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Mask-Making Made Easy

Updated on September 14, 2014
Simple sheet foam is a fun way to make a mask that you can wear over glasses.
Simple sheet foam is a fun way to make a mask that you can wear over glasses. | Source

Mask-Making Is Easier Than You Think!

I love masks! I have made and collected masks for the last three decades. I liked playing dress-up as a child so much, I studied costuming and makeup in college. Here I share some of my how-tos for mask-making with pictures and crafting tips.


You really have a lot of options when it comes to making masks. They can be made from simple paper, or you can get very complicated with materials.

You can make a mask for yourself, or work on projects with your kids or students. And there are also lots of other mask-related goods and goodies!

This is handmade paper applied to a blank mask form.
This is handmade paper applied to a blank mask form. | Source

Pre-Made Forms 1 - Full Face Masks

You can start a mask quick with a ready-made mask form

This mask was made using a store-bought mask blank. I know you've all seen this one, it's just a blank white face with two eyes, two small nostrils and a squarish mouth slit.

I glued a handmade paper over the surface of the mask. The paper is black with little bits of gold leaf and tinsel in it. I trimmed the edges of it to match the mask once the glue dried.

Then I glued on a strip of maribou feather for hair. This went on even easier than the mask surface, as the paper held the glue better. Small pieces of gold webbing were glued over the eyes on the inside of the mask. A gold paint pen was used to outline the eyes and to paint the lips.

Artistically, I'm really happy with it. To wear, it's just ok. These masks only wear as well as the generic form fits your face. I find it gets kinda close and humid very soon in it. The eye effect is nice, but my own eyelashes brush the webbing when I wear the mask which is a little distracting.

The Prop Builder's Mask-Making Handbook
The Prop Builder's Mask-Making Handbook

This is the textbook/reference used by people doing stagecraft and theatrical work. Fantastic resource for building any kind of mask. I got started with this sort of mask guide in college.

 
This is a decorated half-mask.  A strip of fringe covers the lower face.
This is a decorated half-mask. A strip of fringe covers the lower face. | Source

Making Papier-mache Masks

Papier-mache is cheap, lightweight and strong for mask-making

Wanting to make masks that fit better and where I could design all the facial features, I turned to papier-mache to make my mask bases. Since I was taking a mask-making class in college, I got to make a plaster cast of my face.

Once I had the cast sculpture of my face, making a mask form became a case of putting plasticine on the casting and then sculpting it into the face I wanted the mask to have. By working on a form of your own face, you automatically have the fit working.

Once the sculpture part was done, the papier-mache was made using torn brown paper grocery bags and a mix of 50/50 Elmer's Glue and water. You want to tear the paper bags into small pieces. DO NOT CUT THE PAPER BAG. You really need the torn, rough edge to make successful mache, a cut edge won't dry flat and your mask will have little ends curling up all over it. By overlapping these little torn bits of paper, you actually wind up building a very strong and lightweight structure.

Papier-mache masks can then be painted with gesso and sanded (you'll need to do a few coats) which will make the surface totally smooth and blank, ready for any sort of art finishing. I've also done masks where I used tissue paper, and the mask coloring forms naturally with the application of the colored tissue paper. Masks like that take a LOT of layers to be strong enough. Handmade papers from Japan and India are fantastic for mask-making.

The half-mask here was built of grocery bag papier-mache and then painted with an acrylic paint to seal it against moisture as well as decorate it. A tiny round of feathers, meant for hats, was cut in two and the pieces were glued into the deep eye sockets to make the wild eyelashes.

I will mention one mask I made this way where I didn't hardly build up the features much from my own. The finished mask fit so tightly to my own face, I couldn't move it hardly or talk while wearing it, so don't be afraid to exaggerate those facial features a bit more. It makes for a much better mask wearing experience.... LOL....

Maskmaking
Maskmaking

Extensive instructions are given here for masks of plaster, clay, laminated paper, papier-mâché, buckram, wire, and celastic (a plastic-impregnated fabric), plus directions for final embellishments, finishing techniques, and maskmaking with children.

 

Pre-Made Forms 2 - The Half Mask

I made a second mask using a pre-made mask form, this one was just a half mask. I had a big hackle of maribou that I was all set to use, and fringe, so that gave the basic shape to the mask.

For the mask face surface, I used Friendly Plastic. It heats up in hot water, becoming stretchy and then hardens again when it cools. I had a bunch of pink glitter FP that I got on sale or something, so I decided to use it for the mask.

The nice edge on the feathers and the fringe made gluing all the trims onto the plastic easy. The plastic stuck pretty well to the fabric-like surface of the mask, but I glued it in a few places for good measure. I glued fabric on the inside as a lining too.

Artistically I was happy with this mask, and it wore pretty well. The only thing was the plastic made the face part of it pretty heavy. It's not a mask for a long night out.

