Webinar: Basic Balloon Twisting With Joshua Clark: Balloon Twisting For Beginners

Hi everybody! Balloon Josh here from Houston Texas, and welcome to balloons for beginners! We're going to go right back to the very beginning. Everything from how to tie a knot, best way to inflate a balloon, and we're also going to go through the basic twists, different kinds of twists, and work up to doing requests and different designs.

We'll start off with the basics, because there might be people who have never twisted a balloon before, but I'm hoping that even if you are experienced, you can still learn something new!

How to Stretch, Inflate, and Tie a Balloon

Long Nozzle Balloon Twisting

Before you even go ahead and blow up your balloon, it's important to stretch it first. The first thing I found, a common mistake that a lot of twisters don't do, is they don't leave themselves with enough of a nozzle. You want to leave yourself a good enough nozzle, so you can tie it to stuff. Unless you're making something specific, where you want a short nozzle. So I'm going to show you how to avoid that!

Whether you're using a hand pump, or just blowing it up by mouth, you should always leave a longer nozzle. If you're using a pump, make sure to pull more of the balloon onto the end, to create that long nozzle. One way to do this, is blow up your balloon, pinch it about an inch in, let it go, then tie it, and then you have a longer knot.

The other way to do it, is when I put the balloon onto the pump, I just pull it down further onto the nozzle. When I'm done inflating it, it gives me a nice, long, nozzle. So that makes it very easy to wrap it around my finger and tuck it through.

Another common mistake that people make, is that they blow it up too slow, which can cause problems. So for instance, when you're trying to inflate your balloon, and you're just going one pump at a time, going too slow, air will actually leak out. A lot of beginners are afraid to pump faster because it might blow, but actually, pumping slower, will make it more likely to pop. Basically, you want to go nice and fast.

So now that you know how to stretch, inflate, and tie a balloon, it's time to get into the actual twisting of a balloon.

How to Twist a Balloon

For starters, something to remember, is that wherever you pinch the balloon, regardless of where you're twisting, it's going to twist the bubble up where you pinched it. So, what that means, is that wherever you pinch it, that's how big or small your bubble will be.

#1. The Lock Twist
How to Make a Balloon Dog Balloon Twisting

The first twist that I ever learned, was the lock twist. This is where you create three bubbles and lock them together. So this is most commonly seen in a basic balloon dog. You pinch it and twist it. When you twist, make sure you're twisting at least a few times. Twisting just once might make your balloon come undone. So twist three times, hold onto it, create another one by pinching and twisting, so now you have two bubbles. And do it one more time, twisting three times, and now you have three equal sized bubbles.

Then you fold it over, and twist the three bubbles together. The reason why this is called a lock twist is that by twisting the three bubbles together, at the base of one and three, is it locks it into place and doesn't come undone.

If you wanted to make a basic dog in continuing from the lock twist, you'd make a small bubble, then another bubble, and then a third bubble. Flip them over and twist it, and do three more bubbles, and twist those over as well. So basically for a dog, all it is, is just: lock twist, lock twist, and lock twist.

If you stretch the end and hold it loosely, you should be able to release some of the air and give the dog a little balloon bubble at the tip of the tail.

Another thing I see beginner balloon twisters make, is not get their dimensions right. For example, their dog balloon legs would be bigger in the front and smaller in the back. You want everything to look proportionate, so if you look, this is a pretty evenly proportioned dog, where the nose is evenly proportioned to the ears.

#2. The Loop Twist
Balloon Cat Balloon Twisting

The next one, is a loop twist. A loop twist is made into a bubble, and then you do a longer bubble, and then you're going to fold it over, creating a loop. Then you can do it again to create another loop. You're basically just bending the balloon back onto itself. So this would be a very basic example of a cat.

For a flower bracelet for example, you would also do just five loop twists in a row. You could also create a few of these flowers and stack them, to create a pumpkin.

