How to make various types of twists

How much to inflate the balloon

How do you know how much to inflate the balloon to give you

  1. enough air to get all your bubbles and
  2. not so much air that your last bubbles are rock-hard (prone to popping)?

Marvin taught this rule of thumb at IBAC: leave 1/2 inch of uninflated nipple for each twist you plan on making. Of course, you need to leave extra uninflated nipple if you incorporate features like a poodle-tail. In practice, you will adjust bubble sizes and stiffnesses as you go so that it ends up right; otherwise you'll have to pop the nipple end, let some air out and re-tie in order to finish your figure. Years of experience also helps.

Advanced apple twists:

Yo-yo twist (split Apple twist)

This idea is the fishing reel found in "Dewey's Zany Balloons." Dewey takes a bee body, inflates it half full, and does a basic apple. He then twists the apple in half horizontally. This gives the reel for the rod, and the 'apple stem' sticks out to be the crank for the reel. I sure that the rod needs no explanation. I've used this often for fishermen with great response.

It looks like two toruses (donuts) side by side, connected only at the centers. Like a yo-yo. If you pinch the donuts together on one side, it spreads open on the other side like a spring clothespin. You can then clip it on to a nose, ear, or whatever; it holds on by friction. For the earrings, add a few dangling 260's with 1-inch bubbles in the end (like poodle tails).

I have done this with both 260's and 350's, but I like the effect better with the 350. It turned out to be rather simple:


  1. Make a 3-inch bubble. The actual length is best determined by experimentation, and depends on what the final use will be. Tie a knot. At this point, I prefer to trim off the nozzle close to the knot so the knot is smaller.
  2. Make an apple. This is done by making an apple twist (see above) all the way down and about 1/4" - 1/2" into the uninflated part. Grab the knot through the uninflated part, extract your finger (or other apple-twist tool) and twist a few times.
  3. Trim off the uninflated balloon after the twists you just made, but keep hold of the twist itself -- it won't stay twisted by itself (yet). Push the twist you are holding back into the balloon, as if you were making an apple twist in the opposite direction as you just did. Once the twist is fully inside, it will stay twisted by itself. Push it back in far enough so the knot is more than halfway back toward the side where it started.
  4. You should now have an oblong bubble with a thread of uninflated balloon running through it from end to end. Give this bubble a simple twist in the center, making two back-to-back apple twists. The friction should hold the twists in place. You're done!

  5. Pinch one side of this, and the other side opens up like a spring clothes-pin. Clip this on to whatever body part(s) you desire.

More instructions:


Tips and variations

Mark writes: I independently discovered this twisted apple-twist (yo-yo) this spring, after George Sands' book got me critically thinking about apple and hook twists. They're slick, aren't they? I had never seen them anywhere before twisting my first one, and remember proclaiming to several friends (and a professor) "I have just revolutionized balloon twisting!" :-) The biggest let-down of my twisting career came when I proudly showed Marvin Hardy one of them at IBAC. He said something like "Oh, that old thing" as he promptly made one and clipped it on my ear. :-(

Suction Cups

Rattlesnake Tails and Other Cool Stuff

Hook Twist

This is the "hook twist" that Dewey describes. He uses it for a lot of neat animals: dogs, snakes, squirrels, frogs, etc. This twist is basically a variation on the apple twist. Instead of pushing the nozzle into the balloon only about an inch, push it in as far as you can reach with one finger. If you bend the balloon a bit you can reach further along the wall of the balloon. Now grab the nozzle through the wall of the balloon and twist the way you would make an apple twist. Then carefully work your finger out of the balloon. I use the thumb and middle finger of the same hand that has the index finger inside the balloon. These two fingers kind of push the sides of the bubble back a bit while I retract my index finger. If you can do an apple twist you already know how to take your finger out. It's just a bit harder now since there's more finger inside the balloon. Practice making apple twists of increasing size. I suppose a bit of powder on your finger couldn't hurt to reduce friction, but I've never tried it. When you take your finger out of the balloon, the bit of balloon inside the bubble that goes from the nozzle to the end of the bubble will go straight from the twist to the end of the bubble. If the bubble is bent (or hooked) as described above, that inner piece of balloon will hold it in that position. 

