Classic Balloon Decor 101

I know for a fact that together, my partner and I can inflate and tie 100 balloons in 12 minutes.
– Unknown

Classic Balloon Decor 102

Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.

Classic Balloon Decor

Classic balloon decor refers to Columns, Spiral Garland Arches, String of Pearl Arches, and balloon centerpieces. This is the foundation of balloon decorating. Almost everybody starts here and once you have these components mastered you can move on to more challenging work. Classic balloon decor is found at weddings, fairs, dances, grand openings, and almost anywhere balloons are used to enhance the atmosphere of an event.

How Long Does It Take To Make Decor?

  • Any time you have a job you should time yourselves on the various tasks so you know how long it takes you to inflate and tie, say, 100 balloons on ribbons with 8″ curled tails at the neck. How long does it take you to convert those 100 balloons into 3, 4, 5 or 6 balloon centerpieces? Spiral arches – how long per 5 feet? Work on speed WITH perfection. You should not be concerned at all with how fast you can crank out a crappy looking arch, because there is very little demand for crappy looking arches.
  • I can crank out 20′ of spiral arch in about 10 minutes, but if I had to hi-float all those balloons (about 120) it would take 30 or 40 minutes, not counting a 3 minute de-sliming break every time one popped.
  • I know for a fact that together, my partner and I can inflate and tie 100 balloons in 12 minutes. That would mean that we can do, together, 500 balloons in one hour. However, there are some factors: inflator used, pressure of tank and the ability to keep that pace up for one hour. (We don’t curl when we do large quantities that will most likely be on the ceiling, but put a loop at the neck of the balloon.)
  • Alone, I can inflate and tie 100 balloons in about 20 minutes. Therefore, I could do 300 balloons in one hour given the right conditions. So how many can you do in one hour?
  • Being a former “balloon entertainer” I can blow, tie and lace 18 balloons per minute (5″ balloons in clusters). I can keep this pace up for about 1 1/2 hours… that’s about 1000 balloons an hour. However it’s important to know that I blow two 5″ balloons at time, and tie them together instead of individually (as you would shoe laces.) This is a big time saver!

Table Decor – Centerpieces

  • We do a great centerpiece that has a nautical or tropical theme: For nautical: Take one 16″ Geo donut inflate with air. Use a balloon sand weight and run the neck of the weight thru the hole of the balloon and tie your bouquet to the top. Use ribbon or colored vinyl to create stripes on the donut like a life preserver. Surround with blue shrizzle grass. Maybe write “SS Name of swim team”
  • For Tropical: Same concept but we use a clear 16″ Geo and we use Qualatex Fish Bowl balloons above. We buy brightly colored fish stickers and apply them around the geo donut and use a green sharpie marker to draw seaweed. Sometime we stick in some blue shrizzle inside the geo before inflating, and of course use some to surround it.
  • For centerpieces, I like to inflate the balloon, fill it with about 1/3 or less water (can be colored or clear), place a fresh flower inside, and then decorate with tulle netting, ribbon, lace, or whatever. To finish the centerpiece off, place the finished balloon on a lit base.
  • For Christmas center pieces: A battery operated candle inside the balloon, in a flower candle ring, looks really nice. I found some really nice rings that had white roses and gold glitter on them. I put them inside the balloons with a white bow on top and sprayed some gold glitter paint and that fake snow on top the balloon and on the tables and used fake snow around the base to cover the tray. It was beautiful, classic and easy.
  • Battery operated candles work nicely in stuffed balloons. I just did a wedding and put a flowered candle ring around the candles (turned candle on) hot glued it to the bottom of the balloon (everyone should have a balloon stuffing machine). Then set the stuffed balloon on a 260 (blown up and tied in a circle) for the base. Run a bigger ring of flowers to around the bottom (to cover the 260), put a pretty bow on top, maybe some curled ribbon, and you’re done. The candles stayed lit for 2 days without any problems (of course that depends on what batteries you use). The balloons do not get hot or steam up. It looked really nice. And when the party is all over, you just grab your balloon (to reuse the items or let them keep it, how ever you work your business). Fast, easy, and cheap and yet very impressive.
  • Some one asked how we do our on-site table centerpieces. Here is what we do. We do pre-cut our ribbons. We take the number of ribbons needed for each bouquet and clamp them to a table and then inflate the balloons and attach them to the ribbon. Once you have a full bouquet, take them in your hand and arrange in clusters like you want them. If you are working in a room with high ceilings, you may want them to be tall and, to save on making really long ribbons, we tie the whole group at the bottom of the lowest balloon and then tie the longest lengths of ribbons to the weight. Curl the ribbons that are left hanging above your weight and you will have a very pretty effect. This way you can use all one length of ribbon and not have them too short, if you follow me. If you tie the whole group of ribbons on the weight first you may end up with a very short bouquet or else have lots of waste ribbon because you will have to make them all really long. If you are working in a room with a low enough ceiling that is smooth, you can just let the balloons go until you are ready to assemble your bouquet instead of clamping to a table.
  • When confronted with doing umbrella tables at our local race track (Nazareth Speedway) for hospitality marquee decor, I went to my local *cake and candy* supply shop and purchased disposable bundt/angel food cake pans! They work great. Simply slide the CP down over the lower portion of the umbrella pipe then add the top of the umbrella. As they are quite tall and the pan shows, I spray paint them in a coordinating color.Don’t let the pole stop you. Use it to your advantage. Why not wrap the umbrella pole with balloons? Or twirl #9 or #40 ribbon around pole? Or twirl 260’s and round balloons? What about using the 4 Square balloons that are used in SDS. Make a box shape, place oasis down around the pole and add some foam wire, some small balloons and some foil tuffs and you’re done.
  • To decorate umbrella tables, we make a puff ball of air filled balloons (6 balloons twisted together), twist it onto the umbrella post and add lots of ribbons. For a birthday party, I might add cut out “1”‘s and add to the ends of the ribbons. We snug the puff ball up as high into the umbrella as possible and usually secure with a 260Q. It really adds a lot of color especially with ribbons. Make sure the balloons have been overinflated and let out a bit so they will “grab” onto the pole.
  • Spiral Centerpieces
    Mark the back of the mirrors for the distance between the balloons and use your hand and elbow for the height of the balloons. First balloon, 2 hand-to-elbow lengths up; 2nd balloon, 2 1/2 hand-to-elbow lengths up, 3rd balloon, three hand-to-elbow lengths up, etc.
  • Or you can pre-knot your ribbons at the right lengths — including the neck curls if you are using them, inflate the balloon and tie on at the first knot, tape to the mirror at the second knot with the knot outside the tape. This is kind of time consuming on site whatever way you do it, and we always charge extra for this set up.
  • I have been in a discussion with two of my customers. One says the ribbons on table bouquets should be very long, so people can see each other and talk through the balloons. The other says they should not be long, but high enough to see through and talk through.
    • For a guideline I use this technique. Place your elbow on the table with arm up (like you are going to arm wrestle) from your elbow to the tips of your extended fingers is where your balloons should begin. Then people sitting down can see across the table!
    • I believe very strongly that the lowest balloon should be at least 6′ from the ground so that when most people enter the room they see more than just a wall of balloons. This places them high enough for people to see through the ribbons and conversation is not a problem!
    • I have found that the length of the ribbon depends on the height of the ceiling in the room and the amount of balloons on the weight. If the ceilings are high and there is nothing hanging above it, I think that the balloons should be in between the table and the ceiling.
    • In the case of a short ceiling, I think that the idea of the length of your forearm is great!. If your arm length is too short then add maybe another foot, most of us have at least one of them to use as a measure. The message here is, as my first instructor Jean-Michell Lucie said so many years ago, ” A serious decorator must be willing to use every part of his body, his arms, hands, feet, they’re all constant measurements that your carry with you.
    • There are numerous suggestions regarding this height. I received them in class notes and seen them in videos there is even a section in the CBA tapes. Even florists have to be concerned about this height. It all makes sense when you sit at a table and can or cannot see across to the other side.
    • The general rule is nothing over 14 inches from your table. So is you would like to put a foil as a base, try to use one of the smaller foils. But if your client really wants that 18 inch foil then by all means go ahead. The 14 inch rule is a guideline not a commandment. Now if you want to float balloons from the centerpiece, it is recommended to start your bottom balloon 4 to 5 feet above the table. This keep the vision of people standing from being blocked.
    • The correct way to do the ribbons is the way your customer wants them – the customer is always right. If the customer is leaving it up to you and your expertise, then do it your favorite way.
  • What is the best way to anchor a bouquet to a living plant centerpiece?
    • You can stick floral picks into the dirt at an angle with the curling ribbon attached. This will hold if you don’t have a lot of pull to your bouquet.
    • Another way is to use two or three 1/2″ or 3/4″ machine nuts stuffed into a 5″ emerald green latex balloon and hide it down inside the plant. You can attach enough mono line to come from the weight to the top of the plant and then tie your bouquet in at that point. It will look like the balloons are sprouting from the top of the plant.
    • I use a wooden floral pick. Make sure you put it in at an angle the if you can get under a root even better. The wood expands and helps secure it. You can get different sizes at a floral supply store.

