Pretzl Cosplay shared this video explaining how she uses extra scraps of Worbla and a sanding tool to hide her seams created during joining pieces, especially when they are built using the sandwich method.
9Flame Creations showed this handy trick for smoothing seams or gaps in your Worbla using scraps and a butter knife.
Getting the very smoothest finish on your Worbla to achieve the best possible metallic paint effect is a multi-step process. The wonderful Anathiell broke down how she achieved her fantastic gold accessories for her Vincent Valentine costume in this video below. Photo above by Jola.
We’ve seen some amazing finishes coming from customers using the Goldwax by Pebeo, and this video from Pretzl Cosplay shows the process she used to paint her bow with acrylics and Goldwax on her bow made from Black Worbla.
Rinkujutsu gave us this writeup regarding how she used Flexbond to create a smooth finish for their Magic Armor from Legend of Zelda.
I’ve been asked a few times about how I smoothed out my Magic Armor Link Worbla armor before painting, so I decided it’s about time I did a mini tutorial on it! Be prepared for a long text post!
After trying numerous techniques for smoothing Worbla, I settled on Flexbond as my favorite.
Why is Flexbond my favorite smoothing product? It 100% flexible. You can do anything to it and it won’t show damage. I can fold a piece of armor in half without it showing any signs of cracking, wrinkling, or pulling away from the Worbla surface. Basically, you’ll destroy your armor before destroying the Flexbond surface.
Flexbond is also non-toxic and creates very smooth surface.
I’ve used Flexbond on EVA foam, Worbla, Black Worbla, and Thibra, and it works wonders on all of them.
You can order Flexbond in 16 oz or gallon sized bottles from Cosplay Supplies here.
I discovered that brushstrokes show after a few coats (as you can see in the top left photo above), so I added an extra technique to getting it smooth. I was inspired by Nefeni Cosplay’s guide on buffing wood glue primed Worbla with wet sandpaper. I figured it would work on Flexbond as well.
In a nutshell, here is how I smoothed the surface with Flexbond:
To start with, I coated the armor with four coats of Flexbond. Four coats is plenty and I have never needed more. After that, I took a piece of 320 or 400 grit sandpaper and dipped it in water so that it was slightly wet. Using the sandpaper, I buffed the armor surface in a circular motion. The surface turns back into glue (as you can see in the top middle photo), but this isn’t a bad thing since you can use this to your advantage and smooth out the surface more quickly. If there are drip marks after it dries (bottom middle photo), you can go back and re-buff it as many times as you like! This worked best on flatter areas with less detail. On hard to reach areas and the raised Worbla log details, I used my finger dipped in water and smoothed it out that way. Afterwards, you can paint your base coat and proceed to painting!
For Black Worbla and other Thermoplastics that are smoother than regular Worbla, you only need to buff the surface with your finger and water to remove the brushstrokes. Wet sanding is only necessary for very rough surfaces.
I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions feel free to ask!
We sent the awesome people of “…And Sewing is Half the Battle!” a sample of Flexbond to test, to get their impressions and tips and tricks when working with it. Here’s their full detailed review below!
By now you’ve probably heard the announcement that CosplaySupplies.com is now carrying Flexbond, a popular theatrical glue that up until now was difficult to come by in small quantities. After the jump, I’ll be testing and reviewing this product so you can see how it works on foam and Worbla!
I’m no stranger to hijacking theatrical supplies for cosplay purposes; I’ve been using Sculpt Or Coat for years, and I’d heard about Flexbond via discussion on the RPF, though I had not tried it out because at the time it was only available in large quantities. Now it is finally available in smaller bottles, so you don’t have to buy it by the gallon!
So what is Flexbond?
Flexbond is an adhesive and coating agent, sold primarily for theatrical set and prop applications (much like competitor Sculpt or Coat, which I’ve talked about previously). It’s similar in appearance and odor to regular white glue, only it’s much thicker. It works both as a glue and as a coating and smoothing agent for foam or plastic. It dries clear and, unlike many coating agents, remains flexible and does not crack. It is also nontoxic, which is always a plus!
My Test Swatches
I tested Flexbond on both 2mm EVA craft foam and on new, non-thermoformed Worbla (I used flat pieces, since I wanted to test flexibility rather than structural integrity).
First, here’s plain black craft foam with a very thick coating of Flexbond:
As you can see, when dry it creates a smooth satin finish. Flexbond dries clear, but because it reflects so much more light than the matte foam, the color appears a bit lighter in some conditions. Because the coat was applied thick, there are some brushstrokes visible, and there are also some tiny holes where bubbles were trapped in the glue. (Applying multiple thinner coats would prevent these issues.)
As its name implies, Flexbond is very flexible when dry and will bend, roll, and curve without cracking.
The only way I could succeed in damaging the finish was to fold the coated side in and crease the foam heavily, which crumpled the foam underneath the Flexbond and caused what appeared to be cracks – but on closer examination, the Flexbond itself was still undamaged; just the foam had creased beneath it.
