Introduction: Sculpted Mask - Lightweight, Cheap, Easy, Durable

Picture of Sculpted Mask - Lightweight, Cheap, Easy, Durable

Using this method, you can cheaply and easily sculpt large masks that are lightweight and comfortable to wear.  I wanted to be a triceratops priestess for Halloween this year (I am all about dinosaurs), so this is the mask I made.  The method is easily adaptable to any shape you like.

The technique began several months ago, back in summer, when my roomie/BFF Charlie wanted to attend a masquerade party as a dragon.  We developed the technique for her dragon mask, which you can see below.  Then I wanted to make a bigger mask for myself, and decided to document the process for the world.  :)

The basic idea is to start with one of those cheap basic plastic masks, and sculpt on top of it with crumpled aluminum foil and cardstock attached with masking tape.  Read on for the detailed step-by-step!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools

- a cheap plastic mask (about $3 from Michael's; try to get one with nice big eye holes)
- aluminum foil (on hand)
- 1/2" or 3/4" masking tape (on hand; you can use a wider roll if that's what you have; you'll just tear it lengthwise)
- cardstock (on hand, or $4 at Wal-Mart)
- Mod Podge (about $8)
- acrylic paint(s) ($2-4 per bottle)
- 3/4" braided elastic (about $3 at Wal-Mart or Jo-Ann Fabrics)
- any embellishes you like (fabric, crystals, feathers, rivets, etc)

- sharpie
- scissors
- paintbrush
- sponge brush
- needle and thread OR hot glue gun
- a straight pin or safety pin

- Krylon UV Resistant clear acrylic coating (it's a spraypaint) ($4 at Jo-Ann Fabrics with coupon)
- 1 oz. package Crayola Model Magic air-dry clay (on hand; about $4, I think)
- sandpaper (on hand)

Total cost: $20 (can be cheaper or more expensive, depending on what you have already)

Step 2: Start Sculpting

Picture of Start Sculpting

Tear off sections of aluminum foil and crumple or fold them into the shape you want, then tape to the mask with masking tape.  Slowly build up the form of your mask.  I started with building a beak, then adding the horns and frill.  Crumple the foil more tightly for areas that need to be sturdier.

Use the cardstock for flat sections.  Sketch your shape out, cut it, and tape into place.  If you need a piece bigger than your cardstock sheets, tape several sheets together before sketching.  You can also tape the cardstock into cones, which is probably what I should have done to make my horns.

Don't worry about lumpiness at this stage!  Just focus on general shapes, proportions, and angles.

Be sure to try on your mask in the mirror frequently, to ensure the angles are correct.  I had to re-do my frill after discovering it was projecting nearly vertically, rather than slanting horizontally over my head.

Step 3: Continue Sculpting, Add Attachment Loops for Elastic

Picture of Continue Sculpting, Add Attachment Loops for Elastic

Curve the cardstock by cutting a slit, overlapping the edges, and taping the overlap, like shown in the first few images.  The greater the overlap, the deeper the curve.  You can make these, concave or convex, in any direction, and can combine them to make more complex curves.

Keep sculpting until you've finished the shape.  Don't forget to try it on periodically!  You want to catch any mistakes as soon as possible.

Cover the mask completely with tape, to help smooth everything out.

Holding the mask to your face, mark the inside of the mask at your temples.  Make attachment loops and attach at these points.  I used snakes of foil, but you can use wire if you prefer.  In the last picture you can see I made a third attachment loop at the crown of my head.  At the time I thought the mask would be too forward-heavy to be supported with the normal elastic, so I planned to have another elastic running between the third loop and the center of the horizontal elastic.  However, the mask turned out to be easily lightweight enough, so I didn't use the third loop.  You can omit it, unless you are making an extremely forward-heavy design.

Step 4: Seal, Paint, Decorate, Add Elastic

Picture of Seal, Paint, Decorate, Add Elastic

Using a paintbrush, coat your mask, front and back, with numerous coats of Mod Podge.  This seals it, strengthens it, and smooths out the texture.

Optional: You can use small bits of Model Magic air-dry clay to fill in pits and indents, sanding when dry.  Otherwise, use pieces of masking tape pulled taut across the indents.  In either case, apply multiple coats of Mod Podge afterward.

Paint your mask however you like.  I was inspired by the rough beaten-gold look of the Death Mask of Agamemnon, so I used a coat of black followed by a few coats of warm metallic gold, applied with a sponge brush.  The gold I used is Venetian Gold from the Dazzling Metallics series by DecoArt, in case you were wondering.

Optional: Protect your mask with UV resistant clear coat.

After your paint has dried, add any embellishments you like.

Thread the end of your elastic through one of your temple anchor loops, tail to the inside, and stitch to itself as shown in the last picture (or hot glue if you can't/won't sew).  Stitch the heck out of it so it's secure.

Hold the mask to your face and wrap the elastic loosely around your head to roughly measure it; cut the elastic a couple inches longer than you think you'll need.

Thread the elastic through the other anchor loop, tail to the inside, making sure there are no twists in the elastic.  Pin the tail to the rest of the elastic as if you were going to stitch it to itself.  Try on the mask.  Tighten or loosen and re-pin as needed until it is a comfortable fit.  Shake your head to test it; try not to make it uncomfortably snug.  When you are sure it fits nicely, stitch the heck out of it and remove the pin.  Trim the tail if it's too long.

