How to make a Japanese mask

Written by kim blakesley Google
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How to make a Japanese mask
Make a Japanese mask using paper mache. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A traditional Japanese mask worn in theatrical plays is called a Noh mask. Each mask represents a person, ghost, devil, hero or animal. More than 200 different Noh masks are used to perform each play. Materials used to make the masks include paper, clay, wood, cloth, and dry lacquer. The most common mask characters are Gigaku, Bugaku, Gyodo, Hannya, Ko-omote, Otoko, Uba, Chujo and Shikami (the demon masks). Make a replica Japanese mask using paper mache and acrylic paint.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Newspaper
  • 4.7 litres (5 quart) plastic ice cream container
  • Water
  • White glue
  • Measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon
  • Plastic mask form
  • Picture of a Noh mask (Otoko)
  • Stanley knife
  • Acrylic paint
  • Artist paintbrushes
  • Water container
  • Paper plate
  • Spray acrylic sealer

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  1. 1

    Cover a flat work surface with several sheets of newspaper. Tear additional newspaper into 2.5 x 15 cm (1 inch x 6 inch) strips. Approximately 75 strips are required. Set the strips to one side of the newspaper-covered surface.

  2. 2

    Pour 474 ml (2 cups) white glue and 948 ml (4 cups) water in a 4.7 litre (5 quart) ice cream container. Mix thoroughly. Set the container on the newspapered work surface.

  3. 3

    Place the plastic mask form on the newspaper.

  4. 4

    Dip a strip of newspaper in the glue and water mixture. Make sure to cover the entire strip. Pull the strip from the glue mixture through your thumb and forefinger to remove any excess from the strip. Immediately place the strip on the mask form in a diagonal fashion. Smooth the wet newspaper strip with your fingers to remove all bumps, bubbles and creases. Repeat the process, working in a crisscross formation across the entire surface of the mask form. Allow the papier mache mask to dry for 30 minutes. Repeat the process for a total of five layers of papier mache newspaper strips. Allow the mask to dry four hours.

  5. 5

    Look at the picture of the desired Japanese mask. Dip four to six strips of newspaper in the glue and water mixture. Crunch the pieces to form a teardrop or round shapes. Place the teardrop on the mask in the desired location, such as the nose, eyebrows, checks, lips and/or forehead.

  6. 6

    Cover the teardrop or round shapes with three to four strips of newspaper. Smooth the wet strips to remove all bumps and creases in the paper. Add two to three more layers of wet newspaper to attain a smooth look.

  7. 7

    Dip one strip of newspaper in the glue mixture and remove the excess liquid. Roll the paper from one long edge to another to form a long straight stick. Fold the stick around the eye to shape the eye lid, add definition to the mouth and/or features on the face. Refer to the picture of the chosen Japanese mask for proper placement. Cover the rolled strips with two to three flat strips of newspaper dipped in the glue mixture. Smooth the paper.

  8. 8

    Allow the mask to dry 24 hours before removing from the mask form.

  9. 9

    Remove the paper mache mask from the mask form. Cut around the edges with a craft knife to create a smooth edge.

  10. 10

    Squeeze a quarter size drop of the main mask colour on a paper plate. Paint the main surface colour of the mask, except for the eyes. Allow the paint to dry for 15 minutes. Repeat the process.

  11. 11

    Squeeze a pea-size drop of accent colour paint on a paper plate. Paint any accents such as facial scars, eyes, outlines and/or hair detail. Allow the paint to dry 15 minutes.

  12. 12

    Open the can of acrylic spray sealer. Shake the can of sealer for 60 seconds. Hold the nozzle 30 cm (12 inches) from the surface of the Japanese mask. Spray a thin coat of sealer over the mask. Allow the mask to dry 15 minutes. Apply a total of three coats to the surface. Allow the mask to dry two to three hours before use.

Tips and warnings

  • It is very important for the papier mache mask to be completely smooth to achieve the look of a Japanese mask.

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