The Tools of the Trade

Feb 14, 2023

The Tools of the Trade, a collection of tips and tricks

Inflating is the most critical part of working with balloons. Getting the air in is not critical, but getting all the balloons to be the same size is the key to a professional appearance over an amateur one.
– Unknown

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.


The following table lists some of the equipment balloon decorators need. This list is by no means complete but if you have these things on hand when you are at a job you should have no trouble completing your decor.

  • Balloons
  • Electrical Equipment
  • Rigging Equip., Adhesives, & Fasteners
  • Miscellaneous Tools & Equip.
  • Foil
  • Extension Cords
  • Glue Gun
  • Tool Belts
  • Hi-float
  • Round Latex
  • Power Strips
  • Glue Sticks
  • Tape Measure
  • Quickie Clips
  • Non-round Latex
  • Chase Mini Lights
  • Rubber Cement
  • Spring Clamps
  • Quickie Clip Dispenser
  • Other Balloons
  • Standard Mini Lights
  • Duct Tape
  • Allen Wrench
  • Balloon People Face Stuff
  • Inflation Equipment
  • Large Christmas Lights
  • Electrical Tape
  • Standard Wrench
  • Large Plastic Trash Bags
  • Helium Tanks
  • Other Lights
  • Other Tape
  • Standard Screwdriver
  • Invoice
  • Nitrogen Tanks
  • 3 Prong Ground Adapter
  • Small Cable Ties
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Camera
  • Tank Valves (Regulators)
  • Large Cable Ties
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Tripod
  • Electric Air Inflators
  • Centerpiece Materials
  • Drapery Hooks
  • Standard Pliers
  • Film
  • 5″ Inflator Tips
  • Mirrors
  • Tile Ceiling Hooks
  • Hammer
  • Promotional Material
  • Dolly
  • Balloon Sand Weights
  • Nylon Cord
  • Hacksaw
  • Food
  • Safety Equipment
  • Confetti
  • Monofilament
  • Bolt Cutters
  • Beverages
  • Ear Plugs
  • Ribbon
  • Suspension Cable
  • Scissors
  • Safety Glasses
  • Baskets/Containers
  • Cable Clamps
  • X-acto Knife
  • Metal Infrasturcture
  • Tank Safety Stands
  • Foam
  • Turnbuckles
  • Pocket Knife
  • Base Plates
  • Tank Safety Straps/Chains
  • Floral Picks
  • Track Wall Hooks
  • Drill
  • Metal Pipes/Conduit
  • Greening Pins
  • Rubber Bands
  • Drill Bits
  • Fittings
  • Balloon Sticks And Cups
  • Large Paper Clips
  • Balloon Sizing Templates
  • Aluminum Rods
  • Small Paper Clips
  • STP’s Armor All

Monofilament Line

  • Otherwise known as fishing line. This line comes in weights of 2 lb test to more than 80 lb test. For most of the work I do I use 25 lb test monofilament line. The lighter line may be used to suspend decor from the ceiling (it is harder to see) and the heavier line is used when a large amount of helium needs to be held down (like a 20X20 foot canopy).


  • If you are decorating for a wedding or an anniversary, tulle is that magical material that softens your work and brings more of an elegance and charm to the decor.

Deco lace

  • I get Deco Lace at Van’s Wholesale (floral supply). They have about 6 locations around the midwest USA. All the floral supply places around here will sell to anyone that has a sales tax licence. Lauderdale Paper has “spray webbing” which is virtually the same product. For those of you that haven’t tried this yet, spraying deco lace on balloons produces a beautiful effect. We use it on balloons as well as containers and even used it on paper once for a bridal show sign. That was a nice look. Lots of neat things that you can do with it.


  • My primary ribbon supplier has finally provided me with an extensive line of metallic, plastic based (i.e. non-conductive) gorgeous ribbons that I believe are perfect for our needs, both everyday and Holiday. This ribbon is made by Berwick, and is part of their “Flora Satin” line.The line is available in 40 colors, a variety of textures and prints, and a nice moir pattern. The #3 width is perfect for tethering 16″ balloons, and it can be split evenly for use with 11″ balloons. The #40 makes great table garlands, and is great when hung between balloon elements for a head table or throughout a room.

    If you can’t find a local source for this locally, contact:
    Kurt-Lee Products
    Oxford Ct.
    1-800 243-6622
    I’ve found them to be reliable, competitive, and quick!

  • Berwick is making a neat lacquered curling ribbon that looks like mylar ribbon, but isn’t.
  • Sopp America makes terrific metallic-looking ribbon.
    1-800 ADD-BOWS.
  • Curling ribbon is the common material for bunches of balloons. It can be used on centerpieces or on arrangements given at special times such as birthdays or anniversaries. Be sure to curl the tails of all the ribbons. This is one of the extra touches that will set your work apart as being done by a quality professional.
  • Try some of these methods, depending on the manufacturer and type of ribbon you are trying to curl: Use the scissor edges in the closed position. Use a butter knife. Use a light touch. Use more tension. Curl the underside of the ribbon (silver side if mylar), go with the curve – if it gets too tight, you can straighten the coil by running your tool over the outside of the ribbon. Try using your thumbnail – which is really the fastest way.
  • If you’re looking for tight coils, try several light pulls on the underside of the ribbon; each will curl the ribbon more tightly. Try the shredder/curler tool that does both functions at once – a tad time-consuming in my opinion, but nice when you want that special effect.
  • You’ll notice that a different way will be best for each different ribbon – sometimes even different colors of the same brand of ribbon will act differently.
  • I just wanted to share a tip that has worked well for us but I have to say first that it is just a small one. Instead of using scissors to curl our ribbon we use a metal nail file. We used to use our scissors closed (the back of the blade) but this is even better.
  • We discovered that it was vitally important to put your scissor edge on the underside of the ribbon. That is, when you hold up a piece of ribbon, look at the natural curl, and place your blade on the underside of the curl. Also, look to see if your ribbon is shiny on one side, and dull on the other. If so, also place your blade on the dull side. Keep a mister bottle of water handy to control any static that develops.
  • I discovered that LIGHTLY dampening ribbon with a quick water spritz makes curling ribbon behave. Be careful to not over spray or you will loose the curl.

