The Perfect Costume
Costumes aren’t just for Halloween anymore. With the number of fandoms, conventions, and festivals, there’s always a good excuse to get dressed up. If you’re someone who puts a lot of time into your cosplay, you might be looking for that extra something to push your costume to the next level. But what can you do that hadn’t already been done a million times?
The Power of Fog
If you have an awesome costume planned for a Halloween party, ComicCon, a local convention, or even to record a video or take photos for your own website or YouTube channel, you might be wracking your brain trying to find something to give your look that wow-factor.
Suddenly, it comes to you: a mini fog machine! Something portable, easy to operate, and compact is ideal. You can carry it with you and make an impact every time you enter a room. But are portable fog machines practical to use like this?
Answer: Yes, of course! Portable fog machines exist and, not only that, they’re totally awesome. Most designs can easily be slipped into a costume and travel to any function, whether you’re heading to a party down the street or getting ready for the costume event of the year.
First, let’s take a look at what these machines do and how they do it:
What is a Portable Fog Machine?
As the name suggests, portable fog machines are fog machines that can be taken anywhere at any time! They’re battery powered so you never need to worry about plugging them into an outlet, which means you can move around freely and hide them easily without any unsightly cords. This is primarily why they’re so good for costumes and cosplay.
At this point, it’s important to make the distinction between different “portable” fog machines. Many portable fog machines are simply portable in the sense that they can easily be moved around and plugged into different outlets. And while this is very useful if that’s what you need, we are referring to fog machines that are truly handheld, and allow you to move about freely with the fog machine.
Portable Machines for Costumes
To understand the true utility of these portable fog machines, let’s examine how people actually put them to use in a costume. In fact, different costumers and cosplayers have developed numerous applications for fog. In the end, the only limit is your creativity.
Some people attach these machines to their costumes and wear them on their bodies. You’ll find options with long tubes that allow you to thread the machines partially down a sleeve, or you’ll also find simple designs with limited tubing that are easy to attach right to a belt or strap. Once again, you can get as creative as you want with it!
Other people use these machines as props. They’re easy to place in a bucket or bag and carried around to create a completely different look. For example, a portable Halloween fog machine can be used to create a “witch’s cauldron”. This is perhaps an easier way to use a portable fog machine, because it doesn’t require you to actually attach it to your body.
How Do Portable Fog Machines Work?
Portable fog machines work in almost the same way as regular fog machines only on a much smaller scale. So, let’s take a look at how full-sized fog machines work first.
Heated Fog Machines
Most fog machines operate by using heat. This is because, by heating the fog, it becomes lighter than the air, so that the fog rises and “disperses” throughout a room. There are also the fog chiller, which cools the fog to create fog that sinks (known as low lying fog), but these won’t be very relevant to the topic of portable fog machines.
Heated fog machines operate by heating up a fog solution, which is commonly a mixture of glycol and water. The machine has a pump, tank, and heat exchanger inside with an input hole and an output nozzle. When you turn this type of fog machine on, the pump pulls the fog liquid through the heat exchanger, warming it up. With these big machines, the heat exchanger can get up to 400 degrees F, believe it or not. The machine expels the heated liquid which turns into fog when it comes in contact with the cooler outside air.
Won’t That Be Too Hot?
Now, you might be thinking, I don’t want to carry around a portable fog machine that heats up to 400 degrees F. That seems insane. You’re right. That’s why most portable machines use a vaporizer instead.
Most portable fog machines (and some regular ones) atomize the fluid and send it into the air instead of heating it. These machines don’t create as much of a fog-like look as those that have a heater. Instead, they create very small, misty particles that create an overall haze.
While it might seem that a heated fog machine would deliver better results, that’s not always the case. The mist created by portable fog machines uses an oil-based liquid that plays well with lighting. The light dances and cuts through the haze to make you the standout of any costume party. It reflects in a much different way than fog, and looks amazing on a small scale as a part of your costume.
