They Live Costumes: Masks for Glasses Wearers, Secret Message Shirts and Sunglasses - No Clay!

Introduction: They Live Costumes: Masks for Glasses Wearers, Secret Message Shirts and Sunglasses - No Clay!

There are 3 components to this costume:

1) Masks- suitable for glasses wearers - OHhhOOooOoooO! I couldn't find anything on the internet about how to do this for a full face mask, so that's why I'm uploading this.

2)Hidden message decor/costume elements

3) Hidden message revealer sunglasses

For the masks you will need:

This instructable will show you how to
make or adapt a full face mask to wear over glasses without discomfort.

This year we were inspired by previous instructables by Pris Nexus 6 and this article in Makezine to make alien masks from John Carpenter's film They Live. These masks differ in that they require no clay and therefore are far easier to make for those without those sculptural skills. I wanted to up the ante a bit, so decided to incorporate sunglasses that revealed hidden messages when worn by people at the halloween event we will attend.

For each mask you'll need:

  • a full face mask
  • a skull mask (sometimes they sell the nose & jaw section only, this is what I used)
  • elastic to attach the mask
  • a table tennis ball (two if you're not very neat at cutting)
  • washi tape or some kind of paper adhesive tape you can easily paint over (you need at least one small roll)
  • small cable ties
  • 3 make-up application sponges
  • band-aid tape
  • foam sealing tape for windows
  • very thin mirror on a roll- the shinier the better (we bought a kitchen splashback product, which is very thin foil plastic with adhesive on one side at the dollar store) SEE STEP 10 FOR SUGGESTIONS FOR ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS
  • string
  • gumstrip tape (Butterfly is the most well known UK brand, this is available in the US, we are in Tokyo so got ours at Yuzawaya) (this is paper tape that has an adhesive on one side that is moistened to activate it, like an envelope seal. It is often sold in art stores for stretching watercolour paper and such before painting.)
  • gouache paints
  • scissors
  • small hacksaw
  • craft knife
  • an old small screwdriver/awl
  • thin sharpie
  • mod podge
  • glue roller

For the costumes you'll need:

  • Glamorous 80s ladieswear or
  • Suit and tie for a man
  • inkjet T-shirt transfer or alternatively a pale blue and bright red marker
  • An iron

We modified a dollar store 100% polyester tie for this tutorial

For the sunglasses you need:

  • sunglasses
  • Mod Podge
  • red acetate sheet
  • scissors
  • toothpick
  • Q tip for cleaning up any messy areas

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Step 1: Making the Base

I looked at images from the film and other mask tutorials and cut the jaw section and plain mask to approximate the shape I wanted. I made 2 masks with slightly different techniques, so will point out the differences as I write the steps. The mask where I cut the jaw piece narrower ended up looking a bit more feminine, but that worked as this is a couples' costume for us. I cut the jaw pieces first using the hacksaw. Remove the nose section and make the jaw narrower if necessary. The shape you need to cut will depends on the size and style of the skull mask you're working with. Go slowly and keep checking the shape. Cut the top face part to overlap slightly (about an inch). There will be gaps and the masks won't sit flush over each other, don't worry.

Once the pieces were shaped as I wanted I smoothed off the edges with the craft knife. Once you're happy with the shapes heat up the tip of your small screwdriver/awl and, holding the pieces together as desired, very carefully melt holes directly through both layers that line up. These holes are for the cable ties so bear their size in mind. You'll need 2 sets of holes for each point you will join with a cable tie. I joined the cheeks on either side and under the nose.

Thread through the cable ties with the protruding part on the inside of the mask. Cut the ties down as much as you can with the craft knife.

Fill in the gaps between the jaw and upper face with make up sponge pieces, cover the cable tie protrusions with thick pieces of makeup sponge. Secure with band aid tape. This will be comfortable and safe against your skin.

Step 2: Making the Eyes

Cut the table tennis ball in half, you'll need both halves, so be careful. Draw on the design as shown and cut out using a craft knife. You can use one ball per eye and discard the other half if you're not good at cutting.

Hold the eyes against the mask's eye holes, draw around them and cut the mask to accommodate them snugly using the craft knife. You will attach the eyes with washi tape from behind later on, but the next step is easier to do before you attach them.

Step 3: Making the Veins and Skin Relief

Using reference images from the film or internet start to lay string pieces over the face to create vein shapes. Secure with washi tape. Press down thoroughly to get a good relief of the string through the tape. I used 2 or even 3 layers of string on top of each other to create higher relief.

This method is so great, you can work slowly, no sticky hands or drying time, repositioning is fairly easy. I definitely want to use this method again.

Step 4: Gumstrip for a Good Finish

Once your relief is all done, cover the mask with a layer of gumstrip. One layer was enough for my mask. Thoroughly wet the gumstrip so that it will mould really well to the relief of the veins. Let it dry thoroughly for 24 hours, or longer if necessary.

