Thursday, July 28, 2016

Creating the perfect photo opportunity with balloons!

Mardi Gras Costume Party - World Balloon Convention
2016 New Orleans.

Balloons and photo opportunities go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s an entrance arch at a wedding or a balloon wall at a corporate event, you can bet that most guests will have their photograph taken using the balloon decor as a backdrop!

Over the past few years, balloon-inspired photo frames have become increasingly popular and can be seen regularly in a balloon professional's portfolio. Clients love them as do their guests who eagerly line up to have their photograph taken, making a lasting memory of the event. 

At the World Balloon Convention earlier this year, I helped to build a circus theme photo frame in the Welcome Centre.  The design was by Cam Woody, CBA of Pioneer Balloon Company in Wichita, KS, USA. It was really fun to make, and the end result was fantastic! The fabulous clown and ballerina sculptures that sat either side of the frame were made by David and Shana Brenion of Nifty Balloons in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Congratulations to the Very Best Balloon Blog!

Wow, what can I say! I’m excited to announce that as of today, we have crossed the traffic milestone of one million pageviews!

A special thank you to all of you!

The blog is very much a team effort, from our amazing contributors who very generously share their passion, experience, knowledge, and inspiration, and also to our many readers who regularly inspire a new post topic even if they are not aware of it!

Let's keep working together to make the balloon industry the very best it can be.

It's time to celebrate, and I look forward to announcing our next Very Best Balloon Blog million milestone!

Happy Ballooning from a very happy blogger!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Finding the Perfect Air-Filled Balloon Decor Solution

Fulfilling a customer's needs is what we all strive for, and finding the perfect decor solution is very rewarding.

Several months ago, I started discussing decor ideas with an event organiser. The event was one that I had decorated two years ago, so I had a little background knowledge of the venue and some of the difficulties decorating this particular event.

This event had used balloons for its decor for many years, but due to a number of circumstances we needed to find a good alternative to a helium-filled table arrangement or a domineering air-filled design. Our mission was to create the perfect air-filled table centrepiece.

The customer's requirements were very specific:
  • The design needs to have a good visual impact without interfering with sight-lines to screens around the room.
  • It should have a little actual movement, like helium without using helium.
  • Each centrepiece needs to display the names of the event sponsors.
  • Should be heavy enough to withstand strong winds as the venue is an open-sided marquee.

A few years ago we were hit by a short-term world helium shortage. As a result of this shortage, we had to find good alternative solutions to creating different types of decor with air-filled balloons. 

To help with ideas, inspiration, and solutions, Qualatex® produced a wonderful flier called, ‟The Qualatex Air-fill Advantage.” The flier is still available to download. Click HERE for your copy!

One of the design concepts that inspired me greatly was by Sandy Pressley, CBA, of Creative Balloons in Warren, MI, USA. Sandy showed some wonderful no-helium balloon bouquets using ceiling tile wire to support the balloons.

When I knew that I had to find an alternative way to make my centrepiece designs for this event, this for me was the perfect solution.

I believe that ceiling tile wire is readily available in hardware stores in the U.S. However, to find straightened wire in the U.K, I had to go to a specialist ceiling tile company, that sold pre-straightened wire in 3m lengths. This wire is also known as 12-gauge hanger wire.

Having found a solution to support my air-filled balloons, I needed to decide which balloon would be the best for the job. This was not too difficult  to determine as my customer's requirements were quite specific. We needed to be able to display each of the sponsor logos within the design, but we could not make the centrepieces too big as we needed to ensure good visual lines to television screens around the venue. 

I decided that working with 9" Qualatex Microfoil® would be perfect! I would be able to use five stars per table, and on each of the stars I would have the sponsor's logo printed.

The Design - Starburst Centrepiece

The colours that we used made these designs boldly stand out in an extremely large, white marquee, injecting an element of fun and festivity to the occasion.

The Method of Construction

Considering the number of centrepieces that we had to make - 95 in total - it was not a quick and simple design. As I mentioned at the start of this post, there was a number of factors that we had to take into consideration when making these centrepieces.

For the base of the design, we used a 33cm x 33cm (13" x 13") white floor tile. The weight and size of these tiles made it impossible for the centrepieces to be flipped over in windy conditions.

As I have already mentioned, each of the Microfoil Star balloons were secured to ceiling tile wires, but again, that was not quite as simple as it appeared!

For each centrepiece, we cut five different lengths of wires. Each wire was bent over at one end and then a short length of balloon stick was slipped over the bent wire. Each wire was then covered with a Caribbean Blue 260Q and secured at the end using binding wire, much in the same way as a fantasy flower. Once each wire was covered, an Original Cello Cup™was secured to each of the wires. This fitted neatly onto the balloon stick that was hidden under the covered wire.

As you can imagine, this took quite a long time as we had 475 wires in total to prepare, but we were able to work on these well in advance.

To hold the five wired stars in position, we needed a short pedestal.  I chose to use a 14" Lomey Clear Pedestal for this job. I secured each of the Lomey Pedestals to the floor tile base using Gorilla Glue™.  Finding the right glue for the job was very important, and reading the glue's description gave me confidence that it was the right product. I allowed the glue 24-hours to set and fully dry, and it worked perfectly!

