Casting with Worbla

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.

Measuring how much Worbla you need

Start by making a paper or foam pattern, and then lay your pieces out. Try to jigsaw them close together to leave as little space between them as possible. Once you have all of your pieces laid out, you can see just how large of a sheet of Worbla you will need. Remember if you are sandwiching foam between your Worbla pieces you will need to double your Worbla.

Example photos by Kamui Cosplay and Keesey Cosplay

Remember you can recycle all of your scraps, so don’t throw anything out!

Recycling Worbla Scraps

Every bit of Worbla can be used, so make sure to never throw your scraps out! Below are a few ways to repurpose your Worbla scraps.

FC Cosplay gave us this quick tutorial on forming your scraps back into sheets with help from a pasta roller.

RecyclingWorbla

The Process:
Scrap Worbla: I keep everything from larger pieces that don’t fit smaller pieces to shavings that come off cleaning up edges.. Anything I can’t immediately reuse gets cut down and tossed in a plastic bag while I work.

Pasta Maker: Choose a pasta maker that is intended for actual regular use in a kitchen. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t need extra attachments. Initially, I used a pasta maker packaged for use with polymer clay, but it turned out to be flimsy and a crucial part (that adjusts the thickness) wore out quickly. You can also get a far greater variance in thicknesses with kitchen-ready pasta makers.

    1) Attach your pasta maker securely on a stationary table or counter.

    2) On a heat-resistant surface (aluminum foil, cardboard), lay your scrap Worbla out flat but slightly overlapping so you have one big piece that would fit the horizontal limit of your pasta-maker. Avoid laying the scraps down too thick – i would say no more than 3 layers.

    3) Heat the Worbla as per normal (it should have a fruit-roll-up tackiness to it) and run the Worbla through at a relatively thick setting (this varies from machine to machine – i’d say anywhere between 2-3mm thick is fine). It’s ok if there are holes; just reheat the sheet and fold the Worbla over, running it through again until you’re happy with the consistency.

    4) Adjust the pasta maker to produce successively thinner pieces as needed.
    This process may create some wrinkling in your sheets of scrap Worbla, but this can be mostly fixed by reheating where necessary. A bag of roughly 1-1.5kg in scrap tends to generate maybe five or six long strips of 1mm Worbla. If you use permanent marker on your Worbla like I do, you’ll probably also notice some streaking. This is normal and doesn’t affect use of the material at all.

We also have a video from Rachelle Cosplay showing the process using small scraps and a clay roller. (We do suggest a pasta roller for this method if available, as we have heard from folks clay rollers break down quickly when used with Worbla!)

 
 

Kamui uses her scraps to make sculptural elements, and things like bracelets.
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To help keep your fingers from getting burned while working with heated Worbla, try working with gloves, or dipping your fingers in water before handling the Worbla.
 
 

Raven Wei shows how she used scraps for her Lumina’s delicate heel and shoulder embellishments. Heat your scraps (carefully) and you can mold them together into a putty that can be wrapped around forms, carved, shaped and sanded.



 
 
Atashi Cosplay shared this video showing the process of recycling her scraps.

 
 

Valerei shared this method of making new Worbla sheets without needing a pasta roller.
step 1:
take all those scrap pieces you have, remember to never throw away even small pieces, because they can always be used for other things!
step 2:
Put them together in a way that they cover a big area and doesn’t have any gaps between them.
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step 3:
put some wax paper both over and under the worbla(I used paper that you cut out patterns with, but I think wax paper is the right choice here), and then get your iron.
Try out what temperature works the best with your iron, I had to use the warmest setting on our iron.
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step 4:
iron it heavily, make sure to also turn it over so you iron on both sides
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step 5:
now get out that rolling pin of yours and start rolling!
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Step 6:
Repeat step 4 and 5 until you get a result that you are pleased with. This might take some time depending on how picky you are with the result.
step 7:
let it cool down a bit, then remove the paper and VOILA! a kinda flat piece of worbla!
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it IS more flat than it looks here, I promise!

How to Attach Your Armor – Video

The Complete Newbie’s Guide to Worbla: Fixing
Pipa Wolf Cosplay talks about attaching belt clips, D-rings, and Elastic to affix her leg armor.

