• Materials and Supplies

    Here is a list of materials and supplies used when making tails and accessories, and where to get them.
    To learn how to make a tail, check our List of Tailmaking Tutorials and Tailmaking Reference Index.

    There's also tailmaking info in our Frequently Asked Questions section.


    Fabrics such as lycra and spandex can be used to make tails, and are cheaper and easier to work with than making a tail out of neoprene or casting with silicone. This makes fabric tails a good option for beginners and people who want an inexpensive tail. Spandex is the same type of material that swimsuits are made from. It is very stretchy, light in the water, and dries fast. You can find spandex at fabric stores (like JoAnn Fabrics) in the swim/dance fabric section. (Be aware that if you sign up for JoAnn's mailing list in store or online, or download their mobile application, they send out coupons on a regular basis.) Also you can order it online from sites such as spandexworld.com. It is also known as elastane, and brand names include Lycra, Elaspan, Creora, ROICA, Dorlastan, Linel, and ESPA. It comes in all kinds of colors, designs, and patterns- including holographic material for extra shine and shimmer.

    When buying spandex be sure to check fabric for opaqueness, stretchyness, feel (make sure it's more nylon like and less cotton like), ect to make sure it will be tail suitable.

    4-way stretch fabrics are recommended over 2 way stretch. If only 2 way stretch is available, make sure that the stretch is horizontal, not vertical. Otherwise when you cut out and sew your tail, it will have no stretch width wise for you to put it on. If you aren't sure about the stretch of the fabric, such as when ordering online you can always email the seller and ask what grain the stretch is on.


    Neoprene is a synthetic rubber product that comes in sheets and can be sewn. It is used in wetsuits due to its durability and its thermal insulation. There is a huge diversity in types of neoprene you can buy, and some of them may be unsuitable for tailmaking.

    Here are some factors to consider when buying neoprene:
    -Thickness- neoprene comes in various thicknesses. Thicker sheets require a more powerful sewing machine to penetrate. Generally a good quality sewing machine should be able to sew 2 mm neoprene, but anything higher would require a industrial sewing machine. The most popular size for tails is 1.5mm of thickness. You will also need a a larger and stronger needle (universal 16 to 18) and a non petroleum based lubricant to allow penetration of the material, avoid melting from friction, and avoid bending/breaking of needle or motor stalling.
    Coating- When you see neoprene, such as in a wetsuit or laptop case, you're actually seeing neoprene with a coating. The surface of the neoprene is usually covered in some sort of nylon or lycra material. Remember that uncoated neoprene has too much friction to pull over skin, and it bonds very poorly with pretty much anything- acrylic, silicone, spraypaint, ect. For this reason, be sure to buy neoprene that is nylon laminated on both sides.
    -Color- Neoprene comes in many colors. Make your selection with tail color in mind, even if you plan to paint it or cover it with acrylic, latex, or silicone. Also, be aware that black neoprene is difficult to draw visible lines on with a marker, making it harder to indicate where to cut and sew. You'll need tailor's chalk if you want to mark it up.

    For more information on sewing neoprene, please see this thread.

    The most popular places to buy neoprene are Macro International (pricing varies), Foam Order ($75.60 per 51" x 83" sheet), and Seattle Fabrics ($4.50 per square foot). Materials associated with sewing neoprene include a powerful sewing machine, an upholstery needle, strong thread, and a lubricant that doesn't react with petroleum products. For neoprene repairs and other neoprene adhesive needs, the best adhesive to use is a product called Seal Cement. The Seal Cement is a contact adhesive, so you lay down a coat on both pieces, let dry, lay another coat, let dry, and then bring the two pieces together. The bond will gain full strength in 24 hours. Most local dive shops will stock it or can order it for you.

    Reputable Sellers for neoprene
    Macro International (pricing varies)
    Foam Order ($75.60 per 51" x 83" sheet)
    Seattle Fabrics ($4.50 per square foot)
    Rockywoods Outdoor Fabrics ($12 per foot - 50'' in wide by the linear foot; or $50-$72 per full sheet)

    Keep in mind that neoprene is damaged by heat- this means no submerging neoprene in warm or hot water (NO HOT TUBS), leaving it out in the sun to dry, storing it in a hot car or storage shed, ect.
    Also putting constant stress on neoprene will also damage it- for example if you hang it on a hanger the neoprene will constantly be stressed. The best thing to do is to store neoprene flat! For more information on care, please see the Tail Care and Maintenance Offical Thread.

