Hey guys! About a month ago I took my first dive into actually mermaiding (instead of just following a bunch of mermaid things) when one of my friends I used to cosplay with asked me to come with her. I fell in love a lot but I'm Canadian and damn.... exchange rate, shipping, and customs sure add up and I uh.. really want a tail x.x

Since I'm a graphic designer and my friend makes her own cosplay, we decided to work together to attempt our own fabric tails. We're part way through designing now, so I thought it was a good time to start documenting this process in case it helps someone else out down the line. (And so that if this goes very wrong I can figure out where it went wrong easier.) And sorry in advance for how scattered this is.

Disclaimer: We have not done this before, I've worked with sublimation printing designs on shirts and mouse pads but nothing like this. Since I’m writing this out as we go, you probably will want to wait to make sure our tails like… turn out before following them as actual instructions… Because uh… yeahh… But anyways.

Estimated Materials list:

- 11 yards of 1.5mm neoprene (~ 3x tale + enough to make a test tail)$120
- A wide scale Sublimation Printer roughly $150-$250/tail
-Misc sewing supplies (thread, zippers, pins) $40
-Fabric paint for detail work $40
-Vinyl plastic sheets for tail casing $40

So we're hoping the grand total comes out to around $370 each.

Research/Design phase

First we did a lot of research, on fabrics and printing. This part was difficult because you can do a lot of research, but you can't really get any answers without other answers. In the end we had to just go ahead and choose which part we wanted to actually set in stone. But do your research first! You'll need to find a printer to figure out fabric and colours and confirm fabric before you can confirm the printer and just… yeahhh


I’ll post photos when I finish both of them, but we basically started looking at fish a lot. I wanted something that was very colourful with pinks and purples whereas my friend wanted something red with a sort of sunsety/ elegant looking vibe. I actually downloaded a fish breeding app in order to come up with ideas for designs.

My tail is going to be sort of based on a rainbow mandrain fish, but the base colour is purple a light purple that fades into a pink fluke with a green and blue band at the bottom to match my luna monofin (shout out to my AMAZING friend for giving me her practically new luna so we could make these sooner) I’m going to tryyy to make a fluke that looks similar to a mandrain fish, who knows how that’ll turn out though…

Friend’s tail is going to sort of look like it’s wearing a cape, and underneath the cape it’ll have a sunset gradient with a koi pattern overlaid, and have stars around the edges of the “cape” (I promise it looks better so far than it sounds) she’s using a mahina monofin for hers.

I do hyper-realistic digital paintings, so we’re going to try to get a semi realistic look with these tails. My files are about 40x70 inches and 300dpi so uh… photoshop is dying already… there’s a chance they won’t be as realistic as I want.

We knew we were doing sublimation printing, but since you can only use certain materials with it (polyester/polymer fabrics) a lot of printers don't let you send in your own fabric. Not only that but uh, it sure is hard to find someone that can sublimation print as wide as a mermaid tail requires (tip: ask your area’s subreddit if you can't find one easily on google)

Unless you live in a city, most of the places around you are only going to sublimation print small items. I emailed 5 printers and they all but one had a maximum print width over 15" If their website says sublimation printing but only shows examples of mousepads and tote bags, save yourself an email, they probably can't do it.

Our last local lead pulled through though, which I'm super grateful for (unrelated but their website looked like it had been dead for multiple years) If you're an artist and thats what's stopping you from printing your own tail, email them!! You'll need to find a printer before you start designing, get a swatch test so you can see how the colours would look on your fabric. (Your printer may also determine if you're buying fabric and all that jazz)


If we were painting these we may have gone with lycra, but we ultimately decided that we wanted 1.5mm neoprene. The printer is going to be expensive either way, and we didn't want to risk pilling after the first swim. My friend has sewed with leather before and we were told by my bf’s mom that it’s not much different than sewing with leather? I don’t know though, we haven’t started the sewing part yet xD

1.5 mm is apparently the max thickness that most non industrial machines can handle, it’s also the thinnest neoprene I could find. Our printer also needs us to provide white fabric (which tbh I’m glad about, I’ve sublimation printed on black mouse pads but the colours look very bad)

Unfortunately, but not surprising/uncommon for printers, I tried asking a few questions and because I haven’t paid the down payment yet we haven’t heard back (but also the email asked about the estimated cost… so…) We ended up biting the bullet and ordering the fabric the other day because based on research it SHOULD work, but I gave him like 2 weeks before buying it.

While we were waiting, we did the measurements which I’m not going to go into because we got Courtney Mermaid’s books and the measurements section was by far the most helpful section for me. (Disclaimer: Any parts of Courtney’s books I use information from I won’t be writing about)

And that basically leads us into the design phase, which I’ll post updates about just before I send the designs to the printer ^.^