LARP Hobby Craft: Making Latex Masks – Part 2

Yesterday I walked through part one of the latex masking process, and today I finish it up. Most of the physical labor is expended in the first stage of this process, the actual mold creation. This stage is time consuming, but it is not labor intensive. I whipped together a second mold yesterday too, because I wasn’t sure what state this first mold would be in, as I had never used that exact build out before. I am glad I did, because it gives me a chance to illustrate some of the things to know and watch out for.

That’s what Ol’ Rockface looked like after I removed the mask build. The funny part about this is, it had no flashing, overhang and almost no need to clean the mold itself. I got lucky. The detail of the mold is amazing and it even captures the texture of the foam. That’s the level of detail you can expect with gypsum concrete molds, it’s great. Now, you can see some bubbles there as I was a little slapdash in the splat layer, because I wanted to make sure I could take pictures. In this case it’s just around the eyes, which is to be expected since that was my sloppiest build out area. Given that eyes will be cut out anywhere, who cares? The edges and non-mask portions are the same, and for the same reason. There was no build out to appropriate build up. It takes about two hours to really let the mold set, so it’s not that long, and I used the time to make the weird plague mask, which I will talk about a little later.

This is what I use for the latex casting. It’s about $50 for the jug, and it lasts a very, very long time. When I pour into the mold, I also end up putting the excess from the coat back. Outside of that jug, you only need some paper towels for clean up, a cup in which to pour the latex initially, and another cheap baseboard paint brush. Any brush you use here will be useless and destroyed after, so don’t use anything fancy. When you are pouring the mask, you will think you are using a lot of latex, but you really won’t be. I pour the latex into the plastic cup and from the cup into the mold. You want to really pour way more than you need here and be sure to coat every nook and cranny. I usually use two tumbler size cups of latex per first coat. You just rock the mold around in order to make sure you have a good coat on, and once you are positive of that, you drain the excess latex back into the plastic cup. You then pour the plastic cup latex back into the bottle. I end up using about half a tumbler in the end, maybe a tad more. This might be a tad messy, so you can use your brush to clean it as you pour if needed.

As you can see, the bottom is where my run off went, and I didn’t bother cleaning it up. That’s because the little bit of overhang is a great way to then pull the mask out of the mold. Now, a couple of notes. On a first pour, anything you don’t clean out of the mold is going to be picked up by the pull. It’s a good way to clean the mask if you are lazy, and just don’t want to get the last few bits out of it. As I didn’t clean my mold at all, I assumed that I would catch some I missed on my pull. Now, as the latex is setting, it’s going to smell like cat urine. Ammonia is the active ingredient, so just be prepared for the stench. One of the ways you can tell if the latex is full dry is that the smell then is almost like cinnamon brushed sugar cookies. It’s weird, but it’s true. I spent a few minutes a couple of times over the course of the setting to get rid of the air bubbles and to add additional latex touch up on areas where air bubbles had created a hole. One you think you can do if a pull does have holes is simple add latex touch ups on the hole area and let it set again. Latex forms a chemical bond, so this touch up will be as good as a fresh pour. It’s going to happen, but it’s not a big deal. After around six to eight hours, I saw that the mask was dry and went ahead to pull. Here was the result.

The overhang and eye areas are pretty gross, but that doesn’t matter as I’m cutting it off anyway. You can really see the texture of the foam in this pull. That level of fine detail will degrade over the life of the mold, as it is slowly worn away by the latex. Fine details will go first, so if you want it to last a while, exaggerate what you want to have expressed. You can also see where some corners weren’t exactly clear, but that was intentional as I left the bubbles in place to create a more craggy look for this guy. One other thing to note is that you can really see how clean the mold was. There is no excess filler that was pulled out. This is unfortunate, because I wanted to show it looks like when that happened, but luckily my other mask mold presented a ton of interesting issues!

There we go! Look at all that gunk that stuck to the latex! I’m glad I went ahead and made the second mask so that I could get some shots of it. The mold itself is now clean as a whistle, but that pull will take some cleaning to get usable. It’s not a big deal, as the first one usually does. Again, I just got lucky with the Rock Dude mask. You will also notice the white strips in the first picture. That’s me touching up with additional latex in order to cover a hole that had developed. I might have to coat it once more, but it will be smooth and fine by the time I am done with it. The shape of the mask presented it’s own weight problems too. As I knew it would, the bill of that mask is a bit floppy, but when pulled on as a mask, it mostly supports itself in a slightly slanted down fashion. Here’s what the overall pull of that mask looks like.

It will end up looking cool once painted. Anyway, that pull is a good example of what I was discussing earlier. Now that you have pulled your mask, the paint process is what can take a lot of time. There are three methods I use to paint a mask. I either rely on actual latex paint, which is great since it forms a real bond to the latex and it simply becomes that color, or acrylic with a latex coat at the end, or spray paint with a latex coat at the end. Any answer is fine, but latex paint is the traditional choice. The thing about latex paint is that it’s expensive, has to be ordered in most cases, and the colors don’t mix like traditional colors. Yellow and blue will not make green, for example. One thing you will want to do when painting with latex paint is carefully document how you make a certain color so that you can consistently reproduce it. Acrylic paint doesn’t have this draw back, as you can get it at many locations, and it mixes the way you expect colors to mix. The problem is that it doesn’t chemically bond with the latex and can scratch or peel off. The latex sealing coats pretty much do away with this problem, but you still might need to do occasional touch ups. Latex sealing coats come in two forms, Perma-Wet and Flex Gloss. Perma-Wet is just that, it’s a very shiny, slick finish, where Flex Gloss is a flatter, less shiny coat. It’s just preference, obviously. Spray paint has all the pros and cons of spray paint, I’ll just leave it there. For Ol’ Rocky McGee, I opted for a mix of spray paint, because I wanted to use the textured spray paint for an easy rocky coat, and acrylic, for veins of gold in the rock. Here’s the result.

I am very, very happy with the results. Finally, I added a string and tried on the mask, excuse the mug.

Hopefully this guide was helpful, and if anyone has any questions of comments, I will do my best to answer them.

One comment

  1. These guides are totally awesome. We love them! If you’d ever be interested in doing a guest post for us we’d be honored to have your awesomeness grace our blog. Shoot us an email.

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