Intro Course: Supplies

Intro Course: Supplies2024-02-26T14:39:10-05:00

Supply list by Lesson

This is the basic supply list, by lesson for the Introduction to the Organic Armor Arts course. To go in-depth on each material, scroll down.

Paper and pencil
Soft tape measure
Reference material (optional)

Creating a base:
Armband pattern from Design lesson
Cup for latex
Black tint (see below for specifics)
Natural bristle brush dedicated to latex
Cotton hammock cord
Cotton shoelace
Cup with lid for dipping latex storage
Rack to hang dipped string on

Latex and brush
More hammock cord or other string
Scraps of denim
Glass gems or crystals (optional)

Same as lesson 3

Clear acrylic (see below for specifics, as well as the recipe for lacryl)
Dedicated lacryl brush, cup, jar with lid

Acrylic clear medium (see specifics below)
Acrylic colors: silver, black, white (see specifics below)
Water in jar
Paint palette, craft sticks to scoop paint
Paint testing panel (anything flat and disposable)
Stiff 1/2 to 1″ brush for dry brush
Soft 1/2″ or so brush for glazing and for sealer coat

Finishing touches:
Acrylic medium to seal
Soft synthetic brush to apply
Water jar and rags
Glass gems or crystals
E6000 glue or similar
Liner fabric, armband pattern from Design lesson


Detailed Supply Info

Latex at the Heart of It

Latex is at the heart of this artform. There are several kinds. Most will work generally for our purpose, but some are much better than others. Paul started out using what’s sold in adult stores as “body paint”. This is what you’ll find a lot of when googling “liquid latex”. Also called “party latex” it has pigments added (teal anyone?) and is sometimes labeled as “ammonia free”. This is good if you are applying it to skin but not good for long term durability.  If you’ve got some of this type of latex at at home already and want to experiment, go for it but there are better choices. 

The latex we use has a vulcanizing agent in it. You might recall from roman mythology that Vulcan was the god of fire. Vulcanizing was a revolutionary nineteenth century invention using sulfur that made rubber durable. This helps make our pieces last for years. Avoid moldmaking latex. It has too many additives and not enough elasticity. Balloon latex will work but it’s runny and more expensive. 

We highly recommend buying casting latex. Our go-to guy for this is The Engineer Guy, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Nelson’s company supplies an amazing array of sculpting, casting, and special effects materials to artists and the entertainment industry. They even have their own con called Goo-Con!  To purchase a quart of quality latex from the company click here  When we lived in Los Angeles we bought our latex from Burman Brothers, who supply a lot of Hollywood’s needs as well. Their products are excellent and shipping might be a bit cheaper than the Engineer Guy if you live on the west coast of the US or Canada. 

Canadian, Australian and European sources – These sources have been researched but not directly tested by us: Sculpture Supply Canada, ships by UPS Sial Canada, mask latex Barnes Spray Latex Australia Don’t get the brush-on kind. This company also has a good selection of sculpting and molding supplies. Phoenix Effects, France, monster makers UK (ships only in the UK) FormX Amsterdam and Spain (often out of stock) Tiranti UK Neill’s Materials UK – get the Monster Makers RD407 casting latex Polytek worldwide This company has distributors on almost every continent! Get the False Face Compound 

When researching latex sources make sure to choose one that is appropriate for casting rather than mold making. 

As you’ve seen in the course videos, we like to tint the latex to create the required dark surfaces for our specialty finishes. The Engineer Guy now sells a latex tint. You can buy it here (get the black). 

You can also use black acrylic paint or india ink. Tinting is not an exact science but about 1 teaspoon of colorant will tint a quart of latex well. The color should end up a rich gray which will darken to black when dry. Some inks have more pigment than others. Speedball ink is a brand we like. Shake the colorant bottle to get any settled pigment to mix in before adding it to your latex. Then fold the color in slowly and avoid bubbles. 

Who knew that finding plain old household ammonia could be so difficult? They almost all have additives (coloring, scent, soap AKA surficant).   Please don’t buy the high percent ammonias! We don’t want you breathing that nasty stuff. 