The key to getting that shape is really to get the nozzle further into the balloon than your finger could reach if the balloon was kept straight. I scrunch up the bubble to really reach in there far. Note that no matter how far you reach in, the same length of balloon will be inside since you're only putting inside the balloon what covers your finger, so the further you can get the nozzle in, the greater the hook in the bubble.

  1. Inflate and tie a 260 leaving a few inches uninflated.
  2. Put your index finger on the knot and press the knot into the balloon as for an apple twist. Rather than keeping your finger centered in the balloon, it should go in toward one side so that the palm side of the finger is along one edge and the inflated part of the balloon is on the back (dorsal) side of the finger.
  3. Insert the finger into the balloon as far as you can. Then use your other hand to push another 3 or 4 inches of the inflated balloon onto the finger so that the inflated balloon bunches up on the dorsal side.
  4. With the other (right) hand, pinch through the inflated part of the balloon to grasp the knot between your thumb and index finger. Twist the balloon to lock the knot in the twist as you would do for an apple twist.
  5. You now have a long apple twist that's curved and bunched up on the convex side of your curved index finger. I use my right forearm and elbow to hold the remainder of the inflated balloon against my side to prevent the apple twist from coming loose during the next maneuver.
  6. When all but an inch of your index finger has been freed from the twist, tip your finger up so that the back side of the finger is along the outside (convex side) of the twist. This will allow the other end of the twist to hook as you remove the tip of your finger.
  7. The twist should have a reasonable approximation of a tight "S" shape. You can move the main body of the twist toward or away from either end to accentuate or reduce the curvature at that end.

Apple Twists and Deep Hook Twists: How NOT to Get Your Finger Stuck


I call a bubble placed inside the balloon a meatball.

Twist a small bubble.

                 \  --
most of balloon   )(__)  - small bubble

push the small bubble as deep as you can into the big one with your index finger.

            -- __)   ____________
           (__)__<- (_________   \_______
_________________)        (___  your hand
                          (___   ________
        pinch here
           --xx __)__________
         and here

Now there is a bubble and your finger inside the large bubble. There is a second layer of latex around the small bubble. the outer layer is still connected to the big bubble. With your free hand, pinch the big bubble where the little one is inside of it and hold that bubble in place. With the finger nail inside the balloon, break that outer layer. (The outer layer to be broken is marked by x's in the above picture). Breaking it just takes a bit of practice. If you stretch the balloon that you want to break, by working the bubble further inside the long bubble with your other hand you should weaken it enough to help break it.

While still pinching the large bubble, work the little one free. Your finger will still be inside of the balloon.

        pinch here
     __    ----__________
    (__)    (___________
         and here

Since you're pinching the balloon, air shouldn't escape while you get your finger out. Now just tie the balloon from the end where your finger came out of.

peas-in-a-pod: make five or six meatballs, and then deflate the balloon around them, leaving something that looks like a pea-pod. The pea-pod can also be called a caterpillar. Then if you make wings out of another balloon you've got a butterfly. [Note: A chain of small bubbles, each pushed into the balloon body separately can be used to create the same effect... after the outer balloon shell is deflated.

A hint for tearing off a meatball inside a balloon, which I discovered by watching Richard Levine here in Eugene:

  1. Make the bubble
  2. Poke it deep into the balloon with one finger
  3. Pull that finger out fast - the balloon will often pop due to friction, and the 'meatball' is free!
  4. If (3) fails, tear the end off with a *fast* motion, which is easier than slow.
  5. Failing (4)... use scissors. Latex makes crummy dental floss!

When you twist off the bubble that is going to be inserted, make it fairly small and twist it 4 or 5 complete turns. The first hard part is pushing the bubble into the main body of the balloon. Make sure the bubble is smaller than the main body of the balloon. I hold the main body of the balloon in my right hand right up close to the twist. I then (slowly) push the bubble into the main body with the index finger of my left hand. When you get it in, push it as far into the main body as you can. With the thumb and index finger of your right hand pinch the main body down onto the twist of the bubble. Hold this tight in your right hand and start to pull your left index finger out of the main body. The idea is to break off the bubble at the twist with the fiction between the main body and your left index finger. Sometimes if you move your left index finger down a little at the first joint you can increase the friction and insure that the twist breaks. When the twist does break, clamp down with your right thumb and index finger to seal the hole. Then retie and the bubble is inside the main body.