Table Decor Bases

  • As a base for table decor, I use mirrors, sand weights decorated with ribbons and flowers, cake bases with small puff balls, sometimes boxes, etc.
  • You can also cut shapes out of foam board or styrofoam for centerpieces with no balloons. Use mylar paper tuffs to cover the shapes, and stick the cut-out stuff into the styrofoam bases to give it a finished look.
  • I have recently started using gift bags made for wine bottles as vases for my balloon flowers. They hold 3-6 260 stems. I usually put a small round balloon filled with sand or water in the bottom to provide a stable base. I have found several nice bags for around $0.80 each. I found some great ones with balloons as the bag design I plan to use for birthday presentations.
  • For table decor bases, find a small floral container (glass would work but plastic is better) of a fairly small size. Preinflate a 16 or 24 inch balloon and cover the base with the balloon (cutting the neck off beforehand helps) to match the balloon color you are using. Now mix up some concrete and pour it in the floral container and shove in tie downs, structure, etc.. Voila – bases and enough weight all in one.
  • I just did a job yesterday where we put packed helium arches bouncing from each table to the next, for 20 tables. Needless to say we mixed a couple of bags of concrete and used somewhat larger floral containers. But because we could cover the base with the balloon, we could match the polka dot balloons in the arches with the polka dot bases. The client thought we were so clever.
  • In the Images article “Satisfying Brides on a Budget” by Christopher Horne, he speaks about gluing two round cake boards together and pushing an inflated balloon onto the board why deflating it, wrapping the edges under the board. How do you get an 11′ balloon around the board?
    • This technique is fully demonstrated in both of the Chris Horne videos “Wedding workshop in a box” and “Themes and Dreams.”
    • The round boards available in the US are of corrugated cardboard and are not strong enough on their own to stand the stresses caused by stretching a balloon over them, so glue two together with the grains running in opposite directions to make them rigid. Alternatively, use a circle of foam core or some other rigid material.
    • Make sure that you use a balloon significantly larger than the board you wish to cover. So if you wish to cover a 12″ circle, use a 16″ balloon. For an 8″ circle, an 11″ balloon is fine.
    • FULLY inflate the balloon with air, but don’t tie it. Lay the balloon on the table, holding the neck out to one side. Place the cake circle on top of the balloon, and press down on in firmly with your free hand, spreading your fingers so that the pressure is evenly distributed over the surface of the board.
    • Release the neck of the balloon so that it deflates and continue to push down on the board so that it is pushed into the balloon as it deflates, finally becoming wrapped in the balloon. If you use a big enough balloon and push hard enough this is very easy and you won’t need to use the adhesive around the edges of the board.
    • The procedure is quite easy after the third or fourth try. Fill the 11″ balloon full, do not tie. hold the neck to one side, the balloon being on a hard surface, and put the card board rounds onto the top. Apply light pressure. When you release the neck use both hands and press the cardboard down to force out the air. You must press hard in order that the balloon squishes itself above the cardboard. When all the air is out the balloon will cover the bottom side and be held by the remainder of the balloon on the top side. The key to this is the pressure you use to push down and balancing while pushing so that the part of the balloon that remains up is even all around.
    • This is a technique which I believe I introduced at IBAC 1991 in Dallas (but I’m sure someone will correct me and say they did it first elsewhere!) where I made a “square” latex balloon using a sapphire blue stars-around which I “shrunk” around a square board to serve as the field of stars on an American Flag. The technique is this: inflate a balloon, but don’t tie the neck. Lay the balloon on a flat surface, take your insert (cake board, square board, I’ll bet a square CD cover would work well, you can experiment with variations on this with 3-D objects – just go play!) and “thrust” the insert into the side of the balloon while slowly deflating the balloon. As the balloon deflates it will shrink around the edges of the board and grip the edges. You have to finesse this a little, but if you do it right the balloon will be wrapped evenly around the edges of the board and at some point will not deflate any more because you’ve sealed off the air on the other side of the board. You’ve created a sort of dome or “half” balloon. It’s hard to describe, you’ve just got to do it.

Mirrors For Centerpieces

  • Centerpiece weights – These weights can be made of almost anything. They need to weigh enough to hold a number of helium filled balloons down on the table. You can use something that matches the theme of the event or you can use something as simple as a balloon sand weight.
  • Instead of the regular glass kind, plastic mirrors can be used under centerpieces. Renting out mirrors to go under the centerpieces really adds to the look, but transporting and storing them is a pain because of chipping and breaking. Plastic mirrors are much lighter and almost impossible to accidentally break.
  • Bruce Walden suggests using the foil/cardboard lids for aluminum foil containers. They are “mirror like” on one side, cardboard on the other and are used as lids like Pizza Hut uses to transport their spaghetti pies in. They are about 7-8″ in diameter and are great for using as “mirrors” and they only cost about $0.12 each. I found them at a party store called Party City. They also sold lots of containers and different kinds of party things.
  • Bruce Walden taught me this trick years ago and I have used it a lot since. Try using a 10″ take out food container lid as a mirror base. They are round cardboard with mylar silver foil on one side. They look and reflect light just as a mirror does and they come in HUGE cases for pennies each. They come in a variety of sizes and I find them at the restaurant supply warehouse in our phone book. The best part is they are disposable and I do not have to replace when chipped, cracked or dropped! And, I no longer waste time scraping off wax! They can be a good alternative to a mirror!
  • We use cake bases. They come in several different sizes, and about four colors; absolutely fantastic for table center designs.
  • I saw Marvin Hardy use the most incredible “mirrors” under centerpieces in a class he taught years ago. They looked exactly like regular mirrors, no warped reflection or anything…. but they were PLASTIC! We didn’t realize they were plastic till he picked up one and tossed it. They looked so real that we all screamed and ducked. He said that they took abuse much better than glass but the quality was amazing. If you want mirrors as rental pieces these are really worth the investment. You can probably get these from a local plastics dealer if you have one.
  • Another fabulous alternative for round mirrors are “mirror mats”. These are 16″ round-scalloped pieces of mylar. Advanced Creative Products carries these in several different colors that all have silver on the back. That way you can use the color OR use the silver. They are VERY, VERY affordable (I believe they run about 20-30 cents each) and look terrific under centerpieces. Although the price is the best part of it, the other great thing about them is that since they are so economical to purchase, they can just be thrown away after the party or wedding. We have had brides and clients prefer them over mirrors because they are actually much prettier on the table and still reflect almost as well as a mirror does. Obviously, they cannot be used for spiraling balloons around them, you would need to use a heavy mirror for that. However, for everything else, they’re a dream!
  • I need some round mirrors for making the “spiral staircase” centerpiece bouquets.
  • Any glass company can custom cut the mirrors for you. We had some made a few years back, 1/4 inch thick and 12 inch diameter. Remember to store them in bubble wrap after each use.
  • I have them made at Regal Plastics out of acrylic with a mirrored back. They are lighter weight and will not break like a regular mirror does. I order 3/8″ or 1/2″, as 1/4″ is too light to hold down anything like helium balloons on ribbon. However, you can attach washers to the underside if you need more weight. They scratch more easily than mirrors, so you just have to put paper towels between them for protection.