In the US household ammonia is sold in grocery stores. In some places they call it “cloudy ammonia”. It has a 2 to 4% dilution rate (2% ammonia to 98% water). This is the stuff you want to get. If the only brands you can find have surficant (soap), scents or colors in them, don’t worry about it.   The soap can cause bubbles in the latex which can then appear in your work, so stir it slowly avoiding bubbles.   

According to this Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), these are some brands of 2 to 4% ammonia:   Clear Ammonia, Ahold, Always Save, Americas Choice, Supervalu, Everyday Living, First Street, Giant, Great Value, Hannaford, Home 360, Home Remedy Plus, Homelife, Hy-Top, Kroger Home Sense, Laura Lynn, Market Basket, Miejer, Walgreens, Parade, Price Rite, Propride, Publix, Pure Bright, Raley, Ralphs Home Sense, Red Max, Shoprite, Stater Bros, Stop N Shop, Sunny Select, Topjob, Wegmans, Western Family, Western Family Shurfine, Fred Meyer, Food Club, DG Home, Sunbrite 

One more thing about latex – don’t let it freeze. Freezing can change the chemistry and ruin your material. If your studio is in an unheated space, consider storing your bottle in a warmer place in the winter. It’s not an instantaneous thing, but prolonged exposure will cause problems. We’ve learned this the hard way so you don’t have to 🙂 

Supplies: Fun with Cordage

Cord, string, twine, rope, yarn, shoelace, fiber, line, thread, ties…. there are million different kinds. What matters for us is the material (cotton, polyester, a combo) and the thickness. Color isn’t important since we’re coating it anyway (this can sometimes help you find a good deal on the colors no one wants). Cordage is as old as humanity. There are many different ways to measure it, which makes it rather confusing especially when you can’t touch it and are guessing from crummy photos and vague descriptions. Here are a few that have served us well in making Organic Armor:

Cotton TWINE
Sometimes called butcher twine. This is often sized by ply. Ply means the number of threads twisted together. The higher the number – the fatter the cord. Sometimes you can find it called cooking twine or butcher twine. Don’t overlook the real thin stuff, this can be applied to the edge of a fatter cord and help you get a sharper edge if you want that. Likely sources: office supply places, dollar stores, big box stores, Uline.

We buy ours at a local Asheville art supply store called Earthguild. Really nice people there. The size we recommend to start with is #40, a medium size diameter cord. It is sold by the pound. A pound of #40 is approximately 130 yards (117 meters) which is plenty for several pairs of armbands and future projects too. They have a variety of cord and twine choices. The higher numbers mean the diameter is fatter. I think the numbers refer to the strength of the cord but I’m not sure. This cord is fairly stiff in it’s fatter sizes. Likely sources: hammock supply, macrame supply

Used primarily for borders but can be incorporated into the design too. We buy cotton shoelace in big spools from a family run company in Georgia called Shoelace Express. They also sell regular cotton shoelaces with tips, which are cheaper if you are just starting out. Either 1/4 or 3/8 width will look fine. You can buy shoelaces from a big box store or amazon, but get the kind made with at least some cotton in them (more absorbent).   

As in drawstring, drawcord is a woven or braided tube, sometimes with a core of cotton or cotton/poly. It comes in a variety of weaves, some tighter than others. Usually found as a cotton/poly blend. The more polyester it has, the stiffer it will be when coated in latex. This is an advantage in some cases. Thickness varies from 32 to 160. Most of what we use is about 48.  Clothesline is sometimes a type of drawcord. Likely sources: trim companies, sewing supply, clotheslines at big box stores, amazon, or Cheap Trims.

Sometimes you want really fat cord. Upholstery cord, also called piping or welt is useful for that. It is usually fuzzy and soft, meant to be used inside a decorative fabric at the edge of a piece of furniture. Comes in cotton or poly or a mix with a range of textures. Sometimes you can find it covered with a tube of fabric, if not you might want to cover it with a thin layer of jersey so you don’t spend a lot of time and latex trying to smooth it out. Wrights has a line of what they call “filler” that seems like a good bet. Likely sources: fabric stores, upholstery supply.

