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Thread: Latex (slip casting) and neoprene tail tutorial

  1. #1

    Post Latex (slip casting) and neoprene tail tutorial

    I've been working on a project, and with all the other stuff going on it's slipped between the cracks. I don't have the whole thing done, but I've been posting chunks (like the monofin thread and tail care and maintenance thread) so people can still use the info until the whole thing comes out. So here's another chunk! This is from information gathered over a long period of time. Please let me know if you have anything to add or think is incorrect.


    Neoprene and latex tails are made by layering latex onto neoprene and impressing or sculpting shapes into the latex. They result in a realistic look without the hours of labor or expense of a molded latex tail.


    This process was originally tested by using a tin cure latex mix known as ALEX Plus caulking, referred to as ALEX. Links and threads have been posted for tutorial demonstration information. The material known as ALEX Plus is NOT reccomended for tail making. This is a partner thread to the thread "Making your own latex tail" by Raven of Merbella Studios, since removed. The creator of the original tutorial (Raven of Merbellas) has stated herself this material was only meant to use as a cheap alternative to test out tail making techniques before investing in proper slip casting latex material. Since then Raven's ALEX tail has degraded and she has stated publicly that she does not recommend the use of ALEX for tail making. One can use slip casting latex and latex thicker to thicken to the same consistency of ALEX for use in making realistic tails, following the technique below.

    ALEX Plus is not meant to be submerged. When submerged for too long, the material turns white and may come off in the water. ALEX degrades with multiple submergances in water, making for a short tail life span.

    Material Safety Data Sheet:
    Technical Bulletin:

    Negative health effects as stated in the MSDS have been observed by a couple of known people with ALEX Plus on/in their tails. Again, this material is NOT RECOMENDED FOR MAKING TAILS. The technique, however can be used with thickened slip casting latex for the same effect.

    The material known as ALEX is not made of approved skin safe material. It is discussed as a cheap alternative, but if you choose to purchase or make a tail out of ALEX, do so at your own risk. A barrier of neoprene is highly recommended to act as a barrier between skin and a non skin safe material. Therefore ALEX + spandex creations are not recommended - make/use at your own risk.

    The following tutorial is based off of the original “How to make a latex tail” tutorial thread by Mermaid Raven of Merbellas Studios, posted on (predecessor to


    -Slip casting Latex: Such as Slip Cast Rubber from Burman Industries or Douglas and Sturgess
    -Latex thickener (or Thixotropic Agent as it may be referred to) such as those products listed below:
    STM Pro Liquid Latex Thickener
    Latex Thickening Gel
    Liquid Latex Thickener
    Polycraft Liquid Latex Thickener (alternate source UK Only)
    OR a latex filler, such as Burman Industries Latex Filler
    -Latex pigments or top paint; Note: Pigmented latex will never fade or scrape off, top paint can and will fade and scrape off with time and use. Top paints such as Createx airbrush paints will need to be heat set with a tool or craft grade heat gun.
    -Metal grating or recycled fishing netting: Metal grating you can find from most hardware stores, recycled fishing netting can be found at Michaels or other craft stores. Different shapes of netting or grating can be used for different scale shapes.
    -Nitrile gloves (Safety first!)
    -Disposable brushes
    -Heavy duty thread
    -Heavy duty sewing needles
    -Lubricant: NEVER use petroleum based lubricant! Water based (such as astroglide) or in this specific case, silicone based, is good.
    -Wide putty knife

    -Air compressor or air propellant (air cans)
    -Sewing machine
    -Tool or craft grade heat gun: If you are using a top pain that needs to be heat set, such as Createx airbrush paints.

    Be sure to work in a very well venerate space! It is very highly recommended that you practice the scaling technique on scrap pieces of neoprene before you attempt it on the whole tail. It will allow you to get the hang of and tweak how thick the material needs to be, spreading it evenly, the time it takes for the material to dry, and how fast to pull of the texturing, ect. This will assure a good technique for clean even scales!


    Make a pattern for your tail using your measurements for the body portion, and tracing of your monofin (plus any extra for additional fluke shape), using the “basic tail” method. Trace it onto the neoprene and cut it out. You will have to do this twice for both sides of the tail, as the fabric can't be pinned together as in the basic tail method. If you wish, trace the tail shape an inch in to allow for a latex-free seam allowance for sewing, and do not latex this outer edge durring the process. Make sure the fabric is right side (outer side) up before starting.