Weights For Centerpieces

  • I use a fishing sinker from a fishing store that makes their own weights. The weight is tear shaped and flat. They have a hole at the top. I put two together with the wire going through the hole to tie to the balloons. A 5 inch balloon slides over the weight and they can be set into any centerpiece. They hold down 5 foil balloons. I also use them with the Le Pouf machine. Cost 6 cents each. The fishing tackle store has a growing list of balloon artist customers here locally.
  • Tape the weight to the table so they don’t walk.
  • Consider rock salt pellets instead of sand inside a piece of mylar or cellophane. We have also used water inside latex balloons over-wrapped with cellophane or mylar. Pea gravel would also be low cost and would work.
  • Cover a juice box. Often times when children are at events or for proms I use floral Oasis. It works great. Wet it and cut it into whatever size piece you need. I cover it in a plastic bag then use mylar over it. You could also use boxes and put little rocks in them.
  • A can of tomato sauce works as a low cost weight.
  • Another idea is plaster of paris. You can pour it into small Dixie cups and if you need something to tie on to just before it gets too hard, put a large paper clip sticking out of the top, end up of course.
  • I have been making my own weights for years. I take the jello pudding cups, fill them with concrete and add a wire [to tie the ribbon to]. Pop them out when they are hard and reuse the cup again. Wrap it up and there you go.
  • We have discovered the wonderful world of “DOBIES”. They can be found at your “Home Depot” type stores in the concrete or brick departments. They are little concrete blocks which are used to hold rebar in place when pouring concrete. They cost less than a dime a piece, measure about 2 inches square, have a wire hook in them and will hold down a three footer. They also come in larger sizes. We buy them by the case and always have inexpensive weights available.
  • Dobie Bricks – balloon weights Dobie Bricks are used to hold rebar up off the ground when pouring concrete slabs. I had trouble finding them too. My Home Depot said they didn’t have them, but I found them back by the cement mixers and materials for pouring concrete. SKU for Dobies: 729353 for 2″; I don’t have the SKU for the 3″ (or is it 3.5″?). You need to look where the bags of concrete are. The Dobies are usually on a shelf close by. They come several together like a block, 12 I think, but you can break them apart for any quantity you need. At 11 cents each, buy the whole darn block! They are the same “grayish” color as concrete and have 2 wires sticking out the top.
  • One of my commercial clients, a department store, has asked me not to use sand weights any more. They put balloon bouquets around on the clothing racks and customers/children sometimes fuss with the mylar wrapped sand weights causing them to break open.
  • Several years back I had a real problem with sand used for a junior high dance. The weights were just too tempting and some wise guy started playing with them and the next thing you know the balloons were on the ceiling and the sand was all over the gym floor! Then the kids danced the night away. Needless to say I received a call from the teacher/advisor on Monday morning. Good thing the school administration had already decided that they were going to re-do the floor during the summer. I still do that job BUT we use a plastic bag – usually a recycled balloon bag – and put landscaping stones in it, then cover it with mylar paper. The cost is about the same and you don’t have nearly the mess. We use stones almost all the time now. Another idea is to cover a tile – costs about 15 cents – and use that for a weight. This way it looks like a little present and it’s flat and less noticeable.
  • I have stopped using sand because of the problem that you stated. Several years back I did a prom that was held in a gym. The prom advisor called me up on Monday morning to tell me that we could never use sand weights again. One kid got the bright idea to play with the tissue wrapped sand filled balloon and the balloons went up to the ceiling. That was not the problem. Then other kids started doing the same thing and before you know it the sand-filled balloons were broken and sand went all over the floor and then to make matters worse, the kids danced the night away with sand on the hard wood floors. I thought I would lose that account for sure, but they assured me that after the principal and the janitors got over it, they had decided to re-sand the floors during the summer anyway. And, I guess I impressed them with the decor, because six years later I am still doing their prom. That was when I changed to landscape stones, the same price almost for a bag of sand. It takes less – much less – time to fill the bags than to fill a balloon with sand and I have not had a problem since.
  • If you are going to make a balloon sand weight, find a funnel which has the biggest opening and 11″ balloon nozzle can fit around. Inflate the 11″ balloon with air first (to stretch the balloon). Put the funnel into the nozzle of the balloon and add fine sand.
  • A 16″ filled with sand will be more than enough to support a cluster of three 11″ latex. To save your precious 16’s, pre-inflate an 11″ with air, then let the air out. Now it will be “bigger” and will hold more sand. Filled with sand, it too will be more than enough to support the 3 11″ heliums. Cool, huh? Then take a square of tissue and maybe cello (placing the cello on the outside), put the sand weight in the middle of the tissue, wrap it up, tie it off with ribbon (so it kinda looks like a “Hershey Kiss”) , and Tah-Dah — a pretty attractive looking weight.
  • COFFEE MUGS, they are everywhere. But more importantly they hold almost any balloon and do it very well (low center of gravity/weight). A table full of standing balloon sculptures is rather impressive. As Marvin Hardy says, better display does elevate the ART higher.
  • The simplest, cheapest, quickest, nicest looking weight that I can think of is uses two clusters of 5″ air-filled latex accented with sprays of onion grass, pearls or whatever accents are appropriate:Take a defective, separated 18″ mylar, silver side down and place one cup of sand into the center. Tie with a piece of balloon ribbon leaving both ends of the ribbon approximately 12″ long. Trim top to 2″. Air inflate the clusters – colors can be mixed, banded, or grouped – and size them down to about 4 1/4″. You can make your own sizer from a glass, bowl or whatever. Tie duplets and twist into clusters of 4. Arrange the colors and place the first cluster onto the weight. Bring one of the ribbons around two opposite balloons (figure 8) and then around the third. Place the second cluster atop the first, move into position and use that same ribbon wrapping the same as the first cluster. Pull the wrapping ribbon up through the center and bring up the second piece of ribbon. Knot together twice and trim. Use two pieces of onion grass – cut off the ends with a wire cutter to approximately 2″ and wrap with floral tape to cover all sharp ends. Dab with either cool glue or floral adhesive and position into the center of the top cluster. Use your thumb nail on the underside of 4-6 strands of the onion grass to curl downward. Bag them up in long bags – 12 per bag.

    They are indestructible – can be done easily a week ahead. Cost: 8 x 5″ latex = .32, 2 sprays of onion grass = .30, Misc. sand, mylar, ribbon, glue, tape = .20. Add about 5 minutes labor. I charge a base fee for basic colors in this design and upgrade components, colors and floating balloons with collars, mylar, tulle, etc.

    If you want to use floating helium balloons – I suggest just using a single 16″ so it won’t be tangling and blowing into guests’ faces. You will be able to inflate all the clusters and have everything ready. Tie the floating balloon to the weight and use ] that ribbon to wrap the clusters – this keeps everything pulled together – continue as above and use the loose ribbons from the weight to retie everything before putting in the accents.

  • Colored rice. Add about a few drops of food coloring to a cup of rice and shake in a jar and you’ll get nicely colored rice which can be used as confetti for weddings as well. You can wrap this up nicely in tulle and ribbons. You can mix different colors, too, and they’ll look nice through the tulle netting.
  • Using sand to weight my centerpieces etc. has always been my favorite way of weighting my creations. I’ve also discovered another unique way, ju-ju-bees. I can pick up a roughly one pound jar of the cheap No-name ju-ju bees for about $8.00 Canadian. I normally use 2 ju- ju bees per 9″ and three ju-ju bees per 11″ and 18″ mylars. It works out fairly inexpensive and is a little different.
  • For my wedding centerpieces I’ve used those little white scotch mints and they too work very well. I always carefully try to up-sell a bride to the mints and more often than not she is more than happy to pay a little extra for the added touch. I just wrap them in tulle with a bow coordinated to the wedding colors and it looks good! The only thing you have to watch is you and your staff eating your weights before you get finished :]
  • I have tried everything from wrapped blocks of wood to sand weights, and the best solution I have found is using colored glass marbles.They may cost slightly more (a 1,000 count bag runs me about $16.00) but I find that with my LePouf machine, I can use them for almost any type of occasion. I can make pretty “poufs” using tulle, star shaped mylar paper, scalloped circle mylar paper, etc. and I put approx. 26 marbles in each weight. I find this is enough to hold down a centerpiece consisting of (6) 11″ latex balloons and (1) 18″ mylar balloon.

    Also, if there should be anyone who wants to “investigate” what is inside the weight, there is no mess on the tables, just pretty colored marbles!

