Walkthrough - Making a latex character mask

Article by nert posted Monday 3rd September 2007

by Jonathan Cullinane

I thought I'd throw together this walkthrough of Kimura from Azumanga Dioh, or "The making of a Slackjaw Schoolteacher". This is mostly photos with very little explanation but you should get a pretty good idea of the process that went into making the mask.

Step 1: Attempt plasticine directly on to wig head:

Realise that wig head in no way represents your own head's dimensions, and give up.

Step 2: Acquire friends. Attempt Lifecast.

Step 2b: Only mildly panic that your life depends on a plastic tube right now

Step 2c: Wonder whether it was wise to put your life in the hands of aforementioned friends...

Step 3: Cast lifecast. Fail at casting the shoulders and half of your own face. Cleanse it of impurity and.. most inaccuracies. Paint it pretty colours because you're stupid and won't seal it well enough to stop the paint flaking off into the plasticine later.

Step 4: Make your plasticine model

Step 5: Fail at casting a negative, realise you're running out of time and take the lazy option of -- Start paintin' that latex on! Lots of it. We're talking 15-20 layers here. 10-20 minutes drying time between each.

Step 6: Mix latex with acrylic paints and get detailin'

Step 7: Slit the back, remove latex from lifecast (REMEMBER TO USE TALC) Make sure you can breathe through the damned thing. Seeing through it is optional.

Step 8: Recover lifecast from the dried, cracked and generally unhappy plasticine. Optionally take a photo of it dissected in half to prove to yourself you really don't look like the character.

See? Right there. You didn't seal the paint properly. Muppet.

Aaaand, you're done! Wear to conventions, stalk small children and scare people half to death. Yay.

So in summary:

Date started: 29/04/07
Gave up, started Lifecast: 06/05/07
Ran out of plaster, ordered more and made the lifecast: 10/05/07
Finished cleaning up, adding a base and sealing lifecast: 19/05/07
Started plasticine: 20/05/07
Started latexing: 22/05/07
Finished Mask: 25/05/07

A month in the making, but only a week for the actual mask part. Awesome.

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Materials Used

Hey nert

Great guide loving the step by step with all the piccies XD
Just wondered what materials you used at which point?

Im hoping to give this a stab even with my latex allery lol :)

How we suffer for our art XD

by MangaChild on Sunday, 11 November, 2007 - 23:58
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Materials used

Okay, I'll probably go into a fuller tutorial on the lifecast part but here goes:

There's a latex wigcap on my head to start with, and vaseline over any protruding hair and eyebrows/eyelashes - not too thick that it shows up on the final cast mind. Plastic breathing tube, although most people will try and breath through their nose so the cast looks more natural - I just didn't want to risk it ;)

The stuff in the bowl and up until the first pic of step 2b is Alginate - dental molding material, picks up an incredible amount of detail. The next picture is them wrapping clingfilm over the back of my head making a distinct line, as plaster doesn't stick to it. Score the alginate along that line with the back of a butter knife

Then plaster bandages over the face, ala the third picture, covering just over that line. when that's dry, fold the clingfilm back over the plaster, and plaster bandage the back just over that new line - so you end up with a lip in the mold.

Most of 2c was them playing around and doing a second layer on each side.

When it's all dry, with the back of a butter knife again and a bit of wiggling your face you can prise both halves off.

Slap the halves back together, plug any holes up (nose/mouth), with the lip and provided nothing broke off the two halves should fit back perfectly, use string or similar to tie them together tightly and support upside down somehow - I used a plastic wastepaper bin with some towels in the bottom to support the weight. It's going to get heavy.

Fill with plaster, pretty much. Do it in a few small layers first, slosh it around and make sure you get it in the awkward parts like the nose and chin without air bubbles, it's hard to tell because your only way into the mold is your neck hole ;) But when you're pretty sure you've gotten at least a thin hollow cast on the inside, pour plaster in and stir for a while. Leave that to dry for quite a while - it'll get pretty hot.

When it's dry, crack it open and see the result. With any luck it won't look as hideous as mine did ;) Fixing details is hard because plaster clogs sandpaper like anything, but I had a rotary tool with a wet'n'dry bit that seemed to handle it and clean okay.

When I found out the shoulders were a disaster I ended up sticking it in a plastic washing up bowl and filling the bottom with plaster to get a nice base, but it's a bit too close to the chin for comfort. (Seen in the last pics of step3)

I sealed it with modpodge but that appears to have been a mistake.. Karen says she didn't bother sealing hers at all and it works fine still.

The rest is plain plasticine (step4) until satisfied, then latex, latex+thickener (godsend) and coloured with acrylics mixed with latex+thickener.

Hope that helps!

- Nert

by nert on Wednesday, 14 November, 2007 - 15:46


Lol if you only knew how much i hate the fact that i didn't find this before i went through my mask making process. Regardless of the fact that i did my mask the same way you did.... AND it seems we also got us supplies FROM THE SAME SHOP.
Also i too was not bothered to do a negative mould (as i was running out of time) and painted the latex directly on.

A few questions.

1. Did you do a plaster life cast or an alginate life cast?
2. Were you as suprised at the total cost as i was or are you just rich?
3. Was this your first time too as i see you also messed up on the lips?

*edit* This is not all i have to say finally as i have also just realised that i have met you before at the londonMCM expo when you were in your purple tentacle costume and loved it!!!
Was this you? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azVtR7Z9clk

by Moozman on Thursday, 13 September, 2007 - 16:50
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Ah that's not me in the PT

Ah that's not me in the PT costume, that's the housemate who made it with me, he's the only one who fits in it and can move ;)

1) Alginate with modrock on top, to give it some strength
2) It wasn't cheap but it was more or less what I expected, except for the sheer amount of plaster you need o.o; I did make it to last though, so I figure it's worth it.
3) Hah, yep. The alginate had a weird texture, I don't think we used enough water, and as it was in the final curing stage we tried to make an air hole for my nose and it ended up just creating an air pocket which turned all kinds of hideous. It meant breathing under it was nice and easy but the end result was pretty ugly around there.

So what scary wonders are we to expect? ;)

- Nert

by nert on Wednesday, 26 September, 2007 - 02:26