Here’s the same surface after a little finger-smoothing. The wrinkles really aren’t visible unless the light is reflecting directly across them.
To test the coating and smoothing capabilities, I made a variety of test pieces using Flexbond and acrylic paint. First, I painted the thinnest coat possible of Flexbond on a piece of foam. I also watered the Flexbond down (it’s water soluble) and painted a runny form of it over another piece of foam:
The super-thin coat dried without the satin finish of the thick coat; while it smoothed the surface somewhat, it did not seal the foam completely:
The watered-down coat, which beaded up and dried in little globules, actually made a neat spotty texture that I think would look good as a form of distressing on some materials:
Over these pieces, I painted both a thin and a very thick coat of acrylic paint:
When these were dry, I tried distressing them to see how the paint held up to bending and creasing. While the foam itself creased under the paint, the only damage I was able to inflict in the surface treatment was a tiny chip in the thickest area of paint:
I also wanted to try painting directly on the foam, so I made a control piece (no Flexbond, just paint), and then separately, mixed equal parts Flexbond and paint and painted that mixture on another piece of foam. (Since the Flexbond is white, it makes the paint look lighter when wet, but it dries the correct color.)
When dry, I applied the same stress tests to these pieces. There was no significant difference in the performance of the two pieces when folding or creasing, but the Flexbond mixture (the slightly glossier one that appears lighter in color) held up a little better to scratching with a fingernail.
I also made a simple bracer out of scrap foam to test the product’s performance over multiple layers, and covered it with a thick coat of Flexbond:
Again, applying a super-thick coat, there are some brushstrokes visible in the finished product:
I added some light acrylic painting over the Flexbond, just to see how the brushstrokes looked under paint.
Important: Just like white glue, Flexbond remains WATER SOLUBLE after it dries. This is good in that you can continue to adjust or smooth it out after you’ve coated your piece, but it’s bad in that if you don’t put a waterproof topcoat on and your armor/prop/etc. gets wet, it will soften and turn white again.
When I added some surface texture on top of the Flexbond with watered-down acrylic paint, the Flexbond softened and became sticky again wherever I painted:
However, I left it alone to dry, and it went back to clear and dried just fine. I was able to go back and do some detail painting with more acrylic (not watered down) with no trouble. It remained just as flexible and crack-proof as the smaller pieces.
Finished product (in two lighting conditions):
The bracer remained very flexible, even with a thick coat of Flexbond; I could not get it to crack at all. Additionally, the Flexbond filled in some of the gaps around the edges of the stacked foam pieces, which looked nice. It would probably do an excellent job sealing the edges of foam core or other porous material, as well.
Now, on to the Worbla tests. I used Worbla’s Finest Art (a.k.a. plain old tan original Worbla), which has one smooth side and one textured side. In all tests I applied the Flexbond to the textured side of the plastic. One coat of Flexbond was not enough to completely cover the texture, but I was able to get it fairly smooth with three coats. (If I were being super conscientious about brushstrokes, I might do four lighter coats to really smooth it out, but three heavier coats didn’t look bad.)
I folded and rolled the Worbla pieces to test flexibility. The Worbla itself cracked, but the Flexbond coating never did. This piece had two heavy coats of Flexbond:
As with the foam, I made a control piece (no Flexbond, just paint) and then several pieces with varying numbers of coats of Flexbond. I applied the same acrylic paint over part of each piece to evaluate the effect of flexing on each surface treatment (spoiler: Flexing had no discernible effect on the surface treatment). Here are the results, for visual comparison:
One thin coat of Flexbond + paint:
One thick coat of Flexbond + paint:
Two thick coats of Flexbond + paint:
Three thick coats of Flexbond + paint (this produced the smoothest results out of all the combinations I tried):
Flexbond mixed 50:50 with paint (one coat):
So to achieve a smooth finish, it took at least two, preferably three, coats of Flexbond under the paint. That finish did look very nice and smooth, but anything less left a bit of the rough surface texture showing through. Also, using thick coats left brushstrokes in the Flexbond that often came through in the paint.
Bonus round: Sintra!
Out of curiosity, I tried painting some Flexbond on Sintra (PVC foam board) to see if it would stick. (PVC is notoriously hard to paint and glue without plastic-specific products). As expected, the water-based Flexbond beaded up on the surface, and peeled off relatively easily when dry. Not really surprising, but worth testing, because SCIENCE!
Flexbond is water-based, so cleanup is simple with soap and water. Most water-based glues rinse out easily with water, but the Flexbond is thick enough that I actually did have to use some soap on my brushes to get all the glue out of the bristles.
I tried spraying Flexbond using a pump atomizer, to see if I could eliminate the brushstroke issue by spraying it on. It didn’t work; the glue was so thick it clogged the mechanism on the first pump, every time. Thinning it down with water would get it through the atomizer, but by that point it had such a low viscosity it didn’t go on evenly and just made puddles. (But hey, now we know. SCIENCE!)
