DIY Mad Max Inspired Cosplay [Tutorial]

Mad Max DIY Cosplay


Mad Max: Fury Road premieres on May 15th, 2015. The things we know: Max will be in the desert, looking serious and stressed out; there will be lots of cars, bikes, and trucks careening through the landscape, possibly on fire; and the costume design is going to be on point. We've spent basically our whole lives watching and rewatching the original Mad Max films, so to prepare for the fourth installment, we've created our own gear, complete with a step-by-step tutorial. This isn't a specific Max cosplay, but instead inspired by the baddies' looks in the original films. Our DIY borrows design ideas from several different characters, and the look can easily vary based on available time, affordability, ease of tracking down costume bits, and ease of use with little to no modification.


Source Out Appropriate Equipment

Original Football Gear

Shoulder Pads

A wide assortment of sports gear was repurposed as post-apocalyptic combat armor for the Mad Max films, the most iconic being football shoulder pads. For our female costume, we are using late 1990’s youth XL sized shoulder pads. 

  • Rawlings Crusader series and Raider shoulder pads were the primary pads used in The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. However, these can be exceedingly difficult to track down, and given their age and possible condition, the vinyl straps holding the pads together have often degraded well past a usable state.
  • You obviously want to be able to wear these as part of a costume, so they need to be able to handle a little wear and tear. Using more modern shoulder pads is perfectly acceptable, just be mindful of their shape and design; contemporary sports gear construction can differ significantly from older gear.


Other Body Armor

The other body armor in the Mad Max films was comprised of a combination of hockey, baseball, and lacrosse pads. 

  • We picked up hockey shin guards and youth soccer shin guards (for use as forearm armor). 
  • Consideration was also given to baseball catcher’s shin guards, which were utilized heavily in The Road Warrior as arm guards. In the end, we decided to go with the soccer shin guards over the catcher’s guards due to how easy they were to repurpose as arm protectors with few / no necessary alterations.


Where To Buy

Used sporting goods stores, like Play It Again Sports, are excellent for tracking down older and cheaper gear. eBay and other online sources can be helpful too. 


Crafting Supplies

Supplies Used: Several cans of flat matte black enamel spray paint (any brand), some extra sandpaper, and a roll of painter’s tape. 

  • Make sure you grab matte finish paint. This is extremely important! You want a dull, drab finish. 
  • Optional: Flat matte clear finish spray paint as a primer coat for any vinyl bits, and newspaper to help with masking off areas of the pads. You can find these supplies at just about any hardware or hobby shop.

Mad Max Crafting Supplies


Prep & Paint Your Gear


1. Before you begin to paint, the surface area of the gear needs to be conditioned so it will accept paint better. 

  • With the extra fine sandpaper, gently sand all plastic areas of the pads that you intend to paint. Do not sand any of the softer vinyl areas. Note that if you choose a coarser grit sandpaper, you will heavily gouge or scratch the plastic.
  • Optional: If possible, remove any of the interior padding of the pads. This is not necessary but it will help cut down on the masking process. If you are not able to or do not want to bother with this, just mask off larger areas of the pads that you do not intend to paint with painter’s tape and newspaper.


2. Optional: The direction of this step is really dependent on what you want to do or how much vinyl you have to paint. If you don’t have any vinyl you want to repaint, you can skip ahead to step three of prepping and painting your gear. If you have to deal with a lot of vinyl strapping that is not black or is too glossy, use newspaper and painter’s tape to mask off the areas around the vinyl portions, leaving the vinyl exposed.

  • In a well-ventilated area, apply a few coats of matte clear finish spray paint to the exposed vinyl pieces. Be careful when you are spray painting: a few well-controlled coats can help to avoid runs in the paint. 
  • Allow the clear matte paint to dry and set for a few days and then remove the painter’s tape and any other material used to mask. Your vinyl bits will now accept the black paint better. 
  • The shoulder pads we used for this particular project did not have any vinyl that needed to be repainted, but we have used the aforementioned process in the past with great success.


3. Use painter's tape to mask off any areas that you do not want to paint. The shoulder pads that we are using have black vinyl around the neck collar that was naturally worn from previous use. We really didn't need to repaint it, so we chose to mask over it. We also decided to mask over some of the shoulder pad's metal hardware; since it was already partially rusted and weathered, it fits in well with the worn, post-apocalyptic motif of the costume.

Sanded and Taped Mad Max Armor

4. Finally, the fun part! With the gear prepped (sanded and masked), you are now ready to apply the flat black matte spray paint

  • Apply several light coats. Spray another layer as soon as the paint looks dry. Repeat this process until no white, or any other undesired color, is showing. 
  • Remember not to go overboard with the spray paint so to avoid runs. Don’t panic if you do end up with a few small runs, though! These can easily be sanded out after a day or two once the coat has set. You can then reapply another coat. 

Mad Max Cosplay Padding

Assemble Gear & Create Costume

How To Make a Mad Max Costume


Assemble Your Armor

After the gear has been painted satisfactorily and the paint has been allowed to set for a few days, remove any masking material and reassemble any padding that was dismantled. In our case, we had to reinsert the interior padding in the shoulder pads. 


DIY Mad Max Inspired Costume

Costume DIY for Mad Max Fury Road

Harness from Paratrooper Costume - Shop        Cami Bra Top

Fingerless Fishnet Gloves - Shop        Black Pleated Skirt - Shop

Black Fishnet Stockings - Shop        Black and White Nylon Thigh Highs - Shop

Black and White Striped Knee High Stockings - Shop


As far as what you wear under all the armor and gear, it's basically up to you! We went with a monochromatic theme - just remember when you pick out your outfit, that you want to mimic the look and feel of the films. (Dreary, dirty, tough.)

  • Layer the fishnets and striped stockings on your arms and legs. We tore off the tops of the black and white pieces to give everything ragged edges, and we cut holes in the fishnets, as well.
  • The harness looks best if you put it on before the skirt. A charcoal scarf completed the look.
  • Hair and makeup: We were inspired by the mohawk styles from the movies, and the eye makeup is an homage to Pris from Blade Runner. (We couldn't help it!) Dramatic is better!


Sexy Mad Max Cosplay


Have you had any luck making your own Mad Max cosplay? What gear did you find and cannibalize? And while you're commenting, let us know what you think of Fury Road, once you see it this weekend!

Shelley Horn
Shelley Horn

Shelley Horn is our Costume Expert at, where she helps with costume design. Shelley loves incorporating costumes and accessories into her everyday outfits! She's here to help with your next cosplay piece or DIY that will catch everybody's attention.