  • Although we’ve used sand balloons and in emergencies, water balloons, we’ve now started to use heavy plumber’s washers. We get them wholesale through a plumber’s warehouse, and depending on the size and weight, one washer holds down five latex balloons. They are not real expensive either. It depends on the size. They are small and therefore easier to wrap – and don’t need as big a sheet of mylar paper to cover. Regarding behavior at these affairs, you would not believe the stories that I hear from parents when they are planning these parties. They ask how firmly I can secure the balloons so the kids can’t take them off the centerpiece. The worst is when you are a guest at an affair that you have decorated and you watch the kids, often with their parents approval, take your hard work apart.
  • I use water softener salt instead of sand.
  • I use water balloons, covered in mylar sheeting when on a table.
  • Personally, I do not like water balloons for CP bases. I think they look tacky and unprofessional, but that is just my opinion. You can always get regular or silica sand or even salt pellets (used for water softeners) in large bags and they are quite inexpensive. Desperate times do call for desperate measures. ONLY if on-site and absolutely necessary, like they want another quick base, will I even consider a water balloon weight. and then it must be covered w/mylar (if you’re really pressed, used a hotel cloth napkin (preferably colored) and lots of ribbon!!!)
  • You are right about add on bouquets. On a job I always carry lots of extra balloons and ribbons just in case the customer wants more balloons. Water weights are really good in a pinch.
  • If you are using water balloons, which I never thought was a good idea, but in an emergency double stuff or even triple stuff them. A long time ago, I did a decorating job for a bar mitzvah and the catering manager added a table or two and I did not come prepared with enough weights. Believe it or not, the two water balloons that I did do were found by the kids and they had a great time bouncing the bases off the walls. Now, I ALWAYS go prepared with extra weights.
  • If you HAVE to use water balloons, double stuff them, and always cover them with mylar paper. In a pinch, I have asked the catering hall to use a cloth napkin. Obviously, tissue or paper napkins are not the best to use, but will do in a pinch.
  • I normally use landscaping stones and recycle all plastic bags and cover them with mylar paper, tied with curling ribbon or #9 satin. The Qualatex balloon bags are heavy weight plastic and make great bags for those large weights when necessary.
  • I have never used water balloons because a sand weight, in my opinion, looks better and is pliable. Using water balloon weights seems more *hazardous* than sand because a misguided cigarette could leave a puddle on the table or even worse; an observant child (or adult) might realize what he had and all hell could break loose!
  • It seems to me that any children who would bounce water balloons off the walls of a reception hall might would toss around the bags of stones or sand too. Was the event at least over before they took apart the decor? I know kids will be kids so I choose water balloons over bags of sand when I am concerned about unsupervised play after the event just in case they get into them. (This is a real concern right now during prom season.) Water is easier to clean up than a spilled bag of sand and does much less damage than a bag of rocks that is tossed in the wrong direction. Of course when there is concern like this I often ask the client (and the banquet hall manager) which they would prefer. And if you use a large balloon (at least 11″) with only a small amount of water they are almost impossible to pop. We tested this one day by bouncing some against a brick wall for almost a half hour before one finally popped.
  • As far as water balloons looking tacky and unprofessional, I just don’t get it. When I use water balloons, I always use three small water balloons tied together at the neck. If you use one it does not sit stable. With two, they form “wheels” and roll to the lowest spot on the table, and tables are rarely perfectly level. Then, remembering the first rule of floral design that my mother taught me, “Never let your ‘works’ show” (meaning the styrofoam and tape and that kind of things) I completely cover the water balloons with a matching mylar and close with a rubber band (so much easier than trying to tie it closed with curling ribbon). Add a bow or some ribbon curlies and it looks perfectly professional. Without taking it apart I can’t see how you could tell if there was water balloons or bags of sand in it, so the idea of one “looking more professional” than the other seems silly. When I have plenty of prep time to completely prepare my weights ahead of time I usually use bags of sand or those floral design marbles. I usually use water balloons when all the work is done on site. For a while I even used empty film canisters with snap on caps (thanks to a donation from a local one hour developer) filled with everything from sand to gravel to cement. This makes great busy work for your kids if they like to help out like mine do. As long as it is covered with mylar in the end it really doesn’t matter what you use, in my opinion.
  • I’m a professional, and I use water weights all the time, and I know several other professionals who do the same. Water weights are quick and easy, and I usually carry a few gross of “instant” water weights (just add water) with me to every job. They’re called “leftover balloons”, and they’ve saved my neck several times when the caterer decided to add 3 extra tables, or I needed a cluster “over in the corner”, etc.
  • An uninflated 11″ balloon, water-filled without expanding (about the size of an egg) will hold down up to ten inflated 11″ balloons, and is almost impossible to burst (an elephant can step on it). Use your imprinted neck-up balloons with your logo on it (everyone has these right? If not, you should have both neck up and neck down logo balloons to promote yourself)
  • Be bold enough to question anyone who says you shouldn’t do something which has already worked for you. In the immortal words of John Candy in “Splash” after he tosses some change on the ground and bends down to pick it up so he can look up a woman’s dress, and Tom Hanks scolds him for still doing the same thing he used to do when he was a kid… “Hey, when something works for me I stick with it!”
  • Not that your customer needs to know what’s inside the mylar paper, but if you’ve explained the mechanics of the weight to them and they don’t object then it is no other “professional’s” place to tell you that it’s wrong. Of course it is more profitable to sell a more expensive and elaborate base, and when you have enough business that you can afford to turn down customers who can’t afford expensive centerpieces, then by all means insist on more elaborate, expensive weights.
  • The reason that we shy away from sand and water-filled weights is that if they do happen to break, there’s a mess! We routinely use a 4×4 ceramic tile wrapped in mylar paper. It looks great and there is no risk of “spillage”. There are so many wonderful ideas out there for weights, that we’d rather not risk a spill at a formal gathering. Price-wise, we get the tiles from contractors, etc. who have leftovers from various jobs. Color and style don’t matter because the tile won’t be seen. The price averages around 2-4 cents. The mylar paper is around 15 cents, and we feel that the nice look covers the cost!
  • We use sand in a baggie – of course, we have an arroyo that runs behind our house so we have easy access to it – we then tie the baggie. The baggies are then wrapped in tissue. This is our simple weight. We have never had a bag break and spill the sand. Also, use different amounts of sand depending on how many balloons and sizes of balloons each weight has to hold down. Water seems ok but it’s a lot easier for us to fill the baggies than to fill the balloons with water. We do use balloon sand weights for our arches.
  • I have to agree regarding using water for centerpieces bases – although I have to say, water will dry and isn’t as messy as sand. While we have used sand for bases in a pinch, we have never used sand or water when it goes on a table where guests are seated or food/beverages are being served. We only use sand in a pinch (no pun intended) or use sand to fill 4 and 9″ foils.
  • If you have ever attended any bar or bat mitzvahs you would be surprised at what the kids do. I sometimes offer “bouncer” services to my clients to keep the kids in line and the guys who do the bouncing come back to me with all sorts of stories. At this particular bar mitzvah the kids were only interested in the water balloons. Most of the time, even though the parents are present at the function, the kids are free to do whatever they please, and sometimes right in front of the parents or other adults.
  • There is one hall that I work in where the manager will not let any other balloon decorator in that uses water balloons. That is always the first thing he says to me when I come in to decorate – it is now a joke with him and me. When I HAVE to use a water balloon, I always will double stuff it or triple stuff it – but that is very rare now since I always come prepared.
  • We do a lot of bar mitzvahs and have found that children are naturally curious creatures. The have been known on many occasions to poke at water-based cup bases with knives and forks (lovingly provided by function facility) and when this happens, the tables get soaked and the balloons end up on the ceiling.
  • When doing simple weights, I use a 16″ balloon with Pea Gravel inside because it’s easier to sweep up than sand if it breaks, and it’s just about the same price. Or if I’ve been warned that the crowd is going to be destructive, I put cement in the balloon, add a bit of water, knot the balloon, squish it around and let it cure for a few days – voila, an indestructible weight!
  • We primarily use “rock salt” for a basic economy base. We take two pieces of cello wrap placing one on top of the other in opposite directions – so you have a corner point facing out all around. We make a tie off line (ribbon knotted at the ends to create a loop) and tape down to the center of cello (clear postal tape works best). Then place a scoop of salt on top, gather the cello up and tie off with another piece of ribbon. Then fluff/fan out the cello so it looks full.We use the appropriate amount of weight needed to hold what ever number of balloons – i.e. – a bouquet of twelve 11″ requires approximately 7-8 oz or a 1/2 cup. If it is going outdoors you may want to add a little extra. Our cheapo postal scale that we purchased for $10.00 worked great to give us the proportions we needed – i.e. 1/2 c for twelve 11″, 3/4 – 1 c. for nine 16″ etc.
  • We prefer the rock salt because it cleaner to work with and we can use clear cello and it still looks good. Sometimes we will trim the neck of the base (where we tied it off) with small 5″ clusters or extra curled ribbon.. We also have used colored and metallic wraps and broken foils work great too.
  • Other things we use to weight bouquets and arches are bricks – of course we wrap them in tissue or mylar then add a tie of line.
  • We still use sand but primarily to weight 4 or 9″ foil balloons that are being used as a weight. And we have found that the “tube part” of a turkey baster is a great funnel for getting the sand into those little foils.
  • We too use the rock salt for our “economy bases”. We used to use aquarium gravel, which was my favorite for many years because we could get it in an assortment of colors. However, our wholesale source is no longer in the area.
  • As for professionals informing the customer, that is fine. But when your customers has 300 guests at a party, are they going to caution everyone as to the contents of the centerpiece weight? And what about the one “guest” who can’t leave things alone and pokes the base just because they have to know what’s inside. Then you do have a mess.

Weights For Floor Bouquets

  • I don’ t know how clever I am, but I think I have come up with a good idea. I was using Linda Bruce’s idea to use tomato sauce cans (8 oz.) as weights for floor bouquets. I needed to disguise the cans, so I covered them with balloons that had their necks cut off. It didn’t take as much tulle or cellophane to cover the can, and the color was perfect. I found that if I inflated (and deflated or stretched) the balloon before cutting off the neck, it was much easier to cover the can.
  • I use gallon size mustard (empty) containers as bases for a balloon flower arrangements. I get them from the school cafeteria. I paint them with shirt paint (Wal-mart) and they make great vases.
  • In a True Inflations Newsletter there was a base made out of a coffee can. Wrap it in nice paper. Use the plastic top on the bottom of the can to hold the paper. Tuck the paper inside the top. Stuff 260’s in until it’s full. A coffee can has enough weight to hold up 260’s.
  • When making a floor model (size) topiary that will have a plastic flower pot base, use your hot glue to fix an empty curling ribbon spool to the base inside the pot. The stem of the topiary must then be the same diameter as the hole in the middle of your ribbon spool (ours are 5/8″). Hide the whole thing with shred or other inexpensive pot filler.Advantages:
    • No need to mix plaster, cement, or use sand- if decor is indoors.
    • Recycles ribbon spools
    • NO COST
    • Holds topiary stem snug and vertical.