Fancy feathers make fantastic eyebrows on this machie half-mask.
Fancy feathers make fantastic eyebrows on this machie half-mask. | Source
Making Masks (Kids Can Do It)
Making Masks (Kids Can Do It)

Step-by-step instructions make the thirteen unique masks featured a snap to create and decorate. Whether it's for a Halloween party, a school play or just for dress-up, a little imagination is all it takes for children to conceal their faces -- and reveal someone new in their places!

 
Complete Book of Paper Mask Making
Complete Book of Paper Mask Making

This do-it-yourself guide gives detailed instructions for making paper masks-how to cut, fold, score, model, paint and decorate them. Make masks of people, clowns, birds and animals (lion, cat, dog, fox, bear, monkey, more). 93 black-and-white illustrations.

 

A Five-Minute Mask!

At just about any craft store, you can find simple half masks in a variety of colors. These are great for when you need a mask REALLY fast. Covered with a satin-like material, they are fantastic for just gluing stuff onto them. Rhinestones, colored trims, feathers and glitter can be added to customize a mask in minutes to match any outfit or costume occasion.

Making Masks with Sheet Foam

aka mask-making for eyeglass wearers

For most of my years of mask-making, I tended to make masks that didn't fit over my glasses. However, I got tired of not being able to see where I was going, and I'm really more of an eyeglass girl than a contact lens girl.

I was sitting in on a class on masks given at a WesterCon when the topic of using sheet foam for making masks came up. The foam is lightweight, slightly cushy, flexible and can be molded a bit when heated using an embossing tool that blows hot air. I hadn't used this material for masks before, but I was determined to when I got home from the convention.

This is the second foam-based mask that I've made, and it took me about an hour and used less than $5 worth of materials! I enlarged the Squidoo logo and traced a paper pattern to get my shapes. I glued those bits together with a glue that works on foam. Then I used markers to add the details and taped the mask onto my own eyeglasses! If you don't wear glasses like I do, it would be easy to glue this sort of mask onto a pair of cheap sunglasses with the lenses snapped out.

Squidoo Mask Tutorial.

LowPoly Mask from thingverse.com
LowPoly Mask from thingverse.com

Papercraft Mask Blank

If you wish you had a paper mask blank that you could color on or decorate with other materials, here's a great one. Just click on the image shown here to go to the tutorial and pattern for making a papercraft mask. You can leave it as is for a funky robot or futuristic effect, or decorate to your heart's content!

Tutorial and Pattern from Thingverse.com

Are you a mask-maker too? Got a question about making masks? Share your tips and tricks, or ask for help with a mask here!

mm-Ask Away! - comments and contributions

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    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      i plan to make a mask out of thin steel,have you ever done this yourself,more lord of the rings style,do you have any ideas on the best way to go about this?

    • jmm123 profile image

      jmm123 10 years ago

      I must admit I that I have no interest in mask making, but still found your lens quite interesting. Good job on a quality informative lens.

    • profile image

      smile 10 years ago

      Great lens! Very helpful. Do you have any tips and tricks to make mask for kids?

    • profile image

      stephensmith 10 years ago

      We just returned from Mardi Gras, where my daughter bought an elaborate bird mask. She would love the idea of making her own. I will definitely share this lens with her. Thanks!-Stephen Smith, Make A Living Selling Books Online

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 10 years ago from Seattle, WA

      phantomlok, the only folks I know who do work like that are either jewelers or blacksmiths. I've not worked with metal for making masks.

    • profile image

      athenas 10 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for the info. I have been looking in vain for instructions to make feather masks, but I will certainly try to find some of the reference materials mentioned.

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 10 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I did a feather mask once. You need to order more feathers than you think you need (you trim a lot of them down), and I glued them on from the center of the mask, overlapping outwards to the edges. Good luck!

    • profile image

      cageybee 10 years ago

      Awesome lens! Good work! Keep it up!

    • profile image

      wholegrain 9 years ago

      I was looking for inspiration for masks to be worn by models for a benefit for a local food bank.

      I am new to Squidoo - less than 24 hours - and thank you for letting me look through your lens!

    • poess profile image

      poess 9 years ago

      I love this lens! I'm so new i don't know how to favorite it! :(

      Great masks!!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 9 years ago from USA

      Love the Squidoo mask!

    • Pierce This 2 profile image

      Pierce This 2 9 years ago

      Great Squidoo mask! love it.

    • profile image

      catch-cheating 9 years ago

      great and very nice lens,high five

    • gkygrl lm profile image

      gkygrl lm 9 years ago

      Very nice lens. I love the Squid mask, very nice :)

    • Music-Resource profile image

      Music-Resource 9 years ago

      Hi Relache, I like the Las Vegas Carnival mask, the lion (Carmen) mask, and your Squid mask. Nice mask lens, it looks like a fun hobby. ~Music Resource~

    • N376 profile image

      N376 9 years ago

      I can't wait to see what you come up with for your project for Squidoo HQ!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Great Lens!! Very Creative!Mask-Making.By going through this site i came know how to make masks. i like some of the masks design's in this lense.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Wow! now we can make mask on our own, that's great.Thanks for sharing the ideas and tips for making mask.