If you're going to be adding faces and drawings to your balloons, I suggest you check out Lindsey's Purty Faces. For years, I'd be doing good balloons, and then I would destroy them by doing horrible faces, because I'm not a drawer in that regard. Recently, I've been working on my marker art, my faces, and I've learned a lot from Lindsey, and she's the best when it comes to faces. I also do a class with Lisa MacIntyre where I learn Hawaiian style and Japenese style faces, and the reaction from the customer is great. Not only does this increase the wow-factor, but it also increases the monetary value of your balloon sculptures. 

#3. The Pinch Twist
Pinch Twist Balloon Twisting

The next one we're going to learn, is a pinch twist. So pinch twist I find, of all of the twists, seems to be one of the ones that most people have a problem with. I find that when I'm teaching beginner's classes, usually the loop twist, people don't have too much problems with. I've also seen a dog made with a loop twist, which is basically just making the nose, the body, and the legs with a loop twist.

But can I say please, as an artist, please don't make a dog out of a loop twist. No offense, but ever if you're super beginner, the regular dog doesn't take that long, and the loop dog is kind of lazy.

So here's the biggest problems I see which pinch twists. Either their pinch twists are too small, and then not really functional, or they're too big and then they're esentially loop twists. So the way you do a pinch twist is you have a bubble, and then you have a smaller bubble, and then you fold it over, you pinch it, and twist it. This is great for if you're making characters, or you're making joints, like ankles, knees, elbows, and hands. It's also good for connecting points, or ears for monkeys and other animals. So a pinch twist comes in handy a lot, especially when you have two pinch twists together, that's very handy because they're the only twists that can keep the balloon from deflating past that point.

What I mean is, if you have a dog with a lock twist. If i pop this balloon (the neck of the dog), this ballon (the ear) will come undone. If i pop any of these bubbles, the balloon past it will come undone. Same thing with a loop twist, if I pop any of these bubbles, the whole thing will come undone. With a pinch twist, If I have one pinch twist in five, it'll come around. Anything you pop on one side of it, won't deflate on the other side. I use pinch twists a lot of times for hands, for body parts where I can do two pinch twists, break off the remaining excess, and I don't have to worry about tying the balloon.

But the most common problems I see when people try to do pinch twists, they either make their bubble way too small, and then they have this really tiny baby pinch twist, and the problem with having a really tiny pinch twist, is that because it's at an anchor point, where a lot of my stuff I make, I'm tying stuff to pinch twists, if your pinch twist is really small, you can't really wrap and tie balloons into it, because it doesn't have any substance.

The other problem I see people doing, is they'll do a pinch twist that's kind of too big, but then there's a lot of pressure, so it pops really easy. But then it also ends up looking like a loop twist, because essentially, that's all a loop twist is, it's a really big pinch twist.

Another thing to remember when twisting, is to do it fast. If you do it slow, just like inflating your balloon, you risk popping it. So the faster you do it, the better.

I'd like to show you one more thing with the pinch twist before we move on. One thing you'll see in a lot of different designs, is two pinch twists back to back. So there's a couple of different ways to do that, and I wanted to show you those ways. One is to just make two pinch twists. You do a bubble, you pull it over, twist it, and then you immediately make another bubble, fold it over, pinch it, and twist it. 

Another way to do it, is you make two bubbles that are about an inch, an inch and a half, and then you're going to twist this bubble one way, and the other bubble the other way, and that'll create two pinch twists. This way tends to make the bubbles a light bit tighthr than the first way.

The other way to do it, is you create one pinch twist, and then you're going to roll it, and you're going to do this knot, at the base, to split that in half to create two pinch twists. I find a lot of people have a hard time doing that, especially if you're just starting out. I find where I use this the most is for hands: for a dragon, or a ninja.

#4. The Tulip Twist

Tulip Twist
The other twist that I think is important to know is a tulip twist. You take your knot, you're going to push the knot with your finger inside the balloon, then outside the balloon, you're going to grab the knot, pull your finger out, and twist it. If I let go of it, it just comes right back out.

