The folks at Manhattan Wardrobe Supplies teamed up with Becca Noel to show how you can use Jacquard’s PearlEx powders with Crystal Art to create your own stones for cosplay and props that don’t rely on toxic and time consuming resin!
If you’re creating a piece with a lot of details that are mirrored, it can be frustrating to make sure everything is even on both sides. Gladzy Kei needed a lot of matching designs for her armored Esmerelda design – so she’s shared her process of creating designs from pearly art, then using a simple 2-part mold putty to create molds to make duplicates. Check out the finished piece and her video process below!
Carmine Warren of Shoot the Look creates amazing pieces using Worbla for his photography looks. He recently shared this tutorial on how he makes his fantastic symmetrical pieces using household materials and Worbla.
Large Molded Details with Worbla
Worbla has allowed me to create costumes for my photoshoots that I could never have imagined possible; I’ve experimented with several methods from the sandwich methods to wrapping Worbla over the edge of the foam. These methods produced remarkable costumes for my creative workshops.
I needed to find a new way to get more complex curves and textures, I tried hand shaping Worbla and this produced fair results, left and right sides weren’t really matching up well. Back to the drawing table and then I tried a mold. Making an impression of some jewelry and odds and ends around the house, I created my first mold.
In this tutorial, I will share how I create these pieces with my molds.
I started by making a silicone mold, I used cornstarch and 100% silicone. YouTube has plenty of videos on how to create the mold if you check for DIY silicone molds. I dump a box of cornstarch in a bowl and squeeze in a whole tube of silicone and mix it until firm. Use gloves and do this outside. It will smell like vinegar. (I leave the mold in my garage for a few days to get the smell out.)
Once you have a silicone base for the mold, you have to move fast. The Silicone will set in about 10-15 minutes. Get objects from around your house and workshop and then press them into the mold (Worbla.com note: if you want to find pieces like what Carmine uses, try searching for Ekena Millwork to get you started). Adding different shapes to the mold is exciting, once I have molded pieces of Worbla I am able to create designs and then connect different pieces from different molds and heating them together. Every design is a new work of art!
Using an X-Acto knife, I cut additional designs into the Worbla and adding a new dimension to my work and allowing me to have a unique design. You can also use a stencil to cut shapes into the mold.
I cut Worbla into small strips and then heat it. Once the Worbla is at the correct temperature, I roll it into a snake. Pressing the Worbla into the mold and letting it set for a bit, then removing it while it is still warm, this allows me to shape the piece and you have to be careful not to lose the shape of the design. Wooden clay molding tools can help reshape if needed. After a lot a trial and error, I was able to find a process for making the molds I like, using shapes from objects and adding additional cuts.
Once the mold is completely filled, heat it a little and when it’s started to cool down, gently remove the Worbla, remove from the largest end first and then place on a flat surface. You can also place them on a form and shape the pieces or heat them from the back slightly and shape then later.
Once you have all your pieces, assemble them. Heat a few contact points and stick them together and then you can reinforce them in the back with little balls of Worbla pressed into the cracks.
Once the piece is connected, turn it over and warm it from the back. Caution, this is a delicate process. If you over heat it, you will lose the shape. Use small burst of heat and slowly bring the temperature up just enough to shape it. You can mold it on a form for ease and then slightly heat it up to shape it to the body. I add D-Rings to the back and you can add lace, fabric, Velcro or ribbon to secure in the back.
I like the texture rough and don’t add any layer of gesso. I paint the base with spray paint and then use acrylics.
Thanks again to Carmine for sharing this process with us! Be sure to check out his Facebook,Instagram, and Website for more of his creations!
We reached out to Cowbuttcrunchies Cosplay to test the new Worbla’s Pearly Art and let us know their thoughts. They shared this review and tutorial with us and it’s a great breakdown of some of the differences of Pearly and how it handles compared to other Worbla products!
Worbla has recently added a new plastic to their lineup! Pearly Art is a smooth, light-colored plastic that claims great smoothness and stretchability. I was really excited to give this a try since it sounded like a smoother version of Black Worbla, but I was surprised to find that the plastic actually handles very differently. Pearly Art is available in Europe and North America at Cosplay Supplies, and will run you $91 for a Jumbo sided sheet.