    1. Pigment the latex with the desired color (optional).

    2. Thicken the latex with the thickener until it is the constancy of caulking.

    3. Apply the first layer of latex- work the material into the fabric with the putty knife. There is no need to make this layer thick- it just needs to be enough to cover the fabric. Let this layer dry.

    4. Once that layer is dry, apply another layer of latex evenly over the fabric. Lay the fishnet down and strech it out and press into the last coat, or press the metal grating into the coat- this is the body of the tail only, or only where you want the scales.

    5. Begin filling the net/grate holes with more latex, and spreading it evenly all over the wanted scale area. With netting, just the tops of the knots should be visible. Note that too much pressure and a high angle will make waves in the latex as the knife “jumps” over the knots.

    6. Once the latex has cured just enough to be gummy/tacky, remove the netting/grating. Begin at the bottom, near the fluke, and lift the net/grate off the neoprene pulling toward the waist. This will make the bottom of the scales higher than the top. If the latex scales strings or pokes up when the net/grate is pulled up, use a spatula to pat and smooth the strings and/or peaks down.

    7. Smooth more latex out over the fluke area (on top of the first layer), then add texture. This can be done with your fingers (wearing gloves, of course), or with an instrument like a wooden dowel, or even a fork! Add more latex as needed, but don't make the layers too thick. If needed, let the layer dry then add additional layers of texturing and let them cure separately. Otherwise your cure time will be increased dramatically.

    8. Once all the layers of latex are cured, you may apply any top paints. For a paint job that will never fade or crack, use latex to paint your tail as well! Mix additional latex (no need for it to be thickened) with the pigments you wish to use- each in a separate container. Then with the disposable brushes, paint on the latex as if it was paint. You may need to do this in layers for a blending or opaque effect. For now, leave a 1-2 inch paint free zone all along the bottom edge of the fluke. Be sure to rinse off/out the brushes before the latex dries, otherwise they will have to be discarded. Although powder pigments an grant superior color, take proper safety precautions when handling them. With most, the particles are small enough that inhaling them is a safety concern, in which case a proper respirator (such as a 3M P100 respirator, that filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles) is needed.

    Otherwise, paint on a regular top paint and heat set if needed. Paint the tail, let the paint dry completely (wait at least an hour), then heat set it with the heat gun.

    10. It's time to sew the tail together. Make sure ALL latex and paint is completely cured/dried before this step. Put the two tail pieces together, latex side in. Carefully align the fabric, pin it with sewing pins if you are able, and sew the tail together. Sew both sides, but leave the bottom of the fluke open! Use a stretch stitch, preferably an overlock stitch. Be sure to follow all the guidelines for sewing neoprene in the “Neoprene Tails” section. Once completed you may try your tail on to make sure the body of the tail fits correctly. After the monofin is installed it will be harder to make size adjustments.

    11. Install your monofin and seal the fluke. To do this, put the monofin inside of the tail via the opening in the bottom of the fluke. Situate it correctly, then seal the bottom of the inside of the fluke with glue. You can use gorilla glue, E600, or other types of industrial waterproof glue. If you wish you can also glue the monofin into the tail by gluing it to the neoprene of the fluke. This is favored by some and discouraged by others. Some stress that this is the only way to keep the fluke from bubbling up with air or water while swimming. Others say that leaving a few small vent holes in the bottom of the fluke better solves this issue without making the monofin obvious, as gluing it in tends to do. Finish up by covering the bottom seam in latex (using the unpainted bottom edge to get a good latex on latex bond) letting it dry, then painting it to finish up the paint job.

    If you want to add additional fins, do so before sewing the tail halves together. They can be added afterward, but it is easier to do it beforehand. If you wish to create fins out of neoprene and latex, do so with the same process as texturing the fluke. Be sure to either have two pieces both textured on one side, or one piece textured on both sides. Leave a 1in piece on the side that will be attached to the tail latex free. Cut a slit in the body of the tail where you want the fin to be, as big as the fin side to be attached. On the inside of the fabric, pin the fin material and the body of the tail's material all together. Then fold the material so that all of said material is one straight line “stack” of material, then sew the material together. Once all desired fins are attached, proceed with sewing the tail together.

    Note: Latex can not be frozen, or it will be useless. In winter it is unwise to order latex via shipping across cold climates. Sellers suggest one day air shipping, but this may not be fast enough, and sellers take no responsibility for latex made useless by cold temperatures. Similarly, do not work with or store uncured latex in near or below freezing temperatures, or your project may be ruined.