“Premium Balloon Stems”

  • The new “Premium Balloon Stems” are finally available from most balloon distributors. The stems come in four colors – Silver, Gold, Black and Floral Green. White sStems will be available soon. All of the Stems are 16″ tall (great for even most large centerpieces), and are made of this really cool material that can be easily molded with your hands – and retain the desired shape. I am a stickler for hiding mechanics. So for me, the feature that truly makes the stems amazing is a calyx-like collar that slides up the Stem, hiding all of the balloon neck and knot. The great people at Premium Balloon Accessories really did a super job – I can’t imagine a more perfect support for both small latex and foil balloons. I especially like the Floral Green Stems. The same color as plant leaves, they make combining balloons with floral material (both fresh flowers and silks) easier than I ever thought possible. I’m truly excited about this new product. At only about 10 cents per stem, it makes arrangements both beautiful and practical.
  • Questions or comments on the product/availability should be directed to Rochelle at Premium Balloon Accessories: e-mail or call 1-800-239-4547 (international 330-239-4547).


  • As for balloon bouquets with Ty’ Beanie Babies the people that are buying them could care less if you have balloons attached to them. You could be standing there naked and that would probably go unnoticed. We at times get as many as 12 calls a day asking about Beanie Babies we say that we do not carry them and everything is ok. The stores that say “yes, BUT…” end up spending a lot more time on the phone.
  • I have talked with other retailers who do carry them and have been told that it actually has cost them money to carry them (ie: time on the phone with customers and Ty or the reps, extra sales help, Security guards, etc…)
  • We do carry some beanies, just not Ty’s, and do quite well with them as stand alone gifts and as balloon weights. We carry the following:
    • Beanie Boppers available from a company called Special Effects. they have a wide selection as well as holiday selections.
    • Pal o’ Mine available from Securitag (the “Just Write” balloon People) they have just came out with a seriesII. Cute and great quality.
    • Coca Cola Beanies available from Cavanaugh 6 Christmas designs and 6 Regular Licensed By Coca Cola and sure to be “true collector’s items
    • Harley Davidson Beanies also available from Cavanaugh again, Harley Licensed sure to be a true collectable.
    • Sesame Street, Looney Tunes, Rugrats, & Disney beanies available from applause
    • We also carry some beanie key chains.
    • Weebeanies available from princess soft toys.

Latex Balloons

  • I’ve seen clear latex balloons, “spray-decorated” with white polka-dots, and I believe they were 16″. (Like the white with black dots and black with white dots from Qualatex.)I have been asking Qualatex to make these balloons for years! If we had them on a regular basis, we could “create” any color polka dot we wanted. I thought I was all alone in my quest for clear with polka dots! Maybe some wise distributor could special order a case or two for us…

    Qualatex does not stock them. But I did find a distributor that special orders them for his inventory and sells them. He doesn’t charge anymore than local distributors for printed balloons:

    Crown Rubber 1 800 525-3114 Milwaukee, WI

  • Unique Balloons, the main supplier for Party City Stores, makes the “Numbers All Around” balloons which I use in bouquets that I make for children’s birthdays. There’s a catalog that Unique has that has plenty of party items in it. (Cheaper than Amscan) If you’re buying these balloons in a dollar store, they are probably OLD balloons. Buyer beware.

Combating Pear Shapes

  • Qualatex 11″ pearl/metallic balloons have trouble clearing a 10″ sizer. We only inflate the 11″ Qualatex to 10″ most of the time anyway. They ‘shred, fall, splat’ if inflated to 11″. Also, if the balloons need to be combined with any regular or jewel tone, the sizes and shapes (the pearls/metallics look pointy at the neck end), as well as the float times, are different.
  • WHY: When I checked with some manufacturers they explained that it was the ‘pearlising’ that retarded the balloon from expanding to its true size and that the only way to overcome it was to pre-inflate with air or for them to have a larger set of molds for the pearls/metallics. This they suggested was a costly exercise.
  • Pear fighting tips:
    • Pre-inflate them with air.
    • Hi-floating them the day before inflating makes a big difference.
    • If the neck is not quite right I just “wrestle” with it (for lack of a better word!!!) and make it look like it should! Balloons are kinda like kids – make them do what you want them to. “SHAPE” them into good balloons! Size them to 9 1/2 and you’ll have no problems with them lasting through the wedding.
    • When I need an actual 11 inch balloon I will use the 16 inch. It may cost a little more but if you plan to do it that way on your job cost form, it don’t cost you a thing.
    • Use BSA… no need to pre-inflate them first. BSA 11″ satins, silks, and metallics blow up to a true 11″. They blow up to a much nicer size and shape than their Qualatex counterparts. Now this is not a swipe at Qualatex, which is a great balloon company. Both companies have their strengths and weaknesses. But if you are looking for a real 11″ pearl-tone color, try BSA.
    • Filling the balloons slower does seem to reduce the effect
    • Templating to a smaller size like 10″ helps.
    • We combat this problem by preparing all of our balloons a day or two ahead of the job: What works for us is to insert Super Hi-Float, tie 7 or 8 together with some discarded pieces of curling ribbon, place in a zip lock baggie and store. This allows the balloons to be blown to a much larger size, and helps to eliminate the pear problem (for reasons why, see the effect of water on latex in the Balloon Science 101 chapter).
    • Refrigeration has also been suggested to us as a means of extending the time between Hi-Floating and inflation. This simple method has been so successful for us that we do all of our delivery balloons ahead of time. In fact, the employees in our shop CRINGE when someone stops in to order a bunch of balloons “cash and carry”! They simply do not look as full as the ones that have been prepared.
    • I have found that if you fill the balloons with Hi-Float, secure them with a “rubberband” and do not put them in the refrigerator for a day or two, they really get very large when you inflate them. (This I learned years ago by accident.)
    • At times our Helium balloons have shrunk prematurely. Pearlized balloons RARELY hold their size even with the proper amount of super hi float and helium.
    • We have had this happen, especially with Pearlized balloons, and it’s a real bummer — now we air inflate, deflate, hi float and inflate so that the balloons have been stretched a bit if we want to prep the job the night before.


