Intro: Foam Predator Mask
Having made the plasma caster and the Bio helmet, I next wanted a full (and realistic) Predator mask. The normal way that these are made is to sculpt in clay, take a mould of the sculpt and then cast in latex. This requires space (which I don't have), skill in sculpting (which I don't have), and cost of materials (which I don't have). I needed an alternative method.
The idea is simple, build the mask from upholstery foam, then 'skin' it with latex, paint it etc.
It's a learning curve for me since I had never attempted anything so complex using foam and latex.
Upholstery foam is cheap and readily available, in fact you could make the mask from old recycled furniture foam. If you can get the white or cream coloured foam you will require far less work at the painting stage.
I bought a pack of 1/4", 1/2" and 1" thick foam sheets, each about 45" x 60" for less than £15.00 GBP including postage. Plenty for three or four masks.
Before you begin, gather as many good quality images of the Predator as you can find. I printed out 3 or 4 of the best from different angles to work from.
Above is a still image of the final mask and body paint for a video shoot.
Step 1: Tools and Methods Required
You will need to be able to cut, shape and glue the foam.
I recommend a pair of sharp scissors, a good set of craft knives (an x-acto or scalpel, a box cutter and possibly an electric carving knife will do the job), A steel straight edge or ruler, and a felt pen for marking out, along with a tape measure.
For gluing, hot melt gun, contact adhesive or cement, some super glue and finally some upholstery foam spray adhesive.
Possibly a stencil cutter or soldering iron with changeable tips, although it is possible to do the sculpting part without one.
Finally some rough grit, cheap sandpaper for smoothing out the carved foam. A Dremel type tool fitted with a sanding drum is also an excellent way to speed this up.
Be warned! These tools and materials can be dangerous, use all standard precautions!
You will also need around a litre of liquid latex.
You will certainly find it easier to complete this 'ible if you have a wig stand or head. I got mine off ebay for £5.00 GBP, it's polystyrene, and I coated mine with 6 layers of PVA glue and some acrylic paint to seal it.
Step 2: Forming the Basic Shape
This step is much easier if you have someone to assist you.
The mask is made up of 5 basic elements. The cranium (top of the head), the upper face, the cheeks and the mouth. The back of the head will need an additional set of fillers.
There are a number of different ways you can go about construction, I just chose what I thought would be the easiest.
Measure from the centre of your forehead, to the base of your chin. Now add 1" or 25mm to this measurement and write it down.
Next measure from the centre of your forehead just above the eye brows, around your head over the tops of your ears. Add 3 " or 70mm to this measurement and write it down.
Now cut a rectangle of foam to the dimensions you measured. I used 1/2" foam for this, but 1" would do just as well. If you have had to split an old cushion for this use the rough side as the outside of your mask. Measure and mark a centre line half way along the length of your foam.
Place the centreline in line with your nose and wrap the rectangle round your head (Don't worry if it's too long at this stage). Using your finger, locate the centre of each eye and make a mark using the felt tipped pen. Then using the same method locate an mark the bridge of your nose and the outer point of each nostril. Draw a nice arc for your nose.
Mark the back so that you know where to cut the excess off to give a comfortable fit.
Now trim out the nose, trim the back and mark out 1" (25mm) marks for the eyes and cut them out. Glue the back edge together using upholstery glue or impact adhesive (hot melt will do it but takes time to set). You should now have a basic foam upper face that you can wear. Cut a 2"" wide strip of foam and whilst wearing the face, measure over the top of your head and cut the strip to length so that it fits from the top front of your face to the top of the back. Glue it in place.
You should now have an upper face that fits so that you can see out and has a strip over the top which will help support the foam when it's finished.
Next comes the cranium. You need to cut an elliptical shape that is about 12" (30cms) by 16" (40 cms). I can't give exact dimensions since all heads are different! The part that will form the front needs to be trimmed flat to the width of the outside of the eyes.
Glue this straight onto the front of the upper face so that it covers the eye sockets by about 1/3 - this will form part of the eyebrows.
Once this has set, start drawing some basic shapes onto your mask using the felt tip pen. Especially the eye sockets since this will determine where the upper mandibles will go. You also need to mark how far back to cut the upper eye sockets.
At this stage I started the first of the sculpting. To make the upper mandibles, take a rectangle of foam slightly bigger than the diameter of the mandible. Using the scissors start by cutting off the outer four edges, you now have an octagonal shape. Trim off the 8 edges and so on. In no time you will have a 'round' cylindrical sort of shape. With practice you will find that it becomes easy to form cylinders. Don't worry if its a little rough, once it's been 'latexed' it will look better.
