Cheap But Convincing Masquerade Masks




About: Untidy, disorganised and a bit silly. I am a photographer, artist, body artist, sculptor, prosthetic maker, model engineer, and general idiot who likes making stuff and messing about. I give hands on worksho...

Here's a cheap way to make masquerade or Venetian masks that look as good as real ones.

Most of my body art work requires some sort of props. These are often used only once or twice so they have to be cheap. Good quality masks start at around £20.00 GBP and go on up to hundreds of pounds for an original. Far too expensive to justify for a single shoot.

We're going to use readily available materials to create some nice masks.

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Step 1: Materials

What you will need to make these masks.

1 Pk cheap styrene joke shop masks
Some car repair polyurethane resin and glass tissue
Hot malt glue
Cyanoacrylate GEL super glue
Some off cuts of material (I like satin)
Artists acrylic paint and ink
Some lace edging (if you want to get really fancy)
Some two part epoxy putty.

The joke shop masks are really cheap, I paid £5.00 for 10 masks, but they are pretty poor quality and at first don't look too promising. The eye slots are all wrong and they have awful nose and mouth holes. The noses are way too small, the lips are not well formed and they are really thin and floppy.

Never mind we can cure all that!

Here's the basic mask. I've marked out better eye holes with a felt pen.

Step 2: Cut the Mask

Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut out the new eye holes. The exact shape and size will depend on the mask you want to create.
I'd advise finding and image of a mask you like and then cutting to that shape.

Here is the original and the trimmed out mask.

Also at this stage you need to decide on the final shape of the actual mask and trim to that shape too.

Step 3: Reinforcing

To cure the 'floppy' nature of these masks, once you have cut it to the final shape,

Turn it over and paint on a thin layer of car repair resin. Allow 10 mins for it to cure then add a second layer adding a layer of tissue to the resin. You will be amazed at how strong the masks becomes after it has cured. Leave it for a couple of hours and then trim up with sharp scissors.

Sand any sharp or rough edges with some normal sandpaper or use your Dremel which speeds it all up a bit. The tissue will block off the poor nose and mouth holes.

Step 4: Adding the Designs

Here I am making a jester harlequin type mask. Since this is a 3/4 mask the problems of the nose and mouth are not an issue.

The mask has been trimmed to shape and a diamond pattern has been drawn on in felt pen.

Using general purpose glue I have stuck on some diamonds of red satin from some off cuts I got for nothing from a dressmakers. Don't worry too much if the diamonds aren't an exact fir at this stage.

Step 5: Start to Paint

Here the red satin has been trimmed back and I'm painting in some black diamonds using acrylic hobby paint.
You can see that the edges are a little ragged.

Step 6: The Clever Bit

Next, very carefully run a bead of hot melt glue round the outside edge of the mask and around the eyes. paint the bead gold (or whatever colour you choose).

Using the superglue gel, run a zig zag bead along each edge of the diamond and leave it overnight to dry rock hard. paint the zig zags in dark brown, feathering the edges over the outer part of the diamonds. You can use a spray can or an airbrush to get a really good effect. Once dry over-paint with gold and silver using the 'dry-brush' technique to highlight the tops of the super glue.

Alternatively, you could use some nice gold lace edging available from material suppliers. You don't need much.

Step 7: Other Designs

If you want a full face mask, you will have to sculpt a new nose and lips with two part epoxy putty.
I found this task very daunting, but it turned out to be easier than I thought.

You can add cardboard or plastic extensions to make a full Jester mask or feathers and what not for other designs. Take a look at the ritual scene from 'Eyes wide shut' or do an internet search for more ideas.

To see why we made these masks, and a shot from the final shoot, you can see an image here, but be warned there is non-explicit nudity before you click the link!

Masked girl

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    27 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Thanks for the great idea and the inspiration! I didn't fabricate my mask as I didn't have enough time (I picked a paper mache one up pretty cheap) I did use the hot glue technique to create the scroll designs. I also put PVA over the design and the area I wanted a metallic finish and put tin foil over the top, using a brush to push the tin foil into the creases. It doesn't matter if you make holes in the tin foil, because you can just patch it with a piece of tin foil. I then dry brushed black paint over the tin foil and used a cloth to rub off the paint. I couldn't find diamond harlequin fabric, so I just used blk and white checker drill fabric cutting it on the bias. The back of the collar and hat are lined with vinyl that I had lying around the house, but sticky back felt or craft foam would've worked.

    3 replies

    8 years ago on Step 3

    Wow, thanks - I've got a mask I've repaired a few times, but it never occured to me that I could repair it with "serious" stuff like fibreglass and resin!

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I love using resin. It can be formed or cast or moulded to make almost anything!


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    I've yet to use it, but as I see it more and more I'd love to use it - I think afformentioned repair is worth a shot!


    8 years ago on Step 3

    this is great daughter and I just starting one now ... but i do have one quick question...
    the "tissue" i assume is fiberglass... sorry im australia and thats what we call it.
    My daughter grabbed a box of tissues and though im sure i could use it.... maybe its not what you meant ;D
    Im going with the fiberglass option to test first can always do another if it goes all wrong =)

    thanks so much for this ... Lol daughter is yelling for me to hurry up!

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    Yes, it is fibreglass, but there are two types. The first is the rough matt that is used for general lay up work, the other is a fine 'tissue' that is usually used as a smoothing top layer.
    It's the tissue type that you want for these masks because the standard stuff is a little rough for this kind of work.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    awesome thanks for your reply ... i used the regular fiberglass yes was a bit rough but still ... what fun... smelly sticky and god dont get it on your hands... but fun =)
    again thank heaps for this instubctable =)


    9 years ago on Step 7

    Did you create the bottom of the mask using epoxy on both masks? They look amazing. Is epoxy like...clay? I want to make these and hang them on my wall. For the gold on, the detail on the face is that also done with super glue and then painted over?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 7

    The backs of the masks are coated in fibreglass resin and some of the thin tissue matt that is available for fibreglass layup. The only reason I use it is to stiffen the plastic masks without adding too much weight. The filigri details on the front of the masks uses either hot-melt glue or superglue 'gel' type. The only reason I used the superglue was that I couldn't make a small enough bead with the hot melt and I couldn't control it very well either. You could use a fine twine and coat that in normal superglue instead. Once the glues have gone rock hard (I leave 24 hours), then over paint them.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice work.

    In college, I helped my brother-in-law make a custom-fit Phantom of the Opera mask.  We coated his face with petroleum jelly and then used small bits of masking tape, about dime-sized, to cover his face.  Each piece overlapped with others, and it was perfectly form-fit.  Two layers of that made a sturdy enough mask to be removed.  Then we trimmed it and gave it several coats of white spray enamel, which stiffened it nicely.  The final touch was a sprinkle of dust from a stick of glow-in-the-dark chalk while the final coat of paint was still tacky. 

    It turned out very professional-looking, and cost us almost nothing.  I wish I still had pictures.

    3 replies

     I may give it a shot, if I can find somebody who doesn't mind having his face slathered in Vaseline.  :-)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    just the face? I didnt think of using tape. I used a plaster then had to make a 'mask' of the original plaster mask to get the face. You know pour the plaster on the inside of the original molding.


    9 years ago on Step 7

     if a kid saw the link im shure he'd be grateful.