    Warning: The neoprene distributor Stretch House Inc. has recently been accused of credit card fraud. For the time being MerNetwork recommends avoiding this company.


    Neoprin is a "spacer" material that has a similar look to neoprene and is a cheap alternative- however neoprin and neoprene are two very different materials. While neoprene is essentially black rubber backed by a layer of fabric on each side, neoprin's core is made up of many many tiny fibers that hold the two sides together.

    This fragile "core" of the fabric allows it to stretch great amounts. However it lacks elasticity. Once stretched it does not return to it's original shape well, and instead it distorts easily. Many find that tails made from neoprin stretch too much for it to fit them properly, especially in the water- even after only one use. It will continue to stretch as it is worn, and a tail made from this material may require multiple size adjustments (taking it in). Also the fabric is very impressionable, making for permanent wrinkles, creases, and impressions from wear and other regular use (such as storing the tail).

    Another downside to this material, is that becuase the water penetrates the core it can take much longer to dry. This is especially a problem when combined with tin cure latex, as the latex is damaged by the water.

    Neoprin is a cheaper alternative, but it is also a much lower quality option. It is HIGHLY recommended that you not use or buy a tail made of neoprin. Invest a little more money and instead get neoprene- it is well worth it and will save you trouble down the road, as well as making for a much longer tail life.

    You can find a thread with photos and a video on neoprin and neoprene here.

    Finis Monofins

    It's rare to see monofins stocked in stores, and most people buy them online. For tailmaking applications, Finis brand monofins have proven to be most popular. While the Tempo, one of the most popular monofins used in tailmaking has been discontinued, the Wave and the Rapid are still available. These models are less expensive than most of Finis's other models. They are made out of thermoplastic, and can be cut into different shapes. While sizing for the Wave is men's US shoe size 1-7 or women's 2-8, and men's US shoe size 8-12 or women's 9-13 for the Rapid, most people prefer the Rapid for blade size and stiffness regardless of size.

    Finis gives a 20% discount when you enter "mermaid20" in the discount code box at check out!

    For more information on monofins, check out Monofins, the Offical Thread.


    Fiberglass can be used to make monofins. These fins can be more rigid and thus more powerful than more flexible monofins. Professional freedivers and competitors use fiberglass monofins, but price range for such monofins are typically $250-350+. The most popular fiberglass monofin is the Finis Competitor Monofin. Although expensive, it has incredible positive reviews from owners. It is recommended that swimmers who swim in the ocean or places with strong currents use a fiberglass monofin for extra propulsion.

    Lexan Plastic

    Lexan plastic is a brand name clear polycarbonate plastic sheet. Its strong and flexible, and its clear, meaning that it can be used to make clear or translucent fins. It can be bought in different thicknesses. Duraplex is a similar product by the same company which is cheaper and not as strong. It is suitable for making a monofin as well. Despite the strength of these plastics, the stresses encountered while swimming are very high. Thicker pieces of lexan, or multiple thin layers glued together may be necessary to achieve adequate strength.


    NEVER use acrylic sheets to make a monofin! They shatter under stress into razor sharp pieces and will cause severe injury! Plexiglas is a type of acrylic.

    Latex & Silicone

    Latex or silicone for tail making or coating can achieve a realistic look. There are all kinds- most of which are expensive. Slip casting latex and Platinum Silicone (also known as Dragon Skin) are the skin safe approved types of these materials. People have been known to use somewhat inexpensive materials as substitutes- mainly caulking (main brand known as ALEX Plus, which is a tin-cure latex concoction). However tails made from these materials have proved over time to be unstable for aquatic use, leading to cracking, tears, and general degeneration of the material until it no longer holds together. To top this it is not skin safe and can actually be toxic to the wearer and the aquatic environment (and people/creatures/plans within). Working with any latex or silicone materials means needing proper safety gear, as fumes that come off these materials can be hazardous to your health. Unprotected exposure to these materials also may cause one to develop allergies to them, from mild to severe.

    There are different advantages and disadvantages to both. Silicone is more realistic, more stretchy, and lasts longer but is much more expensive and can be extremely heavy (can weigh 30-60lbs depending on thickness of material) making it difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible to move out of water depending on tail weight. Latex is lighter and less expensive, but is less stretchy (can be good depending), and less durable/long lasting than silicone. Keep in mind that latex degradation is sped up by certian factors, such as UV rays, which are harmful to latex.

