SynchroHearts need no introduction here at DieHard GameFAN, we interviewed this pair of talented cosplayers for last year’s EvilleCon. Synchro-Hearts is the name for Ex-Shadow (Kyle) and Malindachan (Malinda), a pair of cosplayers well-known for their outstanding tailoring skills, realistic wigs, and breathtaking props. I always enjoy talking to them, so when I was offered the opportunity to eat dinner with them at Old Chicago and sit down for a quick interview after a long day, I gladly accepted.
We’ll have some awesome pictures of them in this interview, transcribed by our own Ashe Collins, but should you want to see more of their awesome costumes, you can find Kyle’s DeviantArt here, and Malinda’s here. Additionally, you can like Ex-Shadow‘s Facebook page, as well as Malindachan‘s. I look forward to seeing them again in the near future, if all goes well.
Picture credits are noted by alt text.
DHGF: I think the last time we talked, or maybe this was shortly after you were working on an armor set with chainmail for Link?
Malinda: Yes, I was working on my chainmail shirt.
DHGF: How many pieces did you end up with? Do you remember?
Malinda: It’s at least seven thousand rings, Or something like that.
DHGF: Wow. How long did that take to…?
Malinda: I got started on it around winter of 2010. I put it down for a while because I had some other costumes that I was working on. It was either March or May of last year I got started on it again, and I worked on it for several months. I was making a goal for myself where I had to make at least one hundred or two hundred rings each day until I finally finished it. And then I tried to get the rest of the costume done in the last month or two before the convention
DHGF: So that was really time intensive.
Malinda: If I was using even smaller rings it would have been even moreso. Most Link cosplayers I knew that made their chain mail would spend a minimum of 6 months or a year on average to finish a whole chainmail tunic.
DHGF: That’s impressive. I don’t think that I would have the patience for that. I think that I would do it for a couple of hours and would be done!
Kyle: She had way more patience than I did when we were working on it. She’d ask me to cut a few links for her and I’d be like “This is stupid.”
Malinda: The hardest part is that I was just using some small jewelry cutters. And they made my palms bruise.
Kyle: Yeah, that was my big complaint.
Malinda: Sometimes I would just have Kyle help me cut them, but he couldn’t go very far without going “no, this is dumb”
Kyle: If we had a better cutting tool it would have gone a lot more smoothly and I would have probably been a lot more enthusiastic about it.
DHGF: So in the past, since you guys have been here, I’ve seen your Traveller cosplay, I’ve seen Robin. What other cosplay have you guys done in the last year or so?
Kyle: I just made Guts from Berserk and his berserker armor. It’s technically not complete, but it’s complete enough to showcase at a couple of cons. Then I will be finishing it up for a con that’s next month. And recently we kind of tag-teamed a Zoro costume for me from One Piece. I can’t think of what else I’ve done in the last year.
Malinda: I made a new Yami no Yugi wig, so I’ve been wearing that a lot.
Kyle: And I put together a new Joey. She made the wig and I made the shirt.
Malinda: I also did make a Neku pretty recently.
Kyle: Yeah, you’re wearing it. (laughs)
Malinda: If I could think of which cons I went to over the summer… Animefest I did Link as my big new costume and I did Mako from Legend of Korra really quick for a group of friends. Shortly after that I went to Anime Weekend Atlanta. That’s where I made Neku. And then I went to Yomacon with work and that’s around the time I made my Yami wig. And then there was Ikki Con at New Years where I did my Journey cosplay and also Jack Frost. This year we had Katsucon and I made Rapunzel. It was the Disney Designer Collection dress. I did Nami from One Piece. Oh, and I did Sanji form One Piece at Animefest last year too.
Kyle: We made a lot of costumes.
Malinda: A lot of them were really quick to make, except my Link and Journey costumes.
Kyle: that’s like a dozen costumes this year.
DHGF: Yeah no kidding. You guys have been busy.
Malinda: I’m crazy.
DHGF: And on top of moving and everything too.
Malinda: I love making costumes though so…
DHGF: Kind of takes some of the work feel out of it maybe?
Malinda: There have been times where I would feel down, and distracting myself with sewing or crafting gets me back on my feet.
DHGF: Do you guys have any planned? Any others that you were thinking, ‘Oh in this future this would be something that I’d like to do’?
Kyle: Yeah there’s some big ones that I’m planning this year. I’m planning on doing a Skyrim outfit pretty soon and it’ll be Daedric armor, it’ll be pretty crazy. After that I have a bunch of things but I don’t know what order I want to do them in.