Admire your awesome new mask!

Step 5: Wear Your Mask!

Picture of Wear Your Mask!

To look your best, cover all the skin visible through the eye holes with eyeshadow that matches your mask, or is black.  It will look doubly awesome.  (I didn't do that for these pictures because I was in a rush to leave and didn't want to go out afterward with big golden eye-circles.  Maybe later I'll update with better photos.)

I hope you have enjoyed this instructable, and I hope you will have great success making your own sculpted mask.  If anything was unclear, please ask.  ^_^


girlfoxgirl made it! (author)2016-08-22

I used the method first to make a mask for a Toriel cosplay. Then, I've been using the foil-tape-mod podge-paint method for a variety of other items, too, not just masks. Thanks for the inspiration.

linrodann (author)girlfoxgirl2016-08-24

That's awesome! :D

SparkyBoom52 (author)2016-08-15

One thing you can do is use some pliers to squish and sculpt the aluminum foil. Then you can make really strong, dense pieces easily.

Ps: Thanks for the instructible, I have been looking to make myself a halloween Superhero mask for forever.

Kyoko Kerasaki (author)2016-02-05


I've been looking for EXACTLY this! Now I'm feeling much more confident about cosplaying as masked characters :)

linrodann (author)Kyoko Kerasaki2016-06-28

Happy to help. :)

aCraftyBuster (author)2016-05-22

this is great!
ive been looking into a "quick" way of making a one time mask without using clay sculpting
i've also been looking for a great way to test general mask designs for mask before taking the time to sculpt them.


linrodann (author)aCraftyBuster2016-06-28

Glad to be of help. :)

BonnieB49 made it! (author)2016-05-23

Thank you so much for your instructions! I had a dinosaur princess party and made the triceratops mask. It was a hit!! The mask was so easy & cheap to make. Your instructions were perfect! Thank you again!!! You made my birthday party perfect!!!

linrodann (author)BonnieB492016-06-28

That's the best party theme ever! I'm glad it worked so well for you, and happy birthday! :)

asphalt lady (author)2016-01-21

Thank you for the pictures and simple to follow instructions. You have made it for me to help my son with his project!

linrodann (author)asphalt lady2016-01-22

Glad to help. :)

GenevieveT4 made it! (author)2015-10-30

My daughter wanted to be Smaug for Halloween and I had no idea how I was going to make a good, light-weight mask until I read this post (found it on Pinterest). Thanks!!

linrodann (author)GenevieveT42015-10-30

AMAZING work! :D I'm so glad to have helped. You and your daughter are awesome.

Indygokitten (author)2014-06-16

This is awesome! I have been wracking my brain on how to make a mask type in the shape of a deer/horse skull...looking at this I can use it as a very easy lightweight base. Thanks!

linrodann (author)Indygokitten2014-10-05

Glad to be helpful! :)

Dusk Shadows (author)2012-11-19

That dear Sir (or madam if u prefer)

Is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just awesome!!!!!!!

linrodann (author)Dusk Shadows2012-11-25

Thank you very much. :)

Dusk Shadows (author)linrodann2012-11-25

No Problem

poofrabbit (author)2012-10-31

Brilliant idea! Very nice! The camp I work for does a Halloween costume dance every year and I could see how we could create these masks in crafts for the occasion! Thanks for a great instructable!

linrodann (author)poofrabbit2012-10-31

Thank you! I would be honoured if you shared this technique with your campers. ^_^

doodlecraft (author)2012-10-30

I super love this! When I saw it on the homepage...I just glazed over it...when I saw that it was titled "cheap and easy" I went back! (with sort of a "ya right...we'll see how cheap" notion)
I was thrilled to see something that looked sooooo awesome and quality that was made with masking tape and foil! Love it! :) Air fives!

Nat :)

linrodann (author)doodlecraft2012-10-30

Thank you. :) I'm very flattered.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-10-29

That mask is great! I love it with that dress and those earrings! You should enter it into the Masks Challenge!

I didn't know about the Masks Challenge, but now I've entered it. Thanks for the heads up!

Thank you very much. :) The dress was actually way harder to make than the mask.

You made the dress too! Where's the Instructable on that ;)

It's a modification of this instructable:

jessyratfink (author)2012-10-29

Absolutely stunning! I'd have no idea what it was made out of if I hadn't seen the photos - it turned out great. :D

linrodann (author)jessyratfink2012-10-29

Thank you very much. :)

Dominic Bender (author)2012-10-29

Great work! I would have guessed at some professional resin or fibre mats or something. I love how simple the sculpting process is... This might be what I have been looking for to make simple yet impressive masks for my roleplaying group.

I wonder whether the result would be as great if I replaced Mod Pudge with sript of newspaper and glue...

Is there any background to the triceratopr priestess, or your own personal idea? I like the crossover.

linrodann (author)Dominic Bender2012-10-29

Thank you. ^_^ I have heard that Mod Podge is just a type of white glue, so you probably could use newspaper and glue instead. It's worth a try.

The triceratops priestess idea sprang from my love of dinosaurs (especially ceratopsians) and my love of fancy headdresses. I enjoy making animal-inspired accessories that are completely inappropriate for daily wear. :P

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a crafting junkie and a sewing masochist. There's never enough time to get to all the fun and interesting things to do ... More »
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