How to Make African Masks for Children

Updated April 17, 2017

African masks are sought after by museums, art collectors and some eclectic decorators. They were worn by dancers during celebrations, spiritual initiations, war and the harvesting of crops. African masks also represented the spirits of ancestors and other ceremonial spirits. These tribal masks are made of different materials, including wood, leather and metal. However, lighter materials such as paper, foam and cardboard can be used to make creative African masks for children.

Cut the Balsa-Foam into small pieces. The pieces should be large enough for a mask (example: 3 inches high and 1 inch deep).

Draw an outline of the mask onto all four sides of a block of Balsa-Foam using a soft pencil. There are many African mask themes to choose from. One such design is the African warrior. You draw an oval head, long exaggerated nose, oval eye holes and a mouth with slightly parted lips.

Use the modelling tool to carve away the excess foam around the outside of your drawing. Carve in the facial details around the nose, eyes and mouth until they protrude from the mask. Add any other preferred design.

Sand the mask using sandpaper to smooth rough areas. Clean the mask with the duster. Use a paintbrush to add a thin coat of gesso to the foam mask and let it dry. This will seal the pores.

Pour paint into a palette and paint the mask using acrylic paint and a brush. Make sure the coat is not too thick or lumpy. Allow the paint to dry.

Choose an African mask design or create a warrior mask by drawing an oblong head, two half moons for the eyebrows and bottom eyelashes, a nose with a long bridge and triangular bottom, and a double circle for the mouth on paper.

Sketch the facial features onto a piece of cardboard and cut the pieces out. Sketch the face of the mask on a large piece of old cardboard and cut it out. Cut out the eye holes using an X-acto knife. An adult should complete this step.

Glue one half moon shape over each eye and underneath each eye hole. Glue on the nose and circles for the mouth. Allow the glue to dry.

Paint the entire mask brown using the poster paint and a brush. This step is good for young children. Use the white paint to add stripes around the cheeks and dots around the eyes.

Poke two holes spaced 4 inches apart, one on top of the other, on both sides of the mask using a hammer and nail. Once again, for safety, an adult may want to perform this step. Insert string or wool through one hole and pull it through the second one. Loosely tie the string in front of the mask, leaving enough string to hold the mask.

Things You'll Need

  • Balsa-Foam
  • Acrylic craft paints
  • Modelling tools
  • Duster
  • Needle tool
  • Clean-up tool
  • Double-ended stylus
  • Soft pencil
  • Sand paper
  • Paint brush
  • Palette
  • Gesso
  • Old, large cardboard box
  • Heavy duty scissors
  • X-Acto knife
  • Brown poster paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Decorative paint (white or your choice)
  • String or wool
  • Sheet of paper
  • Nail and hammer
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About the Author

Since 2007, Jophiel Aurora has written articles on environmental issues, vegetarianism, travel and animal rights for Web sites like eHow, Answerbag and LIVESTRONG.COM. Aurora is also a writer for Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants, an online program. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration in computer information systems from Georgia State University.