Malinda: I want to finish up the details on my Zidane cosplay for ACEN. And I want to do the Fema
le Pokemon trainer from Black and White 2, possibly for C2E2, which is in Chicago. This summer I would like to finally get around to my character from Fable III. It’s one of those games that there’s a lot of people that really liked it and a lot of people that didn’t like it. But I liked it.
Kyle: I liked it too and I would eventually like to get a Fable III character done too. And a Fable I. I like the Fable games in general. Just a matter of getting time for it.
Malinda: Those are the ones I plan on working on very soon, but that could change.
Kyle: Yeah. Nothing is ever set in stone until we’re about halfway done with it.
DHGF: You guys have made a lot of costumes in the last year alone, so I was thinking about talking about some tips you might have for people who are interested in cosplay but haven’t made as many costumes and enough chance to do a lot of trial and error which is obviously a big part of the learning process you guys referenced last year. Do you have any recommendations for someone, say working on wigs? I’m sure you’ve seen some really great wigs and you guys do some really great wigs and have seen some pretty bad wigs as well. Are there any rules of them you guys have when you’re working on wigs?
Malinda: One thing I noticed a lot of people think is, ‘the more h
air spray, the better.’ If they can’t get the hair spike to stay up, they think more hairspray will do the job, but that can make the hair look thin or stringy. Some teasing at the base and just a light amount of hairspray is good. And then I’ve learned about using glue to hold the tips together so I don’t have to worry about it splitting apart while I’m wearing it. it can be a permanent change to the wig.
Kyle: Yeah only do it if you’re planning on keeping it in that one same style forever.
Malinda: Have a go with what you’re comfortable with. Try new things. If it doesn’t work the first time just step away from it. Wash and Comb it out later and then try again.
Kyle: Wigs can be reworked a few times before they’re really ruined. Unless you chop a big lock off or something. I’d say cutting is the thing you have to be most careful about when you’re working on wigs.
Malinda: Even with the first wigs I first styled, they were stringy, and then if I went back and combed
DHGF: What about storage for when you’re not using the wigs? Any recommendations for that? those spikes out and then redid it. They’d frizz up a little more from the combing, but that would give them more fullness and it would still have some product in it. So when I spiked it the second time, it stayed up a lot better. So sometimes even going back in and fixing it up does a lot without having to buy a new wig.
Kyle: Keep it on a wig head and keep it in the closet.
Malinda: Well, if it’s styled then yes. Keep it on a wig head and keep it in a cool, dry place. But if you’re worried about dust, maybe
use some plastic wrap or a trash bag to just keep it covered. If it’s not styled, just keep the packaging that the wig came in and save the tissue that goes inside it to keep it from being too squished. Then lightly pack it somewhere with your costume stuff. We have a lot of bins with costume items and we just keep unstyled wigs in those.
Kyle: Storage bins are your friend.
Malinda: I have a favoritism to stuff that’s still breathable but pretty thick or sturdy like Twill and Denim. You know, thicker cottons for like jackets.DHGF: what kind of materials do you use for costumes that are cloth-based?
Malinda: Microsuede! Yes! Microsuede feels really nice. It’s a little more pricey but it’s fancy. (laughs) Generally what I like to do though with any costume is go to the fabric store and see what’s available in the colors I’m looking for. I might go straight to the fabric choice that I prefer but if there’s not the right color, I might go browse around other sections that would work for me.
Kyle: Check out the red tags, see if you get lucky.
Malinda: When I was doing Hiccup for How to Train Your Dragon a long time ago, I was really particular about finding something that had the right kind of texture. I found something perfect in the suiting and linen section. It’s just a matter of browsing your fabric store and finding something that looks good and feels good to you.
DHGF: So you guys usually try to find things in the color you’re looking for. Do you ever try dyeing? I know last year you mentioned that you’d bleached a jacket and that had not gone well.
Kyle: Well with dyeing it really comes down to whether it’s dye-able at all. I’ve actually had a lot of luck with dyeing, and I do claim it as luck, because I didn’t really trial and error a whole lot I just kind of got it first try and that doesn’t happen very often. But typically if you’re dyeing something, first of all, check what the cotton content is, because most of the time you won’t be able to find polyester dyes, but I have seen them sprout up more at Joanne’s recently. So it may or may not be something you find. Usually you find cotton dyes, so if it’s a cotton/polyester blend that means it won’t die as strongly as if it were full cotton. So you have to kind of figure out if it doesn’t dye as fully, is that going to be ok for what I’m doing? If so, is there somewhere halfway between where it’s already partially towards that color and dyeing it some more will darken it toward that shade. That’s usually what I do.
