Instructables

How to make a Latex Mermaid Tail

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It seems like nearly everyone wants to be a mermaid at some point in their life. Well, at least I did. So for the fun of it, and because I can, I made a latex mermaid tail that is fully capable of swimming in.

Just a disclaimer, this is not a cheap endeavor to start. Look to spend about $500 in materials and plenty of time on this project. If you are looking for a mermaid tail that will last considerably longer, follow the same steps but with silicone.

 
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Step 1: Part 1, the neoprene sleeve!

I don't have any photos of this step, but getting ready is always the most important part.

First thing you want to do is buy a monofin, and then create a "sleeve" of neoprene. The latex has to have something to adhere to. So break out the sewing machine and make a fabric tail for yourself. Don't mistake Neoprene for Neoprin. Different material. Neoprin will stretch out eventually and your tail will no longer fit.

You can buy neoprene at local dive shops (if there are any in your area) or you can buy it online. Your sewing machine may not want to sew this material because it is extremely thick.

If there's enough interest in a tutorial for how to make a neoprene tail I might make that someday. At this point, let's get to the harder stuff.

Step 2: Making the scales

Picture of Making the scales

To make the scales, I used a sharpened pipe and a hammer to punch out foam circles. I did this because I knew that I didn't have enough time to cut out clay scales and mold in the same day. If I was doing it again, I would definitely buy the oil clay and hand sculpt each scale.

But if you're looking for the quick, easy, and cheaper way, this is the way to do it.

These scales are made out of the kid foam with the peelable sticky backs.

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Thanks so much and your tail is amazing!!!
2 more questions (sorry)


Can I add extra decrotive like fins and how and where to go
and were not to go with the tail? Great tail too!!⚓
ehamm (author)  Mermaid at Heart7 days ago

Not a problem! haha

Decorative fins absolutely, just glue them onto the sides of the tail where ever you want to place them, and then cover the edges with latex to seal it to the tail. I'd look at real fish for a reference so that you know where to put them! ;)

I have questions

*how can I paint it?
*does size matter?
*how long will it last?
And.....
*can you make different moulds instead of fluke?
ehamm (author)  Mermaid at Heart9 days ago

* To paint it, mix together 10 to 1 of latex and acrylic paint/paint pigments, then either airbrush on or use a brush to cover with a thin layer. You might have to do this a few times, and will have to patch up the color every now and then.

*Size will matter for the individual person! You definitely want to measure yourself before you do it, I traced the outline of my body onto the neoprene and then tried that on multiple times before I attached the latex to it

*Mine is still kicking and it's been a year and a half now! It's definitely lost a lot of color, but a quick paint job makes it look good as new.

*You can make any molds you would like! It's all about the sculpting and molding. Other options are hip fins, ankle fins, dorsal fins, really anything you'd like. ;)

SeaSoulah1 month ago
This is absolutely amazing how much time did it take?
ehamm (author)  SeaSoulah1 month ago
I think about 35 hours total, but that was spread out over a couple weeks! If you were really pushing it you could probably get it done in a weekend! :)
Aryam11 month ago

hi

do you think that it would be possible to use silicon insted of laltex ?

thanks

ehamm (author)  Aryam11 month ago
Absolutely! I would actually suggest it if money is not an issue. Silicone tails last long and hold their color much better than latex tails. Dragonskin silicone is my suggestion!
Blaise_Gauba2 months ago
The mermaid IS made of a type of foam...it was actually developed for the construction of refrigerators...believe it or not. Professionals in the entertainment industry have been using it since the late 70's early 80's and is a staple in the industry.

This particular type of foam is referred to as Gray or Green Foam. But there are different types of foams that range in density (weight) such as Blue Foam, Pink Foam and again, the Gray/Green Foam which all pretty much come in what is known as a one or two pound density.

Then there is Yellow Foam, which comes in several different densities from very light and easy to sculpt, to very hard but holds detail better. I would also suggest that although the movie and television industries use and have been using these foams for about three decades now, they are not really very environmentally friendly...actually, quite the opposite.