Heating Heating Pearly Art was the biggest surprise for me, and the part that it took the longest to get used to. Unlike Black Worbla or Worbla’s finest, Pearly Art does not activate with its telltale “sheen” that indicates that it’s warm enough to mold (or rather, the white color makes this very difficult to see if it does). Pearly Art also activates very quickly and at a lower temperature, which meant that more than once I was sitting there waiting for it to activate, not realizing that this had already long since happened. The other surprising bit is that Pearly Art de-activates and hardens far faster than any other Worbla line except maybe transpArt – within a minute your plastic will be back to its hardened state. If you’re an impatient person like me who likes to heat an entire strip edge or armor piece, then work the entire thing into place over the course of a few minutes, you’re going to need to re-think your plan of attack because this is simply impossible. Instead, Pearly Art forces you to work with a portion at a time – when applying a raised edge to my breastplate, I needed to re-heat it twice before reaching the end.
The method I eventually settled on was to heat the entire piece to start and then begin sandwiching my edges. After making it a little bit around the piece, I’d re-heat just the next spot, sandwich more, and continue until finished. Try not to blast the entire piece with more heat in order to avoid off-gassing from your foam.
A lower activation temperature also means that this plastic does not always require heatproof gloves when working with it.
Stickiness and Stretchability The confusing conundrum of Pearly Art is that it doesn’t “look” sticky because of the lack of shine, but it definitely is! Once heated, I found that sandwiched edges bonded to both itself and to Worbla’s Finest just fine, with about the same amount of stick as Black Art. This plastic does not have the same bananas level of stick as Mesh Art or even highly heated Worbla’s Finest – I was able to separate two pieces of heated Pearly Art without warping. However this trick only works if your pieces have not been pressed into each other; once bonded you will not be able to separate your plastic without ripping. I quite enjoyed how sticky Pearly Art becomes with a much smaller amount of heat when compared to the other worbla lines. While the stick itself is not anything to call home about, it does not require that the plastic be as hot, which means it’s easier to attach things and to avoid air bubbles from off-gassing foam.
Personally I did not find Pearly Art to be particularly stretchier than Black Art – however take that with a grain of salt as other folks have had great success with the stretchiness. One of the first things I did was rip right through my Pearly Art top layer, while reinforcing my heated sandwich edges with a clay tool – something that has not ever happened to me with Black Worbla. So be mindful when working with this plastic when its activated: the tearability and stretchability seems to vary wildly depending on how hot it is, which could explain the mixed results.
Smoothness and Detail Work This is where Pearly Art really shines – the final texture is even smoother than Black Art. This means that your pieces will require less priming, especially when little warping or stretching needs to be done. For pieces that are ‘overworked’ by either folding the plastic into itself, stretching, or sculpting to create 3D objects, you will notice that – like Black Worbla – the plastic does tend to texturize and will require more priming than usual. Below are the basic breastplate componants I made in the following detailing tutorial, with unprimed Pearly Art and Finest Art pieces:
And below is the detailed breastplate after one layer of paint primer. underneath the paint I used two layers of flexbond over the Pearly Art portions, and three layers of flexbond over the curved Finest Art portions, which still has a rougher texture:
Pearly Art is also excellent for detail work such as 3d sculping, and noticably better for this sort of detail than even Black Art. Black Art is great for sculping as it can be molded but retains a firm hand so your item does not collapse. However details look better with Pearl Art in part because of the texture, but also because that moldable phase begins at a far lower temperature than it does with Black Worbla. This means that it’s not only easier to heat and mold your pieces, but you can even use your bare hands if you’re so inclined. Pearly Art also does not have the tendency to stick to everything once it’s in this phase, which helps with cutting and small detail movement:
Pearly Art also takes the cake when using a silicone mold to shape your plastic. I’ve tried molding black art before and I don’t really like it – like all worbla it takes on a rough texture once overworked into the clay-like phase, so any details get overshadowed by this rough texture. It’s also not great at picking up detail because of that grain. Pearly Art avoids both of these unless you have severely overworked your plastic.
This is great if you need to make many repetitive items like in my walkthrough below, so read on for detailed instructions!
