Make a Professional Quality Mask for $15 (and a Lot of Elbow Grease)




Introduction: Make a Professional Quality Mask for $15 (and a Lot of Elbow Grease)

About: I make mistakes so you don't have to.

So, I like to make my own costumes for halloween. For this year I decided to make Gin from Hotarubi no Mori e. Now, I have had experience in the past making masks, but none of them have turned out very well. This with the addition of not having a large budget meant I had to think a little creatively. I decided that I'd use papier mache with bondo (auto body filler) over top. This way, I could create a strong solid base without using a lot of noxious materials (polyester resin) while still having a hard and smooth surface. So, let's get started!

Disclaimer: I said $15, as that is how much I spent on it. However, there are some materials that I already had lying around (you may too) so I didn't need to buy them. However, if you were to buy everything you need in this tutorial (asides the $15, paint, brushes, sandpaper) can easily be bought for under $15. So, max cost for this project is $30.

P.S. I didn't write a lot about what I'm doing in the text body, but I have a lot of annotations on images, so see those if you're confused.

Step 1: Lots, and Lots, and Lots of Masking Tape

Now, for the first step you need a cheap styrene mask. I got mine at michaels for about $4. You also need a lot of white masking tape, and newspaper. Basically, take the newspaper, scrunch it into balls, and tape it onto the mask. Just keeping adding more and more until the form is how you want it.

Step 2: Papier-Mâché!

Now it's time to move to papier mache! Now, there are about a billion different ways to do papier mache, and mine isn't the best. But, it is a way. If you want some good resources for papier mache recipes, I recommend here or here. Also, I highly recommend using some sort of mold/form release (such as petroleum jelly). It will make the next step so much easier.

Step 3: Remove the Mask Form

Now, time for a tricky part. You need to take the form out from underneath the mask. Now, if you used some sort of release in the last step, this should be pretty easy. If you didn't, like me, it takes a little more coercing.

Step 4: Back to Papier-Mâché

Now, time to go back to the papier mache to fix a few things up.

Step 5: Bondo!

Now, time for bondo! Basically, this step is apply bondo, sand, apply bondo, sand, apply bondo, etc.

Step 6: Odds and Ends

Now, this isn't one particular step, but just a few things. As I mentioned at the end of the last step, I cut out the eye wholes using a drill press and a coping saw. I also used some wire to glue some small strap anchors (I didn't want to drill holes in the side, but you are welcome to). Also, to prevent mildew, I sealed the inside of the mask with a couple coats of wood glue.

Step 7: Painting Time!

It's time to paint! I'm really sorry, but I didn't really take many images during this step, but how you do this step will differ quite a bit from mask to mask. Basically, I used some gesso to act as a primer (and one final smoothing layer) while sanding in between (the gesso isn't actually necessary, but if you have it on hand), and then coated the whole thing with matte white spray paint. After that I painted on all the little features with acrylic paint, and sealed the whole thing with matte fixative (although, it does seem to have a bit of gloss). Also, these are just small things, so I feel that they didn't need their own step, but I added a little hook with yarn to act as the strap to hold the mask in place (if you have elastic, I recommend that) and taped some thin black fabric behind the eyes to make it look more like the movie.

Step 8: Wear It!

Now all you have to do is wear it with an outfit to fit (and is allowed due to climate), then take a whole bunch of selfies.

Final thoughts: I'm pretty proud of this piece. It's my first instructable and my first mask that I spent money on ($0 budget masks are a pain in the butt). I probably could have made it better, but time constraints, and I probably could have made it cheaper/with less toxic chemicals (which I'm looking into for the future, such as water putty, and please leave a comment if you have any experience or ideas!). But, again, overall, I really like this piece, and I got a lot of compliments while wearing it (even though no one knew what it was from, and people thought it was anbu mask, but I digress). Anyway, I hope you liked it, and keep your eye out for future instructables!



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18 Discussions


1 year ago

did you sand the mask before using the bondo and how many layers of bondo did you apply

1 reply

No, I did not sand before the bondo. There are some paper mache recipes that you can sand, such as with thick paper or plaster as a binder, but this was too thin, and it likely would have delaminated. The number of layers is sort of a tricky question. I would say I probably did around 10 applications of bondo. Only really the first few applications really covered the mask. After that, it was feeling/looking for low spots, and just putting bondo there, than sanding and repeating. There is really no 'right' amount of layers. It's just how many applications you need to get the mask smoothness to your satisfaction.

Is there any other tool you could use that would make it easier to cut through the Bondo besides the saw? Kinda scared to try..haha.

