Get to grips with simple balloon modelling with our complete guide to twisting, turning and locking sections of a balloon to create a menagerie of easy balloon animals! In this article, we’ll show you how to make 4 essential animals hone your skills – a dog, giraffe, dinosaur and swan. We’ll also share our top 10 follow-on balloon modelling tutorials (from swords to monkeys) for you to try with links to find out how they’re done – so that by the end of this article you’ll be party ready to go!
I can always remember the pure magic of seeing balloon animals at parties as a child. It seemed like witchcraft that you could manipulate a balloon into an actual animal without it popping, and the prospect of ever actually being lucky enough to be given a balloon animal to take home was almost too much excitement. It was definitely not something I ever dreamed I’d be able to try at home myself when I grew up – it felt like the distant realm of magicians, party pros and TV presenters.
Luckily since then I’ve learnt a few skills – and got over my fear of the balloons popping! It really doesn’t happen that often and there are some simple ways to avoid it – we’ll share these below. I’m here to show you how to make balloon animals from scratch.
Methods of making balloon animals
- The fundamentals of making balloon animals
- How to make a balloon dog
- How to make a balloon giraffe
- How to make a balloon swan
- How to make a balloon dinosaur
The fundamentals of making balloon animals
1. Inflating your balloon
The first crucial step is to inflate your balloon. You can use an air pump to do this but it’s crucial you leave some of the balloon unfilled. If you pump your balloon all the way up and attempt to twist it may pop. Leave one inch uninflated no matter what your design is. This will give the air in the balloon room to move and you the ability to twist and knot it.
2. How to make a basic twist
Hold your balloon with one hand and grip further down the balloon with the other. Turn your hands away from one another to create a twist. Keep hold of the balloon to prevent it untwisting. Keep twisting parts of the balloon depending on how many segments you need. It’s as simple as it looks!
3. How to make a lock twist
A lock twist is crucial in balloon making. It allows you to twist different balloon segments together firmly to make your animal’s body parts. Make four basic twist segments, fold two of them together and twist. Make sure you twist them two or three times so they’re securely fixed together.
4. How to make a fold twist
Finally, you need to master the fold twist. This twist is made the same way as a lock twist is except the balloon segments begin further away. For a lock twist, you twist two adjoining segments together for a tight twist. For a fold twist create three longer basic twist segments. Then twist the first and last segment together. The middle segment will now curve and form a loop. This is your fold twist. You’ve now created an ear for a little dog!
What do I need to make balloon animals?
Now you have the basic techniques you need to buy your supplies! All you need is a balloon pump and some balloons.
You do really need a pump (as anyone who has tried blowing up modelling balloons without one can testify) but they’re inexpensive and if you get the right one they’ll last you ages. It’s definitely worth investing in a pump that’s not the cheapest out there. I’ve learnt this the hard way and broken two bargain pumps within minutes before I clocked that it might be a good investment to spend a bit more on hardware that would last. I should add, they’re still really not very expensive.
- Buy it now: Magnolia Balloon Inflator Hand Pump (£6.49 Amazon)
There are various sizes of modelling balloons out there, and they come with a number that refers to the size of their diameter and length once inflated. The most common size for twisting is 260 – which means 2 x 60inches. Personally, I’ve never used this measurement when buying balloons – either in person in a party shop or online – I just buy a pack of modelling balloons and hey presto they do the trick.
It’s always worth doing a practice run of any balloon animal tutorial to check how it works with the balloons you’re working with. After a dummy run, you’ll soon see if the instructions may need adjusting slightly to suit the length of your balloon – you’ll spot pretty quickly if you end up with an extra-long tail or run out of the balloon to twist. If this happens, simply untwist or try again with a fresh balloon and adjust the length of the different sections of the balloon that you twist accordingly.
- Buy it now: 200 modelling balloons (Amazon, £10.18)
- Buy it now: 260 colourful modelling balloons (Amazon, £8.99)
Get started with a balloon animal starter kit
If you want to combine, stock up on all the supplies you need to see you through parties for years with these kits which combine the pump and balloons…
- Buy it now: Balloon Animal Starter Kit (£23.90, Amazon)
- Buy it now: Deluxe Balloon Animal Kit (£27.80, Amazon)
How to make 4 different balloon animals
Here are 4 easy balloon animals to try to learn how it’s done…
You Will Need
- Modelling balloons
- Balloon pump
How to make a balloon dog
Blow up and tie a balloon, leaving a 3 inch tail that is un-inflated at the end. Leave this section at the tip so that as you make your twists, the air you force out will have somewhere to go (this is how you stop the balloon from popping as you work).
Make the first twist (A) 3inches from the tied end of the balloon. This will be your dog’s nose.
Make two more twists (B and C) to create two more 3inch sections of a similar length.
