How to Make a Paper Mache Mask – 5 Ways

Activities

Paper Mache Masks

Paper mache rocks, and making paper mache masks is a truly awesome activity. Chances are you have everything you need already (flour, newspaper, water...) and you can make a very simple, basic mask or you can go break out a can of whoopa** and use some advanced techniques.

But whichever way you roll, kids love this craft. It may be a little messy, and it may require some patience, but it's all worth it because the end product is generally pretty dang cool.

If you're looking for some instruction, here we break down 5 great tutorials so you can learn how to make a paper mache mask: 

  • Out of a recycled plastic jug
  • With a balloon
  • Using a face mold
  • With facial features, and
  • Of your own face

We've also included a list of some excellent videos where you can learn how to make​ paper mache masks of animals (from giraffes to hyenas), dolls and even monsters. 

Are your ready to get started? We hope so! But before you begin, first you have to make the paper mache! 

What is paper mache?

Let's discuss this medium, shall we? If you're not familiar with it, paper mache, or papier-​mâché, is a French word meaning "chewed paper". It's a versatile, composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, bound with an adhesive such as glue, starch or wallpaper paste, according to our friends over at Wikipedia.

How to make paper mache

​Preparing your own paper mache is ridiculously easy. There are tons of recipes out there, all of them variations using the same few household ingredients, which should be mixed until you have a smooth, lump-free paste. We've highlighted 6 here. 

Recipe 1.

Mix 1 part flour and 1 part water until it has the consistency of glue. You can thin out this mixture if needed by adding some water.

Recipe 2.

Mix ​3/4 cups of white glue and 1/4 cup of water. 

Recipe 3.

Mix 1/2 cup of Elmer's glue and 1/2 cup of water.

Recipe 4.

Mix 1 part flour and 5 parts water. Boil for 3 minutes and allow to cool. This is obviously a bit more involved, but it's also the ideal recipe if you want to make a stronger mask.​

Recipe 5.

Mix 1/2 cup of flour and 1 cup of liquid starch.

Recipe 6.​

Mix 2 cups of flour with 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of table salt.​

Important tips: 

  • Store any unused paste in the refrigerator! Before you use it the next day, pop it in the microwave for about a minute. ​
  • Prepare the paper strips (newspaper and computer paper) before you make the glue, just to prevent it from drying out.​

How to make a paper mache mask out of a recycled plastic jug

Howcast.com has an awesome video on how to make a lion mask using an old water jug. You can check it out here.

You're going to need:

  • An old tablecloth
  • An elastic band
  • Paper mache paste (see recipes above)
  • Decorations
  • White computer paper
  • Newspaper
  • A clean plastic gallon jug with the labels removed

This is a fun but very messy project, so make sure you cover your work space with old newspaper or an old tablecloth (we use an old shower curtain when we do arts and crafts). You'll also want to protect your clothes with a smock.

1. ​Use the knife to cut the jug in half lengthwise. Turn one of the halves upside down and cut out eyes, a mouth, and two holes by the ears where you will eventually tie an elastic band.

Cut the jug in half
Turn the jug upside down

2. Tear up newspaper and computer paper strips by hand. You're going to need lots of them as you're going to want to cover your mask with 3 layers of newspaper and 1 layer of white computer paper.

Tear up newspaper strips.
Tear up strips of white paper

3. Make your paper mache paste.

4. One by one, dip your newspaper strips into the paste, remove any excess, and stick to the jug horizontally. Make sure you don't cover the holes you made for the eyes and mouth. When you finish with the first layer, let it dry completely. 

Masks

5. For the second layer, apply the strips vertically, and for the third layer, apply them horizontally again.

Masks2

7. Once you have 3 layers of newspaper, you can add fun features, like eyebrows, cheekbones, a snout, or whatever else you can think of, using newspaper.

7. Add the final layer using white computer paper, applying the strips vertically.​

Masks3

8. Once it's completely dry, you can decorate it however you want! And don't forget to tie the elastic band to the two holes on either side so you can wear your mask!

Lion mask

How to make a paper mache mask using a balloon

Another option is to use a balloon to make your mask. Wikihow has an excellent tutorial on this, which you can check out right here.

This approach is also quite easy, and the main process of using the paper mache paste to apply strips of newspaper and computer paper is the same as above.

You're going to need:

  • An elastic band
  • Paper mache paste (see recipes above)
  • Decorations
  • Paintbrushes
  • White computer paper
  • Newspaper
  • A balloon

​1. Blow up the balloon to the size you want your mask to be. 

Balloon

2. Prepare your newspaper and computer paper strips and your paper mache paste.

3. Start applying the strips. The first layer should be vertical, the second horizontal and the third vertical. Cover the entire balloon. Now is also the time to add features with the strips. Try adding some lips or some eyebrows!​ When you're done adding your layers and your features, let it dry completely. 

Paper mache mask
Masks

4. The next thing you want to do is insert a pin into the mask to pop the balloon. Then remove the balloon from the mold.