The product that started it all. Original Gorilla Glue built a name for itself with its incredible, industrial holding power and versatility. Water activated, it expands into materials to form an incredibly strong bond to virtually anything. As your solution for almost any project or repair, Gorilla Glue is 100% waterproof, weatherproof, you-name-it-proof. It's safe for indoor and outdoor use and strong enough to stand up to intense heat or cold. Sand it, paint it, stain it. Simply stated, it’s the Toughest Glue on Planet Earth.

Each of the 9" Microfoil Star balloons needed to be inflated and heat sealed. If heat-sealing is something that you are not too confident doing, check out my blog:

Heat Sealing Qualatex Microfoil Balloons and turn those 'little balloons' into BIG profit earners!

This is another job that can be done well in advance, and I strongly recommend that you do, as it will give you the opportunity to re-inflate any of the foils that deflate I think I had about 5, which was an easy fix. 

Assembling the 95 centrepieces took approximately 24 hours in total, which I did over several days and stored ready to deliver on the morning of the event. 
For each centrepiece I secured 5 different coloured stars to a Lomey pedestal. I then "wrapped" the pedestal with a 350Q to cover the wires and hide all the mechanics. At the base, I added two clusters of balloons, the Purple Violet inflated to 4.5" and the Caribbean Blue to 3.5". I also added two 4" Magenta Microfoil Stars. At the top of the pedestal, I added a "split-duplet," using two 5" Caribbean Blue balloons. Once we arrived at the venue, we positioned each centrepiece and arranged the stars to make a starburst effect. Each centrepiece looked slightly different.

With preparation and assembly time, I calculated that each centrepiece took approximately 25 minutes each to make; Not quick and simple, but very rewarding, especially when the client tells you that they are absolutely perfect!

I was extremely happy with the outcome of this job. It taught me a number of things. Spending time with a customer to find the perfect solution is paramount to success and a happy customer. And that good preparation is key when making so many centrepieces!

Happy Ballooning!



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Getting Your Head Around Balloon Formulas - How Many Balloons Does it Take to Fill a Room?

When I left school I thought my days of trying to understand mathematical formulas were well and truly over... how wrong I was!

Balloon Filled Room 

Recently, I was asked to quote a price for a balloon-filled room. Many years ago I would have tried to guess, but as we all know that can be very costly in many ways. So where do you start?  Before anything else you will need some information from the client:
  • Room Length - 6.3m
  • Room Width - 3.82m
  • Room Height, or how high the balloons need to go to if they do not want the whole room completely filled - 1.5m
  • What size of balloons would they like to be used? - 16"
My client had seen a high-profile event on the Internet, where a room had been filled with 16" white balloons, and that was exactly what she wanted me to recreate. 

So basically we need to work out the Volume of a Rectangle - 

length x height x width

Because we use the measurement of inches when we work with balloons, it is easier for me to change the room dimensions into feet and inches first.

6.3m = 20.66ft
3.82m = 12.53ft
1.5m = 4.92ft

To calculate the total volume of space that I would need to fill in cubic feet, multiply the dimensions as shown below.

20.66 x 12.53 x 4.92  = 1,273 cubic feet.

The client requested 16" balloons but agreed that it would be better if we only inflated the 16" balloons to 14" to make them more durable.  So, all my calculations need to be for a balloon inflated to 14".

The next step is to work out the radius of the balloon using the Volume of a Sphere 4/3π𝒓3   equation. 
This formula is used for figuring how much space an inflated balloon occupies, or how much gas it takes to fill a balloon to a round shape.

4 ÷ 3 x 3.14 x 7 x 7 x 7 = 1,436 cubic inches per 16" balloon inflated to 14"

12" x 12" x 12" = 1,728 cubic inches per cubic foot

1,436 ÷ 1,728 = 0.83 cubic feet per balloon

Our result shows us that each 14" balloon  occupies a minimum of .83 cubic feet

The balloons will not pack perfectly together. The balloons might take up as much space as an equivalent cubic shape if there is no packing at all.

14 x 14 x 14 = 2,744

2,744 ÷ 1,728 = 1.58 cubic feet per balloon

Our results show us that each 14" balloon occupies a maximum of 1.58 cubic feet.

1273 ÷ .83 = 1,532 maximum number of balloons to completely fill the room.
1273 ÷ 1.58 = 805 minimum number of balloons to completely fill the room.

Therefore, I would take the mean average number of balloons and quote for the job using that figure.

1,531+ 805 ÷ 2 = 1,168 16" balloons inflated to 14"

I asked Luc Bertrand, CBA, of wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium, if he agreed with me.

In theory the calculations are correct. If I design with round balloons and they fitted in five perfectly interlocking layers, it would result in 986 balloons being used.
However, balloons are not round, and on top of that, it is not likely that they will perfectly organise themselves in grids. We all know they have their own will. So I would go for an absolute max of three layers resulting in using more like 595 balloons.”

Luc shows us using a mathematical method to check his findings.

