Yet another really, really old build that I found when transferring some old photos. Because it’s old, the photos are not great, and I think this may have been the first thing I ever took photos of with the intention of maybe doing a step-by-step with. It’s obviously taken me something like three years to get round to it, but here it is!
Materials you’ll need.
- Cardboard and paper/newspaper/tissue paper (anything you can quickly and easily shape)
- Fabric for the hood
- Mesh for the eyes
- A wig or other hair substitute
- Paint (Acrylic works fine)
- Webbing straps and buckles if you want it to be adjustable and seal closed
- Optional – Velcro to close the mask at the back
- Optional – A way of sealing it (clearcoat, varnish, etc)
- Optional (but recommended) – acrylic teeth from ebay
- Optional (but recommended) – Liquid Latex (small amount)
Tools you’ll need.
- Hot Melt Glue Gun
- Scissors / craft knife
- Paintbrushes (nothing fancy)
- A mannequin or other head-form, it helps to have shoulders
- Optional – basic sewing tools
The first step is to make the base for everything else to sit on. I made a simple hood. If you want you can sew this if you’re happy doing that, since I knew that this would never be seen I just used hot-glue. It doesn’t need to be pretty, just something that fits over the head. Remember of course that you will need to leave an opening somewhere for the person to get it on and off.
You can see here that I added straps here to make it adjustable at the back, this was later covered by the hair of the mask and some extra work with the glue gun an suchlike. This was the first time I’d attempted this though so it wasn’t particularly elegant. You could optionally use Velcro, or little hooks, or nothing.
Adding the form and LOTS of glue.
I added another panel of fabric over the face entirely, and went back later and cut out the eye holes and a slit for the mouth. I was making this up as I went along so sometimes it’s a bit random.
This stage is just about building up your face shape – if you’re going for something from your imagination, go nuts here, if you’re trying to make something based on something real, it helps to have reference images. Use cardboard, newspaper (or anything cheap and easy to shape) and plenty of hot glue to build up the shape of the underlying structure. Then, when you’re happy with that, go over it with hot glue to create a “skin”, using the nozzle of the glue gun to push around the glue as you put it on, creating texture.
This technique works great for anything that needs a bobbly, ridged, corrupted texture, but it’s hard to get something smooth and nice, bear that in mind when you’re planning your build. It’s also worth noting that if you’re using the standard glue it can be hard to see exactly what you’ve done since it’s translucent which tends to obscure details.
Build it up in layers, since the glue is hot, the more you add to one area the longer it will take to cool, and that will transfer the heat to any other glue you put down. This can work really well for certain areas, but other times when you want to build up height or layers of texture you want to be sure the underlayer is cool before adding more or it’ll just end up as a blob!
Paint it to see what you’ve done.
Since it can be tricky to see exactly what you’ve done, one way to around this is to paint it. Just a thin layer of acrylic paint won’t really affect the glue (you’ll see later that I added a lot more glue after this stage and it’s fine). Just be sure not to put a thick layer on since that could form a barrier between the glue layers which you definitely don’t want.
Adding a Jaw and Teeth
I knew the teeth would really make or break this mask, so I went on Ebay and bought a pack of surplus acrylic teeth, these are discoloured, sometimes chipped factory seconds from the manufacture of false teeth and you can get them really cheaply. The only downside is that it’s totally random. That’s fine for a build like this but if you’re trying to build a full and correct grill you may want to just purchase a set of false teeth in their entirety.
The Jaw I made in exactly the same way as the face, it’s cardboard cut to shape then covered in hot melt glue. Shape it while the glue is cooling and that holds it to the curve nicely.
To stick the teeth on I just used hot-melt glue, it seemed to work well enough. I keyed the parts of the teeth where they’d be stuck down using a craft knife – simply score cross hatches into them, it gives the glue something to grip on.