Glue the two upper mandibles to the mask at the point where the eye sockets will meet the upper jaw.
Next make the 'nose' (actually the upper teeth since Predator has no nose). This piece needs to fit between the eyes and over your nose to a point level with the upper mandibles. Check the pictures and try to cut the piece so that it looks like the upper 'gums'. Teeth will be added later.
At this stage I drew more detail on to the head. This will give a better idea as to where things need to be cut, added or removed.
Next we need to bend the top of the head to the correct shape. Again this is easier if you have someone to help you.
Bend the top of the cranium over and down towards the back of the upper face ring, measure from the bottom of the cranium to halfway down the back of the upper face ring. Cut a 2"" (50mm) wide strip of foam to the length you measured and glue it to the back of the upper face and the bottom of the cranium. This will then hold it all in place.
Next, cut the two cheek sections, these need to run from a point under the upper mandible to the start of the curve of the upper mouth. Extend them down past your chin by 1/2" (15mm), then cut another section to fit under your chin. Glue them all in place.
Now roughly cut two pieces of foam to fit between the cranium piece and the upper mandibles forming the rest of the eye sockets. Extend them slightly under the eyes forming the upper cheeks. Glue them into place.
Using your very sharp craft knife or scalpel, trim out the eyes and start to trim back the lower edges of the cranium. You can then use rough sandpaper or a sanding drum in a Dremel to GENTLY begin to sand the rough edges away. This takes some time to get used to and I had a few 'near misses' where I sanded off more than I wanted to. Be careful!
We now have a very basic mask.
Step 3: Finishing Up the Sculpt
Once we have a rough basic mask we can start to add some details and get the shapes better.
Using some tracing paper, draw out the shape of the hole left for the mouth. Transfer this onto a piece of thin foam and cut out the shape. Cut a small hole where the entrance to the throat will go and sculpt in some mouth ridges. I used a soldering iron with a pointed tip for this but you could use scissors at a push. Glue the mouth into the hole.
Cut and shape the parts for the lower teeth/jaw. This needs to protrude by about an inch (25mm), Again teeth will be added later.
I also began roughing out the crest horns by simply making triangular cuts in the crest of the cranium. Once this was done I began cutting and adding 2" (50mm) strips to the back and sides of the head, gluing first to the strip we added earlier and then to each subsequent strip to form the back and sides of the head. I did it this way because I found it easier to get the profile correct than cutting a single continuous strip with a curve for the cranium to rest on.
Now for the lower mandibles. With the mask on your head, find the spot at the bottom of your earlobe where it meets you own jaw. make a mark with the felt tip pen. The jaws are shaped like a bent and elongated chicken drumstick, and need to protrude past the lower teeth by about an inch or two. The little 'tooth stalks' at the ends were made up and stuck on later.
Leave a flat area at the back of the mandibles to stick to the side of the head, and then use the scissors to round and sculpt the rest. I sanded mine a little, just to help round them off a bit. they were then glued on, the stalks were glued on and the entire thing left to set.
I then began to hollow out above the eyebrows using the scissors, and to cut some details into the top of the head using scissors and the soldering iron. Little indentations were cut for the teeth to fit into using the scissors and more hollowing and roughing out was done around the eyes and eyebrows.
I cut two thin sections of foam to form the skin between the lower mandibles and the bottom teeth. These were glued in place with hot melt.
Finally the upper face and the top of the head were given a single coat of liquid latex to begin to seal it all ready for the next stages.
Step 4: Latex and Smoothing.
Next I used some cotton wool soaked in latex to smooth out the eyebrows and add small raised areas. I used the latex brush to help sculpt and blend these out.
I added a set of upright crests to the top of the head using scissors to rough cut and hot melt to glue them on.
Then the entire head was given a single coat of latex and left for 24 hours to cure.
Another all over coat of latex was added and left for another 24 hours. The mask is now incredibly strong and flexible.
Next I added the teeth. The smaller ones in the mouth were made from acrylic nails. A powder and a liquid are combined to form a paste used to strengthen women's nails. If you leave it till it starts to set it can be rolled and shaped in the fingers then polished with the Dremel.
The larger mandible teeth were made from foam using the scissors. These were all glued in place and the foam teeth given two coats of latex.
