Craft Foam VS. Wonderflex VS. Worbla

The question that all cosplayers ask. Which is better for armor; Craft Foam, Wonderflex or Worbla?
Everyone has a different opinion of which is the best, however everyone agrees that all 3 have their own strong points.

I have actually had the opportunity to work with all 3, so I feel I can give the pros and cons of each.

First off is Craft Foam. Craft foam is easily bought in almost any craft store. It can either come by the sheet, by the pack of sheets or by the roll. The size of the sheets depends on where you get it, but generally when you buy by the sheet it’s smallest and gets bigger as you buy larger quantities. This is important to know since many times of armor cannot have seam lines.  Craft foam can be heated with a hairdryer or heat gun and once it cools it will mostly hold it’s shape (though I’ve found the shape to be more flimsy). There are ways to make the foam hold it’s shape better. Many people will coat the back of their foam in glue and scraps of fabric, this makes it more ridged and less likely to lose shape.

Craft Foam

These simple arm braces are made of craft foam that has been directly painted on.

These simple arm braces are made of craft foam that has been directly painted on.

The best thing about craft foam is that it is very very very cheap! A Pack of 12 sheets is around $7. To put it in perspective a pair of my pony wings shown bellow take a pack an a half of craft foam. Another wonderful thing about craft foam is that it is smooth on both sides, so you don’t have to gesso and sand it to make a smooth surface. However it does soak up most acrylic paints like nobody’s business! So unless you use a sealer first you will probably need to use 4-5 coats of paint.

These wings were made of craft foam, wire and elastic.

These wings were made of craft foam, wire and elastic. Here we see how craft foam can but cut into detailed shapes and can create simple curves. We also see how it is smooth to paint. 

Another down side to craft foam is that it cannot handle full curves. Meaning that it can be shaped or have a simple curve however it cannot create a circle (such as for a chest plate) unless you add unattractive darts or seam lines to your armor. However the good part of this is that craft foam does not get bumpy when heated meaning the curves are smooth. Finally craft foam cannot stick to it’s self and must be glued together.
I suggest using craft foam for large flat pieces, details and the base of your armor or accessory.
If building your armor out of craft foam take a look at this tutorial!

Wonderflex

The armor and crown seen here were made of Wonderflex with craft foam details. Here we see how wonderfex can curve and is smooth when painted.

The armor and crown seen here were made of Wonderflex with craft foam details. Here we see how wonderfex can curve and is smooth when painted.

Second is Wonderflex. Wonderflex is a thermo plastic that must be heated in order to do anything with. Also it must be specially ordered online (I suggest Cosplaysupplies.com). However it comes in varying sizes and prices, so you can easily get just as much as you need.  It can be heated with a hair dryer or a heat gun and one cooled holds it’s shape perfectly. Also if you shape it and it makes the wrong shape you can easily re-heat and re-shape it. Another amazing thing about wonderflex is it can be stuck to itself without adhesive!  That also means that you can hide all seam lines by pressing the pieces together at the seam with a hard tool (such as a spoon), this also means that all scraps from your wonderflex can be melded into a clay like object. 

The Chest Plate was made completely of Wonderflex (even the details) Here we can see how wonderflex can get bumpy and does not handle complex curves well.

The Chest Plate was made completely of Wonderflex (even the details)
Here we can see how wonderflex can get bumpy and does not handle complex curves well.

Another plus to Wonderflex is that it has a ‘smooth side’, which means you do not have to prime it in order to paint it and have it be smooth and beautiful! Like craft foam wonderflex cannot make complete curves (circles) without a dart (However remember that these can be hidden) it also is good at making smooth shapes, though with too much heating/reshaping/difficult shapes it can become bumpy and un-smooth.
I suggest using Wonderflex for large curved pieces and the base of your armor.
If making your armor out of craft foam look at this tutorial or this tutorial!

Worbla

This armor is made of Worbla with no backing. Here you can see how worbla can make complete curves.

This armor is made of Worbla with no backing.
Here you can see how worbla can make complete curves.

Finally is Worbla. Worbla is alot like Wonderflex in that is is a thermo plastic. It also can be stuck to it’s self, however only one side is the ‘glue side’ which sticks not only to it’s self but everything else, the other side does not stick. Worbla also can only be ordered online and is much more expensive than both Craft Foam and Wonderflex. It can be heated with a hair dryer, heat gun or steam (such as from an iron).

Pre-Painted Lux Armor made of Worbla. (More Worbla images will be up soon)

Pre-Painted Lux Armor made of Worbla. (More Worbla images will be up soon)

Amazingly Worbla, once heated, is able to stretch to create complete curves (circles). So it works very well for chest plates and pauldrons. Worbla however is the most flimsy thermo plastic. Without something behind it is is very flimsy and when making curves without a template is becomes extremely bumpy and textured. Also, Worbla does not have a smooth side and thus needs to be primed before it is painted in order for it to be smooth like armor.
I suggest using Worbla for round shapes such as chest plates, small details (when used as a puddy/clay) and a smooth top over a craft foam base.
If using Worbla take a look at this tutorial or this tutorial!

None of these plastics/foams are perfect. However all of them have their advantages. when building a suit of armor I suggest looking at all the pieces then seeing what plastics would work best for what parts. Such as using Worbla for round parts, wonderflex for sturdy curves and craft foam for details or flat pieces. Also! It is smart to use many together. It’s very common to create armor out of worbla that is backed with craft foam this makes it so the worbla is more sturdy and does not get bumpy, this also makes it so the craft foam holds it’s shape and adds depth and details. I also suggest making your base out of wonderflex then adding details via craft foam. This gives you a sturdy base and easily cut and manipulated details.