How to fix your Armor to your BodyGerman with English subtitles
Kamui Cosplay shows how several of her costumes are put together (and taken apart) with emphasis on redundancy to make sure everything stays where she needs it.

VertVixen created a video explaining her process for adding D-Rings.

Smoothing Worbla for Paint

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.)

Making a Thermoplastic Friendly Workspace

How not to burn your stuff, yourself, and your home

by Katilist Cosplay

Armor made from Worbla
Armor pieces made from Worbla.

 


This guide is for making a work space for using Worbla’s Finest Craft in your home. In case you haven’t heard of it, Worbla is basically thermoplastic that comes in sheets. I’ve been using it a lot recently to craft cosplay armor. When heated, Worbla can be molded into whatever shape you want and becomes rigid when cool. It is really great, because it is easy to use and doesn’t put out toxins while heated like some of the other crafting materials, like foam or PVC sheets.

The easiest way to shape Worbla is using a heat gun (or hair dryer in a pinch) and heat knife. The drawback is that both these items create a lot of heat and heat BURNS things. Heat guns, in particular, can burn things without you even realizing it. This creates the problem of figuring out where to put your Worbla to heat it without setting things on fire.

Sheet of Worbla to cut out and heat up.
A sheet of Worbla ready to cut out.

 

Ever blow dry your hair too long and start smelling that burnt hair smell? Try hitting the carpet too long with a heat gun. You will inevitably end up toxic fumes and something that looks like this:

This is your carpet on Cosplay
How to make a costume cost an extra $2500 -basement carpet replacement!

 

I know this from very personal and painful experience! (Yes, that was Berber.) Clearly carpet makes a poor work surface and wood and vinyl are not any better. Cool metal or smooth stone work surfaces work best. Unfortunately, I don’t have a garage with a nice cool cement floor or metal table to work on, so I make my own aluminum workspace that I can move to wherever I am working that day!

To make it, I start with a foam display board from the craft store that is big enough for the Worbla pieces I’m working on. Then, I wrap it in metal insulation tape.

Aluminum Workspace
A slightly blurry craft board with duct insulation tape on it.

 

That’s all you need to do. Metal insulation tape is available at any hardware store and is used to seal ducts. Note: it is not duck tape. Duck tape sheds water like the skin of a duck. This is the shiny aluminum metallic tape used for heated HVAC ducts. Prices for this vary, and at $6-$15, it might seem expensive for a roll, but weighed against the damage you can create without it you are getting a bargain! If the tape is impossible for you to get, you can also wrap the board in aluminum foil. However, the tape is much better and much safer, because it stays securely in place.

heating worbla on aluminum workspace
Heating a piece of Worbla on my new board, keeping finger out of the way.

And Voila! You have a mobile workspace! The heated Worbla will not stick to the aluminum tape and the board will not catch on fire with the heat gun or knife. The aluminum will reflect heat when you hit it with a heat gun, but this actually helps you heat up your Worbla more evenly.

((Worbla.com Note: I’ve found it helps to use a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper on top of the board to keep my Worbla from sticking to the aluminimum tape and tearing, especially for small pieces.))

Tips:

  • Watch out for your fingers! The board can get hot.
  • Make sure to heat things in the middle of the board to avoid inadvertently hitting what’s next to your work surface with the heat gun. It just takes a few seconds of even indirect heat gun heat to discolor most carpet, vinyl or wood.
  • The metal tip of your heat gun is REALLY hot! When you are done heating, don’t set it down anywhere but on the aluminum board. It will insta-burn through carpet. And for heaven’s sake do not touch it! This goes for heat knifes, too.
  • If your aluminum board is losing pieces of tape or looking a little worse for wear, there is no need to replace it, just add more aluminum tape.
  • Keep a bucket of cool water handy to dip your hands in when they start getting a little too warm and to treat burns with immediately.

Another item I find helpful is an aluminum cutting board:

 

Image

The large board we just made is great for heating, but will not last long if you are cutting into it excessively. I make my cutting board out of a 4ml piece of foam. I wrap the foam first in duck tape to add rigidity.

Board covered with duck tape
You can tell I have used this foam for cutting before.