The Benefits of Portable Fog Machines
Obviously, using a portable fog machine as part of your costume gives you that extra boost you need to take it to the next level. People get really into their costumes these days and if you’re looking for something to give you an edge, this is it.
There are other benefits to using a portable fog machine for your costume, too. Here are some of the most important:
Buying Portable Fog Machines vs. Do-It-Yourself Models
The DIY fog machine community is surprisingly strong. There are many methods of creating a fog machine from scratch, but most of the how-tos you will find are directed toward non-portable fog machines.
So is it possible to make a DIY portable fog machine as well?
Technically, yes. There are quite a few forums online that suggest making your own portable fog machine. Many of these use vaporizers and similar materials as the professional, pre-bought models, however you’ll have to put everything together yourself. Depending on the complexity, they can require soldering skills, circuit boards, etc.
While making your own portable fog machine is possible, we don’t recommend it. Portable machines can be a little pricey, so you may think you’re saving money, but consider this: A portable fog machine that you buy from a reputable retailer is likely to last much longer than a homemade one. If you’re hoping to use the device multiple times, you’ll get your money’s worth out of the one you buy.
On the other hand, a homemade machine is likely to require repairs with each use so and, over time with multiple uses, you may end up spending more money on spare parts and repairs than you would have if you’d just bought one in the first place.
We urge you to be careful if you’re considering these DIY models as a lot of them have mixed reviews and can be faulty. You don’t want to show up at the party expecting to wow everyone and find that your fog machine doesn’t work when you need it.
Additionally, because you might be working with complex components and chemical ingredients, you need to be aware of safety concerns as well. You definitely shouldn’t attempt this unless you have experience in this area, as it may pose a risk to yourself and others.
That said, we know some of you are pretty crafty and enjoy making things with your own two hands. So if you’re confident in putting something like this together for yourself, go for it! If not, there are some products on the market for you to select from.
The Best Portable Fog Machines on the Market
Which portable fog machines are the best on the market? Never fear, we have all the answers for you right here. Here are our picks for the best portable fog machines available to make your costume even more special:
The CosClouds Cosplay Smoke Machine is one of the best portable fog and smoke machines out there. It’s compact, durable, and extremely easy to use. You’ll be surprised at how capable this tiny fog machine is. And the great thing about the CosClouds system is that it’s customizable and expandable.
Start with a basic kit that includes a base unit, battery, vaporizer, changer, and switch. Each base can hold up to three vaporizers so you can add what you need to get the effect you want. They also come in six, 12, and 18-inch lengths so you can seamlessly work them into your costume.
You also have the option to buy different tips to enhance the look of the smoke. Rounded fog tips create a denser look and release the fog slowly, while thinner mist tips diffuse a thinner fog across a wider area.
There are a lot of great accessories available, too, including mounting clips, a protective heat sleeve, and extra tubing and switches. You can set up your rig exactly how you want, creating a network of tubes that runs under your costume and disperses the fog at exactly the right areas. Everything is swappable so you can set up your own configuration in a compact, easy to carry machine.
This mini fog machine was made just for cosplayers and for those serious about costumes. As such, it was designed to work within the constraints of a costume, and address the traditional difficulties that were associated with this practice.
For more information, and if you want to learn more about CosClouds, check out this video demo of how it works.
This Standard Cosplay Fog Machine comes from MONcosplay, an Etsy site with a lot of great reviews and recommendations from cosplayers and costume buyers nation-wide. These units are crafted by people who are passionate about cosplay, and are familiar with the technical requirements to work a smoke machine into a complex costume.
The standard unit includes a tin-plated steel case, a fog unit, 15 ml of juice, a spare tank, and a tank clip. It comes wired to a push button, but if you contact the seller, they can change it to a toggle button.
These components are designed so that you can set it up with your costume, and operate the smoke with an easy press of a button.
