A Hybrid Method – Folding and Sandwiching Worbla

Nimbus Cosplay shared this method of using both the folding and sandwich method together for a smooth application without air bubbles and less Worbla used.

Tips for getting the most out of your worbla, and for smooth application without pesky air bubbles!

  • Don’t overheat it. As soon as you start to see it get malformed, that’s good enough for basic manipulation.
  • I generally prefer to do the outer worbla piece first and work with it completely before sandwiching it. I find it gets neater edges and generally wastes less material.
  • Take your scissors and just snip lines every so often in the inner circles of your armor, and cut out triangles in the outer circles of your armor.
  • It’ll allow for easier folding around the edges and if you cut out the triangles on the outer edges, it gets rid of that obnoxious overlap and folding.
    You’ll end up with more tiny scraps that you can heat up again later for detail sculpting, and the insides of your armor will look a bit neater, and be less bulky around those edges.
  • After the outside is nice and neat, I cut the inside sandwich piece actually a bit smaller than the shape of the armor, heat it up separately (doesn’t really matter if you overheat that one) and then just lay it over the inside (more pics later). This alteration to the sandwich method also makes it easier to more precisely apply any connections inside the armor (D-rings, clasps, etc…)

    It should be noted that this will take more time since it’s a more tedious process than straight sandwiching. So if you’re in a rush to finish something before a con, you’ll probably just go with the traditional sandwich method.

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    The Sandwich Method

    Worbla is amazing and great for many things, but it’s very thin and flimsy when heated and shaped on its own. As such, when making armor and other pieces that need to have a smooth look, Worbla is often backed with foam. The sandwich method is the most commonly used and is mentioned in many tutorials. It can be sometimes replaced with the folding method, especially for pieces that do not need as much strength.

    For everyone just starting out, we’ve broken down the steps here.

    1) Have your pattern.
    (Not sure how to make a pattern? We have a video tutorial for that, and you can also check out Kamui’s books!)
    2) Trace it onto your foam and cut it out.

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    Not the most imaginative design, I know.

    3) Trace it out onto your Worbla, about ¼ an inch bigger all around. Cut it out twice, flipping the pattern for the second time. Remember that Worbla has a shiny side that has glue – you want to have those on the inside around the foam, so they need to mirror one another.
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    4) Heat your bottom piece thoroughly. It’s important to heat it completely so that it sticks to the foam evenly. If you’ve never heated Worbla before, it’s a good idea to practice this on a small test piece to get the feel for it. Worbla will change in colour and get a bit darker as it heats and activates. It will be ready when it’s completely floppy and tacky to the touch.

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    The darker piece has been heated and is ready to use.

    Once heated, press your foam securely into the Worbla, leaving that ¼ inch excess visible. Go slowly, and don’t be afraid to reheat if you’re working with a big piece.

    5) Once your bottom piece of Worbla is attached, time to heat the top. Heat your second Worbla piece completely and press it over the foam and Worbla ‘bottom’, working from one side to another, making sure the Worbla is pressed firmly to the foam all over.

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    Now you can press the edges of Worbla together to seal everything together, then trim them. You can use tools to make this easier – wooden or metal tools for sculpting work well, but I find a plastic keycard from an old con hotel is a great multitool.

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    I forgot to document this on the first piece, so here’s an example from another.

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    All those edges get mushed together and the seam disappears.
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    Trim the excess, leaving a few millimeters around the outside edge. If you cut too close to the foam there’ll be nothing to hold the edges together and you’ll have to patch it.

    6) The reason you need to make sure everything is well and fully stuck is because now you can now heat your whole piece and shape it. If everything isn’t stuck down, you’ll get air bubbles. If you get air bubbles, follow this process to get rid of them.

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    Small pieces can be heated with your heat gun, but large pieces (such as armor) may be best to heat in the oven to heat evenly. Turn your oven to the lowest setting and lay the Worbla on a baking sheet on some baking paper. If the oven is preheated, you’ll only need a few minute – keep an eye on your Worbla!

    7) Curious to the difference between straight Worbla and Worbla+foam? Look at the picture below. The right is a single piece of Worbla cut from the same pattern. This look works well for thin pieces that need an organic look – feathers and leaves for instance – but makes armor incredibly difficult.

