Make A Plaster Mask

Here's how to make a basic plaster face mask.

Mask-making is a fun project for groups of all ages--it can be simple enough for third graders, or intricate and challenging for professional artists. The basic shape, molded with plaster bandages right on the mask maker's face, takes only about half an hour, so it can be done in groups, classrooms, or alone.

Note: Safety experts recommend using make-up rather than masks for trick-or-treating children at Halloween. Please consider the completed mask to be a decorative item, or to be worn only indoors in supervised situations.

The model, the person whose face is being used for the form, should decide if they want a full face mask, a half-mask just over the eyes and nose and if they would like to have a mask with their eyes, lips, and/or nostrils covered.

List of supplies for a basic plaster mask

Plaster bandage. This can be bought in a roll from a medical supply house (yes, it's the same stuff used for casting broken bones!) or in pre-cut strips from craft stores.

Petroleum jelly.

Dish or pan of water.

Drinking straws, cut into 3-4 inch lengths

Newspaper or plastic to protect the work surface

Newspaper or paper towels to wad into supports for drying mask

Towel to protect clothing

String to hang it with or ribbon to use as tie

For Decoration:

Gesso, varnish or other surface preparation

Glue, or hot glue gun and glue sticks

Paints, make-up, markers, or color crayons

Process

Cut the plaster bandages into strips suitable for the size of the model's face; 2"-4" lengths usually work.

Cover the face of the "model" with petroleum jelly, especially at the hairline and eyebrows and eyelashes.



Put pieces of the straws into nostrils to serve as "breathing tubes"

Dip the bandage strips into the water, gently remove excess water, and begin to cover the model's face. The bridge of the nose is a good place to begin; work from there out to cover all areas of the face. Do not go too far under the chin, or the mask will be hard to remove after it's dry.

As you work, smooth any rough bandage edges with your wet fingers.

Once the face is covered, let it dry for about ten minutes before you try to remove it.

When the model feels the mask begin to dry, they can make the removal process easier by wiggling their face. Scrunching up cheeks, frowning, smiling, scowling, lifting eyebrows--any facial movement will help to release the mask.

Remove the mask by carefully lifting it at the outer edges. It will be drying, but not yet firm, so place it on a flat surface, supported by a "cushion" of crumpled paper towels or newspaper as it continues to dry. You can use more plaster to build up the edges or smooth any roughness at lip or eye openings at this point.

While it is still damp, poke holes about an inch in from each edge, in line with the eyes, to run the ribbon or string through.

When the mask is completely dry, it can be sanded with fine sandpaper or emery boards to create an artistic surface.

If you want to decorate your mask with paints, feathers, glued-on accessories like beads, chains, or natural finds (leaves, decorative grasses, dried flowers) protect it with gesso, varnish, or other material to keep the paint from soaking into the plaster.

From here, the sky is the limit! Leave your mask just it is if you like; there is drama in the white plaster. Be whimsical with poster paints or make up. Add some hair or false eyelashes. Go all out with long feathers, chains and beads; be dramatic with intense oil paints or watercolors.

This mask can express whatever side of yourself you would like it to!

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