Pros: I was very impressed with the flexibility of Flexbond (not surprising, as that’s its primary selling point). It has a nice satin finish, and I can see plenty of applications for use on materials like foam or flexible plastics that need to bend. I think it could also be used with sculpting materials or to strengthen papier-mâché projects (didn’t have time to try that for this review, but maybe later!). I also like that it can be mixed with paint or pigments for coating, so painted areas will have the same satin finish as any unpainted coated areas.
Neutral: For pieces that don’t need that kind of flexibility, I’m not sure Flexbond is a significant improvement over other commonly-used smoothing products. While it requires fewer coats than, say, wood glue or Mod Podge, it takes a little more work to even out brushstrokes than it would with a product like Sculpt or Coat or spray-on coatings. However, if you don’t already have a supply of one of those other products on hand, Flexbond is versatile enough to pull double duty (and is less expensive than buying Sculpt or Coat by the gallon).
Cons: I am not crazy about the fact that it remains water soluble after it dries. I would definitely want to topcoat my pieces with a waterproof sealant or paint to keep them from being damaged by moisture, and even then I would probably not feel comfortable doing any sort of water-based photoshoot or wearing them in heavy rain.
It’s not necessarily the best for every application, but if you want one good all-around coating agent, Flexbond seems like it will work on just about anything (except, of course, PVC). It is the most flexible coating I’ve worked with, and it coats effectively in fewer layers than many other materials. As long as you avoid very wet environments, it should be durable enough for normal con activities and extended wear.
So, there you have it! Hopefully this information is useful to you in researching your cosplay projects and materials. If you have any questions about this review or the products I used, feel free to contact me.
Full disclosure: A small sample of Flexbond was provided to me at no cost by CosplaySupplies.com for me to test and review. However, this is not a sponsored review, and I received no other considerations from the company. This is simply an honest examination of the product I received. I don’t make any money on this stuff.
The awesome 9Flame Creations shared this video showing the process of using fiberglass resin to prime or smooth your Worbla before painting for a smooth finish.
(Please remember working with resin can be VERY toxic – ALWAYS follow the instructions on your product, especially regarding respirators and gloves!)
Amanda of Elemental Photography and Design created this tutorial for tinting or dying TranspArt with iDyePoly dyes.
Worbla’s TranspArt is awesome for clear applications, but sometimes you want it to have a colour while still being able to see through it. Automotive spray tints are an option, but depending on where you live, they’re hard to get – or only come in very limited colours. And if you need the piece to remain flexible, spray tints can flake off your surface.
It’s possible to dye TranspArt, however, and quite easy – and the dyes are decently priced (though somewhat limited to single day/project use). TranspArt once dyed still retains a great deal of the colour depth (even when stretched) and shaped pieces can be dyed, though they may need to be reformed as the process requires hot water.
Worbla’s DecoArt is known as Friendly Plastic (or Polycaprolactone) in North America and takes colour very well, allowing great light transparency – though it can be difficult to dye evenly.
Keep in mind that this tutorial is based on iDyePoly Yellow and Red – and I’ve had success with Blue as well. Always test your dye and plastic before working on a big piece!
I used this process for this handflame prop. You can find the short tutorial to make your own here!
You will need:
iDyePoly by Jacquard (THE POLY IS THE IMPORTANT PART!)
A dye-safe container (I use disposable foil trays. Do NOT use a pot you will cook in!)
Tongs, chopsticks, or something to grab your pieces with (that you won’t use for food again!)
A stove top
Hot water: Because I use foil trays and I don’t like dealing with them and high heat, I use a kettle to boil water first.
Since I was working with small pieces of dye, I only used half the package of the dye and did not use the intensifier for the yellow and red pieces, saving that for later. For the most intense effect, always use the whole package and intensifier.
I empty the dye into the container, then add the hot water from the kettle and stir to dissolve. I add just enough hot water to cover my pieces.
(Seriously, do not use any tools that will end up with food later!)
Once the dye is dissolved, I add my TranspArt and make sure it’s fully submerged (or up to where I want it dyed)
If dying Friendly Plastic, I keep my pellets spread out inside a strainer.
Note: Transpart’s activation point is higher than boiling water, but it still gets very soft. I found the shaped pieces I added drooped significantly, but did not become completely flat. If you were dying something like a dome, or a simple curved visor, you will probably have to reshape it – still the best idea if you want the highest concentration of colour.
If you don’t mind a loss of some colour, you can dye your transpart first, and then shape it.
Note 2: It’s not very easy to use this method to get an even, predictable gradient. If you need a perfectly smooth shift between colours over a certain area, you will probably have to do a lot of dipping and shifting of the plastic/babysit the piece for a solid 20 minutes or more. An airbrush might be your best bet at that point, with the loss of visibility taken into account.
