Introduction: Paper Gillman Mask the Shape of Water

About: i am now a full-time 3D Artist, constantly believe i can be a better man, Just be the change you wanna see in the world, thats why i am here...

Big congratulation to “the shape of water”

on their Oscar Victory. I watched the movie with my Girlfriend and we love it! We are very inspired to make something based on the movie! The creature design in the movie is a proud modernization of the Gillman in Universal’s classic “Creature from the black lagoon”, we decide to make a Mask of the Amazon fish God!

As you guys may have already known from my past projects, I made a lot of paper props/Mask, but this time I am getting out of my comfort zone! I am used to craft mainly with gray cardstock/ cardboard as cheap recycled material. Then I usually cover the surface up entirely with paint. It is a more forgiving way to craft since gray cardboard bend easily, it bonds with glue very well, rough surface texture is heavy duty.

This time around, I wanna celebrate the nature of paper, embrace the color/ texture and properties, rather than covering the paper with layers of paint. Paper itself can be colorful, exciting and a specialty material as is! I chose this glittery pearl paper as the base material in order to mimic the texture of fish skin, to add depth to the piece. this however introduce a lot of challenges that I didn’t anticipate!

This paper is much thinner than gray cardboard, but similar in rigidity. The delicate glitter surface is sadly not very sturdy, it would delaminate easily. Which means I can even use masking tape to hold piece together temporarily. The glossy glittery paper is also a bit tricky to paint, as paint don’t grab on the paper and the reflected light make color matching very difficult. Overall it required a lot more care and precision in crafting!

I was very frustrated at several points, but thanks to the cheering and collaboration of my sweet Girlfriend (who's also on instructable), I manage to push thru with her! She is my creative souol and I couldn’t have done it without her!

This instructable will provide step by step tutorial in making my Glow-in-the-dark Gillman Mask:

  1. A Paper skull cap
  2. Basic construction of the Mask
  3. Detailing and painting

This was a challenging project, especially I haven’t write an paper craft instructable for so long!!

I also added some protips regarding papercraft in the captions!! so be sure to view the pictures in full screen to see all my protips!! they are "hard-learn" lessons from my failure all these years crafting with paper! If you like my project, feel free to give a thumb up and leave me a comment!!

Step 1: Concept and Planning

here i found some concept art used in production from the internet.

Based on those i sculpted a concept sculpt myself to better understand the shapes and form! as for color

I also started a prototype in gray card board so i can created the pattern which i am sharing with you in later steps!!

Step 2: Tools and Materials


  • Glue (Elma’s glue and hot glue guns)
  • Scissors and cutter
  • Acrylic Paints
  • (Luminous yellow, black, white, leamon yellow, naple yellow, phthalo blue, cadmium red (hue), brown)
  • Sketching tool (pencil, Sharpie and compass)


  • Packaging sponge (for applying paint)
  • Pearl color paper 210 gsm (yellow gold, dark silver)
  • Light blue color paper
  • Baking paper
  • Transparent color film.
  • Gray Cardborad (you can recycly your empty cereal box)
  • Air-drying modeling clay (paper clay is good, nothing fancy or expensive, the kind kid play with)

Step 3: Skull Cap

From some Special effect youtube video, I learnt that there is sth called Skull Cap.

Skull Cap is one way to mount mask/accessories to an performer’s head without any wiggling. It contains a negative shape of a partial region of performer’s skull. Usually, it is a fiber glass shell molded on a life cast of the performers. This time I decide to make a reliable Skull cap in paper instead. I took some inspiration of recent VR googles, and come up with this design.

I recommend:

  1. Cuts Gray card board into 1.5” or 3 cm wide strips
  2. Interlace and Glue the strips to fit your temples and frontal half of your head.
  3. Add a strip to the hug the back of your head.
  4. Reinforce the frame with some 0.5” or 1 cm wide strip.

Step 4: Constructing the Mask

In order to capture the form, I sculpted a

block out design with paper clay. Then I did a prototype out of gray Cardboard. I have pattern all the pieces I made. You may find the pattern necessary in the pdf I provided! The mouth area will need to be cut in yellow paper, while the fins are cut in baking paper, the rest are cut in dark paper.

I recommend to

  1. Cut out pattern from pdf
  2. Transfer specific pattern to respective color paper.
  3. Start with eye frame, then nose, forehead, mouth then jaw as shown in picture
  4. Don’t do the eye balls yet, this will be handle in the detailing


  1. for symmetric forms, work on both side together. Add details to both left and right at the same time, this should help the order of operation
  2. this pattern is only the basic structure, the detailing will be handle next.
  3. you can rapidly set Hotglue but blowing cool air stream to dissipate the heat as shown with the airbrush
  4. you can also glue in new piece of paper as "tension-er" to help between seams

Step 5: Detailing & Painting

The Mask looks a bit sad without any paint,

but still I paid attention not to cover the paper texture fully, in order to retain the glittery effect of the original paper. This could be the most elaborated paint job I did on a paper craft project!!

Sponging on the color can add color by clusters of spots, help break up the flat paper color and sell the organic paint job. It is optional to use an air brush.

I recommend to


  • Blend the seam between color papers by sponging on intermediate color.
  • Cut & Glue on blue paper for the skin design and thorns on brows and cheeks
  • Sponge on the additional blue skin highlight
  • Sponge on yellow & orange skin high light


  • Glue the eye balls up into domes
  • Cut the hole from the dome
  • Paint a yellow base color on the holed domes.
  • Sponge on black spots around the hole
  • Glue on dark-colored film


  • Sculpt a pair of simple puff lips
  • Glue on sculpted lips
  • Paint the lips with a dark brownish pink

Fins and Fluorescent:

  • Glue on ridge on the fin to help the baking paper hold its shape
  • Glue on Fins
  • Paint spot on fluorescent paint in area you wanna highlight!


  1. Sponge on color variation on the surface for even more organic look
  2. Add some dark color to the root of bright thorns to help them blend in the dark skin
  3. Glue on more improvised pieces of paper to add details and structure!

Step 6: Done

Voila, Put on the Mask and attend Oscar as

the magic-healing cat-eating Amazon Fish God! I am very grateful for my Lovely Girlfriend Susie who always support me emotionally and creatively!! You are the best!! I am also very happy to push my paper craft to the next level, embracing paper as a specialty material rather than cheap recycle material. I can’t wait to work with these technique again!!

Wanna make some other props? Customize this however you want... Maybe a different character from different movies... I think the work flow and methodology is applicable to any projects!! If you made anything, post it in the comment section, I would love to see your creations and feedback!! As always, I will try to answer your inquiries on the making as soon as possible!

I am enter instructable paper craft contest with this piece, pls like and vote for me if you like this!! Happy making!! Until next instructable!!

Paper Contest 2018

Second Prize in the
Paper Contest 2018

Pro Tips Challenge

Participated in the
Pro Tips Challenge