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    If you need to create depth in a piece you can layer individual pieces of sandwiched Worbla ontop of one another, but that can consume a LOT of worbla. Another way to add depth is to layer your foam first, and then sandwich ontop of it.

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    You can see I decided to add the center pieces separately, to help emphasize their lines. Foam and Worbla layered like this can look ‘soft’.

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    Voila! You have now mastered the sandwich method of Worbla use.

    Removing Air Bubbles

    Tiff shared with us this great way of dealing with the air bubbles you get from sandwiching Worbla.

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    If I had a dime for every air bubble I made using the Worbla and craft foam sandwich method, I’d be retired by now. Worbla is a wonderful material to work with, but it’s so easy to form air bubbles even when you think you’re being really careful. Have no fear, there’s a really simple way to get rid of it by using just a needle!

    1. Make sure to use a heat gun to warm the air bubbles so it’s nice and soft.
    2. While it’s malleable,  use a needle to poke a single hole in the annoying air bubble. You must poke it at an angle (see picture #2) so it can open the hole. Poking straight down wouldn’t be as effective I’ve noticed.
    3. After poking the hole, use your finger to pat it down so the air gets released.
    4. It should be a lot smoother and less bumpy. Sure, you can see subtle holes on the surface but it’ll disappear when you fill it with gesso or wood glue.

    Thanks again to Tiff for sharing with us. Check out her tutorial on folding Worbla as an alternative to sandwiching it.

    The Folding Method

    Tiff shared with us this great alternative to the sandwich method of layering Worbla for strength.

    savingworblaThe majority of people who use worbla for their cosplays appear to be using the “sandwich” method which involves covering a piece of craft foam with a piece of Worbla on each side. This is what I used to do when I first started working on thermoplastics–and while this is a great method to stiffen a piece of armor, I die a little inside every time I have to cut four huge pieces of Worbla just to create TWO armor parts for my thighs. >_<

    A great alternative to the sandwich method is the folding method. Here’s why:

    • Saving: You’re using a lot less Worbla so you’re saving a lot more compared to the sandwich method.
    • Reduced weight: Less Worbla means less weight. If anyone has ever used Worbla for armor sets and/or weapons, then they’d know the weight of it can be quite burdensome on the body.
    • No air bubbles: So far, I haven’t gotten ANY air bubbles when folding it. The sandwich method, in my experience, is a lot more prone to them. Air bubbles are my worst enemy.
    • More flexibility: The material remains sturdy but can still “give” at the same time. This is exceptionally important when making bracers, belts and anything else that wraps around the body.
    • Cleaner and sharper edges: Since you’re folding the Worbla over the edges of the foam, you won’t have to worry about cutting the excess around it ’cause there ain’t none!

    Here’s how it’s done!

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    1. Cut the exact shape you need out of craft foam. Use the craft foam to outline the shape on Worbla. Cut about 1-2 inches around it (I actually could’ve used a lot less from the picture).

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    2. Color or draw a “padding” right outside of the lines. The padding has to be roughly the same size of the edge of the foam you are going to use to cover the Worbla with. This is exceptionally important and will act as your guide on where not to cut, if you want smooth edges.

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    3. Draw the rest of the lines that will show you what to cut out before folding it. Edges that are straight are pretty straight forward (heh), and edges that are curved or rounded would have to be cut into triangles or little “shark teeth” (as pictured).

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    4. This is what it should look like after cutting out the unnecessary pieces. Remember not to cut over the “padded” line!

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    5. Turn up the heat gun and fold away! If the “teeth” feels like it is loose and not sticking on to the craft foam, you can heat it up again and press it down. Edges can also be easily adjusted and fixed.

    This is what I’ve been using for my current project and it’s been a lot more effective! Sure, it may not look very pretty on the inside but no one’s going to see it as long as I have it on!

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    With thanks again to Tiff for sharing this tutorial with us!

    How to Make a Pattern – Video

    Making a Pattern by Aurore Cosplay
    A great video explaining the basic process of making a pattern for a body part, such as an arm.


    We have the rest of her tutorial series on the Making a Bracer page.

    Valkyrie Studios shared this video process of patterning and building a breastplate from a dressform.

    Making a Pattern by 519geeks
    519geeks shared this video on making a pattern for your armor, explaining the process for a chest piece on a model.

    There is a full writeup of the process here.

    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.