Keep your water hot. I turned my stove on to medium-low.
Leave your plastic alone, coming to stir and shift the water every 5 minutes or so, flipping your plastic over or shaking up the pellets in your strainer. The longer your plastic is in the dye bath, the more dye there is, and using the included intensifier – these will all help give you the deepest colour possible.
Remove, rinse, and wipe down with paper towel.
You’re done! You can play with overdying, gradients, light tints and heavy colours – the possibilities are endless, especially when you then layer different shades of TranspArt together!
From left to right: Friendly Plastic 20 minutes in iDyePoly Red
Pre-shaped transpart pieces 20 minutes in iDyePoly Red
Pre-shaped transpart ‘flame’ 10 minutes iDyePoly red (sat bottom first with top exposed) then 10 minutes iDyePoly yellow submerged
Left: Preshaped flame (very ‘droopy’ 20 minutes in red (base) 10 minutes in yellow (top only). Following same as above.
Left to right: Sanded TranspArt 20 minutes iDyePoly yellow
TranspArt 20 minutes iDyePoly yellow
Sanded TranspArt 10 minutes iDyePoly yellow then 10 minutes iDyePoly red (half)
Left to right: TranspArt 20 minutes iDyePoly yellow
TranspArt 10 minutes iDyePoly yellow 10 minutes iDyePoly red (half)
TranspArt 10 minutes iDyePoly yellow 10 minutes iDyePoly red
Previous test results left to right: Tintex brand yellow 1 hour
Blue iDyePoly with intensifier 1 hour. Both of these started in hot water that was allowed to cool.
Right: Resin dye folded into center of TranspArt.
Sanded Transpart: If you want a somewhat frosted look to your TranspArt, it’s absolutely possible to sand your pieces with fine-grit sandpaper first and then dye them. It gives a very slightly deeper colour compared to un-sanded TranspArt.
Notes for DecoArt or Friendly Plastic:
It’s much easier to dye your pellets instead of dying finished pieces, and try to keep your pellets spread thin in a layer on your strainer, rather than clumped together.
While the plastic takes dye wonderfully, it’s easy for it to miss some of the pellets, or dye them a bit unevenly if they’re grouped together – which can lead to white pellets in your finished product.
The dyed plastic gives a mottled, swirled effect when a light is shone behind it. I think it could be totally useful for some styles of gems, especially as it allows for a lot more light to pass through than just painting the plastic with acrylics or spray paint would!
Intensity after shaping:
iDyePoly maintains a surprising amount of colour depth after the TranspArt is shaped/stretched. This piece was almost doubled in length, but the colour stayed even (didn’t get straky or splotchy) and is only a bit lighter in the center.
The amount of colour the TranspArt will pick up depends on the length of time it spends in the water and how much dye is used. The intensifier can help make the colour stronger, but deeper colours (blues, reds) will take more noticeably than yellow or orange.
Friendly Plastic takes the actual colour very well, but can be tricky to dye evenly, and is best used for small batches and small projects.
And remember to always, ALWAYS test your plastic before you work on a big project! Some dyes can have surprising results!
AllieCat Art and Cosplay shared this great tutorial on how to achieve the look of her painted armor for her Lieutenant Allison Jakes from Privateer Press: Warmachine which you can see the build gallery of here.
What I used:
Iwata Studio Series Smart Jet air compressor
Iwata Eclipse Gun
Rust-Oleum Black Primer Spray Paint
Createx Airbrush Paints
FolkArt Acrylic Paints
LePage Wood glue
*I mixed the Createx and P3 together for the perfect shades of Cygnar Blue/Yellows
1. Before painting your armor piece be sure to clean the surface of any remaining residues. For the damage/scratches use a hot knife to cut into the worbla at random and be careful not to cut too deep. PSA: If you’re not sure if it’s on *DO NOT TOUCH IT* A good way to test is flicking a bit of water on it to see if it sizzles =]
2. To begin priming your piece smooth I used 4 layers of woodglue. *The advantages to wood gluing is that the drying time is much faster but you can’t sand it while Gesso takes longer to dry and requires more coats but can be sanded. It can also be used in combination but whatever your preference is will work fine!
3. After the wood glue has dried smooth out any lumpy surfaces by wetting your fingers and buffing it out or sanded smooth if you used Gesso.
4. First prime the whole piece black with the Rust-Oleum spray paint as a basecoat.
5. Then switch to the airbrush to create the darker blue base coat and careful to not go too far to the edges to create the black-blue gradient.
6. After thats done airbrush on a lighter shade of blue as the middle highlight.
7. And then airbrush the white highlights.
8. After the blue is done mask off the inner areas that you want to keep blue with the scotch tape and paper then airbrush the inside edges white.
