Introduction: Creating Any Shape Papier Mâché Mask

Picture of Creating Any Shape Papier Mâché Mask

This instructable will teach you how to make a light weight and comfortable mask of limited only by your imagination!  These can be used as wearable masks, wall hangings, or masks to put somewhere and scare the tar out of a friend, relative or enemy.

While many of us wear masks for Halloween, and believe me this is a great way to make your own unique Halloween mask, it's just pain fun to make a mask anytime of year!

If you create a mask, post it, I would LOVE to see it!

Let's get started....


A wonderful instructbale reader pointed out to me that this technique is used by a wonderful artist named Jonni Good, I picked up this way of making masks from a workshop taught by another art teacher, I had no idea that this trickles back down to Ms. Good and her years of work!  So do check her out, I did and I was BLOWN AWAY by what she can do!

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

Blue Shop Towels
Plaster of Paris
White School Glue
Thin elastic
Hot Glue Gun
Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline)
Two large bowls
Face/Mask/Face Form (I really like the Make-a-Mask® Reusable Face Forms)
Oil Based Clay (Molding Clay) - The more oil the better

Step 2: Gather Your Materials and Your Idea

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Pick out your mask form and your idea for a mask.

Step 3: Build the Mask

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With the oil based clay create what you want your mask to look like.  The clay is going to act as a mold so, what you create with the clay will be what you mask winds up looking like.  Fine details can be added using the mache, and not needed during the clay process.

Don't worry about the clay color, it make no difference at all what colors are being used.

(Side note: I've made several of these, I was bad about taking pictures so you will this process in the form of several different masks)

Step 4: Petroleum Jelly

Picture of Petroleum Jelly

Once your mask mold is finished, take petroleum jelly and rub it all over your mask.  If you are using a form that has empty spots, go ahead and put the petroleum jelly there as well.  The petroleum jelly will allow you to remove the paper mache from the mold.  Failure to do this process will cause you grief later as you are scraping clay out of your mask.  (trust me I did this once by mistake)

Step 5: Twice As Nice

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Mask molds can be used more than once!  So you could make an army of minions if you felt the need.

Step 6: Papier Mâché

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This is a messy process, make sure you are in a work space you don't mind getting dirty or cover things in plastic.

Take the blue shop paper towels and rip them into sheets.  Wet the sheets in a bowl and ring them out.  This helps break down the binder in the towel.  Mix equal amounts of plaster with white glue then add a splash of vinegar.  The vinegar keeps the plaster from getting to hard to fast.

I like doing things by cup so:

1 Cup White School Glue
1 Cup Plaster of Paris
1 Teaspoon of Vinegar

Once your mixture is nice and smooth, dip the damp paper towel into the mixture and place over your mask form.  Use your fingers to smooth the towel evenly over the mask and get you details in.  If you create a wrinkle, and you don't want it there, now is the time to remove it or you are stuck with it.

You CAN tear the towel into strips and dip, but the nice part about this paper towel is it's durable and soft, I would keep it pretty big chunks.

This is when you can add details as well, use small bits of paper to create bumps and so on, then sandwich them in another layer of paper towel.

Two layers is plenty to get a nice sturdy mask.  You can make more layers, but I like just sticking with two.

Step 7: Dried

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Once the mask is dry, you can remove it from the hump mold.

Carefully take an edge and lift it away from the clay.  Don't rush this, you don't want to rip the mask. 

It will likely still be soft, right now the clay and petroleum jelly will be keeping the underside moist. 

Once the mask is off it's form you can leave it so the back dries.

Step 8: Details

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Now, you have an edge around your mask, it's time to trim and cut out what you need.  If you have a hole in your mask or it ripped, at this time you can whip up a little of the Papier Mâché mixture, dip a small bit of a paper towel in the mixture, and fill it from behind and let it dry.

Step 9: Paint It! Bling It!

Picture of Paint It! Bling It!

Using acrylic paints paint you mask to get your desired look.  You can also add other details.  For example, on my cats, I used an x-acto knife to cut holes on it's cheeks then used an 80 lb fishing line to make whiskers.  I glued the whiskers in place from behind with a hot glue gun.

Once your paint is dry, you can cut slits and "string" the elastic through to make it a mask.  I used a dab of hot glue on the interior of the mask after I knotted the elastic to keep it in place.

Step 10: Gallery

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Here are examples of some of my masks as well as some student (camper) masks.

Step 11: Poofrabbit's Tips and Tricks

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Take your time, it's not a race.  I forget this great tip myself, I get excited, as time goes on I slow down, but learn from me....SLOW DOWN.

Draw it out!  It's always helpful to draw out your idea so you have a good solid design.

Plaster gets hot.  When plaster gets wet it starts a happy chemical reaction, that reaction creates heat.  You can burn yourself with plaster.  The vinegar helps with this, but just be mindful so you are not bathing in plaster.

Paint is your friend!  If you made an error it's amazing what you can hide with paint!

ENJOY!  No matter what, always enjoy what you do.  I don't feel there is a right or wrong way to art as long as you are enjoying yourself and learning!