    • profile image

      diglet 9 years ago

      Excellent lens and very interesting.

    • profile image

      JonathanWhite 9 years ago

      I work with kids a lot, this was a great resource!

      Layne

      Baby Sitting Blues

    • BruceBeerdrinke1 profile image

      BruceBeerdrinke1 9 years ago

      Now i want to make a mask to look like a pint cup. Inspiration thy name is relache. Keep up the good work.

      Cheers!

    • profile image

      Stephene 9 years ago

      Ha ha.. i like your lense very much.. it is creative and informative.. i hv bookmarked this lense and join your fan club.. (^o^)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Cool 5 Star Lens! We'll have to try these out. Hand Poured Pillar Candles

    • blondeheroine profile image

      blondeheroine 9 years ago

      I haven't made a mask in a while! Now you're making me want to. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your Squid mascot head. It is freakin' brilliant.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very cool lens. Love the mask ideas. Nicely done.

    • profile image

      rennie 9 years ago

      Mask making is also a good project for toddlers. Whenever my class got out of hand, my teacher assistant and I would always have them make masks for them to wear. It built self confidence, helped them express creativity and also kept them out of trouble for a good couple of hours. That is, until one child smashed another child's creation.

      Sarah

      www.renaissancedresshippieclothesandaccessories.com

    • profile image

      junepaisa 8 years ago

      I really enjoyed your lens

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      What fun! I love masks too. 5*

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 8 years ago from Croatia

      This one is going to be very helpful... My husband is a teacher and I'm always looking for new craft ideas for kids.. 5* and favored!

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 8 years ago

      Looks like a fun way to make your own Halloween costume (or at least mask!). Love the Squid mask :)

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 8 years ago

      Thanks for the great tips! 5 stars and a lensroll!

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 8 years ago from Canada

      You've made some great looking masks 5* and lensrolled into Kids Storybook Hats.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      fabulous lens, love the masks especially the two squids.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 7 years ago

      wow. great lens. Easy to see why it's one of your top lenses. I do hope people get to see the actual content though :)

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 6 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Great mask making tips and information!

    • profile image

      spaceboy2011 5 years ago

      it is a good technic to learn

    • LaineA profile image

      Amy Stephens 5 years ago from Missouri

      Love The Squid Masks

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      fantastic. i really admire your creativity. thanks for the step by step instructions. ~blessed~

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 5 years ago from USA

      LOL...I gotta be partial to the Squidoo masks...but they all look fun.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      great lens, very fun..thumbs up...:)RWJR

    • profile image

      cocktailsexaminer 5 years ago

      Ha! Love the Squidoo mask!

    • CherylLeKane LM profile image

      CherylLeKane LM 5 years ago

      Great lens! Thank you Relache! What an imagination!

    • profile image

      karliencarter 5 years ago

      Hi! I want to make a particular mask for my friend (half-face)...it requires painting and lots of detail in facial features. Im an excellent painter, but I haven't really created a mask before. I believe paper-mache is my best/cheapest option? Do I mould my friends face? Or do I buy a custom mold? What simple ingredients do I use? I plan to have lots of practice runs!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Your big giant squid head is super cool! Making a mask is something I haven't tried yet, but the info here would definitely help. Great job! :)

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      Really enjoyed this lens and especially the squid mask photos! Blessed on the Squidangel Halloween Quest! Your lens is featured on the Halloween section of "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our tribute to some of the best lenses we've found since donning our wings.

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @karliencarter: You could either mold their face, or start with a generic form, it would all depend on what you wanted to try to how much time you have, or if you had a lot of money for supplies or not. If you go back and read the papier-mache entry, I give the ingredients there. Good luck and have fun!

    • profile image

      ernad18 5 years ago

      nice mask. interest

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I've made lots of masks in my time, I used to do paper mache a lot. Your mask photos are super! Great information here. Thanks

    • profile image

      INeedGlasses 4 years ago

      How cute for Squidoo!

    • ragtimelil profile image

      ragtimelil 4 years ago

      I'd like to make a paper mache mask but I don't have a form. Is there something else I can use?

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @ragtimelil: You're going to need some sort of form unless you want the mask to be completely flat. You can put paper mâché on a blank mask form or you can build a mask form from clay.

    • LotusLandry profile image

      LotusLandry 4 years ago from Southern California

      This is a cool topic and I am just learning how to use craft foam for all kinds of projects!

    • beaworkathomemom profile image

      beaworkathomemom 4 years ago

      I like your squidoo mask.

    • WordChipper profile image

      WordChipper 4 years ago

      Great ideas here for kids Birthday parties! Thank you

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      What a nice idea :)

    • profile image

      DebW07 4 years ago

      Cool squid mask!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Love the squid mask! LOL

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