Worbla’s Black Art has been changed! Below is what you need to know but the TLDR for those who need an at-a-glance would be:
- Smells like caramel/burnt sugar/soy sauce/roasted almonds, depending on your nose.
For the actual in depth breakdown where we’ll have photos and (coming soon) videos to reference, keep reading!
Why the change?
Black Art was changed for two reasons: ingredient sourcing and issues with breakage in shipping.
We’ve had issues with Black Art arriving to us with damages, especially over the colder months, since it first was launched. Sometimes a shipment would be fine, sometimes we’d end up with 400+ cracked Jumbos that needed to be broken down and sold at smaller sizes. It made stocking tricky at times and could be frustrating for our retailers if a shipment got to them damaged. Then during Covid one of the ingredients became harder to source, so it really became time to look at the formula and see what could be improved.
We’ve had the new formula from the end of 2022 and have been running it through a lot of testing (beyond ASTM), both from our own team in our North American office and from other skilled cosplayers we contacted to ask for their input. Everyone was asked to tell us what they thought cosplayers would need to know about the differences in how 2.0 handles compared to the original formula. The most important thing for us was that whatever the differences, we’d be able to give you a solid sense of them to make informed decisions before purchasing the new formula.
What’s the same?
The price, the size, and basic handling are all the same. Black Art 2.0 remains non-toxic (fully ASTM D-4236 compliant) and can be cut with scissors and heated with a heat gun without needing any specialized tools. If you are familiar with our lineup in general, Black Art is now closer in handling to Finest Art, with a smoother surface than Finest has.
Stronger: in addition to being far more resilient for shipping, pieces made with the new formula are significantly stronger and less prone to breakage. This is basically universally a Good ThingTM
Stretchier: the new formula also has significantly more stretch – more than double what the original could manage. This allows even smaller fine detail and deeper curves on things like breastplates without tearing, and excellent noodle making for details, which is also a Good ThingTM
Stickier: the new formula also significantly more adhesive. Original Black allowed pieces to be heated, shaped, and placed together with a mild ‘tack’ that could be easily adjusted before being pressed together for a more permanent bond. Great for artists doing a lot of sculptural details and freeform design as it allowed easy fixing of placement, but it did mean that you had to be very intentional about bonding pieces as a final step or things could unstick.
2.0 is adhesive enough that pieces when warm will bond with almost no pressure, and it can be tricky to separate them. This is great for the sandwich method (no more edges peeling apart when flexed) and general attachments are going to be much easier and more secure. For folks who love the ability to fuss with placement of pieces, however, the new formula is probably going to be more annoying and Pearly Art will be a better fit for that initial lower tack.
Smell: Black Art 2.0 is made using a corn pre-consumer byproduct as a filler. It’s more sustainable as a result but it does give it an odd smell. We asked a dozen people (cosplayers and non cosplayers both) to give their opinion about it because smell is so individual. Universally it’s been agreed to be ‘not too bad’ and ‘like caramel/burnt sugar/soy sauce/roasted almonds’ depending on the nose. Scents being what they are for folks, this is something we want to make very clear upfront, as the scent can be strong especially in a small space. You may want to consider setting pieces aside to breathe for a few days when they arrive, and if you are especially sensitive try ordering a smaller piece to test before investing in a large project.
Surface: There is a slight difference to the surface of Black 2.0. Not enough to really have created an opinion from any of our testers, as it’s really just a bit darker/shinier, but you might find it slightly smoother than Original Black, which has a tiny bit more ‘tooth’ to it.
Air Bubbles: Two of our testers noticed an increase in air bubbles, so you may want to be careful in heating when using EVA foam as a core for shaping. If you do have air bubbles remember you can use a pin to make a hole for the air to escape, then press those areas flat. Your primer can then be used to fill in the pinprick before painting.
Black Art 2.0 will be available for sale very soon – if you’re reading this we expect it to be available online from Cosplay Supplies on March 6th.
If you love the original Black Art formula and are not working on large projects, Cosplay Supplies will be carrying the sample pack sheets while supplies last. If you are doing a lot of decorative detailing and want the ability to place and move pieces with ease, Pearly Art is going to be your best bet. For those who usually used 2 layers of Black Art for breastplates or deep curves, you will probably find that one layer of Black 2.0 is enough, now, for those shapes.
If you are purchasing Black Art from Michaels, it will be the original formula (while their supplies last.) All other retailers online and in store will be carrying the new formula unless they are offering 9×14 sized sheets. Those sheets may be the old or new formula and you should ask the store if the difference is important to you. (If they purchased the sheets that size, it will be old, if they broke down a larger sheet to that size, it will be 2.0)
We’ve run the new Black formula through the wringer, but of course we can’t always account for every possible scenario. If we learn more about the changed formula, we’ll be sure to share those details. And of course if you have specific questions you can always email us and we’ll do our best to help!