Paper mache mask

5. Now take your scissors and, inserting them in the hole where you removed the balloon, cut the ball in half. 

Masks4

6. Now you have 2 masks that you can decorate as you like! Cut out holes for the eyes and mouth, cut off the bottom half so it's easier to speak, paint it, add some glitter—get creative!

Paper mache mask

How to make a paper mache mask using a face mold

You can follow along in the tutorial below, by intermediate school art teacher Katerina Kyriakakis, as she explains the initial steps for making a paper mache mask using a mold.

You're going to need:

You pretty much already know the drill by now. This method differs only slightly. 

1. Cup up the bulletin board paper into small strips and then apply it to the mask using the glue. 

Tips:

  • Start with the forehead and the sides of the face, as those areas are easiest. Leave the eyes, nose and lips for last. 
  • Be sure to criss-cross the strips as you apply them.
  • Try working standing up, as you'll have a better perspective of the 3D mask.
  • As the strips soak up the glue, they become more malleable, so be sure to smooth them out.
  • When applying the strips to the eyes, nose and mouth, use smaller strips and be sure to firmly press them down to avoid air gaps.
  • The first layer is very very important, so you want to make sure to preserve all of the detail in the plastic mask.

2. In total, you want at least 3 layers, and ideally 4 or 5 layers so the mask is stable enough to paint and decorate. When you finish each layer, be sure to smooth out the mask and press down around the nose, eyes and lips. Apply a thin layer of glue to the mask in between each layer.

3. ​When you're done, and the paper mache has dried, you'll want to remove the mask. You can loosen the seal between the plastic and the paper just by bending the mask slightly. Do that around the entire mask and then grip the edge of the mask with both hands and slide it off with your thumbs on the paper. 

4. Decorate!​

How to make a paper mache mask with facial features 

Here is a great tutorial on how to make a fox mask by Mr. Otter Art Studio. Once you get the principles down, you could make a paper mache mask with all kinds of cool features. 

You're going to need:

  • A balloon
  • Paper mache paste  (see recipes above)
  • Permanent marker
  • Paintbrushes

1. First you're going to want to blow up a big balloon, as this is the kind of mask that will sit on top of your head. You're also going to want to prepare your paper mache paste and strips of newspaper (about 2 to 3 inches wide).

2. First you need to add the features.​ For the fox, she starts by creating a funnel or a cone shape with newspaper, which will serve as the snout, and taping it to the balloon. 

Mask with nose 2

Then she makes ears out of cardboard, and tapes them on as well. 

Adding ears to the mask

At this point, the profile will look like this:

Fox profile

Keep in mind that you can add whatever shapes and features you want, depending on the animal or character you want to make. And be very careful not to pop the balloon, or you're going to have to start over!

3. Now you can begin applying the strips of newspaper and the paper mache paste. You're going to want to apply 2 to 3 layers in total. ​

If you plan on painting your mask (and you probably do), be sure to smooth out the pieces as you apply them.​ According to this tutorial, you don't need to wait for the mask to dry in between applying your layers.

Fox mask

4. When you're finished, prop your mask on a bowl (for example) and let it dry, either overnight or for a few days.

Fox mask drying

5. Once it's dry, you want to pop the balloon and remove it.

6. Then you want to use an x-acto knife the make a cut down the center of the back, about halfway up from the bottom. This is because it's time to try on the mask, so you need to open it up a bit so you can get it over your head. 

Make a cut up the back of the mask

You also want to cut around the base to make room for your neck.

cut the neck of the mask

7. Try your mask on and then use a pencil to draw circles around where you think your eyes are. Use an x-acto knife to cut the circles out.

Masks
Eyes

Try it on and make sure you can see out of those eye holes!

​8. It's decoration time! Grab a pencil or a permanent marker and draw on the details of your design—the eyes, the nose, etc. This way you you're not just painting the mask blindly. 

Mask design

9. Now you're ready to paint! Set your mask on top of a tall spray bottle to hold it upright while you decorate your masterpiece. Important tip: if the paper mache starts to feel wet and crinkle, take a break and let it dry before continuing.

Painted mask
Finished mask

And you're done! Go show off your awesome mask!

How to make a paper mache mask of your own face

If you want to make a paper mache ​mask of your face, then you need to check out Anthony Roy's  2-part video tutorial below. 

You're going to need:

  • Scissors
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scotch tape
  • A tape measure
  • A balloon
  • A marker
  • Paper mache paste (see recipes above)
  • Paintbrushes

1. Measure and cut 2 3-foot sheets of the foil. Place them in a stack and then fold them into 1 foot sections. 

Fold the foil

Then cut along the creases so you're left with a stack of 6 1-foot pieces of foil.

2. Crinkle each piece of foil, and then smooth it out again. Keep it organized in a stack.​

Crinkle the foil

3. The next thing you want to do is mold the foil to your face. Press it against your face and use your hands to define your eyes, nose, mouth, jaw, forehead, etc. Take your time and accentuate all of your features. 