Pearly Art Tutorial: Creating Molded Needles
For a sewing-themed breastplate, I decided to add several identical needles on top of my armor. Rather than mold each of these by hand (time consuming) or use resin (difficult to get the right curve and also time consuming), I tried instead molding my Pearly Art, using a silicone mold of that needle shape. This worked far, far better than my attempts with Black Art, and while it did not capture quite as much smoothness as one would if working with Deco Art, the final needle turned out to be sturdier and could be later touched up and bent into shape, unlike Deco Art which can warp under re-added heat.
Necessary Tools: Worbla Pearly Art Silicone or metal mold Heat Gun
An important component for this is your mold, which can be either something you cast yourself, or a pre-purchased silicone mold that you can find in craft baking stores. In this case we had already made a mold of a needle-shaped button out of Smooth-On’s Moldstar silicone. When choosing your mold, be sure that this is composed of silicone or metal, NOT plastic. While Pearly Art does not have the wildly sticky properties of Mesh Worbla, you still run the risk of accidentally bonding your Pearly Art to the mold’s plastic if you press too hard or heat it too much.
1) Begin by heating up a piece of Pearly Art or plastic scraps until you can mush them together into a plastic ball. Remember that Pearly Art reaches that floppy, moldable stage very quickly and will not gain a glossy seen. Try not to over-heat the plastic in order to keep the texture minimal.
2) Stretch the plastic into the approximate shape of your mold – Pearly Art loses heat amazingly quickly and so you really only have a max of maybe 20 seconds to sculpt.
3) Squish the Pearly Art down into the mold, pressing pretty firmly until everything’s flat on top. Allow to cool for a few seconds, then pull it out.
4) It’d be pretty difficult to pull a perfect mold since you’re basically shoving the plastic in with your thumb – even with resin you’re often left with a little bit of excess from where the material overflowed from the mold itself. If you have a lot of this overflow, you can trim it off with scissors. Properly estimating how much plastic you need in your mold helps a lot, as does trimming off large amounts of excess with scissors. However for a small amount of spillover, re-heat the needle with just a small amount of heat from your heatgun until it is soft enough to press but not so floppy that it completely loses its shape. Using your finger, pat down any excess down until the edges are smooth.
5) Set aside and allow to fully harden.
If you don’t like how your cast turned out, just re-heat your plastic and mold it again! Pearly Art is completely recyclable and may be re-heated over and over again.
6) Heat the underside of your finished needles slightly, and heat the area of your armor. Remember, only a small amount of heat is required! Position your needle and press down firmly to bond.
Termina Cosplay shared this fantastic tutorial on how to give your Worbla intense filigree detail without hours of sculpting work!
You can make very tiny, very intricate details in Worbla or other thermoplastics easily by making and using a Super Sculpey clay mold! It’s much easier and faster than just sculpting the details into your thermoplastic itself (and you’ll probably burn yourself less).
I needed some tiny filigree type details for an armor build I was working on, and sculpting them into my TerraFlex directly was not nearly fast enough. So I thought, “Why not make a mold and smash the details in?” It worked so well I wanted to share the method!
First off you’ll need a pattern for your details. Just draw it out however you want it to be.
Then use that pattern to trace your design onto a flat piece of clay. Something fairly strong is needed, so I used Super Sculpey. Make sure your pencil lines are dark, place it face down on your clay and trace over the lines to transfer the lines to the clay.
Once you peel the paper off, you should be left with the design.
Next, just press all those lines down into the clay with a tool. Once done, bake it according to instructions, and let it cool completely when it’s done.
Next, Take some scraps of whatever thermoplastic you’re using, heat them up, and flatten them out.
Also, coat your new Super Sculpey mold with a bit of petroleum jelly to prevent it from sticking.
While the thermoplastic you’re using is still warm and moldable, smash it into your mold! Mask sure you smash hard enough to get all the details. When you pop it off, you should have a perfect copy!
Now all you have to do is trim the edges!
Now you have tiny intricate details and it hardly took any effort at all!
Cowbutt Crunchies Cosplay did this introduction to Crystal Art and tutorial for Yuri’s Eros crystals for us as an initial test of Crystal Art. Take a look at their process below!