Kyle: One time I roughly guessed that I could dye a white poly/cotton blend shirt a nice shade of grey, and it ended up dyeing the right shade I wanted, just by using black dye. The black was diluted just because it didn’t dye the polyester particles.That was for my Terra from Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, and it worked out just right.
DHGF: What about make-up?
Kyle: Make-up’s not our strongest focus but we do know the basics.
Malinda: I never was a huge make-up person growing up but I started to do more with make-up after I started cosplaying. But since I cosplay a lot of male characters, usually there hasn’t been a lot of focus with that. I might still use foundation and the basics to cover up a lot of blemishes and powder to keep my face from being shiny in photos. I started using eyeliner because a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh characters have defined eyes. I started using that, and just varied the amount of product based on what kind of eyes that they had. I’ve started going more into things with like fake eyelashes for the girl characters. So I’ve just been playing around with some things, asking advice from friends, and I think I’m doing pretty ok. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m learning.
DHGF: And you use contacts and stuff too?
Malinda: Yes. They’re a lot more affordable now than they used to be, and easier to find. A long time ago I did Supreme King Jaden. A very iconic feature of his were his yellow-gold eyes, so it was kind of something I had to have in order to make the character. At the time, contact lenses were really hard to find, especially at a prescription, and I’m practically blind without normal contac
DHGF: For storage of those, do you have like, I don’t know, thinking of like pill containers or something where you can store like multiples or do you have to keep them in their own individual contact lens containers?ts, so I had to make do with a pair that wasn’t a prescription that matched the power of my eyes, so I was basically blind in that costume. They were $60 lenses, and that was ridiculous. But now you can get a good pair of vibrant lenses for 20 or 25 dollars that are in my prescription, so I actually have several pairs of different colors. I use blue frequently because there’s a lot of blue-eyed characters. I have a pair of brown ones. My eyes are naturally green so I don’t worry about the green-eyed ones, but I have a red pair. Due to their recent affordability though, people now expect everyone to have them, but I don’t think it’s really necessary unless you’re comfortable with it. I know some people that don’t wear lenses at all, and they struggle trying to put them in, and it can take up to an hour each time. I’m used to them though, so I can pop them in easily, and they don’t irritate my eyes.
Malinda: I just have them in their own individual cases. I use Yu-Gi-Oh tins to store a lot of my make-up, and I have one dedicated to storing my lenses. Whenever I go to a con I just pick out which one I might be using since generally I’m only bringing one or two pairs.
Kyle: We’ve mostly kept to cheaper materials so far but we’ve started to branch out and learn more about the advanced stuff. But we’ve gone pretty far with our techniques and basic materials and we’ve managed to make some pretty authentic looking budget props.DHGF: What about weapons? You guys have some cool props. What do you guys use as far as material for that?
Malinda: We live in a little apartment so we don’t really have the work space that other people do where they have a garage with heavy duty equipment for cutting and things like that. We have to work with what we have, so generally the budget stuff like foam board, styrene plastics, EVA foam, craft foam, and similar, easy-to-find items.
Kyle: PVC pipes.
Malinda: Yeah, PVC. Anything you can find at a hardware store that’s pretty easy to saw or cut in a small space without causing too much commotion or damage. We also have to be careful on what time of day we use that stuff. We try not to use the noisy dremel at night because we do live in an apartment complex with other people. So we have to be very careful with props.
DHGF: So you guys have been really crafty about small living spaces and an apartment area. It’s been ok for you to find ways around that.
Malinda: Also, you can’t buy spray paint in Chicago. So generally if you want to spray paint anything you either have to try to make a ventilated area and just be careful that we don’t overdo it with the fumes, or just wait until we go home to visit family or something and use their garage or backyard for that kind of stuff. Or we use different kind of paints that aren’t spray paints. There’s just a lot of things with living in an apartment we have to worry about.
DHGF: I was just wondering about – I saw you Link shoes, and I was just wondering where you get your footwear for different outfits.
Malinda: It’s nice to have a couple pairs of good boots that fit you well, and you can always make shoe covers to save on money because boots can be expensive. The ones I’m wearing right now I got the for about twenty dollars on clearance at Target, and I make shoe covers for them. If I need to perminantly modify a boot for a particular costume because it’s not something I can do easily with a cover, sometimes I’ll look around at thrift stores so I’m not spending as much money.