  • Inflating is the most critical part of working with balloons. Getting the air in is not critical, but getting all the balloons to be the same size is the key to a professional appearance over an amateur one. Sizing templates are used to measure a balloon to a specific size. The concept behind a sizing template is that it has an opening that a balloon inflated to a certain size can fit through. If the balloon is over-inflated, it can’t get through the template. If it is under-inflated it doesn’t touch the sides. A little practice will give you the feel of when the balloon is the right size as it passes through a template. Templates are available from balloon distributors. Two of my favorites are the Conwin Slide and Size, and the Pioneer Balloon Company Pro-sizer. You can make your own sizing template just by cutting the right size hole in a piece of cardboard. If you want to create an 11″ balloon, cut an 11 inch circle in the cardboard and you have your template ready to go.
  • We have both the Pioneer sizers and the one called “Holey Box”. The Holey is a box shape magde out of what I would call corragated plastic. We have 4 Holey boxes and have used them for close to 10 years.
  • We bought the Pioneer to give us additional sizes. The Pioneer has sizes at about every even inch (3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,) (I’m going from memory on these).
  • The Holey box has 6 sizes (14″, 12″, 10 1/2″, 9″, 8 or 8 1/2, 5″).
  • I have used our sizers constantly for the past seven years. We did make a new set last year, but haven’t thrown out the old ones yet.
  • We got flat boxes from a mailing company (like Mail Boxes, Etc.) that are all one piece. They pop open into nice square boxes. Then we cut holes in several sides with different balloon sizes, i.e. 4″, 4 3/4″, 7″, 9″, 10 1/2″ etc., etc. To keep the ends closed during use, we use Velcro strips. These have been great for travel because they fold up. When we get to a job, we open them, press together the Velcroed parts and voila! They are cardboard, which appears to have been the original objection, but they have not fallen apart. You might want to try it.
  • I like to use the white qualatex boxes that my balloons are often shipped in, (but any brand box is fine). I take my handy-dandy snap-off blade knife and cut out a hole (Here’s a tip! when you insert a round balloon into a square hole it stays round. A 10″ square hole will size a balloon to 10″ just as well as a 10″ diameter round hole with a lot less fuss) You can use a sheet of 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, assuming you can estimate about an inch off the end, to measure out your 10″ square, using the built in right angle to get the corners square, draw it out on the nearest cardboard box, cut it out in about 30 seconds and “poof”. On a big job, you can mass produce these so each member of your crew has a sizer. With a ruler you can measure any size square you want. If you want to take the time to cut out circles, save the circle that you’ve cut out, label it with its size, and use it next time for a stencil to trace your circles, then you dont have to fuss with a compass. Save and re-use your sizers until they wear out, then when you’re tired of duct taping them back together, throw them in the garbage and spend another 5 minutes cutting out new sizers. The cost of the sizers is 5 minutes of time, zero for materials. They come in virtually every possible size – even metric!
  • I highly recommend the “Slide-N-Size” template which is available through Conwin Carbonics in CA. We find it the most compact, the most versatile, and long lasting. Costs more, but well worth it. It’s a “one tool fits all” situation. We make sure that there is one in every decorator’s kit… and 2 or 3 in the workshop at all times.
  • I second the motion from down under about the Slide-N-Size. I think the greatest idea behind this fabulous invention is that it is so darn simple, it just kills me every time I use it. It’s just a ruler with two rods that adjust… and it works.
  • Working with balloons to size differently could not be any quicker to do than with the Slide-N-Size. You are just sliding a rod up or down the ruler and away you go. I keep the Slide-N-Size in front of my blower and just pull the balloon forward off the blower and straight through the rods! Simple, easy – it’s great!
  • Don’t buy a template. Make one. I simply get a couple of sturdy boxes and cut round holes measuring 2″,2.5″,3″ etc all the way to 16″. I’ve had my trusty measuring boxes for years,and they didn’t cost me anything! If you are just starting out, I’d imagine your cash flow is tight, so save your self some bucks.
  • The templates are quite inexpensive and if you are a professional you should have professional equipment. Your Qualatex supplier should have the Qualatex templates. They cover most sizes up to 16″ (the smallest I believe is 3″).
  • I have been using an acrylic sizer box for about a year now and I love it! I starts at size 2-1/2″ and goes all the way up (in 1/2″ sizes) to 11″. It’s a 6 sided 12 x 12 box and has been worth the investment. You can purchase one from Inspireworks in Fremont, CA. Their phone number is 1(510)790-9400. A year ago it was about $90.00 dollars. They also have lots of other balloon related products. Just ask for a price sheet.
  • A trick to create other sizes on a holey box is to cover a portion of an existing template on one side by say an inch and you will reduce the template an inch. There are other sizers and templates but these 2 would be best to start with.
  • We have had several Holey boxes for nearly 10 years and they are still in use. We also have a set of the Qualatex sizers.
  • A note for those who have the Qualatex sizers. When you pop the middle out of the 16″ sizer, you should save it. Poke a small hole in the middle and use it when building garlands or arches to push the first cluster of balloons against. So when stringing your line between two chairs (or whatever) put that piece on the line to push the first set against. It works better than pushing against a chair.
  • Check with your distributor for a “holey” box, or make templates yourself. It’s easy, just use a compass and make circles the size you need and cut them out. Easier still is to get a conwin sizer. They come in a few different types and prices to meet your needs.
  • To save a few minutes on the job when you forgot the template, remember that a balloon passed thru a 9″ diameter template is the same size as a balloon passed thru a 9″ square hole. And if you forgot the knife as well, place two chairs 9″ apart and pass the balloons between them.
  • With regard to templates for sizing balloons, I recall working on the decor for the Phantom of The IBAC last March and we needed more 7″ templates. One of the crew went off in search of more “Pro Size” cardboard templates. I picked up an empty cardboard box from the floor, took out my tape and exacto knife. I cut a 7″ x 7″ SQUARE out of the cardboard. Much quicker and easier to cut than a circle! The balloons don’t know the difference either! A few of the crew said, “why haven’t I ever thought of doing that? I always try to cut circles!”
  • If you use a round hole you get a much better size. The balloon deflects so much the other way that they are many different sizes. We have all had employees that could shove a 16″ balloon thru a 9″ square hole. If they start with a round hole, they will do a better job in sizing and their work will look better.
  • A good way to measure large balloons is to place 2 chairs back to back and measure the distance between them to be the size you want the balloons to be. In the example 28″ apart. Now use this to size the balloons. The balloon should just touch the 2 backs of the chairs.

