So I got my hands on a sheet of Thibra to review, so here goes. This is a new thermoplastic material that tries to give Worbla a healthy run of competition. It comes in the following different variants:
- Thibra: A sort of evolved black worbla. Gray in color.
- TEX: The same as Thibra above, however it has a nylon net on the back. The net serves to keep it from stretching too much, I guess. Blue in color.
- MetalGold, MetalSilver and MetalCopper are the same three materials but with different colors (gold, silver and copper) on the front side. It is just as TEX, but with a thing sheet of color on the front side. It still has the nylon net on the back.
I got my hands on a sheet of Thibra (original) and a sheet of MetalGold and I will be reviewing them here. Since the MetalGold has the same nylon net on the back as the TEX I can draw some conclusions about the TEX as well.
At the first glance this is an evolved black worbla. That means it feels like worbla, but it is even smoother (on both sides). The surfaces are as perfect as it comes. It is also as hard to cut as regular worbla (Black worbla would be a little bit easier to cut). All worbla consists of glue and filler. Thibra probably has more glue and less (or finer) filler than worbla and black worbla, which is why it is even smoother. Also, I wonder if it may be just a little bit more light weight than the worblas.
It warms up just as easily as worbla. I used my trusted heat gun. But just as black worbla can tend to get a bit warmer, Thibra does as well. So it is a bit hotter to the touch. The way you use it is just as with worbla however. Thibra also becomes a lot softer when warm than worbla or black worbla.
One of the claims Thibra makes is that it stick better to foam. It does not. However, it sticks really well to itself. When you heat it up, the material becomes like a sheet of clay. No really! The filler is that fine. When you make a sandwhich you will notice that pressing the edges together will be easier than with worbla. However there is a down side to it being so flexible, moldable and fine/smooth. If you do not have a 100% perfectly clean surface to work on, EVERYTHING it touches, no matter how small, will stick to it or make a mark in it. That means even dust will make a mark. And if you have just a tiny bit of fingernails, it will make a mark. Everything and anything will make a mark. That is the price you pay for having such a perfectly smooth surface!
So the first project I made (pictured above) was ugly to say the least.
Now cutting out the sides was easy enough. However, since it is so flexible it is easy to stretch the Thibra while cutting it if you’re not careful. Also… air bubbles… So many air bubbles! Much more than with worbla and black worbla. In my review of black worbla, I wrote that since the filler is so fine and the surface so smooth and flexible, pricking it with a needle to get the air bubbles out will leave a more defined mark. Guess what. With Thibra that holds even more true!
I am afraid that whatever time you save with priming the material, you’ll spend trying to repair all the little things that left a mark on it. Just to compare, I made a new thing using not my regular working surface, but with baking paper underneath to keep dirt away from the Thibra. That kept the dirt away, but it did not keep the Thibra from getting HUGE air bubbles and also for taking on the texture of the baking paper…
Worbla and Black worbla are not even close to that plagued by air bubbles. And since it is so flexible, it can easily start to stretch around the air bubbles, making them leave even bigger and uglier marks in your material. If you want to make a project without all the air bubbles, I guess you would have to make it without a foam core. A double layer of just Thibra might do the trick.
A thought about temperature, air bubbles and durability:
It may be that Thibra just doesn’t stand heat as well as worbla and black worbla. And that may be a reason to why I got so many air bubbles. I read that another cosplayer used only a hairdryer. The activation temperature is lower than with worbla and black worbla.So if you use a hair dryer instead of a heat gun – that might solve your air bubble problem. I haven’t tried it with a hair dryer, so I can not be certain.
However, that would also pose a new concern. It will probably mean that the Thibra will not be as durable in the end. Worbla has had some minor issues with costumes starting to soften up and reacting on warm summer days or while being stored/transported in warm cars and so on. The costume can potentially be completely ruined with outdoor cosplay activities. So if Thibra has a lower temperature for reacting, then that would make it way more vulnerable as well. I am not 100% sure about this, but it is an educated guess. And my sources tell me that the activation temperature is indeed lower than with worbla.
Once it cools:
When it has hardened, it’s much like black worbla. As hard/stiff. However, the edges around the foam core may be a bit stronger because the material melts together more than the black worbla. It is possible to break it open still, but not as easy as with black worbla.
You can prime Thibra as you would Worbla. However, the firm that makes Thibra claims that the surface is so smooth that you don’t need to prime it. And that is true! But while that is true – as we’ve seen above – it is so easy to scratch, prick or get small damages on the surface, so you might have to prime it because of that…
Thibra is really easy to make details with and since it sticks so well to itself, cosplayers will not be disappointed here. The one thing you should notice however, is if you cut out details (not sculpting them). When you heat it up, the thinner the details are the easier they will stretch. Now with worbla that is just a minor issue. With black worbla it was a bit larger issue. With Thibra you really have to take care because it will stretch in no time. So when you cut out details (like just lines for the edges or something) then it will easily be distorted while you’re getting it onto your prop/armor.
