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How To Make Papier-Mâché Masquerade Masks

Updated on January 8, 2013

Learn how to become a mask maker!

Mask making is a wonderful hobby - you can turn ordinary household materials into magnificent works of art. And it's not very difficult to learn, either!

Masks are usually worn only a few times a year, but many people like to hang them on their walls because of the way they can make a room seem more glamorous right away! Well, I sure like to leave my masks around the house for people to admire :)

On this page I will outline everything you need to know to learn this craft.

NOTE: All texts and photos are my own original copyrighted creation, unless otherwise noted.

Materials and tools you need to start making masks

  • Newspaper, tissue paper
  • PVA glue (white glue) - you can substitute with flour and water mixture
  • Various types of cardboard - corrugated cardboard boxes, chocolate packaging, toilet or tissue paper rolls etc.
  • Plaster gauze bandages
  • Containers for water & glue mixture, paper pulp etc.
  • Masking tape
  • Wire, insulation tape
  • Cling wrap and/or vaseline
  • Scissors, scalpel, knife or spatula for modeling, sandpaper
  • Acrylic varnish, acrylic spray paint and tube paint, brushes
  • Decorative fabrics (velvet, lace, satin, brocade...), decorative ribbons, feathers, beads...
  • Objects to use as forms or molds - bowls, baloons, plasticine etc.

White bird venetian papier mache and plaster mask

White bird venetian papier mache and plaster mask
White bird venetian papier mache and plaster mask

Starting out: Making a mask form - You can just buy a plastic one, but we're trying to be crafty here :)

Handmade plaster and papier mache mask forms
Handmade plaster and papier mache mask forms

You certainly can work without one as you can see in the videos below, but if you want to be creating more than just a few masks, then having a sturdy reusable form is strongly recommended.

I have created 2 mask forms (molds) so far - a smaller one based on my own face, and a larger one based on my partner's face. It's easy to make them, but it's a messy project!

You need:

- plaster bandages

- a bowl of water

- vaseline and cling wrap

- sandpaper (or, newspaper and PVA glue)

- acrylic paint

The process is straightforward and you can see the video below, but I will outline it here.

Wear your old clothes or protective suit.

Cover your face with vaseline, and put cling wrap over your hair. Cut up the plaster into strips of variable lengths and widths. Moist a large strip in water and place on your forehead and make it smooth it with your fingers. Then continue placing moist strips over the rest of your face, leaving holes for eyes and nose. Cover your mouth. After you have placed at least 2-3 layers across the entire face, let it dry for 20-30 minutes. You will eventually feel when the plaster has hardened enough to peel it off.

Here is a glamorous shot of my partner covered in plaster:

After you have removed the plaster off your face, clean yourself up and proceed with covering eye and nose holes. Leave the mask to dry overnight.

When it's dry, you can either use sandpaper and smoothen the surface, or you can cover everything with a few layers of newspaper. I used the first method on one mask form, and the second on the other, both are fine.

Once everything is completely dried, spray it with acrylic varnish or acrylic paint and let it dry again. Your mask form is now finished and ready to use!

How to make a plaster mask (or mask form)

Starting out: Basic papier mache technique

Tear by hand (don't cut!) the newspaper into strips of various lengths and widths. Prepare a bowl of diluted glue (in 1:3 glue to water ratio). Cover your mask form with cling wrap, or spread a layer of vaseline over it.

Wet a newspaper strip in a bowl of glue on both sides, then place over the form. Proceed by putting more strips until you've covered the desired surface, leaving only eye holes. Then put a second layer of newspaper in a different direction than the first one, covering the edges of the strips in the first layer. Varying the direction of strips horizontally-vertically you're ensuring better strength of papier-mache.

Put a third layer, and after that leave the mask to dry completely before proceeding. It would be best to leave it overnight, but some sunshine or hair dryer can speed up the process a bit.

After the mask had dried, trim the uneven edges with scissors and shape the eye holes nicely. Punch holes to pull the ribbon or elastic through.

For a simple mask with no embellishments, you can just spray it with white to cover the newsprint, and then paint with any color you like.

Oriental demon papier-mache mask

Oriental demon papier-mache mask
Oriental demon papier-mache mask

Adding elements to a papier-mâché base

Masks don't have to be plain! You can use cardboard or wire to make armature for complex shapes you can layer the newspaper or plaster on (like is shown in the video above), or you can model them out of air dry clay or polymer clay and glue it on the base.

When adding heavier elements, I like to secure it all with a layer of plaster, however keep in mind plaster will make the mask rigid and less resistant to falling on the floor, whereas pure papier-mâché masks are almost unbreakable.

Below you may see a photo of my werewolf mask I first made a papier-mâché base for, then I added nose and lips made from air dry clay, and facial wrinkles made of tissue paper, and covered everything with plaster. Ears are formed out of cardboard. and covered with more papier mache. Then I used acrylic sealant (the kind you use in bathrooms, but it has to be acrylic because other kinds can't be painted) to smooth things out and refine the details.

All this can be made from paper pulp, but paper pulp takes more time to dry, and I was in a hurry.

Werewolf mask - papier mache, plaster, air dry clay, acrylic sealant

Werewolf mask - papier mache, plaster, air dry clay, acrylic sealant
Werewolf mask - papier mache, plaster, air dry clay, acrylic sealant

Black bird venetian plaster mask

Black bird venetian plaster mask
Black bird venetian plaster mask
Papier-Mache Monsters: Turn Trinkets and Trash into Magnificent Monstrosities
Papier-Mache Monsters: Turn Trinkets and Trash into Magnificent Monstrosities

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Contemporary Papier Mache: Colorful Sculpture, Jewelry, and Home Accessories
Contemporary Papier Mache: Colorful Sculpture, Jewelry, and Home Accessories

Papier mache provides an extremely versatile way to make one-of-a-kind, decorative objects for the home or to create stunning fashion accessories. Illustrated with over 125 beautiful, full-color photographs and l00 step-by-step color diagrams and complete with a helpful glossary of special terms, this extraordinary volume offers the perfect introduction to an imaginative medium for craftspeople at every level of experience.

 
Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay: How to Create Stunning Wildlife Art Using Patterns and My Easy-to-Make, No-Mess Paper Mache Recipe
Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay: How to Create Stunning Wildlife Art Using Patterns and My Easy-to-Make, No-Mess Paper Mache Recipe

If you've always wanted to create life-like animal sculptures, but you think it's "too hard" or "too expensive," you're in for a very pleasant surprise. This book contains step-by-step instructions and over 250 photos to guide you through the enjoyable process of making your first animal sculptures with the all-new paper mache clay recipe.

 
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Papier-Mache for Kids

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Simple Venetian mask painted with acrylic

Simple Venetian mask painted with acrylic
Simple Venetian mask painted with acrylic

Videos of making papier mache Venetian masks

Every artist has his own method of making masks. Some use bought mask forms. Take a look at these videos and decide for yourself which method you like most!

Variation: Pure lace mask

Lace mask
Lace mask

This mask was made by soaking the lace in diluted PVA glue and pressed on the mask form. After the glue has dried, the lace kept some of the shape and will fit the face easily.

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    • nelchee profile image
      Author

      nelchee 5 years ago

      @WildFacesGallery: Thank you very much, and thanks for the blessing :) If you are at all interested in handmade crafts, I'm sure you'd be great at it given your painting skills.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 5 years ago from Iowa

      Beautifully done. Makes me want to try my hand at it. I particularly like the artfully done Oriental Demon mask.