Foil Balloons or Mylar Balloons

  • Realize that silver foils are different than colored foils. A colored foil is a silver foil that has been dyed or “painted” to look that color. Ever try to write on a colored foil with a magic marker? Depending on the type of marker, the ink on the balloon will dissolve and come off. You can use this to your benefit by inscribing a name or picture in silver onto a colored foil balloon using a Q-tip and alcohol.
  • Anyone who has tried to hot-stamp a silver foil balloon has probably discovered that the “ink” doesn’t stick to the silver, but does stick to the colored foil balloons.
  • I have been painting on foils for a number of years. I use acrylic paints and they work very well. There are differences in the surfaces of the foils. I found that if you spray a thin coat of clear lacquer on the side that you want to paint, the paint sticks better. Then, after the acrylic paint has dried, spray it with lacquer again. That way if it gets bumped or scratched, it will not affect the design you painted on the foil.
  • Volumes of foil balloons (all numbers are cubic feet):18″ round 0.5
    18″ heart 0.4
    18″ oval 0.4
    20″ star 0.6
    36″ round 3.8
    36″ heart 3.1
    36″ star 2.3
    Party bears 0.6
    Banner bears 0.7

Deflating Foil Balloons

  • To deflate foil balloons, put a long balloon straw inside the hole, being careful not to tear the opening, and gently squeeze the air out. One day one of my staff got a bright idea and connected the straw end (by tape) to my vacuum and literally sucked all the air out in no time. It was really neat, and now we can use the balloons over.
  • Exactly how does one ‘deflate’ a self sealed microfoil balloon? The simplest method is to insert a ‘straw’ or balloon stick up the valve and let the air escape. I put a book on it to help it along.
  • We put a long balloon straw partially inside the hose of a vacuum cleaner and taped it in place and all around it so that the vacuuming was through the straw. (We taped the hose to the edge of a counter so that we could put the straw inside the balloon without having to juggle the hose and the balloon.) Put the straw inside the balloon and suck away. A word of warning: don’t suck too far or the balloon will crinkle up. We found we could reuse several of the 20″ rounds. As for the 36″ Stars, we found that once we’ve deflated them, they never seem to hold well again.

Painting Foils

  • Paint pens work well on latex or foil and come in a variety of colors. Block Style lettering and numbers are easy for just about anyone to do and still have it look good. Then draw little accents of ribbon and confetti (dots & squiggles). It’s a quick and inexpensive way to personalize balloons, mugs, gifts, etc.
  • Here is a summary of the information that I got from those who responded to my post about spray painting foil balloons.
    1. You can spray paint foil balloons with floral spray paint like Design Masters. Some floral spray paints crack and peel and some don’t. We’ve painted them after inflation. The balloons will shrink, but will come back up to size when paint dries. Have to do 2-3 coats. It’s not perfect, paint does streak and has a flat finish compared to glossy finish of foil balloons.
    2. The silver foil balloons hold the paint better then the other colors.
    3. You can spray glue mylar paperto the uninflated foil balloon for color. (Glue one side first, then cut out shape, then glue other side and cut out, being careful not to cut seam of balloon.) Inflate and presto, chango, a new color balloon.
  • To put photographs, etc. on foils, take the original to a printing/copy company, have them enlarge it and photocopy it on to a clear sheet that has adhesive on one side. Then stick it on to a foil balloon. You have to make sure that the sheet does not weigh the balloon down. To keep it lighter you could trim off any excess – using only the label. It’s a lot of work to get the finished product, but I have done that with photographs of bar mitzvah kids and it worked. It depends on how much the customer is willing to pay.

Heat sealers

  • A heat sealer is a VERY GOOD investment (and keep extra heating wires on hand)! I have not found a “curling iron” “food bag sealer” etc. that you can rely on to hold the correct temps.
  • Someone mentioned a good pratice eariler, seal twice, first at the neck of the mylar then again lower. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT NOT TO HAVE WRINKLES IN THE BALLOON! The smallest wrinkle will cause a leak.
  • One trick we learned from our friend Bill McFadden while using Conwin’s “Monster Mylar” sealing machine (our name for it, not the manufacturer’s) at IBAC last year was to continue holding the heat sealer down for about 3 seconds AFTER the little light goes out. This helps the seal cool down before you release the pressure, thus assuring a complete seal. We inflated almost 2,000 4-inch mylars for our carriage sculpture last year and only had THREE mylars go down! By the way, I’m not sure if Conwin still makes that machine, but if you do a lot of mylars, it’s well worth the $700 investment. That machine fills the mylar, then seals it and even drops it into a box for you. We loved it!
  • The other, more well known tip is to make sure there are NO wrinkles at the spot you are sealing so there is a clean seal. However, using the first trick above usually will eliminate even these problems.
  • Hand held mylar heat sealer Bruce Walden has a hand held mylar heat sealer to make his own balloons with. I understand it has an adjustable temp and a small iron type head for getting into corners and stuff.
  • You need a sealer if the balloons are not self sealing. Air inflate the balloon and the neck. Slide the neck down between your thumb and index finger – flattening the neck so that there are absolutely no creases in it. Have your sealer set at the lowest setting that will seal the balloon. Place the neck of the balloon over the sealer very close to the opening and push the lever down – holding it down for 3-5 seconds AFTER the light goes out and then seal again behind the first seal. Sealing low on the neck enables you to trim and reinflate if necessary.
  • If you don’t have a heat sealer (which you really should buy), in a pinch you can use a curling iron, a plastic bag sealer unit for food or an iron. These may leave a color residue on your appliance.
  • Sometimes I use Nitrogen to ‘air’ inflate mylars as my electric inflator can blow hot air (which expands, and then shrinks when cool). Also I can get better control, with exact amounts of’air’ entering the mylar.
  • They are 2 types of foil balloons. Self sealers and the second that must heat sealed. The self sealing will hold air for months. The heat sealed ones can last for years if sealed properly. If your foils are losing air, chances are you may be over filling them, causing small tears in the seam. Or maybe damaging the seal by tieing your ribbon around them.
  • I am having trouble sealing my 4″ and 9″ mylars with my large heat sealer. Is there a trick to it to get out the creases so that the air can not slowly leak out?
  • Inflate the balloon fully, including the neck. Hold at the open end of the neck with your right thumb and index finger; using your left thumb and index finger, squeeze, slide and smooth the neck working toward the balloon. Have your heat sealer on the lowest possible setting that will work and seal about 1/2″ from the flattened open end while keeping your left thumb and index finger right next to the balloon — you should end up with a long, flat neck. Hold down the heat sealer arm 2-3 seconds AFTER the light goes out, move 1/4″ closer to the flattened open end (still holding all the air in with your left thumb and index and reseal following the above procedure. By sealing closer to the end of the balloon, you can just cut off the neck right above the old seal and reseal the balloon if you ever need to. But, of course, you won’t have that problem anymore. Sometimes the pressure in the neck can cause the heat seal to come undone if you release your fingers immediately after sealing. The only thing I do different is that I drag the balloon through the sealer to get a nice fat seal.
  • I noticed at last years IBAC/ Halloween and Party trade show Conwin’s new automatic sealer now has has a thicker heat seal. The most important part of sealing is getting the neck nice and flat before you commit to heat sealing it. Sometimes it is impossible because the necks of the balloons are not perfectly flat to start with. I “seal” mine twice, just for safe measure. Once, then right below the first seal. That has always worked for me. No leaks.

