Worbla, a thermoplastic that we are all now accustomed to as a staple of the cosplay scene. We know it’s expensive, we know it’s hard (ish) to work with. But cosplayers who wish to take their craft to the next level may invest big bucks in the material. Dare I even call it a super material? But now, courtesy of Coscraft, there’s a challenger on the market; Introducing Thibra.
Those of you who know GeekOut South-West well will remember an old article of mine discussing the benefits and usage of Worbla. I used the stuff to make a full arm for my Edward Elric cosplay. I intend to rebuild that arm and this time make it near perfect. If nothing else, it will make an excellent display piece! However, as I scanned CosCraft, dreaming up my cosplays for the year, which remains secret, I came across Thibra.
Thibra claims to be just like Worbla, but smooth and clearer. It’s still self-adhesive, it’s still a thermoplastic; it’s still pretty expensive. Before we go into too much depth on Thibra however, we need to re-analyse Worbla, the material where cosplay thermoplastics really all started. For those who are looking for a fair comparison or are just eager to get your hands on a bit of Thibra for trying it out yourself, you can order the sample size for £3 plus postage and packaging. You can also add a trial of Worbla in for the same price.
It’s brown. It’s bumpy. It’s the original thermoplastic that we all know and love. It’s got plenty of uses, as once cooled down, it’s incredibly durable. It makes for an incredibly pretty casing for something put together by card, foam, or anything you can think of. It can be sanded, it can be sculpted to a degree, it can be delicate, it can be large. It’s versatile and it’s been the undisputed material of luxury for a long time. It used to be cheaper to make something with fibreglass resin than Worbla!
With this said, there are a few drawbacks with Worbla. The originally hefty price tag used to put a lot of people off the stuff and understandably so, when foam is able to reproduce the visual effect of Worbla… albeit with a lot of layers of PVA glue to make it shine! Further to that, Worbla is notorious for sticking eternally to everything it touches when hot. It’s not the best material for a newbie, so do your research before you buy the stuff. Also, to work it, you need to heat it and it gets bloody hot! Make sure you wear gloves or something similar, as effectively, Worbla is a good way to burn your fingertips. Finally, the bumpy side is oft-criticised, as you need to add many layers of Gesso, or a similar substance (PVA works here as well).
It’s worth mentioning that since the day’s of Worbla’s Finest Art, which is the Worbla we’ve been speaking about here, they’ve moved into a much smoother and shinier version of Worbla. Worbla’s Black Art is so smooth and shiny, it’s incredibly good to work with. Some people have gone so far to say that they have been able to make full armour pieces out of Worbla’s Black Art without the need of priming, sanding or painting (for black armours, of course). However, this comes at the heavy price tag of £28 for the same size roll of the £15 Worbla’s Finest Art.
The newest contender to Worbla comes in the form of the much more clear and smooth Worbla. However, because it’s new to the market and effectively an even better version of Worbla, it’s more expensive still. If you thought spending £15 on a roll of Worbla was bad, you can’t even buy a roll of Thibra. You can get a 680 x 550mm amount for £14. That’s the best they have to offer. It’s a bank breaker, but many of the disadvantages of Worbla are removed from Thibra… However, one terrible extra weakness is introduced in its stead.
Thibra comes in a clear(ish) colour, making painting much easier. It’s introduced to us in , or as a large roll, similar to Worbla. It’s also smooth on both sides, which means this is fully self-adhesive on both sides. Need to put the top half and bottom half of a sheet of Thibra together? Not a problem. The fact it’s so smooth is also a benefit, reducing the sheer number of layers of sealant required before it turns into a shiny new gauntlet, bracelet, breastplate, etc.
The bigger weakness I mentioned previously might not seem so bad, but trust me, it’s a bit of a headache. Worbla being self-adhesive on one side only means you can sensibly hold pieces together without getting you stuck to it. Thibra loves to get stuck when it’s heated up… Which means it’s going to stick to everything; Your hand, your table, your clothes, you name it… But not foam. This is a massive down point to an otherwise ‘obvious successor’ to the brown bumpy Worbla.
Worbla will remain the best all-round choice for many cosplayers. If you require more precise placement of your thermoplastic, with plenty of better molding capabilities, then Thibra might be better for you overall. But when expense, knowledge and practicality come into the mix, don’t expect Thibra to knock your socks off. It’s good, but it really could be better. But that’s enough about what I think; it’s over to you. Did this article set forward your plans for thermoplastic, or are you more confused than ever? Leave us a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.