Potential new product: Varaform

Want to win some Worbla? Then read this post and answer the questions to be entered in our draw!

Here at Cosplay Supplies we’re always looking for new products we think might be helpful for the community. Sometimes we do private testing, sometimes we just dive in and carry something – and sometimes we need your input!

Which brings us to: Varaform!

Varaform is a thermoplastic that comes in 2 main forms – a light mesh and a heavy mesh. (There’s also a thin gauze sheet we’re not looking at for now.)

Varaform Heavy and Varaform Light

Varaform is used in the medical community as an alternative to plaster bandages for casts, and it’s been used for stage costuming for years to create large, lightweight costume pieces, especially under-structures for mascots and monsters.

Varaform Installation art

(Psssst: I have it on good authority Varaform is being used on the new Dark Crystal costumes!)

It activates at 160°F (71° C) and can be activated with warm water or a heat gun. It’s self adhesive, can be reheated endlessly, and incredibly lightweight: Varaform light is about 1/2 the weight of Black Worbla, and Varaform Heavy is about 2/3 the weight of Black Worbla.

Skeksis head made from Varaform and buckram. By Lydia Hanchett

What do we think it would be good for?

Mascot builders. Seriously – imagine being able to shape a head over a clay or foam base and then remove all that insulating foam? It gives you more space to cool and circulate air and removes a lot of the weight.

Varaform head covered with paper mache

Wings: When you need to build lightweight wings, and straight foam and wire alone won’t be enough, or when every ounce of weight counts, we think this material may be a huge help.

Vickybunnyangel used Varaform for these Star Guardian Soraka wings. The wings are covered in felt and feathers to hide the Varaform understructure. The wings weigh 2lbs on their own (which includes magnets), and are attached magnetically to a backboard made from Worbla’s Mesh Art, foam, and 1″ diameter rare earth magnets.

Horns: If they have to be big and quick! Casting your own horns does give you some of the best results, but if you don’t have time for curing, you can build an under structure quickly that can be wrapped in fabric Maleficent style or quick coated with an air-dry clay.

Build a base from tape and paper, wrap in cellophane.

Cover in strips of Varaform. Let cool, remove form.

Make a skullcap by wrapping your head in plastic and then having a friend help cast your head with Varaform strips. Don’t wear makeup on project day and hide face with something silly. Attach horns with strips of Varaform.

Wrap with straps of stretch faux leather. Glue lightly at overlap. Larger pieces used to cover the skullcap.

Time: 3hours total. Weight 13oz (0.8lb).
Ability to headbang: Yes.

A post shared by Amanda (@elementalsight) on

If you need a more organic horn, you can skip the fabric step and instead cover with an apoxie clay or air dry clay. We used Smooth-On’s Free Form Air which was a learning experience. It dries quicker than we expected and is more toxic than other clay we have used, so the skullcap was not quite finished smooth.

Time: 4.5 hours, not including cure time or paint drying. Weight: 1.6lb (27oz)

(Note: Yes, the horns are lopsided. This is the result of building fast, not careful. At least the clay method did help even it out 😛 )

One thing to note about the clay method is that you want to make sure you don’t push the clay through the mesh too far or it will shrink your headpiece. This happened with these horns and while I could fix it with some dremmel sanding, Free Form Air requires a proper respirator to sand and we don’t have one on hand at the office.

The clay through the mesh of the Varaform, especially at the edges of the skullcap, shrunk it juuuust enough to no longer fit.

Wigs and Hats: Similar to the horns idea, but if you needed to make a large wig, we’re thinking Varaform could be very useful for building the base to sculpt wigs onto for the ultimate in lightweight structure that won’t just be insulating and top-heavy. Varaform might also work well in areas where buckram or foam would be used in large headpieces to avoid relying on wire to provide stability. Gallery below is some examples of things we think Varaform might work well in.

Differences between Light and Heavy:

The wings and Horns were made with mostly Varaform Light, with the Heavy being used along the spine of the wing and for some reinforcement of the skullcap of the horns. I do think we could have used Light for both without issue, but for large things such as mascot heads or complex shapes where you don’t want a lot of overlapping areas, the Heavy might be the better choice, as the light will need more overlap to achieve the same strength as Heavy.

What we’re not sure about:

While we think this has potential, that doesn’t mean it’s without some disadvantages. We can think the pros outweigh the cons, but what we really need to know if you folks do. So, some considerations:

While it’s flexible, It’s about as brittle as Worbla. if someone were to crash into you/sit on your costume, it could break.

The Varaform Heavy mesh is harder to cut: if you have difficulties cutting hard plastics, you might need a friend or a lot of breaks if you’re cutting through a lot of this.

Varaform is messy. The adhesive is a bit reminiscent of white glue and plaster of Paris combined: it leaves a white powder over your work surface and hands, and needs to be cleaned up with water. Clean up is easy, but it’s a consideration to make.