No matter what kind of armor you are building using one or more of these materials should help you along your way!
Soon I will be create armor for Shining Armor from My Little Pony. I will be sure to document all of my progress and will post it on my blog so that way you can see how the materials work together!

Till next time!
<3 Eli

 

Comments

  1. This was a big help to me…thanks!

  2. This was really helpful!

  3. Roger Mance says:

    Hi,
    I’m looking to make armour for larp, therefore need the material to be durable. I’m thinking that Wonderflex is probably my best bet

    Any idea how it would hold up being worn whilst falling to the ground, or being hit by foam weapons?

    Thanks for the informative feature!

    Regards

    Roger

    • Hello!

      Yes I would agree that wonderflex would be the most durable, however I would also suggest to have a craft foam base under it for extra stability.
      While I haven’t Larped in my Wonderflex armor it is very very sturdy, The only thing I would be worried about would be if you had any small details on the armor, those might get knocked off. Other wise I think it would hold up wonderfully!

      Good luck and Have fun!!
      -Eli

  4. Omegaknuckles says:

    Thanks for the information. I’ve been considering materials to work with for my first armored (and first in general) cosplay. I still need to learn the majority of the basics of shaping the different parts of complex armor (my proficiency is in electronics, not crafts 8s ) but knowing the properties of these materials will definitely help in deciding how much of which I’ll need for each part.

  5. Amira Wright says:

    Hi

    You seem to know a lot about armor and this article really helped me but if you wouldn’t mind I would still like your personal opinion. I am trying to make a cyborg cosplay (from teen titans) and I was hoping you could give me some advice on which to use for a majority of the costume. It sounds like I would be better off using Wonderflex with some craft foam support though. Can you tell me what you think?

    Thanks,

    Amira

    • Hello!
      For Cyborg I would suggest using a mixture! Worbla for the shoulder and the head piece. And Wonderflex with a Craft Foam Backing for the body! (:

      Good luck!

  6. Hi!

    This article is so great! Thanks! I’m pretty relatively new to the cosplay world and I have a question. Two of my friends and I are going to be cosplaying as the 3 walls (Wall Maria, Wall Rosa, Wall Sina) from Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) and I’m not sure which to use for making the crowns or how much of it I should get. Before I read this article, I was going to try to make it out of craft foam but Worbla looks awesome. Any suggestions? (:

    • Thanks! (:
      Honestly I think Craft Foam would be perfect for this project. It would easily be able to curve into the shape of the crowns and would be easy to detail and paint and cut. However, if you plan on traveling far or want them to be extra durable I would suggest covering them in worbla.
      To figure out how much you would need I would make paper patterns for each of the crowns, then lay them out next to each other taking up as little room as possible but still having a half inch space between the crowns then measure how large that space is then get the Worbla size that is at least as big as those measurements! (:
      I hope that helps! I’d love to see your costumes when you are done! (:
      -Eli

  7. Hi Eli!
    I was hoping you could help me out; I’ve been hearing a lot about using EVA foam for armor/helmet. Do you have any opinion on EVA? And if you could let me know which one of these materials you’d recommend me to use that would be awesome! :) I was thinking about using Worbla for the helmet but I could use other material for the armor. I am worried about expense (i have everything that I would need to use anyone of these materials, but I would need to buy all of the material) so if you could also take that into consideration, i could not be happier! Thanks so much for your help :)
    ~A soon to be DeathStroke Cosplayer (hopefully :D)

    • Hey there! (:
      I’ve never used EVA foam before, but I’ve heard it’s basically just a thicker version of craft foam and it has a texture, don’t quote me on it though.
      I’ve seen some super awesome stuff made of EVA foam and I think it would work awesome DeathStroke. It generally has a more chunky feel to it which I think would help with this project, and it’s cheaper than thermoplastics! I would however suggest worbla for the helmet and shoulder pieces. It would be near impossible to get those smooth curves with EVA foam.
      I hope that helps!
      -Eli

  8. When you say something is “good for curves” are you referring to the curves of the breasts for female chest plates? I’m trying to figure out how to form the bust area for some armor without seams or darts.

  9. Hello Eli! I have some questions of advice if you’d please lend me a hand? Next year, I’m working on a costume that requires me to have a chest plate and a few other little armor pieces for my cosplay and I’d really like your opinion if I should use one of the 3 that you presented in your article. Here is the picture for my cosplay.

    http://th02.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/f/2014/079/e/6/lol__arctic_ops_varus_by_missmaddytaylor-d7axvfz.jpg

    • Hello!
      I would suggest using Wonderflex with a craft foam base for the chest plate! You should be able to do the same for the little details as well! (:

      Good luck!! (:

      • Thank you so much Eli! :D I was really stuck on if I should use Worbla or Wonderflex! They both seemed really good and I wanted to know which one would be better for me in my situation. You really helped me a lot! And thank you! Gonna need all the luck with this cosplay lol

  10. I am working on helmets and would like you thoughts. I want one with face design and another like mandalorean(Bobba Fett) style

  11. Hey

    I’ve been wondering, what did you shape your armor on? I’m kinda stuck on how to shape the breast plate in particular.

    • Hello!
      For female armor I shape the breast plate (speciffically the cups) on large styrofoam balls. For male armor I simply put a small curve into it! (:

Trackbacks

  1. […] ready to begin covering the armor in wonderflex. I’ve talked about wonderflex before in my Thermo Plastic 101 post but here’s a quick review. Wonderflex is a thermo plastic that comes in large sheets and can […]

Leave a Comment

*