Ancient Egyptians used masks for a variety of reasons. Death masks were used to cover the face of a mummy so that the spirits of the dead could recognise the deceased. Gold was commonly used, since the material shone like the sun and did not deteriorate over time. Masks were also used during rituals. Ritual masks were commonly designed to represent the gods and were worn by priests during religious ceremonies.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Plastic face mask
- Poster board
- PVA glue
- Paper towels
- Gold spray paint
- Acrylic craft paints
- Spray-on craft paint finish
- Elastic string
Place the plastic face mask in the centre of the sheet of poster board. Use a pencil to trace around the mask. Poster board and plastic face masks can be purchased at your local craft store.
Set the plastic face mask aside. Use a pair of scissors to cut out the traced outline of the mask.
Draw a headdress around the cut-out hole. Traditional Egyptian headdresses include a half circle along the top of the mask, roughly 6 to 8 inches from the top of the hole and flaring to 8 to 10 inches on either side of the hole. The headdress then tapers back in and then straight down to form slats below either side of the mask hole that are about 1 foot long and 6 inches wide. The area directly below the mask hole should be cut away. Use a picture of an Egyptian mask as a template, or design your own headdress.
Attach the plastic face mask to the poster board by placing it over the cut-out hole and securing it with a little clear tape or masking tape.
Cut a rectangle of leftover poster board about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. Trim one end so that the end curves, rather than ending bluntly. Attach the remaining blunt end to the chin of the mask to form a beard. Beards are optional.
Preparing the Mask
Mix one part PVA glue with three parts water in a bowl. White or craft glue will work. Mix the mixture thoroughly to remove any lumps. PVA glue, or white glue, is available at any craft, department or grocery store.
Cut strips of newspaper or paper towels so that they are 6 to 12 inches long and about 1 inch wide. You need plenty of strips, so cut at least 30 to 40 of them.
Dip a strip of newspaper or paper towel into the glue mixture. Coat the strip of paper entirely. Remove the paper from the glue mixture and use your fingers to wipe away excess glue mixture.
Lay the glue-soaked strip of paper across your mask. Smooth away any ridges or bubbles. Don't worry if you cover the eye or nose holes.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each strip of paper. Cover the mask and headdress completely.
Allow the mask to dry and then repeat steps 3 to 5 to create a second layer of paper mache. Allow the mask to dry once more and then add a third layer of paper mache.
Allow the paper mache mask and headdress to dry overnight.
Making the Paper Mache
Use gold spray paint to paint the entire mask and headdress. Paint both the back and front. Spray paint and acrylic craft paints can be purchased at nearly any craft store or hobby shop.
Allow the spray paint to dry completely.
Use a pair of scissors to cut the paper mache away from the eyes. Use a pencil or the tip of the scissors to poke through the paper mache that covers the nose holes.
Paint stripes or other designs on the headdress with acrylic craft paints. Stripes are traditional, but there are no set rules. Use a picture of an Egyptian mask as a template, or create your own designs.
Paint a black line around the eye holes to represent kohl, or thick black eyeliner.
Paint eyebrows and lips onto the mask. Decorate the beard if you added one.
Use spray-on craft paint finish to seal your mask.
Allow the paint to dry overnight.
Use a pencil or the tip of the scissors to poke a hole in either side of the mask. Cut a piece of elastic string about 8 to 10 inches long. Attach each end of the elastic string to the holes on either side of the mask. You can staple the ends of the string instead of poking holes if you wish.
Wear your mask, or hang it on the wall to display.
Painting the Mask
Tips and warnings
- Don't cut out the eyes if you intend the hang the mask, rather than wear it. Simply paint them instead.
- Use one part flour and three parts water instead of PVA glue and water for your paper mache mixture.
- Use plain newsprint paper instead of printed newspapers to avoid ink showing through your paint. Most newspaper businesses will gladly sell, or even just give, you some blank newsprint paper.
- Always use paint or finish in a well-ventilated area. Paint and finish fumes can cause headaches and dizziness.
- Use care when cutting cardboard or paper with scissors to avoid cutting yourself.
- Too much paper mache liquid may cause your poster board to curl. If it starts to curl, simply allow it to dry before proceeding.
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