Learning about sealants and paints that move and flex with your EVA foam builds is a game changer, no more worrying about cracking the paint job of the piece you've spent weeks laboring over! Thankfully there are now multiple options and techniques that you can use to achieve the best possible finish for your build.
A paint job is only as flexible as the sealant you use. As I touched on in the EVA 101 article, using a flexible sealant is essential to maintaining your paint job with minimal cracking. If you use a stiff sealant on your build, such as mod podge or wood glue, your paint job will crease and crack with the sealant. I highly recommend the following sealants for a flexible finish:
Spray on sealants offer a smoother overall finish without the need to sand.
PlastiDip: My top choice! It can be found in most hardware and automotive stores and comes in a variety of colors.
FlexSeal: Slightly more expensive and a little harder to find, you can usually find this paint in hardware stores.
Seal Prime: A sealant developed by Poly-Prop and sold by TNT cosplay supplies. Very flexible but fairly expensive.
If I'm working armor in the cold winter months, I swap over to brush on sealants. When applied correctly the finish can also be satisfyingly smooth.
Flexbond: Sold by multiple suppliers, this is my current favorite brush on. They have a line for foam and worbla.
Cosflex: Another great flexible sealant sold by Coscom Cosplay supplies. It is markedly cheaper than Flexbond.
Despite what you may think, finding a paint that won't crack is fairly easy. You don't need to break the bank to buy any specialty paints either!
Fabric and Leather Paints
Leather and Fabric paint were made to move and stretch with fabrics. They work just as well on Foam builds and can be a cheaper option than some of the specialty paint lines listed below. These are easy to find and can be relatively cheap. ($3 per 1 fl oz.) You can find a wide range of colors on Blick Art supplies. (I highly recommend Angelus brand.)
Most Acrylic paints are flexible, some more so than others. Choose a water based acrylic for the best results. Liquitex is a brand I swear by. Their basics line is fairly flexible and water resistant. The professional line is a lot nicer, a lot more flexible and a little more expensive. This brand of paint has a wide variety of colors and even a metallic line. You can find this paint in Michaels, as well as online (for a little cheaper) in various art supply sites.
Nowadays, there are quite a few easy-to-acquire specialty lines (specifically for EVA foam) of flexible paint:
HexFlex: A water base acrylic developed by Poly-Props. Can be brushed on or watered down and airbrushed on.
Plaid FX: this line was made specifically for EVA foam use and has a few different finishes as well as a metallic color line. (Is arguably one of the cheaper paints you can purchase)
Flexible Spray Paints
While most spray paints have a tiny measure of elasticity, they will wear down and crack over time. There are some cosplay suppliers who have developed flexible aerosol paints like Poly-Props (sold through TNT). Liquitex also has their own professional line of spray paints that are fairly flexible.
HexArt Flexible Aerosol: A line of satin finish metallic spray paints that are incredibly flexible The metallic line is incredibly impressive!
Liquitex spray Paints: water based Aerosol paint that is more flexible than your average spray paint. Has a metallic line and a wide variety of colors.
Flexible Clear Coats
To expand on the above section, there are is a flexible clear coat, manufactured by Poly-Props, available for purchase. It comes in matte and satin gloss.
Valour Clear Coat
Tips and Tricks
Don't just spray and pray: Most spray paints and spray on sealants will cure wrong (bubble up, dry cloudy etc) if the weather is anything less than ideal. Make sure when you go to seal and paint your build that it's not too hot or too cold and it's not insanely humid outside. Cans will usually have the appropriate temperature index on the back of the can 50-90 degrees But I've been able to spray paint in 45+ with minimal issues.
Don't skip the sealant: Even if you heat seal your foam is still absorbant. Taking that extra step will ensure that your armor will last longer. Sealant also can act as a priming layer.
Glue before you seal and paint: This is admittedly a construction tip, however if you were to glue a piece together after applying a sealant you run the risk of the glue eating at the paint/sealant or the bond being weaker. If you need to glue a heavy detail to your piece prior to sealing and don't need to seal that detail, tape it off with painters tape.
Where Can I Find Them?
TNT Cosplay Supplies $12.95 per can (Comes in White, Black or Grey)
TNT Cosplay Supplies $9.95 per 9oz. ($1.11/oz.)
Blick Art Supplies $5-6 per 4oz. ($1.25-$1.50 per ounce)
Michael's Craft Store: $5.49 per 4oz. ($1.37 per oz)
Liquitex Professional Softbody (or Gouache)
*Of note basic colors and metallics rank at the lower end of this price scale
Blick Art Supplies $7.34-15.74 ($3.67-$7.87 per ounce)
Michael's Craft Store $10.99-14.99 ($5.50-$7.50 per ounce)
*This paint is cheaper when bought through online art supply stores like Blick Art Supplies.
Michael's Craft Store
Satin: $5 per 3oz. ($1.67/oz.)
Metallics: $6 per 3oz. ($2.00/oz.)
Color shift: $7 per 3oz. ($2.33/oz.)
Flexible Spray Paints
Liquitex Professional ($6.99 - $7.69 per can)
HexArt Metallic (13.95 per can)
Valour Clear Coat (9.95 per can)