Day of the Dead crafts – masks

Paper mache Day of the Dead masks This year I had a couple of requests for Halloween crafts, but decided on some Day of the Dead inspired activities instead. Whilst I’m aware the two festivals are very different both my chosen activities would allow the hardcore Halloween fans to turn their crafts into more gruesome skulls or skeletons while allowing those who choose not to celebrate Halloween to learn about the Mexican festival and its more positive way of celebrating life and death. Plus, of course, the festival has the most beautiful and colourful aesthetics to take inspiration from, including sugar skulls and masks. The limitations for this activity were based on a limited materials budget and numbers. I wanted to make sure every one of the participants would produce a good result without being able to spend a lot on materials or being able to help that much. As buying craft masks or moulds as a starting point was not an option I designed a template that could be cut out of card and shaped to give a base for paper mache. The template meant that the skull mask would work well even if the paper mache layers were not very thick or even. The  skull mask template can be downloaded here. (The template is for half the skull, to fit on a piece of A4 so it must be drawn round twice-the 2nd time as a mirror image) skull mask templates The template can be traced out on to card – for the workshop I bought thin modelling board and for the sample versions H and I made we used cereal packets which worked fine. The modelling board was thicker which made it harder for children to cut out but it meant that overzealous paper macheing didn’t reduce it to a soggy heap, whereas the cereal packets were easier to cut but we had to be careful not to add too much paste. The template can then be cut out and bent into shape by overlapping the slit areas, adding pva and stapling to hold in place. Pinching the chin area helped to produce a better skull shape. IMG_2329 The skull shapes could then be covered in paper mache, and allowed to dry. (The workshop was in 2 sessions – the templates and paper mache was completed in the first session along with designs on paper for the masks. I then painted all the masks white in preparation for the 2nd session) We then gave the masks a coat of white paint, before beginning to decorate them. We used a mixture of methods – painting some areas and once dry outlining in black felt pen and adding detail with other pens. (If you want your skull to be a bit more smudge resistant it would be wise to use sharpie pens, H and I used ordinary pens but then coated our masks with spray on varnish, as paint on varnish would have made the pens run) paper mache day of dead masks H and I made this contrasting pair – H opted to choose ‘scarier’ colours. Below are some of the results/works in progress during the workshops. masks IMG_2453


7 thoughts on “Day of the Dead crafts – masks

  1. UAU! I’m from Barcelona and I want to do this activity with my kids! But, could you explain me how did you do the papel maché with the newspaper? Thanks you very much!

    1. Hi – for the papier mache part you just tear up small pieces of news paper and layer them up ontop of the template using a paste. The past can be made with a 50:50 solution of PVA glue and water or a flour and water paste.

  2. Hi! Awesome tutorial, very easy to follow even for a newbie like me 🙂

    I’m currently making this mask for Halloween. May I know what white paint would work best for this? I intend to use my colored Sharpies for the details and I don’t think poster paint would go well since it’s a bit too matte? (I’m afraid it’ll damage my sharpie tips).

    1. Hi Jo, yes I’d agree – i think poster paint might clog up the pens a bit- though you could get round that by cleaning them on a bit of paper in between drawing. I painting my masks using acrylic paint though which worked really well with sharpies. (not so well with ordinary felt tips though!)

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