Then wrap the whole thing in Aluminum tape.

foam covered in aluminum tape
This gives me a surface with give that I can cut on multiple times. I usually set it on top of my rigid board, so if I accidentally cut through one board I will hit the other. It is also nice to use it as a heat gun holder while heating so you can set your heat gun farther from you while shaping your Worbla. When the tape starts getting too cut up to stay together, you will need to re-tape your cutting board. That happens a lot, which is why I like using a smaller board for cutting: less tape.

Ready to work
Ready to work!

 

In an ideal world, I would have a giant aluminum work table and could luxuriously stretch out my Worbla, shaping it to my every desire, as I casually fling around my heat gun like Han Solo would a laser gun. That dream, however, would require a garage and possibly burn defying superpowers. In the meantime, I find this to be a good work around.

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions or suggestions on avoiding burns or even your favorite home cosplay catastrophe stories, please post a comment!

To find out more about the author, visit Katilist Cosplay on Facebook.

Introductions to Worbla – Video

Starting off we have one of the best introduction videos I have seen by Eric Heart, the Props Master at Triad Stage in North Carolina, who has a book on Prop Making that includes a section on thermoplastics (that you can see here).

This video includes information on working with Worbla’s Finest Art, molding over a form, basic shapes, heating and shaping options, as well as attaching multiple pieces. It also shows the process of creating a bull’s head over a positive mould.

But wait – there’s more!
These videos are some of the first that were created to talk about Worbla, while they’re older they still have a lot of information regarding the basics, so if you’re looking for other starting points, check these out!

How to Worbla: An Introduction by Aurore Cosplay
Discussing heating, shaping, and joining pieces of Worbla together, showing making small detailed pieces to add to larger armor, and how to sandwich Worbla and fun foam.

How to Create Worbla Armor: Coregeek Cosplay & Creations shared this video covering the sandwich method, foam details, rolled edges and shaping items like bracers.

Working with Worbla by Jillian Lynn
Another great video discussing the basics, then shows us Jillian working on a shoulder pauldron from League of Legends.

Creating a Superhero Mask

How to make a Custom-made Superhero Mask

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a Cosplay Tutorial by Aigue-Marine

 

Step 1: Gathering Material

To make your own superhero mask you need the following materials:

  • 1  sheet of Worbla’s FinestArt
  • 1  sheet of paper and/or crafting foam
  • Sandpaper
  • Hair dryer or Heat Gun
  • 1  jar of acrylic paint in the colour of your choice
  • Transparent varnish

Step 2: Creating a Stencil

Take the easy way out: Go on Google and look for mask stencils. There are plenty out there!

Choose the stencil you like best, print it and cut it out. Try it on and adjust the shape of the mask (e.g. eyeholes, etc.) if necessary.

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TIp: Prepare a second stencil out of crafting foam and press it to your face. Crafting foam is more flexible than normal paper and gives you a better impression of what your mask will look like. A stencil out of crafting foam makes the adjusting of the shape much easier as well.

 Step 3: Cutting out the Basic Form

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As soon as you’re content with the way your stencil looks, copy it onto the sheet of Worbla’s FinestArt and cut it out. Round the edges of the mask with sandpaper.

Step 4: Shaping

After the basic form of your mask is finished you can proceed to the most difficult step : the shaping of the plastic.

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Place the cut-out plastic on the floor (or another even surface) and heat it up with a hair dryer slowly. You know Worbla’s Finest Art is ready to use as soon as it changes its colour from caramel to light brown.

5

Llft the warmed up plastic off the ground carefully, place it on your face and press it into shape. Keep the mask on for a out 1 minute until the plastic has cooled down agaln. After this step the mask is basically finished.

Tip: in case that you’re not happy with the shape of your mask place it on the floor and heat it up ogain. You can change the shape of the mask as many times as you want to.

 Step 5: Paintwork

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After the shaping of your mask is done the only thing left to do is the painting. Depending on the colour of your choice you will have to apply between 2-5 layers of paint.

Make sure to use acrylic/paint/varnish. Poster paint wlll chip off. After the acrylic paint is dry apply 1 or 2 layers of transparent varnish to make your mask look shiny an cool!

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