"I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. Go back to the shadow. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun! You shall not pass!”
Everyone needs to channel a little Gandalf in their life from time to time. I find my own outbursts to be taken much more seriously when I'm donning this wizard-like costume. Well, slightly more seriously.
My apparent need to walk around in flowing robes, wielding staffs, and quoting various lines from both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter made it clear to me that I would need a proper mask to really be legit and garner the respect I clearly deserve. So I set out to create one based on my own features to make it as life-like as possible.
Step 1: Sculpting
To make this mask as realistic as possible, I decided to make it out of latex. There are a lot of special materials required for this. I got all of mine from Monster Makers
, whom you know I love. It's one-stop shopping from a very helpful shop in Ohio that specializes in making only superrad stuff.
I happened to have a plaster cast of my own face, but this could also be done on a styrofoam head with the prominent features mapped out to match your own. Using my own face allowed me to follow the contours more closely to create shapes that would look like my own natural aging.
I gathered some reference photos to help me along, and sculpted on top of my face cast with plastalina clay. Here you can see my first rough sculpt, followed by some refining I did. Since I was going to cast this in latex, I knew that every detail was important.
Step 2: Molding
I used plaster to create a mold for the latex to be poured into (specifically, Hydrocal). First I needed to create a well for the plaster to be poured into. As the plaster started to set up, I could mound it up on top of the sculpt, which meant that I didn't need to create retaining walls that were very high.
I used WED clay to create a base and walls along the sculpt. Next, I mixed up the Hydrocal and spread it along the sides of the sculpt, and drizzle over the top. It's important to do this slowly and carefully, as you want to make sure you pick up every detail.
After pouring the initial coat of Hydrocal over the sculpt, I continued to mound it up and create a flat top to the mold. When the mold is turned over, this creates a flat base which makes it easier to manage.
Step 3: Pouring the Latex
After the Hydrocal was set, the clay was removed and cleaned out from the mold. There had been one air bubble right near the eye, which left something like a mole on the eyelid. I liked it, so I left it! If there are corrections to be made, it's easy to just fill in holes the more plaster, or carve away extra build up with a sculpting tool.
I used very basic mask latex for the casting, which is super easy to use. I poured the latex into the mold, sloshed it around to make sure that to get it in all the tiny spaces, let it sit for a minute, and poured out the excess. Then I tapped the mold a whole bunch to get out any air bubbled (believe me, there will be air bubbles - esp around the nose!
After this layer of latex was set, I repeated the process several times until the mask was as thick as I wanted it to be.
When the final layer of latex was set, I removed it from the mold and dusted it with cornstarch to keep it from sticking to itselt. Traditionally, talcum powder is used, but it's so bad for your lungs, why risk it!
Next I cut away the excess latex and hand sewed it to a wool hood so it would fit over my entire head. Trying it on was like looking into a creepy future-mirror. Note to self: moisturize daily!
Step 4: Painting
Painting a latex mask is pretty rewarding. You can paint over and over until you get what you want. I don't know how to use an airbrush, but if I did, the texture on this thing would have been even better!
You need special paints or at least a latex base to mix with your paints for latex masks. Again, Monster Makers has a great selection of supplies to get you going.
I had a hard time getting a nice balance between a warm flesh tone, and an old wizard pallor. You can see I started with a slick coating of flesh tone, and painted in some dark shadows. Next I added veins and liver spots to really add some aging. I didn't get too detailed, but tried to hit it just enough for some realism.
Step 5: Adding Hair
I bought some long white tracks of hair to add to the mask. I was able to sew the hair through the wool cap and the latex to build up the layers of hair from the bottom. For the front and part in the hair, I wanted a more realistic finish. To achieve this, I added a lace piece and ventilated pieces of hair like making a proper wig.
Ventilating is exactly like the latch kit rugs of ages ago. You feed a loop through one hole in the lace, and pull the loose ends through the loop and tighten the knot. This technique gave me lots of control about how the visible edges of the hair would look, and I'm really please with the final result.
Since facial hair is usually much coarser, I needed a completely different set of hair for the moustache. I scavenged a cheap, frizzy white wig, and sewed the hair directly through the latex.
Step 6: Finishing
That's everything! Because the mask was sculpted onto a cast of my own face, it fits snugly against my eye sockets, upper lip and jaw, and it gets pretty sweaty under there! Nonetheless, it was worth doing, as it created the most realistic shape for my own face, producing the best effect.
Now when I shout “I have not passed through fire and death to bandy words with a witless worm!" people take me seriously.
More or less.