    • Not suitable for outdoor decor unless you use cement, sand or plaster as well.


Arch Bases

  • If you are looking for an inexpensive, heavy, stable, and “recyclable” base for a helium arch try whatever canned goods are on sale. Place a can in the middle of a sheet of mylar paper, pull the corners together above it and secure with a rubber band. Then cover the rubber band with curling ribbon or a bow. If you have not included tear down and clean up into the job and you don’t have to come back after the event. Be sure to tell your client that the cans are there and that you wish them to be donated to the food bank. (Much of my work is done in reception halls of churches that collect canned goods for their own or community food banks.) This will be seen as a goodwill act on your part. Just be sure not to use pork-n-beans for a bar mitzvah.
  • We make the bases for our arches and other various sculptures. We invested in some white plastic planters in the shape of urns. We fill these half-way with plaster. Before pouring the plaster, insert a piece of 1/2 pvc pipe into the center. (Tape the top end the pipe does not fill up with plaster). These work very nicely for an arch or sculpture using 5-inch balloons. They look nice, are heavy, and are reuseable. Once the plaster separated from the base, so we used drywall screws up through the bottom and painted them white… they have stayed in place ever since.
  • My bases consist of plates with multiple welded-on pipes. That way I can use them foto hold bent conduit for star bursts or side-by-side decorations/sculptures. I also have a set of super heavy, double layered plates. (second plate has only a hole in the center and hand holds so they can fit over the first plate to give the weight I need for full dance floor canopies)
  • Most arches are best when tied to sand weights, bricks or cement blocks. Which to use depends on what size the arch is. A small string of pearls would best be tied to oversized balloon sand weights that have been decorated with mylar paper or opal essence. Larger String of Pearls arches should be on a decorated brick or patio brick. Spiral (or garland) arches should be tied to decorated cement blocks. To decorate a cement block it is best to first wrap it newspaper and then with the final paper or mylar. This helps prevent the paper from tearing. Certainly there may be other ways to tie the arches, but these are what we’ve used for 19 years.
  • The top of a smaller arch could be tied to the ceiling with monofilament line, and the bottom two ends secured with tape to tile floors or drapery hooks into carpet.

String Of Pearls (SOP) Arches

  • We use 50 lb. test monofilament line. Inflate the balloon and size it, place it on the line at the proper place behind the monofilament using your left index finger and middle finger behind the line and your left thumb in front (keep the line right at the point on the neck where the balloon begins to bulge) add any accenting ribbon, etc., to the front of the line and hold in place with your left thumb, stretch the balloon neck as far as it will go, tie the balloon and give it a slight tug. Remember to have one end weighted down and to have your working end weighted, but flexible, or to use the clothes line method and then tie down to your anchors — you want to prevent the arch from getting away from you and hitting anything on the ceiling. If you need to move a balloon, do not slide it because it might burn the latex and begin to deflate, do wet your fingers with saliva and dampen the line from the balloon out to where you need to move it and it will slide along very easily. Novices should either buy the pre-mark line to simplify spacing, or cut a straw to the exact length of the space between each balloon to use when placing them on the line (or to spiff up if you are bagging it and transporting it to the site).
  • Starting from the weight, space the balloons (11″) 1 foot apart until you get to the length you need! NOTE: You should always use an ODD number of balloons, i.e. 15, 25, 33… this way you have a center balloon to work from. This makes it easy if you’re following a color pattern. Remember, keep it simple!!!
  • Use the monofilament that has black marks every 11 or 12 inches. This makes it extremely easy to position the balloons on the line – you do not have to reposition and straighten them out every so often. The only negative to this product is that it is only 30 pound test.
  • When we tie arches, we use a “fisherman’s knot”. When you loop the monofilament through to make a knot, put it through 3-4 times and then it won’t slip and come undone. We do this at least 2 times to make sure it is secure. Also if we are tying it to something that will be covered, such as bricks, we also put duct tape on it before covering it just as a security measure.
  • Caroline at Balloon Fair and Party Ware in Australia has a great idea of threading pre-inflated balloons onto a line with a needle. If you use a blunt-end needle and you haven’t tied the knot too tightly beforehand, you could probably slip it through the knot without even piercing the latex.
    • How to do the “condensed” string-of-pearls arch:
      The string-of-pearls arch is easily transportable by just “condensing” the balloons and placing a large plastic bag over them. To “condense” the balloons: build the arch as you normally would at your shop, so that you will have the correct length. Then, slide the balloons along the monofilament line into each other so that the knots are as close together as possible. The balloons will automatically push each other out of the way as you do this. Now you have a very UGLY, but easily transportable arch that can be ‘uncondensed’ in about 2-3 minutes once you get to the site.When you know you are going to be using this method, you might want to use a little heavier monofilament line than you would normally use to avoid any chance of “slicing” the balloons while you are condensing or uncondensing them.

      This condensing technique will work better with a short arch than it will with a long arch because our plastic bags will roughly hold a 30 balloon arch.

    • When sliding latex balloons along monofilament – wet the line directly in front of the balloon knot for lubrication. This will help prevent slicing, and will dry shortly afterwards, leaving the balloon held tightly in place by friction to prevent unwanted slipping of balloons. Don’t tie the knot too tightly onto the line if you’re using: heart or mouse shaped latex, geos tied to the line (as opposed to strung through the hole), or imprints which you’d like all to face forward, and you want the balloons to line up properly. Then you can “spin” the balloon while stretching the neck ever so lightly just above the knot and then releasing the tension on the neck so that it seats itself back into the knot. Also, thicker monofilament cuts less. I rarely use anything thinner than 30 lb. test for string-of-pearl arch. It’s invisible enough, and much easier to work with than thinner stuff.
    • Be very careful not to slide the balloons on far away from where they are supposed to be, even on 50 pound test monofilament line. When you slide them on the cord, you can cause friction tears.
    • I’ve seen a technique demonstrated for making a pearl arch off-site, and then scrunching all the balloons to one end of the line (so they don’t get tangled) rolling up the excess line, bagging the whole thing, and then getting to the job, unbagging the arch, and then spreading the balloons along the line again. – A helpful hint here – a little tongue oil (spit) on the line will help the balloon slide without friction holes, and will dry very quickly leaving the balloon snug and un-slippery in a minute or two. Even better – if you want to be able to slide the balloons along the line, leave the knot loose. Later, when the balloon is in place where you want it, tighten the knot and it won’t slide as easily. Never pull the balloon side of the knot – always the lip side
  • Your “spread” in a string of pearl arch should be based on how you inflate the balloons, and what you feel looks best for the application. We usually space balloons for pearl arches between 12 and 14 inches. A suggestion… a gym full of people generates a lot of heat, especially 16 feet above the floor. Take care to under-inflate your balloons (9 or 10 inches for 11-inch balloons, 12 inches for 14 inch balloons, etc.) so that the heat won’t expand them to the point of popping.
  • Spacing – use a spacer (this can be ruler, a stick, a piece of a box, or – my favorite – the full span of my outstretched hand plus about an inch or two between balloons as you go. Of course you’ve roughed out the length and height of your arch by slapping a balloon on the line every 6 feet or so to get started) Your arms are great spacers if you hold the knot of a balloon in between your thumb and index finger, then you can measure off anywhere on your arm – your elbow is probably 16″ to 18″, your shoulder is, maybe 2.5 feet, your neck is about 3 feet, your other thumb is probably 5 to 6 feet. If you measure precisely the length you want (let’s say 18 inches – on me that’s from my thumb to the middle of my bicep) just pinch yourself hard in that spot and you’ll remember for the rest of the day exactly how long 18 inches is, and you won’t have to reach for a ruler! This makes for easily centered pieces. Three bruises and I can crank out 30 (or more) identically spaced bunches literally with my eyes closed. Of course you need to be able to know the smells of the different colors to do this really well.
  • Two moderately skilled people, or one highly skilled person should be able to throw together a pearl arch at a rate of about 5 or 6 balloons per minute on site. This means a 40 balloon arch – (20′ to 25′ wide, 10′ to 15′ high) should take about 8 minutes or less to inflate. One highly skilled person should be able to tie a balloon onto a line FASTER than the time it takes to inflate a balloon, so that person should be able to put a pearl arch together as fast as a partner can inflate and hand balloons to him/her. With pre-cut ribbon you should be able to tie the ribbon and the balloon directly onto the line at the same time and still keep up with your helper. (The technique for tying a balloon and ribbon at the same time is in the QBN tapes, so there’s one argument for studying the tapes and learning at least the basics of what’s on them. Don’t forget: you see what’s on them by watching, you learn what’s on them by practicing – preferably while doing a similar arch at a job where you aren’t so pressed for time.) Why not set a goal this year of getting to the point where you and a partner can crank out a perfect 40 balloon string of pearls in under 10 minutes?
  • Consider using 14″ or 16″ balloons for the string of pearl arches. I personally don’t use 11″ for helium work that needs to last for more than one day if I can avoid it. The balloons will shrink somewhat so the larger sizes of balloons look fresher longer. Just my opinion. The plus side is the arch requires fewer balloons when you use bigger balloons so the work goes a little faster.
  • I just made some waves for a beach party and I liked how they turned out. First, attach balloon adhesive tabs to the floor several feet apart where you want to create your waves. Then run your mono (fish) line through each hole of the tabs and tie at one end–do not cut the line off! Now start attaching blue balloons (as if you are making single line pearl arches). Make your waves different heights and tie at each tab before you continue on. For a 3-D look make 3 rows of waves and stagger the tabs so the waves will look more realistic.