I push the bubble in almost all the length of my index finger, then I grasp the little bubble with the other hand from the outside and withdraw my pushing finger just enough so that I can pinch the bubble right where it meets the rest of the balloon. This pinch should be firm enough and should effectively cut-off any chance of air escaping once you pop off the bubble. Now, give a twist your finger that is still on the interior of the balloon; make sure you give your finger a hook shape and sort-of scoop twist. Usually the bubble will just pop free and you'll be left holding an unknotted balloon. And you'll probably have about enough space left where you're holding to simply knot it up, if you like. Try practicing with a superball, it is a lot easier to insert and break off.

I could not manage to get a bubble inside a balloon -- until this last weekend! Yea! Two hints helped me get it to work:

  1. From the October Balloon Magic Magazine ('Magic' section): Push the bubble back into the balloon by holding it with your thumb and first two fingertips until it is back into the balloon, then use one finger to push it the rest of the way in. I had a lot of trouble pushing the bubble straight back with just my forefinger; it kept slipping out before I could get it secured into the balloon.
  2. Make the bubble smaller than the diameter of the balloon itself. I was definitely making the bubble too big before.

I found T. Myers instructions on the balloon seed (bubble insertion) to be the easiest to do consistently. After inserting the bubble, twist another bubble on the end (it will look like a tulip twist) and pull it off. It separates easier. Later you can use other techniques to put one color inside another etc.

When I'm breaking off a meatball, I twist the balloon tightly around my finger inside the balloon to ensure that I pull it all back. It makes it a little more difficult to break off the ball, but I find it ensures a successful insertion. I leave a little tucked inside, and the flash gets incorporated into the knot.

Putting an object inside a balloon

If you want to put a ball or other object inside, it's the same thing, except that you don't start with a small bubble. You would just insert the ball the way the small bubble was inserted.

There are basically two ways to put something inside a balloon:

  1. Stretch the mouth/ nozzle open and shove the item inside.
  2. With an inflated balloon, push the item into the end, with the forced-in section of balloon forming a skin around the item. Keep pushing until the item is completely inside the outer balloon. Break off the connection to the inner section of balloon, trying not to loose too much air. The item is now inside the inflated balloon, and is coated with the broken off section of balloon.

Superballs are high-bounce balls. They are available at most toy stores and come in various sizes and colors. The smaller ones go nicely into balloons.

A super-popular item is ball-in-balloon toys. I also got superballs through Tom Myers, and in the end each one costs the same as a single balloon. So, cost isn't really a factor -- it's just like doing multi-balloon figures. However, these things are more like kinetic toys than figures. Some things I've been making with superballs in them: fill a balloon all the way, put a ball in, and tie the balloon into a big, loose knot. Overhand and figure eights work great. You can twist 1" bubbles in each end then connect those together if you want. A simple but stunning balloon/ball "maze"! Another toy: fill two balloons of different colors; put a ball in each. Make a long double-helix (see below), and you have a spiral ball racetrack.

The superballs sold by Tom Myers fluoresce under a black light! I discovered this when I used two of them as eyeballs in "googly eyes" (inside of a clear 260Q bubble) while twisting near the bandstand in a bar. Since the bandstand is lit up with "black" lights, the superballs looked like they were ready to jump right out and grab you - like a cat's eyes in your headlights! Very cool!

The ball putter was invented because putting a ball into a 260 is something that takes a knack. The balls n' balloons toys can require you to put a ball in every 2nd or 3rd balloon. After a day of this my finger hurts. The ball putter makes it fast and easy, but you are carrying around another tool. If you can get the ball into a 260 quick and easy and it doesn't hurt your finger, you don't need a ball putter. T. Myer's "Ball Putter" is one of the greatest things I've ever seen. I was not really sure about it when I ordered it. Now, I wouldn't give it up!

