Halloween DIY-filter: giant paper mache head
September 22, 2018 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I need to make a giant paper mache head for Halloween this year. I tried blowing up a balloon as big as I could, but it wasn't big enough. What else can I use as a base? Or do you have other suggestions on making a big monster head?

In case it's relevant, I'm going as Maurice, the monster from Where the Wild Things Are.

I'm not terribly worried about cost, but I'd like the project to be on the simpler side. Any advice you have is much appreciated!
posted by too bad you're not me to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you blow up a garbage bag? Then maybe use tape to get it into a proper shape and then mache your heart out.
posted by quince at 2:19 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

They make very large round balloons. If you tried a standard balloon then you need to go to a party store or search online for a larger one. You can also ball up newspaper and wrap it in cling wrap as a base for paper machet.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:45 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've used chicken wire for larger paper mache projects.
posted by b33j at 2:47 PM on September 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

Try the serach term "punch balloons" (Amazon).
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe a beach ball? How big are we talking?
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:51 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is...a flickr tutorial for making "Where the Wild Things Are" costumes? Go figure!
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:54 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maurice has almost a squarish head, you could also get away with two paper bags stuffed with more paper and taped together. Paper maché. Remove paper you stuffed it with. Voila! This video has a good way to achieve the same effect with a stuffed trash bag.
posted by jessamyn at 2:57 PM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, there's nothing magic about starting with a balloon. I'd make the structure out of cardboard or similar to give you some rigidity and save you a lot of layers of paper mache.
posted by advicepig at 3:09 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Spray a yoga ball with cooking spray and then cover it in a layer of cheesecloth. There's your base. Carefully deflate the yoga ball to remove it.

Warning: Something that size is going to be tough to maintain the structure with papier mache alone. You may want to build a structural cage of chickenwire or strips of stiff cardboard around the cheesecloth-covered-yoga-ball base before applying the papier mache.
posted by erst at 3:19 PM on September 22, 2018

I asked a similar question years ago, trying to make a sphere for a Death Star costume. Your head might not be as big but I used a Yoga ball and created a wire frame around it. Link to thread with photos of how I did it.

There's some other answers in that thread that might be of help. Some folks were suggesting ways of doing paper mache around a ball.
posted by bondcliff at 3:49 PM on September 22, 2018

I went as an alien in maybe fourth grade (1959?) by covering an extra-large balloon with a ton (well, not literally, but multiple crinkled layers) of aluminum foil. Eyes and mouth were fashioned after removing the balloon, but the weird nose might have been done while the balloon still provided some structure for its formation? Can't remember. I think I went earless. Anyway, best costume ever, although it did get more than a little warm in there.
posted by ClingClang at 5:09 PM on September 22, 2018

My friend made a Sonic The Hedgehog head using a football helmet for a base. It looked great and it stay put (important because this was for Bay to Breakers.) I think she used rolled-up newspaper, polyfill stuffing, and duct tape under the papier-mache to bulk it out. She did say it was very hot and a little heavy.

I made a giant bird head out of dove wire (smaller than chicken wire) and that worked well. If I had to do it again I would do that on top of a bike helmet for comfort. It would help to know exactly how big you want to go and where you want your perceived eyes to be in relation to your actual eyes.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:16 PM on September 22, 2018

I made a giant paper mache head with a base made of layered newspaper for an art class. For extra durability (and it looks better) we used diluted white glue and fabric scraps instead of the typical flour paste etc based on the technique in this book The Simple Screamer
posted by bleep at 5:30 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

You'll need structural strength that just paper mache won't have, unless you're doing way more layers than you'll need just for looks (and that tends to not be entirely dry and then suffer interior collapse.) It might help to start with a cardboard box that could fit into the shape you want the head to be, and make a wire armature around that box. Chicken wire is great for this, or any kind of bendable metal mesh - the smaller the holes, the more specific you can get with the shape before applying paper and glue, so you can do a combo of cheaper chicken wire for the big flat areas and smaller gauge mesh for parts like the nose or horns so you're using less paper mache to build up those details.
posted by Mizu at 5:37 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've used a construction-worker hard hat for a base for a large head. Large heads can get a little heavy and uncomfortable, however. For more recent masks I've made, I like to keep the head lighter and more form fitting.

I start with a mannequin head. I put little bits of masking tape around it. Pic 1

Then with strips of cardboard and hot glue, I build a lattice or frame on the masking tape balls. Pic 2

Next, start putting paper mache on the cardboard frame. After you get about 4 layers up when you have a cap, you can rip out the frame and the masking tape balls. Put the cap back on the mannequin head and keep going. Make cuts into the paper mache cap as you're working on it to custom fit your head.

If you want to make the mask big, I assume you could attach chicken wire or make another cardboard frame onto the cap, and paper mache over that.
posted by Leontine at 2:20 PM on September 23, 2018

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