Some of the projects for this Halloween are a little more involved and will span over a better part of the month. Paper mache needs time to dry between layers so starting early should help prevent the project from being rushed. We are already nearly a week into the month so now is the time to get started. This is the beginning of the first papier mache projects. Last Halloween I made 3 different paper mache masks that now live on our wall, this year so far I only need one which will make a nice addition to the wall after Halloween.
This mask will be made up of a few different layers starting with the main structure, a thin layer of paper mache strips, a layer of paper mache clay, and a sort of fabric mache layer then the paint and a sealer. I am going to cover the first few layers in this post then finish it off in a part 2.
The first layer
This part is built using thin cardboard and painters tape. From this one I saved two small cracker boxes and ended up with left over material. Each mask I make is made with one person in mind so I don’t use any standard sizing instead I use trial and error and annoy everyone around me making then try it on over and over again. Husbands and children alike are not big fans of the process, but they are always happy with the results.
I use painters tape to tape it all together then once I have the finished structure I cover the entire things in the tape it gives it a really good and slightly flexible foundation. This part might be over kill but it really makes a difference in how well it stands up to adding on the paper mache.
The second layer
The second layer is the first paper mache layer. This one is going to be the classic flour and water paste with paper. I use newspaper torn into strips, if you tear it from top to bottom instead if side to side you are tearing with the grain of the paper and it comes out nice and straight. For the flour and water paste, I like to use about a 1:3 ratio it’s slightly thinner than pancake batter and works nicely.
1 cup all purpose flour to 3 cups water, but you could use whatever recipe you want, a white glue and water paste or a store bought paste will work just fine.
I dip each strip of paper in my paste and run it between two fingers to remove excess paste then I lay it on, smooth it out and bend it around any edges. To keep the edges nice use thinner paper strips to limit folding and make sure you are always wrapping those edges instead of stopping at them.
This layer could be optional I’ve made masks without it but I find doing this first gives the paper mache clay a something to adhere to really nicely and it helps build up the edges since the clay has a hard time sticking to them. This is also the only paper mache layer that the inside will get so it needs to be well covered.
Keeping this layer thin will keep your drying time nice and short. For this mask this layer was done in the evening and dry by morning, ready for layer number three.
The third layer
To start I lay on a thin layer over the whole face of the mask using a butter knife, you really need much to get good coverage. I added extra in around the joint between the ears and the face. Once I had this thin coat done I took little strips of paper and added a small amount of the clay to it, just enough to make it stick, then wrapped it around all the edges.
The next step is to build up the clay in spots where that need more detail. In the ears I put in another layer of clay to make it thicker so I could put in the ridges. For this I used the back of my butter knife then smoothed it out with a finger and water. The other spot that needed detailing was the nose, this part had to be built up quite a bit. I tilted the mask back and propped up the nose to prevent sagging since this part got really thick. Making it thick like this means a much longer drying time for this layer but I wasn’t too worried.
Once I was happy with everything I dipped my hands in water and very lightly smoothed out the whole mask. To do this your hands need to stay wet or you’ll start to drag the clay. You could smooth it out with the back of a knife it works really well but I almost always use my hands, just be sure not to add too much water. For most of the mask it will get another final layer but for some areas like the ears and the nose this is it so I wanted to make sure they were really done since sanding it down is a pain.
This is where todays blog ends, this mask needs a couple days to fully dry then we will add the final layer and the finishing touches. For now my little bat is going to stay propped up on the kitchen table. Once it starts to dry I will pull out the paper from underneath to make sure it isn’t sticking to the back then I will leave alone until its ready to go.
Click through pictures of last years masks below.