My favorite thing I picked up from T. Myers was using two small super balls in a clear heart or clear 260Q to make googley eyes. When you stuff anything inside a balloon with the meatball method, you end up with a layer that surrounds what you put inside. After working at putting things inside balloons, I can now even controllably unwrap the layer of balloon from the object (ball, etc.) I stuff in the balloon before I withdraw my finger. Google eyes with inserted superballs (or balloon balls) look best if you unwrap the clear cocoon from them after insertion. When I put something inside that I want to unwrap, I try not to break the cocooned object off completely. Instead I try to leave a little latex attaching the cocooned object to the rest of the balloon. My finger stays inside the balloon to plug the hole so the air doesn't escape. Then I use that remaining bit of latex as a handle for my inserted finger, in conjunction with my outside hand, to peel the cocoon from the object. It can still be done even if the object is completely broken free, though it is not quite as fast. In either case, don't leave the cocoon floating around inside the balloon with the object. It is distracting. Just remove it when you pull your finger out.

With regards to the little bit of loose rubber left in the balloon after you've inserted an object, and then stripped the rubber off the object: I usually make sure I trap that little bit in the first small bubble I make. It's a lot less obvious than leaving it in a long bubble, where you can watch it rattle around as you tilt the balloon. I've seen a twister manage to insert an object, manipulate the rubber off the object,(his finger still in the balloon) and then drag the little rubber bit out... all in one shot.

I've been using the T. Myer's Ball Putter to put superballs in balloons, and I love it. I say my sharp wit pops the bubbles. It's so fast I can usually do it before the recipient (child or adult) sees what I'm doing, and they go gonzo (that's a technical term) when they see the ball bouncing around inside the figure. T Myers ball putter is great for super balls but won't work with bubbles.

At IBAC, Marvin recommended that for stuffing you first go to your local Farm Supply store and buy a 'Banding Pliers' - a pliers used for stretching rubber bands when castrating animals. With a simple squeeze you can stretch and hold open a balloon nozzle while you fill it with confetti or whatever.

Marvin invented the Jiffy Tube system specifically for inserting items into the 260's. It works great. There are 3 tubes which will allow you to insert things into 260's, 5", and 9" balloons. We use the "banding pliers" to easily fit the neck of the 260 over the end of the tube.

To put a business card into a balloon you need to start with a jewel tone color (yellow, orange, etc.) You will need to inflate the balloon leaving enough to do the insert, pop and the twists for a small animal. Roll the card around a pencil or pen and insert, pop and tie off. Then strip the rubber off of the card. I don't bother to get this piece out as it shortens the balloon but you can if you want to be mysterious about how the card got in there. Twist the nose, ears and neck and gently unroll the card (it will have to stay somewhat curled) then finish the animal. Practice, practice.

Use a hi bounce ball to hold an inflated heart through a geo. I was making swans, hearts and geo sculptures and wanted a way to make the heart stand in the geo. Stretch the knot through the geo, place a ball against the stretched neck of the heart and the interior of the geo. Let it all go and 'Presto!'. The ball snuggles up into the geo and holds the neck of the heart against the interior of the geo. It also works with frogs on lily pads, dinasaurs on rocks, flowers in vases and, and, and. I twisted swans, poodles, dinasaurs etc. around the heart/geo to make lots of fun stuff.

Things to put inside balloons

Where to get stuff to put in balloons

One-liners for balls in balloons

Refer to the One-liners section of the Guide for One-liners for Balls in Balloons.

Pop twist

It is often desirable to get more limbs on an animal than there are ends of the balloon. The basic dog works out OK, but legs need to be grouped in twos. The pop twist will allow two legs or arms to be separated. When you are at a point where you want to make a Pop Twist, twist two medium bubbles, three small bubbles, then another medium bubble. Do a lock twist with the medium bubbles so nothing untwists. Ear twist the first one.

    in    out
     \ \ / /
      \ V /
      _( )_   <--- 1 medium bubble (ear twist and tuck between "in" and 
     ( )^( )  <--- 2 medium bubbles (become separate legs)
       (c)    <--- 3 small bubbles (a, b, c)

Ear twist bubbles a and b. Twist them about 5 times each (completely around). Now pop c. The air should not come out of any of the other bubbles which now represent paws or hands..

