There are a number of objects which are omnipresent in the world of balloon sculpture. Every children’s entertainer worthy of the title should make themselves familiar with at least a few of them.
In this article, we’ll explore the basics of balloon sculpture. Before we commence, however, we will first need to discuss exactly the sort of balloons we will be using. Balloon sculptors will need to assemble a lot of different types of balloon, but the 260Q is, for the most part, the one most often used – though more intricate sculpture will call for thinner varieties of balloon.
Next, we shall require a means of inflating the balloons. Unfortunately, lungpower alone will not do – and nor, indeed, will the all-purpose pumps often used to inflate balloons. A specialist pump is instead required: one which can inflate a balloon in a matter of seconds.
Some basic techniques
Now we have our materials, we can move on to the technique. Balloon sculpture is performed, for the most part, using only a handful of simple techniques; through a combination of these, all manner of weird and wonderful shapes can be produced. Bear in mind that when you inflate the balloon, you will need to leave a little bit of space at the end in order that the air have somewhere to go when you begin to make your twists.
Performing a basic twist sections one part of the balloon off from another. It is used to create the individual limbs of a balloon animal. The technique involved is largely self-explanatory: simply take one section of the balloon and twist it relative to the other.
This is a very simple technique which can be used in a number of different sculptures. In order to create a tulip twist, simply press your finger into the end of the balloon and then grip it with the other hand. You can then remove your finger and twist the balloon above the knot, in order to create a bulge which looks something like a tulip. Now you can push the knot inside in order to lock the shape into place.
A pinch twist is used to influence the direction of the balloon. In order to create one, create a bubble and then place it against the rest of the balloon. Now pull the bubble away and pinch the sections where the balloon is twisted. This is how small, intricate curved sections, such as those which constitute a balloon-monkey’s ears, can be created.
In order to lock balloons together, bubbles must be forced next to each other, so that each renders its neighbours immobile. Through this technique, complex clusters of shapes can be created. This is most often used to create the head and legs of a dog. To create a simple lock, create a bubble and then bend a second back so that it is parallel to the first.
Some of the more advanced balloon sculptures require that curves be employed, but some other simple ones can be improved with a little curvature – for example, you may wish to make a dog’s stomach more noticeably curved.
In order to produce a curve, you need simply bend a balloon against itself and rub. The severity with which you do this will increase the severity of the curvature. You can create dramatic spiral shapes, or more subtle bends. Getting it right, of course, requires practice.
Putting technique into practice
Now that we’ve taken a look at the techniques required to successfully sculpt balloons, let’s see how we can apply those techniques to some actual sculptures.
Perhaps the most common balloon sculpture is the dog. Its popularity is, in the main, owing to its simplicity and also to its usefulness in creating other, more advanced sculptures.
- To begin, first inflate the balloon so that there is around two inches left at the end.
- Now make three twists at the other end of the balloon, in order to form three blocks – the first should be around two inches long, the second two should be around an inch long each.
- You now need to perform a ‘lock twist’ in order to form the head of the dog. Twist the top so that the long section of the balloon is parallel with the two-inch section – which will form the nose. The two smaller blocks – which will form the ears – should be adjacent to one another and the end. Now twist the whole thing so that you have formed the head of a dog.
- You should now repeat the procedure in order to form the dog’s forelegs – but each of the three twists should be around three inches apart from one another. Now bring the entire thing over on itself and twist to lock into place.
Once you have mastered the dog, you will have acquired the skills necessary to make other forms of sculpture. For example, you can lengthen the neck to make a giraffe, or the body to make something recognisably daschshund-esque. Once you’re grown in confidence, you can move onto more advanced variants, like the monkey and tiger (which we will discuss shortly).
Like the dog, the sword is easy to make and learn. They are especially popular with children, who enjoy clubbing one another with them. Fortunately, balloons are neither sharp nor heavy and so parents need not concern themselves with the likelihood that this violence will result in injury.
So how can a sword be sculpted from a balloon? Let’s go through it, step by step.
- First inflate the balloon, until around an inch is left at the tip.
- You will now need to make a twist to form the handle of the sword. Do this around five inches from the end of the balloon.
- Now fold the balloon back onto itself, so that the twisted section is pressed against the balloon, around three inches from the end. Twist to form the handguard – or at least one side of it.
- Fold the balloon around on the other side to form the other side of the handguard and straighten the whole thing out. Congratulations are in order; if you’ve done it correctly, you should now be holding a convincing sword!
