Introduction: Plague Doctor Mask for Halloween.

Picture of Plague Doctor Mask for Halloween.

Here are the instructions for my plague doctor mask for Halloween.
The principles of this method can easily be adapted to make other designs of mask.

A Black Death Plague doctor
(Italian: Medico Della Peste, Dutch: Pestmeester, German: Pestarzt)
was a special medical physician who saw those who had the plague.
The beaks of the masks would have been filled with aromatic herbs, this was designed to protect the wearer from putrid air, which at the time was thought to be the cause of infection.
So it was a sort of early version of a bio-hazard mask.

This instructable is for the mask only, to complete the Plague Doctor costume you should add a long coat
with a hood or wide brimmed hat.

Step 1: Making the Mask - Step One - Materials

Picture of Making the Mask - Step One - Materials

The things you need to start are a roll of cling film food wrap and a roll of gummed brown paper tape and a bowl of water.
You will also need either a mirror so you can see what you are doing, or a friend to help you.
Cut the tape into short strips ranging from 75mm to 150mm
For the next two steps you have to hope that you do not have any unexpected visitors.
You now need to wrap your head in cling film, preferably leaving your eyes mouth and nose clear but making sure that your hair is covered.

That done you can start sticking the gummed tape to your head.
Take one strip at a time and wet it in the water and apply to your cling film covered head.
Build up about three layers of overlapping strips.
You should end up with a mask with just your eyes, nose and mouth clear.
Now you have to let it dry - I found that in a warm room it takes about half an hour to become dry enough to remove.
It will still not be dry enough to work on so put it in a warm place for about an hour.

Step 2: Making the Beak.

Picture of Making the Beak.

The pieces for the beak were cut from a sheet of heavyweight paper and fixed together with the same gummed tape.

Once the joints were dry I built up about three layers of tape on the beak.

For the eyepieces/ goggles I covered a couple of small spice jars with cling film and built up a layer of gummed tape.
I did not photograph this part.

Step 3: Assembling the Parts.

Picture of Assembling the Parts.

You should now have the head, eye pieces and beak.
They can now be fixed together, again using gummed tape.
Start by applying the tape to the outside of the mask to hold the pieces in place.
Allow to dry.
Now add a layer of gummed tape to the inside of the mask, this will increase its rigidity,
It is worth doing this holding the mask up to a bright light so that you can reinforce thin patches.
Allow to dry.
At this stage I decided that I would give the mask surface a bit of texture using flexible decorators caulk.
This is cheap to buy and fairly quick drying.
I also cut the nostril slits in the beak and gave them a bit of shape with the caulk.
You can also add  the fixing elastic at this time, I stapled it to the inside of the mask and covered the exposed staples on the outside with caulk.
I allowed the caulk to dry overnight.

You can now paint the mask.
I used a cream coloured vinyl satin paint.
I painted the inside of the eye pieces black.
When the paint was dry I added the eye piece covers, these were made from expanded aluminium mesh that was sprayed gold and shaped round the jars that I used to form the eyepieces.
I attached the mesh by binding on with self amalgamating tape.

Total time to make the mask was about three and a half hours spread over four days.
Not sure of the cost as I had all the materials that I needed.
The same principle of using gummed tape can of course be used to construct other designs.


freepancho (author)2013-09-24

This is really awesome! But (and I'm not sure if this is true) I think that plague doctors put red glass in the eye slots. But awesome project, very cool!

chuckr44 (author)freepancho2016-10-28

Probably not true. I've read 2.5 books on the plague of 1347-1349 (the main plague that killed 30% of Europe on average) with many sources of people who were there from 1347-1349, and no glass was mentioned in these masks. Glass was very expensive in those days so it was not likely used. They did put herbs in the beaks because they thought it kept "ill vapors" away.

yellowcatt (author)chuckr442016-10-28

Although the plague ravaged Europe in the 14th century, killing nearly two-thirds of its population, the earliest description of the mask dates from the 17th century. Charles de Lorme, chief physician to Louis XIII and likely inventor behind the design, wrote:

The nose [is] half a foot long,
shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each
side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along
with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed
further along in the beak. Under the coat we wear boots made in Moroccan
leather (goat leather) from the front of the breeches in smooth skin
that are attached to said boots, and a short sleeved blouse in smooth
skin, the bottom of which is tucked into the breeches. The hat and
gloves are also made of the same skin…with spectacles over the eyes.

chuckr44 (author)yellowcatt2016-10-29

Thanks! Good to know. There are several more plagues after the 1349 one. One in 1665, followed by the great London fire of 1666.

chuckr44 (author)chuckr442016-10-28

Free EPUB books on the plague here:

yellowcatt (author)freepancho2013-09-25

Thank you. You are correct that the actual plague doctors would probably have had glass to protect their eyes, not sure about it being red though.

freepancho (author)yellowcatt2013-10-01

I'll look into it further, but i'm definitely using this for halloween!

yellowcatt (author)freepancho2013-10-01

I hope it works well for you.
Unfortunately for me other commitments will probably prevent me going to any Halloween events this year.