Storing Balloons

  • I have 3 different locations for storage. On one wall I have stackable drawer units with wheels that I got from KMart. They come in several varieties, but I have found that the ones that have lots of smaller draws work for the colors that I don’t keep in large quantities, and the larger drawers work well for the balloons that we use in abundance, i.e. Pearl White. I bought larger drawer units with large flat drawers that I keep all the microfoils in, and they stay nice and neat. These drawers are clear and I’ve labeled them by category. I also have a wall full of units that I got from a grocery store that was going out of business. The units have plastic bins in them – they were originally designed to hold the travel size items that the store sold. They gave me 4 units that each hold 12 clear bins that I have labeled with tape as to what’s inside. They are not air tight, but to solve that problem I buy the gallon size zip-lock bags, and once we have an open bag we put that into a zip-lock. The nice thing about zips is that you can squeeze the air out and keep lots of balloon in the bins. Then, when we need them, we just grab the zippys and go.
  • Latex balloons should be placed in a air tight container with very little light getting to them. I use plastic shoe boxes from Shopko. They have air tight lids and are a frosted color. They hold a gross of 11″ latex without packing them together. Since they are frosted, they do not let in much light and I still can see what color is in them from all sides of the box. I found these for as little as $6.00 for a package of 10 of them. They also stack very nicely.
  • I use clear shoe boxes I got from a Dollar Store in my area. Though the lids are not specifically air tight, they also don’t cost me an arm and a leg.
  • I use plastic 6 quart shoe boxes with snap on lids. On sale, I can get them for under $1.00 each at Target and Walmart. These come in many colors, including clear. They stack well and keep the dirt out.
  • There are a few methods I’ve seen for organizing balloons. I personally keep them sorted by color type – Standard, Jewel, Fashion, Pearl. Then I have a box for each size. If it’s a color I don’t use a lot (sky turq), I keep all sizes in the same box. Other people sort them entirely by size, while one person I know has them in rainbow order.
  • I have separate boxes for each type of print balloon, plus the 18″ and 3′ balloons. Other things I have seen include shelving units with built in drawers, using bins for each color type, etc.
  • We have used four or five storage systems over the last few years but have settled on the Rubbermaid containers with a clear plastic, sliding drawer. They are stackable and hold exactly 1/2 gross of 16″ latex; 1 gross of 11″ latex and two gross of 5″ latex. We picked up 30 or 40 from a few area Walmarts for around $4-5 each… pricey, but worth it to us because of their durability. On the front of each drawer we have a label describing the color inside along with a small picture of the balloon. They work perfectly for us for day-to-day use.
  • We store our foil balloons in filing cabinets in hanging file folders. Each folder is labeled with a code that corresponds with numbers of samples kept in a notebook from which customers may choose the style that they wish to purchase.
  • When we use partial bags of balloons, we close them by tying one of the enclosed balloons i.e. a red 11″ ties the red 11′ bag of balloons closed, a white 260 ties the bag of white 260’s. We then store all the balloons in plastic shoe boxes with snap on lids.
  • The boxes have a balloon taped to the outside which corresponds with the product inside. Works well for us.
  • Our latex balloon packages are opened carefully along the top of the bag, and, after taking out whatever we need, we squeeze the air out, and the bag is rolled down so that the size, color and manufacturing date are still visible on the label. We use a rubber band to keep the bag closed. The bags are stored in vertical slender cartons alphabetically by color (black, blue, clear, etc.) with the last cartons holding imprints, imprint sayings, imprint holidays, and shapes. We make certain we use the oldest product first. The arrangement sort of looks like books on a shelf – the boxes are not stacked on top of each other, just side by side. For everyday use, we have a set of clear rectangular lidded stackable containers for 5″, 11″, 16″ and misc. We use quart Ziploc bags to hold 50 or so of each color in each size – again organized alphabetically by color within the 5″ or 11″ container. This has worked well for us.
  • The only time we have had problems with latex breakdown is with poor quality balloons or major exposure to heat. With the better balloons, we leave them in the bag and tie off the ends (so they don’t spill out), and then we put them back on the rack to hopefully sell them quickly for another event. Sometimes they stay on the rack for years, as a matter of fact we just did a job this week with balloons that were a minimum of 2 years old and things went fine, whatever balloons popped still did not equal the expense and trouble of trying to re-seal the balloons.
  • Rotate your stock, buy only what you need, and, most importantly, watch your trash can, because simply speaking that’s your profit going down the drain.
  • Stop thinking about storing and think about a marketing opportunity with the left over product from the last job! If you have $3 to $4 dollars, heck, even if you just opened the bag and took one balloon out, that leaves you with more potential. It leaves you with a chance to thank some supplier you have been dealing with for a good relationship. It leaves you with a chance to open a new door up at a local business. It leaves you with a chance to test your hi-float curiosity. It leaves you with the chance to work on your sculpture skills. It leaves you with a chance to become a better balloon professional and a more profitable one too!

