmanship – No ninjas, assistants, or handlers permitted.  
  • Walk-On entries are required to submit the following items in their online shared folder, at time of sign up. Entries received without all of these items will be rejected, and asked to re-submit.
    • Reference Image(s) of the costume(s) you will be entering.  (See rules above for more detail)
    • Some progress photos of your project (to show you have started working on it – you may add more as the convention approaches – This is NOT expected to be a Comprehensive Portfolio at time of submission. 3 – 6 photos is expected.)
    • Your audio (pre-cut to the appropriate length) in MP3 Format* – Tech Will Not cut this for you.
    • If you have any lights in your costume, you will be permitted (1) custom lighting change, so that we can showcase the light work in your costume.   You will be expected to make a note of this need in a document in your shared folder. (preferably indicating the time-stamp of your audio when the lights should go up, or down)
    • FOR NON-CANON DESIGNS: proof of digital or hard copy publication, *by* the artist.  Links, Screencaptures, photos of books, etc.  (Please reference rules for details.)
    • FOR DESIGNS COMMISSIONED: for the cosplayer’s use: Proof of exchange with the artist.
    • FOR ORIGINAL DESIGNS: your own art, or inspirational references.*Revisions may be permitted at a later date, should you need to make changes.Example of Shared Folder Contents for Canon Designs:

      Example of Shared Folder Contents for Sourced Fanart Designs:

      Example of shared Folder Contents for Original Design:

Performance entries are longer than walk-ons, and consist of a wider range of presentation including but not limited to short stories/skits, musical numbers, monologues, dancing, and stage/costume tricks.  These can involve the use of oversized props/set pieces, and permit the use of your own stage ninjas to assist on stage during the performance.

Performance entries may include costumes which have not been judged for craftsmanship.  They also come with their own set of potential awards and are subject to additional submission requirements, evaluations, and rules, listed below.

Any questions regarding the rules or application process can be directed to cosplay@sakuracon.org

Performance Rules

Those choosing to enter in the performance category may do so with or without craftsmanship judging.  Performances will be judged based on the quality of the presentation, including entertainment value, stage presence/polish, and audio quality/clarity.  Purchased, Commissioned or “Closet Cosplay” costumes will be permitted in Performance entries, but they will not be eligible for Craftsmanship Awards.  Performance entries with no craftsmanship will not be eligible for Best in Show.

  • Performance is an Open competition —  All entries will be evaluated equally, with awards handed out based on the Genre of the performances (Drama, Comedy, Musical/Dance).  Since many great performances can fall into multiple genres, the judges will determine the category that best fits your performance when they deliberate.
  • There will be a maximum of 20 entries allowed for the Performance Category – 10 groups, and 10 individuals.  Once this fills, the rest will be placed on a wait list.  If a confirmed entry drops, the space will be offered to those on the waitlist based on the order in which they signed up.  If, after signups have closed, there is an uneven number of solo and group entries, wait-listed entries may be offered spots to fill the over-all time.
  • Performances by Individuals are limited to 1 minute and 30 seconds.  This is non-negotiable (wiggle-room may be given for a few seconds, at the coordinators review/discretion).  You may have ONE stage-ninja and one cosplayer, and still qualify as an Individual performance.
  • Performances for Groups are limited to 3 minutes and should be planned with this limit in mind.  If this limit absolutely cannot be met, additional time may be allowed on a case-by-case basis, at the discretion of the cosplay coordinator.  If your audio exceeds 3 minutes, you must email cosplay@sakuracon.org for review/approval of any extensions, and these are not guaranteed.
  • Groups in 2022 are limited to 6 persons, including stage ninjas (Example: 4 cosplayers and 2 ninjas is 6 persons). We will have staff to help you get props/sets on and off stage before/after your performance, but if you need assistance during your performance, you will need to provide your own help.
  • All Performances must be screened for general content.  You will be expected to provide a ‘script’ in your digital file-share folder at the time of sign up!  A script should include any spoken dialogue, general blocking (IE: Character A sword fights with Character B), any style of dance (IE: Belly Dancing, Ballet, etc) or if you are doing a dance cover, a link to video of the original choreography.  The Cosplay Coordinator may ask for additional information or clarification.  If there is anything questionably against the rules or deemed inappropriate, you may be rejected, or asked to make changes and given a window of time to re-submit your entry.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions!  If you decide to make revisions after you’ve been accepted to the show, you will need to notify the coordinator of these changes, so they can also be reviewed.
  • Audio for your performance must be pre-recorded and submitted digitally into the file-share folder you provide with your sign-up.  The audio files will be due AFTER final approval of your script, and does NOT have to be included at time of sign-up.
  • The default for stage lighting will be lights up at the start of your audio, lights down at the end of your audio. Custom lighting cues during the run of the performance may be noted, but not all may be possible to execute.  You will be expected to provide a sheet of cues matched to time stamps of your audio track, when you submit your audio.  You are NOT REQUIRED To have custom lighting cues, but any requests will be due no later than FRIDAY, (April 8th) – one week before the convention.
  • Each set piece you have must be capable of being carried by no more than 2 people, and capable of fitting through a standard interior doorway (like in your home, NOT the double doorways in the convention center).
  • Performance entries are required to have the following items in their online shared folder, at time of sign up:
    • Reference Images of the costumes(s) you will be presenting, regardless of whether you are participating in the Craftsmanship portion.
    • Some progress photos of your project (only if you are being judged for craftsmanship)
    • Your script, to be reviewed for content.

EXAMPLE FOLDER for Skit Entries:
With Craftsmanship:  https://bit.ly/SakPerformancewCraft
Without Craftsmanship:  https://bit.ly/SakPerformanceOnly

Sign-Up Form Examples

Linked below are screenshots of the sign-up form.  Please use these to acquaint yourself with what you will be asked for on the form.  When sign-ups are live, you will find the actual sign-up sheet linked at the bottom of this Rules page.

SIGN UP FORM SCREEN SHOTS (this is NOT how you will sign-up):  https://bit.ly/SakSignUpExample


It is up to the contestant to state any possible conflicts of interest you may have. Such conflicts will be evaluated by the cosplay coordinator, and appropriate action will be taken at the discretion of the cosplay coordinator and sakura con staff. 

All awards are final with the exception of those who are found to have been in violation of the rules.  Any claims of Sandbagging brought to the staff’s attention will be investigated to determine if an award should be revoked.

Displays of poor sportsmanship may result in disqualification and/or barring from future SakuraCon Cosplay contests.

Harassment of judges or staff, or any conduct that violates the Sakura-Con policies may result in disqualification and barring from future SakuraCon Cosplay contests. Further action may be taken at the discretion of programming staff.

And remember, have fun!

Cosplay Contest Application Form