Segmented Worbla finger armor attached to gloves

NieR Automata cosplay with Worbla segmented finger armor

Sometimes you just find a cool character with segmented finger armor or fingernails attached to gloves. When I looked at my NieR Automata cosplay refs, I stared at the segmented fingers for a while. It wasn’t a look that I couldn’t quite achieve with foam. So I turned to Worbla instead to make some finger joints attached to gloves.

This tutorial will cover finger caps and large fingernail-like ends. You can use this to make as many segments as you like, though I only have the nail and the center of the finger for mine. You could also use this to make your own fingernails for gloves as well.

You don’t need much Worbla to achieve the segmented finger look, so get some scraps, and let’s get started!

Skill level: Beginner-friendly

Cost: Moderate (it’s Worbla, the cost is always moderate)

Supplies:

  • Worbla scraps or a small strip
  • Sharp scissors capable of cutting cool Worbla
  • Foamies to make patterns
  • Gloves (I used faux leather gloves)
  • Heat gun or hairdryer
  • Heat-resistant mat or surface (please don’t burn a hole in your carpet)
  • Acrylic paints, gloss varnish, and paint brushes
  • Plastic-friendly super glue such as GorillaGlue 10s super glue

Fingertips

Worbla "nails" glued on gloves
Nails in red, wrapping around my fingers and the gloves

Fingernails or fingertips can be used to cap off the edge of the glove without limiting your ability to use your fingers. Even with how long the ones on my gloves were, I was still able to use the touchscreen material on my fingertips and grip onto things without damaging the Worbla or whatever I was holding.

Fingernails and fingertips can be made from pretty simple patterns and different shapes. This section goes over how to make wrapped fingertips but the idea can be modified to make your own fingernails as well.

Pattern making

finger pattern shaped like a dorito chip

The basic shape for a fingertip is a weird Dorito. The more you want the fingertip to wrap around your gloves, the wider the Dorito needs to be. You’ll also want to extend the triangle Dorito shape downward to stabilize the fingertips and keep them from shifting around when you wear the glove.

If you want to make fingernails instead of tips, the shape is elongated and oval more like press-on nails. The longer nails you want, the longer the oval should be.

You can use the same pattern for all 5 fingers, starting with the largest. Design your pattern to fit your thumb. As you trace the pieces out on the Worbla, cut the pattern down in size to fit each finger as needed. To make it easier on myself, I only used 3 sizes of fingertips to make my gloves: Thumb, Pinky, and the remaining fingers.

Cutting and shaping the Worbla

When cutting, start with the thumb first and work your way down the sizes. Make sure to cut two sets if you’re making fingertips for both hands. Write the number of your finger on the Worbla with a pen to make it easier to figure out which fingertip is which. Once you’ve got everything traced and cut out, protect your surface with a heat-resistant cover or mat and pull out your heat gun.

Heating up Worbla with a heat gun on a heat-resistant mat

Worbla doesn’t require much heat to become flexible, about 150F. You can use a hairdryer to get it up to this temperature, but a heat gun on a low-temperature setting makes it a little faster. When you heat up your Worbla fingers, you want the Worbla to appear just a little wet. Any more heat and it will become putty in your hands, take longer to cool off, and make it more difficult to get a smooth shape with the Worbla. It will also become more difficult to handle due to how hot it’s become.

Heat up the Worbla just enough to make it look wet and become flexible then wrap it around your finger. If you wrap it rough side down, it may try to stick to your fingernail (it won’t stick when cool) so if you reposition it, make sure not to pull hard if this happens. The Worbla might be a bit stubborn when wrapping, so you may need to use your free hand to round the part of the fingertip that extends beyond your own finger. It doesn’t take much effort. Simply gently curve the edges of the fingertip with your free hand and let the Worbla cool in a more rounded shape.

Fingertip wrapped around my finger, cooling off

If you have thinner gloves, wrap the Worbla around your finger loosely so that when it cools, you can pull it off easily. Leave a little bit of room around your finger so that the Worbla can properly fit over the glove seams.

If you have a thicker glove, wrap the Worbla loosely around your finger, let it cool a little bit, then pull at the sides to open up the fingertips a bit more widely, then let it cool some more.