9. Airbrush black in the corners and create a white-black gradient on both edges.
10. Remove the tape and make sure everything looks nice, don’t worry too much if some paint seeped through cause you can just take care of it in the dry brushing stages. =]
11. At this point all the airbrushing is complete and you can switch over to your Acrylic paints and dry brushes.You can now paint all the detailing bolts and trim silver.
12. Using black drybrush along all the edges and creat a drop shadow around each bolt/all the trim, cleaning up any white around the edges.
13. I then painted the Cygnar crest black and added all the drop shadows around it then painted in the damage/scartches with more black and subtle while/light blue highlights along the edges of the scratches to help make them pop.
14. I carefully painted the crest in with yellow and it took 8 coats to make it really pop.
15. After the crest was done I outlined it again with black to make the edges super crisp and dry brushed in some brown for low lights.
16. To finish it off I dry brushed on a few white highlights to the crest and voila! Painting complete heart emoticon
Now the only thing you have to consider is if you want a gloss, semi-gloss or matte finish to your armor. I personally use Semi-Gloss but it also depends on what kind of armor/prop you’re painting. ^^
**One thing I would advise though is to paint all your armor first to make sure it’s all matching before putting on the final finishes**
This was my first time using this painting method and as well my first painting tutorial so I hope you enjoyed it!! Big thank you to Vancouver Cosplay for all the awesome progress pics and to NefeniCosplay for giving me ideas of how I wanted to paint my armor
I wanted to see how well Worbla’s TranspArt would work as a clear layer that would add shine and protect my paintjob, as well as allowing me to use cutout stencil shapes instead of having to paint geometric designs on props. I chose to make a small Captain America shield as a test.
First, I made the base out of some scraps of Wonderflex, pressed into am old lampshade. The finished product was pretty bumpy, so I coated it in woodglue before painting it. Then I added a silver ring made of plastic vinyl, and the star was cut from white wrapping paper.
Once the paint and glue were dry, I cut a piece of Worbla’s TranspArt larger than my shield, heated it, and carefully stretched it overtop, folding the edges over.
The final product is a super shiny shield that’s indestructable – I can throw it into walls and down stairs and it doesn’t take a scratch, so I don’t have to worry about scratching or chipping my paint, and as a bonus it was much faster to cut out the silver ring and star than masking and painting them both by hand.
Worbla’s Finest Art has a rough texture and it can make painting your first project annoying to just plain difficult. There is no ‘official’ method for smoothing Worbla, and different cosplayers prefer different products. I’ve collected all of them here to give you an idea of the pros and cons of each, with a bracer made to show where they excel and where they can be a pain in the butt.
Gesso is an artists primer. It comes in white and black, and in various thicknesses. It’s one of the most common materials used for smoothing Worbla’s Finest Art.
Buying Gesso: You can buy Gesso at any art supply store, and I know I’ve even found it in Walmart on occasion. I highly recommend buying the heavy body version if possible, as it cuts your application time in half.
Application: Apply gesso in layers, allowing them to dry inbetween, until the worbla is completely covered. Sand smooth with sandpaper. Re-apply gesso to areas that need to be filled in. Repeat. For heavy body gesso you will likely apply 3-5 coats. For thinner gesso, close to 10 is normal.
Optional: Apply 1-2 coats of Lacquer or Shellac to help fill in smaller imperfections and create a smoother surface. Wood filler can also be used prior to the gesso to fill in large cracks and imperfections. Paint primer can be used after the lacquer for even more smoothness. These steps are all known in thanks to Coregeek Cosplay and Creations!
Results: It’s possible to get one of the smoothest surfaces possible with gesso, but how smooth will depend entirely upon your time spent sanding.
Pros: Gesso is cheap, easy to use, non-toxic and can be used in mom’s livingroom with easy cleanup. It doesn’t require special tools other than a dust mask while sanding. It can give a very very smooth surface, and does not have any issues with dripping/rippling in the surface, and remains flexible and resistant to chipping. Gesso is very easy to paint afterwards and does not require additional priming, and leaves single layer differences of Worbla detailing intact.
Cons: Gesso is very, very time consuming, requiring multiple coats and a lot of sanding. The larger the project, the more likely you’ll spend hours sanding pieces to get a smooth surface. It’s difficult to work around fine details like filigree or scales. It requires patience and time to achieve the look you want.
Example: I am really really bad at sanding, and after an hour of hacking at the bracer I decided ‘good enough’ for example. Gesso is personally not a good option for me because I have tendonitis – this much sanding by hand is impossible! espeically around all the fiddley bits – my ‘flat’ areas look much better. That said, we know Gesso can give the smoothest surface thanks to the work by Coregeek, who is also the one to introduce me to Shellac.
Gesso and Lacquer, after weathering.
Carpenter Glue or Wood Glue, when used for Worbla, is the yellow glue used to fill in joints in carpentry. It can be thinned with water when applied, but dries hard and yellow and quite smooth. It is the other most commonly used material for smoothing Worbla’s Finest Art.
