How to Make Mermaid Tails

By Caroline Baldwin ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Roll of wide butcher-block paper
  • Pencil
  • Monofin swim fin
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • 6-foot sheet of plywood
  • 6 yards neoprene fabric
  • Air-soluble marker
  • 4 tubes clear acrylic latex caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Sponge brushes
  • Metal grating or craft netting
  • Spatula
  • Space heater
  • Heat gun
  • Acrylic paint
  • Bowl
  • Spray silicone
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
The idea of mermaids has captivated people for thousands of years.

The mermaid is one of the world's most enigmatic mythical creatures. There is no record of where the legend of the half-fish, half-female began. The character of mermaids themselves changes from tale to tale; in some, mermaids are kind and divert ships from the perils of the sea. In others, siren-like mermaids sit on rocks and lure passing ships to their ruin. Mermaids are known for the beautiful tails that power them through the water. You can create your own mermaid tail to be used for a realistic costume in or out of the water with neoprene, latex and a monofin-style swim fin.

Roll out the butcher-block paper. Put on the monofin and lay down on the paper. Have someone trace around your body from your waist around the monofin and back to your waist. Measure 2 inches out from the traced line; redraw the line 2 inches away from the original line. Cut out the larger traced shape. Use this as your pattern.

Lay the plywood on the ground. Spread the neoprene fabric onto the plywood. Trace your pattern onto the neoprene with an air-soluble marker. Cut your pattern into your neoprene twice, giving you two identical pieces. Cut the tail, also called the fluke, with a notched pattern to resemble a fish fin. It should look like a wispy triangular fringe.

Paint the right sides (what will be the outsides) of the neoprene tail pieces with a coat of the latex caulk. Apply a light coat by squeezing the latex on with the caulk gun and spreading with a sponge brush. Set beside a space heater to dry, checking it frequently. Turn off the heater when you can no longer attend to it and let finish drying overnight.

Apply a thick layer of latex to the dried neoprene. Place the metal grate or the craft netting into the latex on the neoprene to create a scale design. Let the latex begin to dry, applying heat with a heat gun or space heater. Remove the grating or the netting when the latex has reached a gummy consistency -- this could take up to an hour. Start at the bottom and work your way to the top when removing the grating or netting. Pat any strings of latex down with a spatula.

Paint both pieces of the tail (right sides only) with a base coat of acrylic paint. Let the paint dry thoroughly. Mix one part latex to four parts paint in a bowl. Add a second coat of paint using the paint/latex mixture. This slight addition of latex will prevent the paint from scraping off. When choosing acrylic paint, you can get creative with details and effects: use metallic paints to add shimmer to the scale design you created with the latex, create an ombre effect by transitioning the tail from dark to light shades, or highlight some of the scales with gold paint as if the sun is shining upon them. Heat-set your artwork with your heat gun or by letting the tail pieces dry beside a space heater.

Spray the right sides of the tail pieces with silicone spray and let dry thoroughly.

Place the pieces of the tail right sides together and pin along the sides. Stitch the sides together using an overlock stitch. Do not sew across the bottom of the fluke. You may have to remove the foot of the sewing machine to fit the layers of the tail through the machine. Sew slowly to ensure the process goes smoothly. Flip the tail right-side out.

Place your monofin inside the fluke. Secure in place by squirting latex on the fin and pressing the fabric down on top of it. Apply latex to the edge of the fluke fabric to seal the bottom of the fluke. Set with heat gun.

Squeeze latex on the outside of the fluke in vertical lines. Use your finger to flatten the lines to create texture on the fluke. Set with heat gun.

Spray the entire tail with silicone spray when complete to protect it from sticking to itself and other things.

Tip

If your scale design does not turn out how you desire, smooth the latex flat and re-stamp.

You can also use an airbrush kit to paint the tail. Be sure to mix a small amount of latex into the paint.

Warning

This project should be done in a garage or other well ventilated area, since you are working with messy materials. Work on the plywood to prevent spills, burns and damage to the surroundings. Wear old clothing, as you would for any project involving paint, latex and heat. Do not leave flammable items near heating elements. Never leave space heaters unattended. Use caution when working with a heat gun, as it can burn you. Follow the directions on how close to hold it to your project.

About the Author

Caroline Baldwin, a corporate communications director located in South Carolina, began writing in 1998. Her work has been published in publications across the United States and Canada including Rolling Stone, Boating Life, Waterski and Wakeboarding magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies from The College of Charleston.