Tutorials

The Many Wonders of Craft Foam

Craft foam, in my opinion, is one of the best products on the planet. Not only is it super cheap, but the possibilities are endless of what you can make with it. This section will go over some of the uses of craft foam, along with products that work well with it.

What is Craft foam?
Craft foam is a small porous foam sheet. It is thin and very flexible when not enforced. I have seen it come in two size sheets, the large one which is about 20″ x 12″ approx. and smaller version about 12″x 8″. They come in a wide variety of colors from white to black to neon pink. Since this stuff is so flexible it is ideal for making things that need to flex with you, or need to bended into odd shapes.

Where can I find Craft Foam?
For larger sheets, check your craft stores in the kid craft isles. Michael’s and Jo-Ann’s carries the large sheets and some times the smaller sheets as well. Wal-mart and Ben Franklin Craft also carries it, but only in the smaller sized sheets. For larger sheets, they are about $.50 – $.99 per sheet depending on where you go. (I’ve only seen them at Michael’s for $.99 but someone told me they sell them for $.50 at Jo-Ann’s) At Wal-mart the smaller sheets go for about $.66-$.89.

How do I cut craft foam?
While this seems like a stupid question, I thought it would be a good place to talk about other methods of cutting it. While regular scissors do the job just fine, they often pinch the foam and leave icky edges. If you are concerned about getting clean crisp edges, invest in an exacto knife. It is much easier to cut out small details with this then a pair of bulky scissors.

What glues work with craft foam?
I have found the best adhesive to be hot glue. The foam will tear before separating from the glue. White glue/ Elmer’s glue also works well. If you are attaching it to a nonporous surface, super glue works well too. Craft foam is pretty user friendly and I haven’t found an adhesive that didn’t bond it well. However, tape will not work. Double side, scotch, masking, and duck tape have all proved to be unreliable.

Now what can I make with this stuff?
A better question is what do you want to make? I have used this product in nearly every costume I have ever made. Its light weight, cheap, and will do just about anything if you have the imagination and know how to do it. Below are a few examples of what you can make.

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Super Sailor Moon Hair clips
The wing part is craft foam.

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Princess Serenity Sleeves.

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Armor (which I will go into detail more later)

0Marked areas are craft foam

The possibilities are endless!!

How do I paint craft foam?
While this may seem like a pretty straight forward question, its not. The first thing you must remember about craft foam is that it’s porous, meaning it is like a paint sponge. If you don’t prep your foam well enough first, any paint you throw on it will be soaked up and look bad. To prevent this you must seal your foam first. You can do this two different ways.

1. Mod Podge: This stuff is normally used in decopodging (aka glue pictures to stuff like boxes or books), but it works as a great sealer of craft foam. I now prefer this way to the other way because it is faster and takes less coats to get your desired look. Mod Podge is basically a glue. It is already pretty runny (compared to glue) but care is still needed to prevent large brush strokes when applying. In my experience they will ‘settle out’ before it dries. In general 1-3 coats of this stuff is more then enough to seal the foam completely. This stuff also is nice since the foam is still fairly flexible after applying this! You can find this at most craft stores, like Michael’s for example.

2. Tacky(fabric) Glue, White glue and Water mix: This is a good home remedy alternative if you already have them handy. I suggest mixing 1 part Fabric glue + 1-1.5 pars White glue + 2 parts water. Your mixture should look just like water down glue. If you add to much water then it will take more coats. If you add too little water, stoke lines will form. What I find best is to make a big batch of this and put it into a an air tight container and then stick it in the fridge while not in use. Do a test before working on your project. I have read that this mixture will seal the foam in about 8-10 coats, for me I wasn’t happy until about 20. When you are applying, get all the nooks and crannies and cover evenly. Don’t add another coat until the previous is dry. Any air bubbles the ‘pop’ out of the glue make sure you pop them, other wise you will have a bumpy surface. Also, don’t use a hair dry or anything of the sorts to help speed up the drying process. It creates a funky bumpy surface. Trust me, I’ve tried. T__T

Now that your craft foam is happily sealed you can paint it. I suggest using acrylics, spray paint, or rub-and-buff to paint it. If your craft foam requires to be flexible, stay away from spray paints (as it will crack) and use either acrylics or rub-and-buff if you can.

Help! I painted my craft foam and it looks horrible! What do I do now?
It’s ok, there is still hope! Even if you have already painted your foam, you can still go back and seal it with the above methods. Once you have done that, you can repaint.

I want to make my foam curve, but when I bend it, it just pops back into place. What do I do?
You can do a couple things to get your foam to bend. I personally like using the heat method, but if you fold and then place a heavy object on top of it for a few days, it will retain that fold. Likewise if you do this unintentionally, some heat will relax it and you can make it flat again. To heat up the foam you can use a hair dyer (good for doing edges and stuff) or the stove top. To do it over the stove, turn on your burner and hold the foam above the heating element. You feel and see it starting to relax. Once it does this bend it into your desire shape and hold it there until it cools. Try wrapping it around something like a glass or counter top edge. Once it cools it should keep that shape fairly well until you re-enforce it. If you mess up, no worries. Heat up it up and try again.

This stuff is really flimsy, how can I make it more stable?
Of course gluing pieces of foam to each other will make it more stable, however, I don’t think you want to glue 10 pieces together to make your armor more stable. I picked this technique up off another tutorial by Penwiper and I think it works fairly well. Once you have your foam in your desired shape, cut out a large piece of material (gauze seems to work well and cheap!) and start gluing it to the back of your foam piece using white glue. When you are doing this, make sure to smooth out the fabric and to get the fabric into all the nooks and crannies. I like to add about 1-3 coats of glue to ensure it is stable. I’m still working on ways of reinforcing craft foam, and I’ll be sure to post my findings later.

Craft Foam Armor

I get a lot of questions about my Sophitia armor. What it is made of, how I made it, etc. So to satisfy you lingering questions, I’m going to walk you through step by step on how I made mine. I did use Penwiper’s Craft Foam Tutorial, but like always I modified it to suit me needs.

I first started by making a pattern from newspaper and then cut out all my piece out of craft foam using an exacto knife. While you can use puffy paint to do your designs, I choose to use more craft foam for my raised designs.

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Following Penwiper’s instructions, I heated it to shape it and then reinforced it with fabric and glue.

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I then started to seal the foam using the fabric glue + white glue + water mix. I did 12 coats and painted it, but I noticed that it wasn’t fully sealed in some areas. (adding a thing coat of paint REALLy helps to notice this) So I went back and add more coats, coming in close to 20+ in total. In the below picture you can see it is fairly smooth after 12 coats, but still bumpy in some parts.

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After adding my final layers of sealer, I went back and started re-painting. Since Sophitia’s armor is darker in the center then the edges and raised designs, I added some gun metal gray metallic paint to those areas. I then did a light coat of Rub-n-Buff in Silver. You can use any paint on it, but keep in mind if the piece needs to flex certian paints (like Lacqure spray paints) will crack when bent. Some good paints that haven’t cracked on me, rub-and-buff, latex spray paint, fabric paint, and some acrylics.

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While this does look pretty cool, I wanted to do more to it. So added some more Rub-n-Buff. When I was finished I added some floor wax to seal the Rub-n-Buff (otherwise it rubs off at times) and then went back and hit the high spots to add a little more shine.

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At this point, it looks pretty good, but not quite there. To give it that “used” look I mixed some green and pewter into some black acrylic and worked it into the nooks and crannies of the armor. I wiped off any excess I didn’t want. After a bit I got a pretty nice result.

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And there you have it. A quick run down on my craft foam armor experience.

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