Mylar Sop Arch

  • When doing a string of pearls arch made with foil hearts, you’ll want them all to face the same way. Use double sided tape on the back of the ‘neck’ and then fold the ‘neck’ over itself with the line on the inside. The ‘neck’ is kept flat, thus preventing twisting. The double sided tape prevents it from slipping along the line, and, if you can retrieve the arch, you can deflate and reuse it with all the foils already in place. We use double faced foam tape (Magic Tape) to keep the balloons from turning. (Or use Balloon Stick’ums by AJ Ganz. Better and more reliable than ordinary double sided tape.) Helium inflate your mylars and fold up the neck in 1/2″ (2 cm) folds toward the balloon. Use a 1/4″ (1 cm) piece of double faced foam tape and stick it lengthwise across the fold line with half on the fold and half on the upper part of the neck. Bag them up.
  • On site, simply peel off the backing on the neck and place onto the line. If you want to add ribbon or other accents, put them in place under the line before you press the tape to the neck. It’s a cleaner look to tape the balloons on the same side down the entire length of the arch. This is a great do-ahead design component because the bagged balloons can be done a couple of days ahead to weed out any defectives. A few other positives — it’s really simple to exchange a deflated balloon with a new one and take the deflated balloon back to re-inflate and use again. We’ve kept arches going for months in malls with very quick maintenance and replacement reusing the same balloons over and over again. And of course, when it comes down, just dust them off and the balloons can be reused in another job or donated to a worthy group/cause.

Geo Blossom Arch

  • Does anyone have an easy way to get the larger balloon blossoms to stay straight when one is making a single arch?
  • I usually use a drop of rubber cement or floral cement at the points where the blossoms touch, and just hold on to them until the glue is dry. If you are doing this in a windy location, it won’t work no matter what you use. Another way that you can keep the 16″ blossoms laying straight in a row is to add a 4 cluster of 5″ sized to 3 1/2″ to the bottom of each 16″ blossom. Have the blossom nest between two of the balloons facing in the direction that you want. I’ve also done these where I used inflated 260Q’s and made a “chain” that ran thru the holes of all of the blossoms (this method does have it’s drawbacks if one of the 260Q’s pop)

Sop Arch Length

  • What is the formula to calculate the length of line, and balloons needed for an SOP arch? Mine needs to be about 15-feet long, and 9-feet high.
  • Here’s a formula for the approximate length of an arch where:
     H  =  height        W  =  width        L  =  length  L  =  W/2*SQRT(1+((4*H/W)^2))+(W^2/(8*H))*LN((4*H/W)+SQRT(1+(4*H/W)^2))
  • You’ll need to talk to your computer consultant if you don’t know how to put this into a spreadsheet. SQRT is the Square Root function, LN is the Natural Log. You can set up a spreadsheet so that you can enter the height and width – (in your case, I think you meant 15 feet wide, not long) and it will give you the length of line.
  • Even the mathematically-challenged can make use of this formula for the approximate length of an arch if they understand a couple of points about its derivation.
    • This formula comes from computing the length of a “catenary” curve, the shape that a freely hanging chain or rope takes when suspended at two points (a balloon arch is simply an upside-down catenary).
    • Because of the way it is derived, this formula can be used with any consistent system of units (inches, meters, feet, etc). All the arch dimensions will scale proportionally. In other words, the height and width of an arch spanning 5″ will be 100 times smaller than those of an arch spanning 500″.
  • You can use these two facts to your advantage to find the length of a 15 foot wide, 9 foot high arch using only a string, 2 pins, a sheet of paper, a pencil and a ruler.
  • Let 1 inch of string equal 1 foot of arch. Draw a 15 inch wide by 9 inch high rectangle on a piece of paper. Hold the paper against the wall and stick pins thru the top two corners of the rectangle and partway into the wall. Tie a string to the left pin, and holding the right end of the string, let the string drape over the right pin. With the string hanging freely on the pins, adjust the string until its lowest part touches the bottom line of the rectangle. Gravity pulls it into a catenary that is proportional in all respects to your desired arch. Mark the string where it passes over the right pin, and measure its length to this mark with the ruler. It should be about 25 inches long, so your arch will be about 25 feet long.
  • There’s also a much less technical formula for an arch in the QBN curriculum. If the width is longer or equal to the heighth, just add those 2 numbers together. If the width is shorter than the heighth, double the height and add the width. Follow the same steps for building the arch! Works for me every time and they always come out looking great!
  • Sizing an Arch
    When you build an arch you are going to want to fit it into a certain place. To estimate the length of your arch you must measure the width (W) of the arch opening and the height (H) of the arch at its tallest point. The basic formula to find the length (L) of the most common arch is:

    W+H(1.5) = L

    Using the above formula an arch length of L would give an arch slightly higher than it is wide which is probably the most common arch look around. If you used the formula:

    W + H = L

    You would get a flattened arch and the formula:

    W + H(2) = L

    Would give you a high arch (St. Louis Gateway Arch???)

    There’s also an easy way to get a rough approximation by using the pythagorean theorem. If you draw a line from the top of the arch, which is the midpoint, straight down, you will get the height (here, 9 feet). This is one leg of a right triangle. The other leg runs from the midpoint of the base line of the arch to the end of the arch, (so it’s half of your 15 feet, or 7.5 feet) The hypotenuse of that right triangle is a straight line from the midpoint of the arch to the end point of the arch, which is a little shorter than the curve of that half of the arch, but close enough to get your estimate. According to the theorem, A(squared) + B(squared)=C(squared) you can calculate this hypotenuse 9(squared) + 7.5(squared) = “that half of the arch”(squared). Now that you know half the arch you can figure out the whole arch by doubling it.

    This all revolves around understanding simple geometry. If you don’t know what a right triangle is, or a hypotenuse, or you don’t know how to square a number or find a square root (yes, you needed to take the square root of C(squared) back there, even though I didn’t come right out and say it) then the best way to figure out the length of an arch is to put balloons on a line until it’s the right length, and that’s your answer.

    As for the number of balloons needed, You will need to convert the length of your line into inches, and then if you don’t know how to figure out how many 11″ balloons it will take to do, say 220″ of line… uh, you’d better call your accountant.

    There’s also a common sense answer to your question. If it’s 15′ wide, then it’s gonna be somewhat longer than that in overall length. Is it double? Well, picture it in your mind. Take a string, run it the width of the arch and back. Is that going to be too much string? I think so. So, we’re between 15 and 30 feet. Why do you want to know the exact length. Surely it’s not so you can bring the right length of string, you’re going to bring a roll of string, if you’ve only got 30′ of string left, go buy another roll before you go to the job. No, you just want to know how many balloons it’s going to take. Well, if it’s just 15′ (which it’s not – it has to be a little longer than that) then, using 11″ balloons, (if you figure in a handy 1″ gap between balloons, then you’ll use exactly 1 balloon foot) it’ll take 15 balloons. If it’s 30′ (which it’s not, we’re figuring it’s somewhat shorter than that) then it’ll take 30 balloons. If we figure it’ll be, say, 5′ longer than 15′ or 5′ shorter than 30′, then we’re estimating a length of 20-25 feet, or 20-25 balloons. If you’re using 9” balloons then they’re about 3/4 of a foot long, so you’ll need 4 of them per every 3′, so use an estimate of 21 – 24 feet (because those numbers are divisible by 3′) to find out that you’ll need 28 to 32 balloons.

    I can’t imagine doing a job where a difference of 5 -10 balloons in an arch is going to affect your supplies or your cost. You should have enough extra balloons on hand to accommodate this. The actual material cost is at most $2-$3. The time involved in putting 10 more balloons on an arch is about 2 minutes.

