How to Make a Plaster Mask

Three Parts:Preparing the Work Space and SubjectConstructing the MaskFinishing the Mask

Whether you're headed for a masquerade party, making a costume for a play, or preparing for trick-or-treating, a plaster mask is an inexpensive costume option with tons of potential. Make a plaster mask with your kids or use the techniques to create intricate works of art. This article describes the basic process of creating full or half mask.

Part 1
Preparing the Work Space and Subject

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    Prepare your work area. Choose a room where you have a lot of space to spread out, since working with plaster can get messy. Lay newspapers or a drop cloth on the floor. Have paper towels handy in case a stray drip lands outside the covered area.
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    Prepare your supplies. Cut bandage plaster into strips. You will need enough strips to make three layers of plaster over the face.
    • The strips should be about 2-3 inches wide by 3 inches (5-7.5 cm x 7.5 cm) long.
    • Make some strips longer, shorter, wider or thinner. You'll need strips to cover all areas of the face.
    • Place the strips in a bowl. Set out a second bowl filled with warm water that you will use to wet the strips.
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    Prepare your subject. The person whose face you are using to mold the mask should wear clothing that he or she doesn't mind getting wet with drips of plaster.
    • Decide how much of the subject's face you plan to cover. It's best to have a conversation with your subject about his or her comfort level. If you wish to cover the entire face, make sure the nostril area is left clear so that the subject can breathe freely.
    • The process is easiest if the subject lies on the floor, but if he or she prefers to sit in a chair, wrap towels around his or her neck and shoulders.
    • Ask your subject to tie back his or her hair, and to pin bangs away from the face.

Part 2
Constructing the Mask

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    Ask your subject to get into position. Again, it's easier to work with a subject who is lying on the floor face up. Whether the subject chooses to lie on the floor or sit in a chair, instruct him or her to keep still throughout the process. Laughing or moving the face will distort the mask.
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    Rub petroleum jelly all over the subject's face(You can also use oil instead). Place it especially at the hairline, on the eyebrows, and around the sides of the nose. Don't skip this step, since it prevents your subject from experiencing pain when the mask is removed.
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    Construct the first layer of the mask. Working one strip at a time, dip strips in the bowl of warm water, then run your fingers over the strips to remove excess water. The strips have more plaster on one side than the other; lay them on the subject with the side with less plaster face down. Create an even base layer, and avoid leaving gaps between strips.
    • Dampen a smaller strip and lay it diagonally along the nose, starting above the left eyebrow and ending next to the right nostril. Ensure the subject is able to breathe freely at all times.
    • Dampen another strip and place it diagonally in the opposite direction, forming an "X" across the bridge of the nose.
    • Dampen and place a larger strip across the forehead, overlapping the tops of the "X", smoothing the plaster as you go.
    • Add the remaining strips. Avoiding the triangle from the tip of the nose to the midpoint of the upper lip, repeat the dampening and placement of strips until there are none left. Cut any strip to size as needed.
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    Examine the base layer for weak areas. Check to see if any skin shows through. Check to see that the pieces are overlapping properly and are not too spread out.
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    Make the second layer. Focusing first on the weak areas, begin layering on more strips. This time use larger strips and try to create a uniform layer with as few bumps as possible.
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    Take a break and let the mask set. Cut strips or clean up a bit before applying the third layer, as you want the mask to set, but not start drying.
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    Commence the third layer. Begin at the edges, and fold the tails of the strips down around the edges of the mask to smooth them out. This gets rid of the sharp corners left by the initial layers.
    • Begin building prominent features. Create a bigger nose, eyebrow ridges, and so on to add character to the mask. Do this by adding narrow pieces in layers and smoothing into shape.
    • Regardless of what features you build, make sure to reinforce weak areas, like the nose and eye areas, by adding extra strips there.
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    Allow the mask to begin drying. After about fifteen minutes, your subject's face will begin to feel itchy. Ask the subject to gently move his or her face - lift eyebrows, crinkle the nose, and so on - to start loosening the mask.
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    Remove the mask. 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.
    • While the mask is still pliable, use a hole punch or awl to poke holes about an inch back from the eyes, to run ribbon or string through.
    • Place the mask on a rack to dry, preferably overnight.

Part 3
Finishing the Mask

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    Attach additional elements with more strips. You may add additional features by attaching and coating them with additional plaster strips using the same overlapping techniques you used for the base.
    • Consider adding such appendages as a beak (fold a paper plate in half) or horns (use cotton candy/fairy floss tubes or cones), or big bumps (use scrunched up newspaper balls). Cover them completely with plaster strips.
    • For natural-looking features, such as higher cheekbones or a pointy nose, use paper-based modeling clay. Spread a base layer of the clay onto the mask, then sculpt features with the clay. Cover with plaster strips and allow to dry overnight.
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    Smooth the surface of the mask. Use sandpaper to smooth the bumps from the surface of the mask.
    • You may also choose to cover the mask with white tissue paper; spread the mask with glue, lay on the tissue paper, and allow it to dry.
    • Smooth and cover the back of the mask, too, since you won't want rough plaster directly touching the wearer's face.
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    Decorate the mask. Use a variety of paints, or glue on feathers, sequins, beads and other decorative items.
    • If you want to paint the mask, brush it with a layer of gesso first. Allow the gesso to dry before you start painting.
    • When you are finished decorating the mask, slip a ribbon or string through the two holes and knot the ends, so you'll be able to fasten the mask to someone's face.


  • Hobby varnish can be used to seal the mask if you want to weatherproof it or simply preserve it.
  • The best way to create facial features is to build on what's already there, rather than trying to make sweeping changes from the beginning of the mask. Once you have a nose to work from, "feel" how you want to change it and go from there.
  • For a half-mask, follow the bottom edge of the cheekbones for a nice looking line.
  • Many masks today are attached to a headband with wire, allowing the wearer to easily remove the mask without losing it.


  • Never cover a subject's nostrils with plaster.
  • If you plan to do an ambitious mask with many layers, you may want to give your subject a small roll of cloth or an old pillow for neck support. Make sure that you get a very patient subject.
  • Test a little of the bandage plaster on the back of the wrist of your subject 24 hours before making the mask. If your intended subject has a bad reaction, this is probably an allergic reaction, and you should find another subject.

Things You'll Need

  • Bandage plaster (available at hobby stores or pharmacy)
  • Water
  • Newspaper or drop cloth to protect clothing and floor
  • Vaseline/petroleum jelly
  • White paper-based modeling clay (available at hobby stores) - optional, only used for editing mask after finished
  • Gesso, if painting the mask
  • Paints and other decorative items
  • String or ribbon

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