DHGF: So do you guys ever modify the boots themselves or do you use boot covers?
Kyle: She usually does more boot covers but lately we’ve just been permanently modifying shoes as we find them. Depends on the situation really.
Malinda: Most of the time I make boot covers. Though recently I just got two pairs of cheap boots at Salvation Army. I used one of them for Zidane, so I have another pair that’s potentially good for something else. If it’s something I can get away with making a boot cover for, I generally try to do that so I can save the other boots I found for something else.
DHGF: I remember last year there was a panel you guys did on poses and staying in character. I know we sat in and listened to it, but do you guys have any tips for people for doing that for people who really want to go the whole way with their character?
Kyle: Well I would assume that if you cosplay a character you still feel some sort of connection to them or you at least want to feel a connection to them. So the key to being in character is making that connection, bringing out the character in you, and just keeping that on the surface of who you are. Like if I’m cosplaying Kuwabara it really helps that I can mimic his voice, obviously, but that also puts me in this kind of goofy mood, half-stupid, half-cheesy, you know, it really helps set the stage. If I’m in Guts I feel like a bad ass cause I’m wearing this really freaking cool armor and I have this huge sword and that kind of helps me remind myself that yeah, this guy can pretty much take on anything, and it makes me feel a lot more bold. But at the same time he has his grumpy face on most of the time so it’s pretty easy to just start with the facial expression. There’s lots of small things you can do. Facial expressions are a big part, the way you carry yourself, if your character is more timid it’s pretty easy to just shrink around a con. If your character is more bold then pop the shoulders back, put your chest out and strut your stuff. It’s really about how your carry yourself.
Malinda: It helps to think about the characters poses and practice them ahead of time, but for me personally I’m not super outgoing about it, so I just try harder to act in character for pictures and for skits. Though, sometimes depending on who the character is, my overall personality might naturally fall into that character. Like when I’m Jaden I feel a lot more easygoing without really trying. XD
DHGF: What is your armor made out of?
Kyle: I used a material called Eva Foam. E-V-A Foam. I think it stands for something, but I forget. It’s basically used in floor matting, and craft foam is also made out of the material. If you search for it online, you can quickly find places and shopping online where you can get decent amounts of it for 20 to 25 dollars. It comes in 2 foot by 2 foot squares that are like puzzle pieces that go together to form a mat, and there’s also straight up large single rolled up pieces that you can get for purchase. It’s not invincible, but it does have a lot of give to it. Typically cheaper than other methods for armor making so it’s a pretty cool beginner’s method. You just have to know how to craft it.
DHGF: And your chain link? What material is that out of?
Malinda: It’s a brass wire.
DHGF: Brass wire. Ok. Do you guys use anything else for armor?
Kyle: We’re probably going to start dabbling in Styrene pretty soon. Styrene plastics is what sign companies use for advertising usually so if you go to a sign shop locally you can probably make a deal with them to get big sheets of styrene for a lower price than you’d find online.
Malinda: I’d like to try out Worbla.
Kyle: Worbla is very pricey. We’ve heard lots of good things about Worbla so that’s definitely an option.
Malinda: It’s a new thermal plastic.
Kyle: Yeah it’s kind of like wonderflex was but it’s kind of easier to work with and it has a better finishing look to it.
Malinda: I know some people who have used wonderflex and loved it. We tried some out and it wasn’t really what we expected and it was a little bit harder for us to work with.
Kyle: With some practice we’d have gotten better but it seemed like a waste of time for us at the time. We could have gotten the same result with cheaper materials.
DHGF: What about jewelry for costumes? Earrings?
Malinda: I love jewelry. (Kyle laughs) I don’t do it a whole lot, but whenever I get the chance to, it’s very fun because it’s something I don’t get to do very often.
DHGF: Do you use any specific materials? Do you have any specific tools?
Malinda: I have a few different sets of jewelry pliers and cutters, and then I have a tin full of miscellaneous findings and things that are used for making different kinds of jewelry.
DHGF: Actually, looking at you, you’re wearing fake eyelashes right now right?
DHGF: How do you put those on? I’ve seen people use plier things to put them on and that makes me nervous but I’ve also seen people just plop them on.
Malinda: These ones were put on at the make-up panel, and the panelist just had some eyelash glue. She just put them on by hand rather than with any kind of tool, and that’s the same thing I usually do. I’m used to having my eyes touched from putting in contact lenses, so I’m not as twitchy as most people. So it’s not too hard for me to get these on.