Make three twists (D, E and F) each 5 inches apart. The first of these sections (D) will be your dog’s neck.
Leave a 6 inch section then make your next twist (G) – this will make your dog’s body. Make two more twists (H and I) to make the dog’s back legs. Hold all three of these sections so they don’t unravel.
Optional: if you want to give your dog an extra detail, you can draw a face on to him with a marker pen or sharpie. If you’re on the hunt for more fun children’s craft activities, you might also like our guide to the 50 craft ideas for kids or get messy with our easy play dough recipe and how to make salt dough tutorial.
How to make a balloon giraffe
Blow up and tie a balloon, leaving a 3 inch tail at the end. You need to leave this bit at the end un-inflated – just like with your dog, this means that as you make your twists, the air you force out will have somewhere to go. This is how you stop the balloon from popping as you work.
Make the first twist (A) 3inches from the tied end of the balloon. This will be your giraffe’s nose.
Make two more twists (B and C) to create two 2in sections. Line up the points where you twisted A and C and twist them together at the join to lock this twist and form your dog’s ears.
Make your next twist (D) to leave a long 9in section – this will be the giraffe’s neck.
Leave a 7 inch section then make your next twist (G) to make your giraffe’s body. Make two more twists (H and I) – making two 5inch sections. To make the giraffe’s back legs, line up the points where you made twists G and I and twist the joins together to form a lock twist. This will be your giraffe’s back legs.
How to make balloon swans
Blow up and tie a balloon, leaving a 3 inch tail at the end. You need to leave this bit at the end un-inflated so that as you make your twists, the air you force out will have somewhere to go (this is how you stop the balloon from popping as you work).
To start, make a twist (A) 1
Now make two twists (B and C), 9 inches apart (to create two sections which are the same size). These will form your swan’s body. Fold them together, lining up the points where you made twists A and C, and twist them together at the join to form a lock twist.
Make your next twist (D) 9inches again (to create a section the same length as the past two you twisted.
Fold this back and poke the balloon through the swan’s body, so that your new twist is twisted around twist B from earlier. Secure it by twisting it around the twist B point. You’ve now made your swan’s body.
The remaining part of your balloon should now have a short section un-inflated at the end (this will be your swan’s beak).
Our swan’s neck section is about 22inches. To finish your swan you need to curve the neck and tuck it into place inside the body a bit to create the angle.
To do this smooth and bend the neck backwards a little, so it curves back and then forwards – to look like a swan!
How to make a balloon dinosaur
Blow up and tie a balloon, leaving a 3 inch, un-inflated tail at the end when you tie it secure.
Make your first twist (A) 6 inches from the twisted end of the balloon.
Make your next two twists (B and C) to create two 3inch sections.
Make your next two twists (D and E) 7in apart.
Make a series of four x 2 inch twists (F, G, H and I).
Now all that’s left is to make your dinosaur’s legs and tail. Let’s start with the legs.
Make two twists (F and G) to create two x 3inch sections.
Line up the point of twist G with twist I from the last step (this is at the back of the dinosaur’s body) and lock twist them together at the end of the body to create two legs. You’ll be left with the tail – twist it upwards to finish.
Top tips for how to make balloon animals for beginners
- Invest in a decent pump: you won’t regret it
- Make sure you leave space at the end that’s uninflated – you need this as as you twist, the air will be pushed to the tip. By leaving a tail of about 3inches, you’ll stop the balloon popping as you work.
- Get comfortable with the odd balloon popping as you practise. But do practise a few before you get your kit out at a children’s party as the more you model, the less you pop.
- You may need to adjust the balloon instructions if you’re using different size balloons but the basic technique will be the same. It should just take you one or two goes to work out the best spacing of your twists for the balloons you’re working with.
5 more easy balloon animals and shapes to try
If you enjoyed trying these starter animals, now try a few of our other favourite balloon modelling projects for beginners
How to make balloon monkeys
Head over to AboutMagic’s YouTube channel for this fun DIY – it’s a bit trickier than the beginner tutorials in this article but it’s a good skills-builder and kids will love it.
How to make a balloon parrot
Balloon parrots are one of the first balloon modelling animals we learnt, and AboutMagic also has a handy video guide for how to make a parrot sitting in a balloon perch for you to try. Watch it now.
How to make a balloon mouse
This is a classic balloon animal that has a long, un-inflated mouse tail which kids will love as if you pull it back and release, the mouse also springs into the air. Head over to Traposo US YouTube to find out how to make a balloon animal mouse.
How to make a balloon unicorn hat
Keep it Crafty have a great balloon animal tutorial over on their YouTube channel for a balloon unicorn crown that is a surefire party pleaser.
How to make a balloon sword
Ok so this one isn’t technically an animal but we find it’s a party favourite, plus it takes 2 minutes to make! Find it over on Youtube.
Main image: © emregologlu