Supplies: Fabrics

We have several types of fabric we use regularly but we always keep an eye out for interesting possibilities. It makes you look at thrift store finds in a new way! In the Intro course we use denim, but once you get going on this art form, try other types.

We cut ours off a pair of old jeans. The color doesn’t matter but you want a uniform medium weight (not the worn out knees). The higher the cotton content the better. Avoid stretchy denim. You can also purchase denim at your local fabric store. For a pair of 2-ply armbands you will only need about a 2′ square (.6 meters).  

Supplies: Lacryl Recipe

A latex surface is not paintable as it is. Lacryl is the special mixture that we came up with to bond the latex to our special painted finishes done with acrylic paints. You will need to mix it yourself from your casting latex and your acrylic medium. Here’s the recipe:

  • Pour 3 ounces of the acrylic (see ACRYLICS Supply Info below) into a small clean jar that has a screw top lid Squeeze about a 1/2 tsp of black acrylic paint or india ink into the jar Mix with a stick until evenly tinted Pour about 3 ounces of latex into the jar. Mix gently until evenly dispersed 
  • If you are mixing other volumes just keep the 1:1 ratio and make an educated guess about the tinting, starting low and adding more as needed till you get a dark gray mixture. Store with the lid on. Make sure the threads on the jar and cap are clean before closing up. It will dry hard, making the container difficult to open.

Supplies: Acrylics are Confusing

Acrylic Mediums Clear acrylic, sometimes called acrylic medium, is used in 3 ways in the Organic Armor Arts.   1. It makes up half of the lacryl mix. 2. It’s used as a glaze in the drybrush painting technique 3. It’s used as the top coat/sealant for all pieces when they are finished. 

I recommend buying one product for all three of these purposes. But which one? Acrylic mediums are confusing. Each manufacturer has different names for similar things. 

We buy ours from a company in Los Angeles called Novacolor. The quality is high with good selection and service. It’s old school, with a no-frills website, but if you know what you are looking for, it’s straightforward and the prices are great. We use their Exterior varnish for almost everything. This is a strong fluid material with a satin finish. It makes a hard finish and has UV light protection which is good for the paint colors, especially the reds. 

Corresponding products from the big manufacturers (but not exactly the same): Golden Polymer Medium, Liquitex Satin Varnish, Blick acrylic medium (FYI – Blick sells all three of these at pretty good prices). 

A note about varnish The word varnish is hard to pin down. Some companies use it to mean a finish that is removable, others don’t. Novacolor’s exterior varnish is a permanent product. But Golden’s Polymer Varnish is not (DON’T buy that one!). Don’t use any products that say they are removable

As a glaze the acrylic will smooth out the graininess that sometimes happens when doing the drybrush technique. You can also use it to make your colors more transparent instead of water, keeping the viscosity consistent (like in the glazing part of Lesson 7). 

The sealer/top coat brings out the colors and creates a protective finish that will resist dirt. It makes the pieces easier to clean and can be refreshed as needed. Clear acrylic, whether it’s called a medium or a varnish, often comes in three sheens – matte, satin and glossy. Pure acrylic is naturally glossy so the glossy products have fewer additives. Sometimes a matte product will require several coats to get a true matte sheen. It also may dull your colors a teeny bit. 

The sheen of the acrylic does NOT effect how it works. It’s up to you how you want your final finish to be.  If you want a glossy, try the Novaplex from Novacolor. It is almost pure acrylic with few additives.   

If you bring your costumes to Burning Man or some other place where they are subject to a lot of dust or dirt this is a good trick: Clean the surface with a damp rag getting all the crud out of the nooks and crannies. A wet cotton swab/bud can help with this. Then brush them all over with a coat of acrylic and they will look like new again. 

Acrylic paints – The two colors required for this finish are: #137 Silver pearl and #109 Carbon black if you are using Novacolor paint. If shopping at other acrylic paint manufacturers look for their brightest silver and a neutral black. You won’t need very much so buy the smallest container or tube available. Acrylics come in soft body (more liquid) and heavy body (thicker and usually in a tube). Either type will work for our finishes. You will just have to thin the heavy body paint a little more.


Updated Supplies Sources – Under construction



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