Mask Making Basics
Below are written instructions on how to create your own Halloween
type masks. Please don't confuse this technique with foam
latex as these are two completely different techniques. Liquid
Latex Mask making is also called "Slush Casting" because
you pour liquid latex into a mold and swish it around, the latex
clings to the mold walls and forms a skin, it is this skin that
becomes the mask. Foam
latex is much more complicated and is the kind of technique
that's used in film work. Quality masks and molds are only constructed
after knowledgeable experience, get some good books
or a video
on the subject if you intend to seriously pursue this discipline.
Mask making requires basic experience with sculpting, mold making and casting. These three skills most often used in creature special effects. Before starting a large complicated project it is wise to practice on smaller projects until you master each basic skill. The Shrunken Head Kit we sell is a excellent place to start, it is basic mask making on a small scale. There are many things a person learns through basic experience, practice will give you the confidence to meet any mask-making challenge.
What you sculpt will determine what your finished piece will
look like. Don't count on paint to hide your mistakes. Plan ahead,
start with a sketch or a photo and then calculate the size of
mask you want and make it slightly larger to compensate for shrinkage
of the mask latex.
You will need to support your sculpt or it will become damaged as you work on it and move it around. Make a base and connect a dowel or pipe to it. Make an armature by attaching the dowel to the square base with the screw. You can use a Styrofoam wig holder as a base, but remember, everything you sculpt must be later pulled out of your mold.
TIP: Clay becomes easier to work as it gets warmer, keep some in the palm of your hand as you work.
For this project we recommend oil based clay.
Start with a rough outline in the shape of mask, begin to blend in the small lumps of clay by pushing them together. Remember that you are only doing a rough, most people get too excited about a detail and over-work it, only to discover that everything else was wrong. The secret is to work the entire project at once. Step back to take a fresh look of your sculpt from time to time. Reference materials essential, use photos, anatomy charts, books or a live model. I like to set the project aside for the night and take a fresh look at it the next morning.
As you sculpt remember that you will have to remove the clay from the mold after the mold plaster has set. Don't make anything too long or too thin, especially things like the ears, nose or hair detail. Make the neck large enough so that you can dig the clay out later.
Once you have completed the sculpt of your mask and perfected
it, it's now time to prepare the mold.
Probably the most important thing you must know about making molds for masks is to use the correct material -- #1 Pottery Plaster. Unlike Casting, Patching, or Plaster of Paris, #1 Pottery Plaster doesn't form a skin when it sets. This enables it to absorb water from the latex when the latex is poured into the mold. Other plasters won't do this. #1 Pottery Plaster is very water absorbent.
Prep the Sculpt by painting it with mold release if you wish. I usually spray it with silicone mold release which is available at a good paint store or craft shop.
Mixing Plaster is an art unto itself:
You can use the manufactures recommendations and mix it 70 parts water to 100 parts of Plaster measured by weight.
You can do what I do and mix it by hand (and experience) until it is as thick as mud. Or. . .
Use the "Island Method" and sift plaster into a standing bucket of water until the water absorbs all the plaster it can take. Eventually as you sift, the plaster will form a little island above the water line. Legends of Plaster Mixing will let this sit still for about 20 minutes until they are ready for application. Moments before the plaster is applied they will take a Jiffy Mixer and stir the plaster.
Try all three and see what works for you. I'm sure that special effects artists would be shocked to know that their is a manufactures recommendation on water to plaster ratio, and they would be even more shocked to see how watery it is.
Hopefully by now you have a good batch of plaster to work onto your sculpt. Start at the bottom and carefully work the plaster onto your sculpt. US Gypsum says to have 27 to 37 minutes before the plaster begins to set. I'd recommend you use a cheap bristle brush and a bit of extra wet plaster as a top coat to work out air bubbles and insure detail. The problem, however, with wet plaster is that it is weak and looses details fast. Dry plaster on the other hand will capture air and seams will be visible. Like I said -- experience!
Now, after having said all this, make sure you cover the sculpt with a plaster shell at least 1" thick. You can reinforce this shell with the use of yellow net.
Wait for the plaster to harden. Plaster doesn't "Dry". Plaster "Sets" and it gets warm or hot during this process. This heat can be an advantage to sculpture removal if you are using oil base clay. Because the heat will soften the clay it becomes easier to remove. And yes, most of the time your wonderful sculpt will be destroyed as you try to remove it.
Remove all the clay from your mold. Stubborn clay deposits can be removed with alcohol or mineral spirits. Mineral spirits can be removed with acetone. Acetone can be removed with evaporation. Use all this stuff in a well ventilated area or you will be removed.
DRYING THE MOLD
This is an important step. Remember that the mold needs to be able to absorb moisture from the slip rubber in order to form a skin. The best way to dry the mold is to put it in dry area and go on vacation for two weeks. The second best way to dry a mold is to place it in front of a fan. The third best way to dry a mold is to put it in front of a heater with a blower. You can force dry the mold in an oven, but be sure you don't let the temperature get above 125 degrees or the cured plaster will break down.
Stir the liquid latex before pouring it into the mold. Fill it
all the way to the top if you have enough material, or slush
it around if you don't. You can also brush it in by hand. Pour
from the bottom up. This allows all the crevices to be completely
filled. Rock and roll the mold so air bubbles have a change to
escape. Let the latex sit in the mold until the skin is about
Pour excess latex back into the container. Allow the mold to drip for about 15 minutes back into the container. Let it dry overnight.
REMOVING THE MASK
Before pulling the part out of the mold brush some talcum powder or baby powder on the inside of the shrunken head. Powder will prevent the mask from sticking to itself.
The best way to paint the mask is with airbrush dyes, either
painted or airbrushed.
