Many cultures at different times and places used face masks in ceremonies, religious rituals or simply as decorative art. The ancient Egyptians are probably best known for theirs. They created face masks for the dead so that the gods would recognise them in the afterlife. Today, we make face masks for at-home craft projects or in the classroom for school art or history projects. Masks made from someone's actual face make great keepsakes for children and adults.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Petroleum jelly
- 4-inch plaster of Paris gauze strips
- Plaster of Paris
- Measuring cups
- Ball or inflated balloon
- Clean towel
- Tempera paint
- Paint brushes
- Plastic drop cloth (optional)
Put a headband on the person you're making a mask of. Include men with longer hair. This prevents hair from getting stuck in the plaster. Rub petroleum jelly along the hairline and jawline and on eyebrows and other facial hair so that the mask lifts easier when you're done.
Mix 1/2 cup warm water with 1/3 cup of dry plaster of Paris and stir it with a spoon. Make one or two extra bowls so that you don't run out of the mixture midway through the mask.
Place a pre-cut, 4-inch gauze strip in the plaster of Paris solution, then remove it immediately. Let the excess liquid to drip back into the bowl. Lay the strip along the outer edge of the person's face.
Add gauze strips, one at a time, until you've made an oval around the perimeter of the face. Smooth each gauze strip over the skin and smooth the strips together. You'll notice that the edges almost blend together with the plaster of Paris solution.
Cover the inner areas of the face with a single layer of dampened gauze strips, leaving the nostrils uncovered. Smooth the strips over the contours of the face so that features like the eyebrows, eyelids, nose, lips and cheekbones are discernible through the gauze strips. Repeat with a second layer of gauze strips, starting along the hairline and jawline and working your way in.
Allow the mask to remain on the face for 15 minutes. Ask the person to move the mouth and jaw around to loosen the mask. The mask will not be fully dry, but dry enough to carefully lift and remove from the face.
Remove the mask and place it on a ball or inflated balloon about the same size as the person's head. The ball or balloon provides support for the face mask. Let dry for 24 hours.
Wash the skin and hairline with soap and water to remove the plaster of Paris residue and petroleum jelly. Dry with a towel.
Paint the mask as you choose. To make it life-like, use colours that match skin tone, eye colour and colour of facial hair. Allow the tempera paint to dry overnight.
Tips and warnings
- Set out all supplies before you start so that you don't have to stop in the middle of your project.
- Tiny facial hairs can get pulled when removing the mask. Apply petroleum jelly all over the person's face if they have a lot of fine facial hairs.
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