          ET                                                   ET
   ______()________                                           @
  O______)(________)  side view with              end view  _(_)_
        ((_)          perspective attempted                (_) (_)
         oo                                                 o   o
Pop twists - good for pop-apart arms and legs on beasts, but the twists can easily come undone. Usually I try to put animals and other creations with this kind of pre-popped balloon twist on hats or leashes so they're more likely to "live" longer. 

A "pinch & pop series" is a 5 bubble series. Bubbles 1 & 5 are the same size and bubbles 2 & 4 are the same size. The series is twist locked to form and loop (almost diamond shaped). To pinch bubbles 2 & 4 you take one bubble and bring it's own ends together by pulling on it's middle and pinching the ends together. Twist it at least 5 times if you're going to pop bubble number 3. Do this to both bubbles. This is exactly how you would make the outer part of a Teddy Bear head. I believe some books call this a bean or ear twist. Be sure to support the pinched bubbles while popping bubble no. 3 so they do not untwist. Hint - if you twist the pinch in 2 it makes good claws for your T-Rex or Eagle.

Popping the center bubble

The easiest way to pop an inflated unwanted balloon is to pinch the balloon between your thumb and middle finger and simply snap your fingers. If you can snap your fingers normally you should be able to do this easily. I've even used this technique to make the fully inflated 260 'disappear' instantly. The kids like it and always ask how I did it, I tell them it was 'magic.' That's the way I do it too (though I'd mention that my thumb NAIL and middle finger NAIL pop the balloon with a scissor-like action when I snap. I never tried just snapping the fleshy parts of my fingers to pop a balloon though I expect that would work if you pushed hard enough and your hands were clean and dry). Makes pop-twists extra impressive.

I used to use my teeth, but I thought better of it when I saw a child doing the exact same thing to a balloon after seeing me do it. That's when I went to the small knife. I don't think we should set an example of putting an inflated balloon in our mouth to do anything to it.

I've found that the best way to pop a balloon is to try twisting it into an animal shape right after telling a friend, "Let me show you this new design I've come up with."

Pop Twists: The Alternate Method!

I'm not sure what anyone else calls this one so for now I'll call it a toe twist since that's what I like using it for. Make an ear twist, with only a little air in it. The softer the better. Twist the bubble in half now to form two toes.

        twist along this line
        (_v_) existing ear twist
        / ^ \
       / / \ \
      in    out

The Dewey method for pop-twists requires "toe-twisting" each ear-twist in the pop twist series.

Mike Decker has new technique. After you make the 2 ear twists, & before you try splitting them in half with your fingers, try moving the ear from on top to under, then pushing the ear up, causing the ear to be split by the balloon (2 chambers next to it) creating 2 little bubbles from the ear. Now twist these little bubbles around a time or 2 and your ear-twist is set. Repeat w/ other ear & pop. I lose almost no pops this way and can't remember the last time a kid came back for repairs.

There is definitely a difference in the two methods of pop twisting. In the Dewey method, you twist the existing ear twist in half. In the Mike Decker method, you squeeze the two bubbles on either side of the ear twist towards each other, then push the ear twist up through the bubbles, using the bottom half of the bubble to separate it into two halves. then you twist the two halves around. When I was first starting out, I had a terrible time twisting the bubble in half and broke a lot of bubbles learning the technique. I saw Mike Decker's Video, and his technique is easier for a beginner. I could use his method immediately with little or no poppage. There is less control of the size bubbles with Mike's method. Now, I can do either, and really don't know which is better. Hope this helps

Raisin Twist

To attach one Geo, heart, or round balloon to another, save the knots from broken balloons, and drop them into the balloon before inflating, then after inflating, grab the knot in a little piece of the balloon where you want to tie on, and twist it to make a little nub to tie on to. (Otherwise, if you drop a BB or a small hex-nut into the balloon before you inflate it, the BB will fall to the lowest point. Grab the BB through the wall of the balloon and twist to form a nub that you could attach a balloon to.) The Balloon Dude in California makes an awesome elephant with a geo, using this technique, the nose comes out of the hole and the ears are attached as described.