The Creater256 (author)2015-10-27

interesting I'm making one for Halloween

mccubee made it! (author)2015-10-21

i made mine out of plaster and yarn so i can wear it

twashmon (author)2013-10-22

i finished mine, but i had to improvise.... alot.
i ended up making it with masking tape, unfortunately i could not find the tape you suggested at the time of night i was making it, also, the masking tape did not hold up, i would not suggest any of you try it lmao, i had to go over it with duct tape, it was very flimsy like you had said it would be, i ended up grabbing some cheap sunglasses and popped the lenses out and shaped them with a dremal to make my goggles, i used elastic as well, also added elastic to the back and stapled some velcro onto it for a good hold.

twashmon (author)2013-10-21

do you know if duct tape will work, or is that a bad idea?

yellowcatt (author)twashmon2013-10-21

Not sure, duct tape would give a more flexible mask. The gummed tape, when it is built up to several layers is quite ridged. Duct tape would have the advantage of being quicker to work with as you would not have to wait for it to dry before adding another layer.

twashmon (author)yellowcatt2013-10-21

thanks alot for all the info, i appreciate it :)

jeoncs (author)2013-10-21

I've worked with fiberglass resin and this would work pretty decent for a base and then sand it down. After that you'd be able to apply bondo and really get a nice finished product. I love the gummed tape idea though. I used to use cardboard and paper mache but I think I am going to give this a whirl.

jbrauer (author)2013-10-21

You should sell those on etsy. That design has really good proportions, and a nice creep factor. Looks very close to the original in the old woodcut.

I did better last year, but I've sold a few plague doctor masks this year.

twashmon (author)2013-10-21

i wonder if you can cover the finished product in bondo and sand it down for a smoother look, i dont know how it would adhere to the product though, nor do i know how well the paint would hold up without using spray paint.

yellowcatt (author)twashmon2013-10-21

I think the best thing would be to try something smaller with the products first as a test piece to make sure that they are all compatible.

A friend did make a helmet using a body filler like bondo, It worked well and looked very good, it was quite heavy though compared to to the gummed tape construction.

cortchops (author)2013-09-21

thank for the help i made this one last year and it was fun, plus i got to scare some people.

Ellinga (author)2013-02-26

Would masking tape be ok?

ethorstenn (author)2012-11-28

The first thing i thought when I saw this mask was if I take off the nose and make the right adjustments i would have a combine (civil protection) mask from Half-Life 2

yellowcatt (author)ethorstenn2012-11-29

I see what you mean, the construction technique is easily adaptable.
For that I would build up the shape for the mask in modelling clay, cover that in the cling film wrap and apply the gummed tape.

yellowcatt (author)2012-11-22

Posting the correct episode link this time:
This Week in Microbiology episode #45

yellowcatt (author)2012-11-22

A bit of shameless self promotion.
A picture of my mask has been used for the episode picture for this weeks edition of the This Week in Microbiology pocdast;

They also give a link back to this Instructable.

aresw (author)2012-10-31

this was an awesome idea, you save this year hahaha

I had to improvise a little but the end result was really good

yellowcatt (author)aresw2012-10-31

Excellent work.

linrodann (author)2012-10-30

Fantastic technique! I can't wait to try it. :)

yellowcatt (author)linrodann2012-10-30

Thanks, this was the first time is a few years that I have made any masks.
In the 1980's I made some masks for a theatre group and several for some friends who were going to a science fiction convention.
Unfortunately the masks have long gone and I have no photographs of them.
A friend who is an accomplished artist and at the time was working as a theatrical props man improved on my technique and made some really beautifully finished character masks.

cortchops (author)2012-10-18

i was wondering how much tape did you use? like how big was the roll?

yellowcatt (author)cortchops2012-10-19

I did not actually check how much gummed tape I used for this but I think that it would be less than 10 meters of 50mm wide tape, that was making several layers to make a very tough mask.

The rolls of tape are about £6.00 for a 200m roll.
I have a roll that I use for sealing the backs of picture frames.
Unless you are near an art/picture framing supplies shop I think that getting it from ebay is the best option:

cortchops (author)yellowcatt2012-10-19

thanks. And i'm gonna get the gummed tape at staples, I saw some there about a month ago.

yellowcatt (author)2012-10-18

Here is another mask, I think the method is too similar to warrant a separate instructable. The only difference is that I formed the face in Plasticine, coated that in cling film and the gummed tape.

Oh, I think every awesome project deserves its own Instructable :D You can always do a Photo Instructable and reference other Instructables that used the techniques you used!

MissouriVillian (author)2012-10-17

How sturdy is this? Say, would it survive long periods in the closet? The materials are pretty affordable so I'm quite interested.

I don't foresee any problems with durability, so long as it is kept dry then it should last very well.

I have been working on a couple of other masks, I hope to put those up tomorrow.

drawingdiego (author)2012-10-14

Where did you get the aluminium mesh for the eyes? I'd really love to know.

yellowcatt (author)drawingdiego2012-10-14

The aluminium mesh came from a car spares and repairs shop. It is used with car body filler, bridging compound and glass fibre kits to provide reinforcement.
A 25cm x 20cm sheet costs a couple of pounds:

drawingdiego (author)yellowcatt2012-10-14

Thank you very much! I've been looking for that type of mesh for a while now!

yellowcatt (author)2012-10-12

HAha yes.
I did wonder about including that picture.

AlternateLives (author)2012-10-11

Strangely enough, this kinda reminds me of Spy vs Spy.

Nice Job, by the way!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-10-11

That is very cool! Do you think it would work to do the beginning tape part and cover your eyes too?

If you had someone helping you then yes you could, I was working alone so I needed to keep my eyes clear to see what I was doing.
It is important to cover any part of your skin that is going to have tape on it with the cling film, the gummed tape is very sticky and would be difficult to remove without the cling film.

I should have mentioned that you can get the gummed tape from picture framing suppliers

Thanks! Where to get the tape was actually going to be my second question :)

This is where I got mine from:,8227,1653.aspx

But I see it is available from ebay:

Dusk Shadows (author)2012-10-11

Awesome dude your shore 2 win!

yellowcatt (author)2012-10-11

I have now entered the mask challenge.

sherrycayheyhey (author)2012-10-11

This mask reminds me of the part in the movie Beetlejuice where the couple distorts their faces, seen here.

scoochmaroo (author)2012-10-11

Well done! You should enter it in the mask challenge!

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