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Paper Mask Making Tutorial

First, I suggest you get a hard (heavy weight) plastic face mask -preferably a full faced craft mask. And I say hard because I've learned that some are made of a harder plastic while others are made of a flimsy cheap plastic which doesn't seem very durable or strong. If you can bend it ridiculously easy, than keep looking!
-If you can build a 3-D face out of clay or have access to a plaster life-cast, then those will work just as well if not better for your mask-base.

#1. Designs/Features:
Now, you can either build up facial features or designs using clay (and either non-drying modelling clay or air-drying clay will work) on top of the plastic mask or you can just leave it as is.

Release Agent materials:
You can cover the mask in seran wrap or just a layer of vaseline to protect the clay(...especially if it's the non-drying modelling clay.), as well as to act as a release agent to make removal of the paper mask from the base easier. I've heard of non-stick cooking spray being used, but I've never used it before.
-I've learned that:
*seran wrap can create a bumpy surface because the plastic wrap doesn't adhere smoothly to the plastic of the mask, so that can prove to be VERY frusterating...but when the over-cast paper mask is dry you can just peel the seran wrap off of the backside very, it's got it's pro's and cons.
*vaseline makes for a much smoother work surface, but the paper overcast doesn't dry as well 'till it's been removed from the plastic mask base. You need to have the paper mask dry all the way through before you start applying fabric and paint and sealants -if possible. But, after you've gotten a thick enough buildup of paper and feel confident in removing it from the plastic form, you can let it dry and then keep adding more layers.

Paper Requirements:
I've read of people using brown paper bags for their masks, but I've only used tissue paper (same as what you'd find in gift bags) as well as the paper that is used in stores to wrap your breakables in -ask if you can have some of it, this stuff is pretty good for building up thickness quickly. But make very small scraps of this thicker paper so you don't have as many risks of wrinkles and uneven surfaces.

#20-#12 Paper Application:
Tear your tissue paper up into little pieces and thin strips. I do it as I go along, but you can have yours ready before you start -up to you.
-I've used a slightly watered down Elmer's Glue mixture; I've added some powdered wall paper paste to it which gives it an eggnogg kind of texture; and I've used just straight glossy Modge Podge. All of which work perfectly fine.
*I use a paint brush..medium size. Just dip your paint brush into your glue mixture and coat the plastic mask in a layer of it and then add either one or a few pieces of tissue paper at a time and then coat those with the paintbrush. You don't need to glob it on, just add an even thin layer over the tissue paper..but make sure the paper is thoroughly wet with each layer( the paper should darken when it's thoroughly wet).
Make sure you cover the mask (or just the area you are working on) with a complete layer -in other words, none of the mask/layer below is showing. Be especially sure that you pay alot of attention to the nose area, you want to make sure it's a strong structure.
-Now...I've started using black tissue paper between layers and I suggest you do the same as it makes it easier to tell how thick your layers are.
-To explain in depth:
Put down a layer of dark or black tissue paper and paint it over with your glue mixture, then start layering on top of that with a lighter colored tissue paper -keep adding layers 'till you can no longer see the black underneath it. When you reach that point, add another layer of black and do it again.
-I suggest using small pieces of tissue paper for tight areas like the nose, bridge, around the eyes, small spaces like those. I tend to use larger pieces on the forehead and cheeks -but be careful 'cause you're more likely to get creases and wrinkles with bigger pieces and your finished product won't look as smooth.
-A tip: When applying many layers in one sitting -once the paper starts getting really soggy from the glue and wants to tear every time you drag your brush across it, it's time to set it aside and let it dry for a while. Maybe just 30mins. to an hour before adding some more layers. Again, don't add too much of the glue mixture...spread it out smoothly. You'll be able to tell when it get's too soggy and if you're paper is wet enough or not after a little while.
*Unless you're using a disposable paint brush, I suggest you use soap and warm water to clean your paint brush shortly after you're done using it. -Especially with the Modge Podge, that stuff dries quickly! And make sure your glue mixture is in an air-tight container...tupperware works well for this!

#14. Removal:
I can't tell you how many layers to build up 'cause I never have counted my own and I think it's differant with each mask. I use a little test...
*To tell when the mask is ready to be removed from the mask base, stick your finger between the paper and the mask and gently wriggle it loose...if you're afraid that the mask may tear or cave in upon removal, then it's not ready -keep adding more layers, but if it feels strong enough and you're not worried, it's ready -but still be careful and gentle as you lift it from the mask base. But as you lift it, gently wriggle the mask from side to side...take it slow!
*Again, the vaseline underneath or the plastic/seran wrap will act as a release agent and should make lifting the paper mask from the plastic/clay alot easier.

