I've always loved the look of Day of the Dead masks so I decided to make one that would look nice enough to hang on a wall but still be rigid enough to possibly wear with a costume.
White Glue (I used Elmer's)
Plaster of Paris
Acrylic Paint (Black and Red)
Shop Towels (Thick Blue Paper Towels, I used Scott brand)
Hot Glue Gun
Small and Medium Paint Brushes
Foam Head Form
Step 1: Making the Base Mask
The base of the mask will be made out of paper mache, specifically a plaster based paper mache. Some human features need to transfer into the mask so use a foam head form as a base.
Start by mixing the plaster paste. The recipe listed below should be enough to give the mask an under and two top coats and have a little extra left over. Also once the paste is mixed there will be about 15 minutes of work time (the vinegar gives it that extra work time).
Plaster Based Paste
1/4 cup of white glue
1 tablespoon of cold water
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1/4 cup of plaster of Paris
Tear the shop towels in half and soak them in water. Make sure to ring them out. Paint the surface of the head form with the plaster paste and then stretch the damp towels over your foam head and smooth out the towel as best you can starting with the features on the front of the mask and working back towards the back of the head. Try to layer it so the seams of the paper towel are not sticking up too much. Now paint on the plaster paste with a medium brush, taking care around the openings to ensure they do not get covered in paste. After letting it dry, add a second layer so it will be more sturdy.
Once the second layer has dried it's time to cut off the fringes of paper towel.
Step 2: Smoothing Out the Mask Features
After removing the mask from the form there might be some cracking. If the cracking is bad another layer of plaster paste can be added. Once any cracks have been fixed it's time to smooth the surface with an abrasive pad. Lightly sand the surface and eye openings until smooth (you may have to cut some of the paper towel out with a scissors or utility knife). Additionally, damp paper towel can be used to rub patches of minor bumps smooth.
Applying a gesso will further smooth out the surface of the mask and ready it for painting.
Plaster Based Gesso
1 tablespoon of white glue
2 teaspoons of water
2 tablespoons plaster of Paris
1/4 teaspoon of vinegar
After mixing apply to the mask with a medium brush and let dry.
Step 3: Painting the Face and Adding Flowers
The first step in painting the mask is making a good sketch of what you want. I knew that I wanted to use the colors red, black, and white, so I decided on a heart theme
It's tricky to get the symmetry of the mask down at first so draw lightly with a pencil until you have what you want on one side and then transfer it over. A tip to getting the designs symmetrical is to orient them with the locations of the facial features of the mask. If you make a mistake you can erase the pencil marks with a very soft or gummy eraser.
Once the design is set, start painting! I used acrylic paint because it goes on smooth and can be thinned with water to blend colors together.
To attach the fake flowers to the top and sides of the mask, use wire snips to remove them from their stems and hot glue them in place.
Step 4: The Finished Mask
I'm pretty happy with the final results. Since I completed the mask well after Dia de Los Meurtos (which took place November 2nd this past year) I decided to use it as a pretty cool piece of wall art instead... At least until next year's celebration!