Now here was the one thing I really loved about Thibra. Although cutting out details is a challenge because it is so easily stretched and distorted, if you are sculpting things you’re in for a treat. Thibra is exactly like clay once you start mushing it together. And the surface is so smooth still that you can go right to painting it when you’re done. You should however notice that you can easily scratch with your finger nails or leave your finger print on the surface when it is warm. But that is not a major issue while sculpting.
HOWEVER. This may only work with Thibra and not TEX or the other Metal-kinds. This is because of the nylon net on the backside which will probably make it problematic to use it as clay. I found Thibra to be easier to work with than polymorph and coolmorph, because it didn’t stick so much to everything while I sculpted. So it would make a better competition for cool/polymorph than for worbla at this point. But of course, Thibra is more expensive than the morphs.
Long story short:
Thibra is like the next step in the evolution after black worbla. Any you may go wohoooo! But just remember the trouble people have found with black worbla. All those problems are even bigger with Thibra.
But of course, the good things about black worbla are also present: it has an even smoother surface. you may not even have to prime it! AS LONG AS you don’t scratch it, get dust on it or get air bubbles – which you probably will 99% of the time.
What I loved about Thibra was the sculpting uses. If it wouldn’t be so expensive, I’d use this over cool/polymorph any day. Also I would probably use it for a great deal of the detailing on all my worbla projects. The sculpting and detailing are the main pro’s of this material in my opinion.
In conclusion: I don’t think Thibra is as stable and durable as Worbla/Black Worbla. It makes really good clay for sculpting and detailing, but not prop and armor building. For smaller projects it may work fine, but it is way too stretchy, unreliable and soft to make bigger projects. Also, the low reaction temperature is also a concern for durability of the projects once they are done.
I think Thibra is off to a very good start, but they still have a way to go before they can compete with Worbla. It may also very well be better suited for people who have the ideal tools and working space, not the average cosplayer. Just as I said that black worbla is a bit harder to work with than worbla, Thibra is more challenging than the both of them. If you want to get great results it takes a lot more practice.
I am not going to replace Worbla in the near future, but I am open to use Thibra as a supplement for some uses.
On the front side, it has a very shiny golden sheet glued on it. This side is very easily scratched and will leave a little mark. It feels like a super thin sheet of paper, and it probably is as well. I was a bit concerned to heat it up because I thought it might catch fire. But it didn’t!
On the back side you can see the blue TEX material inside. And the TEX is held with an embedded net of nylon threads on the back side. So the thought behind this net must be to keep the material from stretching, as was the main trait of the Thibra I just reviewed. That may seem like a good thing for some uses, but of course it may limit the uses as well.
Heating it up:
So the back side doesn’t do much when you heat it up. I tried the quality of the glue by sticking two backsides together, and it didn’t really stick well. The net is probably the thing that keeps it from sticking like you would expect thermoplastics to do.
The golden front side will not stick. As I heated it up, it started to curl a bit like an old, wrinkling lady. So it’s not really that smooth anymore. And of course, it has no glue on it, so it will not stick anywhere.
Wrinkled up after being heated up. Also you can see I tried to glue it together on the back, but it could easily be separated again even before it cooled. The golden sheet broke where it got stretched.
I wanted to see if you could stretch the material in spite of the nylon net on the backside. And it turns out you can. At least to some extent. However, the golden side does not accept almost any stretching. As you can see on Stephen (picture above) I could mold the MetalGold on his face, but the golden surface cracked at once. I wasn’t even forcing it.
Just to test how much the material could take before it cracked, I did a fairly easy stretch just around a bottle neck. According to the pictures Thibra themselves put up of the material, this should be easy as pie. However, you can see that even that stretch was way too much. The golden sheet just will not accept being bent/stretched.
So when it cooled I noticed that it doesn’t really become as hard as it was before I started working with it. I could very easily bend it. It could work well as a mask or something that does not have to be very stiff, but if not then you would have to combine it with a worbla back or something to keep the shape.
Long story short:
So it does not respond well to being flexed, so that limits the ways you can use it. I was a girl making Daenery’s (game of thrones) belt out of this material, and for that it worked nicely. She cut out all the pattern with a wood burner and then the net will keep it together while she is earing it. She did not have to heat it up or anything, I guess.
So if you need this for something that does not have to be bent or flexed or heated up much, then go for it!
I have not tried to sand, prime or paint this material yet, so this review may be updated at a later time!