Nowadays, the standard foam for sculpting large sets, such as rock formations, and caves and often sometimes large trees, they use EPS Foam. The same type of foam used to make Styrofoam cups...you know...with those little beads? Also not good for the environment at all...and it is quite prolific too. Gets everywhere! At the end of the day, you usually end up emptying pockets and shoes out in your home and regret that you took anything off or turned your pants upside down. I'm glad to be away from that part of the business. Overall though, I absolutely LOVE the entertainment business. It has been the most creative and fun business that I have ever been involved in.

So keep up the good work. And twenty one is not too late. There are people in their eighties who discover new and interesting and exciting things that inspire them. You have plenty of time. Keep on practicing and learning, building and making and sculpting and drawing and painting. Learn as many new skills as you can. I highly recommend learning Z-Brush too. Not just the entertainment business is using it, but manufacturing is also using Z-Brush.
ehamm (author)  Blaise_Gauba2 months ago
Thanks for the info about the foam! If I had the space I would love to try some out someday, it seems like an interesting medium to try at least a few times.

I've seen Z-Brush used but never attempted it before. I'll have to look into it. Thanks again!
Yes...but if you ever do use any of the foams...then definitely use the proper safety protection. Respirator, eye protection...and it's a good idea to also get disposable cover-alls. These foams are pervasive and can also irritate the skin of certain individuals.

As far as Z-Brush is concerned....everyone...and I mean almost every single "traditional" sculptor I know in the entertainment industry, is sculpting now in Z-Brush. If you don't know how to do Z-Brush...then learn it...because it really is the way all of the various industries are going nowadays.

Good luck and keep up the creativity!

~Peace and Namaste

~Blaise
krummrey2 months ago

If enough people make one, I might actually see a mermaid in my lifetime. How great is that? :D
Thanks for sharing. Looks great!

ehamm (author)  krummrey2 months ago
Thank you! You never know when you might see a mermaid. ;)
Blaise_Gauba2 months ago

Cool project. My sixteen year old daughter made herself a mermaid tail last year. It didn't work out too well...but it looked good. She did all the research, we ordered a monofin...ordered Spandex (she settled on a sparkly metallic orange) then she started making a pattern that encompassed her entire legs from the waist down and which also covered the monofin. She bought some vynlized rubber/plastic sort of material which she got at Home Depot, and is normally used for covering floors, carpet/hallway protection etc..

Then she siliconed the flooring material to the monofin (which made it really heavy...unfortunately) all of which was cut to shape sort of like your sculpt that you did of your fluke.

Anyway, when she finally got it all finished, it looked great, it fit great, but once she got in the water, the fluke, which is part of the overall tail, just filled with water and ballooned up and stopped her in her tracks. Poor girl was SO disappointed. She just sold it on eBay with the disclaimer that it doesn't work well in water, but is good for photo shoots.

I used to be in Special Effects in the movie and television business...back in the 1980's, early 90's. And if I had had the space, and the money, I would help her build a silicon tail.

Your latex one came out nice. But doesn't the latex break down eventually or discolor if kept in the water too long? I ran into this problem back when I was working on really cheap (low budget) horror films.

Well, keep up the great work. Your methods and process is really ingenious. Also, another question; Because you are using Neoprene, don't you have to use a weight belt to counter the buoyancy of the Neoprene? Or does all the latex work as enough weight to hold you bottom half down when submerged?

Thanks for sharing your process. Great job!

ehamm (author)  Blaise_Gauba2 months ago

Hi there! I'm wondering if the material you used from home depot was Alex Plus? It's a silicone caulking that used to be all the rage to make mermaid tails. Now it's not super safe to be using against the skin and really does terribly underwater. I'm glad to hear that your daughter sold it though! At least she got a little something in return for all that hard work.

If you ever attempt to make a mermaid tail again (or your daughter for that matter) try putting in some channels for the water to vent through, even just leaving some spots unglued in the bottom of the tail does wonders!

The latex does fade significantly every time you swim in it, but a quick repaint seems to do the trick! I would definitely suggest a silicone tail to someone who wants to use this tail for a business or for the movies, but latex does really well for side jobs. I mix my acrylic right into the latex, which seems to do an alright job for keeping the color. There's a little touch up after every couple swims though.

The neoprene and latex pretty much even themselves out underwater which is really nice! It feels definitely heavier when I'm swimming, but it doesn't sink or float in either direction which is quite nice.