MartaP32 made it! (author)2017-10-27

Thank you for posting this instruction, I may have just found a new hobby! Making a plague doctor mask for my daughters Halloween costume and i couldn't be happier with the results so far! I used leftover muslin instead of shop towels but other than that I followed instructions to a T. Originally I was going to attempt to sculpt it out of regular paper mache I remembered from childhood until i stumbled across your post. Casting from clay is a much better idea, and I'm looking forward to a sturdier mask from the mix. Just a couple more hours left until I can take it off the mold... this is most definitely going up on the wall after the holidays, I cant wait!
Thank you again for taking the time to post this with clear instructions.

pokiespout (author)2017-04-02

This could not be more different from my process, but its really interesting and I may have to try something along these lines. Cool stuff!

LaurenD34 (author)2016-03-02

I made a kind of complicated mask so im going to attibute my problems to that however it was extremely hard to dry because vaseline does not dry at all. therefore my mask ripped every time i tried to handle it. Also I wish you said how much plaster to cover the strips with. It could be my own ignorance but my mask is just crumbling every time I touch it. But thanks for the general steps, it justs that i was trying to add horns and that just messed up everything.

EmiliaC (author)2015-12-29

I'm an art teacher short on modeling clay. Would it be possible for me to have students use the same technique ( with the mold, jelly and shop cloth) either A.) directly on the mold or b.) using other materials to build up the surface, like newspaper and masking tape with jelly on top?

HeidiM8 made it! (author)2015-08-09

Six students and I made masks together. It was dicy having 6 kids do the paper maché quickly, and, having no idea how much maché googoo we'd need, we made a first batch of 16 oz glue and plaster, vinegar, and then quickly made a 2nd batch the same size for the rest in the same bowl. One kid made too many heavy layers leaving the last kid a little short on mixture. Some were a bit too liberal with the vaseline, and the last kid's mask failed - and we learned the most from that one. All in all, for art students (and teacher) it was a great learning process including design, sculpting, papier maché, patience, painting and finishing. Five 2-hour classes (could have done it in 4 with a rest for drying on day 3. Thank you!

L.J.O (author)2015-07-19

I want to ask if there's a way to smoothen the surface, because it looks rough almost in all masks and what I have in mind should be clean smooth surface, any tips?

ashabee96 made it! (author)2015-04-25

I needed a mask for my Articuno cosplay and this along with crcampeau's tutorial ( I did it! :)

Jamie FranzH (author)2015-02-22

Great instructable! I made an Animal mask for my rock star costume.

lmmom64 made it! (author)2015-02-15

This is an owl my son and I made for his drama class. The instructions were so easy to follow and so great we're going to do a wolf mask next. My only question is, any tips on cleanup? How do I get the dried plaster of paris and glue out of my bowl?

SamanthaW1 (author)2014-12-08

We are using reusable white face masks and paper mache. Do I need to cover the masks prior to adding the paper mache?

amanda.millson (author)2014-11-01

Fabulous instructions which I am going to follow to the letter next week as I have been tasked with making a troll (from Frozen) mask for my daughter's dance show!! Thank you

jill20 made it! (author)2014-10-24

Masks made by kids age 7-13 using the instrucatable. Thanks!

CortniD (author)2014-10-21

Thanks so much for this "instructable" !!!! because of your kindness my Vintage Halloween Party is going to be a big hit! I would have been lost if I had not found this page. It has taken a few trial runs, but I think we have it figured out now! I was wondering though if there is a specific type of Plaster of Paris that was used in this tutorial?

thistimenew (author)2014-10-20

Do you ever have a problem with the mask fitting on the face? Because you build up the front of the mask mold with clay, and it is hollow, the mask may not have the right shape to sit on the nose/brow..? This may not be a problem, but I want to try really building up the brow area, and I'm afraid it will sit awkwardly when someone tries to wear it. Could you glue felt to the inside? hmmm...

ljacobs2 (author)2014-10-10

How long does it take to fully dry before you can take it off the mold?

poofrabbit (author)ljacobs22014-10-13

You can pull it off the mold in 12 to 24 hrs then give it another day to dry off the mold

ljacobs2 (author)2014-10-10

How long does it take to dry?

poofrabbit (author)ljacobs22014-10-13

24 to 48 hrs :)

ljacobs2 made it! (author)2014-10-13

Thanks for the great tutorial!! I made this mask and used the directions exactly as you posted them. I have never done anything like this before and it was so much fun!!