#16/#17. Trimming:
I tend to trim the outer edges with some small craft scissors and for the eyes I use an exacto knife.
*You may be able to sand the surface with a fine grade sand paper after adding a couple layers of gesso, but I've not had much luck with it. There are sealants out there that you can apply which will prepare your work surface for sanding -just read the bottle for it.
#23. -I use a white, spray-on gesso to add a smoother and harder surface to my masks.

Finishing touches:
I use a spray-on adhesive on the backside to apply my thick brocade fabric and thin braided trim on the edges for comfort and looks. Don't apply too much adhesive 'cause it'll soak through your fabric and possibly ruin it. After you've applied your adhesive let it dry a little 'till it's tacky and then apply your fabric.
-Again, I use small scissors to trim the fabric on the outer edges and an exacto knife around the eyes.
-I use craft glue (the kind that comes in the gold bottle with the white top...I forget the name of it...) on the edges to attach the tie-on pull up the side a little, put some glue in there and then put your ties/ribbons in. Let that stuff dry and I do suggest being a bit heavy on the glue, actually. This also applies for the top if you want to add feathers or something else. LOTS of glue!!!
-In effect, you are sandwiching your ribbons and/ or feathers between the backside of the paper mask and the fabric.

#13. *If you want upraised designs on your mask, some people use hot glue, ropey trim, thick thread, or even pipe cleaners. You can use those or air-drying clay. DAZ and Paperclay are pretty good to use -though they take several hours to dry and they turn whiter as they dry, so that's a good way to let you know when it's done.
#21. -Be sure to also add a couple layers of paper over the upraised designs so it blends better and less chance of it coming off of the mask later on from wear and tear or coat it in a couple layers of your glue mixture.
*I suggest making sure that your mask base is wide and deep enough for your own face so that your mask will be comfortable for you to wear. And adding onto the nose a little with clay before applying the paper might be a good idea. Keep in mind that the thickness of the fabric and the trim you add to the backside of the mask will take away from the room available for your after the backing has been applied, your mask may not fit as it had earlier.
*I suggest covering the paper and paint in a polyurethane sealant. I believe I get mine through DecoArt acrylic paint which I've found at all three of my local craft/art stores. I get a nice little bottle for about $1.00 -it's a good thing to apply so that the paint and glue are sealed in and moisture doesn't bother them so much. Or get a spray on sealant, matte or gloss -up to you.
*I also suggest getting a spray or paint on gloss coat. I use a spray acts as a sealant on top of the polyurethane and it adds a very nice shiny/glossy coating which is very attractive.
*If adding a handle, be sure to first find out whether the wearer is right or left handed so you know which side to attach the handle to. Then lift up the fabric on the backside at the appropriate edge, apply lots of glue and then stick the handle's tip in. I use tiny clothespins to hold the fabric flap closed over the handle. Or you can use hot glue.
*I tend to use Puffy fabric paint on the edges to give the mask a 'finished' look or you can add some corded trim, that way the edges look good, too.

Otherwise, acrylic paints, fabric, feathers, sequins, decorative papers, dryer sheets, glitter, gems, etc. can be used for decoration. Don't allow your imagination to be limited and try your best to be unique in your designs. It's ok to be inspired by another's work, but outright copying of someone else's art is NOT cool, and I don't care how the saying goes, plagarism is not a compliment to anyone.

I hope that this is good for directions. Can't wait to see what you create with it! Have fun!

Please :+fav: this tutorial if you have found it to be useful.
*Also, please do not redistribute this tutorial around the 'net or publish it as your own work.
~Thank you!:D

-Copyright of Megan A. Johnson
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JillyKaren's avatar
This is a wonderful tutorial - my craft group is in the midst of making masks now and I think this will help a lot - thank you!
Vrussianboi's avatar
Great Tutorial!