So what you do is push your finger in, grab the knot (feel around for it), you twist it, and then you kind of feed it back into the inside of the balloon. And what that does, is it kind of creates a little tulip. If you squeeze it one way or the other, just very slightly with your fingers, you make it look like it's leaning, so when you go up to someone and tell them to breathe on it (to chek the freshness of their mouth), you just bend it slightly, and the "flower" falls over. Just a funny little trick you can do!

The other thing you can do is make it a launcher, where you just put it between your fingers, and shoot it. You can also do this with a normal balloon, where you do the same thing, you're pushing the end into the balloon, find it, grab the knot, pull your finger out, and twist it, and push it back a little bit. What I find this works best for is if I'm making rifles or guns, and make that as the barrel of my gun. I've also used it for airplane propellers or jet engines.

We're not going to discuss marriage twists right now, just because I find that it's a little bit more intermediate to advanced balloon twisting. So we'll leave those types of twists for another class.

So again, the main ones to focus on for beginner balloon twisters are locks twists, loop twists, pinch twists, and tulip twists.

What I would encourage you to do, is to literally just practice, practice, practice. I think that's the biggest problem that balloon twisters make a lot of times. And not just balloon twisters, but also face painters, musicians, just artists in general, we don't like to practice. But I would encourage you to just take a balloon and practice as much as you can, because that's the only way you'll improve your skill.

You want to get to where you can make a pinch twist or a loop twist without looking at what you're doing. If you have to look at everything, it's going to slow you down, and you're not going to be able to think forward to the next step.

How to Weave a Balloon

Now that we've worked on some of the basic different twists, I figure we go from there and talk about some different weaves. I think these are super important for people to learn and also pretty easy.

I have been doing this for 28 years, so if you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask. I will say that balloon twisting has changed a lot over the years. When I was just 9 years old, and starting out, the simple dog balloon twist was AMAZING, and now it's really not a big deal at all.

The balloon game has changed a lot. What I found interesting is that it's accelerating a lot faster, meaning the amount of progression is huge. I would say that the balloon game has progressed more from 2010 to 2019, than it did from 1990 to 2010. In the past 5-10 years, we've seen more growth and more inovation in the balloon industry, than we saw in the previous 20-30 years.

I think this is happening simply because of technology. When I first started, there was no Pinterest, no Facebook, no YouTube. I had no way of knowing what other artists were doing. And so now that you have all these social media platforms, you get to see, as an artist, some of the amazing work that other people are doing. It challenges me to be better, but it will also inspire me to do things differently than I would have done them. The ease of technology and the accessibility of information has made not just balloons, but pretty much every industry, advance a lot more quickly.

#1. Flat Weave
Flat Weave Balloon Twisting

Right now what I want to talk about is a flat weave. I'll use this for a couple of things, such as a car, a monster truck, Winnie the Pooh, Sponge Bob, a purse, as well as other applications.

You're going to want two balloons, and you want 5-6 inches of uninflated balloon. You're going to start with each one by doing a pinch twist, and then wrap the knot around it, because you want that pinch twist to hold by itself. Do the same thing for the other balloon.

What we did here is a pinch twist and another pinch twist, on either side. One pinch twist, the balloon, went over and down, and the other one, had a pinch twist going over and down. As you can see, we have two pinch twists, and now we're just going to repeat that, and we'll do a small spacer bubble, and you go over, and I'm going to create a spacer bubble by pinching as I twist.

So you could just do a small spacer bubble, and then you do another bubble, and then you twist these two together after you twist them all. What I find works better is to pinch it as I twist it, and I create a spacer bubble at the same time.

So then again, you're going to do a small spacer bubble, you go over, you're going to pinch this as you twist it, so you create a spacer bubble. Then you're going to go over, you're going to twist it, same length, and keep going until you've done your entire balloon.