Thank you for your comments! Really appreciate it. <3

No...the calking material was only used to attach the black, rubber-ish/vinyl-like floor mat thingy to the monofin. THAT was what made the fin SO heavy. That and the fact that the black material was also quite heavy as well.

Maybe down the road, if time and money aren't an issue anymore, then I might take on the task of helping my daughter build herself a high end silicon tail.

I have been a professional sculptor in SFX and a prop maker for the last thirty years. But I have started to steer clear of the Entertainment Industry over the last three to four years, as my back and legs just don't allow me to stand for the long hours necessary doing the kind of work I used to do. So I've gotten back into illustration and design work, which allows me to sit at a computer all day long. Also not good for one's health.

I've attached some images of some of the various things I have had the pleasure to be able to sculpt over my long career. I hope this inspires you.

Anyway, your project again, is ingenious and an outcome that is quite effective. I look forward to seeing your silicone version one day soon.
Busch_Gardens_Mermaid_WEBPAGE_v005.jpgDisney_Art_Classics_Scrooge_McDuck_WEBPAGE_v001.jpgGnomad_Sculpts_v001.JPGWalt_Disney_World_Animal_Kingdom_Countdown_to_Extinction_WEBPAGE_v014.jpgZombie_Sculpt_v007.jpgWDW_EC_DS_WEBPAGE_v006.jpg
ehamm (author)  Blaise_Gauba2 months ago

These are REALLY inspiring! I'm just getting into it (and a little late in life, 21 is a tad bit old to just start learning how to mold) but it's been very fun and exciting so far!

Your work is absolutely stunning, and definitely gets the gears working for me. That dinosaur is just... wow. Love it! And of course the mermaid is a favorite, she's so elegant. Is the mermaid made out of foam?

How cool is this! Waw even! xxx beautiful! :) That is a lot of work though!

What's "Waw"? I googled it, but all I found was the acronyms "What A Waste" and "What A Wanker." Neither of those fit this context.

magifarm2 months ago

Very beautiful!

Lovely. Brava.

Congratulations.

Thank you.

tofu9112 months ago
Just beautiful. And amazing that it's functional. Not that have $500 to spare to make this but do you know of another alternative if I'm sensitive to latex?
ehamm (author)  tofu9112 months ago

my immediate suggestion would be to try dragonskin silicone. It is a more expensive alternative, but it's a better material. There is also latex for sensitive skinned people, I'd have to research that a bit more!

vallee33 ehamm2 months ago

We have a complete forum on how to make mermaid tails on a network that I am on. It is called Mernetwork.com. Plus some sell all types of stuff for the mermaid an mermen folk.

ehamm (author)  vallee332 months ago

Yes! I'm on Mernetwork, it's a really great resource.

vallee33 ehamm2 months ago

On the network my name is Meranthony

Mielameri2 months ago
Stunning. And it looks so good through the water!
ehamm (author)  Mielameri2 months ago

Thank you so much!

melliott112 months ago

How was it swimming in? Is it still usable? Could somebody else demonstrate?

ehamm (author)  melliott112 months ago

It's very fun to swim in! A little awkward at first since we aren't used to swimming with our legs bound together, but not bad after the first try. Very much useable!

There are a ton of videos on youtube of people swimming in latex or silicone tails. They are really believable!

I8mAll2 months ago

That is so good in a myriad of ways - verisimilitude, art and function. It's physical poetry. May I suggest some cartilage stiffening bones running down the fluke if you build a V2. I wish my kids were young enough to take such a project on.

It lifts my heart to see such good work.

ehamm (author)  I8mAll2 months ago

In V2 I've been looking at corset boning for some stiffening bones! Fantastic idea!

vallee33 made it!2 months ago

I have made a few tails myself. The last one I made is 2mm smoothskin neoprene with a water way model 1 monofin. Your how to make a tail will come in handy when I make another one.

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ehamm (author)  vallee332 months ago

Awesome!! That tail looks really cool! It must look awesome to swim in. :)

Minmin42252 months ago
Wow.
emmae212 months ago
Lol fat Amy needs this for her mermaid dancin
wyldestyle2 months ago
wow well done if I saw you swiming I would believe you were a mermaid.
I wonder how many people will be fooled by it and try to make a video go viral...
patsheldon2 months ago

I've always wanted to make this. Thanks for sharring! How fun!

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