Corralling Balloons

  • Don’t waste your time building a corral. Precut all your ribbons and tie 50 ribbons in a bundle at one end. Tie this bundle of ribbons to a sack of gravel or large sand weight (large enough to hold 50 balloons plus a bit). You can then tie the balloons directly on the free end of the ribbons and just let them float till they stop which will be when they’ve reached the end of the line. You won’t have to worry about creating a corral, and the balloons will already be bundled for your staff or volunteers to carry out. This method will also ensure you have the count correct because it’s very easy to count to 5000 in bundles of 50 (500 / 50 = 100 weights). Hope this helps.
  • If you want balloons in groups of ten, and then wish to separate them, here’s a method that we use. Put the ribbons in groups of ten and tie an UNINFLATED balloon around them near the bottom. Attach the loose ends to a weight. When you want the individual ribbons, cut it off the weight, and just pull and they slide thru the knot of the uninflated balloon. If you want to attach rings to the ribbons, do it above where you are putting the uninflated balloon, then they can still slip through.

Tools For Cutting Foamboard

  • When I was at one of the balloon seminars, someone told me about something that they used to cut foamboard quickly and smoothly. It seems to me that it was called “cuts all” or “saws-all” or something like that. Anyway, does anyone know where I can find one?
  • The CutAwl machine that you refer to is made by:THE CUTAWL COMPANY
    Rte. #6, 16 Stony Hill Rd., Bethel, CT 06801 USA
    Phone: 203-792-8622#Fax: 203-790-9832
    Contact: Charles Olson
    Hours: 8:00AM – 4:30PM, Mon – Fri

    Manufacturer of unique saw that cuts all display materials. The Cutawl knife, chisel, and saw blades swivel 360 degrees; to cut even the most complicated curve, pattern, and design with sharp, clean edges.

    The CutAwl machine can be seen at

    You draw your design on the fome core and then place this device on top of the board and guide it around your lines. The only downside is the cost ($600-700).

  • Here you’ll info from the manufacturer on the various types of fome-cor:

    and the following web pages talks about how to cut it:

  • At a machine tool show I found what promises to be the best tool yet for doing this job. It is a hand-held ultrasonic knife called the “Sonic-Cutter.” Read all about it at:

    The ultrasonic knife is like an electric carving knife, except the blade moves back and forth by only a the thickness of a hair, but it does it at 20,000 times a second. Think of it as a “power Exacto knife”… it cuts as easily and as accurately as you can “draw” with its handle.

  • A few weeks ago when I was unable to borrow a Cut Awl for cutting foamcore, I happened to find a wonderful (and inexpensive) alternative. No one has ever mentioned this little tool here on the list or at any seminars I’ve attended. Perhaps it is a well kept secret or I am the first to discover it!It is called a Versa-Tip by Dremel. Basically it is a hot (electric) Exacto knife. Although it is not as precise as a Cut-Awl (which costs $700-800), for $20.00, it is well worth the money. I needed to make 30 foamcore stoplights. Each had 12 3″ round cutouts. In addition, I cut large sheets into 4 sections and removed foam from the corner areas. I did all of this with ONE blade and it worked just as good on the first cut as the last! Using the knife was like cutting through butter… and I didn’t get any blisters on my fingers! I found it at Wal-Mart in the tool department.
  • Electric Exacto Knife called the Versa-Tip by Dremel: I was not able to locate that one, but purchased one similar for $12.99 at a local Arts and Crafts store. It worked pretty good, but was actually advertised as a soldering gun/knife. It was great how the unit heated up and actually melted right through the foam core pieces I was practicing on.
  • Also, for those unaware, there is also another nifty device I found a few years ago called a Rabbet cutter. This removes one side of the cardboard and the foam from the edge of foamcor, leaving just the one piece of cardboard. I use this when I want a clean edge when making a box, etc. Normally, without this cut, you would see the foam. It just gives a much neater appearance. I purchased this at an art supply store. It can probably be found anywhere foamcor or architectural supplies are sold.Keep your Exacto knife at about a 45 degree angle and make the cut continuous, trying not to stop and start too much on straight lines or curves until you come to an angle. Cut out all the inner, small cuts first. Change your blade when the foam starts making those dreadful little pea-like thingies.

    Again, keeping a sharp edge on your cutter is VERY IMPORTANT!!! Some craft stores carry foamcore cutters. It works okay but a sharp-bladed Xacto works just as well.

    A few quick swipes on a cheap whetstone or oilstone (the kind used for sharpening pocket knives) will keep cut edges looking clean and add extra life to those expensive little blades.

    After cutting, turn over the piece and finish any cuts/corners that might not have gone through. Cut away from narrow pieces like “arms” to keep them from “cracking”. Try to keep your wrist flexed. Keep working with it – it gets easier and easier, and you will LOVE all the things you can do.

    Another thing I have found that makes the edge look better is to outline the edge with a permanent black marker and to finish the surface of the edge with a paint brush loaded with black paint. The black outline seems to disguise most of the raggedness. Gary Wells taught a class where he suggested taking a black chisel point marker, angling it on the edge of the Fome-cor between your thumb and index finger, and then tracing along the edge of the Fome-cor with the tip of your index finger. It’s finished in a snap and gives a really perfect outline along the outer edge. I don’t recommend it for hiding rough cuts, though.

  • We have found that buying an electric jigsaw with a straight edge blade (no teeth) is a great way to cut foamboard. It is relatively inexpensive and also great for cutting wood (with a different blade).
  • We have found that if you cut foamcore board over a piece of glass, it makes a nice clean cut. Of course, I know doing BIG designs over a piece of glass might be impossible. BUT, small items work great! You can buy glass pretty cheaply. We picked up a scrap piece from a local glass supplier inexpensively. It is about a 2′ by 2′ piece. We duct taped the sides so that the raw edges were not so dangerous. Working on larger designs, you just have to move around keeping your cuts on the glass surface. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Mylar Cutter

  • For cutting mylar paper, I went to my local Walmart and brought a 45mm Fiskars Rotary Cutter (straight edge cutting wheel) and Fiskars cutting mat. You can find them back in the sewing department. The wheel can cut quite a few pieces of mylar paper at one time.The cutting wheel also has a few replacement wheels: pinking and wave edge, and if you look in the the office supply stores you can find other replacement wheels: scallop, squiggle, victorian, tiara and deckle edge. The extra wheels are great when you want a decorative edge. The straight edge is also great if you want to cut a round piece of mylar paper. I use a dinner plate from my kichen and trace around it to get a perfect circle.