    Slip casting latex and Platinum silicone are watery and most times require mold making to achieve more realistic patterns, although there are other methods. Note: While mold making is the best way to go about doing this, making a mold for a tail is a large, difficult, time consuming ordeal even for professionals. There is a lot of information on this site and on the net on casting and molding, but you ABSOLUTELY MUST read through all the information if you want to do it properly.

    The best way to go about using molds to make a mermaid tail is to make multiple molds for different pieces and then once the pieces are cast, piece them together into a whole unit.

    A mold to make sheets of scales is used- each scale must be the same as the others. The reason for this is that once the sheet of scales is made from it's chosen material (latex or silicone) it is formed into the shape needed to make the upper body of the tail. The scales should fit together like puzzle pieces for a less obvious seam. Then the scales are sealed together with additional material (latex or silicone).

    Things such as flukes and additional fins are cast from molds twice (for front and back) and adhered together with additional material (with monofin inside), and then adhered to other parts in the same fashion (such as attaching body of scales to fluke). Most commercial tail makers who use molds construct their tails in this fashion. (Including the Mertailor, Mike Van Daal, Merbellas, ect.). Using one big sheet of scales will mean only one seam, while two will obviously mean two seams.

    You may not have to sculpt everything from clay for a mold. Think outside the box! Use other things for negatives for a mold. People have used pumpkin or other kinds of seeds for scales, foam sheets punched out in a specific shape, among other things. Mike Van Daal's flukes' molds were made from over 200 1/4'' vinyl tubes, cut and super glued together.

    Using latex and silicone on neoprene

    Slip casting latex can be applied on top of neoprene to create a realistic effect. Casting latex is by nature thin and watery for easier work with molds. However it can be thickened with latex thickener (often sold where slip casting latex is sold) to a consistency that will make it workable sans molds. It can also be bought pre thickened, but buying latex thickener is recommended over pre thickened, as you may needed a thicker consistency than pre-thickend is sold as. Beware of people who sell watered down latex- buy from reputable sellers!

    Once thickened, latex can be layered on top of neoprene and textured with various materials such as craft netting or steel mesh for a scale effect. This method has been used by several commercial tail makers and many DIY tail makers. This is the technique used in the original "How to make a latex mermaid tail" (now removed per creator's request), Using ALEX On Tails, and the ALEX Tail Tutorial (which is a picture tutorial made using the previous two tutorial threads). These links are used for technique purposes only- DO NOT USE ALEX PLUS. See important information on the use of ALEX here.

    An unfortunate fact of silicone (platinum cure) is that is does not bond with latex, spandex, or neoprene. These materials may actually keep the silicone from curing when in contact with them. It has been suggested that using a special glue ("Sil-Poxy" may be an option) that you can adhere already cured silicone to these materials.
    However silicone DOES bond to itself. Therefore it IS possible to make a tail by pouring silicone directly onto the fabric and underneath the edge so the silicone will bond to itself. This tail is a neoprene and platinum silicone hybrid made using this method.

    Take care when trying out any untested methods, and do swatch tests first!

    Reputable Sellers for materials

    Slip Casting Latex: Burn Man Industries and Douglas and Sturgess
    Platinum Silicone: Smooth-On

    Note that 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.

    Sewing Machines

    Buy a decent one if you're going to work with neoprene. If you're seriously on a budget and don't own a sewing machine, check the store's return policy. Both Walmart and Target had a similar return policy that allows items to be returned within 90 days (no questions asked, even if they've been used) provided you still have the receipt. There are also in store and online sales at craft stores such as JoAnns where you can get a sewing machine for under $100. The best known brands for quality machines are Singer and Brother. Be sure to pick a sewing machine with at least one stretch stitch, such as a zig-zag or overlock stitch.


    When sewing neoprene, lubricant can applied to the neoprene to enable the needle to pass smoothly through it. Be careful to buy neoprene compatible lubricants. Do NOT use petroleum based lubricants! This will greatly damage and weaken the material, possibly beyond repair! It has been recommended that if possible to use dive grade silicone lubricant. However, do NOT use silicone based lubricants if you are sewing anything with silicone- silicone on silicone will damage and very probably melt your silicone material. It's been said personal lubricants, such as Astroglide, are inexpensive and sold in most grocery stores and pharmacies, and work well for this purpose.


    Fittingly, netting used in commercial fishing and recycled fishing net for crafting is useful for costuming as well. It can be use to create a scale pattern in latex and silicone, and to make articles of clothing, such as tops. This netting is sold in some craft stores such as Micheals. Because shells are often considered a craft item as well, you can often find the two items in the same section of a store.