Scraps are less recyclable than Worbla: because it’s a mesh, the scraps can be used to patch areas and smooth joins, but can’t be as easily repurposed as Worbla can be.

It needs to be worked over a form. Varaform is really really floppy when activated – you aren’t going to be able to shape this easily by hand for any complex shape. It’s going to require a form, whether that’s made from packing tape and paper, foam, clay, your body, or something else.

Price: Varaform is sold to us by the roll, and is roughly 40in/100cm tall. We’re estimating price (including shipping) to be around:
Varaform Light 40inx60in = $70
Varaform Heavy 40inx60in = $90

We’ll be offering smaller cuts as well, the Varaform Light should be close to Worbla’s Finest Art in pricing with Heavy around 30% more.

So what we would like to know is your honest opinion:

You can find our questionnaire here! Fill it out and you’ll be entered to win a medium sheet of Worbla – your choice of type! Draw will be held October 2nd!

21 thoughts on “Potential new product: Varaform”

  1. Wow. This stuff looks amazing. I can think if costumes I’ve already done or that are on my to do list that woukd benefit greatly from this product! And some of them involve headpieces and wings! Please get this. 🙂

  2. Initially I was super excited. That seems like the answer to major problems with wing construction. My major concern would be the brittleness. Especially for anything that would need to travel or be in contact on a crowded con floor. (So most likely not wings 😭)

    With that concern I would not be one of the first waves to buy it. I would want to see how other cosplayers handle the brittleness / if anyone does a stress test. I would consider buying a smaller square to test out on my own if the cost isn’t too bad.

  3. I honestly would not use this much. The mesh would require a fair amount of finishing and I would not want to use something that brittle as my base of support.

  4. I am all for this product being sold, its worth the cost and mess to have the flex to build lighter. It could probably be paired with eva foam too.

  5. This product looks AMAZING. Ive used mask’s before made of this but never built my own. I would love to tho. The material is really cool and I hope to see it at your store. It held up really well in the show I used it in.

  6. This product looks awesome! I’ve been struggling with finding the right base for some translucent horns and this looks like it could do the trick.

  7. This looks amazing. I can definitely appreciate using this as a lightweight method for creating some of the larger props I’ve come up with. How many pounds could this shave off a set of decorative armor?

    I’d really like to see someone like Kamui (Svetlana Quindt sp?) work with it and give a review. Because of her reviews I bought Worbla and fell in love with it.

    The pros and cons for the new product seem about right. I love the idea of using it over a paper mache form. Can it also be used to vent helmets?

    How strong is it? Are there stress tests available? If I make a “hat” with a lot of stuff attached can it withstand the wear?

    I really REALLY want to try this for headpieces like the Draenei horns I’ve yet to put together. I see the venting as a major plus AND it seems like the mesh would make it easier to attach wig wefts and other decorative elements.

    Well this is exciting! Thank you for sharing.

  8. I would love to try and use this on some costuming aspects but am a little concerned about the additional mess. I work in a fairly small area but love trying new things

  9. I actually have a friend who is sending me some scraps of this from the theater she works in. I’ve seen it used like a skullcap to then attach crazy big head dresses. I plan to do the same to balance weight of a high ponytail wig combined with large demon horns.

  10. It looks promising. Can it be combined with Worbla? Most of my costuming is for my daughter and she would like me to create Erza Starlets heaven’s wheel armor. I see the potential for creating a much lighter set.

    1. Hi Teresa,

      Yes! It is also compatible with Worbla. In a few of our in-house projects we combine both Varaform and Worbla on different parts of the costume that require different material properties.

  11. I would love to see this sold, to me the more options available for designers, cosplayers and crafters alike the better. It seems somewhat similar to fosstape which is cool, perhaps one is more affordable or cheaper? That would make different people be able to use this product more readily.

  12. I have always enjoyed crafts, drawing, painting, sculpting, etc…. Have just recently got into making my own cosplay with worbla, its been challenging reward with pride thrown in, with that being said I’m always excited to try something new and I would give it a whack, especially knowing the pros and cons.

  13. Sounds wonderful for mascot heads, where ventilation is key as well as weight. Would love to give this a go to try it out on a mascot head! Love new ways of crafting cosplay.

  14. I have used this product for years to create custom headpieces. Using a thin beanie (we mqke our own using stretch velvet) as a liner so the varaform dioesnt pull your hair out. the varaform is dipped in hot water and placed on your head. Wet heat keeps it moldable, dry het does as well but makes it sticky. Its virtually unbreakable. If finished product is exposed to extreme heat it will lose its shape but can easilt be reshaped with heat. Best stuff ever. Expensive but worth it.

    1. Thanks a lot Marianne for your insight! If you have any pictures to share of work you’ve done we’d love to see it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.