    Wingéd Mermaid Iona

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Mar 2012
    Winged, can this tutorial also be done with silicone, or is there an other tutorial, better suited for a silicone tail?

  3. #3
    This was made specifically for slip casting latex to include some tips on working with the material, but a lot of the same principles apply to silicone. Silicone is a different material so it will have some different quirks, but the technique is the same

    Wingéd Mermaid Iona

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  4. #4
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    way to go Iona!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Pod of Cali Prince Calypso's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Bakersfield California. USA
    Really helpful. I really would love to try my hand at making my own tail...someday lol. Too afraid i might screw it up at the moment
    Little Sailor, Little fool, your better heed the golden rule
    do unto other just as you, would like to to have them do to you
    you think you can just walk away,but no, it doesn't work that way
    see once your mine, your'll always be
    I never give anything for free...

  6. #6
    THANK YOU ! THANK YOU !! This is exactly what I needed.....I don't want to make a mold...I want to try out the 'old' way of just layering on the latex onto the neoprene and using a fish next or grating to make the scale texture...and I was trying to remember all the tips about using slip cast for this technique and getting overwhelmed with the different steps and tips in different places. You put this all on one thread, now I feel confident I can maybe do this <3

  7. #7
    Okay, so I'm thinking the reason no one has tried the layering technique with slip cast latex and thickener (unless someone has....please come forward !
    is because its nearly impossible to find this 'latex thickener' ! :/
    I used the link but unfort. it said they don't ship to the US, then I googled 'latex thickener' and only
    a few links came up most of which are in Australia or the UK, but I did find "Make up Forever" has it on their website so I called their US office which is in
    NY and ordered their last 200ml bottle of thickener for a whopping price of $44 plus $30 1 day shipping !
    Sadly that is less than 1 cup and it says mix 1/4 parts thickener to 1 part latex which I'm worried wont be enough to finish my tail but we'll see

    Has anyone actually purchased latex thickener and used the above described technique with it and slip cast latex? and if so where did you get the thickener from ??

    Okay, also I wonder if anyone has heard of or tried this stuff: "Kreemtex Latex"
    It says you can brush it on and it dries flexible like regular latex...a gallon is nearly $100...(I did not order it)

    I also ordered:

    1 -49 x 89 inch sheet of 2mm neoprene, nylon coated on both sides from Macro,
    Macro and the other 2 neoprene companies listed were all out of the 1.5 mm neoprene
    and Macro had the best prices, I paid $38 for one sheet + $17 shipping and its supposed to get here monday

    From Monster Makers:
    1 gallon + 1 quart of RD407 Mask Making/slip cast latex (is this enough ? I have no idea...we'll see, I want to keep it light, just enough to get a raised scale-like texture, not too bulky)
    airbrush kit
    6 pack of latex colorants so I can dye the latex before applying
    flex gloss-for sealing/finishing and some other projects
    and that with 2nd day shipping came to $207

    From Amazon:
    Finis Rapid Monofin-$70 + $20 shipping (got it today

    I paid a lot for expedited shipping for everything and its all supposed to be here monday which gives me
    exactly 7 days to complete my tail before my trip to Cancun Dec. 17th :/ if it all comes on time, which sucks that nowadays
    even when you pay extra for shipping for a certain date sometimes (often as I've encountered) they still don't come in time

    My main concern is the 200ml of thickener is not going to be enough but that was the last bottle I could get in the US apparently...
    if anyone knows where else I can get latex thickener and get it to Austin, Texas PLEASE let me know

    and if anyone has actually done this technique and it worked (no mold) let me know too !


  8. #8
    I got all my materials and have started on my tail...actually I only have 2 more coats then I can sew it together (ugh not looking forward to the sewing machine sucks and had a lot of trouble even with all the tips like lubing the needle, using a stretch needle and placing tissue paper on either side of the neoprene)

    I also found some "mold builder" latex at my local Hobby Lobby that is working much better than thickening the liquid latex with the uber expensive thickener.
    Too bad Hobby Lobby only had 1 small container of the mold builder. Now I'm working with the latex I got from Monster Makers and for doing layering its actually not that hard even without the pesky thickener (which is a pain to use, takes forever to mix it in...gets very clumpy at first) I've found that by mixing in the latex pigments and/or acrylic paint and stirring the latex alot...and as it sits out in the air during this mixing it starts to thicken a bit on it own, enough to spread in thin layers. For the scales I will need it substantially thicker though...that's my next step so I'll prob. use the whole bottle of thickener for that as I ran out of the mold builder.
    Had I known ahead of time, I would reccomend ordering the latex "mold builder'' (its on amazon and Hobby Lobby's website) Its thickened already and works much better than thickening the liquid latex with the expensive thickener.....