Cosplay Tutorial: Creating Yuri’s Eros Crystals (also) An Introduction to Worbla’s Crystal Art
Need a transparent object for your cosplay? Worbla’s TranspArt has you covered, but what about a three dimensional object like a gem? Better yet: how about one that will flex with your fabric? Forcing flat sheets of TranspArt to do your bidding can be a little tricky, and working with clear resin is tough for even experienced cosplayers. Instead, we had the chance to experiment with a new product called Crystal Pellets, which is a super easy alternative for making small semi-transparent items that flex even after hardening!
Crystal Art come in small, clear beads that meld together after you apply heat, which means they are great for pressing into silicone molds or just molding by hand. If you’ve worked with opaque friendly plastic in the past, this is a very similar product – these beads can be heated with a heat gun, in a toaster oven, or even in a pot of near-boiling water (always be sure to heat them in a pot you do not use for food). If using a toaster oven or a heat gun try to place your pellets on silicone of some sort to keep them from sticking to plastic surfaces. These pellets can be re-heated again and again after cooling so like most of Worbla’s line they are completely re-usable with no waste product – if you make a mistake, just apply more heat and try again!
Heated Crystal Art feel very similar to TranspArt in its ‘moldable’ stage, so your pellets will become fairly hot while heating. To keep from burning your fingertips, be sure to wear some sort of protection such as heat-proof gloves. Be warned though – hot crystal pellets are good at picking up ANY sort of dirt or residue, so if you’re like me and use your gloves to mold Black Worbla, you may end up with tiny flecks of plastic residue mixed into your nice, clear pellets: Yuck.
Instead I liked using these silicone finger tips, which provided just enough protection so that I could moosh the pellets around. They’re also much easier to clean residue from. You can pick either these tips from most craft stores in the Mod Podge accessories section, or heat-proof gloves from cosplaysupplies.com.
For my first Crystal Art project, I decided to mold several clear “ice crystals” for Yuri’s Eros costume from Yuri on Ice. This seemed like a perfect choice for crystal pellets since the crystals need to be transparent but flexibility is a huge plus, since they would be attached directly to fabric.
Optional pre-crystal prep: Creating your mold
For Yuri’s ice we created our own silicone mold, but if you have a pre-made mold, skip straight to part two!
Hardening clay (Paperclay, wet clay, etc)
Aluminum foil, Legos, or other barrier material
Silicone (Smooth On Rebound-30)
Disposable cup and popcicle sticks
1) To get started, sculpt clay versions of your ice crystals from any sort of hardening clay, ideally something like paperclay or wet clay that can be sanded. Allow to dry for several days until they are completely hard. 2) Once hardened, sand away any imperfections in the clay to try to achieve a smooth, flat surface.
3) Create a container with tall walls for your silicone mold. We used aluminum here, but Legos or even Tupperware works great too! 4) Place your clay pieces in the base of your mold, leaving a bit of space between each object. Spritz the bottom and sides with mold release.
5) Put on your non-latex gloves and mix your silicone in a cup per the manufacturer’s instructions. We like to use Smooth On’s Rebound-30, which is a two part mixture that sets up quickly. Pour your silicone into your container, completely coating your clay pieces, and allow to set.
6) Remove your hardened silicone mold, remove the clay pieces, and clean any residual clay dust from the mold using rubbing alcohol.
Forming the Crystal Art
Now time for the fun and easy part!
Silicone baking mat
Protective gloves or silicone fingertips
Heat gun, toaster, or other heating device
1) Pour a small amount of crystal pellets onto your baking mat. An easy way to estimate how many you need is to first pour the pellets into your mold and then add a small amount of extra pellets to make up for the space you will lose when the beads are squished together.
2) Heat the pellets using your desired heat tool.
If using a toaster oven, put the temperature on the lowest possible temperature. My oven only began at 275 degrees, which was unfortunately a little hot, so if this is also the case for your oven be sure to keep a careful eye on the pellets and take them out very quickly! If heating in a pot, like the toaster oven you do not need much time at all in this heat. Pop your pellets in hot but not boiling water, and remove when the plastic turns glassy. With a heat gun, place your temperature on low and begin to evenly heat the pellets. They will begin to stick together very quickly to form a solid mass of pellets:
3) You can then kneed this mass together to form a solid, slightly more opaque shape.