The space to be filled in the room is;
6.3m = 248"
3.82 = 150"
1.5m = 59"

Therefore, the volume of space in inches is 248" x 150" x 59" = 2,194,800 inches.

If the 14" balloon, when inflated, is 17" in length, the volume of a balloon as a cube is 

14" x 14" x 17" = 3,332"

The volume of the space to fill ÷ volume of the "cube" balloon.

2,194,800 ÷ 3,332 = 658 balloons

So now we need to consider the fact that balloons do not fall in a nice orderly manner,and therefore we should allow extra balloons for this. If you look at Luc's diagram below, you will see that Luc shows layers of balloons. He shows balloons standing upright and laying flat. This demonstrates how many balloons will fit into the room falling in different patterns.

Luc concludes;

“So I would go for an absolute max of four layers resulting in using more like 782 balloons, if perfectly organised.”

“If you want only one layer to fill a ceiling, this could be calculated as  square balloons. Some will stand up some will be flat. If multiple layers, use the cube method and add up to 20% to be on the safe side as the more layers the more they will organise and pack.

 658 balloons + 20% = 789

This is a very interesting result, the difference in the two suggested totals (1,168 and 789)  is quite different. This is caused by calculating the balloon size using the volume of a totally round sphere versus using the actual balloon size. 

I really like Luc's method. I think that it is logical and makes this exercise easier to understand and calculate.

Maths has never been my strong point, but I really enjoyed working on this project as I feel that I understand it much better now than I ever did before. 

Since writing this blog, I have actually filled two rooms with balloons! I was very happy that on both occasions using the math formula above worked perfectly!

This is a panoramic photo of the one of the rooms that I filled. The floor cover
reached a height of about 1.5 m plus we filled the ceiling with 16" helium filled balloons!

Happy Ballooning!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

David Mahoney shows us how to create fabulous decor using the Balloon Overlay technique.

Balloon overlay is a technique that I have seen used by a number of different balloon artists over the years to create amazing logos and two-dimensional balloon sculptures. The techniques used vary slightly, but the end result is pretty much the same.

David Mahoney of Balloons Everyday in Carrolton, TX, U.S.A, is a great friend of the Very Best Balloon Blog. Once again, he kindly shares his knowledge and passion and shows us how to make these wonderful overlays in a few simple steps.

Overlays are a great way to create a custom design, especially if a customer does not have the budget for a three-dimensional balloon sculpture. David has mastered the technique and  acquired many happy customers in the process.


Most of the supplies needed for balloon overlays are available in hardware stores. Foam core or foam board can be found at art supply stores, craft stores, or sign shops. Overhead projectors and transparency film can be purchased at office supply stores or try searching online. Some audio visual stores may also have projectors for purchase or to rent.

1. Find the image you need to create your shape. Copy or print the image onto transparency film.

2. Use an overhead projector to project the image onto your foam core or foam board. 

Trace the outlines with a marker. You'll be tracing two elements separately on different pieces of foam core: the "backing board"
that  the balloons will be added to, and the "detail pieces" that will add depth and detail to the sculpture.

3. Use an X-acto blade or hobby knife to cut out all the foam core pieces.

4. Spray paint the front side of the foam core to match the colour of the balloons that you will be adding.

5. Determine balloon size by finding the largest and smallest width in the design and decide on a size that will fit nicely in both areas. Typically on small designs, the balloons are 3-4". On larger designs, balloons are usually 6-8" in size. Inflate your balloons and tie each one individually, keeping the necks as long as possible.

6. Poke holes so that you can add your balloons to the backing board. To do this, you will need two awls and a foam Duplet template (as shown) that matches the size of your inflated balloons. Position the template on the edge of the backing board and poke the awl through both sides. Remove the first awl and rotate the template over to the other side of the second awl. Poke a third hole. 
An awl is a long, pointed spike.  A Bradawl is a tool for making holes in wood.

7.  Repeat Step 6 until you have poked enough holes evenly throughout the whole backing board.

8. Poke the necks of the inflated balloons through the holes in the backing board, using a small wooden dowel to push them through.

9. On the back side, stretch the necks of the adjacent balloons to tie them into pairs.

10. Once the backing board is covered, add the detail pieces. To do this, tape an uninflated 260Q onto the back of the detail pieces, then use an awl to poke additional holes into the backing board to slide the 260Qs through. Tie the 260Q ends on the back side.

11. Glue 1 x 2" wood strips to the back of the backing board to support and secure Electrical Metal Tubing (EMT) and EMT straps. THEN PLACE the tubing into base plates. 

Balloon Overlay Benefits
  • High impact
  • Ideal for corporate clients and private parties
  • Simple to construct; no difficult techniques or framing required
  • Budget-friendly option for customers who want a custom sculpture
  • Easy to add details on the front to create any image, sign, logo, or character

Here are some more of David's wonderful overlay designs.

Download this great PDF and keep it safe for future reference.

I think that this is a great technique and one that could be used for many different design ideas. Thank you once again, David, for sharing your skills and knowledge with the balloon industry! 

Happy Ballooning!