We named the twist a raisin twist and it goes like this: tie a square knot in a scrap and break off the knot, drop this into an un-inflated balloon and then inflate and tie, grasp the "raisin" between the index and thumb, pull out slightly and twist, lock it by attaching another balloon to it. Using this twist, I was able to take home the First Place trophy in the advanced multi-balloon comp. (I made a momma sow suckling a piglet ). Brit Anders

I read in a book (about camping) how to tie a rope to a tarp without putting a hole in it. Find a suitable rock, hold it through the tarp, and tie the rope around the lump. I just applied the principal to a balloon surface.

I purchased the book by George Sands and the twist listed in there are all a modification of the apple twist. In the Sands book, he is discussing how to use a match head or piece of paper to create a knot-like effect on the nipple end of the balloon in order to create an apple twist. He does not discuss putting something in the balloon.

If you've tried the raisin twist with no luck (the balloon breaks or develops a leak), try 11 inch rounds inflated to about 8 or 9 inches maximum to practice. I've had no problem this way.

Use a raisin twist to connect some bug food to a geo for the frog sitting on the flower. Fun.

Side Bubble

One day, I thought about the fact that out of all the different shapes I did and have seen others do, I never saw anyone twist a balloon from the side. So, I made a claw out of my hand and pinched a bubble out of the side. I've only been able to get a small bubble that way and I couldn't think of how to lock it. Yea, I invented the "twist a bubble in the side of a balloon" trick too, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it also was first done a long time ago. None of the twisters I met at the 1995 IBAC had done a side bubble, so I demonstrated the concept at the 260Q Jam Session, and then provided an application with my jet plane sculpture. Within a few hours of his seeing it, Sean Rooney (one of the most amazing balloon artists I have ever had the chance to meet) was already twisting 2 side bubbles in a 260, _in_the_same_cross_sectional_plane_!!!! I wouldn't have thought of that. (Wow, what dexterous fingers he has... he eventually got 3 in the same c-s plane! Sean is a fan of "Pure Sculpture" (balloon sculpture without any non-latex support structure) and thought the technique would open up a lot of attachment possibilities.

Attaching balloons with adhesive

Rubber cement

I'm not sure that any one brand is better or worse for balloons. The kind that I use is Elmers. Before I brush any of the cement on the balloons I take off the cap and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Letting rubber cement sit for 15 minutes helps to prevent the balloon popping; the "rubber" in rubber cement is in a solvent. The drying process allows the solvent to evaporate, leaving the rubber. This solvent can dissolve balloons. Vaseline will dissolve a condom Gasoline will dissolve a Styrofoam cup. In short, petroleum based substances (gasoline, paint thinner, kerosene, etc.) will often dissolve polymers (rubber, balloons, Styrofoam, plastics).

When applying the cement to the balloon, make sure you keep it away from your fingers. It's difficult to handle the balloon when it keeps sticking to your fingers. Use the brush that comes with the bottle to apply the adhesive, but be careful not to POKE the balloon. Also, only use a minimal amount to get the job done. Too much makes the sculpture look messy, other things (dust, particles etc.) can get stuck to it, and people can see where the glue has been applied.

Wait a few seconds until the glue loses it's clear look and becomes whitish. Now just connect the two balloons together. Make sure the balloons to be connected touch in the right place, because it's hard to take the balloons apart with out breaking them.

Oasis floral glue is the best balloon-glue made! Oasis floral glue works unbeli evably well on balloons. A small amount holds well, a large amount will not pop the balloon (as rubber cement will) and it stretches enough to take a lot of ab use. This is one of my favorite tools when building large sculptures for event decor. It doesn't need to be plugged in, you can't burn yourself on it and it d rys quickly.

Now, what can we do with the use of rubber cement?? Instructions for making a rabbit, a three layered cake and a gumball machine can be found in Steve Hattan's Mon, 25 Apr 94 email entitled "Sculptures".

Cold Glue Guns

For balloon sculptures, cold-glue guns are used. These are similar to hot-glue guns, but they operate at a much lower temperature and use an adhesive that does not dissolve latex as rubber cement does.