Last week we got a chance to finally play with Worbla’s TranspArt, the new product that’s been called ‘clear Worbla’ when it was announced. After a full day of work and testing a bunch of theories, we found ourselves surprisingly enlightened.
What we learned:
Differences between TranspArt and Finest Art: First off, Worbla’s TranspArt is not simply a clear version of Worbla’s Finest Art – they’re different plastics, and heat and shape and sculpt and react differently. Transpart has a higher working temp and a shorter working time, and works best when heated more gradually. This means it takes longer to get it to a malleable point, and it cools back to unworkable (but stil flexible) faster than Worbla’s Finest. Transpart will pick up fingerprints, the texture from work gloves (recommended when doing extensive shaping) and while it does not become brittle or crack, it does stretch to a thin, almost brittle quality. Transpart is not completely clear, though it is transparent – it has a wavy appearance though the plastic is leveled flat, and marks from the injection moulding can be seen on the surface. While this becomes less noticeable as the plastic is heated and shaped, it’s difficult to remove completely and therefore is not the best material for visibility items such as simple curve visors and eyeglasses. If you have the opportunity to work with standard acrylic, PETG plastics or vacuform materials, you may find those better suited for vision-centric props. Transpart is much more flexible than Finest Art – it lacks some of the rigidity inch for inch that Finest Art has, but as a trade off it is incredibly resilient. At the moment we still haven’t been able to break or tear a piece of TranspArt, even after it had been stretched and cooled to the ‘brittle’ consistency point. When bent in sharp half or even turned inside out from a shaped form, it does not stress fracture – there’s no stress lines and extreme crumpling gives only the slightest denting when returning to the original shape – though paint will flake off.
Complex sphere painted with windshield tint, crumpled.
Sphere returned to shape with no damage. (Paint has flaked, and was scratched off to easier show the lack of stress lines)
Attaching pieces and layers: TranspArt sticks to itself when heated in a similar way to Finest Art, but we quickly discovered that while it ‘sticks’ it doesn’t ‘glue’ in the same way – it’s very difficult to form a solid bond between TranspArt pieces just with heat, and we can see why the Worbla manufacturers suggest solvent-free glues instead. You can use a soldering iron or heat knife to melt joins of TranspArt together, and for layering pieces to keep clarity, crazy glue is best. We’ve also found hot glue worked decently well, though it generally became cloudy, and rubber cement does also work though it is plainly visible within the join. Likewise, joining TranspArt to Finest art is tricky – when hot, they’re easy to stick together, but we found that it was just as easy to snap pieces apart once cooled. Because of this, we suggest again melting the pieces together with a soldiering iron or hot knife, using hot glue, or rubber cement, all depending on what you need the final look to be. Always test your joins once cool/glued, to make sure they’ll hold before progressing on!
Making things Shine: One of the most exciting things we really discovered from TranspArt is how glossy it is. You can paint the underside of your piece once it’s been formed (if you’re doing an extreme curve) or even before it’s been shaped if you’re doing a more simple shape. This leaves you with a perfectly smooth surface with a high gloss, almost chromed effect – and leaves you with a surface that is impossible to chip, meaning no touch-ups are required! For example, I made this simple bracer in under an hour, without needing to sand or prime anything.
And this quick test of a breastcup for armor is very promising.
Because TranspArt is less rigid than Finest Art, for the above bracer I used the sandwich method – instead of Finest Art, craft foam, Finest Art, I used finest art for the bottom, craft foam, and TranspArt on top. That gave me the stability and rigidity I needed, While gluing TranspArt and Finest Art together can be tricky, the bracer wasn’t likely to be in a position for the edges to pry away from one another much, so I mostly just mushed them together while hot. The parts that didn’t stick enough once cool, I joined with hot glue. If you’re using heavier foam, such as the EVA foam that’s used for floor matting, you’ll find you don’t need the layer of Finest Art for strength, it’s often rigid enough with TranspArt alone.
For the breastcup, I shaped Finest Art and TranspArt over a styrofoam half sphere and drew out the design I wanted. I painted the inside of the Transpart black, and joined the pieces together with hot glue. For this sort of work I do suggest making sure at least one area has a ‘lip’ of Finest Art that wraps around to the TranspArt to help keep things together. (Pictured above)
In a similar idea, you can also layer stencil cutouts of foil or other materials underneath your TranspArt. Making a Captain America Shield? You could cut your star out first without ever having to worry about perfect paint lines.
Transpart layered over craftfoam with cardstock foil shapes. Thinner foil would give a more seamless approach.
Dye and colour: TranspArt can be dyed, and it’s a great way to get a solid, translucent colour. We got the best results with iDyePoly, getting a deep rich blue fairly easily – but we also found that cheap brands like tintex (which is meant for cotton and other natural fibers) does give a very slight tint, which may be useful if you’re looking for slight changes. Of course, you should always test before dying your piece – and for complex shapes, we do suggest dying after you’ve shaped them to keep the colour even. We mixed the dye in a container large enough submerge our piece, using boiling water from a kettle – though we did not keep it continuously hot. The heat from the dye bath didn’t affect or warp our shaped pieces at all.
We also found that Transpart can be shaped into easy ice gems and lit with LEDs. We dyed some with resin dye, others with nail polish or iDyePoly, to get different effects. Scraps that were recycled and reblended became cloudy, which was great for diffuse light. And for shapes like swords – we used sandpaper to frost the inside to help the light diffuse.
Shaping/Working with TranspArt: Shaping TranspArt took a bit of getting used to, because there’s no real way to ‘see’ if it’s hot enough. For some things, we just laid our TranspArt sheet over the form we needed and heated and pulled as we went, but that could be slow – especially with one set of hands, heating and setting down the heat gun to test the sheet, then picking it up again to reheat as you weren’t at the right temp was frustrating. We quickly found an Infared Thermometer was very useful. It let us know when our TranspArt hit the right temperature and also kept us from overheating it. Once our TranspArt was warm enough, for sphere shapes we just pulled the sheet over our form (with a mould release to keep it from sticking) and removed it when cool. For more complex shapes we pressed in our details using wet fingers as well as a damp sponge, working from one area at a time. Using wet tools and smooth work gloves is very important – rough textured gloves will leave a small but noticeable, almost cloudy texture on your finished piece. We did manage to get rid of small marks from gloves and even fingerprints by heating the areas again carefully, but your mileage may vary. For most things, TranspArt will do best when shaped over a form, as it’s a bit too floppy when heated to hand shape with ease.
Cutting tools: Lastly, we found that TranspArt can be more difficult to cut – probably because of the flexibility and resilience, it’s just harder on scissors and hands, and using a cutting blade was even more difficult. We suggest heating pieces that give you trouble slightly before cutting them, and investing in heavy duty scissors or tin snips or aviation shears if you’re layering and cutting TranspArt and or Finest Art together. You can absolutely use a hot knife to cut through TranspArt, but a respirator is heavily suggested if you intend on doing so extensively, as the fumes of burning Worbla is not meant to be inhaled.
Other neat things: TranspArt, once stretched somewhat, will work over a touch screen like a phone. And while the Worbla Thermoplastic guys have warned about overheating creating bubbles, what we found most of all was that overheating TranspArt gave us goop – we’d melt it and would have to wait for it to cool before it would harden, as it was much closer to friendly plastic or hot glue at that point. We still haven’t been able to tear TranspArt at all, and we’re excited to see what else we can do with it next!
Have any questions about Transpart? You can always comment here, or email me at Amanda@worbla.com!