    So, in conclusion… If you want the formula, I’ve provided it, but if you’re smart enough to use the formula you probably don’t need it, you should be able to rough it out in your head on the spot.

  • I will be doing a pearl arch rainbow, 5 strands 20′ in length and the center height on the top strand 12′ high. Is there a formula for figuring out how many feet of line and balloons to use per strand?
  • Look up the formula for a catenary if you really want an accurate formula, but trial and error will work faster. I recommend you start with a spool of line, a bag of each color of balloon, and a tank of helium. A major warning. If each arch is on top of the one before then the lowest one will be much flatter than the top one. This means that if the top arch is 12′ high, the next one down is 11′ high, then 10′, then 9′, 8′, 7′ this theoretically leaves 1″ separating the center balloon of each arch. You might think then that the first arch’s base is 20′ wide, the next is 18′ (one foot off each side) then 16′, etc. WRONG! Without getting too technical, the width of the base decreases roughly exponentially compared to the height, otherwise the balloons halfway up the arch will be nearly the same height as the arch above and they will push each other out of the way. You’ll be looking at more like 20′, 16′, 12′, 8′, 4′ “oops” as your base width. I learned this the hard way – doing a 5 color rainbow out of 3′ foils across the “mid court” line of a hockey arena. I thought I could attach each successive arch to the next row of seats. well to get the thing to work each arch was 5 or six rows of seats apart (Mark Balzer and Larry Moss, stop laughing). Now that is if you want one arch on top of the next. You can put one arch in front of the next and keep the base 20′ wide and just lower each arch by a foot. You wind up with a rainbow 6′ deep, with what I call the “Hollywood Bowl” look.
  • Here’s a trick to try at home: Convert feet to inches, and measure off 20 inches on your ceiling, or a large sheet of cardboard or something. attach a piece of string or thread to one end point. now let the string hang like a jump rope, letting out string from the other end point, which will take almost exactly the same shape as a pearl arch, only upside down, until the midpoint of your “jump rope” is 12″ down from the midpoint of your base. mark how long the string is, measure it. Let’s say it is about 26″ long, convert that to feet, 26′ of line is what you’ll need for your arch. Each 11″ balloon will take up about 11″ of that line. (I refuse to finish this math, figure out yourself how many 11″ balloons you will need) Now, use thumbtacks, or tape or something, and attach both ends of your first jump rope to the ceiling or sheet of cardboard, or even a curtain rod or broom handle will work, use your imagination. Adjust your endpoints and midpoint until you have an upside down, 1:12 ratio replica of what you’re trying to design. remember to leave approximately 11/12ths of an inch space between arches if you want the balloons to “just touch”. This works just as well if you use a different scale, say, feet to centimeters, or 2″ = 1′, the point is that a jump rope behaves exactly like a pearl arch. Heck, you could take a long rope and go hang it from a bridge and do an exact 1:1 ratio, but if you did, you might as well wrap the rope around your neck and jump, you’ve carried things too far!

Fishbone Arch

  • Consists of a String of Pearls arch with a helium duplet of the same size tied half-way between each balloon in the String of Pearls. This is good for a little different look or for lower profile requirements of a lower ceiling.

Queen Arch

  • The RMS Queen’s Arch uses a combination of balloons inflated 7″, 8″, and 9″. The arch itself (the half circle on top) takes 96 balloons. We recommend under inflated 11″ balloons tied in doublets.The columns that support the arch are made from a single RMS Builder. It takes a little less than one half a Builder to make a supporting column. We usually use a total of 100 balloons sized to 8″ to make the two columns. We recommend under-inflated 11″ balloons tied in doublets.

    The RMS Queen’s Arch and the RMS Builder are sold separately.

    The instructions which come with the Queen’s Arch give detailed information on sizing, tying, and installing the balloons in both the arch and columns. You will get the best results if you follow the tips in the instructions. The triangular cross section of the columns and the arch give a very sophisticated look.

    For the best results, it is important to coat both sides of the Matrix used in the Queen’s Arch with spray adhesive before you stretch it open. While the arch section is self-forming and self-supporting, it is necessary to use base plates and pipes inside the two columns to stabilize the structure.

    <!– You can read about the Queen’s Arch in the recent issue of Weddings with Style Magazine. You can view a color photo of a Queen’s Arch online at along with other RMS products. We are preparing color instructions and illustrations now on the Queens’ Arch for classes we plan to teach in Japan in July. We will be posting html versions of those to our web site later. –>

Butterfly Arch

  • Here is the Butterfly Arch recipe, as taken from Scott Mauldin’s specs in the Ballooniversity ’98 notebook (along with my notes): Each butterfly requires:
    • 2 – 11″ latex
    • 3 – 9″ latex
    • 4 – 5″ latex
    • 2 – 260Q’s

    All balloons are helium filled. I think that they used pearl balloons in the demo, and it came out very dramatic. The wind caused a lot of “fluttering”.

    1. Inflate the 2 – 11″ and 2 of the 9″, and cluster them together. — Form a “quad”, with the 11″ beside each other; the 9″ beside each other. It should look like 2 large wings (side by side) and 2 smaller wings (side by side.)
    2. Inflate the 4 – 5″ and cluster them together. — Again, form a “quad”, with the 5″.
    3. Position the 5″ cluster in the center of the other “quad”. — This is the “body” of your butterfly. When you place the 5″ quad in the center of the “wing” cluster, 2 of the 5″ will show on the “front” side of the butterfly, and the other 2 will be on the UNDERSIDE of the butterfly. So, your butterfly should now look the same from either side.
    4. Inflate the remaining 9″ and tie it to the 5″ quad. — This was tricky without seeing a picture. This 9″ will be the “head” of your butterfly. It will be tied to the “large” wings, and between the 5″. So it will be at the “top” of your butterfly.
    5. Partially inflate both 260Q’s and use rubber cement to attach them to the head of the butterfly. — These 260Q’s will be the “antennas” of your butterfly, so position them accordingly.
    6. Attach your butterfly to monofilament line.

Double-Stuffed Arch

  • I have a client who wants what I call a “Double Stuff” arch. The client wants a clear outside with a white latex heart inside. I have made them before with a 11″ clear with a 9″ round inside but never with a latex heart. The truth is I had trouble a few times with 11″ heart latex breaking while blowing them up and if I under inflated them they didn’t float well, I tried Hi-float and they tipped to the side. My question is does anyone know what size the clear and the latex heart should be and is there a trick to blowing them up?
  • In my opinion, the only way I’d do this (and not go stark, raving crazy) would be to use 16″ or 20″ clear with 17″ hearts inside. The bonuses are that you will not need as many, that they will stay buoyant longer and that they will look far more impressive to your client.
  • A word of caution. Don’t be tempted to inflate the hearts with air instead of helium, as they will expand through osmosis as the helium diffuses into the hearts, causing them to expand, then burst.
  • I would suggest pre inflating the hearts with air and then release to make sure they won’t burst. Be sure to blow full size. In fact the 11″ heart should always be preinflated this way. Better to lose the air then to lose the helium. If you use the 11″ clear I would overblow slightly. They should inflate close to 12″. You might want to consider 14″ clear, but try a couple 11″ in your shop and test the float time.
  • I have never made a heart-stuffed arch before, but using my imagination, it seems that because you see the ends of the balloons in an arch, won’t you just be displaying the lobes? I doubt you’d even be able to really tell they were hearts. I’d definitely test this one out first. Seems you may go to a lot of trouble and not be happy with the result.

Giant Arch

  • I have no idea what the official figure for the largest balloon Arch is, but I know that Treb Heining did some pretty gigantic ones in an aircraft hanger using 3 foot balloons. I saw the pictures – they were HUGE!
  • I had the opportunity to be part of the team that worked with Treb (SoCal QBN Chapter members were Treb’s Team). There were 8 cluster arches in all, completely made out of 3 foot balloons, the smallest of the arches was approximately 175 feet. Doesn’t sound like a big deal you ask yourself? Try to work with that many 3 footers! There were about 40 of us, we used a helium truck instead of tanks, Treb had special inflators that made inflating a snap! The arches had so much pull that we used aircraft cable instead of mono line and moved the arches from the work area to the setup area by tying them to the bumpers of cargo vans and driving them over.We sat and figured out afterward that the cost on the product and helium alone was about $27,000.00.

    Yes it was a HUGE project, but we had a great time and learned ALOT… If you thought the pictures looked gigantic, to be there in person would have blown your mind… the pictures did not do it justice!

  • Ray Connett from Balloon Boutique in Newcastle, Australia just did a series of six Link-O-Loon arches creating a Sound Shell with the longest arch being 180 L-O-Ls tied neck to tail making the entire structure approx 1,000 balloons. That also make the longest arch approx 45 meters (approx 48 yards) long. Now that’s a monster.

