Mask-making is fun for children and adults alike, and it is a great family project. Painting face masks can fit into most any holiday, from Mardi Gras masks to Easter bunny masks to Christmas elf masks. Mask blanks made of paper, pressed cardboard, plastic, foam and paper mache are readily available from arts and crafts retailers. All you need are a few simple, inexpensive materials and your imagination to create a painted face mask.
Prepare your work area by covering it with newspapers or plastic sheeting or repurpose an old shower curtain for a table covering. Fill a water bucket and have plenty of rags or paper towels for wiping up spills of water or paint. Set up brushes, paints and markers.
Prepare the mask blanks for painting by covering them with a coat of gesso. Plastic masks should be sprayed with a coat of plastic-fusion spray paint in white or black, or the plastic mask can be roughed up with a bit of sandpaper, then covered with gesso. Allow the prep coat to dry thoroughly.
Begin the decorative painting of the mask. It is helpful to find pictures of patterns, designs or specific types of masks --- for instance Northwestern American Indian or African masks --- to use as examples for your mask. Allow all painted decorations to dry. Tole, china, stencil and other painting techniques can be used to make your mask unique.
Spray the painted mask with two to three coats of clear acrylic spray paint, allowing each coat to dry one hour between coats. This step must be done outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to prevent adverse effects of paint fumes.
Further embellishing of the mask can be done by adding découpage designs, glitter, feathers, sequins, gems or ribbons. Masks may be mounted on a handle for hand-carrying use. Elastic or ribbon may be added at the sides of the mask to tie the mask to the head. Masks may also be used for wall decorations by adding a hook or hanger on the back of the mask.
Never allow children to wear masks when crossing the street because the masks can impair vision.