Now you're going to break up the end of the balloon. The way I find is easy for me to break it up, is I pull it tight, so that this is very flat, I squeeze all the air out, but I push away. What I don't want to do is make it tight, because that's going to be very hard to break if it's tight in there like that. So what I do is I push my thumbs and make this flat, and not only flat, but also wide. So I'm pushing the air out to make it flat and wide, and then I'm going to push my thumbs and pull it apart at the same time. It's not about having nails to do this, or strength, it's about speed.

You squeeze the air out of the section you want to break, you make it flat and wide, and rip it fast, and then you have two sections.

One thing I would not suggest is using your teeth to break the balloon or scissors, as they can both cause injury to you or the child. You can use a yarn cutter, which I sometimes use to break up an uninflated balloon.

So a flat weave is good to put a handle on, make into a purse, you can also use it for Sponge Bob Square Pants' head, make it into a race car, and the applications are endless.

#2. Blossom Weave
Blossom Weave Balloon Twist

Another weave that I'm going to show you guys is the blossom weave . I've heard this called differently, a flower weave or a blossom weave. For this one, we're going to inflate three balloons.

They don't have to be exactly the same in length, but they should be close. I left about 2 inches, or 3 finger width of uninflated balloon.

So what you're going to do, is fold the ballon in half, and squeeze at each end. What this is going to do, is force the air into the uninflated part, which should make the entire end of the balloon a little more flexible. Squeeze on both ends at the same time.

One thing I found at events, and I recommend you do this too, is that whenever you push the air in there, always blow on it, and push the air out with your finger. It always impresses people a lot!

After you squeeze the balloon quickly, you'll want to tie the little knots together at the ends. Do this with all of the balloons. Now find where the middle spot is, to make a little crease there, and then you just twist it. You're going to bring the twists together, grab it, and then just twist.

I think it's also important to be playing around with your clients - tell them jokes! Don't take yourself too seriously, you're also en entertainer. I will tell you this - entertainers almost always get paid more than artists. You really want to be a balloon entertainer, because that's what's really going to make you a lot more money than being a balloon artist.

So do the same thing again with the other balloons. So I don't know who created this blossom weave, but I learned it from Terry Stokes, in Houston Texas, Happy Hearts the Clown, she's amazing! If you've been in the balloon industry, you probably know her, but she's a genius, and that's who taught this to me.

So what you end up having is these three figure 8 balloons. So you're going to stack them all together, and then I'm just going to twist in the middle, to make a big flower. Then you're going to take one of them, working your way around, and turn it sideways, and bring it through.

You're basically pulling one long bubble through another, and working your way around. What I use this for is the bottom of a princess dress, or it could just be a flower, or a hat.


Q: What do you do when your balloon is inflated all the way and you try to do a pinch twist and the balloon softens because the air moves to the uninflated part of the balloon?

A: So, if I understand correctly, you have a part that's uninflated, and then you're saying you do a pinch twist, that is pushing the air here (the uninflated part), so that you're not getting the right sized pinch twists. So, that should be happening. Meaning when I'm doing a pinch twist, what's happening, is it's taking the air and it is pushing it in this direction. That's why you don't want to inflate your balloon all the way to the beginning because then it'll pop. As you're twisting, you're pushing the air into the uninflated part.

My guess at what's happening is either rather than pinching down here, you're pinching up here, or at the base, and what's happening is this is going to push the air down, and then you've got nothing to twist and you're going to end up with a really loose bubble. So if your pinch twists aren't getting tight, it could be that you're not twisting it enough. 

Q: My hands are very small, and it's hard for me to make the 6 petal flower. Do you have any tips to make this easier?

A: Yes! So the way I was first taught to make a balloon flower, which is the way I think that most people are taught, is what I call the sausage link flower. I hate this flower with a passion, because yes, you do need big hands to do this, but I also don't think it looks good, and I don't think anyone should be making their balloon flowers this way.

So, I would would suggest is doing it differently. One way would be to make the petals individually. You'll have to make it a little bit smaller, and just do six different twists and then break it off.

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