How to make a mask (a WiLD mask!)

September 9th, 2012 Comments 0

How do I show pictures of masks without freaking you out?  They’re sinister just by being masks.  With all the facial recognition portions of our brains I think they have an enormous power, not supernatural, but… stirring.  I definitely had a ‘moment’ whilst making this one.  Here was the process:

Step 1:
Make a base layer mask on your face, using gummed paper.  Theatre designer Steve Denton taught me this process, it’s an easy, cheap and environmentally friendly way to make a mask that fits your face perfectly. 

Start by taping first around your crown and then under your chin and over the top of your head.  Then you gradually fill in the gaps.  For the first layer put the tape gummy side out.

mask 01

It looks slimy and wet, and it actually… is, but it’s also fun!  Like a facial with absolutely no beautifying properties.  Actually the inside is mostly dry, so it’s not too bad.  I switched from blue to brown tape because the blue tape was too thick.  This turns out to be a useful way to see what I did first and second.

To begin with you have to manipulate the tape every once in a while to make sure you get a good nose shape rather than a big domed nose face.  Maybe there’s a better way to do this, but I haven’t figured it out yet.  I think lying on your back and having someone make a mask on you would solve this problem.

mask 02

Making it on myself with the help of a mirror made it easy to get in really close to my eyes without inadvertently gluing my eyelashes together.

mask 05

Here’s the base mask with several layers of tape over the whole face.  You can see there’s a better fit over the eyebrows, nose and forehead than there is around the mouth, but I tweak that later.  I’m actually smiling in this photo so I don’t look too scary.

mask 03

Taking it off – the stocking-hat protected my hair from getting glued into the mask.  Before taking it off I gave it a blast with a hair dryer.  Then I let it dry overnight.

mask 07

Step 2:
Once it’s dry you can sculpt it with the mask sitting on a table.  Here I’ve added eyebrows, mouth creases and cheeks.  I also cut out the mouth, remade it and then cut out the shape I wanted.  It’s winking – I just haven’t done the second eye yet.  Even with the very first eyebrow it started to come to life, enough to make me want to put it on and show everyone.

mask 09

I still use the mirror at this point, trying on the mask every few minutes so that I can see what needs to change.  It looks surprisingly different on a face compared to just sitting on a table.  Somehow I can see asymmetry more easily with it on my face.


It was at this point that I tried it on for Rob.  He hadn’t seen the new eyes yet.  He liked it but said it could still be a bit evil or ghoulish (which isn’t what I want for this character).  I agreed.  It was happy with a dark side… (maybe it was the way I wore it?)

mask 12

In the image below you can see I have added much bigger rosy cheeks.  This solved the ‘evil’ problem.  I think it must be something to do with baby faces – we all love fat babies!  It was at this point that every time I put it on I instinctively started to jiggle and breathe differently, and then suddenly I couldn’t stop giggling.  The mask had come to life.  I went and danced around the garden for a bit.  The way I had imagined the character would move had evolved into something much clearer and more rounded.

You can also see that I’ve changed the shape of the nose, tidied up the mouth and nostrils and a few other bits and pieces.         

mask 13

Step 3, 4, 5:
When it’s bone dry I’ll give it a light sanding with a very fine sandpaper.  Then I’ll paint it and finally decorate it with…

Ooh, but I’m not going to show you any of that.  For that you’ll have to come and see the show! 
Book your tickets now!

mask 14

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