Once you have made a few swords, you can begin to experiment. A longsword is an obvious place to start, but you can also create scimitars and other exotic items, once you have mastered the art of curving your balloons. This takes a bit of practice to get right, but the results can ultimately be very effective.
Of course, while some children (mainly boys) might appreciate a weapon, others (mainly girls) might be more inclined toward something a little more decorative. There are many ways to sculpt balloon flowers and each can be adapted in order to fashion all manner of unique and interesting creations. Here’s how you can make a balloon flower with relative ease:
- Inflate the balloon up to around four inches from the end
- Fold the end over to create a ‘petal’, around four inches long and twist it.
- Make another petal on the other side in exactly the same way. Try to make it as similar as possible to the first petal. Repeat the process to make an third, fourth and fifth petal.
- You’ve now made a flower, but you might also want to attach a stem. You can do this by taking another balloon (preferably a green one), forming a twist on the end and then attaching it to the centre of the flower.
Of course, flowers come in a variety of shapes and sizes – and so there is plenty of room for experimentation. Truly advanced balloon-sculptors might attempt to intertwine multiple balloons of different colours in order to create something remarkable. For the rest of us, a simple balloon flower is an excellent starting point.
Having explored the fundamentals, we can move on to something a little more advanced. The tiger is sure to delight children and adults alike; it requires the addition of a few stripes with a marker pen. You can even entrust this task to the children you’re entertaining – just be sure that the pen in question is non-toxic. If you don’t like tigers, you might also consider trying other big cats – you are limited only by your imagination.
The most difficult part of the tiger is the head, whose creation requires that you first inflate the balloon, leaving six inches left at the rest. From here, you can begin to create the head itself. This will require some trial-and-error in order to get the proportions precisely correct. From the knotted end of the balloon, perform:
- A basic twist around an inch into the balloon.
- Another around an inch further in.
- A pinch twist a little smaller than that.
- Another basic twist to match the second.
- Another pinch twist to match the first.
- Another basic twist to match the second and third.
You can now lock the head into place by twisting it. But you might have noticed a problem: should a tiger’s snout really be so long? Of course not. You should therefore twist the nose section around half-way along and bend it back upon itself. You can push the knot through the back of the head, and wrap it around for good measure. From here, you can proceed in much the same way as the dog – just create two sets of limbs and the tail section as you should, by now, have done numerous times. From there, all that is left is to colour the tiger in.
The monkey is a sculpture which looks impressive, but can actually be created very easily. It is a close relative of the dog in regards to its creation, though it is sufficiently tricky that you’ll want to a bit of experience creating dogs before you make the attempt. With practice, however, a monkey sculpture can provide an impressive addition to your repertoire – you can even add another balloon to provide your monkeys with something to cling to.
You can make a monkey thusly:
- You’ll be making the monkey’s head first. To do this, start by making a twist an inch from the end of the balloon. This is the nose.
- Next, make a small pinch twist about half-an-inch long. This is an ear. Now make another twist an inch further along to create the forehead and then make another ear in the same way you did the first.
- Now you need to hold the whole thing together in one hand. Align the nose with the length of the balloon and twist the head to lock its components into place.
- Now the most difficult part is over. From here, you just need to create the limbs – and these are done in the same way that you would those of a dog – just make them a bit shorter, but not so much so that the monkey can’t grip the other balloon.
- You should be left with another length of balloon, which can form the tail. In order to make it more recognisably simian, you need to curl it.
This sculpture takes things a step further and gives you something which you can wear. The great advantage of a balloon hat is that they can be made to measure on the spot and thus are perfect for children of all ages and head sizes. There are several variations on the balloon hat – some can be made quickly, while others will take a little more time. Though many of the more advanced variations – notably the crown, Santa hat and jester hat – are undoubtedly impressive, they are all derived from a simple template. Let’s take a look at exactly how to make a simple, no-frills balloon hat.
- Inflate the balloon, leaving a tiny bit of space at the end (no larger than half an inch).
- Make a basic twist around an inch from the end of the balloon.
- Loop the remainder of the balloon around so that it crosses the twist. This will form the rim of the hat, so create one which will sit nicely on the intended recipient’s head. For this simple version you will be able to make re-adjustments if you get it slightly wrong – though other variants aren’t quite so forgiving.
- Twist the balloon so that it is locked into place. You should now have a fully-formed hat, complete with an upright section of balloon. This can be used to form a variety of other sculptures, or it can be left as it is.
So, now you know how to balloon sculpt, why not put it into practise? We offer a 100 pack of modelling balloons in various colours for you to try your hand at making some creations. Let us know how you get on and share your efforts with us over on our social channels! Tag us in your pictures on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.