Buying Wood Glue: Wood glue can be purchased at any hardware section or store, and is quite inexpensive. You can buy it by the gallon for under $20usd.
Application: Apply wood glue in thin layers for best results. Using water to thin the wood glue slightly (usually just with a wet brush or a wet finger) is suggested for the final layers to minimize brush strokes. Depending on the thickness of the glue, anywhere from 3 to 7 coats can be needed – or more – to remove the Worbla texture.
Optional: Like Gesso, 1-2 coats of Lacquer at the end can help further smooth the surface. You can also sand wood glue if needed.
Results: A decently smooth surface, especially on flat areas. Curves can have drips or runs where the glue has shifted. For flat surfaces wood glue can be applied in thicker coats for a faster result. If not applied thickly enough, some of Worbla’s texture will still come through.
Pros: Wood glue is cheap and easily obtained, non-toxic and safe to use in mom’s livingroom. Cleanup can be messy and working over a protected surface is a must. Thin coats dry quickly, allowing for many layers within a short timeframe, and it does not need to be primed before painting. Wood glue works well around filigree work though it’s difficult to fill in all rough details on worbla ‘tubes’ and if carefully applied smooths out ‘scales’ without removing the single layer detail differences.
Cons: Wood glue can be frustrating on curved surfaces, as it will pool or drip or run in areas, creating a wavy, rippled effect. If applied too thickly, it can show brushmarks, and does not self level. Wood glue is not flexible and is prone to cracking if overly flexed or dropped.
Example: My first time around, i stopped at 6 layers because common ‘knowledge’ on Wood Glue was that 3-4 coats should be ‘enough’. I found this wasn’t the case, as you can see here. I added additional layers and Lacquer before weathering (below)
Wood glue, after weathering.
Flexbond is a nontoxic Rosco product designed for use with stage scenery. It’s similar to in consistency to pva or wood glue, but maintains excellent flexibility once dried. It also does excellent double duty for sealing fun foam before paint.
Buying Flexbond: Flexbond is available online, and at many stage and theatre supply stores. It’s around $35 for a gallon, which will last quite a long time.
Application: Apply Flexbond in thin layers for best results, allowing them to dry inbetween. Using water to thin the Flexbond slightly (usually just with a wet brush or a wet finger) is suggested for the final layers to minimize brush strokes.
Results: A smooth surface, especially on flat areas. Curves can have drips or runs where the Flexbond has shifted.
Pros: Non-toxic and multi purpose if you also work with foam, Flexbond is easy to use with easy cleanup, though a protected work surface is a must. Flexbond dries quickly and does not need to be primed before painting. Flexbond will fill in ‘scales’ but does remove some dimension in single layer detailing. Flexbond, as the name suggests, is incredibly flexible and is an excellent choice for pieces that will see a lot of movement, as it is very difficult to chip or crack. It takes less Flexbond to cover Worbla’s grain, 3 coats generally is enough.
Cons: Flexbond, similar to Wood Glue, can be frustrating on curved surfaces. It can pool or drip or run in areas, especially if applied too thick, and create a wavy, rippled effect. Flexbond has an expiry date, and though still useful once Flexbond ‘expires’ it needs to be thinned out with water for regular use. It cannot be frozen or used in temps below 50 fahrenheit, and can be harder to get.
Example: My Flexbond is old, and a bit thicker than I’d like, creating more of a wave/drip finish than I’d prefer for flat surfaces – though like this it makes hammered metal quite well. Thinned out more gives a smoother finish.
Watch to the end as I FLEX the edges. Flexbond after weathering.
Smooth-On’s XTC-3D Resin Coat:
XTC-3D is a new product that Smooth-On created specifically for makerbot/3D printers that leave striations in their final piece, to smooth these out. It’s self leveling (meaning no drips or waves if properly applied), strong, glossy, and can be mixed with pigments and powders to save on painting.
Buying XTC-3D: You can buy from Smooth-On directly in the USA, and from Sculpture Supply Canada. Smooth-On’s website also lists international retailers. A trial kit will make enough to cover between 7-10 bracers, for under $20.
Application: You must read the instructions included with the product. XTC-3D is a resin, similar to what cosplayers cast gems from. It must be used in a WELL VENTILATED AREA with a RESPIRATOR and GLOVES. You mix 2:1 of the liquids, then pour them into a large flat surface (they suggest making a tinfoil container for ease of cleanup). You then apply one coat of XTC-3D to your project and continue to brush at it for ten to fifteen minutes until it sets up. If you don’t do this, it will run and pool just like wood glue or Flexbond, and make a mess wherever you left it…. trust me.
Results: Properly applied, you have a perfectly smooth surface in 15 minutes of work and 4 hours of cure time.
Pros: Incredibly fast and time saving, it cures in approximately 4 hours and can be sped up if low heat is applied to 15 minutes. XTC-3D also gives the smoothest coat, and works very well over filligree detailing that can be difficult to smooth with other methods, and adds a high level of strength to finished pieces.