To Fill With Air Or Helium… That Is The Question

  • For a 3-day indoor arch, even though Hi-float is a viable option, I would examine the possibility of an air filled arch – either on a rigid frame (depending on the size 1/2 inch conduit works well, sometimes in conjunction with aluminum rod or pvc for the curved top and rigid conduit for the sides) If you’ve got rigging points then aluminum rod suspended from two or three points might work well. Another option which is most preferable, but also most expensive, is a new helium arch each day. It will look best. If you are figuring your expenses properly it shouldn’t cost much more for 3 non-hi- floated (how many hyphens are allowed in a word?) arches, since it is so much more labor intensive to hi-float balloons (at least for me). I can crank out 20′ of spiral arch in about 10 minutes, but if I had to hi-float all those balloons (about 120) it would take 30 or 40 minutes, not counting a 3 minute de-sliming break every time one popped. (maybe some others out there are faster and more successful with hi-float). Anyway, the real catch here is the amount of time and commitment required to return twice and replace “yesterday’s” arch.
  • Depending on your rigging points and availability of lifts and ladders, consider letting helium do your rigging. It’s a little more expensive than air, which is free, but the time you may save in rigging may be worth it on a 40′ ceiling.When I can’t get to the ceiling of a hall to attach my tulle. I use 3 foot balloons. The bigger the dance floor the more tulle will be needed. Therefore more 3 foot balloons will be needed. Weigh the length of tulle you plan on using. Check the QBN book that comes with the first video of their series. It has the amount of weight 3 foot balloons can lift. Just use the correct amount and you should have no problems.
  • We blow our arches (11″ latex) as close to the event time as we can. This of course will vary with each job, but we like the helium pieces to be as fresh as possible.
  • You can use air-filled balloons at the base of your arches and helium at the top, depending on the size of the arch, and the amount of lift you will need. For a normal size arch, I use 2/3 helium to 1/3 air-filled balloons. If the arch will need to be up for a while, I use Super Hi-Float in ALL of the balloons.
  • The helium is the quickest way to get the arch up, but not the only way. The amount on helium needed is determined by the number of balloons. You can use air on the “ends” and the only rules you need to follow is how much lift you need and for how long because you will lose the helium and lift over the hours. The air filled section itself will act as weight but you do need to stabilize it.
  • If I have room in my van when building arches, I will preinflate about 10 groups (5 for each side) of quads for the bottoms of my arches. If the arch is really large I try to do more. I do this for as many arches as I can. I can use my duplicator at my office to size these and then if I am “eyeing” for size, these are also my templates. Does it save me a lot of money? Maybe not, but sometimes it makes my day run easier knowing I have a head start on as many jobs as possible.

Magic Arch

  • You may wish to download “Decorating with Magic Arch” in Word format from
  • I have and do work with both the Duo’s and the Magic Arch. These both work well for long running events. They both have benefits and drawbacks.
  • The Magic Arch is a metal material and can not be used outside if you wish to adhere to California law (in my opinion). You are attaching them to something by running the rod through the middle, but, if for some reason the rod were to slip, you would be releasing them into the air, and they are quite large (if you use the large size and helium fill). The small size cannot be helium inflated (they will not float). The other disadvantage to using them outside is that the metallic finish quickly weathers. They fit very nicely together, have a very strong visual impact when used indoors, and they are easy to work with. The valve problems that I experienced with them during their early production has been solved, and the design shape leads easily to using things in the center (flowers, greenery, candles, etc. when placed on a table). There are many positives to this product, but I do not recommend it for outside work.
  • The Duos have a very different look than the Magic Arch, and I would not recommend using the two products in a single arch. You would indeed need to use two pairs of duos to get a full fill around your pole. This is nice when you wish to do color mixing. It is a little bit more challenging to get a snug fit with the duos the first couple of times you use them. They are a plastic product and do not weather and are totally compatible with outside decor. They also work well for many other fun uses, and they can be used in the pool without damage from the chemicals and water. This is an excellent outside product and very reusable. They are a bit more pricey, but you have some very different use venus.
  • I like both products for very different applications but would not use the two products together in any arch configuration.

Creating A Spiral Arch

  • A spiral arch is nothing more than a column that is bent in half. One of the most common arches is a spiral arch. Using clusters of contrasting colors creates the spiral in the arch. Different combinations of colors and clusters provide for very different patterns. A four balloon cluster with two red balloons and two white balloons gives a barber shop pole effect. A five-balloon cluster with each balloon being a different color gives the impression of a rainbow.
  • To create a Helium filled spiral arch build your first cluster and attach it to the fishing line. Build the next cluster and orient the balloons in the same pattern as the first cluster. For example, if the first cluster was made in a red, blue, green, yellow pattern, make the second cluster in the same pattern. Now attach the second cluster to the line pushing it up against the first cluster and positioning the pattern so that it is turned one-half balloon meshing into the gap. Make your third cluster, align the balloons in the proper pattern and attach them to the fishing line. The third cluster is also turned in the same direction as the second to fit into the gap of the second cluster. You will notice that the first cluster and the second cluster are aligned so that the balloons are pointing in the same direction, but the colors of the balloons have shifted one full balloon over. Now continue adding clusters onto the line making sure the pattern is the same and that you are shifting them in the right direction. If you’ve done the job perfectly well, then when you have put the 9th cluster on the line it should be in the exact same orientation and color position as the first cluster. Once you have made your arch the length of your fishing line, detach the line from their anchor points.
  • Q) When using a (paper) clip to replace a broken/mis-sized/etc balloon in a column/arch, what is the best way to attach to the line?
    A) Open the clip a bit, “thread” it through the neck of the balloon, and close it around the mono line.
  • At IBAC I saw a 4 pack spiral helium arch which turned into 4 string of pearls. At the point of where the Spiral turned to Pearl arches, there was a cloud of white balloons, about 12 or 16 balloons comprised the cloud. The instructor indicated that she/he used 4 monofilament lines in the spiral rather than one so that each string of pearls would eventually be built on one of them. Whether the cloud was needed or not I don’t know. It may have helped hide the transition from spiral to pearls. Then again maybe it would work without the cloud.Make one string of pearls corner to diagonal corner. Make sure you have an odd number of balloons. Make the second string of pearls identical to the first. Same length of line same number of balloons then pop the middle one. The middle balloon of the first arch doubles as the middle balloon of the second arch. If you practice with one color you will find it easy. Then you need to balance you color scheme to do the arches you want. Practice with two arches – 5 balloons long on the first, 4 on the second and you’ll get the picture immediately.


  • I enjoy playing with patterns in the spiral arch. You can do flowers, diamonds, zig zags, dotted stripes, etc. It’s just the usual spiral arch except that you work a pattern into it by varying the color sequence. Try working your regular spiral pattern for 3 clusters, and then spiral backwards for 3 clusters. That gives you a zigzag. Try a solid cluster of 1 color, then a different color, then a different color. This gives you straight perpendicular stripes, or segmented stripes. Another is a 2 color pattern, lets say red and yellow: solid cluster of red, then red/yellow, then all yellow, then red/yellow, then all red, then red/yellow… it gives you a diamond pattern. Experiment on a piece of paper. There are many patterns you can do. You can do size patterns too. Make every 3rd or 4th cluster out of 16-inch balloons instead of 11-inch. Be bold, try tapering to a 3 foot balloon cluster (11’s, then 16’s sized to 14, then 16’s, then 3 footers sized to 20-inches or 25, then 30, then back down the sequence).
  • If you pack any clusters of balloons for garlands or columns, don’t spiral them. Try arranging the clusters to create a diamond pattern. Quite simple really.
  • As for non latex. You can tie microfoils together into duplet (2 balloons tied together) and then wrap those onto your metal frame. You can use 4-, 9-, or 18-inch sizes, depending on the look you want. I’d recommend using Heart shapes, as they fit together better than rounds.
  • I need advice as to how to use the jungle print latex balloons in columns.
  • If you want to use all four prints without looking too busy use what I call an alternate pattern of groups re: four clusters of leopard, four clusters of white, four clusters of giraffe, four clusters of white, four clusters of tiger, four clusters of white, etc.

Tie One On

  • The Ruth Younger and Charles Prosper books on balloon decorating recommend tying disks for SOP arches rather than hand tying over the monofilament as I was taught. I had a conversation with Charles Prosper about this but his answer was that he is a “creature of habit”. Which method is best?
    • We hand tie for two reasons: it’s faster for us and second it doesn’t add weight, shortening the float time.
    • Hand Tie. Although I have Charles Prosper’s book and have gotten many good ideas from it, especially making helium garland numbers, I wouldn’t use disks. Of all our friends, from IBAC to QBN, I don’t know of anyone who uses disks.
    • Hand tied. But try it for yourself, and think it through. Is there a good reason to add a piece of plastic or an extra step? What do you gain? Hand tied should, after you’ve acquired the “habit,” be fast and easy.

Classic Balloon Decor 102

The second half of this chapter is called Classic Balloon Decor 102.

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