How to Make a 3-D African Mask

Written by betsy morgan
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How to Make a 3-D African Mask
Take inspiration from photos of ancient African masks. (Red African Mask image by Paul Hampton from

Making your own 3-D African mask is inexpensive and easy to do. With paper mache, paint and basic household items, you can create custom masks in a few hours. Kids can create their own masks and learn about Africa's rich artistic history while having fun. You can hang masks on the wall for one-of-a-kind decorations, or cut holes in the eye and nose areas, attach an elastic string to each side and wear it as part of an African costume.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Plastic gallon milk jug
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper
  • Clear-drying all-purpose glue
  • Large bowl
  • Water
  • Acrylic craft paint in colours of choice
  • Stapler (optional)
  • String (optional)

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  1. 1

    Look at pictures of African masks, either online or in a book, to decide on the shape and design of your mask. African masks range from abstract, inventive creatures to more realistic human and animal faces.

  2. 2

    Cut the milk container to the size of mask you want. You can use the handle of the container as an elongated nose for an abstract mask, or use the flat side of the container for more realistic forms. Cut pieces of cardboard and tape to the container with masking tape to create a three-dimensional nose, chin, lips, ear and brow shapes.

  3. 3

    Cut newspaper into one-inch-wide strips. The strips can be any length, but shorter strips can be easier to work with.

  4. 4

    Mix one part glue with two parts water in a large bowl. Soak each newspaper strip in the mixture and press it onto your milk jug form. Repeat until the form is covered in two layers of newspaper strips. Let dry for four to six hours.

  5. 5

    Remove the mask from the milk jug when dry. Paint on any colours or design you like, using pictures of African masks for inspiration. Many African masks feature geometric shapes painted down the nose and across cheeks and forehead in colours like bright red, blue and orange.

  6. 6

    Staple an elastic string to each side of the mask and cut holes in the eyes and nose areas to wear as a mask, or staple a string to the top of the mask to hang on the wall.

Tips and warnings

  • Poke holes around the top of the mask and knot pieces of yarn or twine through them to create hair for the mask.

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