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Mask-Making Made Easy

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.

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.

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.

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.

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....

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.

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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.

Construction Tips & Tricks

  • Props a.k.a Masks
    A good mask is very difficult to make but very rewarding. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or take risks and above all don't be precious with your work. Masks as tools of performance.
  • khmer mask making
    The odd football-shaped cement forms lying on the ground are moulds for the faces of the characters of the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. There is the monkey Hanuman, and elsewhere, a yeak or demon, their faces curiously turned inside ou
  • MASK MAKERS WEB :: - the site for mask makers and mask lovers
    - the site for mask makers and mask lovers
  • Latex Mask Central
    LatexMaskCentral is the web's most extensive, complete and dynamic site dedicated to quality latex masks. Archives, interviews, How-To's, Contests, Message Board, much more
  • MENDEL'S - Mask Making
    The main thing that you need for the base of the mask is the gauze. This gauze is impregnated with plaster. It comes in rolls, about 3" wide. You need a willing participant, plaster impregnated gauze (about 1 roll per adult face), a bowl of water and
  • Mask Makers' Paradise by Special Effect Supply Corp.
    Mask making requires basic experience with sculpting, mold making and casting. These three skills most often used in creature special effects. There are many things a person learns through basic experience, practice will give you the confidence to me
  • Build your own Gas Mask from computer parts.
    Build your own Gask Mask from computer parts. Can't you buy expensive gas masks? Do you need one? are you a computer geek? If you answered yes to this three questions, then this is your page!
  • "Maskmaking in the Twenty - First Century"
    Maskmaking, what exactly is that? It is one skill of the theatrical costume or properties makers. It is a quasi-spiritual process employed by many native cultures to make their mysterious gods manifest.
  • i Sebastiani - Mask-making
    We have some experience making masks but we'd be loath to call ourselves experts.
  • Mask-making - tribe.net
    For sharing information about making masks
  • This to That (Glue Advice)
    How to glue this to that (Lensmaster note: This is an incredibly useful site for crafters!)
  • IDENTI-TAPE® Inc.
    IDENTI-TAPE® Inc. specializes in all kinds of colored tapes. If this site doesn't have the tape you need, then it doesn't exist.
  • Fellers Arts Factory
    Wonderful books that are templates for making tons of paper masks. Plus info on storytelling, workshops and more.
  • Maskmaking with Plaster Bandages
    A lesson plan for 5th graders - easily modified for any student, age 8 or older. By Michael Delahunt
  • Mask Making Ideas and Instructions
    To make a good mask of your creature, it's important to take some time to make a plan. The plaster face mask is often just the base, to which we add ears, horns, beaks, and noses.
  • Lesson: Making Masks
    Merging ancient and contemporary art, this lesson examines the significance of mask-making in the past and present. A great starting point to larger projects, or a fast exploration for the less patient.
  • Mask Making by Crede Calhoun
    Making masks is a great way to have fun and learn about three dimensional sculpting and painting. You can make a mask from cardboard or other materials but the best way to start is with paper mache.
  • Heart-Shaped Animal Masks
    Put on a lovey-dovey face with these adorable animal disguises
  • Fly Mask Craft
    Instructions to make a fly mask using egg carton cups.
maskmaking

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

anonymous on November 12, 2013:

Love the squid mask! LOL

DebW07 on March 01, 2013:

Cool squid mask!

Takkhis on February 07, 2013:

What a nice idea :)

WordChipper on February 07, 2013:

Great ideas here for kids Birthday parties! Thank you

beaworkathomemom on January 13, 2013:

I like your squidoo mask.

LotusLandry from Southern California on January 09, 2013:

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

Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on September 03, 2012:

@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.

ragtimelil on September 03, 2012:

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

INeedGlasses on August 10, 2012:

How cute for Squidoo!

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 22, 2012:

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

ernad18 on January 20, 2012:

nice mask. interest

Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on October 02, 2011:

@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!

Chazz from New York on October 02, 2011:

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.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on October 01, 2011:

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! :)

karliencarter on September 25, 2011:

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!

CherylLeKane LM on September 21, 2011:

Great lens! Thank you Relache! What an imagination!

cocktailsexaminer on August 11, 2011:

Ha! Love the Squidoo mask!

Close2Art LM on August 08, 2011:

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

JJNW from USA on July 24, 2011:

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

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on July 12, 2011:

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

Amy Stephens from Missouri on July 10, 2011:

Love The Squid Masks

spaceboy2011 on June 16, 2011:

it is a good technic to learn

Richard from Surrey, United Kingdom on April 01, 2011:

Great mask making tips and information!

religions7 on October 21, 2009:

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 :)

anonymous on June 25, 2009:

fabulous lens, love the masks especially the two squids.

Bellezza-Decor from Canada on May 06, 2009:

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

Mortira on September 24, 2008:

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

WritingforYourW on September 22, 2008:

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

Mihaela Vrban from Croatia on August 27, 2008:

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!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on August 22, 2008:

What fun! I love masks too. 5*

junepaisa on June 11, 2008:

I really enjoyed your lens

rennie on May 22, 2008:

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

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on May 19, 2008:

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

blondeheroine on May 11, 2008:

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.

eyeglasscase-guy on May 09, 2008:

I enjoyed reading through your lens as I like to find ideas for my nephews. Can you make a Darth Sidious mask, you know the bad guy from Star Wars? My nephews would love it.

anonymous on May 05, 2008:

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

Stephene on March 16, 2008:

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

BruceBeerdrinke1 on March 12, 2008:

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

Cheers!

JonathanWhite on March 11, 2008:

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

Layne

Baby Sitting Blues

diglet on February 27, 2008:

Excellent lens and very interesting.

anonymous on February 18, 2008:

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

anonymous on February 18, 2008:

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.

N376 on February 10, 2008:

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

Music-Resource on January 23, 2008:

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~

gkygrl lm on October 15, 2007:

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

catch-cheating on September 24, 2007:

great and very nice lens,high five

Pierce This 2 on September 15, 2007:

Great Squidoo mask! love it.

Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on September 15, 2007:

The Squidoo mask was really fun to work out and make! And it's super-comfy to wear too... LOL...

Robin S from USA on September 15, 2007:

Love the Squidoo mask!

poess on June 17, 2007:

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

Great masks!!

wholegrain on June 11, 2007:

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!

cageybee on April 26, 2007:

Awesome lens! Good work! Keep it up!

Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on March 31, 2007:

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!

athenas on March 31, 2007:

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.

Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on March 22, 2007:

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.

stephensmith on March 14, 2007:

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

smile on March 08, 2007:

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

jmm123 on February 19, 2007:

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.

anonymous on December 14, 2006:

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?

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