How should I go about painting my Halloween mask?
October 27, 2008 9:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying finish up a mask I'm making for Halloween; it' s basically a giant papier-mache eyeball, and I'm looking for suggestions for suitable paints to use to make it look good.

I'd like for the mask to ultimately have a nice glossy finish, and since I'll be wearing it for a long time and I'm pretty sensitive to fumes, something non-toxic would be best. Waterproofing the papier-mache would be a definite plus. I don't mind varnishing it as a separate step. Also, I'd prefer not to spend more than $30- 40, but at this point, I'm interested in any suggestions.

posted by millions to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
I would use acrylic for this.
posted by phunniemee at 9:57 PM on October 27, 2008

Acrylic + a coat of spray varnish should do the trick! You should be able to get the varnish in either a matte or glossy finish. It may be sold under the name "acrylic sealer" as well. It dries very quickly and the fumes don't linger.
posted by Ostara at 10:37 PM on October 27, 2008

Acrylic is the right answer because it's most opaque.

Spray varnish is also a good idea, but you probably do not want to spray the inside, because there isn't much time left for this to dry before you have to shove your face inside it for hours. But a full day will be enough for five or six coats of "high gloss" varathane-type clear gloss finish, yes. Varathane is a Rustoleum brand I like, but they're all the same: clear plastic in a spray can, the same sort you might use in much greater quantity on a hardwood floor.

Work somewhere very dust free so it doesn't collect grit that will reduce the shiny niceness.

Also, this question sucks without pictures.
posted by rokusan at 2:13 AM on October 28, 2008

Brush on might be better than spray, come to think of it, though it'll take longer to dry. Same product.
posted by rokusan at 2:14 AM on October 28, 2008

Ditto for acrylic. Also, remember to put in some red threads between coats (maybe stick them on when the varnish is wet) so your eyes have veins. :)
posted by gwenlister at 4:38 AM on October 28, 2008

Residents costume?
posted by electroboy at 6:51 AM on October 28, 2008

Okay, so for paints, I agree that you should go acrylic. Get some white acrylic spray paint to use as your basecoat/primer and apply it lightly in multiple thin coats. A heavy coat will soak into your paper mache and gob up. Be sure to tape over/under any holes (so if you'll be seeing through the lens, put tape on from the inside of the eye covering that hole - it will make things neater)

Then you can get acrylic paints and some brushes from any craft store. Mark out where you want to paint lightly and in pencil. Work from lightest color to darkest color following your design. I'd start with the iris and give it a couple of light coats of whatever color you want it to be first. Then you can add details. You can use acrylic paint pens here, especially for the veins depending on how bloodshot your eye will be. A black pen (or even a Sharpie) can be used to outline the iris and give it those little radial lines. When working on a sphere, use a piece of string as a guide - tape it across the center point of the iris, draw the lines, then reposition - this will give you an even spacing.

Let everything dry.

Give it a light coat of acrylic gloss spray varnish. Let it dry. Give it another. Let it dry. Now, use some very fine sandpaper and lightly sand the surface of the eye. Don't sand so hard that you're sanding off paint. You're just trying to even out the varnish here. Wipe down with a clean, soft cloth to get rid of the dust, and then varnish again. Let dry.

And there you go!

There are some other tricks you can do here. Consider using a glue gun to lay out the veins. Just smoothly let a line of hot glue fall on your pencil tracing. If you have a deft hand, you can create raised veins for later painting. That'd be a nice 3D effect, especially if you work back to an optic nerve.

A black panty hose stretched where the lens should be can give you a darkened viewing window. You can secure it with hot glue.

Also, take a bit to figure out how the thing will sit on your head. You may want to insert some sort of support mechanism inside to keep the thing from spinning around. Rags work, so does styrofoam. Both can be cut to fit pretty easily.

Hope this helps!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:21 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the advice so far: looks like acrylic is the way to go, so I'll be buying some spray paint and applying a basecoat tonight. Electroboy: The Residents certainly crossed my mind when thinking of this, but since I never really got into them and I won't be doing the tux, I'll have to cite the Tom Waits song "Eyeball Kid" as the real inspiration. Rokusan: pictures will be forthcoming if I don't botch it! Robocop is bleeding: almost exactly what I had in mind! I hadn't figured out how I was going to do the iris or attach the pantyhose yet, so I really appreciate your detailed response. 3-D veins could really take this to the next level, if I can pull it off.
posted by millions at 2:48 PM on October 28, 2008

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