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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