Knowing where to start is the most challenging part of any new interest, and balloon twisting is no different. Whatever the case, if you want to know where to begin with balloon twisting, this is the right place! …
Perhaps you’ve never performed as a kid’s entertainer and you want to start with balloon twisting. You may be here because you’re a magician looking to add some balloons to his show (that’s how I started), a face painter looking to expand in to a new market, or something else entirely. Lets get going with the basics.
WHAT TO CALL THE BALLOONS
The long, skinny “modelling” balloons that you see entertainers using to make balloon animals have special names. While there are different sizes for these balloons, the most common one is 260. You might hear it called a 260Q or a 260B, but the important part is the number. A 260 balloon is a balloon that is 2 inches in diameter and 60 inches in length. The letter (Q or B) simply denotes the company that made the balloon (Q for Qualatex, and B for Betallatex). Here is a list of common balloon shapes and sizes used by twisters:
Standard Twisting Balloons:
160Q/B. Made by both Qualatex and Betallatex, 160s are one inch in diameter and 60 inches long.
260Q/B. Made by both Qualatex and Betallatex, 260s are two inches in diameter and 60 inches long.
350Q. Made exclusively by Qualatex, 350s are three inches in diameter and 50 inches long.
360B. Made exclusively by Betallatex, 360s are three inches in diameter and 60 inches long.
646Q. Made exclusively by Qualatex, 646s are 6 inches in diameter and 46 inches long.
660B. Made exclusively by Betallatex, 660s are 6 inches in diameter and 60 inches long.
Specialty Twisting Balloons:
321Q (also known as Bee Bodies). Made exlcusively by Qualatex, 321s are 3 inches in diameter and taper off to a point.
5 inch rounds. Made by both Qualatex and Betallatex, 5 inch rounds are small versions (five inches around) of regular balloons. The come in a variety of prints.
6 inch hearts. Made by both Qualatex and Betallatex, six inch hearts are special heart shapes balloons.
BUYING YOUR INITIAL SUPPLIES
I came to balloon twisting from the magic world. In magic, you can buy a single book, a deck of cards, and a dollar’s worth of quarters and be busy learning new things for months. Balloon twisting is not as easy to break in to, unfortunately, because your supply of balloons will diminish as you practice. While it may be tempting to think that your bag of 100 assorted balloons will last you forever, you’ll be surprised at how quickly that bag will disappear (hint: probably after a couple of days). Here’s what you’re going to need to get started:
Balloons. Okay, you can call me Captain Obvious, but you will need balloons to start as a balloon twister. You can buy those starter, “balloon animal,” packs you see at toy stores and the like, but I wouldn’t recommend it for two reasons.
First, in most cases it’s a poor value considering the balloons you get for the cost you spend (sure, it may only cost $4, but it only comes with 20 balloons!). Second, the quality of those balloons is usually very poor. Every twister I’ve ever met agrees that the only two companies that make quality twisting balloons are Qualatex and Betallatex. Once you’re starting to do gigs, you’ll probably want to buy balloons wholesale, but in the meantime you’re probably best off picking up a pack of assorted balloons from a retailer. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find them at a local party supply store. If not, you can do what I did and just buy a bag from Amazon.com. I recommend starting with the Qualatex Carnival Assortment. If you’re feeling like spending a little more, by all means, feel free to also pick up the Character Assortment and, if you really, really want, the Entertainer Assortment (but stay clear of the Traditional Assortment, trust me!). Each of those bags will cost you around $12 for a 100 count bag (twice the cost of wholesale), so if you’re thinking of buying any more than that, it probably makes sense to place a wholesale order.
Pump. If you haven’t yet tried to blow up a 260 by mouth, you’ll have to take my word for it and buy a pump. If you’re picking your balloons up on Amazon, considering grabbing a simple hand pump while you’re there, too.
YOUR FIRST VIDEOS
YouTube has a wealth of videos for new twisters to get started, so starting there is your very best bet. Unfortunately, a lot of those videos assume that you have an understanding of the basics of balloon twisting. Thankfully, one of my favorite YouTube twisters, Michael Floyd (“Balloon Animals” on YouTube), has put together a playlist of videos geared toward people with no twisting experience at all. You can watch it here.
Once you’ve burned through a bag of balloons and watched a ton of videos, you might find yourself wondering what the next step is. What a crazy, random happenstance! That’s what I’ll be sharing with you next month!