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How-To Video

3 Ways to Personalize a Bubble Balloon® by Hand

Whether it be a unique name or special message, customers are clamoring for personalized products – and they are willing to pay for the extra service. A recent edition of The Deloitte Consumer Review, focused on the growth of personalization, revealed that 36% of consumers are interested in purchasing personalized products. Of those interested, 1 in 5 consumers are willing to pay a 20% premium for customization.

Keith Stirman, CBA, of All Things Fun in Durham, UK, reports a significant demand for personalized balloons in his store. “We sell at least 40 custom Bubble Balloons every week,” said Keith. “We automatically offer personalization with almost every balloon display that is sold in our store.”

With those numbers, it seems obvious to add custom balloons to your repertoire. But where to start? Are you intimidated by the learning curve and cost of a Silhouette Cameo to cut custom vinyl designs? Never fear! Using a Qualatex® Deco Bubble Balloon and a marker, you can produce any phrase or message that your customers desire. The following tutorials will have you customizing balloons to your heart’s content.

We asked Steven Shippy, Creative Art Director at Pioneer® Balloon Company, to demonstrate three ways to achieve different styles of personalized looks: tracing, faux calligraphy and traditional calligraphy.

Helpful Tips

  • Most importantly, you will need a paint pen or permanent marker that is not water soluble. Some of our favorites are: POSCA, Sharpie™, Zig® Painty®, DecoColor™ and Pen-touch™. There are different markers available in different parts of the world, so you may have to shop around and test different options to find the right fit for your needs.
  • Follow the package directions on your paint pen to prime the colors you plan to use before you begin drawing. Make sure each side of the marker is properly moistened, and that each color you plan to use is ready. You should also make note of the dry time for your utensil of choice.
  • Have tape on hand to secure your balloon to the surface you’re working on to minimize mistakes.
  • Make sure your work surface is clean and stable so it doesn’t move under pressure.
  • If you are right-handed, work right to left; if you are left-handed, work left to right to avoid smudging.
  • If the design takes some time to complete and the Bubble Balloon has been outside of its packaging for more than 15-30 minutes, be sure to wipe it down with a wet paper towel (after ink has dried) before inflating.
  • Calligraphy and faux calligraphy can be done on an inflated or uninflated balloon. Tracing must be done on an uninflated balloon. While an uninflated balloon provides a flat and solid surface, an inflated balloon is pulled taut and the ink/paint will not lose its vibrancy when inflated. The choice of inflated or uninflated is yours to make based on personal preference.
  • These techniques take time to master, but they will astonish customers when done well. We recommend Lettering and Modern Calligraphy: A Beginner's Guide: Learn Hand Lettering and Brush Lettering to start you on your way to creative lettering.

Personalization Option 1: Tracing

With this method, you trace a predetermined design through an uninflated bubble. Because it does not require freehand skill, it is the most beginner-friendly option. The most important point of this method is to determine the size of your design area beforehand. If you want all of your design to be visible and not wrap around the balloon, it should have at least 2-3 inches of open space on all sides.

Directions: Secure design on workspace and tape Bubble Balloon over design, making sure it is centered. Once marker is primed, begin your design by slowly tracing the outline of the letters. Use smooth, steady strokes to complete each line. Hold the balloon taut with your thumb and forefinger to keep the line smooth. As you fill in the shape, go in the same direction, rather than scribbling, to create a consistent surface that moves in the same direction. Be patient, don’t feel the need to rush or finish quickly.

Personalization Option 2: Faux Calligraphy

This method gets its name quite literally from its imitation of calligraphy. By adding extra width to the down strokes of letters, it gives the impression of a brush stroke. You may want to practice your design of choice on the balloon with a washable marker to achieve the best spacing and sizing before using a more permanent marker. When tested, Crayola® Washable™ Markers created the same effect as paint pens, but wiped off with a dampened paper towel. Do not trace over the markers, as it will change the color of the paint markers and will wipe off even after it’s dry.

Directions: To begin, carefully create the outline of the whole word. Think more in terms of drawing, rather than writing. Your hand should be steady and the pressure consistent so lines are straight and even. Once the outline is complete, thicken the down strokes of each letter to achieve the look of calligraphy. Fix mistakes and fill in where necessary, and add in any embellishments if your design calls for it.

Personalization Option 3: Calligraphy

Unless you have training in calligraphy, this is will be the most difficult method to master. However, with lots of practice, calligraphy produces a beautifully elegant appearance. Practice your lettering many times on scrap paper with a chisel tip paint pen. To achieve the Italic style represented in the video, hold the pen at a 45° angle, noting the angles of the pen and your hand as you complete each stroke.

Directions: If you are first starting out, securing grid or lined paper underneath an uninflated balloon will help to ensure correct size and spacing. Carefully work through the lettering with a slow steady hand, adding flourishes and embellishments in the design as desired.

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