1 reply

Scared of using a coping saw? They're super safe and easy to use, if that's what you're afraid of. Really the only other tool that I can think of that would be able to cut through it is a Dremel with a cut-off disk, but that's less safe, and more prone to mistakes. Alternatively, you could try using a craft knife to cut the eye holes before applying the Bondo, though it's easier to make sure you get the positions just right after Bondo. Regardless, iff you make a mask, let me know how it works out, and I'd love to see pictures! :)


Edit: I just wanted to say that I recently made a new Gin mask! It's much more accurate than the first (this is the fourth). This isn't actually made with the same process. Instead of newspaper form, I used pink foam (which I'll talk about in my next instructable), but it's still paper mache and bondo.


Thank You sooooooooooo much. U ARE A LIFE SAVER!!!. I only made the account for this project. U see I need this mask for my cosplay and I can't find any websites that tell me how to make this. Thank u sooooo much -- again... Oh by the way can u plzz answer the following questions asap. (the cosplay is in less than a wk and i need a mask fast):

1. With the nose did you stuff a lot of newspaper to make it protrude?

2. Can i use normal computer paper?

3. is it ok to paint the mache and skip the bondo bit? (time consuming)

4. How can i make the mask smoother without doing the bondo bit?

1 reply

Oh, I'm really sorry that I'm so late. *~* I hope that you were still able to make it in time, and I'd love to see pictures! To answer your questions though:

1. Yes I stuffed quite a bit of newspaper in the snout. You can actually use anything to stuff into it (newspaper, packing peanuts, tin foil, toilet paper, etc.)

2. Yes, you can use any type of paper! The reason I use newspaper is it is much cheaper. Also, when doing paper mache, it is best to rip the pieces, instead of cutting, because then the seams are smoother, and newspaper is just a little easier to rip in straight lines, because it seems to have a 'grain' of sorts.

3. You definitely don't need to bondo the mask. It won't be quite as strong, and definitely not as smooth, but as long as you add enough layers, and take your time carefully doing the paper mache, and smoothing it out, it should be fine.

4. As I said in the previous answer, if you take your time you can get it pretty smooth. However, there are a couple of things a little faster than bondo. One thing is paper mache clay. I won't get into too much detail on it here, as you can find many recipes online (I suggest searching ultimatepapermache), but basically it's a clay made from paper. You can use your hands to smooth it out when it's on the mask, and it still sandable after it dries, and sands much faster than bondo.

Anyway, I wish you good luck, and if you redo it, I'd love to see pictures. :)

Actually, the last mask I made used plaster. However, I had a lot of time constraints so I wasn't able to get it that smooth, but most of all, it's just rather fragile and less flexible in what you can do. That's why I want to look into waterputty, as I've heard it's stronger.

Hey! I thought I'd give you an update on the Water Putty. Recently, I decided that I would be remaking this mask due to it being a little tighter than I'd like (I accidently warped the sides when cleaning up the paper mache, and left it on it's side to dry). I also recently got my hands on some Durhams Rock Hard Water Putty. I can say, it's some neat stuff, and they aren't lying when they say it's rock hard. That being said, I've decided I won't be using it on this mask. The reason for this, is because of the fact that it is so hard, it is also rather brittle. A very thin coating across a slightly flexible paper mache surface doesn't seem like the greatest idea. Though also rather brittle, I feel like Bondo has a little bit of give in it. I think that water putty would be great for prop making, but not so much mask and armor making (unless you're just using it as a buck for vacuuforming or molding). Anyway, I just thought I'd let you know.

Only the ingredients shown. Wheat Paste (flour), wood glue, and water. Unfortunately I can't give you exact measurements. I would probably say I used abou the same amount of glue and wheat paste, and I just added enough water to make it a thick soup. Also, a lot of people put wallpaper glue in their mix, but I haven't tried it myself.

try a heavier paper mache cause it is sandable if you do it right its tough as wood and actually is wood and you should use a lot less bondo you want to keep it as flat as possible these should end up allowing you to be even more cost effective and allow a lot less elbow grease over time you will naturally do this just giving you a heads up that its OK just in case you second guess yourself :) after all your work is great and can only get better

1 reply

Hmm. I'm not quite sure what you mean by a heavier paper mache. Do you mean heavier paper, or simply more layers? There are already quite a few layers, and it's quite solid even without the bondo. Also, in terms of sanding mache, I tend to not like to do it simply because I've had experience sanding paper mache in the past, and I often find that it just ends up delaminating the paper.

These are great techniques for basic mask-making. You're right about a lot of elbow grease though, this looks like a ton of work!