My previous mask tutorial explained how to utilize an existing Halloween werewolf mask and give it an extra touch of realism. While that method is fine for a mask that will only be lightly used maybe once a year, I personally go to a lot of conventions and events where my work ends up getting handled and transported a lot. Therefore, that mask did not hold up too well after being worn multiple times and taken around to several different events in a year. So, I decided to make a newer and sturdier version of it that still matched well with the existing rest of the costume that I still had.
For the new mask, I decided to take inspiration from the "Furries", a community of people often seen at conventions wearing detailed, fully-furred animal costumes called Fursuits, built to represent their own meaningful persona characters.
While I'm not a furry myself, I do appreciate the art and dedication they put into creating these types of costumes.
Step 1: Materials Needed
Fursuiting is a dedicated hobby for many, that I didn't actually know much about until I started looking into ways to build this mask. There are several supply companies that sell fursuit parts and materials, everything from mask blanks to artificial teeth, claws and eyes, and countless colors and varieties of synthetic fur. None of which is very cheap, but does allow for the production of a much higher quality mask, built for frequent use.
To start with, I ordered a plastic resin "canine" mask blank from a fursuiting company called Dream Vision Creations: http://www.dreamvisioncreations.com/ They sell mask blanks in a variety of sizes and types, and they include hinged jaws that open and close with your own jaw movement, which makes for a very neat effect!
To give the mask a more realistic shape on the outside and a proper fit on the inside, I bought some inexpensive foam chair cushion padding from a local craft store. Soft and flexible, it conforms easily to the surface of the mask when glued down with superglue.
Also from the craft store I bought some sturdy elastic strap, which I attached to the back of the mask for secure wearing.
On my previous mask, I had used a lot of real fur in the detail work, but found that after a while (especially wearing outdoors in humid conditions) the natural leather warped or shrunk and eventually separated from the glue I had used. As much as I enjoy working with real fur, I felt that synthetic would be more practical for this particular project, so I ordered some in two colors that best matched my plans for the character. The fur for this mask was purchased from http://www.crscraft.com/ which actually specializes in doll and teddy bear supplies, but has a very good variety of long-length synthetic fur material.
Eyes and Teeth
These were purchased from individual sellers on Etsy and Ebay. If you're going for a more generic look to your mask, Dream Vision Creations also carries basic eyes and teeth made specifically to fit their mask blanks, however I wanted a more unique look to my mask. So I searched around a bit more and found custom parts that fit closest to the desired look I was going for. The eyes even have an LED system wired into them, so they can light up!
Step 2: Begin Assembly
After all materials are in hand, assembly of the mask begins with gluing down the foam padding and attaching the elastic strap in back. Attaching the strap was easy. I drilled a couple of holes through the mask blank, ran a sturdy zip-tie through them and sewed the elastic around the zip ties.
For the foam padding, I used the chair cushion foam as described in the previous step, I cut it to shape and sculpted out the brows and cheeks of the mask, to give these areas a more fully-furred appearance when finished. Each section was secured to the mask with superglue. When sculpting the brows, I also taped in some temporary paper eyes with the pupils drawn in the exact centers, just to help ensure I had everything lined up symmetrically.
The ear forms were also made of the same foam material. I also lined the inside of the mask with foam, for a more snug and comfortable fit.
Installing the teeth was the more difficult part and required some significant alteration to the upper and lower jaws of the mask to make room for the large fangs to fit right. To do this, I carved out extra space in the edges of the jaws using a moto-tool, testing the fit of the teeth until everything finally worked into place. Once the teeth were fitting properly, I glued them in with superglue.
After all foam and teeth were secured in place, the next step was to begin adding fur to the ears. This was not too difficult, in that the fabric was just cut to shape and hand-sewn in place.
Step 3: Sew the "Skin"
Assembling the actual "skin" of the mask face was a bit tricky. I wasn't quite sure where to start at first so I outlined the width and length of the mask on newspaper and experimented with a couple of different paper patterns using these measurements, before I came up with this one that fit the mask near perfectly!
Because this design I came up with had two base colors of fur, this required that the pattern be cut out of two individual sheets of fabric and sewn together. This involved precision and careful attention to my measurements, so don't rush through this step.
After cutting out each piece, I stitched it all together with my sewing machine and test-fitted over the mask and ears. Everything fit! I then carefully shaved down some of the fur on the muzzle, top of head, and under the jaw since it was just to hairy looking in those areas. However the brows, cheeks, and front of the chin I left with long hair for a more "werewolfish" look!
Step 4: Detail the Teeth
Wild, carnivorous werewolves don't have pure white, shiny teeth! So a bit of extra detail work was required here to enhance the realism of this mask. To begin, I lightly sanded the surface of the teeth with steel wool to allow for better adhesion of the paint. I then hand-painted them with regular acrylic artist's paint and allowed to dry. This jaw set did not include a tongue, so I sculpted one from Crayola Model Magic, which dries to a light, foamy texture.
Step 5: Install the Eyes
This step could have been done earlier, except the electric eyes had been shipped from Canada and took a while to arrive. When they got here, I temporarily removed the face fur, and attached the eyes in place with glue and the lightweight Crayola Model Magic clay. I secured the wiring on top of the head with duct tape, and the battery pack was slid into the elastic band in back.
Step 6: Glue Down the Fur
Now that the eyes and teeth have been fully installed, the fur is ready to go back on, this time permanently. I coated the entire muzzle (minus lip areas) with fabric glue and smoothed the fur down on top of it. The fur around the edges of the lips, eyes and ears was secured in place with super glue for added durability in these areas.
Step 7: Finishing Detail Work
I allowed all glue to dry for 24 hours, then I got to work on putting the finishing touches on the mask. Some of the facial details were shaded in with some black paint, airbrushed on around the eyes, muzzle, lips and ear tips.
After painting around the eyes, I superglued mesh screens in the eye holes of the mask to help conceal my own eyes when worn. However I waited til after the painting step to do this, to avoid getting paint on the screen mesh.
The front and sides of the lower lips were sculpted in with the Crayola Model Magic and painted realistically. Mouth was propped open during this process to avoid getting paint on the teeth. After all paint was dry, I glossed over the nose and lips with clear Polyurethane finish, for an added look of realism and also protection of the painted surfaces. The mask was then set aside for another 24 hours to allow the polyurethane to completely cure.
Step 8: Wear Wolf!
After all paints and finishes have been dried overnight, the mask is 100% ready to wear! Not only will this beastly critter scare some trick-or-treaters this year, it is a more durable and unique-looking costume that will last for many more conventions and events to come!
Thanks for reading this tutorial, and be sure to check out my other fuzzy, furry creations at Frontier Furs on Facebook!