DHGF: This year I ran out of time to get a costume together but I was thinking of doing Medusa from Soul Eater and she has the tattoo that goes kind of up her arm. Have you guys ever done tattoos or any kind of body ink?
Malinda: I recently did Nami form One Piece, and I used this tattoo paper that worked ok at home. But at the convention it was really cold, and I guess my skin was just not working well with the paper and it was peeling and cracking and did a horrible job. So I asked some friends, and they suggested Maron water based make-up. Because first of all, it’s water based, so it’s not going to make your skin break out like grease makeup. And second of all, once it’s on and dry it stays on pretty well even after rubbing against clothes and skin. So I ordered some and painted some on my arm, let it dry, and then slept with it still there. It was still there in the morning. So I was like,” yeah this stuff is pretty legit.” So that’s my favorite stuff now. You can also use alcohol based face paints for stuff that you don’t want to rub off, but the Maron stuff is easier to wash out.
Kyle: Mmmhmm. For specific designs it’d be a good idea to create a stencil too.
Malinda: For Medusa since it’s such a big design you might just have to free hand it, but if you mess up you can just use a wet cloth and it comes off pretty easily if you’re using the water based paints.
DHGF: Do you guys draw them on yourselves or draw them on each other?
Malinda: When Kyle cosplayed Kamina a friend and I drew the tattoos on him because he couldn’t reach certain areas very well. It does help to have someone sometimes, because if you have to bend your arm in order to draw it, the design could change when you return your arm to a resting position. So I guess if you’re not really too particular about the design on Medusa you could probably twist your arm and be able to do it yourself, but it does help to have a helper.
DHGF: You guys do cosplay in groups, like with your friends. Everyone has their own style with creating costumes and stuff, does it ever become an issue if you were doing Naruto or something like that? One Piece you guys did, right?
Malinda: It can be an issue if you want to compete together but are classified in different levels of craftsmanship.
Kyle: Yeah you want to coordinate pretty closely on matching styles and stuff if you’re trying to look the same to match up for competition. When we do a lot of groups these days we’re doing it for fun so, we leave it up to the other members in the group to do it at their own pace.
Malinda: An example of this – if one person in your group is a master, and everyone else in the group are considered novices, the judges are going to put you into whatever category matches the highest level person. So there have been times where I was competing with a group like this, but they wouldn’t let us enter based on the average level of our skills. So we all had to compete as a master leveled group even though the majority of the group wasn’t at that level. This makes it hard to obtain any awards because you’re being judged as a group rather than individually. If you are truely in it for fun though, then don’t let that separate your group. Because it’s still fun to go up on stage and represent whatever it is your’ doing together. If I made a costume to go with a group my friends want to do, then I have more fun walking on stage with them rather than going up as a separate entry by myself.
DHGF: Makes sense.
Malinda: As far as everyone having a style, I think most people just accept each other regardless because we’re just wanting to share our love for the series/game/etc together. For some costumes where people want to be uniform though, it helps to coordinate what materials we’re going to use so that at least matches. For example, with my Journey costume, I have friends across the country that want to match, so they asked me what fabric I got before buying theirs. Though, if I run into someone else that’s doing Journey but didn’t make theirs the same way or with the same materials, it’s still fun to interact and get a photo together.
DHGF: The last question I had for you guys, do you have any other advice for people who are really trying to improve their cosplay?
Malinda: It doesn’t hurt to research, look into different techniques and ideas, and try new things. Don’t underestimate what you’re capable of.
Kyle: I like what Chuck Huber said a lot at many of his panels. Don’t be afraid to fail. I’m probably going to steal that from him from now on because it’s true of cosplay as much as it is of voice acting. You’re never going to learn unless you fall down every now and again. That’s how you learn to pick yourself back up.
Malinda: It will happen many times throughout your cosplay career. We still have times where we mess up.
Kyle: Yeah. I mean we don’t make costumes because we know how to do it necessarily, we make costumes because we want to. And it’s that learning process that makes us better over time because we’re learning new things and not letting that slow us down too much. I mean I can’t tell you how often I’ll be working on something and I have to backtrack a bit and redo some things or tweak them as I go. Case in point. I was working on my armor and at one point I’d already finished the shoulder plates but I decided to just go back and trim them in a little bit and kind of redo them because I just wasn’t satisfied with how they were looking. And I ended up going back and making modifications two or three times before I got to the current point of the armor and even now I still feel like I might go back and do a little more modifying to them.
DHGF: And that is it. Thank you guys again for the interview.