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The Baltimore Comic-Con and the Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore have once again joined forces to proudly present the 2023 Annual Cosplay Contest! We are thrilled to welcome Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore as our 2023 Costume Craftsmanship Contest sponsor, bringing back the internationally-recognized pop cultural brand and destination as the partner for one of the convention’s premier events.

Event Description

The Adult Cosplay Contest is being held on Saturday, September 9th at 3:30pm. All participants must be registered for the contest to be eligible to compete. Registration information is available below. The registration form will be closed after 40 online signups are reached, and an additional 20 prejudging slots will be available in-person during the day on Saturday, September 9th until 12pm. Please be sure you and your cosplay creations are eligible for competition before you sign up; details about eligibility are listed below. 

Pre-judging will happen throughout the day in the 4th floor ballroom and will be scheduled by appointment, giving each contestant more time to spend on the show floor. During the online registration process, your pre-judging appointment will be created. With a limited number of contestant slots available, make sure to sign up early!

Acceptance to the cosplay contest does not include access to the convention. All participants must purchase a ticket to the Baltimore Comic-Con to access the convention spaces and participate in the Cosplay Contest.


Novice: This beginner category includes applicants who may have never entered a contest or who have entered contests before and not won a major award (1st place, grand prize). Novices may have previously won judges’ choice or runner up awards in previous competitions.

Intermediate: This category includes cosplayers who have won a major award at a previous competition (1st place, grand prize). Intermediate entries may have previously won judges’ choice or runner up awards in previous competitions. Anyone without prior competition wins or experience may register at the Intermediate level if they feel their cosplay can compete at this level.

Advanced: This category includes any cosplayer who makes cosplay props and costumes for income; and/or any cosplayer who has won more than two major novice awards (1st place, grand prize) at previous competitions; or one major journeyman/intermediate award (1st place, grand prize) at previous competitions. Anyone without prior competition wins or experience may register at the Advanced level if they feel their cosplay can compete at this level. 

Sub Category: Groups

A group consists of four (4) or more cosplayers who will compete together on the stage instead of individually. Groups must compete at the level of the most advanced member of the group. 

For example: Three novice cosplayers and one Advanced cosplayer competing as a group must register for the Advanced category and will be judged according to the expectations of that level.

Costumes cannot have previously won a major award at another competition (1st, grand prize). Costumes that have won minor awards can be entered.

Judges have the right to move a cosplayer from the Novice level to the Intermediate and from Intermediate to Advanced if they feel that the quality of the cosplay is more appropriately competed at the higher level. Judges cannot move a cosplayer from higher levels to lower levels.

Any uncertainty from the competitors about their level placement should be addressed prior to registration closing on Saturday, September 9, 2023. Organizers may help registering cosplayers determine if they are more appropriately placed in the Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced level based on prior competition experience. Organizers of the competition are not judges, and placement into a specific level does not guarantee any outcome to the competition.

Registration – Online Registration will run until September 1st, 2023, or until the maximum number of prejudging appointment slots (40)  are filled. If you do not receive one of these spots online, there will be a limited number of on-site registration slots that will be open until 12:00pm on Saturday, September 9th. The registration form will be available on the Baltimore Comic-Con website under the Cosplay Events menu. Emails confirming your information and pre-judging appointment slot will be sent to you by September 1st, 2023. 

There will only be 20 day-of registration slots available. Anyone signing up the day-of must be prepared to provide a build book and meet the same requirements as the pre-registered contestants. 

Withdrawing from the competition – Anyone pre-registered for the cosplay competition can withdraw up to the day of the competition. Please provide advanced notice as early as possible, as it may allow another contestant to pre-register. If canceling the day-of, please arrive at the pre-judging appointment and state your wish to withdraw. If you cannot withdraw in person (e.g., personal illness, unable to attend con, etc.), an email must be sent to  before 12:00pm on Saturday, September 9, 2023.

Late arrivals or failure to show up to the pre-judging appointment or to the stage walk will result in automatic withdrawal from the contest. 

Organizers as well as judges reserve the right to withdraw a contestant from the competition at any time. Inappropriate behavior, unsportsman-like conduct, disrespect of judges and fellow contestants, and other similar behaviors will not be tolerated.