There are two different options available within the shop. Version 1 has the liquid tank connected right to the air pump and Version 2 uses a silicone tube between the two for more flexibility. Each model is very easy to install and, according to the reviews, they work like a charm.
While this machine doesn’t have the customizability of the CosClouds Cosplay Smoke Machine, it’s a pretty comprehensive unit and does give you a few options.
If you want something a little bigger that you can use as a prop, rather than attached to your costume, the Antari Portable Battery Operated Fog Machine may be a perfect choice.
This mobile fog machine is lightweight, compact, and easy to take with you wherever you need a fog machine! As we said, it might not be the best choice if you want something to strap onto yourself, but the cordless nine-inch long machine is easy to conceal and carry.
Something we like about this machine is that it can deliver either a steady stream of heavy fog, or a smaller amount of fog that’s not as dense. You can also adjust the angle so the fog comes out in any direction. Also, the tank and battery are built into the unit, which makes it really easy to conceal.
One of the best things about this machine is that the battery is rechargeable and a charger is included so you don’t have to worry about buying new batteries. This will save you a bit of money down the line.
Overall, it’s a solid choice, but do keep in mind that it’s really only ideal if you want to carry your fog machine. This doesn’t have the necessary components to rig under your costume. But for a simpler approach, it’s a good choice.
If you’re still unsure whether a portable fog machine is the right idea for your costumes, then it might help to take some inspiration from others. You can use the fog machine to create all sorts of effects. Here are some examples:
Smoke and Fire
Many have used a portable smoke machine to give their costume the look of real “smoke” coming off their body. By attaching some tubes underneath various parts of their costume, it can look like you are actually smoking, as if you are overheating or on fire!
Some popular uses of this include a robot or mech, a fiery dragon, or numerous other fire-based attire!
Portable smoke can be used to add an eerie element of mystery to your costume. It can give you the appearance of “walking through the fog” wherever you go. Some choose to run the fog machine through the base of their pant-leg, so that the fog rises and cascades over them as they walk.
This is a great idea if you’re playing a character from a neo-noir, a monster costume, a vampire costume, or any spooky figure that you want to portray.
Smoke can also be used to add an epic level of excitement to your costume. Some will use the fog to add a “blast” from their fake gun, or to give their swords or weapons a smoldering effect. Some will simply run the fog through their suit for that heroic appeal.
This is great when cosplaying super heroes, comic book characters, medieval warriors, video game heroes, and more!
The Perfect Costume Accessory
Costumes are not just for kids these days. Cosplayers have taken the art of making a costume to the next level. One way to really stand out is to add a portable fog machine to your look. There are plenty of options available so you can find the one that works best with your setup.
Of the three portable fog machines that we reviewed, we highly recommend the CosClouds Cosplay Smoke Machine. We love the modular design because you can use up to three vaporizers at once and there are three different lengths to choose from so you can make this work with just about any setup. There are some great accessories, too. Just bear in mind that the basic kit only includes a base unit, battery, vaporizer, changer, and switch and you will need to buy extra pieces and accessories separately.
Will Fog Machines Leave a Residue?
Some cosplayers worry that the residue from the fog machine might actually damage their suit. As long as you use a quality machine with a quality fog juice, you shouldn’t have to worry about it. Fog machine will technically leave a residue on the surfaces it touches, but you shouldn’t have to worry about this residue leaving any lasting marks or stains. High quality fog juice, combined with a quality portable machine, will ease your worries and allow you to focus on your costume design above all else.
How Do You Make a Portable Smoke Machine?
As you research portable fog machines, you’ll probably come across a lot of blogs and forums telling you how to make your own. While we know some people have the skills and know-how to create something like this, generally, we don’t recommend it, especially if you’re planning to use your fog machine frequently. A lot of people have mentioned that these homemade machines can be unreliable and they may need some significant repairs over time. While buying a portable fog machine costs a little bit more, it could save you money in the long run because you won’t have to worry about frequent repairs.