Introduction: Paper Plate Mardi Gras Light Up Masks

About: I am an artist and arts educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What would your Mardi Gras mask look like? Design a playful light up mask using simple materials. Illuminate it using using copper tape, a LED light, and a 3V ion lithium battery. This simple paper circuitry project is great for family maker festivals. This is a variation on an earlier Instructables I created (Light up Super Hero Masks).

This Instructable came about by accident when we ran out of store bought satin half masks at a San Jose Mini Maker Faire and my husband rushed us paper plates as a substitute mask material. We found that paper plates are awesome because they are super cheap and invite more creativity in mask designing than the satin half masks. Photos of that Mini Maker Faire event.

Happy Making!

Step 1: Materials & Set Up

You will need these basic materials for the mask making:


  1. paper plate
  2. copper tape
  3. LED lights
  4. 3V coin cell batteries
  5. construction paper
  6. colored tissue paper
  7. craft decorative materials of your choice such as feathers, beads, google eyes, and stickers
  8. color markers
  9. color pencils
  10. paste glue sticks
  11. white glue

Reusable Materials:

  1. scissors
  2. glue guns
  3. hole punchers (ones that make tiny holes are great)
  4. templates to trace two masks on one paper plate
  5. pliers
  6. staplers

Set Up Tips:

  • Create separate table stations for mask making and for adding the circuitry component.
  • Cut many paper plates into basic mask shapes before workshops starts. Keep templates handy as you may need to trace more to cut out.
  • If you have the space, create a separate table for a hot glue gun station and have a volunteer monitor that station.
  • Have diagrams of simple circuits on the circuitry table. A step-by-step board is also useful.
  • Do not allow drinks or food at your maker tables.

Step 2: Prep Paper Plates

Cut a paper plate in half and create a template for your masks. Include a notch for the nose and two eye holes. Label this template with "TEMPLATE" so it doesn't accidentally get used as someone's mask.

Trace your template on the top and bottom of paper plates and cut them out. You can use a hole puncher to create starter hole for scissors to cut out the eye holes.

Step 3: Design Your Mask

  1. Invite participants to pick up a mask base and start to shape and decorate it. You can also invite them to imagine where they would put their light on their mask.
  2. People can attach decorations using glue, glue sticks, staplers and hot glue guns.
  3. If they know where they want to put their LED light, they can also think about light diffusion (does a feather overlay the light? or half of a foam ball? a wad of tissue paper?)
  4. Elastic or string can be attached so you can were the masks. Another option is a straw handle so you to hold up mask to your face.

Step 4: Adding a Light to the Mask

Once the decorations are added, you can add in the circuitry. We found it useful to have a sample mask with circuitry in it to pass around. Photo here is of a youth assistant's demo mask to show visitors. Poke a hole in the paper plate for the LED light legs and place your LED light into the hole with the LED light facing the front of the mask.

  1. On back side of the mask, split the legs of the LED light (tip: kink the positive LED leg to easily keep track of positive and negative legs). The longer LED leg is usually the positive side.
  2. Slowly peel and place a short strip of copper tape and extend it from under the negative LED leg to a spot you will place your battery.
  3. Using electrical tape or clear tape, tape down the negative LED leg to the copper tape. Tape the battery with the negative side facing down onto the copper tape. Be sure that you still have some of the positive side of the battery exposed without tape on it.

Step 5: Adding a Light to the Mask, Part 2

  1. Peel and place a short strip of copper tape from under the positive LED leg to the top of the battery that is exposed and without tape. The copper tape end that taps the battery should be folded over so that it does not stick to the battery. This is your pressure switch.
  2. Using electrical tape or clear tape, tape positive LED light leg down onto copper tape.
  3. If the mask is designed as shown here in the diagrams, the mask will turn on when you wear it as the pressure switch is activated by the pressure of your forehead.

Happy mask wearing!