A custom plaster mask is fairly easy to make and comfortable to wear because it’s a perfect fit. Making masks can also be a great activity for kids.
Plaster face masks serve as an excellent base on which to create masquerade masks for any occasion. Freezing a child’s face in time also makes a great memento. They’re easy to make for someone with a crafty hand or a little bit of patience.
Preparation to Make Face Masks
Pre-plastered gauze is the easiest to use and can be bought at most craft stores. Activa makes rolls of it in different sizes. Plaster of paris mix and gauze, also available at craft stores, is a little more difficult to work with. Follow the instructions on the plaster for mixing, and use the instructions below for constructing the mask.
- Cut plastered gauze into strips.
- 6 strips ¼ to ½ inch wide by three inches long
- Approximately 50 – 1”x4” strip’s
- Approximately 20 – 1” x 6” strips.
Begin with the subject sitting or lying down in a comfortable position with a towel wrapped around his shoulders or beneath his head and shoulders if he is lying down. All hair must be secured away from the face.
Place a bowl of lukewarm water and the strips of gauze on a work surface next to the subject.
Apply petroleum jelly in a thin layer to the face. Apply a more generous layer over the eyebrows and around the hair line.
The Full Face Mask or the Half Mask
A full face mask used as a decoration or memento can cover both the eyes and the mouth, but it is imperative that the nostrils be left uncovered. It is a little claustrophobic for the subject to have only the nostrils open, but the final effect is very cool.
If it will be worn, the eyes must be left open. The mouth can be covered or left open.
The half mask leaves the eyes open for wearing and covers just the upper part of the face from the nose and cheeks upward. The half mask is great for a Mardi-Gras or ball mask style.
Face Mask Building and Technique
The basic idea is simple, build the mask one strip at a time by dipping a it into the water to wet the plaster and placing it on the face. Good technique and practice contribute to a smooth even finish.
After dipping a strip in water (or plaster if using a mix) slide it through two fingers to remove excess water and help smear the plaster into the gauze for a smoother finish.
Begin by placing two thin strips across the bridge of the nose in an “X”. Place a wider strip over one eyebrow allowing one end to overlap with the top of the “X” on that side of the face. Place the next strip on the other side. Continue placing the wider strips around the eyes until they make a figure eight pattern. Continue working outward around the face, using longer strips for larger sections of face and smoothing over the contours.
If leaving the eyes and or mouth uncovered, be careful to shape the holes around them evenly, and smooth the edges.
If covering the eyes, make sure the excess water has been fully removed from the strips before placing them over the eyelids.
If covering the mouth, do it last because that contributes to the claustrophobic feeling, and it is the most contoured area of the face.
Cover the area around the nostrils and the lips last, using small strips to allow for fine contouring.
Apply a second and third layer.
Removing and Drying Masks
The mask should ideally set in place for ten to 20 minutes. However, the first layer will begin drying right away, and by the time the third layer is complete, the first may be dry enough for the mask to be carefully removed within five minutes of completion. This should only be necessary for younger children.
To remove the mask, the subject should gently wiggle his face, crinkling his brows, scrunching his nose, etc. If it is dry enough to remove, the subject will feel the mask pull away from his skin. Gently remove the mask and set aside to dry overnight.
Microwave or oven drying takes only a few minutes. Follow directions for the brand of plaster strips being used.
Decorating a Fun Mask
Here’s the fun part. Spray or brush paint the finished mask. Use glitter or glue feathers and jewels to it.
For an elaborate costume mask, additional plaster strips can be added to the mask at this point to create a shaped nose, brow ridge, cheeks, etc, to create lions, birds, or goblins.