HPandLOTR (author)2014-01-07

that's really good :)

Honus (author)2013-11-22

That is a really great process for making masks- well done!

poofrabbit (author)Honus2013-11-22

Thanks so much!

zombiexgirl (author)2013-10-18

This is my new favorite way to paper mache, so thanks so much for posting this. Is there any trick to getting the left over vaseline off the inside of the mask?

poofrabbit (author)zombiexgirl2013-11-03

I also love this technique! You can use a towel to wipe off any excess that may be left. I didn't have a whole heap in mine, I did a wipe down then added a acrylic paint. I had one of my masks on Halloween no issues with paint or pealing so my assumption is that got off what it needed to. :)

poofrabbit (author)poofrabbit2013-11-22

oh oops I already answered this, lol!

poofrabbit (author)zombiexgirl2013-11-22

I have not found any left over Vaseline being an issue on the mask. I give it a generous but thin coat. I've made several of these now and a wipe with a paper towel on the inside of the mask then painting over the inside with acrylic paint appears to do the trick. It's not greasy and the paint holds. :) Thanks for the comment and if you make a mask do share!

poofrabbit (author)zombiexgirl2013-11-03

I also love this technique! You can use a towel to wipe off any excess that may be left. I didn't have a whole heap in mine, I did a wipe down then added a acrylic paint. I had one of my masks on Halloween no issues with paint or pealing so my assumption is that got off what it needed to. :)

Beglas (author)2013-10-06

That's donna be reaaly funny mask)Thanks for an idea)

poofrabbit (author)Beglas2013-10-06

not a problem!

arenfroe moore (author)2013-09-29

Awesome! Thank you! My youngest son wants to be a piranha plant from Mario Bros for Halloween and I'm hoping I can make the head using this method :) I'll defiantly let you know how it turns out.

Oh yes you definitely could. That's a very round shape, you might consider going somewhere like walmart an finding a ball the size of your sons head. You could then build up on the ball with the oil based clay, cover it with Vaseline then put this type of mache over the top. You could use a bucket or trash can to hold the ball in place while you work. Then you could simply pop the ball. Just an idea. :)

arenfroe moore (author)2013-09-29


arenfroe moore (author)2013-09-29

Your masks are amazing! I can't wait to try it out for my kiddos for Halloween! How would suggest making one to cover the whole head?

Thank you very much! To make one for the whole head, I would use the mask shape of your choice then create a head the basic shape of the individual wearing it. You could use wadded up paper, sacks, anything that's firm. I would then wrapped it in saran wrap or tinfoil. If you have a mannequin head that would help but those heads (even the Styrofoam heads you can get) tend to be smaller than the heads a lot of people need. Then do the same steps and build your layers over the entire head. When dry you can pull out the wadded paper. Just make sure you Vaseline the whole thing, if all else fails and you can't get the head out, cut the back of the mask to open it up remove everything inside, then use the same paper towel and mache mixture to close the splice back up on the interior of the mask. I'd love to see what you came up with!

Antzy Carmasaic (author)2013-08-13

I made a puppet head using newspaper strips and clear glue. Dried it in sun after each layer and the end product was very stiff. But now it's rainy season and it has absorbed moisture from air and become all soggy. It's even starting to lose shape.

Will your recipe be able to hold it's shape in high humidity? Looks better since you used plaster of paris.

Yes the plaster should keep it all in place. Also, I would suggest painting it with acrylic paints on both sides of the mask. Acrylic acts almost like a plastic coating so moisture won't sneak in on you. :)

I made a puppet head, so it's a full 3D figure with a hole where the neck joins. So could only apply generous coatings of acrylic on the outer side. But even that coating has now become sticky.

I'm considering covering it in layers of your mixture and after drying, taking out the old soggy layers in chunks out of the neck hole. That might save the puppet head maybe.

You could try that covering it with this mix. IF you do, I would not add the vinegar because it won't hurt anything if yours dries fast. What is in the center of the head? Is it hollow or solid?

The center is hollow. It has an animatronic mouth, so some electrical components are stuffed in there. Will try out your way this weekend and post a pic of how it turns out. Fingers crossed ;P

Humm, my guess is the moister is working it's way in then from the interior of the head. Likely a pain to take it all out and do the same mixture on the interior and then paint it. Do keep me posted!

Excellent instructable very well done, thanks for sharing

Many thanks I'm glad so many are enjoying it!

mini_mom (author)2013-08-09

These are great maybe you should sell these at a booth somewhere as they are very professional looking.

poofrabbit (author)mini_mom2013-08-09

Thanks a million! I am planning to help some kids make some for Halloween this year, you never know word might get out, lol!

TheMandalaLady (author)2013-08-08

This is so great. I've used regular paper towels in the past...I like your idea of the blue towels better. will definitely try this. Thanks for sharing.

Most welcome, these have such a soft nice texture and really soak up the mache! Because they are so thick it doesn't take a lot of layers, making this so so easy.

Carol at Natures Sol (author)2013-08-05

I love this! I have had a papier mache urge for quite some time now. I can remember using strips of newspaper to do it. For my little ones, the "Lone Ranger" style mask would be perfect for them to work with. I will definitely have to try. You are great Poof!

Oh yes this is SOOO much easier than old school newspaper strips. The mask is really very soft and has a bit of give, which is helpful and much more comfortable for little tikes. :)

kgirl5523 (author)2013-08-04


poofrabbit (author)kgirl55232013-08-04

Many thanks!

About This Instructable



Bio: I adore instructables and use it when I'm playing with ideas for my students (I'm a certified art teacher and the Art Director ... More »
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