How to Make a Latex Mermaid Tail

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Introduction: How to Make a Latex Mermaid Tail

About: I make special effects prosthetics and costumes! I'm particularly interested in mythical creatures.

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.

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

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.

Step 3: Making the Scales Cont.

The next part is to build a wall around your scales for the molding process. I used 2x4's that I screwed into my wooden base, and then covered the edges with clay.

Once that's done, you can pour ultracal into that box and let it set overnight.

Step 4: Making the Scales End

By the end of it, you'll VERY CAREFULLY flip your mold over and then peel out all those stickie circles. On some of the photos you can see where the plaster got underneath these scales. In the end, it was alright for me because there was still a definite scale in the plaster..

I would suggest filling in the gaps with clay if your scales are peeling up.

Step 5: The Fluke

Sculpting the fluke is where you can get really creative!

Trace your monofin onto the board you'll be sculpting on, and then make sure to follow those lines. Ideally the sculpt will be exact on those lines, but leave about 1/4" to 1/2" give. If you're making this out of latex, it will shrink, so you want it to be a bit wider than the monofin.

This is only half of the fluke, you'll make two identical pulls of this and then glue them together with the monofin sandwiched in between.

Step 6: Molding the Fluke

Do the same thing as the scales!

Step 7: Adding the Latex!

I hand painted this latex into the molds, laid a blowdryer down onto it, and let it set in the sun. If you put the latex on too thick, it won't ever cure and you'll get a gummy mess. I tended to make thin layers, wait for it to dry, and then paint again. I think I did somewhere around 12 layers for the scales, and much much more for the fluke.

Once these are done, pull them out and glue them onto your neoprene layer. Latex works perfectly to stick it down, just paint a thin layer onto the neoprene and use sewing pins to hold it in place.

Step 8: Swim!

Enjoy swimming in your tail!

This was a pretty quick tutorial so any questions feel free to post them. :)

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75 Comments

i was wondering if you put a list of materials together for me so that i an make it myself

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!

6 replies

If you look at most tails, then there is an opening at the bottom so the water doesn't stay and bubble up, even silicone tails have drains. The latex works good enough, you can put a layer of clear latex over to help with discoloration.

Yes, thank you for that information.

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

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?

The mermaid is sculpted out of refrigerator foam. A standard in the film, television and theme park industries. Known as "Green Foam", "Grey Foam", "Blue Foam", "Pink Foam" and "Yellow Foam". Different colors are usually associated with different densities of foam...such as: 1 lb./2 lb./4 lb. = Green Foam/Grey/Pink/Blue Foam; Yellow Foam usually is available in densities from 1 lb. all the way up to 10 lb. or even higher sometimes. Foam Sales in Burbank, California carries most of these foams, they used to have a corner on the distribution market...but now apparently, there ARE other distributors...and at more reasonable prices. Although, definitely still very expensive.

Im only 13 and so I only needed a gallon and a half of latex, 1 gallon of plaster and 2 yards of neoprene. i only spent $164 total! Im so tiny

1 reply

How did you paint it and what kind of paint did you use?

how did you connect the fluke to the tail?

How did you mold the fluke and how did you make the fluke mold?

Hello!(: I've been wanting a mermaid tail for a while now and I LOVE this tutorial. Because I'm a little confused about some of the steps though, could you make a list of all the products you used? I want to make my own and I want to make sure I do it correctly.
Thank You!(;
~ Alexa

1 reply

Hello Alexa! Here's kind of a quick breakdown of what you'll need...

Monofin and Neoprene

Monofin- $90
Neoprene- $90

=$180

Sculpting and Molding

Clay 10lbs- $60
Boards to sculpt on- $10
2 by 4s for molding- $10
Plaster/Ultracal 20lbs (way more than enough)- $40
Foam stickies - $30

= $160

Stage 3-

Latex- $150
Paint- $30
Brushes- $15

=$200 OR $300

Total of about $540 not including shipping!

what type of glue did you use to put the pieces together?

Your tail is just gorgeous, love the colors. Your instructable is way better than any video i have seen because all they do is a time lapse and they don't explain. So thank you for taking the type all of that information it was really helpful.

1 reply

I used latex to glue it down actually! It's the best glue I've been able to find. A thin layer of latex will do perfectly.

When you attached the latex to the neoprene, did you attach it to an already sewn mermaid sleeve, or to the flat fabric and then sewn it together after the latex dried? If you glued the latex scales to the already sewn mermaid sleeve did you attach it in pieces or wrap the scales around the fin?

Thank you! Well done.

1 reply

Already sewn mermaid sleeve! If you attach it while it's not sewn, you'll get a seam down the side.

I just wrapped it right around the sleeve and then carefully overlaid the edges so that they disappeared into each other.

What kind of latex did you use? I want to make one but I can't figure out what latex is okay and what works best