Cons: If improperly applied, XTC-3D can pool and create a wavy finish that is difficult to fix (it requires a lot of sanding, and sanding must be done with a mask). It requires a properly ventilated work area and specific temperatures, as well as safety gear. If applied too thin, the texture of Worbla still shows through. If too thick, it takes longer to set up and greatly removes single layer detailing such as scales. It removes almost all flexibility from the finished piece, and will crack if flexed. XTC-3D must be primed before applying acrylic paints (spray paints take well to the surface.) it can also be more difficult to get.
Smooth-On has several videos about XTC-3D that give a good idea on the process.
Example: My first attempt at XTC-3D, I didn’t quite make enough and tried to spread it too thin. As a result, you can see the potential for XTC-3D, but there is still Worbla’s texture seen. I then made up a larger batch and tried again, several days later. This time I found an excellent smoothness – but I wasn’t careful enough to keep working until it was set up, and as a result there are drips in areas (inside the top loops, for example)
XTC-3D, second coat, after weathering.
What’s this about durability?
I did several drop and flex tests with my bracers. 4 drops onto concrete from 4 feet, and flexing to put the bracer onto my arm and off again. The Wood Glue and XTC-3D both took damage as shown – the Gesso and Flexbond did not. I actually then threw the Gesso/Flexbond models around a few more times just to see if I could chip. The Gesso started to crack only after I really started to flex it, the Flexbond is still without a mark.
Wait! There’s more! Optional steps!
Buying: Available in any hardware department and online. I suggest using a colour-change formula as they’re handy to know when it’s ready to be sanded.
Application: Apply with a hard tool – a putty knife works, I often use old hotel key cards or popsicle sticks. Skim off excess so that it stays only where it’s needed. Allow to dry, then sand smooth.
Results: Smoothed out hole! Great for joins, also useful for where you’ve popped air bubbles.
Pros/Cons: If it’s planned to be used around an area that flexes, make sure you buy flexible filler – and test your flex before proceeding with primers and paint.
Lacquer (or Shellac):
Buying: Spray Lacquer and Shellac are available at most places that sell spray paint, such as hardware stores.
Application: Follow instructions on the can. Generally apply 1-2 coats, 15-30 minutes apart.
Optional: Sand with 220 grit sandpaper.
Results: They do not smooth Worbla on it’s own, but do help further smooth Gesso and Wood Glue.
Pros: Additional smoothness that doesn’t take much time.
Cons: It can be expensive, and must be used outdoors, in proper temperatures. If doing a large project, a proper respirator is needed.
Buying: Buy your primer anywhere you buy spray paint. Make sure your primer is made for plastics.
Application: Follow the instructions on the can, but generally apply 1-2 coats with between 30-60 minutes between.
Results: Additional smoothness! Again, does not smooth Worbla on its own, but does help further smooth Gesso and Wood Glue.
Pros: Additional smoothing that doesn’t take much time.
Cons: Must be used outdoors, in proper temperatures. If doing a large project, a proper respirator is needed.
Wondering about other options?
Well, I tried Plasti-Dip. Not only did it not do much, it peels away from Worbla easily. Varnish and Lacquer on their own also don’t do much, though they do bond to the Worbla at least, and Clear-Coat goes on too thin to be of any real use.
Things I haven’t tried:
Personally I haven’t used Shellac – the information I have comes from Coregeek, but that’s a source I fully trust. I haven’t been able to find Frogjuice which I hope to try in the future. (If anyone knows of a retailer in Canada, even better in Toronto, I’d appreciate!)
Summary of sorts: Assuming you want a shiny metallic finish
If you need the smoothest surface possible, especially for a high shine finish, and are working indoors/in the winter/your mom’s kitchen, Gesso is the way to go.
If it just needs to be smooth ‘enough’, Wood Glue does the job.
If it needs to be smooth and take a beating or stay flexible, use Flexbond. I also suggest Flexbond if you can get your hands on it in general compared to Wood Glue. (Less coats, more durable!)
If it needs to be the smoothest surface possible and you hate sanding, or you need a smooth surface ASAP and can work outdoors/have a proper respirator, use XTC-3D.
What do you mean there’s EVEN MORE?
What if you plan on weathering your armor? Well, then things change a bit. Examples were weathered with watered down acrylic paint, worked on with a brush and wiped off with paper towel.
Unfinished Worbla shows the texture all the more with weathering.
XTC 3D gives almost no surface for paint to really stick into – since it smooths out many of the cracks and areas weathering would apply to.
Drips and runs with Wood Glue or Flexbond will become more apparent.
While areas on the Gesso you missed sanding pick up every brush stroke and imperfection.
And now after all of that? Have a chart!
