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What Are Paper Mache Masks?

Construction paper can add color to paper mache projects.
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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2014
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Paper mache masks are decorative face coverings made from molded newspaper and crafting embellishments. Mask making is a popular grade school art project, as it is a fun and inexpensive way for children to express their creativity. The primary supplies needed to create paper mache masks are an easy-to-make flour-based paste, plenty of newspaper, empty one-gallon milk jugs, scissors, and a craft knife. Once the masks' structure has set, they can be decorated with embellishments such as paint, glitter, beads, and feathers.

To construct paper mache masks, first make a flour paste by combining ten tablespoons (150 milliliters) of water and two tablespoons (16 grams) of flour in a saucepan. Boil the mixture, reduce the heat to low, and allow it to simmer for three minutes, stirring often. Remove the saucepan from the burner and let the mixture cool. It should resemble a heavy glue. Once the mixture has fully cooled, transfer it to an airtight plastic container.

Next, make mask molds by cutting gallon milk jugs — one per mask — in half lengthwise. The jug’s handle, which will form the mask’s nose, should be centered on one of the jug halves. Discard the other jug half.

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Now, eyes, mouths, and any other features which the mask creators wish to be cut out of their masks should be added to the molds using a craft knife. As these knives are very sharp, this step of the project is best done by an adult supervisor. The supervisor may ask the mask designers to describe or sketch their visions, and then cut away the masks’ features according to their descriptions.

Once the molds are complete, designers can begin building their paper mache masks. Tear several sheets of newspaper into approximately 1 inch by 8 inch (2.54 cm by 20.32 cm) strips. Dip one strip at a time into the paste mixture and pat it onto the mold, allowing the strips to overlap each other slightly. Preserve the cutout features by tucking strips around them, securing strip ends to the mold’s back.

After a complete layer of strips has been applied, the mask must be allowed to dry for 24 hours before a second layer can be added. When this drying period has passed, apply the second layer of newspaper strips. Dry for an additional 24 hours.

The paper mache masks are now ready to be decorated. This part of the process offers mask makers a chance to express their creativity. Paints, feathers, beads, glitter, construction paper, and many other craft supplies can be used to create designs that match the visions of their makers. Masks can also be decorated to represent a certain theme, such as Halloween or Mardi Gras. To make the mask wearable, punch a small hole at each temple and attach a strand of ribbon or elastic.

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Discuss this Article

Fa5t3r
Post 3

@MrsPramm - Planning is good, but I don't think you should rely on that completely. This is the kind of craftwork that you need to do in order to get a feel for what is possible. I know too many people who gave up halfway through their project, because they were too ambitious and didn't understand how to make their dream happen properly.

MrsPramm
Post 2

@umbra21 - It's a good idea to plan them out before you start them. It might sound fun to be spontaneous, but if you're hoping to make something in particular, you don't want to just glue bits and pieces all over it without a plan.

With a paper mache mask, you might need to stop and let it dry a couple of times as well, so that it will layer properly. The good thing is that it's a fairly light material once it is dry, so you can make it quite thick, but you don't want to make it too thick when it's wet, or it might collapse under its own weight.

umbra21
Post 1

These are so much fun to make. I'm planning to make one with my nephew next time I see him. Hopefully we'll be able to put together costume masks for Halloween, but really you can just do it for the fun of it as well.

I find that it's really useful to use cardboard rolls, like the ones in paper towels, as a means of creating texture in the masks. They make excellent noses and eye sockets, for example. Or you can cut them up and use them to make other shapes. Don't just stick to using bright colors as your only expression. The shape of the mask is really important as well.

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