N.B: I made one mask without this layer because I was impatient and the finish isn't so good, you can see more of the edges of the washi tape and it was significantly streakier when it came to painting. I recommend this step for a good finish. You can see in the image showing both masks difference in the finishes finish is smoother, the other has just been painted white to prime it and the final finish is not as good, the paint cracked more and chipped off more.

Step 5: Attach the Eyes

Use washi tape from behind, or band aid tape if you feel the washi isn't secure enough, to secure the eyes. in position before painting.

Step 6: Paint Your Mask

Paint your mask using image the gouache paints, be sure to use image references.

Step 7: Seal Your Mask

Once you're happy with the painted result seal the mask with Mod Podge.

I was going to seal the masks with a layer of acrylic spray varnish, but the smell was really strong and we thought it'd give us a headache, so I opted for Mod Podge in the end (the original formula). In the movie the masks look wet, so something very glossy is best.

Step 8: Attach Elastic

Attach the elastic through the existing holes and try your mask on.

Step 9: Make Your Mask Suitable for Wearing Over Glasses (skip If You Don't Need to Wear Glasses)

On the inside of the mask check the eyes are secure and fix if needs be. Using the foam sealing tape build up the forehead so that it creates a gap big enough for your glasses to be worn under the mask. Do this strip by strip and keep trying on the mask. You're not going to have the best visibility, but it's definitely good enough to enjoy a party in and is far better than a mask without glasses for those who have very poor eyesight and can't wear contacts.

(Optional) cover the sealing tape with band-aid tape if you like to keep it secure and create a slightly more skin-friendly surface during wear.

Step 10: The Eyes Have It! Mirror Eyes

Cut triangles of the mirror plastic sheet and use the glue roller to increase their adhesion, attach to the eyes. This takes a long time, but gives a better finish than any paint method I've seen. If you can't get the mirror roll you may be able to try either a foil emergency blanket (like they give marathon runners), chrome nail foils or chrome nail varnish (the mirror powder type), I haven't tried these methods, but considered them, so thought I'd share. You could also use aluminium tape, but the finish isn't as mirror-like. The inside of a bag of chips might even work!

Step 11: Sunglasses: Take a Look! Put 'em On!

Compared to the mask the next step is sooo easy! Cut the red acetate sheet to size and glue on the interior of the sunglasses. I used Mod Podge and a tooth pick to glue a fairly fine line around the edge, meaning the majority of the lens is undistorted and fingerprint/glue free to look through. They took about 5 hours to fully dry and set.

Step 12: Hide Messages Wherever You Want

If you're having a party at home, or hosting, I think these messages would be better hidden amongst decor, but as we weren't hosts, we decided to wear our messages.

Messages that appear in the film include things like 'Obey', 'Marry & Reproduce', 'No independent thought', 'Do not question authority' and, famously 'This is your God' on the money.

This method exploits cereal box spy message technology! The basic idea is that a message that isn't very obvious to the naked eye becomes clearly readable when viewed through a red filter.

We tried lots of different methods, I'll introduce the 2 that work best here:

1) Low-fi method:

Use a very pale blue marker to lightly write your message on a t-shirt or whatever. The key is that it should be very pale. Go over the message with a red scribble pattern, draw something like this pattern.

2) Tech method:
You could definitely use the method above. There's a secret message wedding invitation tutorial I found here that may help.

We made a hexagon grid in Adobe Illustrator (my boyfriend did this as he's a designer, so I'm a bit sketchy on this part). I coloured the hexagons fairly randomly using warm colours (reds, pinks, oranges etc) that all showed up light under the red acetate filter. Then I used a hexagon font I found on google (I think I just googled 'honeycomb font' and looked at the image search results) and wrote words into the pattern using cooler colours (blues, greens, purples, blue toned browns etc).

When viewed in normal light these messages don't stand out much, but under a red filter they become very obvious. Whilst these patterns may look obvious on your screen, we will be wearing these costumes at a DJ event, so the room will be quite dark. My initial colour choices were much harder to detect, but in low light became too hard to read.

We printed these designs onto t-shirt transfers and applied those according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 13: Enjoy Yourself!

Halloween Costume Contest 2016

Participated in the
Halloween Costume Contest 2016

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    2 Discussions

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Awesome! The biggest problem with most masks is that they are impossible to wear with glasses. Thank you for taking that into consideration for your design.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks! I documented the making process in order to feature the glasses-wearability. I googled a lot and all I could find by way of advice for glasses wearers who wanted to wear masks was about wearing glasses over a venetian style mask, having a hold-up-on-a-stick type mask or wearing contacts. None of these options would work with a lot of more involved costumes, so I worked out this method. I really hope others find it helpful.