If you're lazy and cheap like me you can use any brand of acrylic or latex-rubber based paint. Most colors of acrylic paints will flake off if the mask is handled too much. Special paints designed for latex masks are available. You can also paint it with RMG, Rubber Mask Greasepaint.
To make hair, use a wig (which is usually too small), glue on crepe wool, or punch in animal hair. The crepe wool is available from Special Effect Supply.
Separate the crepe wool into strands for the hair line. Attach the wool to the head with super glue. Use a steam iron to straighten out the wool if you want.
Good Luck and Have Fun,
Materials and Supplies
Oil Based Student Clay
This is a sulfur free clay, perfect for direct contact with tin cure silicone mold making compound. It comes in two colors, cream or brown. It comes in two hardness's, Firm or regular in these configurations. Each pound of clay is wrapped.
Sealant or release agent for latex, plastic, plaster or concrete molds. Ideal for two-part plaster molds and mask making. Easily removed with water. Method: Apply two coats. When final coat is dry, brush (or burnish) with a dry brush or cloth.
Plaster, Stone and Gypsum
Molders' Plaster or #1 Pottery Plaster
Tooling plaster used to make absorption molds. 2,000 psi. set time 27-37 mins.
Tooling gypsum used to make molds. Great for absorption molds. Favorite for making molds for liquid and foam latex. 6,000 psi. set time 25-35 mins.
Slip Casting Latex (Professional Grade) For making Latex Halloween masks and simple latex appliances.
NOTE: There are many ways to paint latex masks. Rubber mask grease paint is only one of them. Please get the video, "Creative Creature Painting" sold by Special Effect Supply for more detailed information.
Rubber Mask Grease Palettes
IMPORTANT NOTE: All Grease and Cream makeup require powdering to "Set" the makeup and remove the shine, please refer to our selection of Face Powders below. Excess powder is removed with a Powder Brush, see Powder and Rouge Brushes. Neutral Set Translucent Face Powder.
Ben Nye Neutral Set Translucent Powder
Mask Cover 15-Color Palette (left), Mask Cover Makeup on right
Rubber Mask Grease Paint:
The "Original" Mask Cover MakeupMehron Mask Cover is the premier choice of professional special effects artists for its incredible effectiveness in covering latex and rubber prosthetics, bald caps, etc. Provides complete coverage and easy blending necessary for realistic results.
Mask Cover (for prosthetics) (102LM)1 oz (28 gm)
Olive Series 5-Color LM Palette (102LM-OP)
Mask Cover Palette contains 15 of the most useful shades of Mask Cover (see picture above of palette) 3.75 oz (105 gm).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Rubber Mask Grease Paint requires powdering to "set" the makeup and remove the shine. Excess powder is removed with a Powder Brush, damp cloth or damp sponge.
Halloween Style Latex Mask
This outline will help you to plan the construction of one over the head Halloween Style Latex Mask. You can obtain most of the materials from Special Effect Supply Corp.
Information and PlanningDo your budget first, this could get expensive.
Sketch your idea out on paper. Designing as you go will waste your time.
Make sure you know what you are doing, recommended books are "Monster Makers Mask Handbook" or the video "Latex Mask from start to Finish" you can get both from SES Corp. An excellent optional video is "Creative Creature Painting."
Step 1. SculptingYou will need:
Armature. (A life-casting, foam body, Styrofoam head, mannequin head or other support for the sculpture.)
Clay. A lot of it. 30 to 40 lbs. of clay will do a full mask. We recommend oil based (the stuff that doesn't dry out.) but water based will do.
Sculpt the clay over the armature until it is to your liking. Remember to compensate for the shrinkage of the latex. Seal the finished sculpture with Sealube or other mold release.
Step 2. Mold MakingYou will need:
Molders' Plaster or UltraCal 30 or other tooling grade gypsum material. Must be absorbent. Plaster of Paris will not work.
Make the walls for a two-part mold. Seal all surfaces with mold release.
Use plaster to make the first half of the mold.
Let the plaster harden, then remove the wall.
Clean up the sculpture and the plaster surfaces. Don't remove the original sculpture.
Seal all surfaces with mold release.
Use plaster to make the second half of the mold.
Let the plaster harden, overnight if possible.
Open the mold
Remove the sculpture (yes it will get damaged)
Clean all mold surfaces thoroughly.
Step 3. Pouring the SlipYou will need:
Mask Latex. (also known as slip latex, slush latex, liquid latex or mask makers latex.)
Colorant if desired.
Close the mold (no mold release is required) and band it.
Mix colorant into the latex if this is your desired procedure.
Fill the mold to the brim and let it sit until the desired skin thickness is achieved.
Pour out excess latex back into the original container and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Let the mold air dry (or a fan) until the latex skin is completely dry (overnight in many cases, sometimes longer.)
Step 4. Remove the MaskYou will need:
Open the mold halves and remove the mask.
NOTE: If you plan to foam fill the mask, do so before you remove it from the mold.
Step 5. PaintingYou will need:
Airbrush dye (get at the local art store.) PAX Paint (see our Creative Creature Painting video) or you can just mix a little Artists' Acrylic Paint (in the tubes) into the liquid latex and use it as paint.
Airbrush or Paint brushes.
Paint or airbrush the mask.
Step 6. Figure FinishingYou will need:
Yak hair, wigs, a shank of human hair, fake beards or mustaches.
Hair Punching Tool
Glue the hair on as needed. For detail work use the hair punching tool.
Step 7. BraggingYou will need:
An ego as big as mine.
Proudly display your creation to anyone who is interested. Make sure they know you made it. You will need not announce that you are proud of it, as they will know this already.
Take orders and sell masks, get your money back for your next project.