Either type of glove you have, make sure to let the fingertips cool almost completely before taking them off. If you take them off while they’re still warm and set them down, the weight of the Worbla will start pressing in on itself and you’ll lose the shape you want. It only takes a few minutes for Worbla of this size to fully cool.

Trimming the sharp fingertip edge with a pair of also sharp embroidery scissors

Once the Worbla has cooled, position the fingertip on your fingers where you want to glue it to the glove then bend your fingers. If the edge of the fingertip starts poking your finger or pinching in any way, you may need to round off the corner. Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut the edge at an angle, rounding it so it won’t hinder movement or start scratching at your finger throughout the day.

Finger caps

Finger caps on the second joint of my fingers
Finger caps, shown in black and just below the red fingertips

For some armored gloves, you might want caps on the other segments of your fingers. For Adam, he has squarish caps on the second joint of each finger, including the thumb. They extend over the fingertips just a little bit. Your cosplay might have different requirements for finger caps.

The biggest challenge of finger caps is making sure they don’t hinder your finger movement. Hindrance happens when the bottom section where the cap meets the glove is too long and starts pushing against the bottom sections of fingertips and other caps. When hindrance happens, you’ll find it hard to bend your fingers properly. It might also attempt to push the glove off your fingers as well or pinch your joints as you bend your fingers. To avoid the hindrance, we’ll need to handle it in the patterning and Worbla phases before you paint and start gluing to the glove.

Patterning

Finger cap pattern in foam next to Worbla fingertips

The first step is to make your pattern. Each pattern will be slightly different to work with your character’s design, but the process is generally the same.

Place the fingertips and any other finger caps onto one of your fingers. Cut out a rough shape using foam to make the cap pattern and place it on your finger. For Adam, the shape was similar to a baseball diamond.

For the pattern, you want to keep the lower sections that attach to the glove behind the finger joint. This ensures that the finger has enough room to bend when wiggling your fingers.

With the pattern pinched on your finger, attempt to bend it. Do the other pieces bump against it? Is your movement hindered? If you have any problems moving your finger, you’ll need to adjust the shape of the pattern to give your finger a bit more room to move.

For Adam, his finger caps are raised, so the biggest concern was ensuring the joints had enough room to bend without bumping the pieces together. For other characters, you may need to watch how the previous section interacts with the finger caps. If the bottom of a fingertip is long and extends past the joint, make sure it has enough room to move without bumping the finger caps.

Cutting and shaping the Worbla

Much like with the fingertips, you’ll need to scale the pattern down as you work with each finger. They are different sizes after all, and too big a cap will cause movement issues. Too small might look silly. Start with the thumb and work your way down. Much like with the fingertips, I only used 3 sizes: thumb, pinky, and other fingers.

If you are capping both hands, make sure to cut out two full sets and number each one with the finger number. If you are cutting out multiple caps for each finger, remember that the thumb only has two segments, so you do not need to cut out two finger caps for it.

Once you’ve got the pieces cut out, protect your workspace with a heat-resistant mat and pull out the heat gun. Let’s make some caps.

Worbla finger cap wrapped around my thumb

Much like working with the fingertips, heat the Worbla up just enough to make it look wet and become flexible then wrap it around the finger joint lightly with a little bit of leeway. Unlike fingertips, finger caps may need to slip over your actual joint. They’re a bit bigger than the tip of your finger, so when holding the Worbla to your finger, make sure there’s enough room for your finger joint.

To make the squarish shape I used for Adam, let the Worbla cool just slightly then take your free hand and pinch the Worbla together where the shape angles backward. Pinch the whole cap on both sides and let it cool.

For rounded caps, simply let the Worbla cool normally. If you notice it starts to cave in, remove it from your finger and smooth the Worbla gently out with your finger. If you push on it, you’ll create puckers, so be gentle with it. If you do get puckers, heat it up just slightly then smooth the puckers out with your finger before letting it cool.

Finger cap with movement hindrance points marked
Finger cap with possible hindrance points marked

After the cap has cooled, place all the caps and the fingertip on your finger then try to bend it. Like with the fingertips, you may have to trim a corner to not hinder your movement or stab your finger with a corner of plastic. Both the front and the back have the potential to cause issues. If they do, trim the corners at an angle with a sharp pair of scissors.