I also added the eyes in here, I wanted to create a “socket” look, but since this is a functional airsoft mask I also needed to make sure it would be safe to wear. Just hot glue to mesh in place, it’s pushed in to create the concave eye sockets. You’ll see later that I experimented with various ways to make the eyes look more solid rather than mesh-like. I tried using thin streaks of hot glue over the mesh to create a sort of semi-covered mesh, but it was too obscured so I eventually took those out and replaced with with just blank mesh that I simply painted the same as the rest of the mask. If you’re making this for a non-airsoft use you may well be able to find better ways to do the eyes (maybe even leave them as hollows so your actual eyes show though or something).
Adding more mask.
At some point between the last photo and the next I turned this into a full head mask. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t do this right from the start, but I was making this up as I went. To do this I simply extended the fabric down the neck and made a piece that went across the shoulders (think of it a bit like just the neck of a T-shirt). Then I rolled the edge up a bit, gluing it in place to make a more solid lip on the edge. After that it’s just a case of carrying on he technique you’ve used previously all the way across the head and down the neck and shoulder part. Of course there’s no reason you can’t just keep it as a face mask, it works just the same!
At this stage, you can have fun with painting it. You’ll see here it changes colour many times as I was experimenting. You’ll find that hot melt glue tends to melt through thin layers of acrylic and bond with the underlying layer of glue provided you don’t use too much paint, so it’s safe to play around. Obviously Hot melt glue is plastic, so if your paint is too watery it’ll just run off, it’s best to apply it neat from the tube and build up layers.
Attaching the Jaw
Originally I had the idea that I wanted to make the jaw move when the person wearing the mask spoke, but ultimately that didn’t work as I planned, however the jaw attachment does allow for movement, and I think it lent a more natural and organic look to the finished thing.
I attached it by hot-gluing the core strands from paracord to the hinge part of the jawbone, then to the skull. I used paracord simply because it’s abrasion resistant, and I had loads of it to hand. Any fabric would work fine to be honest, or even just gluing the jaw to the skull if you don’t mind about it not moving.
Adding grizzly bits.
I had some liquid latex lying around too, so I played around with that a bit, rolling it into little tubes and thing, I had the idea of trying to give it some sort of rotting partial muscle texture around the jaw and mouth. I attached those to the skull by painting some latex onto parts of the skull you can as white bits in the picture below and there’s a closeup of the layers following that. There’s no real hard and fast technique for how to do this, latex is quick drying and forgiving, so it’s often best to just experiment to see what sort of effects you can get, if you get stuck there’s a million guides online for working with liquid latex.
Hair maketh the pirate… skull.
This pirate was called “redbeard”, so he really needed a beard. I’ve never really added proper hair to anything like this, so my approach was (wait for it), to use hot glue. My partner had a wig from a costume that she never used, so she let me cut it up and do unspeakable things to it to turn it into undead pirate hair.
The wig hair is attached to a netting type thing, I found for the most part that the easiest way to do the bulk of the hair was to cut this netting, which resulted in basically strips of hair attached to a strip of fabric and that was way easier to glue on than trying to glue clumps of hair in place.
As with doing proper hair, start at the bottom and work up, try to hide your attachments under more hair. For the upper layers use smaller clumps. Remember in this case you can use hot glue to blend the areas where you attach the hair in with the underlying glue of the mask, so it does actually work pretty well. For the beard and moustache I did actually cut off the fabric strips and attempt to glue smaller clumps of hair on, but it was really tricky and possibly not worth the effort. As usual, experiment. The eyebrows were done the same way, but smaller clumps and cut short. Again, the mask being undead really helps to hide all the defects in this quick process.
Because I’d added so much extra stuff, there was quite a mixture of colours ans shades on this mask by the end. I decided to paint it all again now it was all complete, rather than just painting the new bits. I used quite a lot of washes to create a layered darker look. Then dry brushed the raised areas to bring them out. Any type of painting you like doing will work here. If I were doing it again I’d definitely go for more colour and texture, with a lot more shades and work on bringing out the interesting bits a little more. I was going for something that looked like aged leather or jerky, but ultimately it looked a little flat.