Contour your face

4. Then you want to use a marker and draw a line at the top edge of the forehead and cut away any excess aluminum foil. 

Use a marker

5. Mark your nose with the marker, and then draw a line across the mask 2 centimeters below it. You're essentially going to cut the mask in half.  

Mask

6. Right where the nose is, you want to cut two small slits upwards and fold that part under so it fits under your nose. Try the mask on and mold it to your face again to make sure it fits right. 

Last fitting

7. Apply scotch tape around the edges of the mask to make sure it doesn't move or lose its shape. Place it on your face one more time to make sure it fits well.

​8. Now you're going to join the top and bottom parts of the mask. You originally cut them so you could perfect the nose portion of the mask, and now it's time to put 'em together. This part is a little tricky. Place the bottom half back on your face to see how it fits. 

Bottom half

9. Take the marker and draw a line along your chin on the mask, and cut away any excess foil. It's the same process as with the forehead of the mask. 

Cut the chin line

10. Now you're going to join the top and bottom parts together. You're going to need help for this. Hold the top and bottom parts of the mask to your face, and have another person use scotch tape to tape them together. Then take the mask off, and add some tape to the inside to join the two pieces together.

Mask2

11. Try it on again to make sure it fits, and trim off any excess foil around the edges that may be sticking out and is not part of your face.

12. Stretch one of two long pieces of tape ​across the back of the mask, attaching each side, to ensure that it doesn't lost its shape. If you want to add any embellishments, like rabbit ears or horns, or whatever you can think of, now is the time to do that. Shape them out of tin foil and tape them on.

Tape the back

13. Ok people, it's about to get real! Now comes the paper mache, so prepare your paste and newspaper strips! Anthony recommends cutting the strips, instead of tearing them.

Apply the paper mache to the mask, following the contours of the foil, and try to get all of the bubbles out.  ​

After all the areas of your home from the sub-basement to the attic are thoroughly inspected, it is time to calculate. Your tech has been taking measurements everywhere he has been. He will take these measurements now and figure the level of treatment or protection you may need. There are different types of treatments, such as a chemical spray for easily accessible areas, to an insecticidal foam that is injected into areas that can not be reached. Together you will come up with the best plan for your home and wallet.

Apply the strips vertically and overlap them. Also, make sure they wrap around the backside. 

Overlap the strips

After you complete the first layer, go on and add a second layer of paper mache, this time applying the strips horizontally. Try as best you can to follow the contours of the mask and work around the nose, eyes and other features. You want to be as gentle as possible. Too much pressure will cause the foil to fold.

Mask

Make sure the nose, mouth and eyes are well-outlined. Take a very small piece and apply it under the nose.

Go ahead and check the edges of the mask to make sure the paper is wrapped around them. 

Check paper

Add a few more layers to the side, back and top of the mask, about 6 in total. Then let it dry.

After it's completely dry, your mask is ready for painting! Woo hoo!

14. Anthony recommends a layer of white acrylic paint​ to start, which will then provide you with a "clean" mask that you can decorate however you want. You can add several layers of paint until it's completely white.

White mask

Once it's dry, use a pencil to gently draw the design you want on your mask, and then you can go ahead and paint that baby!

There are SO many different types of paper mache masks you can make, seriously—the sky's the limit. Here are some of our favorite videos.

How to make a paper mache masquerade mask

If you've got big plans to hit up a masquerade ball but just don't have the right mask to wear, here is a fab tutorial from Whimsy Paper Mache on how to whip up a Phantom of the Opera mask. But truth be told, once you understand the technique, you can adapt it and make it however you like!

How to make a paper mache doll mask

​This one is a tad more complicated, but the end result is so dang cute! Whimsy Paper Mache is the place to go for some great ideas.

How to make a paper mache mask of an orangutan

Jonni Good over at Ultimate Paper Mache is pretty much the​ official expert on all things paper mache. You can learn how to make this amazing orangutan on her website. This is an intermediate craft, so it's best to try your hand only if you have some experience. 

Orangutan

Image: Ultimatepapermache.com

If animals are your bag, check out these tutorials to learn how to make a giraffe, a hyena, and a deer!

How to make a paper mache monster mask

This tutorial from Dan at Gourmet Paper Mache ​will blow you away. He teaches us how to make a monster mask and the end result is, well, it's freaking awesome.

How to make a paper mache mask for Day of the Dead

We are mildly obsessed with these masks from over at Made by Toya.​ The process is quite easy and the end result is quite fabulous. 

Day of the Dead masks

Image: Made by Toya

Well that's about it folks. You are now officially experts in paper mache! Well, maybe not experts, but after you do it once, you know the basics.

Did you end up making a mask with one of the tutorials we highlighted? We'd love to see it and show it off here. Send your photos to funtimes@tinyfry.com!

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