Remember – do not OVER heat your pellets or they will burn! Keep your heat gun moving at an even pace. Discoloration is a sure sign of burnt plastic:
4) If your plastic begins to stiffen slightly, heat it again until it forms a slightly glassy ‘sheen’ like in the below photo. The plastic should now be malleable enough to easily press into your mold.
5) Place the plastic into one of your molds and press down hard with your fingertip. Continue pressing until it has filled every space in the mold. Allow to set for several minutes.
6) One hard, remove your new ice piece from the mold. Repeat this process for your remaining ice pieces.
One of the cool things about Crystal Pellets is how flexible they are even after molding! This is perfect for Eros because the piece will flex with the fabric. Bear in mind however that the thicker your piece, the less flexible it will become.
It’s also important to bear in mind that your final piece will not be perfectly transparent. TranspArt will also take on this slightly cloudy appearance once you heat it to a moldable state. Folding and heating the plastic immediately caused the pellets to cloud up slightly – this is not very noticeable with flat pieces but the thicker your plastic piece, the less transparent it will look. We tried a few experiments to see if it was possible to smooth the pellets into a solid form while still maintaining transparency, but unfortunately you really do need to work the plastic at least a little bit in order to mush it into a solid shape. Heating the plastic directly in a silicone mold will smooth out the front but not the back or center, and even heating in a toaster oven at 300 degrees will not be enough to completely remove the trapped air.
Above: Pellets heated in a silicone mold in a toaster oven. The pellets picked up more residue than usual, creating a cloudy look. You can also still see trapped air bubbles in the center of the plastic. This is really not a great way to heat your plastic.
The best method we found for the clearest result was to heat the pellets once and then form your shape without re-kneeding or re-heating. This gives less opportunity for dust or residue to accidentally find its way into the plastic.
Just like transpArt, Crystal Art can be easily dyed using any sort of color that ‘sticks’ to plastic! In the Cow Clan house this means sharpies or iDye Poly, but you may find other options that work too.
1) To dye your Crystal Art with iDye Poly, heat a small amount of dye in a pot that you will not use for cooking in the future. Heat your water to hot but not boiling. We do not want to completely melt the plastic or it’ll be a little tough to clean out of the pot. If you do not have a non-cooking pot, you may instead heat your water and then pour it into a different container, such as a plastic bucket.
2) Drop your plastic into the bucket/pot. Personally, I like to mush the pellets together before dropping it in – it is a lot easier to fish out a single object instead of many pellets, plus you will get a much more accurate sense of the color.
3) Remove your plastic once it’s reached the desired tint. For a light tone you will only need a few minutes in the dye, or for deep tones you may leave it in for up to thirty minutes. Darker colors like purples also seem to absorb faster.
4) Run your plastic under cold water to remove any residual dye.
Your plastic may now be molded or pressed! The dye does not seem to fade with use, but I do recommend kneeding the plastic a few times just to make sure that the color is evenly distributed. For my second project, I pressed colored plastic into a silicone making mold:
Both clear and colored Crystal Art work great for use with LEDs! Just like resin gems, light from an LED will bleed throughout the entire piece. Just place your LED either behind the plastic or even embed the light within the Crystal Art before it hardens!
All in all I’m a fan of this material – while there are a handful of clear materials out there, this is by far one of the most user-friendly and beginner-friendly to use!
We’ve long thought that Worbla would be a great product to use to make lightweight mother molds, especially when weight or time are an issue – you can always recycle the Worbla when you’re done after all! And we’re so happy to see Lyz Brickley used Worbla for just that purpose in her recent casting video.
You can see the video of the whole process of creating her wolf pauldron here:
The wonderful Lumis Mirage recently used Worbla’s Finest Art to cast the ‘evil eye’ gem used in her Amira: Rage of Bahamut Genesis costume. A great alternative to using latex, silicone or rubber, especially if you already have WFA on hand.
Taigakunn created this tutorial to explain how she uses clay and Worbla to cast pieces for her League of Legends Karma costume. This is an especially useful technique if you want to keep your piece as lightweight as possible, as it doesn’t require layering Worbla to achieve depth. (We believe this would also work excellently with air dry clay should you need to make multiple copies of the same design.)
Click each image to have it open full size in a new window.
Many thanks to Taigakunn for sharing her tutorial with us.