Quick Easy Leather Mask





Introduction: Quick Easy Leather Mask

You will need:

veg tanned leather, 4-6 oz
olfa knife (box cutter) with a fresh blade
bevelling tool (optional)
tragacanth gum (also optional)
burnishing tool/edge slicker (even more optional)
hot water (not optional)
acrylic paint (preferably soft bodied) and/or leather dye (assuming you want to paint the mask after)
All of the leather masks are made with vegetable tanned leather. Everyone has a preference; I prefer to work with 5-6oz leather, which has a weight and thickness that I find molds best and yields the best results. Some prefer lighter leather, but I like a bit of substance – much heavier though and we would be better off making armor.

Step 1: Trace Desired Mask Pattern

Leather with the pattern traced onto the back side.

Step 2: Cut Out the Mask

Mask right side up, all cut out.
Once the mask blank is cut out, the edges need to be examined: often they will have snags or burrs, especially at tight corners. Any delicate corrections can be made, before moving on to the next step – bevelling the edges. Some people skip this part but I feel it makes the finished piece look that much more finished. If you don’t have a bevelling toolthough, don’t fret! Your mask will be fine.

Step 3: (This Step Applies If You Have a Bevelling Tool)

This step also helps to smooth out any of the snags that you may have missed, and creates a nicely rounded edge (after you’ve burnished it).

Step 4: Soaking and Molding the Mask

Once this is done, you are ready to soak the mask in hot water for approximately 5 minutes or until you stop seeing bubbles forming on the underside of the leather. The hotter the water, the less time you will have to sculpt it after, and the harder it will end up. If the water is really hot you will also notice more shrinkage. Tempting as it may be, do not attempt to create boiled leather, by dousing your project in boiling water. I tried

I started molding while it was drying. When it is removed from the water, the leather should be flexible and soft. Lay it on a towel for... well, you have a while. Initially, the leather is too wet to maintain any form. You can heat it with a hair dryer or in the oven (on VERY low heat!), but I prefer to let nature take its course. After a while, you will be able to mold it and the leather will start to hold the shape. The best way to make sure that the mask is a comfortable fit is to mold it from time to time upon your own face, or the face of the intended wearer if they are accessible.

Step 5: Let It Finish Drying, Then Paint

Sculpted mask drying on a styrofoam head.

Once you are satisfied with the shape, prop it on your face, or a convenient replacement, until it dries fully. Depending on the leather, humidity, heat of the water and such, you will likely have up to a few hours afterwards where small reinforcing pinches or tweaks can be made to the design, but the overall mask is the way it is going to be. Let’s let it dry for a day or two, and you’re ready to paint!



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    17 Discussions

    This tutorial and images were stolen from my site. Until I discover how to report this I am appreciative of the kind comments by others, will answer questions, and would VERY much appreciate it if the poster of this instructable comes clean on their own. You can see my work on Facebook - www.facebook.com/suburbanchangeling

    3 replies

    Where is your tutorial? I'd love to see your directions. Some people have found these instructions incomplete....

    Hey Suburbchangeling. Welcome to Instructables then. Great Instruction, I always wondered how to do such beatiful masks. Maybe you can add here to our community some on your works. Personally I would love that, because here in the office Facebook is blocked :-)

    I was thinking that something looked fishy, the "finished" mask in step 5 isn't nearly as nice as the mask used for the main photo, especially around the eye holes... and there is no mention of the painting/finishing process.

    Nicely done. Thanks for sharing this!

    Any tips on painting and finishing this sort of thing?

    1 reply

    Acrylic paints work wonderfully mixed with a bit of soft fabric medium for extra give. Water based leather dye is also nice, with a clear topcoat

    It stinks like hell, turns a sickly grey and shrivels up into a gnarled, solid ball :)

    Wow I always wondered how people (mainly from films) made masks so snug fitting, this is awesome, how well does it stay on? like could you run without it falling off? Leather never ceases to amaze me, the plastic of the past.

    1 reply

    This tutorial and the mask and photos are all my work. The masks are sculpted to the face and stay on wonderfully with leather or elastic thongs. I did use spirit gum to attach a mask to a model once, and it was actually really hard to remove...

    Vegtan is a very common type of leather. It's really good for tooling (sculpting). It's a bit firm, which is good for a project like this. A leather wallet would likely be made out of thin vegtan.

    As per Wiki en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather

    Vegetable-tanned leather is tanned using tannins and other ingredients found in different vegetable matter, such as tree bark prepared in bark mills, wood, ...

    ‎Rawhide - ‎Aniline - ‎Patina - ‎Tanning

    This id great! I thought the moulding would be much harder, Thanks!