Building your first balloon kit
Before you can go to your first gig, you’re going to need some form of balloon kit. Unless you plan on showing up and just making one balloon dogs and swords (please don’t), you won’t want to rely on just your assorted bag of balloons. Nope – you’re going to need a proper kit …
Don’t sweat it, though. Although you’ll no doubt end up growing in to a big, expensive kit over time, putting together a small kit on a shoestring budget is very doable!
Before we start, did you see Part 1 which is how to start with balloon twisting? If you already have then it’s back to balloon kits.
There are a number of ways to do this, and the folks in the various forums and Facebook groups will be able to offer all kinds of advice, but here’s mine:
- Buy a small storage container. Two great options are a cheap cooler, or one of those small baskets used for
storing things on a shelf. Although the kit of choice among balloon twisters tends to be a scrap booking tote, something small and cheap will be more than enough to work as your starter kit. You should be able to find something good at Walmart or Amazon for under $15. Ideally, you want one deep enough that a 260 can stand in it and the lid will close. If that doesn’t happen, though, no sweat. You don’t need the lid to close. I’m using a Storage Ottoman that I bought for $5 at a store called Five Below. I’ve seen similar storage containers at Walmart for less than $10.
- Buy Balloons. Okay – so you may have some balloons from your first assortment pack, but it’s now time to place a real balloon order. This is the point where you’re going to have to suck it up and make a real financial investment in your business. You can probably get by on less than $100, though, but you’re officially moving out of the $15 ballpark here.
Your first decision is going to be whether to go with Betallatex or Qualatex.
I personally prefer Betallatex; although some big names in the industry also prefer Betallatex (such as Ken Stillman, Patricia Bunnell and Sam Cremeens), most industry professionals prefer Qualatex.
The big advantage to starting out with Betallatex is that their balloons come in bags of 50, allowing you to get more colors while paying less overall (the total cost of 100 balloons is roughly the same between either brand). The disadvantage is that Qualatex makes the more popular specialty balloons (Geo Blossoms, 321s, printed rounds, etc). In some (but not all) cases, the colors between the brands don’t match properly, meaning it may not look right if you use a Betallatex 260 with a Qualatex specialty balloon.
Beyond those considerations, the brand you choose to work with mainly comes down to preference. Pepsi or Coke? Apple or Windows? Betallatex or Qualatex? Note: It is possible to mix and match colors from the two (I do), but both brands have a very distinctive feel and require different pressure when twisting them. If you get used to one brand, switching to the other may be difficult.
Once you’re ready to start adding balloons to your cart, it’s time to make the decisions about what colors to buy. If budget is not a big concern for you, go nuts and try as many colors as you can. However, if you’re like I was when I started, you’re going to have to make some difficult choices about which colors are absolutely necessary. Here’s what I think you need on your first order: Pink, Red, Orange, Yellow, Lime Green, Blue (any shade), Lilac, White, Black, Gray, Blush, and Mocha (or Caramel, depending on brand). While you could skip it, I HIGHLY recommend that you buy an assortment of hearts. Even if you decide to use Betallatex balloons, pick up the Sweetheart assortment of 6 inch hearts from Qualatex (I didn’t purchase these on my first order and it was my biggest regret – you can use the hearts for simple princess wands, and the white hearts can stand in for white rounds when making eyes on many designs).
The list above is a true shoestring budget list. If you’re buying from Qualatex and have to buy full bags of 100 each time, those balloons will cost you just under $80, without considering shipping. If you’re buying Betallatex you can probably order 50 count bags for some of the colors, like Orange, Yellow, Gray, Blush and Caramel. This will get you down to about $65 (though remember – you’re ordering fewer balloons this way).
My list also has some notable colors, shapes and sizes missing. If you can afford a few extra bucks, consider getting these fun (but not necessary) colors and balloons:
Blue (another shade). If I was going to add one more color to my “must have” list, this would be it. I think you’re probably okay with any shade of blue to start, but I’d strongly recommend grabbing another shade while you’re there. Dark Blue (Qualatex) and Royal Blue (Betallatex) really compliment their respective lighter shades, Pale Blue and Fashion Blue. On the Qualatex side, there’s also Robin’s Egg Blue as a third choice.