Painting

With how small finger armor is, you can’t really blast it with an airbrush or a spray can. You’ll want to paint it by hand. And because fingertips and caps may have visible points underneath, you’ll want to paint both sides of the Worbla.

Since you don’t want the paint to stick to your work surface and pull right off, you’ll need to paint in sections. You may be able to slip the Worbla pieces over a pencil or a fake hand, but honestly, I just held them in my fingers, painting one section at a time around my fingers, then going back and painting where I just held the Worbla piece. Let the paint or sealant to completely dry before moving on to the next section else the paint’s going to get messy and start streaking.

First, start with sealing the Worbla. My personal favorite sealant is Flexbond, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find as of late. You can use alternates like wood glue or gesso, as Worbla doesn’t need to be flexible like foam. It’s mostly to smooth the Worbla out and give your paint a good surface to stick to. Use about 2-3 coats of sealant to make a good base.

When working, make sure to avoid where the glue will stick the Worbla to your glove. These glue points are located at the base of the fingertip and on the sides of the finger caps.

Painted pieces with the glue points visible. Some are marked with red arrows
Painted pieces with the glue points visible. Some are marked with red arrows

To make your surface color even, start with a coat of black (for bolder, deeper colors) or a coat of white (for brighter, vibrant colors) before painting the main color over it. For my Adam gloves, I used a black undercoat to make the red on the nails very bold. Only the outside of the nails is painted red while the inside is left black to blend with the glove itself.

To protect your paint, you want to give it a varnish topcoat, and you’ll want something glossy. This will make the finger armor truly shine and also prevent the paint from coming off or scuffing when you move your fingers or touch something. The glossier the coat, the more your paint job will shine as well. You can really use any brand, though my personal fave is DecoArt High Gloss. You can find it at Joann in large bottles (with a coupon).

Brush the varnish on with a paintbrush. Use about 2-3 coats to ensure your paint is really protected from convention damage and regular use.

Gluing

This is honestly the hardest part because glue does not like to stick to certain types of gloves (namely vinyl and pleather) and you need a plastic-friendly glue that will also stick to Worbla.

My initial thought was hot glue, as Worbla tends to work pretty well with that. But hot glue cannot stick to pleather. So the next best option is superglue. Check your bottle to make sure whatever brand you buy is compatible with plastic. If it is not, it could potentially not stick or even start to break down the plastic itself. We don’t want that.

I used GorillaGlue 10s super glue for Adam’s gloves, and I’m generally happy with this particular type of glue as it sticks to nearly everything (and I mean everything. You can take your fingerprints off with this stuff). Make sure to only use the glue for short bursts of time, however, as breathing it for longer periods will make your throat feel very sticky.

Work with each Worbla piece one at a time, one finger at a time. It doesn’t matter which finger you start with, whichever is easiest for you. Slip the glove on your hand, then dab a small bit of glue on each bare Worbla section, the glue points you left unpainted in the previous step. Super glue expands when you press two surfaces together, so you don’t need very much.

Gloves after gluing all the tips and caps down
All the fingertips and caps glued down securely

Slip the Worbla piece into place then hold it there for 20-30s. I know the bottle probably says 10, but fabric can sometimes fight you when it comes to super glue and you want to make sure these pieces never fall off. Repeat this process for each piece, working one finger at a time until you’ve completed the entire glove.

Gently pull the glove off your hand and set it aside for at least 24 hours. If you read the glue bottle carefully, it will tell you it needs about 24 hours to fully cure and make the bond permanent. Since we want these gloves to survive an entire convention, make sure to give the glue the allotted time to properly cure.

Finished glove with a cube. Adam likes his cubes

I hope this tutorial helps to give you a quick and fun way to make fingertips and finger caps for armored gloves! They look really cool in photos and can bring your glove game to the next level. As long as you mind the finger joints, you’ll be able to move your hand normally and pose with all sorts of objects (and sometimes even tap your fake fingernails menacingly on the table!)

So let me know if you use this tutorial and what you make with it! @ me on social media so I can admire your work

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