This write up/tutorial details how I create my resin masks, beginning with a clay master, moulding it in silicone and then casting it using resin plastic. The example masks are: Darth Nihilus and an Old Man mask inspired by Japanese Noh masks.
Planning and sculpting
First up I gathered some reference images of the mask I wanted to make. Next, I decided I wanted a base to sculpt onto. In my case I used a really cheap polystyrene head I brought online. To make moulding easier later on, I carefully cut the head in half leaving just the face. Having made had some difficulty, I recommend planning out and then drawing an outline of the mask onto the head. If you don’t want to draw on your base, try covering the face with masking tape.
To sculpt my masks, I use Chavant medium; this is an oil clay that never dry’s out and can be reused over and over. While firm, it can be softened with heat or hardened in a freezer.
Begin with a first layer that fills in the outline you have drawn. On top of this build up basic shapes using your reference images as a guide. Remember to make guide marks (such as facial features) as you go, these can be removed later. Sometimes it can be difficult working out the depth of the clay as you build it up. A method of doing this is inserting cocktail sticks or pegs into the head to mark the depth you want the clay. Either leave them in and the top represents the depth or put a mark on them and take them out when you are done. Continue working on your sculpture until you are happy with it.
When you have sculpted the mask, the next stage is to smooth it. Of course, if you have textured your mask and don’t want any part of it smoothed, skip this and move on to casting.
There are two ways to approach the smoothing stage:
- Smooth your mask as much as possible, mould and then cast it using the minimum amount of silicone and resin. Then sand down the mask before moulding it again. I would go with about 3 cm of silicone with a case, then 3 -4 mm thickness of resin for the mask.
- Spend time going over the clay using the below techniques and attempt to get it ‘perfect’. This may be possible with other oil clay, but I haven’t had any luck doing this with Chavant.
To smooth out the clay I use spray lubricant such as WD40 in combination with fine wire rakes. These come in various shapes as seen below.
Alternatively you can also heat the clay gently with a heat gun or hand torch and then go over the surface with a wire rake. It may be possible to harden the clay and then rake or even sand it, but I haven’t tested this out.
If you are going straight from your finished clay sculpt to end mould, I suggest, even if it looks perfect to give your sculpt a final once over for mistakes.
Rather than do a write up on how to mould, I recommend the below video tutorial on how to make a brush on mould. I will suggest some alternative materials that can be used below
These are other materials I have used/tested for moulding:
- Plaster bandage (modroc) or plaster can be used as a cheaper, if messier mould case.
- As well as rebound bound 25 and Thi -Vex, I have tested Polycraft GP3481-F silicone and Polycraft Dow Corning Silicone Thixo. These give an equally good result.
There is also and excellent video on casting which I have embedded below.
If the first cast is going to be sanded, first prime it with some spray. Next, sand the whole mask. For this stage I wet sand using 180 grit sandpaper; this helps cut down on dust. Any remaining primer showing after this will show up any low spots. Once all the spots have vanished give it another coat of spray to double check and if any spots remain sand them down. When you are happy, follow this up with 280, then 400 grit for a smooth finish. Finally, recast the mask.
Now you have your finished mask and you have removed any excess resin it’s time to paint it. Of course if you have cold cast it or used coloured resin as show in the video you may want to skip to weathering your mask.
First give the mask a coat of primer. For my masks I normally use a light grey as a middle ground between black/white. On top of this I add my base colours. Since I don’t have an air brush I paint on my acrylic paints by hand using thin layers to avoid brush strokes.
After I have my base colours down I move on to shading. To do this I mix up a darker versions of the base colours, water them down and apply the wash to any recesses on the mask. Alternatively you can start with a dark base colours and build up from dark to light leaving the darker paint showing.
If your mask has lots of texture you may want to dry brush it. To do this, put a lighter mix of the current layer on your brush and then wipe most of it off, until the brush is almost dry. Then brush over the texture which will leave paint on any of the high spots. I would use an old brush for this.
The below shows my Noh mask with flat base colours and the finished mask with shading and weathering.
Weathering and extras
Once you have painted your mask you may want to weather it. Any extras such as the ‘hair’ on my Noh mask can be added before or after weathering, dependent on if you also want them weathered. Weathering is the process of adding faux dirt, grime, rust or flaking paint etc to make something look used or aged. This can be achieved through further washes as described above or specialised weathering powders or paints. It is best to use reference images or real life objects when applying weathering to ensure it is as authentic as possible.
Some Noh masks, especially the old men masks, have ‘hair’. To replicate this on my masks I choose to use a cheap wig. On the one I ordered, the hair was in small bunches attached to strips of fabric as shown below. At the top of each of these bunches I put a blob of super glue. This held them together after I cut them from the fabric and also provided a ‘root’. With the hair ready, I planned out where the hair would go before drilling some small 1mm holes. I tested a bunch in a hole, carefully cutting as required to ensure a snug fit. Finally, I added a dot of superglue to secure them in place and repeated the process. When done my mask looked as if it had had a static shock, so I styled it by running it through my thumb and fore finger.
Hopefully this tutorial has been use in helping you create a resin mask.