Build Book – Documentation of the build process for the cosplay, also known as a build book, will be required for all levels of competition, including contestants who register for the convention on the day-of. For those uncertain how to put together a build book, formats are available online via search engines. Build books prove the level of work done by the cosplayer, and provide credit for any commissioned work. 

  • For those with past cosplay awards, please include a list of prior awards (convention/competition, level competed at, placement) in the build book.
  • Please provide reference images of the design or character for your costume.
  • Restrict length to no more than 15 pages.

Groups: Each individual cosplay must have its own build book which meets all the aforementioned requirements. Work performed by one member of the group but used by a different member must be included in the build book as if it were a commissioned piece.

Costume Eligibility – 

    1. Level of personal work done on cosplay required – 80% of the cosplay must be created personally by the competitor. Commissioned work for the remaining 20% is allowed, but full credit must be given to the fabricator, and this credit must be included in the build book. A statement of permission to compete with the fabricator’s work is also required. An email showing the To/From line and written permission to compete from the fabricator is acceptable.
      1. For Groups: Each individual competitor must have fabricated 80% of their own cosplay. It is acceptable for members of the group to have assisted each other in fabrication of the cosplay, but this must be documented in the build book. Parts of a cosplay completely fabricated by one member of the group but used by another member will be considered as part of the 20% of the cosplay not fabricated by the contestant.
    2. Type of Design: Costumes must represent an existing or recognizable character from the pop culture realm, including movies, TV, comic books, manga, anime, etc. Costumes can also include derivative designs from artists (i.e. Hannah Alexander Art, Sakizo Illustrator, etc.) so long as reference artwork is provided in the build book for the judges.
      1. Competitors will not be docked points for assistive device use such as wheelchairs, glasses, etc. 
      2. Competitor body size/shape/skin color/orientation/race/etc. will not affect judging.
    3. Costumes cannot have previously won a major award at another competition (1st, grand prize). Costumes that have won minor awards can be entered.
  • For Groups: If the cosplay of one member has previously won a major award, this cosplay is not eligible for the competition and disqualifies the group from competing. 
  1. Finalists should be able to safely move in the costume with limited assistance (except in the case of disability that requires a helper), and the costume must not impede the Finalist’s ability to get on and off the stage. 


Costume judging will take place before the stage presentation and assesses the accuracy of the costume against provided source images or the design skill and interpretation of original designs, the ambition and complexity of the costume design, the quality of construction, and the techniques employed to realize the costume.

It is the responsibility of the Contestants to be present for judging at the time decided by Baltimore Comic-Con. A very limited time has also been set aside for contestants who register the day-of. Late arrival or failure to show up to the judging appointment or to the stage walk will result in automatic withdrawal from the contest.

Stage Walk – 

The stage presentation will be assessed by the judges considering stage presence, nature of the presentation, the ability to take on the role of the character, and level of entertainment or engagement. A stage walk can simply be a walk where the entirety of the costume and prop is visible to the audience, but contestants can also strike poses and do a small performance (no audio/lighting assistance) that is no longer than 1 minute.

The weighting for each of the judging criteria is as follows: Accuracy or Design and Ambition- 25% Construction – 60% Stage Presentation – 15% 

The judges’ decisions are final, and no further negotiation is permitted. There is no obligation on Baltimore Comic-Con or the judges to provide feedback.  


Each Individual Contestant category will have two winners: 1st Place and Runner Up. Each Group category will have one winner: 1st Place. Any prize awarded to two or more contestants will not be adjusted depending on the number of people receiving the prize. The awards are as follows:

  1. Best in Show 
  • Grand Prize of $1,000
  1. Novice Individual
  • 1st Place: $125
  • Runner Up: $75
  1. Novice Group
  • 1st Place: $100
  1. Intermediate Individual
  • 1st Place: $175
  • Runner Up: $100
  1. Intermediate Group
  • 1st Place: $125
  1. Advanced Individual
  • 1st Place: $200
  • Runner Up: $100
  1. Advanced Group
  • 1st Place: $125


Each judge will also have the opportunity to award a competitor who did not place in any category one (1) Judges’ Choice award. These prizes are $50 gift cards to Hard Rock Cafe

Organizers for the Adult Contest and Adult Showcase

To register for the Adult Cosplay Contest:

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