    The nice thing about the cutting board is that it keeps the cutting wheel sharp, and it doesn’t mess up other surfaces in your work place. The cutting board has one inch square marker which make easy reference for cutting.

    It also works great on tulle and netting. I buy my tulle/netting by the bolt. I can then cut 4 – 10 inch strips or 4 – 16 round circles.

    I have had my cutting wheel and board for about a year and use it on an average of two – four times a month and I’m just getting to the point where I will have to buy a replactment straight edge.

    They also have a web page that can give you more information:

    I love mine and wouldn’t trade it, I hope this helps.

  • As a summary, first of all you need a cutting board that self mends. Some suggested a sharp exacto knife, or utility knife (the kind that you break off the dull blade then you slide the new blade up). Or get scissors with heat-treated or hardened steel blades. More expensive scissors have “carbide” blades.
  • If you use any of the knives, I would suggest also using a t-square to hold the paper in place.
  • The cutting board is the most wonderful product to cut mylar paper. A rotary knife or an x-acto knife (with a shrap blade) is the best. You can cut up to 10 sheets at a time (with practice). The rotary cutter has many different blades you can purchase. They have fancy edges which give a fun alternative to a streight cut. As far as the cutting boards, I sell large ones at wholesale prices! They are wonderful! They have inch marks on them, which allows for easy measuring. They are also self healing. Which means once you cut on the board, it heals and you do not feel where you cut into the board. I suggest using this board for cutting only, do not use spray adhesive or any other products on them. By the way, cutting foamboard on this mat is great too! One more thing. Invest in a good metal t-square. This helps in cutting. If you want more information on the boards, call me or e-mail. Merrill, CBA Advance Creative Products 800-572-1ACP

Bow Machines

  • Dolly was the first to have the Master Bowmaker in Australia. When I saw it in Chicago, I bought her one without even asking her. Initially she was annoyed because she thought it was too expensive. Now …. she says it was one of the best investments we ever made. It has given her a range of products that her competitors don’t have. It has allowed her to sell much more wedding decor. Some customers just order bows – no balloons. Her showroom displays look soooo much more professional. It’s really neat how the ribbon designs coordinate with the balloons, mugs etc. She puts bows with delivery bouquets, on arches, with centerpieces… there isn’t a day that goes by that her staff aren’t making bows. This year, every Valentine’s creation is finished with a bow. It has quickly become her “signature”.

Spray Adhesive

  • The 3M spray adhesive is great, especially for mylar sheet. We tend to favor rubber cement for sticking balloons together, although some brands are less balloon-friendly. An excellent complementary product to buy along with the spray adhesive is their “lemon cleaner.” I’m not sure of the actual name, but it takes the stuff off your hands the way NOTHING else will.
  • Results of the 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive tests. It is a black can with a purple cap. The size I bought was 2 oz. can and I paid $1.98 at Home Depot. It adhered latex balloons to latex balloons just fine and could withstand heat, humidity and a good amount of stress once the product dried. It worked great with mylars as well. I glued everything I could think of – from feathers to tulle – and they all adhered to the balloons. I was able to re-create a few of my arrangements just using the 3M and they came out great, especially an arrangement I call “Crystal Hearts” using clear balloons. I didn’t get the after effects like that of a glue gun on the balloons, and you didn’t see a glob of glue between the balloons. It all appeared clear and see-through.
  • Now, here’s what you have to watch for when you use the adhesive.
    1. Cover your work area. If it gets on the table, it’s sticky/tacky. You WILL get it on your hands and I had to wash my hands a few times after using it just to get it off.
    2. The direction on the can says to spray from 6-8 inches from the object you are adhering. Well, there are situations where I just wanted a bit and wanted to spray it closer for accuracy. The result was that I got more than I needed, so to resolve that I just dabbed it with a paper towel and I was left with the amount I needed.
    3. The product does not dry clear. It is off-white and if you use it on black balloons, be careful.
    4. It takes about 45 seconds or less for the items to adhere together before you could “safely” let it go.
    5. It does NOT work well when you are trying to force items to stick together, such as “against it’s will” or against force of gravity, if you know what I mean. I tried to glue a 260Q around an 11″ balloon and the ends of the balloon would not stick around the balloon.
  • One other final important note. The balloons used in my experiment were Qualatex only. I found that I will use this item and keep it in my toolbox and apron.

Glue Guns

  • We use the low temp glue guns all of the time, and they work great! Just be sure not to touch the tip of the gun to the balloon!
  • Here’s a trick: place a piece of flat duct tape on glass before applying hot glue. The reason for this additional step is that hot glue will not adhere well to plain glass, but the duct tape will, and then the hot glue adheres well to the duct tape.
  • I’ve been using a dual-temp cordless glue gun for years, and it doesn’t use batteries. Available from Floral Supply Syndicate at . I paid $20 for mine, and it’s been worth every dime!

Pan Glue

  • Instead of using the cool melt glue guns, use the florist (oasis) pan melt glue. It comes as little yellow pillows that melt in an electric skillet. This type of glue is much more resistant to heat and cold fluctuations and is also waterproof (cool melt glue is neither), and I find that it holds really really well. When gluing to a smooth surface, such as ceramic tiles, we usually lightly sand the surface first giving the glue a rough surface to attach to. When gluing lomey pedestals to their plastic dishes, we use PVC glue. I have switched to using the Lomey Adhesive and find that works wonderfully. It takes 24 hours or so to set up, but once it’s on there, it’s on there forever. I use it with both the Lomey dishes and ceramic tiles. When glueing plastic lomey rods to Ceramic Tile, a trick we have used for years is to place a small piece of white duct tape on the glass or tile piece (sticky side down on the glass or tile), as the glue will adhere much better to the duct tape than to the glass or tile.