    I'll post pics soon !

  9. #9
    I finished my first latex/neoprene tail !! And just took it to Mexico
    I have a full album on my facebook page with basically a tutorial as well showing how I made it with tips, etc. Feel free to add any insight to my troubles as well

  10. #10

  11. #11
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Jul 2011
    you can post photos by right clicking on your photo on FB, click "copy link location" then paste it into the space on here that comes up after you select the image icon and URL or you can post the link location on here and put [i m g] [/i m g] without the spaces on each end.

    for example. one of your photos

  12. #12

  13. #13
    Thanks Raina ! You ROCK !!
    and Ayla, thanks
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  14. #14

  15. #15
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Jul 2011

  16. #16
    Once the latex is cured is it still susceptible to the cold? And for goodness sake, what IS the best kind of latex for a neoprene tail?!? How much is usually needed to make a full, thick tail, of thickener and slip casting latex? Sorry for all the questions, but I'm clueless

  17. #17
    Just bumping this thread to let you guys know that Mermaid Citrine now sells her latex tails! They're real slip-casting latex and neoprene, and made custom, with paint that won't come off! You can order from here here:

    Some other tails she's made-

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    Custom latex fluke for a hybrid tail that will have a sequin body

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    Wingéd Mermaid Iona

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  18. #18
    Senior Member Euro Pod Samantha Siren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    London, England
    This is awesome thank you! I am redoing my Fish Butts and this will prove very helpful! You are a star missy! :-)

  19. #19
    Sorry if someone has already asked these questions...

    1. Can I do the sewing first then add the latex?
    2. I know I need to do some serious saving...but how much should be saved?
    3. Some tails have what looks like latex or silicone at the bottom of the fluke that makes it all 'swoosh' (lol I can't think of a word to describe what I'm talking about and I don't know the mer-terminology for it...hopefully you understand) how can that be made to work with a tail designed this way?

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Mer_Jess_Sea View Post
    Sorry if someone has already asked these questions...

    1. Can I do the sewing first then add the latex?
    2. I know I need to do some serious saving...but how much should be saved?
    3. Some tails have what looks like latex or silicone at the bottom of the fluke that makes it all 'swoosh' (lol I can't think of a word to describe what I'm talking about and I don't know the mer-terminology for it...hopefully you understand) how can that be made to work with a tail designed this way?
    Heeey! I made a tail recently. Not so good, I made a lot of errors. I want to share them!
    Latex-neoprene tails can look super good, and (for me at least) weren't as hard to swim in as everyone says.
    1) NOOOO I DID THIS you will regret it. I thought it would be easier to fit it to me exactly with just the neoprene first, but it ended up not stretching as much with the latex on it, so it doesn't fit over my butt now. Awesome. To cut the fabric, I recommend drawing a pattern on paper, then doing it on cheap, nonstretchy fabric, and fitting it with that, then making another pattern to cut the neoprene. The stretch is only necessary for movement! I had 2mm neoprene, but next time, I'll def be using 1.5mm. Also, when you sew first, when you put the latex on, it's actually impossible to get it on the seams, so there's like a 2 inch awkward gap on the sides of my tail, where the scales are faint/nonexistent.
    2) It cost me about $300 dollars, all said and done. That includes not only basic tail materials, but also my rhinestones and glitter and shells and stuff. I only used less than 1.25 gallons of latex? I have about .25 gallons left over, but I should have put more latex on the fluke.
    3) I don't think it would work, sadly. You can have long skinny pieces when you design your fluke, or sew some vinyl in or something?

    I messed up so bad and kind of wasted a lot of money. Which is okay, because I'm redoing the flat boring paint job I did before, and seeing if I can sell it to someone localish, or give it to my brother or a smaller friend. But it was a good learning experience, so I plan on making a new, nicer one soon, too. I hope you can learn from my errors! I'd be happy to answer any questions as well. Rooting for you! Name:  tumblr_inline_n18qrbDQJn1qid2nw.gif
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    mermaid akiko


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