I've made a couple of different animal heads for costumes over the past few years and each time I learn a little more! Here's my latest: a bear to do battle with Teddy Roosevelt!
What you'll need:
2x4' of 4" foam (I used upholstery foam)
3/4 yard faux fur
small pieces of accent fabric
2 glass eyes
Step 1: Sketch and Gather Materials
The first step is to sketch out your design. I roughly drew out my plan and took measurements based on proportions I wanted, although in the end the final product ended up being a little smaller. Use your sketch and rough measurements to figure out how much foam you'll need to purchase. I used 1 piece of 2x2' foam that was 3" thick and 1 piece that was 4" thick because that was what I had on hand - but you can use a variety of foams for the structure. Whenever you're layering up foam be sure to use the correct adhesive for your material as some glues will eat through certain kinds of foam or won't adhere properly. I used the adhesive pictured below and was very happy with the results!
If there are any areas of your mask that stick out - like the nose, ears, horns, etc - plan on constructing those elements separately to help minimize the size of the foam you need to purchase. For example, I carved my bear's muzzle separately and then glued it back onto the head.
Step 2: Layout Design and Start Carving
Once you have your foam/glue and your design ready, glue together your layers of foam. I applied a healthy dose of spray adhesive and let it dry while I sketched out a rough plan for carving. I forgot to take a photo here - but at this point I also carved out a hole to fit my helmet underneath (the carved space is visible in a later photo). Be sure to carve the helmet space so that it just fits without a lot of extra room.
I was happy with my final product, but the next time around I would either invest in an electric knife to cut the upholstery foam, or use insulation board which is easier to cut and sand with hand tools.
Keep carving until you're happy with the overall shape. I cut in some subtler face details where the fur will be shorter, but because most of the fur will be on the longer side any fine detail in the shape of the foam would be lost.
Step 3: Attaching and Shaping Fur
Now for the fun part! Time to start layering on fabric. In addition to the faux fur that I purchased I had some low pile fuzzy fabric that I'm using for the bear's face. I continued to use my spray adhesive to attach the fabric to my foam, but switched to hot glue any time I had to glue fabric to fabric. The long fur is pretty forgiving of any little bubbles while you're gluing, but for anything else you'll want to be careful to really smooth out any bubbles so that the carved in details in your foam will stand out. Instead of cutting off my excess at the bottom of the head, I left it unattached so that I could later attach it to the inside of the helmet (so that the helmet isn't visible). Once I had finished my fabric base I used scissors to trim down the fur on the bear's face around his eyes and nose.
Step 4: Making Eyes and Ears
I always feel like eyes can make or break a project, and so to add a little more realism I went with glass taxidermy eyes. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to order online which would have been FAR cheaper - van dyke's taxidermy is a great resource - so instead I went to my local taxidermy haven - evolution. They didn't have bear eyes, but cheetah eyes were close enough for me. Using hot glue I attached the eye to a piece of fabric and played around with layering fabric over the edges of the eye until I was happy with the arrangement. I then took the patch as a whole and glued it onto the bear face.
For the ears I cut down my foam so that is was thinner, cut out the shape of the ear, and then covered it with fur on the exterior and black fabric on the interior. To attach them I cut down into the head an inch or so and removed some foam to ensure the ears had solid support when I glued them in place.
Step 5: Teeth and Final Touches
Rather than attach the teeth separately, I simply cut away at the foam for my upper jaw (before attaching fur) but they could also be cut and reattached in the same way that the ears were. After shaping I applied several layers of paint and shading to the teeth, and used a piece of black fabric to line the inside of the mouth. Here you can also see the space I carved out to accommodate the helmet.
For the rest of the face I continued to cut and layer pieces of fabric to give him more personality. I also used a sharpie to draw along the edges of my darker fabric to help it transition a little more into the tan color.
I put my helmet snugly in place and used hot glue all around the edges. Finally, I took the excess fur fabric (the unattached ends hanging down the bear's neck) and glued them up inside the helmet so that none of the edges were visible. (If you have enough to cover the sides of the helmet as well just be sure you cut a slit to allow the helmet straps to hang down).
Step 6: And You're Done!
Enjoy your new bear head!