  • Using hot pan glue is by far the most economical. However, once the balloon is positioned on the foamboard, you can’t remove it without ripping the surface off the foamboard. No good when you’ve painted the foamboard before the balloons are applied. If a balloon is bumped when transporting to site or maneuvering on site, it has to be glued back in, and often, the paint on the foam core needs to be touched up.What I have done in the past is use velcro. It allows you to “adjust” positioning of balloons or change colors if necessary. If a balloon is nocked off, just put it back in. No ripping the surface. No danger of burns to the artist from the glue. It’s slower, a little more expensive for materials, but gives you some flexibility. If, after a day or two, some foils deflate, there’s no need to get the pan glue out again. Just apply half velcro and replace. Also, when the “prop” has served its purpose, you may wish to retrieve it and bag up the balloons with (half) velcro on them and use them for a future mural or sculpture using the same method.

    You can buy giant rolls of velcro to save money. Use scissors to cut into half inch pieces for the balloon – and 1″ pieces on the board. This allows you some adjustment space. If (after repositioning a balloon) you expose a piece of velcro on the foamboard, leave it stuck on and just touch up paint over it. To simplify maintenance, always put the smooth half of velcro on the balloon and the rough half on the board.


  • One of the very best products we have ever found for sticking mylars to latex (or to almost ANYTHING else for that matter) is the Oasis Brand Double Stick Foam Tape. It MUST be the Oasis brand as all other brands are inferior in their sticking power. We once stuck a 4′ x 8′ foam board computer to an SDS wall with only 4, 4-inch pieces of this “Miracle Tape”. The only caveat to this wonder product is that you must use common sense when using it. One floral distributor that we used to buy it from won’t carry it anymore because one of his customers used it to stick something onto the walls at a local hotel. Sheeeeeeesh!!!! Be very careful to ensure that no damage will occur if you use the tape. You can usually find it at any floral supply distributor that carries Oasis brand products.
  • Advance Creative Products 1-800-572-1ACP carrys that WONDERFUL tape that we refer to as “MIracle Tape” because it will stick ANYTHING to ANYTHING. This “MIracle Tape” is really just Oasis’ brand of double stick foam tape, but I wanted to let everyone know who sells it because not all places carry this very special tape even if they carry the Oasis brand of products. It is not like other brands of double stick foam tape… this stuff really works!!!
  • We hung a 4×8 foot piece of foamboard cut out in the shape of a computer on a latex SDS wall using only FIVE 3-inch pieces of this tape. It is truly a godsend to our industry and Wynn, and I highly recommend it. The only problem we’ve found with it is that once it’s on a surface, it DOESN’T come off, so don’t go sticking it onto walls or other surfaces that are not disposable. It works equally well with mylars or latex and is much easier and neater than cool glue. I think it’s about $5-$6 per 20-foot roll. Although it seems expensive, a little goes a long way.
  • If you are going to use sticky disk – PLEASE do yourself a favor and call Gil Ganz at 213-731-2247 or e-mail at He has both round circles and also his company has the strips. We have used them since the first year they came out, and THEY ARE GREAT. They come in two different types – will hold forever. They’re easy to remove but hold like crazy while in place. We found the held well and did not mar surfaces.
  • The stickies from AJ Ganz are fantastic!!!!! We used them in Janet Haggerty’s centerpiece classes. I was very impressed with how easy they are to use and how effective. Just remember, whatever it touches is stuck!
  • I use Stickies to attach balloons to just about anything. As long as you realize that when using Stickies, they are for all practical purposes, permanent. Stickies are made by AJ Ganz and once you use them you’ll find another million things to use them on. They really are a fabulous product.
  • Have tried cool glue. But not with confidence that it will stay adhered. Same with double sided tape. Humidity affects the bonding. The only double sided tape I trust are AJ Ganz “Balloon Stickems”. But same as pan glue… once stuck, it’s permanent.
  • I’ve used a loop of 3M brand clear packing tape on the foils because you can retreive your foils and use them again and again this way.
  • We use loops of clear 2″ wide packing tape to attach mylars to latex. Put the loop onto the mylar first; press flat from inside the loop and then press into place. Benefit – the mylars are easily repositioned and reuseable, especially since you will be returning anyway to pick up your SDS components.

Hanging Things From Walls And Ceilings

  • I’ve had good success in securing clusters to ceilings using paper clips, t-bar clips, adhesive balloon holders, etc… with 260q’s or rubber bands actually holding the clusters to the clips.
  • 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.
  • When I’ve had to hang something without access to ceiling I’ve used a variety of objects to create a false wall. Such as: unfilled SDS panels, lattice panels, pipe and drape, or even EMT conduit with elbow connectors to create a “coat rack” style rod to hang items. You can use fabric, mylar paper, colored tape, etc. if you need to hide mechanics. Depending on placement and the number of base plates you have, you could even attach foamboard poster to a single upright pole.
  • If you do decide to attach directly to wall, do a test first directly on the wall surface (and not just a few minutes). We once had a disaster of a large poster falling off the wall. It seemed to hold at first, but after several hours, the weight of the poster pulled itself off the wall.
  • Try the 3-M poster hanger hooks. When you want to remove the hook, you simply pull downward and it completely releases from the wall surface. I’ve seen these on sale at Wal-Mart, Menards, etc., for about $2 per package of 2. Be sure to tell the site staff how to remove the hook if you aren’t going back to do it yourself — leave the package directions or photocopy them.

Power For Outdoor Work

  • Regarding outside power – we use an “inverter” easily found at RV stores. It can be plugged into your car’s lighter outlet. If you are only using an autosizer – there will be little drain on your battery. Also, you can purchase a car battery. Attach the inverter via alligator clips to the battery. This will last a long time. Just check the capacity of the inverter and what you are going to plug into it. Our inverter has been a saver when we have shown up on middle of the night or early morning jobs to find out no one has the key to the room with the electricity!

Painting Styrofoam

  • We have discovered that the key to spray painting styrofoam is using Design Master paints (available at craft stores and florist supplies) and layering the paint with thin layers. If you spray up close and intensely, the foam will melt.

MB 12/13/95
MB 12/22/95
SKB 01/13/97
SKB 12/23/97
MB 7/20/99
SMB 1/9/00


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