Personally, I’ll probably use Flexbond for most things – I like the durability it gives me, and the flexibility as well, plus less work to apply it is always a plus. For extremely complex curves that don’t have a lot of details, gesso if I have access to a hand sander, and XTC-3D if I don’t – assuming of course it’s summer and I can mix resin outdoors. For flat surfaces or things with lots of small details I’ll probably use Wood Glue or Flexbond.
As you can see – there’s no perfect solution, and no ‘right way’ of smoothing Worbla’s Finest Art. What you hopefully have now is an idea of what products will work best for your next project!
That’s all I have for now. I hope this was hopeful, and I still have 2 more bracers waiting for new products to test – so if there’s something you think I should try to add to this comparison, let me know at
Kamui Cosplay shows the process of painting a breastplate to achieve a 3D look with acrylics.
Roger Leung, of Monki Maker, has a great writeup on making Worbla and Wonderflex smooth for paint.
The Wonderflex/ Worbla texture problem
This post is about how to rid wonderflex and/or worbla of the bumpy texture. Everything reported in this blog post was all tested out by me and is not meant to be a end all be all solution. If you to find something better, then PLEASE do share it! The cosplay community is HUGE and always looking for new great techniques to make stuff, so please do give back!
The most popular ways of ridding wonderflex and/or worbla of the bumpy texture seems to be coating either material with layers upon endless layers of either gesso or a wood glue mixture or what have you. Yes those techniques do work, but they take waaay too much time! Application, drying time, application, drying time. x498,713,987. I know cause I’ve done that too. I’m not saying its wrong, but there has to be a better way, so, I experimented with ‘Filler Primer’.
I’m not the first person to do this, but I do not see it posted really anywhere on the web. So here are my results:
Grabbed some scrap wonderflex and worbla. Made sure I had tests with curves and not just flat samples. There are 4 sets because I wanted to test the smooth side and the bumpy sides.
The 4 sets of samples with ONLY 3 coats of Filler Primer. Each coat applied when previous coat was dry to the touch. Around 20 mins or so.
This is how things looked like after using some 100 grit sandpaper and doing some light sanding.
Wonderflex onthe left, Worbla on the right.
As you can see from the pictures, Filler Primer does indeed work to fill in gaps. Of course you can spray on more coats as this will not take up a lot of time, but DO MAKE SURE you are aware of the temperature where you are. I think on the back of the can, it says for the best use is starting somewhere in the 50 degrees range, so treat it like if you were using spray paint. Too cold and you will just get cracks and what not.
If you made something with complex curves and something with a lot of details, then I will suggest using only the filler primer.
If you may have noticed, when using wonderflex for complex curves, the fabric grids tends to act like a fence, causing the plastic to bulge out. That will probably take a lot of layers of filler primer to fill but if its complex and hard to get to when sanding that might be the best option. Now if you do get bulging in bigger spaces, I recommend using ‘Super Heavy Gesso’. It’s basically a paste form of the thinner gesso you mostly see at craft stores. Super Heavy Gesso can be found at art supplies stores. I have not seen any sold at craft stores. I.E. Michaels, Joann’s. If you do get some, I also suggest a palette knife for application. I would not use a brush as it makes application streaky and varies in thickness.
Below are pictures of the Super Heavy Gesso with Filler Primer method. Piece is coated, waited for Gesso to dry, then sanded with 80 grit sandpaper. Super Heavy Gesso is flexible and has a somewhat rubbery feel to it, which is why the heavier grit sandpaper is needed. You do not need to apply a lot of pressure when sanding the Super Heavy Gesso and you do not need to get everything really smooth. The Filler Primer will take care of slight bumps and holes. Notice how things are not completely smooth and somewhat bumpy. NOTE: If there are any deep holes, fill them in. The Filler Primer does not spray on thick enough fill in deep holes.
Piece is sprayed with 3 coats of Filler Primer. Notice the difference in the bumpiness!
Took some 100 grit sandpaper and did some light sanding to smooth everything out. When Filler Primer is fully dried/ cured, it sands really well, so you do not need to sand with a lot of pressure. If you are not satisfied and still want things smoother, go ahead and spray on more coats of Filler Primer.
If prepping for spray painting, you can probably spray one more coat of Filler Primer then sand everything down with 150 grit sandpaper and proceed with the spray painting.
I find the above method so much faster than applying 9,871,231,234,987,351 layers of whatever just to get rid of the Wonderflex/ Worbla texture. One other tip you can use to help speed things up is to flip the Wonderflex and/or Worbla around and use the smooth side instead. It works even better!
I hope all this helps speed up your cosplay making timelines.
With many thanks to Roger Leung, of Monki Maker, for sharing this with us!
Rhaya Cosplay shared with us how to fix seams and repair damage to Worbla pieces.
Looking to get a super smooth surface for your paint? Coregeek Cosplay and Creations created this helpful graphic to show you how. This isn’t the only way to get a smooth surface, but it hands down the best, smoothest surface we’ve seen!
(He’s also now uploaded a video explaining the process and showing the results here.)