Goldenrod (Qualatex) or Marigold (Betallatex). This mustard yellow color is ideal for certain characters (like Winnie The Pooh) and can stand in for most anything that calls for yellow. It can also add some variety to designs that normally call for orange, like penguin beaks and feet (particularly if you’re Linux fan).
Rose (Qualatex). This deep pink is great for flamingos and really nice for adding two tones of pink to a design.
Fuchsia (Betallatex). An even deeper shade of pink, this is my personal favorite for things like princess wands and crowns.
Ivory. A soft, buttery white that is perfect for platinum blonde hair (like Elsa!). It can also stand in for white in many designs.
Violet. This dark purple is another great color for girls. I’m partial to Lilac for most deigns, which is why I recommended that up above. But like pink, you can never have too many shades of purple.
Green (Qualatex) or Forest Green (Betallatex). This is a darker shade of green than Lime Green (or Key Lime if you’re a Betallatex user). I am partial to Key Lime for most designs that call for green, but it’s great to have an extra shade in the palette.
Diamond Clear (Qualatex) or Clear (Betallatex). This is one I don’t use often, but it’s fun to have for the right design. It’s also one of the few colors where I’ve found the Qualatex version to be stronger than the Betallatex one.
160 Balloons. 160s come in all the same colors as 260s and are great for adding accents to designs. I regularly use black, white and red. I tend to also keep an assortment of other 160s in my kit for when they are needed.
350s (Qualatex) or 360s (Betallatex). I don’t like using 360s much, but I ALWAYS keep gray 360s stocked for Sandi Masori’s sword (it looks better with gray).
Printed Rounds (assorted). There are so many fun printed rounds, I don’t really want to ruin your fun by mentioning any specifics here. Just go to your favorite balloon supplier and browse around. Note that both LaRock’s and Continental Sales have their own, exclusive printed rounds that aren’t available anywhere else.
Hearts. I mentioned hearts up above, but they’re worth mentioning again. Hearts are another balloon that I prefer to buy in Qualatex. Even though I love Betallatex, even I have to admit that the Qualatex hearts just look nicer.
There are so many more balloons and colors I could mention, but this is more than comprehensive enough to get you started. If you find yourself with a budget for all this and then some, just go crazy and try it all!
If you haven’t done so already, buy a pump. I’m assuming you bought a pump back in the beginning, but even if you’ve learned to mouth inflate balloons, make sure you have a cheap hand pump as a back up. Trust me on this one.
Buy a Bag of Hair Ties. The cheap ones… those little tiny elastic hair ties. You can get a bag of a hundred for around a buck.
Roll Your Balloons. This is going to take a while and — in my opinion — is the worst part about balloon twisting. It’s best to throw a comfort movie on TV (one of those flicks you can recite all the lines to and always puts a smile on your face) and get going. If you’re using Qualatex balloons, you can roll one bag’s worth of balloons in to one bundle. If you’re using Betallatex balloons you can put two bags in to one bundle.
Start by emptying out the contents of the bag and sorting them, nozzle up along the bag as shown in the picture.
Next, roll the balloons, as shown in the picture.
Once they’re wrapped tight, place one hair tie rubber band on each end of the bundle.
The end result should look something like this.
Now it’s time to load up our container. Because my rolled balloons didn’t fill out the whole container I built multiple sections by cutting out a piece of the cardboard box my balloons were shipped in and wrapping it with black duct tape (the duct tape was purely for the aesthetics and isn’t necessary).
Next, I needed a way to store my rounds and heart shaped balloons. Because this starter kit won’t have a lot of them, I didn’t need much space. I simple cut out a small square of cardboard and wrapped it in duct tape, then tied two 260s around it like an elastic band. This gave me somewhere to stick my rounds.
Creating sections in my kit also gave me an awesome way to store my pump, markers and scissors.
And that’s it. My kit is done. How about yours?
If this information was helpful to you, please head on over to the Kids Entertainer forum or the Kids Entertainer Facebook group and share your photos and ideas! There are a million ways to go, I’ve just shown you one path.