    Steel mesh

    Sheets of steel with diamond holes punched out can be used as an imprint for making scales. It can be found at most hardware stores.


    Buy them at a craft store or department store. Drill holes with a drill press or power drill. When doing so take correct safety precautions and wear safety goggles and a proper mouth cover/mask as dust from some shells are toxic.
    Comments 33 Comments
    1. meremily's Avatar
      meremily -
      hii want to know what glue should i use to glue silicone to neoprene. thanks. not the alex stuff .meremily
    1. gypsymer's Avatar
      gypsymer -
      This list is great so far! I look forward to additions and such, as well as using some of the information to make future tails!
    1. Mermaid Star's Avatar
      Mermaid Star -
      I hear silpoxy works great
    1. iHomesick's Avatar
      iHomesick -
      Okay please dont think im dumb but can you use silicone on any fabric? or does it have to be neoprene?
    1. koiboi's Avatar
      koiboi -
      how well does the alex latex hold up if you spray on the silicone sealant before swimming in the ocean?,
    1. gypsymer's Avatar
      gypsymer -
      If you have tailor's chalk it's easy to draw on black neoprene. You might want to add that instead of saying that black neoprene is difficult to mark lines on.
    1. mermaidanabella's Avatar
      mermaidanabella -
      What mold should i get to make a tail
    1. Rett's Avatar
      Rett -
      does anyone know what is the best paint to use on neoprin? the tail will be used by a child (age six) and will be used as a Christmas gift. Can someone tell me if Lumiere paints work,or what paint to use? thanx
    1. Ashe's Avatar
      Ashe -
      Thank you admins soo much for this!! Just found out about this haha, great help
    1. AnnaAbyss's Avatar
      AnnaAbyss -
      Can someone tell me where you can buy blue/green scale sequins from (like the type that Mermaid Kariel uses on her tails)? I looked on Ebay but I couldn't find any except black ones. I searching many times but I'm not exactly sure what they're called.
    1. Morticia Mermaid's Avatar
      Morticia Mermaid -
      So awesome! I just noticed that my thread showing the differences between neoprene and neoprin was added. I feel special now! Means people thought I did well enough that people found it really helpful! I feel like an actual helpful contributor.
    1. Alice Kornicki's Avatar
      Alice Kornicki -
      Hi, can someone help me - looking for information about different pigments you can use with silicone. I've seen lots of lovely tails with gold and metallic sheens to them, but can't find metallic silicone pigments anywhere!
    1. LittlePolly's Avatar
      LittlePolly -
      Heey I want to make a tail with Neopreme and Latex. The Neopreme fabric I'm going to buy in Holland in a local fabric store because it's cheaper and I don't have shipping costs. I saw that this was a good brand for latex: Slip casting Latex from burn man industries. does anyone have experience with that? And how much do I need ( It's 1 Meter (39,37 Inch) from my toes to my bellybutton and with monofin etc. it wil be +/- 60 cm (+/-23,62 Inch) so a total of 1,60 Meter (63 Inch). So I hope that someone can help me with the latex.
    1. ~MermaidKatie~'s Avatar
      ~MermaidKatie~ -
      I want to go for a more realistic tail look, wishing I could use silicone but it's very expensive Im going to use the next best thing which is latex, now I wondering can you use any liquid latex or does it have to be skin safe?
    1. Mermaid14's Avatar
      Mermaid14 -
      Can i use Latex on SpaNDEX?
    1. shadeofmyheart's Avatar
      shadeofmyheart -
      I know this i an old thread, but Id really like to know this, too. Why not put latex right on spandex if you are short neoprene?

      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk - now Free
    1. Vela's Avatar
      Vela -
      Very helpful Thank you!
    1. Mermaid Tahia's Avatar
      Mermaid Tahia -
      Quick Question: Does/Can the Latex that you get from Monstermakers.com stick to neoprene?
    1. Mermaid Tahia's Avatar
      Mermaid Tahia -
      For a Monster Makers Latex RD 407, what's better for painting?
      a) Createx airbrush paint covered with Perma-Wet and dried with heat gun
      b.) using pigments.

      If pigments is better, how much pigment should be used for 1 gallon of latex? like ratio wise? _[amount of pigment] : 1 gallon of latex
    1. Slee's Avatar
      Slee -
      Please bear with me for a moment while I Ask a potentially stupid question, but why are synthetic knits preferred over those with a high cotton content for swimable tails? Is it a color loss or distortion issue?