At Snakepit Studios, we not only take commissions, but we also commission a lot of other artists for projects. So we understand what it's like to to be unsure when working with a prop maker on a custom project.
Here are a few things that we have learned along the way that will hopefully help you as you are looking for a cosplay designer to help you with the costume or project you've always dreamed of:
1. Look For Similar Products In Their Portfolio
Commissioning something that does not currently exist in the world can be tricky. If you do find a builder, make sure they have made something similar in the past and have the proper skill set. For example, if they have made a Batman cowl out of rubber, they can probably do a Flash one. If all they do is EVA foam, a rubber cowl may not be in their skill set.
2. Be Weary of Overconfident Builders
On a pretty regular basis, we see people sell items or take commissions for things they haven’t done before. We truly encourage fellow prop makers to learn new skills, as we are doing this all the time, but it should be on their dime and not yours. New skills often requires a lot of costly mistakes. Just because someone can show you digital art or a 3D model does not mean they can make a physical item for you to wear.
3. Reputation is Everything
Skilled and reliable builders are well known in the cosplay communities. So are the scammers. Do not be afraid to ask around. If you are unsure, ask. Also, those with good reputations are likely mentioned on social media sites, so make sure to do your research.
4. Google is Your Friend
5. Leap of Faith
Sometimes the well known prop makers aren’t interested in your project, or are booked up and you need to take a chance on a smaller studio or newer builder. We have often done this. When we do, we make sure we understand Paypal payments, and we often start with a very small project as a trial before giving them a bigger one.
6. More Facebook Followers Does Not Necessarily Equal A Good Reputation
Followers can be bought from Facebook. If a shop has 20-50 thousand followers, but very few likes or comments on their posts, they bought their fans. Look for real people liking and commenting on their work. A builder with 1,000 followers and 100 likes on a post has more real fans and clients then one with 10,000 followers and 10 likes on their posts. However, you should never choose a commissioner just based on “likes”, especially with Facebook's constantly changing algorithym. But "likes" is something that can be considered along with other information you gather about them.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you with your search for the right prop maker for your project.
Good Luck and Have Fun!