The next stage is to make the skin for the sides of the mouth and the strip across the upper mandibles. The method is to use tracing paper to mark out the template, then paint 4 layers of latex onto the tracing paper, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next. Put a single layer of latex onto the mask where the skin will join the mandibles. Let it all dry and then peel the 'skin' off the tracing paper and press it into place. It will bond instantly, the run a small fillet of latex over the joins to smooth them out, let it cure and then lightly powder it with talc to stop it sticking to itself.
You can see one side has been added in the picture. The second piece is drying out in front of a heater lamp ready to be fitted.
Once every thing has cured, I added some ridges to the lower jaws and bits of the cranium using hot melt glue. Once set I gave the entire mask another coat of latex and let it dry.
Step 5: Painting
Because latex is 80% water, you can add some water based paint or ink to a little latex and paint it on. This will become an integral part of the mask and will never rub off. You can use artists or hobby acrylic, which is quite flexible and used in this way it wont crack. the trick is to use very thin layers of latex and paint to stop it cracking when the mask flexes.
I started with some reds, pinks and purples to put basic colour into the mouth. I then used some cream, green and orange to put down some very basic colour shapes and patterns.
Then I switched to straight paint and ink, adding very thin layers of colour and building them up. Browns, reds and black were added to enhance the shapes. Finally I used the airbrush, and very fine brushes to add in the major colour areas.
The mask will need final retouching once all the dreads are in place.
Step 6: Adding the Dreadlocks.
There are any number of ways that the dreadlocks can be made. You could paint layers of latex onto the end of a pool cue, let it dry, then peel it off and stuff it with foam or some other soft material. However, for 40 dreads this would take a very long time.
You could make them from furniture foam, but again, sculpting 40 dreads would take a very long time and be very boring.
You could also try using heat shrink rubber tubing over a cue former. The cost of the heat shrink put me off this method.
I decided to use the backer rod method to save time. Backer rod is a polyurethane foam extrusion similar to pipe lagging foam. It's used in the building industry to fill gaps in walls prior to having caulking added. It comes in various diameters and lengths, but is comparatively cheap and easy to work with.
I bought a load of 20mm rod for £10.00 including delivery. Purists would have bought some 25mm, 20mm and 15mm to form a correct set of dreads, but visually I thought I could get away with just using 20mm for simplicity.
I made marks on the sides and back of the mask in the positions where I thought the dreads should fit. I used a marker pen for this.
I measured from the marks on the mask to a point just below my shoulders and cut the dreads to length. Then working with 5 dreads at a time I first made the tapers by heating the backer rod ends over the stove and then rolling them. Here is a YouTube video of the method. I don't know this guy but it is exactly how I made them, except that I found that there was no need to pre-trim the ends, just heat and roll them. Be very careful not to cause a fire!!.
I then turned the dreads around and coated the last inch and the flat end with two coats of latex. Allow them to dry until the latex goes clear. The back of the mask was also given a coat of latex where each dread would go and again allowed to dry until clear.
Simply press the dried backer rod dread into place on the back of the mask, it will bond instantly so place them with care. Once in place, run a fillet of latex around the joint to strengthen it and allow it to dry.
Repeat this process until all the dreads are in place.
As a side note: The images show how I constructed the back of the head from strips of foam. These are simply flat strips glued into place. Since the final colour will be dark brown and black, it will all be hidden by the colour and the dreads.
Step 7: Finishing the Dreadlocks
One problem with the backer rods is that they don't 'hang' correctly. Also their movement is not quite as flowing as in the films.
When simply stuck on he looks more like Sideshow Bob than a proper Predator!
Since I used 20mm rods, I found that 22mm copper pipe is a push fit onto the rods. I decided to make the 'beads' from 1" lengths of copper. The added weight of the beads makes the dreads move and hang much more in keeping with the films.
I cut two copper fittings for each dread, slid them on to the correct position and then ran a bead of super glue round the ends. This will secure them enough for the final stage.
Now each and every dread needs a single coat of latex mixed with black acrylic paint. Since the backer rods were a neutral grey colour you don't need to add much paint. This is a boring and long winded task since the dreads must not be allowed to touch each other during the drying process, or before they have been powdered to stop them from sticking together. It took me a couple of days working with 3 or 4 dreads at a time to complete this task.
To finish off the mask I used the airbrush to add brown and black colour round the bases of the dreads and did final retouching to the paintwork on the mask itself.
Step 8: The Finished Mask
Here's another still from the video shoot. We blacked out around her eyes and got her to wear some theatrical contact lenses for the shoot.
More images are over on my Deviantart account under the same username.