adventures in unschooling

How to Make a Plaster Mask

Base Making Supplies

  • Plastered cotton strips
  • Scissors
  • Vaseline
  • Headbands or handkerchiefs for hair
  • Bowls for water and strips
  • Towels
  • Dropcloth for floor


First decide what portion of your face you would like the mask to cover. Half masks are good if you would like to be able to talk with your mask on.

Preparing the work area & subject

Lay down a dropcloth to protect the floor. Towels or colths may also be needed to protect clothing if your subject will be sitting. Put out a bowl of warm water and a bowl for cut strips. Put out towels for catching drips.

Cut the plaster bandage into strips around 1X 3 inches. Cutting a variety of sizes can be helpful. You need enough to cover the face three times.

Tie back the subjects hair and cover head with a hairband or a handkerchief. If you plan for your mask to cover high on the head, cover with plastic and vaseline.

Smear a coat of petroleum jelly all over the face area to be covered by the mask, concentrating on the eyebrows and hairline. If you skip this step, your subject will experience serious pain when the mask is removed!

If you are not planning to wear the mask and wish to cover the eyes, you must make sure they will not get plaster in them. Protect them first with a layer of cloth and plastic covered with vaseline. If you plan to cover the mouth and nose, you can use straws as breathing tubes, or just be careful not to cover the nostrils.

Have your subject lay down on the floor or sitting in chair.

Applying Plaster Strips

Dip the strips into the bowl of warm water, just long enough to get them wet. Remove excess water by running your fingers down the strip. Keep the dry strips out of range of spilling or dripping water,so they will not harden before you use them. The subject must keep very still; no laughing or moving the face for 10-15 minutes.

One side of the strip has more plaster on it. Apply the strip with this side out, and rub it until all extra plaster is spread around, covering the cotton cloth of the strip and all the holes. Overlap the strips to connect them.

Cover the entire area with three layers of plaster. Make the edge of the mask as straight as possible from the beginning. This is easier than cutting it later. Reinforce the mask in narrow places like down the bridge of the nose and the edge with extra strips.

Removing Mask

Leave it to dry until your subject feels itchy. At this point, the subject should begin to gently move his or her face: Lift eyebrows, crinkle nose, etc. When the subject no longer feels “stuck” to the mask, gently slide your fingers along the edges to lift it away, moving your fingers inward toward the center of the mask as you lift.

Allow Mask to Dry
Place the mask on a rack to dry. Let it dry completely before adding more features. Overnight is best.


Features &Decorating Supplies

Smoothing out the surface:

  • Sand paper
  • tissue paper & white glue
  • or paper mache
  • or/ and gesso

Building up features:

  • Cardboard, plastic, wire mesh, tubes, cones
  • modeling clay as a mold
  • tinfoil, paper mache, paper clay
  • crunched up newspaper, tinfoil,cotton balls, balloons
  • plaster strips


  • Gesso
  • acrylic paints & brushes


  • Trim stickers, feathers, sequins, costume gems etc.
  • Glue

Sealing and protecting the mask:

  • Modge Podge, Hobby varnish, or other Acrylic medium (Can be mixed in with paint)

Attaching mask:

  • Glue gun,drill, or awl
  • elastic, ribbon, or dowel

Building up or Adding Features

For more organic changes, such as higher cheekbones, a bulbous nose, or a ridged forehead, paper-based modeling clay is the medium of choice. Tinfoil, paper mache, crunched up newspaper, , cotton balls, balloons, or any other light material can also be used. Cover your built up features with a layer of plaster strips. Allow the mask to dry overnight again before painting or sanding.

Dozens of materials can be used to add features such as noses, beaks, ears etc. The most accurate features are made by using a template or pattern. Using a piece of scrap paper, cut a piece for the nose or ear. Don’t forget to leave tabs for attaching the piece to the mask. Now test fit this piece to the mask. When you make a design you like, cut a final version from heavy paper or screen wire.

To make large detailed features,you can use clay. Sculpt the features you would like out of the clay. Cover the clay with vaseline and then cover with plaster strips. Remove the plasterstrip feature from the clay when it is dry. You can use any object as a mold, just make sure to cover it with vaseline first, and also plastic, if you wish to protect the object from the plaster.

Attach your additional elements with more strips. If you want to add large components, it is best to attach and coat them with additional plaster strips. Use the same overlapping techniques you used for the base.

Painting & Decorating the Mask

Unless you are going for a bandage look, it is good too use something to smooth out the surface of your mask and round the edges. Cover it with a layer of paper mache or tissue paper and white glue(or Modge Podge) to make it smooth. The plaster is very flakey and dusty so it is good to cover the inside of the mask too. If your mask is still rough, you m ay wish to sand it with sandpaper.

Apply a layer of gesso before painting your mask. When you are finished painting your mask seal it with a layer of Modge Podge or other acrylic medium or hobby varnish. The acrylic medium can also be mixed in with your paint to make it go further. Lastly attach any trim, stickers, feathers, sequins, costume gems etc. once the paint is dry. These decorations can also be covered with the Modge Podge if you want them to be more secure.

Attaching Mask to Head

Use a 1/4″ drill bit to drill holes. The holes will be for adding such items as wire, yarn, or elastic. Or, you can just use a sharp object and carefully work a hole into the sides of the mask by hand.

Alternatively, use a glue gun to attach elastic to the insides of the mask . This works well and doesn’t compromise the integrity of the mask as drilling holes may. You can also glue a piece of ribbon covered dowel to the side of your mask if you wish to just hold it up to your face.

3 responses

  1. mary

    Hi! Thank you so much for this post. I found here the details i need for my art therapy project. Thanks a bunch!

    November 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

  2. josh

    I would just like to mention one thing. You say that paper based clay is the preferred medium for adding features to masks. Maybe you should be nice and tell the people reading, that the clay will massively make the mask heavier. Im sure that the person making that mask wants it to be light weight so that they can keep in in play on their face with out having to push it back up constantely ^_^.

    January 21, 2011 at 2:35 am

  3. coffeevulpes

    Reblogged this on Coffee Vulpes and commented:
    well, future reference I guess.

    May 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s