Introduction: Method for Creating a Cardboard Mask

Whenever I have an assignment with no constraints or am in need of something creative to take up time, my go to project is always creating a cardboard mask. It's a fun build and looks very impressive with a little bit of planning. Every design is slightly different so I am going to go over the method of creation instead of something more specific.

(Along with my own example of course)



  • Cardboard
  • X-acto Knife
  • Stretchy Band(s)
  • Black See-Through Fabric
  • Hot Glue / Other Glues
  • Paint
  • Scissors

Things to Avoid:

Some of the supplies are vague but they're vague for a reason, almost anything can be used in their place. All that is important is knowing what sometimes can't be used.


Speaking from experience, superglue has an awful fume, made worse when close to the face.

Spray paint

Although it works, If not given enough time to sit, spray paint also gives off some not-fun fumes.

Step 1: Material & Understanding

The material for this design is...

an old shoe box.

Not just because it is something that is, at times, lying around, but also because it is the perfect type of cheap cardboard that will bend exactly how we want it to. Strong cardboard doesn't bend easily and no cardboard curves like we want.

An important element of cardboard is understanding how it bends and using those bends to simulate our curves. Multiple tiny bends will give us the impression of a curve. When creating a mask, something that is inherently curved around a face, it is extra important to learn how to make cardboard curves look good.

Step 2: Trace

The design is all up to you.

On a layer which overlaps your sketch, box off areas where large pieces could fit within an entire section of cardboard. Each square is a full side of the shoe box that will be used for a single part.

At this point you can find a side of the box that fits, cut it off, and trace the design on it.

But...don't trace on the main part's cardboard while it's flat, trace while it's curved.

Pre-curve the sheet to fit your face and then draw the lines according to perspective from a distance. Curving the sheet after drawing a tracing will make it smaller than you originally intended it to be, misaligning everything.

When tracing, think ahead about the gluing stage. Create tabs extended off which layer on top of another piece that it needs to be attached to. This helps by eliminating the need for too many extra bits attached on the back and for stopping the need to glue on the edges.

Step 3: Cut & Glue

Re-flattening the sheet take an X-acto knife and make scoring cuts along your lines. Going all the way through the sheet on your first cut is a mistake. That creates a rugged surface and makes it easier to make an accidental cut.

When you go through for a final cut make sure to restart the cut if it starts to bind. Binding creates a ragged edge that you'll need to cut off later.

If your cardboard is thin enough and you aren't afraid of an easy slip, use a large pair of scissors to cut around the edges instead.

When cutting off ragged edges I prefer to use my hands; using a knife on a small slip near the edge of a piece usually creates more problems than it solves.

The best glue I've used for this type of project was hot glue. Many other types either don't stick or give off fumes that you likely wouldn't want in something that goes on your face.

Step 4: Assemble

Now that you have all the pieces cut out and aligned, glue them together either at the edges or overlapping. With thicker pieces it is easier to glue edges but on thin ones like mine, I had to glue them overlapping.

On the back of the mask, apply small connectors that function to hold together the mask. Sometimes glue might not be enough or sometimes a little more support makes it look nicer. No matter the reason there is no hurt in adding them.

Wherever you have holes for your eyes, glue the fabric on the back part of the mask. Sure eyes looking through holes might be cool in some circumstances, but in most, seeing a colored film is preferable. The opacity of the fabric is up to you. Darker fabric looks better from an outside perspective but is close to impossible to see through. Very soft and light fabric allows vision but might look worse on the outside.

On the back of the mask, add the stretchy band(s) which will hold the mask to your face. Bands that hold the bottom portion of a mask will not work unless you have high quality bands and can connect them without ripping cardboard.

Finally, add some spacers that will make the mask set away from your face. Unless your design accounts for your nose. Unlike mine does.

Step 5: Paint & Texture

Painting is all up to your interpretation.

From my experience, surprisingly, the more you throw at the canvas, the better it looks. It is really hard to overdo it. Make it blindingly bright, make it vanta-black, no matter what happens masks are made to be over the top.

For a little extra worn and lived in feel you can take a variety of sandpapers and apply them to different areas that could reasonably be worn down. Unless of course, this mask it going to be hanging on the wall, then you might want it a bit more pristine.

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