I was wondering though. i've heard of clay being used as bases or to adding certain features to paper mache masks. If I remember it was two different types. I was wondering if you could tell me what those two clays were. I would appreciate it very much.
AngelaSasser's avatar
This is really helpful! I've always wanted to know how to do paper mache masks. I'm going to have to try this after I've tried my hand at the leather making process.
ArianaBarton's avatar
cool tutorial! I've always wanted to try this. just a few questions: is it ok to use newspaper? and how can i make the mask white and then paint over parts of it?
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Newspaper is absolutely fine to use.:)

What do you mean make it white and then paint over parts of it?
-Wouldn't you just paint the whole mask white and then paint over certain parts as you'd like? Or use a white Gesso (found in the paint dept. of your craft store)instead of paint?

ArianaBarton's avatar
what i meant was, how would i go about painting the mask white, then painting over certain parts, like you said? i was wondering what materials to use (like acrylic paint, or gesso, which i don't know a lot about). I wanted to paint the mask, then try to give it a scuffed-up look (i want to make a joker mask), but i don't know whether to use paint for that or some other method.

sorry for the confusion ^^;
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Hmm...I'm still lost, sorry...but for a scuffed up look, you could either use some kind of aging medium, crackle effect medium, or take sand paper to parts of it.

As far as the painting it white and then painting over certain parts of it. It seems pretty simple to me, so I'm assuming that you're meaning something else and I'm just not getting it. But, I would use a small paintbrush.

Gesso...not sure how to explain it, I would suggest googling it. But I've used a spray-on white gesso for alot of my paper masks. I used it as a primer to cover up smaller cracks and imperfections in the paper beneath, before I would paint over top with acrylic paint.

To paint the entire mask white you could use either acrylic paints, spray paint, or white gesso. Doesn't really matter, I suppose.

If you have more questions, feel free to Note me.

Hope this helps, even if just a little.:)
ArianaBarton's avatar
no, you got it right.
:) thanks so much for the help! this will be a fun project :D
fennelwink's avatar
Fascinating! Thanks for the tips, I shall have to try this one day.
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Excellent, good luck with it!:D
Platypi's avatar
This will be quite helpful if I ever decided to have a go at some of the ideas I've had for masks. Either way though, this is very interesting! o:
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Excellent! I'm glad people are using it and finding it to be helpful. I know it's really hard to find tutorials out there on mask making, so I thought I'd help out.:)
Vorheart's avatar
As you mentioned at the end, :+fav: for this tutorial. :)

I've found it very useful... not just because I'm trying to make my first paper mask right now (I've had experience with plastic ones but I'm far from my workshop and need a mask quickly), but also for all the nice tips and comments you've made. They help a lot.

Thanks again! I'm really grateful you went through all the trouble of putting this tutorial together. ;)
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Thank you so much, it's really nice to hear when someone appreciates your efforts, you know?:)

I'm glad you're finding it useful and that the tips and comments add a little something extra to it.

Good luck with your first paper mask! I hope it turns out nicely!:)
Kothros's avatar
Thanks for putting this tutorial up! I've been looking for something like this. Will give it a try and post it up when finished.
Pixiemisa's avatar
This is great!! i'm so glad you made will make the transition from leather to paper mache much much easier! thanks so much
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
No problem, glad it could be of use!:)
spinstermaiden's avatar
Not that I need another craft hobby, but this looks like fun. Thanks for the guide.
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
I know what you mean!:D
And you're welcome, I hope you find it easy to follow and useful.:)
eerieturnip's avatar
iv been wanting to make my own masks for ages, this is completely what iv been looking for. only thing im confused about is the first few steps. when you say to use vasaline, do you put that straight onto the plastic and then build up the paper layers straight onto that?
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Whether you're using the plastic mask as the mold or building up the features with clay, you can apply the vasaline straight onto it. Thought, with my newest masks I've been using another method which works extremely well, though I've only used it with my recent clay masks and never before with the paper masks...I've been conforming tin-foil to the bask and then covering the tin foil in an even layer of vasaline before beginning to build mask itself over top.
-That might work well, but never tried it with my older paper masks. If you try it with the tin foil, please let me know how that turns out.

I've found that by using the tin foil not only am I saving the clay and not messing up the plastic mask, but I can just remove the tin foil from the backside of the mask but stripping it away...little mess and it's faster.

SilverDrgnbane's avatar
Now this is a usefull tut. Thanks for posting this; I will be refering back here if I ever get time to make masks again.
EMasqueradeGallery's avatar
Awesome and I'm glad you find it useful!:)
Cyber-29's avatar
This is a great tutorial! Seriously, this is just the thing I was looking for. Just one question, where can you get those hard plastic base masks?
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